In the second of her self-conceived series, The Dinner Party Reloaded, a virtual dinner party with selected artists and writers, Susanna Crossman meets acclaimed authors Haleh Agar, Sara Collins and Irenosen Okojie to discuss their work, their love for fiction, anime, the poetry of Derek Walcott, Han Kang and Kei Miller, and much more.
THE DINNER PARTY RELOADED, 11 August 2020
The Dinner Party Reloaded (TDPR) is a gathering of words, art, culture and food, bringing together writers, visual artists, translators, dancers, musicians, actors and thinkers from around world. Each month we invite 3-4 guests to meet virtually, sharing their work and thoughts while eating, drinking, and cooking because, as Virginia Woolf wrote, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
We invite each guest to contribute a post. This could be: a photo of you eating a peanut butter sandwich while perusing the pages of Martha Graham, an image of you cutting lino-prints as you cook a gourmet Indian meal, or a extract of Ducks Newburyport (or your latest draft) read whilst while making baba ganoush because “the tail end of eggplants look like the blunt noses of killer whales.”
Yet much of each gathering is spontaneous, as your host Susanna asks questions and discussions evolve between the guests, because as Montaigne wrote, “The most fruitful and natural exercise for our minds is, in my opinion, conversation.” Words and ideas bounce around!
The Dinner Party Reloaded is based on an extraordinary event hosted and developed by Susanna Crossman and Alexandra Marraccini; Les Ephémères: 24 women/24h brought together twenty-four international writers, translators and women from the book world on the 21st March 2020. Alexandra and Susanna met on Twitter, over a short story and a Tweet to raise women’s voices. The rest is history…
So, even in confinement, it’s time to drink champagne (or green tea), relish the space and connections the arts and words give us, and dance on the table.
Contributor Names & Initials
SC – Susanna Crossman, host and writer, contributing author to We’ll Never Have Paris (Repeater Books) and her forthcoming novel, Dark Island (Delcourt) in 2021.
HA – Haleh Agar, writer, author of Out of Touch (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
SJC – Sara Collins, writer, author of The Confessions of Frannie Langton (Penguin)
IO – Irenosen Okojie, writer, author of Butterfly Fish, Speak Gigantular (both Jacaranda), Nudibranch (Dialogue Books) and many more
SC: Welcome to my house. Let me open my door. Outside, the garden is scorched. The sun shines on the last of the Michaelmas daisies. Come in. Apologies, my hallway is full of mess, unpacked suitcases, cardboard boxes. I just emptied a family house, brought back photos, old china, Russian birth certificates. Speaking objects. Long stories. Come into the kitchen. Teas brewing, but I can make coffee, or pour a glass of wine. Are you hungry? My daughter is making us lunch. More guests will arrive soon. Meanwhile, here are words from Emily Wilson in her Translator’s Note (I have changed he to she):
There is a stranger outside your house. She is old, ragged and dirty. She has been wandering, homeless, for a long time, perhaps many years. Invite her inside. You do not know her name. She may be a thief. She may be a murderer. She may be a goddess. She may remind you of your wife, your mother, or yourself. Do not ask questions. Wait. Let her sit on a comfortable chair and warm herself beside your fire. Bring her some food, the best you have, and a cup of wine. Let her eat and drink until she is satisfied. When she is finished she will tell you her story. Listen carefully. It may not be as you expect.
SC: Hello Haleh, Sara. Welcome. How are you both?
HA: Hello! What a warm welcome. I am well, thank you. A bit tired, but really looking forward to this. I so enjoyed your words from Emily Wilson.
SJC: Ditto! It is so lovely to find a warm welcome in a virtual space these days. Especially on a day when I am drowning in deadlines!
SC: Thanks so much to both of you for coming! I love the words from Emily Wilson, her introduction to the Odyssey describes xenia, a word that means both hospitality and friend; the cognate word xenos, can mean both stranger and friend. It is linked to an Ancient Greek tradition of welcoming strangers and feeding them, listening to their story. That seems so vital in our polarised world.
