I love dabbling in different styles. I met Slawka Scarso when she ran a workshop on writing flash fiction with the Geneva Writer’s Group last year. What I was most struck by was how there a little stories hiding everywhere – she used images, titles, recipes, lists. It made me feel as though I could mould anything at all into a nugget of a story. She also offered the most practical ideas I’ve ever had for thinking of titles. I’m terrible at titles! Now I have such gems as ‘What If The Cake I Just Gave You Is Poisoned?’ and ‘Six Feet From Your Door on October 3rd.’
The other thing I encountered in the workshop was Slawka’s writing. She shared with us a beauitful piece of flash she wrote called ‘The Sound of Dust‘ which verged on prose poetry – a beauitful moment when someone returned to a house damaged by war and rediscovered the beauty of music. So of course, when she told us she had a book coming out, I wanted to read it! I think what I liked most about her All Their Favourite Stories, her novella-in-flash, is the way that she links the stories together. Although we are taken into many lives throughout the book, it is centred on a Polish worker in a retirement home in the UK. The title refers to the stories of their lives that the residents tell over and over – their favourite memories of their lives. It’s impressive to see how we explore both the individual experiences of many characters but also how they grow and interact with each other over the time frame of the book. As a novella-in-flash, themes, characters and ideas grow and develop over the course of each story, while they can also stand alone as pieces of short fiction. I’m really enjoying how our ideas of stories and lengths and shapes are changing, and that books like these are in a lovely, fluid place in the middle of what we might expect from either a short story collection or a novel.
The stories themselves are beauitfully told. We never veer into the sentimental, but are given touching and incredibly human moments between the residents and in reflecting on their lives. It’s also lovely to see so many stories from the perspective of older people, this isn’t an angle we see often and to live in their skin is an important experience. I enjoyed the humour and light touch of the difficulties of living in a space that is not at all your home, while also delving into the more difficult elements of growing older and feeling dissociated from the world you inhabited for so many years. A truly moving collection that touches on such a broad range of human experience.
I wanted to talk to Slawka about where her idea for setting and characters came from, and what she enjoyed about writing flash fiction. Read on to find out more:
I loved the overall idea of setting all of the short stories around a central place and character – someone who works in a care home. How did you come up with this idea and what drew you to it?
I also thought the idea of residents telling their ‘favourite stories’ was wonderful. It gave us a real insight into those characters and their backgrounds. And they were so different! What were your inspirations behind writing these stories in particular?
Having a central character that ties the collection together really made the collection interesting as we could see different facets of her life and struggles through different lenses. Why did you decide to write her story like this rather than in one long narrative?
You have a lot of experience writing short fiction and flash fiction. How do you find the process of writing these and are there any tips you have to share on writing in these forms?
How did you go about getting your collection published?
Slawka G. Scarso has published flash and micros in Fractured Lit, Ellipsis Zine, FlashBack Fiction, Ghost Parachute and others and has received two Pushcart nominations. Her debut novella in flash “All Their Favourite Stories” was commended in the 2022 Bath Novella in Flash Award and is available from Ad Hoc Fiction. Two of her stories will be featured in the 2023 Best Microfiction Anthology. She lives between Rome and Milan with her husband and her dog, Tessa. More words on Twitter as @nanopausa and www.nanopausa.com