Interview with Matt Kendrick
Matt is an accomplished teacher and writer with the back catalogue to match. He's been nominated, longlisted, shortlisted and won writing prizes. His story "The Salt Trick" placed second in the Oxford Flash Fiction Prize and it is magic. Excitingly for us, he's recently jumped back into the mammoth task of writing a novel alongside working with writers on their own novels and novellas.
Matt's "Write Beyond the Lightbulb" courses are renowned. A master of lyrical writing he understands the weight words hold and how to use the perfectly curated image with devastating accuracy.
A story that really showcases Matt's musical prose wizardry is "a list of things that are white," which was part of Fictive Dream's Flash Fiction February 2020. This story layers image upon skilfully chosen image. As the story emerges you'll be tipped from paragraph into paragraph by the force of the rhythm. In the end, you'll be awed by the breadth of images and the blizzard of emotions they stir up.
Meet the author:
Matt Kendrick is a writer, editor and creative writing tutor based in the East Midlands, UK. His stories have been published in Cheap Pop, Craft Literary, Fictive Dream, FlashBack Fiction, New Flash Fiction Review, Reflex Fiction and elsewhere. His stories have been included on the Biffy 50 list for 2019-20 and Best Microfiction 2021. He has also been nominated for Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions and the Pushcart Prize. He works as a freelance editor and creative writing tutor, drawing on his knowledge of languages and other art forms to inform his courses on lyrical writing and glorious words.
Matt's picks were: 1-14-16-7-11-17-32-37-42-56-57
What’s the best or worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?
MK: When I first started writing, I remember a more experienced writer posted on Twitter that you should never edit before you’ve finished your first draft. Generally, I think this is good advice that works for many (most?) writers but it isn’t something that always works for me. If I’m writing a longer story (currently, I’m working on my novel), it will take me several days or weeks (or months or years) to get from A to B, and I find that tinkering and tweaking what I’ve already written propels me forwards much better than simply reading the last line I wrote and trying to pick up the narrative threads. So, I suppose what I’m rambling towards in this answer is the best writing advice is perhaps to find what works for you as an individual and take everything else as what it is – advice, a suggestion rather than a hard-and-fast rule.
What’s your job besides writing?
MK: I work freelance as an editor and writing teacher so in a way writing is my job – I get to work with so many talented writers helping them improve their craft and generally being in awe of their talent.
What are the recurring/reoccurring themes in your writing?
MK: This question has really made me reflect. Because of my health condition, I think I’m drawn towards writing about illness and disability, exploring the frustrations and impact of that on an individual’s life. Mental health is another thing that fascinates me as a writer, how fallible we are as human beings to the crumbling of our own mind. Finally, I think a lot of my writing deals with questions around truth, how facts can be twisted, how rumours can spread.
What keeps you writing?
MK: One thing I’ve been trying to focus on just recently is recapturing that sense of joy in the writing process itself. For me, I want it to be something fun, not a task to be completed. So, I’ve stopped thinking about where I might send a story or whether it will work from a reader’s perspective or whether I’m doing everything correctly from a craft point of view. My main objective, especially on a first draft, is just to enjoy the process. The bonus of this is that I’ve found it helps with rejections (or NQAs / not-quite-acceptances as I like to call them!) In my mind, I’ve switched my primary goal for each piece of writing from “publication” to “enjoying the process” and this is a goal I can achieve without ever sending the piece anywhere at all. If I do decide I want to send it out into the wild, I’m safe in the knowledge that whatever happens with it, I’ve already achieved my main goal. Anything else is a bonus.
What does your dream ice-cream sundae look like?
MK: Oh, this is a question and a half for someone like me. I have a very restricted diet and ice-cream is very definitely off the menu, as is anything else you might put on an ice-cream sundae like fruit or chocolate or toffee fudge sauce. So, this is very much a dream for me rather than something I can actually eat but I’m going to go with something classic and simple – vanilla ice cream with fresh strawberries and a shortbread biscuit.