SC: That is a brilliant idea, makes me think of welcoming others as we would welcome the unknown parts of ourselves. Are you in America right now Sara?
HA: I’m just looking it up now, and it’s beautiful.
SJC: Here you go…
Love After Love
by Derek Walcott
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
SJC: I am in the Caribbean. Where it is not rain-wet at the moment thank goodness. It is sea-wet and after months of lockdown it is nice to have a small taste of holiday. We are still staying inside but in a house by the sea.
HA: That sounds wonderful. Currently in London it’s gloomy. Nothing new!
SJC: What are you working on Haleh? I miss London and I miss being able to talk to other writers in person.
HA: I’ve been working on my second book, and it is challenging. I don’t know how you’ve found it. Are you writing a second book now or taking a break from the novel?
SJC: I’m trying to write my second but I am trying to write screenplays for two different projects at the same time (one is the adaptation of my first novel). I long for the days when I only had the first novel to work on – and I thought I had no free time then! I know your debut novel was launched at the start of the lockdown. How has it been for you?
HA: I have been thinking about scriptwriting. How do you find it? In terms of my debut, it’s been a hectic few months, and honestly, I am so happy to move on to other work.
SJC: I adore scriptwriting. I have surprised myself because usually I moan about writing! I think if you enjoy dialogue it is an enjoyable process.
HA: It’s so exciting to do something different. Congratulations in terms of the adaptation; this is very much deserved!
SC: Yes, agree about the dialogue. I am also currently scriptwriting, adapting a short story for animation.
SJC: Are you adapting the short story for feature length?
SC: Yes, I am. It’s a piece that got published during lockdown and picked up by film-makers/ producers.
HA: That’s great news. Congratulations! I had written a short story that I thought would translate very well into a screenplay. I read Nikesh [Shukla]’s thread today about screen-writing and being told a story is too small, and I wonder how — I’d love to pick your brains about this someday!
SJC: I’m fascinated by that process. E.g. David Constantine’s short story, ‘In Another Country‘ adapted into the film 45 Years. So many wonderful feature length films started as short stories. Oh don’t get me started on the excellent Brokeback Mountain!
HA: The Twitter thread, by Nikesh, on screen-writing very much resonated with me, and made me wonder about how decisions are made.
SJC: Nikesh always has something important to say on this topic…What did he mean about an idea “too small” Haleh?
HA: The feedback he received was apparently that the idea was small, and I thought how strange because so many shows I love are about ‘small things’. So it made me think about who makes decisions on what is a story worth telling etc.
SC: Can you give us an example of a show, and what a ‘small thing’ is Haleh?
HA: I don’t know if either of you have seen Parks & Recreation for example? It’s a show about small mundane things (like a parks department in government), but they are getting made.
SJC: I could say life is about the mundane things! The shows I love are the ones that focus on the change that happens in those small moments. That is where we find resonance.
HA: Yes exactly that!
(At this point due to technical reasons across three countries and two continents, our dinner party was interrupted. Time passed, and we got together again! Writer Irenosen Okojie joined us, and we picked up the thread…)
SC: Welcome again everyone.
IO: Hi guys. Nice to be here! Just thought I’d share this lovely piece from Han Kang:
Hang Kang, The White Book
Why do old memories constantly drift to the surface,
here in this unfamiliar city?
When I go out into the streets, the scraps of
Conversation which pull into focus when the speaker
brushes past me, the words stamped on street and shop
signs, are almost incomprehensible. At times my
body feels like a prison, a solid, shifting island threading
through the crowd. A sealed chamber carrying all
the memories of the life I have lived, and the mother
tongue from which they are inseparable.
IO: Haleh congratulations on your wonderful debut being out in the world! Sara congrats on all the marvellous stuff happening!
