Lockdown Interviews: no14 Cassandra Passarelli interviewed by Jeremy Dixon

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cassandra Passarelli (Liberty Tales, Five by Five,)  interviewed by Jeremy Dixon, Liberty Tales, The Other Side of Sleep, Dusk, In Retail 

Jeremy: You have had work accepted by many different publishers, has there been anything different about working with Arachne Press?

Cassandra:      Arachne is a very personal publishing house. They reach out to their writers and involve them. Five by Five was published two years ago but I still feel part of the Arachne family.

Jeremy: You are a Buddhist and a Yoga teacher, and I wondered if these disciplines and ways of living have had any influence on your writing?

Cassandra:      For sure. In fact, my PhD research at Exeter is motivated by the question of influence and overlap between writing and Buddhism, two practices that are of great importance in my life. Writing and Buddhism are forms of studying our own minds and those of others. Both require patience, mindfulness, attention to detail and being a deep listener. I would like to think that writing brings you in an experiential, slower way to an awareness of interdependence, impermanence, emptiness and the conditionality of everyday existence. Certainly, they complement one another.

Jeremy: Has the Covid 19 virus and the subsequent lockdown had any effect on your creativity?

Cassandra:      As a fierce believer in independent thought and personal freedom, the first few days were disorientating. First, classes at the university stopped, then the library closed, then my daughter was sent home from school. Then I understood I wouldn’t be able to visit people I love (who live in other countries) for some time. Then the shops in our town shut and basic provisions were hard to get. It was difficult to concentrate… my writer’s mind was analysing this reaction, predicting where it would lead us politically, socially and spiritually. So many people have been dying for years all over the world from things as simple to solve as diarrhea and malnutrition or more complex like malaria and cholera, yet this virus is inspiring an exponentially greater fear… perhaps because the West can’t escape. The suffering it will cause is staggering. But in this nook, an incredible peace has descended, birdsong has replaced car engines and night skies have cleared to reveal distant stars. My daughter and I began to talk with and assist the elders in my street and we found this gentle rhythm to do yoga, study, write, garden, read and take our long walk each day. New ideas are fomenting…

Jeremy: What writing plans do you have for the future?

Cassandra:      I don’t really plan much. I start new stories, as and when. I revise work in progress in between. I submit finished stories. I read.

I’m putting together my first collection gathered around the Buddhist concept of the three marks of existence (suffering, impermanence and non-self) which my creative writing supervisor at Exeter University, Andy Brown, is reading. And working on the second chapter of my thesis on the congruence between Buddhism and fiction in the short stories of George Saunders, that the University’s Buddhist Dean, John Danvers, is reading. And I’m running a workshop with a small group of creative writing undergraduates over the summer.

Jeremy: What is your approach to your writing?

Cassandra:      My approach? Every day I get up, do yoga, go for a swim (run, now the pool is closed), eat breakfast and sit down to work by nine with a cup of home-roasted, freshly ground coffee. I work till four o’ clock or so. Sometimes I pick up on something in the evening for a couple more hours.

Jeremy: Would your writing be the same without your experience of travelling and living in different parts of the world?

Cassandra:      No. Although I haven’t been on the road now for several years (just short trips here and there), my travels were a large part of my education. Leaving England for a decade and a half drew things from me that would have otherwise remained latent. I would say it made me stronger, wiser and (hopefully) less selfish; I met amazing hospitable, generous people who showed me other ways of thinking. This has shaped how I write and has accentuated my outlier mentality.

Jeremy: Do you have any writer heroes?

Cassandra:      I wouldn’t use the word hero. I admire writers who struggle, down here, with us, but whose brilliant minds soar.  Where to start? Recently, I read the often-anonymous, deeply moving poems of the earliest Buddhist nuns (reinterpreted by Matty Weingast) in The First Free Women. I still turn to long-time favourites like the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, Essays of Michel de Montaigne or the poetry of the Mexican so-called phoenix, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. And the authors I grew up with; James Baldwin, Flannery O’Connor, Thomas Merton or Raymond Carver. Or ones I discovered later: Eduardo Galeano, Maya Angelou, Tove Jansson, Charles Johnson, Jeanette Winterson, Kevin Brockmeier, George Saunders, Deborah Levy …

You can buy all the Arachne books mentioned from our webshop, we will post them out to you.

If you would prefer eBooks, all these books are available from your usual retailer. we recommend Hive for ePub.

Lockdown Interviews: no6 Joy Howard interviewed by Cassandra Passarelli

joy-howard-photoJoy Howard(Foraging, Time and Tide, Dusk) )  interviewed by Cassandra Passarelli (Five by Five, Liberty Tales)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cassandra:    What defines a poem?

