Perito Prize Winners

Perito Prize 2021 – An Interview With Prize Winning Author Mary Darroch


Welcome to the episode 1 of the Perito Prize Podcast 2021. A special podcast series all about celebrating the writing and creativity for this year’s Perito Prize & Anthology.

In this episode we’ve got Mary Darroch joining us from Glasgow. Mary wrote the winning story for the Perito Prize 2021 called ‘Magic Bus’ which can be found Journal section of the Perito website and was selected by the judges as the winner for this year.

Welcome to the podcast Mary, congratulations on Magic Bus winning and just before we start how about a quick warm up question?

Q1) Tell us a little about who your creative inspiration or mentor is and why? This might be a favourite author or place to work.

I find creative inspiration everywhere – usually when I am not looking for it! People inspire me, places inspire me, situations inspire me.
I grew up in Glasgow, in a big family, and I think I must have spent most of my childhood reading! When I was about eight I read Little Women and right there and then decided that I was going to be like Jo March and write books. I filled school jotters with stories but I kept them under my bed and never showed them to anyone. I suppose I was just too shy. As I grew older I read Jane Eyre – 12 times! – and Wuthering Heights and all the dark and moody gothic novels I could find in the local library. Eventually, I moved on to the Russian writers (again, dark and moody!) and folk like James Joyce who were inventive and experimental with language.

I think I was always drawn to the idea of ‘the outsider,’ the character who is at odds with the rest of the world. In 1994, Mark Haddon’s best-seller, The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-time, struck a chord with me as did Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman’s 2017 debut novel about a socially isolated young woman who lacks the self-awareness to recognise that indeed she is not ‘completely fine.’ Both these books left me muttering to myself afterwards that, damn, I wish I’d written this so yes, they were inspirational, and motivational.


Q2) Righto, tell us about who you are and what you have been up to during the pandemic period?

Being in my 60’s I suppose I’m a bit older than most beginners, although in a sense I’m not really a beginner. I’ve been writing all my life but as I said, I lacked the confidence to do anything with it.
I worked at a variety of jobs over my lifetime but when I was forty I became an English teacher. That might sound like the ideal job for a wannabe writer but by the end of a teaching day you’re mostly just too tired to think creative thoughts!

Unfortunately, I had to retire early on health grounds and I thought then about returning to writing but I got sidetracked with other hobbies and interests and it was only really when the pandemic struck that my priorities started to change. Like everyone else, I was spending long hours at home, at times feeling quite isolated. It got me thinking about what it must be like for people who live their whole lives like that: whatever the reason, it was rarely through choice.
I’d thought for a while about enrolling in a creative writing class but had never done anything about it because I felt anxious every time I thought about having to read my work out loud! So, when I saw that Strathclyde University had moved their creative writing classes online, I thought I’d give it a go as I wouldn’t have to read stuff out or feel awkward and it would all be kind of anonymous.
Well, actually it wasn’t like that at all! Everyone was very friendly and extremely supportive. We all learned a great deal from each other and the best thing about it was that I was so busy writing assignments and reading and commenting on everyone else’s work that I didn’t have time to feel awkward about sharing my stuff. It really was a turning-point for me and I have my excellent tutor David and everyone
on the Blaze course 2020-21 to thank for that!


Q3) What made you enter the prize and how did you find out about it?

I think that what’s been happening in the world over the last two years has changed every one of us. We have all had to dig deep and find inner resources to keep ourselves afloat – and sane. During times of conflict and hardship, you might hear that creative voice whispering to you that it wants out. Maybe it was the daily news updates that I was trying to escape from, maybe it was just that I had more time on my hands after the creative writing course ended, but I found myself looking online for writing projects. I had been shortlisted for the Creative Future Writers Award a couple of months before, which came as a complete surprise to me as I had never entered anything before!
Buoyed up by this, and keen also not to ‘go off the boil’ with no more classes to attend, when notification of the Perito Prize appeared in my email , I just went for it. I liked the fact that we were being invited to write about things that really mattered to us, and also that it actively encouraged new writers.


