Guest Blog: Open Waters IV

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Photo courtesy of Micaela Maftei and Laura Tansley.

This is the fourth and final guest blog in our fortnightly series by collaborative authors Micaela Maftei, based in Victoria, British Columbia, and Laura Tansley, based in Glasgow, UK. Both writers completed Creative Writing PhDs at the University of Glasgow, where they met. They have gone on to co-author short stories and continue to do so from opposite sides of the Atlantic, with their forthcoming short story collection soon to be published by Vagabond Voices. They are truly contemporary transatlantic literary women. Read on to find out more about their process!

Open Waters IV: Anchoring ourselves

As we enter the final editorial stages of producing a collection of collaborative short stories we inevitably begin to look beyond this project, imagining what our relationship, writing and ambition might look like in the future. We wonder: will our co-writing be more or less fixed after this experience?

What’s perhaps increasingly clear is how reliant we’ll be on embracing the transatlantic and exploring this as an interesting and unique aspect of our work. Will the collection strike a more Canadian chord somehow if Micaela presents it solo at an event in Victoria? Will its hybridity be emphasised if we launch the collection together in Glasgow? If Laura takes copies to an event in London will readers recognise, blurry and unfixed as they are, like the authorial voice itself, the different landscapes in our stories? When place and displacement are features of both the process and the practice, it seems fair to anticipate a response from readers that engages with these themes; our separation and separateness becoming both a feature and an anxiety of the publishing process and perhaps our ongoing collaborations.

But an important part of publishing a collection for us will be the opportunity to extend the conversation that we’ve been having with each other about how stories are made and told, both directly and indirectly through our collaborative writing and our process, with a wider audience that might share or query our concerns. There are the stories themselves, little floating islands that build and erode as they travel between readers, but underneath them is a collaborative current which provides context. This water is as deep as any person is willing to travel if they are intrigued enough, and we are interested by the possibility of how any reading might contribute to our understanding of ourselves as co-writers.

This project, begun years ago, moving from experiment to habit to deadline-driven task, has been sustained for the better part of a decade. So what comes next? Co-writing isn’t something we want to leave behind, but maybe we need a pause, a breather. Moving on to a new project is always something of a wrench once a piece of work is completed. Now, after all of our discussion and analysis and probing and questioning, we won’t be approaching a new project with anything like our original level of uncertainty but we can’t imagine working together on something that doesn’t, at the very least, inspire the same amount of curiosity. Hopefully, when we’re ready and energized, it’ll be with a different kind of confidence to approach a new challenge; one which continues to resonate with our ideas on writing, as well as insisting that we expand and explore this understanding. We’d like to return to that space where ripples met and confused the concentric self-centredness of our individual voices, finding new ways to launch words towards each other, creating waves that exhilarate and engulf us. This puts us in mind of the classic primary school wet-break-time game ‘consequences’, where a story is started, the paper is folded and a partner continues the narrative. We like the mystery of this as well as the slowing down into detail.

In the meantime we’re excited to plan an event that will celebrate this collection and explore collaboration. The planning is transatlantic, and the delivery will (hopefully) not be. At the moment we’re busy thinking of ways to create a space to discuss the nature of this project’s creation while also launching a finished product: a book we’re proud of and ready to let go of. We look forward to collaborating with Vagabond Voices for this; please keep an eye on their website and Twitter for information as and when it comes, we’d love to talk and explore collaborative short fiction with anyone and everyone that’s interested.

By Laura Tansley and Micaela Maftei


Guest Blog: Open Waters III

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Courtesy of Laura Tansley and Micaela Maftei

This is the third of four fortnightly guest blogs by collaborative authors Micaela Maftei, based in Victoria, British Columbia, and Laura Tansley, based in Glasgow, UK. Both writers completed Creative Writing PhDs at the University of Glasgow, where they met. They have gone on to co-author short stories and continue to do so from opposite sides of the Atlantic, with their forthcoming short story collection soon to be published by Vagabond Voices. They are truly contemporary transatlantic literary women. Read on to find out more about their process!


