2018 BAME Prize: Varaidzo Q&A

Varaidzo is one of our six shorlisted authors for the 2018 Guardian 4th Estate BAME Short Story Prize with her story Bust Stop. Get to know him a little bit better with this Q&A, and find out more about all six shortlisted stories here.

The story: Bus Stop

Marley stands out, the black sheep in a white area, but her close friendship with cool Lara exposes a worlds of pixies and whispering trees and changeling children, and the town’s local folklore might hold the key for Marley to fit in.

What’s your name?

Varaidzo

Where do you live?

South East London

What’s your main occupation?

I work as an Assistant Editor for Wasafiri

Can you remember the title of the first story you ever wrote?

When I was five I wrote a picture book called ‘Teddy goes to Australia’, about how my Teddy somehow got separated from me and accidentally ended up travelling to Australia and befriending a Kangaroo. I don’t remember it well but my Mum and Gran still speak of it fondly.

What are you reading now?

Minty Alley by C.L.R. James. It was the first book ever published in English by a black West Indian but it reads like it could have been written yesterday, an example of the pure theatre of ordinary lives.

What’s your favourite word?

Peak

What one book everyone should read?

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. I think I cycled through every human emotion whilst reading that book.

Which writers have influenced you most?

Zadie Smith changed the game for me when I was about seventeen. Reading White Teeth was the first time I saw worlds I recognised from my own life reflected back to me in a book. It hadn’t even occurred to me that that was allowed before then.

What’s the most memorable sentence you’ve ever read?

It’s such a cliché, but probably ‘that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet’ from Romeo & Juliet. On my eighteenth birthday I got ‘as sweet’ tattooed on my arm as homage, along with my pen name, so I can’t ever really forget it.

Where’s your favourite place to write?

On the Overground, in the notes app on my phone. My writing flows much easier in transit, when it happens absentmindedly and I’m not trying too hard.

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