HA: Thank you, and a massive congratulations again on winning the AKO Caine Prize for your short story, ‘Grace Jones’. It is just amazing. I re-read it today, and wow – the imagination, and layers, it’s a real work of art.
IO: Kang’s work is so beautiful. I’ve been thinking about memories today so thought I’d share that.
IO: Thanks very much guys, I appreciate it.
SC: Congrats to you all, and to you Irenosen for winning the Caine Prize for your short story, ‘Grace Jones’! This Han Kang quote makes me think of Haleh’s novel Out of Touch. There are many passages of subtle, focused, visceral physicality. So tightly drawn. I love, for example, the conflict Ava has with her own hair, and the sex scenes, how you treat human desire when, for example, trapped in a hospital bed, Ava says “she longed to thrust her pelvis into someone.” How important is physicality when you write?
HA: Thanks, Susanna. The body seems to often take a central place in my work. I think exploring both its vulnerability, and potential for pleasure intrigues me – how the body can be a site for both.
SJC: Hello everyone. Yes Irenosen massive congrats AGAIN to you. I love being able to congratulate you over and over.
HA: Hello Sara! So lovely to be here with you again. Thanks for organising Susanna.
SC: Hello Sara. Lovely to read you. Thanks so much to all three of you for coming again. Reading your work in the past weeks has been a huge privilege.
IO: Sara, it’s so nice to keep connecting and to receive your congrats! Well done Haleh; your portrayal of the body in your work is exquisitely done.
SJC: Irenosen thanks also for sharing that poem. I hadn’t read it before. I must seek it out. I’ve just re-read Shirley Jackson’s 1943 short story ‘After You, My Dear Alphonse’ this morning, for a piece I’m writing. I had one of those lovely electric moments because for the first time I connected it to one of my fave pieces of art – Jordan Peele’s Get Out. Speaking of bodies and physicality!
SC: Here’s the PDF of the story, ‘After You, My Dear Alphonse‘
HA: Thank you Irenosen. I love Shirley Jackson, and hadn’t read that story. I still can’t believe that I haven’t seen the film Get Out. It’s got the best reviews. I’m going to watch it this weekend.
SC: Get Out looks extraordinary:
IO: Such a great film! It’s special when that happens. Connecting stories to film and vice versa.
SJC: Haleh that’s a lovely line in your novel. How is it going for you, post-publication?
IO: Haleh I’ve seen lots of stuff about your novel on Twitter so lovely to see it getting traction.
SC: Congrats on making the longlist of Not the Booker. How have you managed with all the Zoom readings, online literary festivals etc., Haleh?
IO: Zooming has understandably been intense!
HA: I don’t know if the rest of you have experienced this, but I find that I’ve forgotten details of what I’ve written until someone brings it up in an interview. The timeline for publication makes the experience odd in many ways because it might be years since you’ve written that piece. It’s been interesting and surprising in many ways, post-publication of the debut. And Zoom is VERY intense. Smiling can hurt.
IO: It happens to writers a lot. I still experience this. Someone interviewing you will reveal some insight about a piece or part in the book and you can’t remember the context for it because your brain is no longer there! You’ve written other things.
HA: That’s exactly it!
SC: This makes me think of a quote I read today from Margaret Atwood:
“All writers are double, for the simple reason that you can never actually meet the author of the book you have just read. Too much time has elapsed between composition and publication, and the person who wrote the book is now a different person.”
HA: Susanna, that’s so true, isn’t it! You become a different person, because the work has caused you to expand. That’s what’s so amazing about what we do. You’re deepening your understanding of multiple subjects.
SJC: Funny Susanna! I read that just yesterday. Uncanny. From her collection Negotiating with the Dead.
SC: That is such a co-incidence. Sara, I wanted to ask you a question, based on a line from your brilliant novel, The Confessions of Frannie Langton, during a soirée, a woman says,“Surely novels are mere frippery…when you think of the weight of suffering in the world?” What draws you all, as writers, to fiction as opposed to non-fiction?
