BackStory: Five Questions with Ceinwen E Cariad Haydon

Detail from painting by Flora Lion (1918)

BackStory: Five Questions with Ceinwen E Cariad Haydon
Author of Gutted

What inspired you to write ‘Gutted’?

I was involved our local Workers’ Educational Association’s ‘Turbulent Times Project’ which looked at the decade after the end of the World War I, specifically on Tyneside. I began to think about women’s experiences, both during and at the end of hostilities. As I researched background information for the pieces I was writing, (not this one), I became aware that women’s voices were often absent. Women had been active throughout the war, and often called on to take roles and responsibilities traditionally met by men and I started to think about the paths that they may have followed. ‘Gutted’ came from these considerations.

What are your favourite pieces of historical flash, prose poetry or hybrid work? What do you like about them?

I have enjoyed listening to BBC Radio 4’s Home Front. Obviously, this is radio drama, but it powerfully evoked the period of WW1 in the UK. There is an interesting study of women’s poetry/poetic voices written by Brian Clayton of University of Leicester:

I enjoy any literature that liberates female voices and celebrates ordinary lives. Charlotte Mew is interesting and writes with raw emotion and acidity but, in her work that I have read, she doesn’t set out to record the lived experience of women in those years.

Who are your favourite historical fiction writers (flash or otherwise) and why?

Helen Dunmore e.g. The Siege. She does not shy away from gritty realities and expresses what it is to be human. Her narratives are consistent and credible, based on good research yet told in a unique voice. She allows the reader into the world she writes.

What is your least favourite part of the writing process?

The point that I recognise that, even though I’ve tried to be rigorous, I’ve included clichéd words or metaphors. Also, times when I have not allowed enough space within the piece for the reader, i.e. told not shown or neatened it up and smothered its vitality.

What do you like most about writing flash?

I love the discipline involved in the concision, the challenge to make each word work to earn its place in the piece. I like to work with the rhythm of language to augment meaning.

What do you think is the most rewarding aspect of writing historical flash?

When it works, it can provide an incisive gateway into another time, other lives, like a high-speed Tardis. The potency of the experience comes through the tension between its clarity and unknowability, a wonderful dichotomy.

Ceinwen lives in Newcastle upon Tyne and writes short stories and poetry. She has been published in on line magazines and in print anthologies. She graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from Newcastle University in December 2017. She believes everyone’s voice counts.

Image detail from a painting by Flora Lion of the Women’s Canteen at Phoenix Works, Bradford (1918), courtesy of the Imperial War Museum. © Art.IWM ART 4434