Paola Fornari is an active member of Writers Abroad, an online community of expat writers. In this interview she tells us about their fifth anthology, Kaleidoscope.
Paola, can you tell us something about Writers Abroad, where this community comes from and what are its goals?
The group was formed to help overcome the isolation and difficulties that expat writers may face in their host country. Our aim is to provide mutual support via feedback, critiques and editing. We meet regularly on Skype and have activities and challenges on the site. We celebrate our writing victories, and commiserate with each other’s disappointments. So we have both a ‘Bragging Stool’ and a ‘Sagging Stool’ on the site!
I’m curious about your members… who are they?
There were just three founding members in 2008. In 2010 the group went online and expanded, and now there are twenty. Several are in Europe, but we also have members in Australia, Japan, Bangladesh, the Middle East…and me in Ghana…I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone!
We have a cap on numbers, to encourage close ties and mutual support, and to avoid anonymity. Prospective members can apply to join via the site, and will be put on the waiting list if they meet the criteria.
The anthology is open, right? How does the group select the stories and poems which will be included in the anthology?
Anyone anywhere who is or has been an expat is welcome to submit a story or poem via the submissions page on the Writers Abroad site. However, we go through a selection process, and both the language and the style must be of a high standard. Generally about half of the submissions are selected. We do edit, but like to keep this to a minimum.
Kaleidoscope will be your fifth anthology: can you tell us something about it? Why have you chosen light as a theme?
Well, while we were discussing a possible theme, someone mentioned that 2015 is the United Nations International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies. With our members scattered all over the world in places which have such different light, it seemed to be perfect.
In previous years we have included non-fiction, but this year we have decided to limit the anthology to fiction, flash fiction, and poetry, to give it more uniformity.
What is flash fiction?
It’s very short, tight fiction. One extreme example is Ernest Hemingway’s legendary six-word story: ‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn.’ Flash fiction for Kaleidoscope is limited to 500 words.
Which charity have you chosen this year?
This year it will be Room to Read. This is what they say on their website:
‘We envision a world in which all children can pursue a quality education, reach their full potential and contribute to their community and the world.’
This seems to us to be an admirable vision.
Indeed. And Paola, what will you be submitting this year?
Oh dear…I’m not sure…I produced some fiction for previous anthologies, but feel more comfortable with non-fiction. I usually manage to come up with a poem, too. Let me sit in my garden for a moment, look at the flash of our resident kingfishers, and hope for inspiration!
Finally, you are Italian: why do you write in English?
It just happened. I was born in Tanzania, did my primary and secondary education through English in a boarding school in Kenya, and my university education in the UK. In my experience, the language of education (especially if one starts young!) just takes over. I’m sure many Expatclic members have this with their children…who end up speaking the language of their education better than the language spoken in the home!
Interview collected by Alessandra Giacchi, April 2015
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