Victoria Fenwick is an English and Drama teacher from Ashington, Northumberland. She has lived in Newcastle upon Tyne, Milan and Bangkok, and has flown a plane, been on Ghanian TV and once ate pork pies with Alan Shearer. She is also a triplet.
Aged 8, she completed her first original novella, an eponymous piece about an anthropomorphic dog on a dog planet titled ‘Squishy’. The first (and only) edition was self published on a home printer and can be found pride of place at her mother’s home at the bottom of a nondescript box in a loft. Her second project was a rip off of Lemony Snicket’s ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ and didn’t even make it to the printer. Since then, she has been honing her craft through practising, teaching and lots of reading. As well as short stories, she enjoys writing poetry and playwriting.
She studied English Literature and Philosophy at Newcastle University where she also completed a master’s degree in Creative Writing. She is an avid skier, dabbles in drawing and still loves dogs.
We asked Fenwick a few questions to get to know her better and here’s what she had to say:
I have been writing since…
My earliest memories of writing were on Microsoft Word on a massive Windows 98 computer in our study. I clearly remember writing about an anthropomorphic dog (called Squishy) that lived on a dog planet. I used clipart to illustrate it and it was entirely in Jokerman font. I self published it by printing it off and giving it to my mam. After that I remember ripping off Lemon Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Complete plagiarism, and I was proud of it too. I like to think I have improved since then but there’s something still very appealing about a dog planet so I may have to revisit that one.
My favorite author(s) and book(s)?
My favorite book is ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee. It’s my favorite book because it’s my mam’s favorite. She was told to read it at school when she was fifteen; she read the first chapter and hated it. Her teacher wouldn’t let her give up and told her to keep reading it, so she did, and she fell in love with the book. When I was eleven, she read it to me each night and sometimes we read it together. When she was really sick, she asked my dad to bring it to her in the hospital. She said it’s the one book she can read again and again and never get bored of it. I agree: it’s a book with a message that never ages. I think one of the biggest lessons that my mam has taught me is to try to see things from the other person’s perspective. And every time I read this book, it reminds me of that and makes me feel closer to her. As well as that, my favorite author is Ray Bradbury. His descriptions are very striking. A lot of his short stories linger in your mind after reading, which I love. I also enjoy Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novels. Her characters feel like real people and are enthralling to read about. With these three writers I always find myself re-reading a paragraph or a page because I want to take it in again. Their words are so resonating and eye-opening.
My journey as a writer:
It’s a bit different to other writers and I do struggle to call myself a writer. I’ve always loved to write so after my undergraduate degree I did a Masters in Creative Writing. I really enjoyed it and learned a lot from my seminars and from my inspiring course mates, but I struggled with the demands of the course. My ideas were lackluster; my writing felt robotic and unpolished. I knew that I wasn’t ready to be a writer and questioned if I ever could be one. After that, I trained as an English teacher and I have been teaching for 6 years. After studying writing, teaching it and reading avidly for the last few years I felt the urge to start tapping away on Microsoft Word again. This time, writing felt more natural and easy. I was very critical of my own work, and it was much clearer to me what I needed to change, develop and delete. Penfluenza was the first competition I’ve entered and it’s given me motivation to keep trying and sharing my work which I’m very grateful for.
Why should we read you?
To find out why it horrified my mam.
My favorite genre to read / write
I love reading a mix of genres but I especially enjoy the classics, contemporary classics and dystopian novels. My favorite stories take place in different time periods and decades because I love learning about history and different cultures. I like writing short stories, mainly dystopian fiction, and I also enjoy writing poetry that modernizes old tales.
What advice would you give young and aspiring writers?
Something that I didn’t realize was that it’s easy to churn out the first draft, but developing it into something that’s worthwhile reading is another thing entirely. The editing stage should be a long process and it should be brutal. Be very strict with yourself: delete what you don’t need and what doesn’t propel your story forward, change anything you don’t feel one hundred percent comfortable with, and delete some more. Have a trusted friend or two look over your work and listen to criticism objectively as it will ultimately strengthen your work. After the first editing stage, leave your work for a couple of weeks or longer and then return with a clear mind to edit it some more! Go through it slowly with a fine tooth comb and remove and improve anything you aren’t happy with. Repeat as many times as necessary.
Excerpt from Winner, Winner!
“Good things never happen to me,” Henrietta thought, tucking a plume of red hair behind her ear. She shifted uneasily on the hard, steel chair. She was the only one in the waiting room. The room itself was almost entirely bare, save for a scattering of metal stools, two chrome coffee tables, a large flashing clock and an empty receptionist’s desk.
For the fifth time, she examined her voucher and tried to let it sink in. Embossed in gold calligraphy was the enticing offer: 1 free sixty-minute massage at Lefour Spa! For as long as she had worked and lived on the farm, there were regular competitions to reward the most diligent employees. Henrietta had long been hoping for the day that her bosses would finally notice her dedication and whisk her off to be pampered and preened. But now that she was here at the spa, perching on the edge of her seat, she only felt nervous and uncomfortable.
The clock on the wall behind the desk flashed the time: 01:30. Wrinkling her nose, she checked her watch. That wasn’t the time at all! It was 10 in the morning. She made a mental note to tell the receptionist that they had a faulty clock. Tapping her long nails gently on the arm of the chair, she inhaled deeply. “I deserve this,” Henrietta told herself. She worked hard on the farm, every day.
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