Author Interview: Isabel Waidner

As part of my feature on the Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses I invited publishers and authors whose books were selected for the longlist to answer a few questions or write a guest post for my blog. Today I am delighted to welcome Isabel Waidner, author of Gaudy Bauble, which is published by Dostoyevsky Wannabe.

 

1. Can you tell my readers a little about yourself and your background?

The name’s Isabel Waidner. Writer, queer. Working-class, EU migrant. Currently lecturer in creative writing at Roehampton University in London, with specialisms in avant-garde literature, cultural studies, gender studies and embodiment. Ex-musician (lastly with the indie band Klang, records out on Rough Trade and Blast First).

2. Can you tell us about Gaudy Bauble?

Gaudy Bauble (Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 2017) is riot of all things marginalised (LGBTQI, BAME, working-class, also the nonhuman, the not-just human). It is designed as an intervention against the normativity of literary publishing contexts in the UK, and the growing conservativism and nationalism in Tory Britain and beyond. The narrative is set within a London-based queer subculture, the near future (201x). It builds around a fake detective story. It’s just, the detectives don’t detect anything. Instead, they appear to effect an out-of-control insurgence of disenfranchised things, unheard(-of) things. Gaudy Bauble ask what might become possible if the marginalised (the riff-raff) were running the show, and I promise they are making a difference.

3. What inspired the book?

The project to develop more progressive, innovative and diverse forms of literature which are missing entirely from the existing UK literary canon. To be part of a transformational literary community and subculture contributing towards a progressive and inclusive politics in the UK. The project to effect social change. Also, the work of writers, performers, artists, academics and activists including Mojisola Adebayo, David Hoyle, Lisa Blackman, Charlotte Prodger, Ego Ahaiwe-Sowinski, Irene Revell and Campbell X, pioneers like Derek Jarman and Brigid Brophy, and US writers like Dodie Bellamy, Kevin Killian, CA Conrad and Jess Arndt, to name just a very very few.

4. George RR Martin has said there are two types of writers – the architect, who plans everything in advance, and the gardener, who plants an idea and allows it to develop organically. Which are you?

I’m not an ideas writer (or rather, I rely on having several ideas within the space of one sentence). But neither do I pre-plan. My ideas around pre-planning are much in keeping with those developed by Lucy Suchman’s in her monograph, Plans and Situated Actions (1987). Here, Suchman analyses human interactions with a Xerox photocopier in order to argue that our conventional understanding of preplanning as the straightforward execution of a preset plan, does not take into account what she terms the situatedness of all human behaviour, a sort of improvised responsiveness that is part of our actions and practices including writing.

5. What is your favourite part of being a writer?

Everything. I love being a writer, it’s my dream. 

6. Do you seek out reviews of your books?

Yes of course.

7. What do you do when you wish to treat yourself?

Read.

8. What books have you read and enjoyed recently?

Just recently:

  • Jess Arndt’s collection Large Animals
  • Jay Bernard’s The Red and Yellow Nothing
  • Joanna Walsh’s Seed and Worlds from the Word’s End
  • Rosie Snajdr’s forthcoming A Hypocritical Reader
  • Richard Brammer’s The End of History
  • Dodie Bellamy & Kevin Killian’s (ed.) Writers Who Love Too Much: New Narrative Writing 1977-1997
  • Andrea Lawlor’s Paul Takes the Shape of a Mortal Girl
  • Eley Williams’s Attrib
  • Jeff Hilson’s Latanoprost Variations
  • Eileen Myles’s Afterglow: A Dog Memoir
  • R. Zamora Linmark’s Rolling the R’s
  • Huw Lemmey’s Chubz: The Demonization of My Working Arse
  • performance artist Scottee’s screenplay Bravado
  • Tommy Pico’s Nature Poem.

I also liked Dead Ink Books’ collection Know Your Plays: Essays on the Working Class by the Working Class, notably Abondance Matanda’s contribution.

9. Who would you like to sit down to dinner with, real or from fiction?

ALL OF THE INSPIRATIONAL AND ADVENTUROUS WRITERS AND PUBLISHERS AND READERS, ALL REAL.