SJC: There’s no contest for me! I like story-telling. I do write non-fiction, but there is a freedom in fiction that means you can consider the world as it should be not only as it is. There is also suspense in fiction, the idea that you have been promised the feeling of needing to know what happens next. It is a kind of escape from this world that is never possible, for me, in non-fiction – whether reading it or writing it. But in fact, fiction is only made by drawing from life, and non-fiction is only good if it follows the conventions of good narrative writing, so the line between them is more blurred than we might think. Speaking from experience, it is fiction that has provided me comfort, hope, and reassurance in spite of the darkness of reality, which is what inspired that line.
IO: I write non-fiction too but I love storytelling. The high from creating a world is unlike any other I feel. Also the sense that the story continues to form inside you, you carry it in the body even when you’re not writing. I think that’s particular to fiction.
HA: Completely agree Sara, about good narrative non-fiction, and blurring of lines between the two forms. Some of the best nonfiction I’ve read could be short stories. Irenosen, the idea of carrying it in your body is so interesting. It’s such a visceral experience when you write.
SJC: This idea of carrying it in your body is what I HATE about writing novels. I find it really exhausting and as if I can’t sleep. It’s like being possessed by the story almost!
HA: Yes! The losing sleep part can become overwhelming. I find it particularly strong during the last stages of drafting.
SC: I love this idea that in fiction “you can consider the world as it should be not only as it is.” It is the transformative, radical power of imagination. Like Evaristo writes, it allows writers “ to put presence into absence.”
SJC: Yes and that was what I was trying to do in that novel. You couldn’t have had a non-fiction book about someone like Frannie. I think the transformative, imaginative power of fiction is very important for this new phase of historical fiction which is inhabiting perspectives that history never touched on.
IO: Absolutely, fiction is a transformative space in which anything feels possible. I think it gives you a certain courage too that may not be present in non fiction at least not in the same way.
SC: This question of historical fiction is so important. Inhabiting these perspectives. I feel like we shouldn’t call it a re-writing, but a writing of black history that has been excluded, denied. It males me think of this work by Kei Miller:
From The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion
by Kei Miller
have we not seen or felt or heard
because there was no word
for it – at least no word we knew?
We speak to navigate ourselves
away from dark corners and we become,
each one of us, cartographers.”
HA: Susanna, I resonate so strongly with the quotes you’ve used above. Fiction is so transformative. I think they have more power to change a person’s mind on a subject, in a way that other forms/mediums might fall short
SC: As this is a dinner party, I feel I should offer some refreshments, as it is very hot, here is some melon some to begin with:
SJC: Just what I needed. I’m afraid I haven’t had anything other than coffee yet, but I am looking out at the Caribbean sea as I type!
SJC: Yes – as you can see I can walk right into the water. However, I have only been out there three times since we’ve been staying here. I am afraid to say I have so many deadlines that all I do is work. Literally allllll I do. I need a break.
HA: That is breathtaking!!
IO: What a view Sara! Melon is just what the doctor ordered Susanna! Sara, how nice to be looking at the sea! I haven’t eaten much today either. I’ve just been sipping cold water and ginger beer, and eating olives. I also have a packet of Werther’s Originals for later!
HA: Oh wonderful! I haven’t had a good melon in ages, or ginger beer! Thank you. Can you easily dip your feet into the sea Sara? Good strategy Irenosen! I’m also not particularly hungry. When it comes to dinner, I have been using kits for the last few months. It’s like paint by numbers for people like me who can’t really cook. I’ll post a photo:
IO: Sounds efficient though Haleh. How about you Susanna? What are you working on at the moment? A novel or other distractions?
SC: I am working on a new novel and a non-fiction book. I am loving being in the early stages of the first draft where everything is opening up and feels possible. I wrote by hand while I was away and am now typing up. How do you all write, on a computer? By hand as well?