Can you listen to music while you write?
MK: Nope. When I write, I’m very conscious of the rhythm of my sentences so I would find background music really off-putting. However, just recently I’ve been thinking a lot about writing inspired by music, whether that might be something I’d like to explore, so maybe I might have to give writing to music another try.
Are you part of a writer’s circle?
MK: I’m lucky enough to belong to a wonderful writing group called “Betas and Bludgers”, which is full of writing superstars. We swap stories for feedback and organise workshops, and I have improved so much as a writer from having the support and encouragement of everyone else within the group. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I’d ever get any stories into the sort of shape I need them to be to have the courage to send out into the world.
Do you have a hidden talent the world needs to know about?
MK: My only real talent is playing the piano. I used to be much better than I am now but I did make a couple of short videos last year that I stuck on Twitter. If anyone wants a (hopefully) relaxing listen, there’s a video here.
When did you start writing?
MK: I’m always amazed by anyone who has a definitive answer to this question. It feels like there are multiple answers depending on how you interpret it. I certainly wrote stories when I was at school although, funnily enough, creative writing was never something I particularly enjoyed back then – I think I found the idea of ‘forced creativity’ too constraining.
After that, I toyed around with writing for many years and, although, I wasn’t putting words on the page, I feel that I was still on the writing journey because so much of what we do as writers happens away from the page – the living of life, the people we meet, the dreams we have, the places we go. But in terms of actively writing, for me, there were two beginnings.
First, a failed attempt to write a novel about eight years ago. I’d just got a new job and I was determined that it would be my last job, that I would write a novel and it would be published and I would be able to live off the royalties of that novel for the rest of my days!
The second beginning was when I became very ill just over four years ago now and I used writing as a sort of therapy. It was a way of escaping from the illness, finding that glint of joy and hope that we all need to keep us sane. Since then, writing has become a spine around which I have refashioned my life. I’m still struggling with illness but because of writing, I now have a freelance career as a writing tutor and editor that fits around the obstacles my particular illness throws up. And while I’ve become more realistic about the prospects of publishing a global bestseller, I still harbour hopes of one day at least finishing my novel.
What’s your favourite piece you’ve had published, to date, and why?
MK: I have a soft spot in my heart for a piece that was published by FlashBack Fiction in 2019 called “Life at the Colliery, 1832-1845.” I think it was the first time I properly found the emotional core of a story and brought it to the page.
Where is the best place you’ve ever lived?
MK: I’m really lucky to have moved about a lot in my life so I’ve got lots of places to choose from. I spent many happy years living in Yorkshire and feel a little guilty that that’s not my pick. I’ve also lived in France in a tiny village called Argenton sur Creuse (where I taught in a local secondary school) and in Le Mans (where I taught at the university). But I’m going to pick Zimbabwe where I lived for two and a half years as a child. For all its political turmoil, it’s still a beautiful country and, in living there, I feel so lucky to have experienced life through a completely different lens.
What are you currently reading?
MK: I’ve actually just finished a book this morning, a novel by Kamila Shamsie called “Burnt Shadows”. It’s an epic that spans a whole lifetime from Japan in 1945 to New York in 2002, stopping in a mid-partition India and a 1980s Pakistan en route. Anyone who isn’t familiar with Shamsie’s writing, I would recommend “Home Fire” as a wonderful starting point, especially for lovers of flash fiction since there is a whole section in “Home Fire” that reads like flash.
To discover more about Matt you can visit his website, where you can find information about his latest writing courses and editing and feedback services he offers. Having received feedback from Matt myself, I can testify that he's not only a skilled editor, but he's gentle with his suggestions and generous with his time and knowledge. He's just started offering mentoring services too.
On an uplifting ending note, he shared with me that he's continually grateful to the wonderful writing community on Twitter who will keep bringing their talent and positivity whatever happens in 2022!
Matt's such a positive force and he's got lots of great things on the horizon, so stay tuned.
Follow him on Twitter: @MkenWrites and Instagram: @mkenwrites123