Q4) Some people may not yet have read your story yet. Tell us about what ‘Magic Bus’ is all about?

‘Magic Bus’ is about two young people caught in the poverty trap . As the story opens Mick, the cheery optimist with a drug habit, tells his best buddy Shona that he has a job interview coming up but that he doesn’t have the right clothes. Shona, it seems, can help him with this. The story is light-hearted and amusing but, on a deeper level, it endeavours to show how society is set up to ensure that if you’re
poor, you’re destined to stay that way. I wanted to make people think about what life can be like for those who live every day – not just during a pandemic, but every day of their lives – without choice, without opportunity, without hope. At its heart though, is the theme of friendship and mutual support. Without that, maybe we would all be


Q5) Dialect and slang like Mick’s is often religiously avoided by writers across the world but in Magic Bus you make it look easy and enchanting. Have the voices of Mick and Shona always been chatting away to you or did they require a bit of nurturing to get them to the back seat of the bus?

Ha, well I imagine Mick and Shona on the FRONT seat of the bus, looking out at the road ahead. I don’t know about you but I feel that this attitude might one day stand them in good stead. I hope so anyway.

Yes, the voices of Mick and Shona have always been in there in my head, along with a few of their friends and relatives! I’m glad you picked up on the idea of their voices because they are indeed loud and brash and they demand to be heard. They speak in colloquial Lowlands Scots-English – a Glasgow dialect that I hear all around me. Sometimes it’s harsh, sometimes it can sound like music to my ears. Writing in
dialect can be a tricky thing: what you don’t want is to obstruct the flow of the work or make it difficult for the reader to follow. When Irvine Welsh wrote Trainspotting, I believe many American readers struggled with the language, but if you read it aloud it sounds like poetry – it has a beat and a cadence to it that becomes an integral part
of the story. From the very beginning, I had Mick and Shona speak in dialect because it instantly conveyed something about who they were, where they came from and what their lives were like. It was almost a kind of shorthand in that I could convey a great deal about them within the 2000 word limit.


Q6) As you know the Perito Prize is dedicated to inclusion, access and inclusive environments. Did you find the topic difficult to write about?

If we have the will to look, we can see discrimination, inequality and injustice all around us so no, it is not difficult to write about these things but it CAN be difficult to know where to start if we want to make a difference. This is where I think the Perito Prize plays an important role. Perito provides writers with the opportunity to give a voice to those who cannot always speak up for themselves. It gives writers the scope to examine what it is to be a human being with all its failings. It invites us to challenge the status quo and to try
to make a difference.


Q7) What was most valuable about going through this writing process for you?

Well, as I mentioned earlier, the Perito Prize is so appealing because it is accessible to all who wish to enter. For the writer just starting out, it’s important to feel that you can just ‘give it a go’ and not worry about how it looks or what people will think. Writing on this particular topic – inclusion – also made me focus more keenly on what it was I really wanted to say. Having something to say is half the
battle in writing!


Q8) Finally, any recommendations/tips for people entering next year?

Apparently, a short story of 2000 words takes the average person about 15 minutes to read. In that time, you want to make sure that your story actually comes across the way you want it to. So, you need to be clear from the outset what it is you want to say.
Then edit. Edit edit edit. You’ll see your story start to take shape. Be like Michelangelo, hacking away at the marble till the shape emerges. Then fine tune it. Two thousand words are vying for attention. Make sure every word is doing something useful. If it isn’t, dump it. Be prepared to ‘kill your darlings’.
Remember that writing is liberating. Don’t be afraid. Just take that leap into the unknown, And don’t bother about what other people think – it will only hold you back. It’s a feeling like no other when you finally get it finished. You’ve done your best for it and now you can watch it fly off and start a new life of its own!


Thanks for sharing your thoughts Mary and it’s been lovely to find out more about you, Mick and Shona’s dad. But now it is time to sign off and tell listeners about the upcoming Anthology, available from Amazon around the world and all profits will be going to a nominated charity, the rest covers Amazon’s costs.