The particular and shared time, space and place of collaborative writing

Many writers, deliberately or not, consciously or not, write what they know, and write of where they know – this is often especially true when a writer leaves a place and subsequently sees it from a new vantage point. For all that we believe our co-written work features a voice that is distinct from our individual voices, when we each sit with a piece, the triggers and images that come to mind are often influenced by the myriad experiences, memories and associations that come from our personal past.

In The Razor’s Edge, Somerset Maugham writes that “men and women are not only themselves; they are also the region in which they are born, the city apartment or farm where they learned to walk, the games they played as children, the old wives tales they overheard, the food they ate, the schools they attended, the sports they followed, the poets they read…these are things that you can’t come to know by hearsay”. If the self is a great mix of ingredients, many rooted in early life, it’s a certainty that as co-authors what we imagine as we create a story, and the associations connected with it, will not always, and perhaps will never, be exactly the same.

What we imagine in our minds when we write (the places and people and images that we, with or without awareness, have in mind when we create the fictional), is not necessarily something we share with each other as part of our creative process. But it becomes apparent when we consider our understandings of these stories that we often have very different spaces in mind as we write. The geography of the sleepover setting in ‘The Reach of a Root’ is both specifically an old friend’s house from Toronto, and simultaneously a second cousin’s from Malvern. And even when the space we imagine is similar, the ways in which it’s encountered can be different. In ‘A Change is as Good as a Rest’, when the character Jess tries on underwear in a pretentious clothing store, one of us imagined the wooden-panelled cubicles of mid-Twenties experiences of the Buchanan Street Urban Outfitters, while the other mentally returned to hundreds of teenaged trips to the Urban Outfitters next to Toronto’s Eaton Centre. Even ubiquity has contextual specificity. These differences don’t seem to affect a reading of the story because the stories retain a narrative and spatial logic, but what these examples highlight is that despite our creation of a third voice, and even though we would agree that we know and can relate to each other very well, having developed an understanding of what we think and imagine and how we each see the world around us, that even in collaboration, the worlds we create as writers can remain specific, precise, fixed in the past and often, therefore, unknowable.

Our shared experiences are sure to influence our process, although it’s impossible to know at this stage, or perhaps ever, to what extent they have impacted on our work. The spaces we shared in Glasgow (a flat, a PhD cohort, friends and trips around Scotland), may have played a significant part in terms of our compulsion to explore collaborative writing, and perhaps influence and inform the third voice we produce in our co-written short stories. And these four years together will remain incredibly significant to us, but in the course of our respective tenures as writers, these experiences represent an increasingly small amount of time and a more and more distant part of our shared history. As we come to the end of one creative project together, the prospect of a new endeavour emerges, as does the question of how our writing will develop together when we now spend so much time apart. One of us will shortly join the other in parenthood, and we wonder if this experience will bring new opportunities to explore what we share, and what separates us.

What we do have are creative touchstones; a growing mixtape of stories we have shared with each other when either of us comes across something that might be pertinent to our collaborations, or just in general as part of our shared interest in craft. These include, amongst others, ‘An Abduction’ by Tessa Hadley, ‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been’ by Joyce Carol Oates, Rebecca Miller’s Personal Velocity and recently, the impossible to ignore (for a hot second) ‘Cat Person’ by Kristen Roupenian. These pieces swim around us as we write, informing us and bringing us closer to an understanding of what we hope to achieve in our writing together; even while we know that how one of us sees a story – as in how we visualize the events, but also how we understand its significance and meaning – will almost certainly never fully match the other’s. The same is true for our own collaborative writing. But we hope this conflict gives our writing a striated edge that at times tessellates and at others makes for an uncomfortable fit, highlighting the contradictory and conflicting experiences of women’s experiences, as well as drawing attention to our collaborative craft, which feels both singular and plural, thrilling and unnerving, routine and constantly developing.