IO: Sounds brilliant Susanna. Are you working on both at the same time? I admire people who can work on projects simultaneously!
SJC: I was just going to say I couldn’t do two books at once, though I am trying to do screenplays at the same time as my new novel. I can’t write by hand. I fiddle too much and need to fiddle and tinker as I write, so things don’t take shape properly for me unless I’m using my computer. I often think to myself I could only be a writer now, with all the modern conveniences – because I also need constant music!
HA: That’s amazing Susanna. Wow, a lot on. I can no longer write by hand. I now think through my keyboard, or at least it’s become an important part of the process. It’s so odd, how it’s changed from when we were young. Ooo what are you listening to when you write, Sara?
SJC: Everything! It varies depending on my mood or the mood of what I am writing. Sometimes Kendrick Lamar, sometimes Beethoven! At the moment, I have gotten sick of my Harry Styles playlist and it’s now Phil Collins. I think through my keyboard also – can’t do it any other way!
IO: I write everything by hand first because I feel more connected to the work that way. I’m really old school. I’ll type up my work on a computer after that. Using the computer feels like the second stage of the process for me. If I skip ahead to it, it seems as if I missed out a step. The feeling of ink on paper is beautiful! I love to see the page filling up with my terrible doctor like scribbles! Haha. Here’s my notebook:
SC: Yes, I am working on both at the same time, and a screenplay. I really enjoy taking a break from each project. Then I come back with fresh eyes. I am also old school, Irenosen. I find the hand-writing stops me over-writing, and I just love the feeling of the ink on paper. So sensual and vigorous. Only problem is when I can’t re-read handwriting! This is a photo of my desk while I was away and was writing while my kids had “a quiet time!”
IO: Go Susanna, that’s fantastic!
SC: Irenosen, I adore in all of your work the astonishing mixture of surrealism, dreams and reality. You managed, for example, in your short story collection Speak Gigantular (Jacaranda) to root us in London and take us to fairy tale places where a woman’s solitude in an urban flat metamorphoses into a pet called Loneliness, and demons in art installations become real. How do you balance that tension? For example in your latest collection, Nudibranch (Dialogue Books) in the story, ‘Point and Drill’, we move from paintball to Bacchae orgy.
IO: Thank you. I feel the world around us always has other dimensions to it. I’m constantly investigating what that looks and feels like in the writing so it feels like the natural space I sit in as a writer. I also think it helps that I like the idea of the in between, sitting in between spaces that aren’t always completely definitive but a mix of the everyday and the fantastical. I just really enjoy taking the readers on wild rides through my stories!
SC: I love your wild rides. I feel connected to other worlds. Have you read the author Juan Rulfo and his book Pedro Páramo. Your work also takes me there. Leonora Carrington says “I’ve always had access to other worlds. We all do because we dream”. Are any of you influenced by your own dreams, or do the dreams of your characters enter your work?
HA: And you do take us on a wild ride Irenosen! Love it. Susanna, that quote speaks such truth. Though I don’t know that my dreams are influencing my work, I do a lot of daydreaming. And perhaps these daydreams are other dimensions.
IO: Appreciate it guys! Such a good quote. Susanna, I haven’t heard of Juan Rulfo but will seek it out! Thanks for this recommendation. I think dreaming / daydreaming is essential for writing honestly. That’s why I write very early in the mornings because I still feel like I’m in the dream state somewhat.
SJC: Irenosen those wild rides in your stories are so enjoyable! I tried to write my first speculative fiction short story recently and found a new deep admiration for what you do! It requires real writerly control to combine the craft and the flights of fancy.
IO: Haha, thank you Sara!
SC: I completely agree Sara, Irensosen sends us flying up like kites but roots us in a reality, a truth that vibrates.
