INTERVIEW with 2019 Berlin Writing Prize Winner, S.K. Perry

We had the chance to interview S.K Perry whose story “A Wide Neon Yell” won the 2019 Berlin Writing Prize. She tells us all about her experience as a writer and provides some useful tips for those of you who are thinking of participating in the 2022 Berlin Writing Prize.

What do you like to write about?

I write literary fiction, poetry sometimes, and lately I’ve been working on some essays. My novel-in-progress explores the climate crisis, surveillance, and the ways that a Crip reading of time might disrupt our expectations and creation of narrative. More broadly, I’m interested in writing feeling and bodies: from emotion through to physical sensation and everything in between. Feeling often happens in relationship to the experiences we have/had, the ways we are perceived, celebrated or limited, and social and interpersonal dynamics, so all of these things are a big part of what I write too. I am also interested in the relationship between writing and activism.

What was your submission about?

It was about a circus act called the ‘hair hang’, sisterhood, jealousy, and the ways being a performer can mean navigating the boundaries between existing as person and product. I guess I also played a little with the potential violence of that dehumanisation.

How was your experience at the writing residency?

It was amazing. Katrin and the whole team at The Circus couldn’t have been more lovely and welcoming, and my apartment gave me the chance to write a lot, but also really explore Berlin (it’s very central and loads of great places are walkable, so easy to pop out on a break from work and have a little adventure). I wrote a huge chunk of my current project there, and the mindspace in particular to immerse myself in that was invaluable. The whole thing was such an incredible gift.

What did you do during that time?

I spent every morning writing and then either rested or went on an explore. I got to hang out with some of the other writers who live in Berlin, my cousin who’s there, and my friend who came out to stay with me and write, too. I also went on a walking tour with Paul Scraton, resident writer at the hotel. In theory we were supposed to be doing the tour together, but in reality, I just learned loads about the area and had a great time. We had an event to launch the competition anthology too, which was exciting. I ate almost daily cake. I look back on this month as being particularly incredible as it was January 2020 – two months later and I was shielding, and remained in lockdown for the whole of the year. It felt like charmed time, and was a totem to hold onto in my memories when times got tough during the peak of the pandemic.

What advice do you have for people who are sending submissions to the writing competition?

Have fun with the theme. I think themes are a great chance to write outside of your usual subjects, and can tip you into a story idea you wouldn’t have had otherwise. This definitely happened for me. Make bold choices if you want to; the great thing about short stories is you can try things that are a bit experimental maybe, without needing to work out how to sustain it for the length of a whole novel. Otherwise, make sure you like what you’ve written; if you do, chances are the judges will too.

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