Friday Fiction Focus: “Weeds” by Sheila Armstrong

Welcome to our brand new weekly feature: Friday Fiction Focus. Each week, we will select one story from our online archive and invite its author to chat with us.

First up, we have Sheila Armstrong, who has twice been a winner of The Lonely Voice: Short Story Introductions – in October 2011 and January 2012. Today, we are looking at her short story, “Weeds” which was chosen as one of our October 2011 winners by special guest judge John MacKenna, who had the following to say about the story:

The narrative voice is strong, clear, effective and beautifully realised. There’s an air of bitter-sweetness in this story. A wonderful clash of the individual and society but also the discomfort of a child caught between a strong and determined parent and the perception society has of that parent. Landscape plays an equally important part in the story and its inclusion is captured with subtlety and skill.

THE LONELY VOICE: Hello Sheila, and welcome to Friday Fiction Focus. You’re currently a post-graduate student in Trinity College, so I imagine you are quite busy! Do you find it difficult to find time for writing and do you have a set writing routine?

SHEILA: Last term I was working as an intern on top of the M. Phil, so this term is much easier in comparison. My college work means I have to read a lot; usually three books a week, so I am busy. I’ve never been good at routines, and with writing it’s no different. Writing is usually something I do late at night when I can’t sleep, so my only schedule is insomnia! Otherwise, if I get an idea I have to write it down straight away, whether it’s on a bus, in class, or in a pub. Being a young student who wants to be a writer is difficult – the words ‘life experience’ get thrown around a lot, and I sometimes worry that the only great thing I’ll ever write will be on my death-bed at the age of eighty-two.

THE LONELY VOICE: Can you tell us a bit about what you are currently working on?

SHEILA: I wasn’t working on anything for a long time. I have confidence issues with my writing and find it difficult to stick with things for long after the thousand word mark. Recently, though, I’ve noticed that a lot of my scribbles have similar themes, so I’m trying to combine them together into something a bit more solid and tangible. A novel would be my ultimate aim, but it seems very far off at the moment.

THE LONELY VOICE: Landscape and setting play a big part in your short story “Weeds”. Is this something that you like to explore in your work?

SHEILA: I wrote most of “Weeds” while I was sitting in a field in Connemara. I saw a vegetable garden in the distance that really did look like a fresh grave, so I wrote about it. Not very inspirational, but it’s the truth! I grew up in the countryside, so I think I’ll always write about that. But what seems to happen is that it gets twisted – death and decay always seem to creep in somehow.

THE LONELY VOICE: Which short story writers do you admire?

SHEILA: I don’t follow very many writers, I just come across stories randomly and love them. The one person I can read over and over again, though, is Roald Dahl. His short stories are the perfect mix of creepiness and irony, and I love them. They’ve stayed with me for years and I’d love to be able to write something as enduring as that.

THE LONELY VOICE: What advice, if any, would you give to aspiring fiction writers?

SHEILA: I’m definitely still an aspiring fiction writer myself, so I’ll just pass on the two best pieces of advice that I’ve ever gotten. Write what you know. I used to hate writing about my personal experiences, but I was told to stop fighting them, and embrace them. I’m not sure if it has worked, but it’s easier to write now. The other advice is to stand up straight and speak loudly. Being a shy person with confidence issues makes a lot of things difficult for me, but if I apply this to thought processes as well as situations, it helps a lot.

THE LONELY VOICE: Thanks very much, Sheila. We look forward to reading more of your work in the future!

Sheila’s story “Weeds” is available to read in our archive HERE.





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