Thursday, March 18, 2010
Clare Wigfall at CHAI
Last Saturday afternoon at CHAI House, Clare Wigfall met with book-lovers to talk about her writing and read her prize-winning short-story The Numbers to us. (The story is linked from this page.)
She said that when she wrote the story in Scottish dialect, she never imagined that she would end up having to read it in front of audiences. (Her husband, Troy, had previously joked that she sounds Russian when she reads it aloud, but I'm glad to say I think he was just winding her up!)
She talked about how she wanted the story to play with expectations and how she had deliberately left many things unsaid in the piece - because she herself most enjoys fiction that makes her brain work. She said that she had originally wanted to write about American anthropologist Margret Fay Shaw who moved to the Outer Hebrides to record music in the 1920s. Clare said that she had never been to that part of Scotland and her rendering of the dialect and the largely pagan atmosphere of the story upset some Scottish scholars. (You can get the flavour of the discussion here.)
She also read another story from her collection The Loudest Sound and Nothing, called When the Wasps Drowned, which was a disturbing story about some children who stumble across a dead body at the edge of their garden. (It reminded me a little of Ian McEwan's The Cement Garden.) You can read the whole story here and also hear Clare reading it at a book launch.)
Clare also told us something of a fascinating family story which is going to be the basis of the novel she is writing and concerns a great-grandmother who went missing in Penang. She had some beautiful old photos to share with us and (including one of her grandmother as a young girl - a portrait so full of life and unlike the posed shots of yesteryear that you'd think it taken recently). So now her research brings her here.
It has been so good to meet her and Troy and baby Elsa. Thanks CHAI hosue for hosting this and to Eric and May Lee for who made friends with short story writers across the world when they were putting Quill magazine together. Eric also managed to get some copies of the book which were snapped up very quickly.
(Thanks May Lee for sending me this lovely picture!)