By Laura Tansley and Micaela Maftei

Guest Blog: Open Waters II

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Courtesy of Laura Tansley and Micaela Maftei

This is the second of four fortnightly guest blogs by collaborative authors Micaela Maftei, based in Victoria, British Columbia, and Laura Tansley, based in Glasgow, UK. Both writers completed Creative Writing PhDs at the University of Glasgow, where they met. They have gone on to co-author short stories and continue to do so from opposite sides of the Atlantic, with their forthcoming short story collection soon to be published by Vagabond Voices. They are truly contemporary transatlantic literary women. Read on to find out more about their process!

What we say and what we do: opening up public and private spheres

We knew that we had recurring concerns, ideas and themes that swirled through our work, but it took our publisher at Vagabond Voices to point out how often our stories feature – or even hinge on – movement between the public and the private. We recognised this immediately, and took to it – as something significant, something to explore, build on and reflect on. As we gather up our pieces to consider how each will sit next to one another, we are also beginning to consider the scrutiny our up-to-now relatively private process may receive in a public sphere. In this project, the private becomes public, and what is becoming public has always been closely connected to private, personal things.


In our stories, private concerns are often refracted in public performances, with characters exploring or choosing to ignore their motivations in actions that have both minor and major consequences. Our characters also move between public and private spaces: business-orientated buildings in a near-future cityscape reveal rooms buzzing with personal transactions; a shared house after a burglary is no longer a haven; a lapsed resolution forms the basis of a new, sexual relationship, in which outsiders are invited in. The geographical spaces that we occupy as collaborative authors, Glasgow and Victoria BC, are personally experienced – by both of us. As residents we know these places intimately, but we also know each other’s spaces to a greater or lesser degree – from visits, from description, from images, from stories. We share the exploration of settings, language and cultures in our writing, finding the places where overlap creates something complementary and where divides produce dramatic conflict. As two women producing short fiction which is predominately concerned with women’s lives, the public and private take on additional facets as we explore the less-visible narratives of sexual, professional and relational changes women experience, the confusing and vacillating moments that are marked simultaneously by progression and regression. We also wonder how our public experience of authorship will be marked, if at all, by this frame. Notions of the public and private are, therefore, both a thematic concern of our writing and an acknowledged aspect of our creative process.


For so long, this writing has been shared yet personal. It’s been a way of communicating with each other. For at least one of us, it’s been a thread, a fragile, crucial thread that stayed constant when other writing fell away. As much as we’ve moved on from shared studies, jobs and addresses, co-writing has been a way to stay close to what we have in common And it’s also been a way to move forward, to develop as writers, researchers, people. As writers, using language and particularly fiction to try and work through problems and move towards understanding feels very natural and very appropriate, but in these stories it’s often been an intensely personal process.


So what does it mean to open it up into a public space, both in terms of publication and, more generally, in terms of discussing and sharing our work, for example in a conference presentation? Some parts are easy: the logistics of the back-and-forth, say, are easy for us to discuss. Other parts seem trickier – do we owe the reader anything that a single author wouldn’t? Do we need to acknowledge the circumstances of authorship in any way beyond the names on the cover? Why or why not? What, if anything, do authors owe readers, and does that involve anything different or additional for us?


The pieces themselves, as they are edited and shaped, are moving from individual journeys, many with strong personal memories attached to them, to parts of a more public whole. All published authors must see their work going through this process, but we’re wondering if and how co-authorship adds to this in any way. In the context of performing a reading, or an interview, the presence of two voices can influence perception, especially if we have different appreciations of what a piece might ‘mean’ or how it should be understood. In a way, this speaks to the experience of a readership – any readership beyond two will have a multiplicity of ways of reading and understanding a text. And yet perhaps a multiplicity right from the ‘source’, from the point of creation/authorship, is more unusual.


