standing on the outside

Lately, people keep asking what my book of short stories is about. It’s a question I struggle with, because each story is different, and each piece is an exploration of a separate issue.

But there are commonalities. Like most writers, I have my obsessions.

The collection is called If You’re Happy, and happiness is certainly a theme. How people imagine happiness, the ways they achieve it, and how they are hindered in reaching that goal.

I’m also fascinated by wild weather and natural disasters, so there are stories involving a melting glacier, an earthquake, a tornado, a violent storm, a tsunami, a blizzard and a sinkhole. I’ve just written a new story with an erupting volcano.

But most of all, my stories revolve around loneliness or isolation. The characters are people who don’t completely fit in, or feel like outsiders in some way. It’s a subject close to my heart, because I’ve often felt on the outer, especially as a child.

I was a gawky kid who read a lot of books, had weird hand-me-down clothes and a bowl haircut (see picture, aged ten or eleven). I was overly earnest. I had no siblings until I was eight and a half, so I spent years playing on my own, and had no idea how to ‘fight back’ if picked on in the playground. We moved to Australia when I was nine, and I was mocked for my Canadian accent, my tendency to cry easily, and my very white skin in the land of tans. I felt odd and lonely much of the time. It wasn’t until high school, when I met other kids more similar to me, that I found good friends and realised I wasn’t so hard to like, after all.

I really hope readers enjoy If You’re Happy, and find stories that resonate. I especially hope that anyone who feels lonely, or who feels they sometimes don’t belong, can take comfort in knowing this emotion is universal. We all feel awkward, or on the outer at times. We feel alone even when surrounded by others. We chase happiness, it slips from our grasp and then we grab it again. And in the end, we’re all just trying to find our way in this wild and turbulent world.

19 thoughts on “standing on the outside

  1. Wild and turbulent stories about living on the edges of life and searching for happiness. Sounds wonderful! Gorgeous kid pic, too. 😊

  2. I love the title and absolutely relate to not fitting in. Your photo could be me—I had a tartan skirt and skivvy and long white socks—except I had red hair and freckles and no Canadian accent! I can’t wait to read your book. So many congratulations on sticking at it and with it, and I’m so happy for everything you’ve achieved this year. 🙂

    • Oh I love that you also had a tartan skirt and skivvy and long white socks! We are obviously meant to be friends 😍
      And thank you so much Louise, it certainly has been a long road (as for most writers) and I’m thrilled to finally have a book in the pipeline. x

  3. Can’t wait to read your stories, Fiona. Seems like a long wait. Short stories are my favourite story form. A lecturer I adored used to say each story is like a piece of art, and a collection is like an exhibition in an art gallery. Delicious!

    Love the photo.

    • Thank you so much Maureen, it is a while to wait but hopefully worth it!
      I’m so happy you love short stories, I feel the same. And that’s such a great analogy about a collection being like an art gallery exhibition.

      Hope you’re keeping well (I have been unable to comment on your blog recently, even on WordPress Reader, but I still read each post. Will have to resort to commenting on Facebook I think!)


  4. So resonant Fi… I had a very similar childhood and have an affinity with weather patterns. The bowl cut was shared as well. We write to make sense of the world, we write to connect with our souls, we write to connect with others. I love you to bits and can’t wait to read your book! Caylie

  5. I’m glad everyone keeps asking you what the collection is about, so we could find out too. I think the feeling of being an outsider has universal resonance and I can’t wait to read
    As for the bowl cut, I only realised during lockdown this year when I cut my son’s hair that we all had those haircuts because our mums cut our hair rather than hairdressers who’ve actually been trained.

    • Haha Nina, yes, our homegrown haircuts were more about function than aesthetic appeal. Still, we’ve lived to tell the tale 🙂
      Hope your son’s haircut turned out ok!
      Thanks so much for reading.

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