Liz McGrath’s microfictions, “Bernauer Strasse: Exit to Freedom”, and “Life on the Other Side” will appear in the first issue of The Centifictionist (Vol. 1, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2020). Liz graciously answered a few brief questions for us. Read the interview below.
1. What inspired your stories “Bernauer Strasse: Exit to Freedom”, and “Life on the Other Side”?
To commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall, BBC4 released an exceptional new podcast. “Intrigue: Tunnel 29” tells the true story of Joachim Rudolph, a 22-year-old engineering student from West Berlin. In 1962, he and his friends dug a tunnel underneath the Berlin Wall, from the basement of Bernauer Strasse 78 in West Berlin to Schönholzer Strasse 7 in East Berlin, rescuing 29 escapees from the brutal Communist regime. I decided to imagine myself as one of the young mothers who went through the tunnel, her husband and baby behind her. I also lived in Berlin for eight years, so I have an affinity for the city. Its complex history is fascinating.
I wanted to give a glimpse of what life was like for them once they were settled in West Berlin, which is what “Life on the Other Side” does. Aside from how different life would have been on a material level, I also wanted to show the conflicting emotions she must have felt, from joy and relief to guilt for escaping and not telling their friends about the tunnel for fear it would be overrun, which would have scuppered their chances of escape.
Links to the BBC4 podcast “Intrigue: Tunnel 29” here and here. More information also here.
2. What inspires you and your writing?
I draw a lot from [my] own experience, ups and downs in life, relationships, etc.. I use writing as therapy, especially in my poetry. For flash fiction, however, I find it enjoyable and challenging to just use my imagination. Sometimes it can come from something I’ve dreamt about, or something in the news, or moments in history that are being revisited (as in the inspiration for my stories). Sometimes a scene just starts forming in your mind like a movie, and you just think: “I want to write this down”.
3. What keeps you going when experiencing times of misery and despair?
Chocolate. Coffee. Hugs. Also, meditation. Remembering that difficult emotions are temporary. Looking for the lesson in the experience even if it’s painful. Talking about it. Writing about it. Self-care. Getting outside in the fresh air and taking a walk somewhere beautiful, like a forest or a lake. Nature always brings me back to life.
4. What advice do you have for microfiction writers?
Read other writers and keep mixing it up. Don’t write the same people and scenes over and over; microfiction’s short form frees you to write about anything and everything.
5. Is there anything else that you would like people to know about you and/or your writing?
I’m only just getting started, so watch this space. And thanks for reading.
Liz McGrath is a budding poet and flash fiction writer. She lives and works in London as a Senior Creative Copywriter. She studied English at Cambridge and recently graduated from Birkbeck with a Creative Writing MA. She is currently working on her first poetry chapbook and drinking too much coffee. Twitter: @McGrath_Writes.
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