We spoke with Jackie Kay over the telephone to ask her about how she approached the challenge of writing about Elsewhere. She thought about picking a foreign place but nowhere seemed to be quite foreign enough. So she decided on death - it was certainly somewhere she had never been - and invented a place based on stages of bereavement and dying called "Elsewhere". Jackie wanted to have the opportunity to talk about death positively - and come up with fresh ideas about taboos concerning suicide. [Update] And now 'Kindred' is available to read!
Elizabeth Laird and David Almond talked about their Elsewhere stories last summer at their event in Charlotte Square. Elizabeth's story 'Red Wolves in the Mist' is about the wolves of Ethiopia who live in the high alpine regions. It was an area that was as about as far away as she could think of and she chose to write a non-fiction piece about one night with two British vets in that harsh African landscape. David's story 'Paper Boat, Paper Bird' came from an experience he had in Japan a few years ago where his daughter was given an origami bird on a bus. The memory of being given that bird lingered with him and he was delighted to explore it for this new writing commission.
Joan Lingard decided to write about a very vivid encounter she had with the idea of Elsewhere when she visited the Soviet Union for the very first time in 1989. Like Elizabeth Laird, she chose to write a non-fiction piece. 'Other Times, Other Places' intentionally keeps the name of the country hidden from the reader. Everything Joan experienced seemed to refer to other places and other times, infused with the sense of oppression from the Soviet Union. In many senses the country she visited does not exist anymore - and this is partly a feature of it being distanced by time but also reflects the political upheavals which all the countries of the former Soviet Union experienced.