Joy:     For me, it’s a thought, observation or even a story, in a condensed form. Rhythm, rhyme, imagery, sound associations, line breaks: all play their part in giving the ideas or observations impact and energy. The choice form (or lack of it) can be important too

Cassandra:    Why do you write poetry (not plays, stories or shopping lists)?

Joy:     Well I do write shopping lists! and indeed a ‘found’ poem can actually be a shopping list!
I have written a few short stories, (humorous) and even begun a couple of novels (light). I have never been drawn to playwriting. I can do characterization but am not good at plot, which is why the novels never progressed beyond setting the scene.

Cassandra:    What role does/should poetry play in contemporary life? (How will the current crisis affect that?)

Joy:     No different from other ages, I think. To add thoughtfulness and beauty. Always needed.

Cassandra:    What is creative thinking? Do you see parallels between creativity and mindfulness?

Joy:     It has to be a ‘dunno’ to this one! Except I suppose that mindfulness is linked to concentration on the moment – especially important when writing from seeing/observation

Cassandra:    Do you have any contemplative practices aside from writing?

Joy:     No, once I start feeling contemplative, I tend to drift off into sleep….

Cassandra:    How important is ‘the everyday’ to you in your work?

Joy:     I tend to bump into poems – I write a lot about things I see, things that are happening.

Cassandra:    In which ways can poetry be a way to insight?

Joy:     It’s a great clarifier and orderer of thought, and also produces things you hadn’t thought of…

Cassandra:    How much of the author dwells in poetry? How is what you write affected by your gender, sexuality, age, location etc?

Joy:     Very much, I think. We are informed by who and where we are in life.  I see a special perspective, for example, in older women’s poetry. In addition. I have written plenty about being a mother, and also about being lesbian. Location comes into the ‘bumping into’ category for me as I have lived a somewhat nomadic existence, but I know for many poets it’s rootedness in where they live and feel a sense of belonging that informs much of their work.

Cassandra:    I’m fascinated by the relationship between the author, a text and the reader… what do you think about that triangle?

Joy:     Poets write I think primarily for themselves, but then comes the wish to share. However, all texts, once they’ve left the writer, become the domain of the reader so are subject to multiple interpretation.

Cassandra:    If life is illusory, in what ways is poetry particularly suited to mediate this illusion?

Joy:     I don’t see life as illusory – the quotidian is what interest me most.

Cassandra:    You are also the poetry editor of Grey Hen Press. What do you look for in a poem?

Joy:     A number of things come to mind – precise use of language, beauty, originality, humour, ambiguity, perspective – I could go on, but in the end it’s that elusive something that stops you in your tracks…

Cassandra:    Is there a question I haven’t asked you that I should have? If so… please include it.

Joy:     This has been thought provoking and enjoyable – thanks for picking me to interview!

You can buy all the Arachne Press books mentioned from our webshop, we will post them out to you.

If you would prefer eBooks, all these books are available from your usual retailer. we recommend Hive for ePub.

 

Videos from launch of Five by Five

Here, for your delectation, all in one place, are the videos from the launch of Five by Five.

(Also – if you are quick, we found 4 more damaged copies – nothing that makes the books unreadable, just not saleable. claim your FREE copy here – if you felt like doing us a review as a thank you we won’t say no!)

If watching these videos makes you sad you missed the event, you could always come to our next one, the launch of We/She!

Katy Darby reads from The Nuisance

Joan Taylor-Rowan reads from The Bet

Helen Morris reads Troll (video didn’t kick in immediately, with so pieced together from sound file and photos for first few secs.)

Cassandra Passarelli reads The Pineapple Seller

Five by five launches tonight

If you aren’t coming to Out of the Brew tonight for cocktails and stories in the garden, you’ll be needing this link, to buy the book.

If you are coming, see you at 7.30. Grab a drink and head into the garden where we will be setting up to read to you.

launch info for Five by Five

19th July at 7.30 we are launching Five by Five with four of the five authors (Joan Taylor-Rowan, Katy Darby, Cassandra Passarelli  and Helen Morris – Sarah James can’t make it), at Out of the Brew 306 New Cross Road, London SE14 6AF. FREE
In the garden if fine (It almost certainly will be)… there are rumours of themed cocktails.
Books for sale, authors to sign them. Everyone welcome

RSVP cherry at arachnepress dot com

Can’t wait? Word bookshop a few doors down from the cafe have stock in already owing to eagerness on their part and our distributors being super-efficient. Get down there and ask David for a copy.
(Reviewers copies available now – please ask)

Events in July in South London

 

Both our July venues are in New Cross, mid-distance between the stations – Amersham Arms is nearer New Cross, Out of the Brew is nearer New Cross Gate.