10. What question has no interviewer asked that you wish they would?

What do you most look forward to in your entire life? The publication of a book I’ve just finished editing, called Liberating the Canon: An Anthology of Innovative Literature (out in February 2018 with Dostoyevsky Wannabe). The book might be interesting to your readers and anyone interested in the interdependency of independent publishing and innovation in literature. It features some of the UK’s most innovative writers including Mojisola Adebayo, Jess Arndt (US), Jay Bernard, Richard Brammer, Victoria Brown, SJ Fowler, Juliet Jacques, Sara Jaffe (US), Roz Kaveney, R. Zamora Linmark (US), Mira Mattar, Seabright D.Mortimer, Nat Raha, Nisha Ramayya, Rosie Snajdr, Timothy Thornton, Isabel Waidner, Joanna Walsh and Eley Williams.

 

Thank you Isabel for providing such interesting answers to my questions. You may follow Isabel on Twitter: @isabelwaidner

Click on the book cover above to find out more about Gaudy Bauble. 

Keep up with all the news on The Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses by following on Twitter: @PrizeRofc

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Chatting to independent publisher, Dostoyevsky Wannabe

As part of my feature on the Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses I invited publishers and authors whose books were selected for the longlist to answer a few questions or write a guest post for my blog. Today I am delighted to welcome Vikki and Richard from Dostoyevsky Wannabe, which published Gaudy Bauble by Isabel Waidner.

An introduction – who are you and what do you aim to achieve?

At its core, Dostoyevsky Wannabe is essentially two of us, Victoria Brown and Richard Brammer but beyond that we like to think of it as a collaborative affair that includes all of the writers who we work with and our readers. What do we aim to achieve? That’s a tricky one. We don’t really have any aims beyond doing what we’re already doing which is having nothing to do with the cookbooks and books about wizards of mainstream publishing (although we do have an idea for a range of cookbooks actually) and sitting to the side of the more normative versions of independent publishing and seeing what develops in that space.  We don’t seek to deliberately marginalize ourselves or our books with this approach, we’d like ALL of our books to gain plenty of readers but the reality is that some do and some don’t but from our point of view all of our books are equal. We tend to attract readers who having discovered their first Dostoyevsky Wannabe book come back to see what else we’ve got.

How have things changed in publishing since you started?

Publishing hasn’t changed all that much in the time that we’ve been around from what we can tell. Maybe it should change more. It’d be cool if independent publishing didn’t seem so institutionally dominated by middle-class, white, male affair though because that’s how it often looks to us, when we view it out of the corner of our eye.  Maybe it’s getting better, we haven’t done a sociological study, and, as we say, we only really see it in our peripheral vision because we don’t subscribe to ‘Publisher Monthly’ or any of that trade stuff. We do have a good record collection though.

Your experience of prize listings – costs and benefits, monetary or otherwise?

The prize we’re currently long-listed for is the first prize we’ve ever entered. It seems a worthwhile one. We’re not sure how we feel about prize-giving culture more generally. Ambivalent probably. On the one hand, prizes maybe do give publicity (and therefore readers) to books and authors who might not get their due otherwise and that is a good thing but quite often they tend to reward the already previously awarded. The other discomfort we have with the culture of prizes is that from a certain angle some prizes can have a slightly unpleasant whiff of Darwinian Capitalism about them that often skews who is and isn’t allowed to acquire readers and it all presents an idea that there is such a thing as good ‘literary’ quality between one book and another and we’re not sure that such canonisation has ever made any sense. Our general opinion is that the notion of a canon has long been a strategy of the powerful, one that wields false notions of ‘quality’ in order to maintain things in favour of certain groups and not others. We’re not down with all of that ‘the best things that have been thought and said’ Matthew Arnold nonsense.

That said, if any prize-givers are reading then please feel free to award us and long-list us and short-list us for your prizes. We won’t mind and we deserve them as much as anyone might deserve them.

The future – where would you like to see your small press going?