SC: One of my daughters made you all ramen miso soup this morning. She’s obsessed with Miyazaki and making all the dishes in his animated films which are also very dream-like and remind me of your work Irenosen. Have you seen any of his films?
IO: Thank your daughter for the ramen miso soup! Yes! Miyazaki’s a legend. My younger brother is big into his stuff and I watched a few of his films with him. Wondrous, dreamy animations.
HA: That is delicious, do thank her for the soup!
SJC: I’ve seen Spirited Away – is that one of his? One of my daughters used to be obsessed also.
IO: Spirited Away is a classic!
SJC: I actually had the feeling as if I was dreaming when I watched it!
IO: That’s it! You feel like you become a part of the animation while watching!!
SJC: Maybe I can use this idea for my piece I am writing on the gothic, which I think evokes the same sensation.
SC: Yes his films are completely immersive.
SC: One last question, as I know the clock is ticking. In Sara’s book she uses incredible lyrical language, for example “Life is a brief candle, love is craving for time.” I could dive into Sara’s oceans of words. Anne Carson writes that “If prose is a house, poetry is a man on fire running quite fast through it”. How important is shaping language in your work?
SJC: It starts with language for me. It starts with loving words, with being obsessed with how and why we use them, what power they have. And then the rhythms they make when put together. How we can make people feel by using them in certain ways, how we can persuade, how we can terrify. Character (which is the point of story) begins with voice which begins with language. I read poetry before I write creatively, so I can get swept along on a wave of that kind of rhythm and imagery and start to think about language very very closely.
SC: Your words on language, and us as speaking animals, makes me think of this quote I read today from Toni Morrison, “We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”
SJC: There’s a Toni quote for everything isn’t there?
IO: It’s really important for me. I love playing with language, pushing it’s boundaries. I love creating imagery. I’m always image making even doing mundane things like going to the shops or sorting out the laundry.
HA: Like Sara and Irenosen, language is the starting point for my work. I get so excited over words – I once read a sentence over ten times (it was in a short story by Colm Tóibín). It’s what inspired me to become a writer. When I saw what’s possible with language years ago in a short story called ‘Real Estate’, by Lorrie Moore, I just thought – I have to learn how to do this.
IO: Toni Morrison! Such a master at language. Important quote! Haleh I love your commitment to the craft!
SJC: Which short story Haleh? And which sentence? I have a theory that Irish writers have so much in common with Jamaican ones, and it starts with how we use language. I think it’s the view of the English language that an outsider would have – it gives a really rich subtext, a playful, conversive, I-can’t-describe-it quality to the writing. I actually think it is a huge privilege to write in these traditions. Treating the language with veneration, but also challenging it and taking it apart.
IO: Sara, I do the same. I used to read poems before I would write in the mornings. It just gave me such an appetite for language. It made me excited to come to the page!
HA: Sara, I think it was The Empty Family. I agree about Irish and Jamaican writers. There’s a flow, almost a musical quality, at least that’s how I see it. And yes, as you say, there’s this ‘can’t describe it’ factor, which just resonates with a deeper part of you. Just beautiful. That’s a great way to feel inspired for the writing day, Irenosen. I’m going to try that!
SC: Sara that is such an interesting connection to make. What poems are you reading right now Irenosen? What are you all currently reading? I’ve had my head inside the pages of Lydia Davis, Anne Petry and Barbara Pym, as well as research for my new novel.
IO: Lydia Davis is so so good. Such brevity. I’m currently re reading 300 Arguments by Sarah Manguso which is really bad-ass in it’s candidness. I’m reading non fiction as well which I don’t often do. Shame On Me by Tessa McWatt. It’s profound, really well done.
SJC: I’m afraid I’m only reading for work at the moment, which is the curse of so many deadlines! But I love Lydia Davis. Last truly great thing I read was Summer by Ali Smith. Incredible. I have to say goodbye now! Such a pleasure eating melon and miso with all of you. Much love!