5th July Kate Foley is reading from A Gift of Rivers at regular feminist spoken word event,She Grrowls, upstairs at Amersham Arms, New Cross Road SE14 TICKETS here.

 

 

 

 

19th July at 7.30 we are launching Five by Five with four of the five authors (Joan Taylor-Rowan, Katy Darby, Cassandra Passarelli  and Helen Morris), at
Out of the Brew 306 New Cross Road, London SE14 6AF. FREE
in the garden if fine… there are rumours of themed cocktails.
books for sale, authors to sign them. Everyone welcome RSVP
Can’t wait? Word bookshop a few doors down from the cafe have stock in already owing to eagerness on their part and our distributors being super-efficient. Get down there and ask David for a copy.
(Reviewers copies available now – please ask)

 

Five by Five – Stop Press Guatamala Volcano

Author Cassandra Passarelli writes about Guatemala in the stories she wrote for Five by Five.

Cassandra’s mother-in-law runs a library for children which Cassandra helped set up in San Antonio Aguas Calientes, which is 4km from the eruption. Three of Cassandra’s five stories are set in this village.

If you want to help the people affected by the eruption you can give money via this go fund me link to verified agencies.

 

Year of the woman

Today is International Women’s Day, in the centenary year of partial suffrage for women.

So an important day for women, but, you know, women are women every day, and there’s still plenty of work to be done, on all sorts of fronts, so celebrate and then roll up your sleeves…

Our small contribution is to do what we do anyway, but do more of it. We are publishing a number of books over the next nine months and most (not all) will be by women.

April
Kate Foley Poetry Collection: A Gift of Rivers

Kate is reading from the collection at Gay’s the Word on 5th April and we are investigating a launch in Amsterdam.

May
Cathy Bryant Poetry Collection: Erratics.

Cathy and Kate are taking part in a seminar on diversity and inclusivity in the poetry world at London Book Fair on 10th April at 17:30 at the ‘Poet’s Corner’

June
The final installment of The Naming of Brook Storyteller: Wolftalker arrives from Ghillian Potts.


Also in June we have the official launch of Dusk which will also kick off thinking about 2018’s Solstice Shorts festival, Dawn!

July Five by Five: 5 short stories each by Katy Darby, Joan Taylor-Rowan, Cassandra Passarelli, Sarah James, Helen Morris

August
We are teaming up with Liars’ League for our official #womensvote100 anthology, We/She featuring stories about women by women. Final line up yet to be finalised but expect stories from:
Carolyn Eden, Katy Darby, Elizabeth Hopkinson, Elisabeth Simon, Elizabeth Stott, Fiona Salter, Ilora Choudhury, J. A. Hopper, Arike Oke, Jennifer Rickard, Jenny Ramsay, Lucy Ribchester, Peng Shepherd, Rosalind Stopps, Joanne L. M. Williams, Swati Khurana, Uschi Gatward.

September
Vindication: an anthology of up to 10 poems each from
Sarah James, Sarah Lawson, Jill Sharp, Elinor Brooks, Adrienne Silcock and Anne Macaulay

November
We are commemorating the end of WWI with poetry and short story anthology An Outbreak of Peace.

 

Liberty Tales on Tour- North Kensington Library – Video

A rather lovely way to celebrate Human Rights Day, back in December, reading stories inspired by Magna Carta at North Kensington Library. Stories from Cassandra Passarelli, Carolyn Eden, Jim Cogan and Cherry Potts, poems from  Jeremy Dixon

You can catch us again, with our final Liberty Tales jaunt, at Greenstead Library, Colchester CO4 3QE next Wednesday, 25th January 6pm, with stories from Carolyn Eden, David Guy, Helen Morris, Sarah Evans, and poems from Jeremy Dixon, some of which will be read by Carrie Cohen and Cliff Chapman

We are back at North Kensington Library with Shortest Day, Longest Night on Saturday 4th February at 2pm, with Poems from Bob Beagrie, Lisa Kelly, and A J Akoto; and  Stories from Katy Darby, Liam Hogan and Pauline Walker.

NEW lottery_Logo_White RGB

 

Liberty Tales at Housmans- recordings

Some recordings from our Liberty Tales event at Housmans

Katy Darby reads from Character Study

Carolyn Eden (Aka Carrie Cohen) reads from Free White Towel

Cassandra Passarelli reads from Girl in a Suitcase

Liam Hogan reads from The King’s Computer

Cherry Potts reads Bernie Howley‘s The Privilege of Departure

You can hear more at our touring events – Bath 10th Jan and Colchester 25th Jan. see the events page for details