We’ll just be carrying on as we have been. We’ve received vast amounts of submissions over the last year, and they keep on coming, they’ve tended to grow exponentially over the lifetime of Dostoyevsky Wannabe. We can’t do them all and we apologize to anyone who has submitted to us where we didn’t choose to go ahead and work with them on the book and we hope that those people aren’t too disheartened and will realize that we’re not any authority on the quality of a book, we either like it or we don’t but it doesn’t mean that someone else won’t like it and want to publish it. Alternatively, why not publish it yourselves or put it out with a few friends. It’s about time the taboo of the vanity press got shown up for what it has always been. After all, the world would never have had certain songs by The Pastels, Tallulah Gosh, Bikini Kill, Team Dresch, The Buzzcocks or Joy Division without those bands setting up with their friends to do it themselves in the form of what, in literature, would be dismissed as vanity publishing.

Back in Dostoyevsky Wannabe world, we are looking forward to the following books due out with us in 2018 which are as follows (these are the ones that we know about, to date):

  • Yeezus in Furs by Shane Jesse Christmass
  • Dark Hour by Nadia de Vries
  • A Hypocritical Reader by Rosie Šnajdr
  • Lou Ham: Racing Anthropocene Statements by Paul Hawkins
  • The Peeler by Bertie Marshall, Honest Days by Matt Bookin
  • A Furious Oyster by Jessica Sequeira
  • Death to the Bullshit Artists of South Texas by Fernando A Flores.

They’re all on our Dostoyevsky Wannabe Originals imprint. On our Dostoyevsky Wannabe Experimental imprint we have a huge anthology edited by Isabel Waidner titled Liberating the Canon: An Anthology of Innovative Literature featuring a whole host of fantastic writers, Metempoïesis by Rose Knapp, Blooming Insanity by Chuck Harp and Sovereign Invalid by Alan Cunningham. Finally, we have Cassette 85 guest-edited by Troy James Weaver and there’ll be a few chapbooks on our Dostoyevsky Wannabe X imprint from time to time.

Please check our site: Dostoyevsky Wannabe  for more info.

 

Thank you Vikki and Richard for providing such interesting answers to my questions. You may follow Dostoyevsky Wannabe on Twitter: @dw_wannabe

Click on the book cover above to find out more about Gaudy Bauble. 

Keep up with all the news on The Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses by following on Twitter: @PrizeRofc

Book Review: Gaudy Bauble

“A placebo is a medically ineffectual substance. But ineffectuals had been running this show”

Gaudy Bauble, by Isabel Waidner, is described as queer avant-garde fiction. Its cast of characters would be QUILTBAG if they accepted labels. Reading this book it appears few labels can be applied.

The story opens in a small, 10th floor council flat in central London where Bela Gotterbaum has been tasked with writing the script for a new 8-part television series, working title Querbird. The flat is home and workshop for director/producer Tracey B. Lulip who is preparing to film a pilot for Channel 4. The TV broadcaster routinely commissions diverse producers to provide innovative and representative programming. Most of their advance has gone to the Bela, a feminist, transgender activist, who then disappears. Two PIs arrive to investigate. Mayhem ensues.

A nearby ethical recycling agency for dead pets is visited. An accident with a prop results in a dental repair shop becoming involved. As filming starts the idea for Querbird is abandoned. In its place an independently produced and broadcast TV series will be created with the content evolving from the protagonists misadventures.

Much of what is described is slapstick and surreal with clothes playing a role, not just as costume. More important is the play on language and the visuals evoked. The cast challenge concepts of what a book character can be. The writing embodies atypical scenes and structure.

The 8 part TULIP.TV series makes little sense but this doesn’t prevent it growing an audience. Linear plot-lines and classic narratives could possibly be interpreted, as one character attempts at the end. This reader finished the book without understanding much of what had gone on. Given the playful nature of the presentation perhaps this is the point – the next big thing often emerges from the unconventional.

Would I recommend? Possibly to those who enjoy the kooky and experimental.

Gaudy Bauble is published by Dostoyevsky Wannabe Originals.