SC: Thanks so much for joining us Sara, it was such a pleasure. Good luck with deadlines and merci!
HA: Lydia Davis is incredible. I must check out her essays. I am currently re-reading a collection of short stories by Colm Tóibín. So lovely to see you all here. It was a real pleasure sharing food and ideas.
SC: Her essays are stunning. So useful, inspiring, on writing and thinking.
IO: I’m going to love and leave you guys too. Thanks for having me. Such a pleasure to chat! Hope to see you all in time. X
SC: Thanks so very much for coming Irenosen. Heart felt thanks to all three of you. Your writing rocks!
HA: Thank you Susanna, Irenosen and Sara! Hope to catch you all soon. Xx
IO: Thank you Haleh! So happy for you and how well your book is doing. Bye for now all. xx
SC: Bye Haleh, thanks so much for coming and for writing such a brilliant book. Can’t wait to read the next!
About our TDPR Host, Susanna Crossman
Susanna Crossman is an award-winning Anglo-French fiction writer and essayist, published internationally in print and online. She has recent/upcoming work in Paris Review, MAI Journal, Neue Rundschau, (2019) S. Fischer, We’ll Never Have Paris (Repeater Books, 2019), Trauma, (DodoInk, 2020) 3:AM Journal, Berfrois & more. Susanna regularly collaborates and runs international hybrid arts projects. She is co-author of the French roman L’Hôpital Le Dessous des cartes (LEK, 2015) and her debut novel Dark Island will be published by Delcourt (FR) in 2021. Susanna’s work can be seen via her website http://susanna-crossman.squarespace.com/ or you can follow her via Twitter @crossmansusanna Rep: Craig Literary, NY.
About our Guest, Haleh Agar
Haleh Agar is the author of the debut novel Out of Touch (Weidenfeld & Nicolson). She has been published in literary magazines and journals, including Mslexia, Viva Magazine, Fincham Press and the London Magazine. Her short story, ‘Not Contagious’ was Highly Commended by the Costa Short Story Award. She won the Brighton Prize for a piece of flash fiction, and her narrative essay ‘On Writing Ethnic Stories’ won the London Magazine’s inaugural essay competition. You can find her on Twitter @HalehAgar and Instagram @haleh.agar
About our Guest, Sara Collins
Sara Collins is of Jamaican descent and grew up in Grand Cayman. She studied law at the London School of Economics and worked as a lawyer for seventeen years, before admitting that what she really wanted to do was write novels. She obtained a Master’s degree in Creative Writing with distinction from Cambridge University, where she was the 2015 recipient of the Michael Holroyd Prize. In 2016, she was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize for The Confessions of Frannie Langton, her first novel, a gothic romance about the twisted love affair between a Jamaican maid and her French mistress in 19th century London. The Confessions of Frannie Langton was published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin, in 2019 to critical acclaim, winning the Costa First Novel Award and shortlisted for multiple awards. She is currently writing her second novel and two screenplays. Follow Sara on Twitter @mrsjaneymac
About our Guest, Irenosen Okojie
Irenosen Okojie is a British Nigerian author based in East London. Her writing has featured in The Guardian, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, The Observer, the BBC and many others. Okojie won a Betty Trask Award for her spectacular debut novel, Butterfly Fish (Jacaranda Books), and her 2016 short story collection, Speak Gigantular (Jacaranda Books), was shortlisted for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize, the Saboteur Awards, the Shirley Jackson Award and the Jhalak Prize. She recently won the prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story, ‘Grace Jones‘, which is taken from her latest acclaimed collection, Nudibranch (Dialogue Books). Okojie is currently writing her second novel and is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Follow her on Twitter @IrenosenOkojie and Instagram @irenosenokojie
Lucy Writers would like to express our heartfelt thanks to Susanna Crossman, Haleh Agar, Sara Collins and Irenosen Okojie for this wonderful Dinner Party Reloaded.