My debut novel, The Invisible Crowd, was published by HarperCollins (HQ) in November 2017. It is a multi-voice novel about an asylum seeker's experiences in the UK, and was inspired by a case I worked on when barrister, and volunteer work I did with refugees and in an immigration detention centre.
Jude, the 'imaginer' of the novel, is a barrister who is on the brink of quitting law when an asylum case lands on her desk. She notices she shares a birth date with the client, Yonas, but their lives could not have been more different. She imagines the real story beneath the dry legal documents, and the novel brings this into being, as if the set of witness statements had been set free from legal restrictions. With interjections from Jude, every other chapter is narrated from Yonas's point of view. When we first meet him he is trapped in a grim shellfish factory near Grimsby, but he escapes and makes his way to London where he tries to forge a life and make a legal claim. Every alternate chapter is narrated by a different person he meets along the way, from a bin man to an artist, a teacher and a Home Office interviewer. Every chapter begins with a real tabloid headline.
I would love to hear what you think of the novel. Any nice words about it that you might feel moved to share with me, on Amazon or Goodreads, or to your friend down the road, would be hugely appreciated.
My first book, Saffron Shadows and Salvaged Scripts: Literary Life in Myanmar Under Censorship and in Transition, was published in 2015 by Columbia University Press. It explores the fascinating lives of three generations of Burmese writers who lived and worked under one of the world's most oppressive censorship regimes, through extended interviews, new translations of their stories and poems, and my own descriptions of the place, people, history and context. It should appeal to anyone with an interest in Myanmar, literature in translation, censorship and international literature and culture.
Live Literature Curation: Ark
Ark is an experimental live literature project that I set up. We stage immersive short story performances in library spaces, pushing the boundaries of live literature through cross-arts collaborations, and reanimating both library spaces and the short story form in creative ways. The project emerged out of my PhD research into live literature. After our last sold-out show at the British Library, we have a new one in the pipeline for 14/15 March 2018. You can sign up for the mailing list for show updates, and Ark is also on Twitter and Facebook
Live Literature Research
I am doing a PhD in literary anthropology at the University of Stirling, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. I research live literature - specifically, the performance of fiction at live events. I'm interested in the qualitative experiences of participants in live literature events, and in how the events affect the ways in which people think and feel about books, authors and literary culture generally in a digitalising world. From a literary anthropological perspective, I'm exploring how all this can best be evoked and understood through creative writing techniques. My live literature project, Ark, is a further way in which I've been delving into the symbiosis between the creative and the critical. My ethnographic monograph on Live Literature is due to be published by Palgrave as part of their new Literary Anthropology series in 2019.
Short stories and audio
Short story collections I have enjoyed recently include those by Lucy Corin and Eley Williams. I write short stories every so often, and with Ark I've been experimenting with writing and making live/audio collaborations and audio story installations. My stories have been published in text form including by The Pigeonhole and Pen Atlas, and I've been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. I am an avid podcast and radio listener, and as a musician as well as a writer I am really interested in sound-rich audio stories typical of those produced by Falling Tree Productions. I recently did a creative sound design course at Strange and Charmed, and am working on a new audio story project. I am curating and directing an audio story show at the British Library in March 2018.
I wrote a short fictional note to a busker from an unexpected audience member for the themed collection, Letters on Love.
Coop Coup Coo
I created a site-specific audio story installation, in collaboration with composer K.H. Sagovsky, for the British Library's roof terrace as part of my Ark show, Literally Fantastical (2015). The narrator is a maverick London pigeon with a bookish fetish. You can listen to it here, with a video of one of the audiences.
I have written other site-specific short stories for Ark which I have performed live, including one interacting with a viola player and recorded music, and another interacting with a stuffed parrot and a powerpoint presentation.
Why is the Siren Still Singing?
I experimented with my first creative audio short doc, following the Third Coast Festival's 'Studs Rules', where every piece had to be two to three minutes in length; titled with a question that begins with one of the five Ws; contain the question "And what happened then?"; and include a shout of silence or a cry of laughter. I decided to make one about the evocative sound of the foghorn at Lizard in Cornwall, one of my favourite wild places.