Conversations with Writers
Our second online event Conversations with Writers took place on Thursday 2 September. Playwright Jo Clifford and novelist and short story writer Ely Percy were in conversation with Eris Young about writing perspectives from different generations – over a lifetime.
These three writers have done so much in their careers that the short introductions in online notices, and the mentions on social media or websites don’t give the reader an idea of the scope of their work or the experience behind it.
So (even though we haven’t covered everything) this blog post will give us a chance to tell a longer story – and thank all of them for sharing what they’ve done and lived as queer writers.
Jo Clifford describes her early play, Losing Venice, as ‘a mad historical fantasy’. It was performed at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh in 1985. She was also a supporter of Lavender Menace Bookshop and seeing the play was exciting for all of us who knew her. She went on to write over 100 plays, including Every One (a reworking of Everyman), The Tree of Knowledge, Playing with Fire (a powerful play also produced at the Traverse), Faust Parts One and Two, Ines de Castro (she also wrote the libretto of James MacMillan’s opera), Light in the Village and Great Expectations.
She also translated Yerma, Blood Wedding, and The House of Bernarda Alba by Federico Garcia Lorca – among others.
Losing Venice was revived at the Orange Tree Theatre in London in 2019. Jo’s recent works include Eve, the story of her transition, and The Gospel According to Jesus Queen of Heaven, which she first performed at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow in 2009. It was later performed all around Brazil and at the Traverse Theatre, stirring up controversy and attracting opposition from some church groups and the law.
More recently she’s written The Covid Requiem, commissioned by Pitlochry Festival Theatre, A Space to Bless (put on by Queen Jesus Productions at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh) and Slug Love (Tron Theatre and Trans Vegas).
Ely Percy grew up in Renfrew. They are a fiction writer who has published 50 short stories in magazines such as New Writing Scotland, The Scotsman, Orange, Causeway and The Edinburgh Review.
‘I started sending my stuff out when I was just 15, because I felt angry and misunderstood and rejected by the world – during a time, they told The Ampersand Project, that they were in psychiatric care.
Their memoir, Cracked: Recovering After Traumatic Brain Injury was published by JKP in 2002. They describe it as a memoir ‘about not being able to remember who I was’ – and about relearning to read and write. They then graduated with distinction from Glasgow University’s MPhil programme in Creative Writing in 2004.
In the early 2000s they began writing Vicky Romeo Plus Joolz, which they describe as ‘a butch-meets-femme lesbian rom-com’ and also as a historical novel, since it was published in 2019 (by Knight Errant Press).
Monstrous Regiment in Edinburgh published Ely’s second novel, Duck Feet, based on short stories about teenage life they had written in the Renfrewshire dialect. They recently read from it at Edinburgh International Book Festival and have appeared at many other readings and gatherings. Monstrous Regiment published one of the stories, ‘Nae Shame’, and decided to publish the book – they were taken with its ‘skilful balance of sharp humour and huge heart’.
Eris Young published They/Them/Their: A Guide to Nonbinary and Genderqueer Identities with JKP in 2019. It’s based on their own experience as well as research and interviews and covers common experience, language, law, healthcare, history of nonbinary identities and what friends and family and others can do to support nonbinary people.
They have also appeared in anthologies such as F, M or Other and We Were Always Here.
In 2020, they won the New Writer Award from the Scottish Book Trust.
They’re a short story critic for Carve literary magazine, which specialises in fiction in the tradition of Raymond Carver. They are Associate Editor of Shoreline of Infinity science fiction magazine, based in Scotland, and have appeared in Shoreline of Infinity 14 and in Astral Waters, Expanded Horizons and The Selkie.
And they’re Writer-in-Residence for Lighthouse Bookshop in Edinburgh and chaired Lavender Menace Archive’s first queer writing event in 22 years, Pride in Print in June 2019.
What advice would they give anyone who’s working on being a writer? ‘Tend your own garden’, they told The Ampersand Project.
‘When you’re feeling lost, turn your attention back to your work and just, work…your work can be an anchor for you when the whole hustle feels like way too much to deal with.’
Tending your own garden could sound like a narrow focus, but clearly – given enough time – it can lead you right over the horizon.
We always delighted to here from you