Sitting Ducks is a great title and Potteries author Lisa Blower has form for using her home city’s phrases and landscape in her work.
Last Saturday I went along to see Lisa in conversation with Staffordshire University lecturer Dr Catherine Burgass.
Lisa’s Broken Crockery won the Guardian short story prize in 2009, attracting the attention of agents and publishers and she has gone on to work in academia, radio and publishing further short stories, so I was keen to hear her work and thoughts.
(Broken Crockery can be read here).
Lisa said much of her fiction identified with those on the fringes. ‘When I write I tend to think of people who are slight outsiders.’
There is nostalgia – she has written of Potteries holiday excursions to mid-Wales – but she says although the past is an influence she prefers not to write about it. ‘I’m not nostalgic for a Stoke-on-Trent that has been and gone as I wasn’t there for it.’
She did confess bravely that she wasn’t Arnold Bennett’s (author of Anna of the Five Towns and son of Stoke) biggest fan either, but it’s refreshing to hear an author looking to the future.
The talk, at the third Stoke-on-Trent literature festival, took place in the appropriate surroundings of the Eastwood room at Emma Bridgewater’s pottery in Hanley.
North Staffordshire’s economy has suffered with the demise of traditional industry – particularly pottery, coal and steel – but Emma Bridgewater’s pottery is among those attracting increasing trade in keeping with Lisa’s bright, forward-looking attitude.
A short extract from Sitting Ducks:
“Meagre in build. Mouthy in nature. One good owner and pottery trained: Josiah ‘Totty’ Minton is bang out of sick notes and harbouring the dream of a three-bed semi with bay windows, fully-fitted carpets and enough of a garden to stretch his legs.”
Lisa read several extracts from Sitting Ducks and I bought a copy and chatted to her afterwards. She is sincere and passionate about what she wants to write and not to be dissuaded by the views of others.
I asked her how she’d adjusted to writing novels and she admitted it had been difficult, saying she was a short story writer at heart and describing her novel as connected stories.
Sitting Ducks is a series of arguments or rows, Lisa said. It is why she’s opted for Rounds (as in boxing) rather than chapters.
I look forward to reading Sitting Ducks, which I’ll be reviewing for Structo, and look forward to hearing more about Lisa.