Interview with Kerri Ward, Summer 2018 Flash Fiction Runner Up

Tuesday, February 19, 2019
Today we are chatting with Kerri Ward, one of the runner's up in the Summer 2018 Flash Fiction contest. Make sure you read her touching story "Sick Leave" and then come by and read our interview.

Kerri Ward is an Irish writer and editor. She graduated from Queen’s University, Belfast with an MA in Creative Writing in 2013. Since then, she has been featured in a number of online and print literary journals, including The Cabinet of Heed and Blackbird, an anthology produced by the Seamus Heaney Centre. In 2017, her radio drama Human History was produced by Collapsing Horse Theatre and she placed 5th overall in the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge. In 2018 she won the July Dublin Story Slam and placed 2nd in the Save As Writers Gothic Dreams Short Story Competition, commemorating the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Kerri’s work explores themes of personal identity, love, and loss, but she also dabbles in gory feminist horror and subversive children’s stories. She lives in Dublin with her fiancĂ© where, if she’s not writing, she’s probably baking. She tweets from @kerriward_.

Interview by Nicole Pyles

First and foremost, I was so touched by your story "Sick Leave." In all honesty, it brought tears to my eyes. What was the inspiration behind your story?

I'm so touched that the story moved you. I actually based it on the experience of a close friend, who had a first-trimester miscarriage. Because it happened before her first scan she never knew exactly how many weeks the baby had been, and because she had two small children at home at the time she had to carry on with life as normal the next day. She told me about it 15 years after it happened, having told almost nobody until then, and the loneliness of that just broke my heart. How many women have lost a child and then gone to work, dropped their children to school, made dinner, gone through the motions of their lives like nothing has happened because nobody knew and because society doesn't acknowledge their grief? I wrote 'Sick Leave' for her, and for all of those women. If someone out there reads my story who has been through that, I hope that they feel seen and acknowledged.

I think it's so touching you wrote that for her and all women who experience that type of loss. So, you mentioned in your bio that your writing explores themes of "personal identity, love and loss." What leads you to write these types of stories?

What I am most drawn to as a writer is the moments when we are forced to look at ourselves and say 'Is this really who I am? Is this really what I want?' I think when you love someone you are changed forever, and when you lose someone you are changed forever, and I want to follow characters as they go through that experience and come out the other side. As well, on a personal level, I'm very emotionally engaged (my fiancé would say 'neurotic') and I have a lot of love to give (he would say 'needy') so I like to write characters who are just a bit like me!

I think that's awesome you write characters that are bit like you! I think a lot of us writers enjoy doing that. I know I do! Well, I also am curious - you mentioned you also write gory feminist horror. I love it! The types of writing you do seem so different. How do you alternate between telling different types of stories?

Writing gory feminist horror is the best fun! But really, though the tone/setting/length/atmosphere of my stories can differ wildly, my themes tend to stay the same. I recently placed in a gothic fiction competition with a gruesome story about a female werewolf who slaughters her would-be rapists, but at the heart of it, that was a story about a girl grieving the death of her mother who finds the inner strength to love herself for what she is (honestly!). Working in publishing has made me pretty adept at writing to a brief, too, so I find it easy to flip from demographic to demographic or genre to genre without losing my voice.

That sounds amazing and I love the heartbreak you are writing about at the heart of these stories! So, what is next for you? What are you working on now?

Too many different things! I'm that person who can't just commit to a single project. At the moment though I'm working on a radio play based on the myth of Persephone, and a kids' book about a bad-ass little ballerina who discovers a love of karate. Stay tuned...

That combination of a ballerina who loves karate sounds awesome! Lastly, since you bake, I can't help but ask, what do you plan on baking for the holiday season?

This is my favourite question! Christmas in my house is a baking frenzy. This year I'll be making vegan brownies for my sisters, a big boozey trifle for my folks, spiced cookies for coworkers and a couple of my signature mulled port cakes for visitors. Let me know if you want any recipes!

Oh that sounds so yummy! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today and best of luck with your writing!

For more information about our quarterly Flash Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Essay contests, visit our contest page here.


Renee Roberson said...

Great interview questions, Nicole! Kerri, wonderful job on telling this often untold story for women. I'm fortunate to have never been through it myself, but I have many friends who have experienced such a loss and it is worn into their hearts forever. I loved learning about your writing projects and my mouth is watering from your baked goodies! Congratulations again and I look forward to reading more from you in the future.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Nicole--Thanks for doing this interview and for including the link to Kerri's story.

Kerri--What a moving story. Every woman who experienced such a loss--and those who worried it might happen to them--could relate to it.

I love port, and would love the mulled port cake recipe... if you could send it to Nicole, perhaps she would send it my way?

Unknown said...

Thank you, both, so much for your kind comments! I'm touched to know that the story held meaning for you. I do hope that it reaches more women who can relate to it.

Sioux - I use the Irish chef Catherine Fulvio's Hot Port Cake recipe, but when I infuse the port I add a couple of star anise, a teaspoon of whole allspice berries and a cinnamon stick. The recipe is here:
I make three or four every year now, and they go down such a treat!

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