The thrill, the fear, the joy and the worry come in part from opening up the private to the public. In a way we don’t have it the same as others – we open up to each other every time we start writing something new. We have the safety of another worldview, another set of hands on the keyboard, before anything gets sent out into the world. And yet this also offers up another dimension of the private-public relationship for discussion and examination. It’s unpredictable: how can we prepare to occupy this new space when we aren’t sure what the parameters might be? We can only shape our experience from the inside, and understand that from the outside this will, hopefully, be read in unexpected and exciting ways.

By Micaela Maftei and Laura Tansley

Guest Blog: Open Waters


Courtesy of Google Maps

This is the first of four fortnightly guest blogs by collaborative authors Micaela Maftei, based in Victoria, British Columbia, and Laura Tansley, based in Glasgow, UK. Both writers completed Creative Writing PhDs at the University of Glasgow, where they met. They have gone on to co-author short stories and continue to do so from opposite sides of the Atlantic, with their forthcoming short story collection soon to be published by Vagabond Voices. They are truly contemporary transatlantic literary women. Read on to find out more about their process, with links to their fiction!

Open Waters

If we were to meet in the middle, we’d need to fly for around 7 hours to somewhere near the edge of Newfoundland. Maybe just off the coast and still in the ocean. Somehow the idea of meeting in open water seems fitting when we consider collaborative short fiction and our process; it is a vulnerable place, a little risky, and requires commitment to cooperation in order to anchor ourselves in this in-between space, to prevent ourselves from drifting too far in either direction. And yet we’ll always feel that pull of the circulating stream that reaches out to each other and then away from each other, bringing us together while keeping us separate. It is a constant negotiation.


RE: Same City, Different Maps

From: Laura Tansley

Mon 30/01/2012 13:49

To: Micaela Maftei


Ok well I’ve added something, see how you feel.

I think we could have two simultaneous storylines, with different styles, and go back and forth till we’re done?

Unless you hate it, or would be embarrassed to associate yourself with it, but I think I quite like where it’s going (even if I’m not quite sure where it’s going).


Revealing the messy, possibly underwhelming and maybe even incoherent starts of a piece of writing to each other made us pre-emptively self-deprecating to begin with, probably to protect ourselves; but also, on reflection, offering opportunities to opt-out demonstrates the respect with which we regarded each other’s writing and time. As we understand more about our process now, we see that this significant factor of our continued collaboration has become an essential, acknowledged feature. If that mutual respect ever went away, or morphed into reverence or disregard, it would, we suspect, fundamentally undermine our process and practice. This is not only a personal position but a professional one. We respect, first and foremost, the story being created. This is the water underneath us that we manage, coax and manipulate. It is what gives us drive.


Our earliest efforts at co-writing came in the form of two voices, two storylines. The piece ‘Blind Spots’ emerged, and was published in Tip Tap Flat (Freight Books, 2012). If we’d talked about it much at that point we’d probably have described it as something like combining two narratives written by two people, structured into one story. This was also when we were physically closest together, living in the same city and having significant overlap in terms of where we worked and studied. Over time and geographical distance we have developed a blended voice, one which works towards the creation of something that only happens when we write together; a voice distinct from our individual work. As we’ve moved farther away from each other, we’ve had to become more mindful of our process and how it shapes our writing, as we’ve experienced the work becoming more singular, one voice telling one story. As time passes we become more comfortable entering each other’s words, until what emerges is the product of a shared voice rather than two voices in one work, as in the piece The Reach of a Root.


Moving countries and adding individual projects and commitments to our lives, both personal and professional, has encouraged us to become better listeners, sharper readers, more attuned partners. We use a call-and-response method for every piece. One of us begins by sharing a paragraph, maybe just a sentence, in a Word doc with an arbitrary name, sent via email. This might be a scene or a question. We pass it back and forth, adding and building slowly, moving back to the start to edit and shape once there’s enough to work with. Occasionally we discuss a theme or starting place – let’s consider the particular misery and thrill of adolescent relationships; is this character moving towards self-harm, and what does that mean to us – but often we just wade in and let the rhythms of the piece drive our direction. Whatsapp keeps us connected in between emails, keeps us sharing articles, ideas, schedules and a sense of where we’re at with each other. We’re familiar now with when our time zones sync up to allow instant chatter.


