Rich Pickings From The 10×10 Podcast Series

Posted on 20/10/2014
By Commonwealth Foundation

Rosie Goldsmith and Margaret Atwood
Rosie Goldsmith Interviewing Margaret Atwood for The 10×10 Podcasts

Over the last few weeks, we’ve given you a series of symmetrical podcasts – the 10×10 series – featuring 10 minute interviews with 10 writers from across the Commonwealth. Here we create, out of things all these writers said, a conversation that never took place (or did it?). We are rebelling against all symmetry now and presenting to you 23 parts of that conversation. Twenty three is a prime number, divisible only by one and itself.

"When people from the Commonwealth are gathered together – and are of a certain generation – we compare our educations – in which A is for apple, and referred to an English apple. But I think that’s a generational thing. I think younger people probably don’t feel that they had this very British education that didn’t quite jigsaw with their lived experience."
Margaret Atwood

Fflur-Dafydd-e1410476420766-470x357“I must stress that most people of my generation (and I’m in my mid 30s now) – most of my friends – grew up with Welsh language activists as parents…. I think because they resisted English in the way that they did, they became freer to embrace it, to use it creatively, to use it differently, to use it to say something about our own language.” Fflur Dafydd

MarleneVanNiekerk“I write in Afrikaans because I feel it’s the only language I have enough of a command of to mess in it. When I write in English I can’t mess in it because I’m not so comfortable in it.” Marlene van Niekerk

"Just even being alive for Aboriginal people is political….There is a sense of urgency for us to write ourselves back into our country. Because we were always here but not always heard. It’s very important now that we write our sense of place and our sense of belonging back into this Settler canon that already exists."
Jeanine Leane

MarleneVanNiekerk“What I’m saying is if one chooses to go public with ones writing and ones opinions, one must have quite a thick skin. Even the fact of participating is contested in South African letters, at the moment.” Marlene van Niekerk

jahnavi barua photo“Assam is on the periphery of the country. It’s right up in the north east corner of India – in a sense it’s at the interface of Southeast Asia and India. Writing from there is like writing from the edge of the country, the edge of the world as we know it here in India.” Jahnavi Barua


Romesh Gunesekera, Judge 2015CSSP

“I do see the world as a fairly small place where we all live and as far as I’m concerned Sri Lanka is just at the end of the Piccadilly Line.” Romesh Gunesekera

"I became more conscious of form as I went along. I also wanted to tell stories that reflected the way Jamaicans tell stories. You know, there’s not usually an omniscient narrator in our stories. There’s somebody who has a part of the truth and then there’s a lot of conjecture and sometimes the stories have more than one ending."
Lorna Goodison

Ivory Kelly, Commonwealth Writers Conversation“If it’s a Belizean story it must feel like Belize, it must sound like Belize.” Ivory Kelly

Craig cliff, short story“Just as you were asking the question it occurred to me that maybe one of the reasons behind the number of historical works that New Zealand writers are writing about is that sense that New Zealand was more knowable back then.” Craig Cliff

Romesh Gunesekera, Judge 2015CSSP“I think [the short story] is a wonderful form. I think the imaginative effort of writing one or reading one is the same as with a novel. The pleasures are slightly different.” Romesh Gunesekera

"The short story has to pick its fights and I think the same thing happens with a small country."
Craig Cliff

Margaret Atwood“Short stories and poetry were the two forms we were able to publish in the Sixties more easily than novels – in Canada…. In the first part of the Sixties it was hard to publish novels, if you were a Canadian writer, because nobody wanted to invest in you. They thought they would not be able to sell the product.” Margaret Atwood

jahnavi barua photo“The short story in vernacular Indian tradition has a lot of respect.” Jahnavi Barua

lorna goodison (landscape) credit Georgia Popplewell“Somebody would say “let me give you a story”. They never said let me tell you a story. “Let me give you a story”. And I took that to mean that a story was something that was given to you to help you.” Lorna Goodison

"One of the ways to think about writer’s block is that you’re not being truthful: you can’t find emotional energy to do the thing you’re doing because you’re bypassing an honesty and you’re using – as human beings do – all these masks and coats to deceive."
Binyavanga Wainana

Romesh Gunesekrea“[Prizes?] I think they’re very helpful. I think they’re sometimes overrated. I don’t think we entirely understand.  It was very nice to be shortlisted for the Booker – some people think I won it. It doesn’t seem to make any difference, really! I think the important prize are the ones that are actually some of the smaller prizes. When you’re starting it out it just gives a fledgling writer some recognition, some sense that someone’s read their work and thought it was good enough.” Romesh Gunesekera

lorna goodison (landscape) credit Georgia Popplewell“When I began to write there was nothing to get. There were no prizes, nobody paid attention to you. You just wrote because that was what you had to do.” Lorna Goodison

binyavanga Wainaina landscape (photo credit Francesco Alesi)“I feel like I have a duty to say censorship is bad…” Binyavanga Wainana

Romesh Gunesekera, Judge 2015CSSP“As a writer your responsibility is not to bore your reader.” Romesh Gunesekera

Margaret Atwood“You don’t know where anybody is either. If they say they’re in Timbuktu, they might be there, but you the reader do not know.” Margaret Atwood [making the case for online writing platforms].

"I really enjoy having a day job. I think it’s really useful to a writer – especially at this relatively early stage in my life – to keep having interactions with human beings on a daily basis."
Craig Cliff

Fflur-Dafydd-e1410476420766-470x357“Readers will stay with you. They will enter that strange reality for a bit and then they’ll be pleased to let go of it.” Fflur Dafydd

That was 23 things. We could easily have given you 29, 47 or 53. Hear these writers out in full by listening to their 10×10 podcasts on this site.

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