Across this personal, practical and literal divide we have explored what connects us and what separates us in stories that consider the forms, structures and processes of short fiction. As we begin to gather our work into a collection, we are also now faced with considering how readers will respond to this duality, how we might perform a collaborative voice, how we might launch a book from one edge of the Atlantic and one edge of the Pacific, and how we might respond to the question, ‘why?’.



Review of the TLW Creative Writing Showcase by Maria Sledmere

Hi all!


We hope that you are enjoying this holiday break! Today, we are pleased to present you with another review of one of our events! This time, Maria Sledmere (whose poems you can find on the blog here and here) reviewed our Creative Writing Showcase with the Scottish Writers’ Centre for U.S. Studies Online.

Here’s a short excerpt:

The Transatlantic Literary Women Series is fast proving itself a popular network, with academics, creatives and locals alike getting involved in discovering the literary lives and works of transatlantic women. (…) A key strength of the series is its attention to both creative and critical responses to transatlantic interests.

You can read Maria’s review in its entirety here. Happy reading!


International Women’s March Fortnight: 21st March, ‘Liberty’ by Kathryn Metcalfe

Today is World Poetry Day, and the day our International Women’s March Fortnight comes to its end. Accordingly, we would like to conclude our series with a second poem by Kathryn Metcalfe, ‘Liberty’, which draws on her family’s transatlantic history of migration.

By publishing a poem a day for this March fortnight, our goal was to give local women writers a platform for sharing their writing, and bringing them to your attention. We hope that you’ve enjoyed them.

Finally, we would live to thank the Scottish Writers’ Centre for their contribution to this series and for hosting the Creative Writing Showcase. Last but not least, thanks to Kathryn Meltcalfe, Mairi Murphy, Louise Turner, Sandra Whitnell, Alex Hackett, Angie Spoto, Carly Brown, Maria Sledmere, and Carolyn Jess-Cooke for their wonderful texts!

New York;

a mere stride away

across the water.

20th & 21st March Kathryn Metcalfe by Kath Warren, courtesy of the Scottish Writers' Centre
Kahtryn Meltcafe by Kath Warren, courtesy of the Scottish Writers’ Centre

‘Liberty’ by Kathryn Metcalfe

She stands

arm raised aloft,

a concerned mother

ushering the ships

into the bay.

Holding the sky to ransom.


New York;

a mere stride away

across the water.


That statue;

you will dream of

That statue.

in the fresh bedroom

of a brownstone


huddling beneath

a patched home made

quilt, muffling

those stern footsteps,

tramping along streets.

Gimlet eyes piercing

wall and plaster.


As daylight dapples

through the windows

you appease her.

Draped in bedsheets,

a cardboard halo

jammed over copper hair

while your brother skims

paper boats across the

dark wooden floor.


Growing bolder, you stay

awake each night.

Cheek resting on the sill

listening to the motor

horns in the distance,

lulled by the chorus of

voices drifting

up from the side walk,

realising the sleepless city warded

off the curious stone goddess,

you sleep.





Years later you will raise

an arm, strong and slim

waving acknowledgment,

on a ship returning to


Not intended to be goodbye


Ships sailing back to America

will never take you.

Marooned, motherless, your

father invalided,

You learn to shorten your steps

along toy town streets.

Make do with a jam factory

job and everything shutting

at tea time.


Where the statues of Men

stand, content in their

Victorian Philanthropy,

contented in the rain.


Kathryn Metcalfe has been published in anthologies and magazines, she is one of the ‘Mill Girl Poets’ whose show ‘Mill Girls’ On Tour’ about the lives and history of the female workers in the Paisley Thread Mills told through poetry, spoken word and song has featured in the West End Festival and lately at the Edinburgh Fringe. She set up, runs and hosts a monthly Open Mic for poets and spoken word artists and musicians in a Paisley coffee shop.