Thanks again to our special guest Mary Darroch, author of the Perito Prize winning short story ‘Magic Bus’.You’ve been tuning in to the Perito Prize 2021 Podcast – Special Edition.

Thanks for listening. Everyone…Everywhere.



Perito Prize Winners

Perito Prize 2021 – An Interview With Third Place Author Ali Azar

Perito Prize 2021 – Transcript of Our Podcast Interview With Perito Prize 2021 Third Place – Ali Azar


You can find the audio version of this excellent interview with CHIARA on our podcast host here  available on all podcast sites like Apple and Spotify.




Perito:     Welcome to Episode 3 of the Perito Podcast 2021, a special Podcast series all about celebrating the writing and creativity for this year’s Perito Prize and Anthology, now in this episode we are pleased to be joined by Ali Azar, writer of the third place story for the Perito Prize 2021.  Ali wrote the short story Exit The Shaitan which can be found in the Journal section of the Perito website and was selected by judges as the third place story for this year.  (0m.24s)  Hi Ali and welcome to the Podcast. 

Ali:             Hello there and thanks for having me.

Perito:     It’s a pleasure, so before we kick off let’s get a warm up since it’s so cold outside at the moment. (0m.34s)  What is the most important thing in your opinion Ali so is it ambition, talent or opportunity which I guess you could classify as luck as well?

Ali:             Sure, well the boring answer would be a combination of all but I think I will, I’m gonna focus on the third one which is opportunity or I’m gonna rephrase it into a circumstances I think it’s really important that where we were when you’re writing about the things, that you were there or not because it can be very inspiring, it can stir you up, can be very inspiring for your soul, I would say the opportunity, the luck of being in a particular place which will help you to write a particular point of view about the things, I think that’s the, for me that’s the more important part.

Perito:     I think I agree with you as well I was reading something, there’s a fantasy author called Brandon Sanderson on his Wiki page he’s, it took until his 6th novel Elantris to get picked up by a publisher and I was thinking 6! and this guy’s obviously globally famous and does huge books so definitely seems to be that kind of like opportunity, he had the ambition to write, had the talent clearly.

Ali:             Exactly. 

Perito:     And then he just needed that one moment, so yep good answer.

Ali:             Exactly.

Perito:      Thank you very much for entering the Perito Prize I think the judges especially really enjoyed your story. 

Ali:             Oh thank you.

Perito:     (1m.51s)  What you made you enter the prize and how did you find out about it in the first place?

Ali:             Right I had never heard about this and then, I was as a part of my, I had written a few short story with particular themes and I wanted to enter competition and I come across with that and obviously I just wanted to send some random stuff, so when I went to your website the things about your messaging, your website about being inclusive and the jobs you’re doing as a consulting and making the environment of the work more inclusive, so it draw my attention and then I had a chance to read the previous winners’ stories which I really enjoyed that.  One of the recurrent theme of my work is always about talking about the people they’ve been excluded, I just didn’t have a second thought and I went for it because I thought it’s very relevant, so yeah I submit for that and where did I hear about it, I don’t remember it but I think that this prize come up in a few, in several other websites as a recommendation that you can enter the competition so yeah.

Perito:     Perfect thank you very much.  (3m.00s)  So some people won’t have read Exit The Shaitan yet and I’m assuming I’ve got the pronunciation right there as well Ali so?

Ali:             Perfect, perfect.

Perito:     (3m.08s)  Yeah, good, so can you tell us about what the story is all about?

Ali:             Sure just by the way Shaitan it’s Satan so we say Shaitan for Satan so.  Exit the Shaitan it’s about an exorcism.  It’s a about a possessed girl that as his father just ran to an old ladies which is known in the area for helping people out when they’ve been possessed or etc. and in the one midnight and this is all about the journey of this old lady just she had to deal with this possessed girl, yeah if I have to summarise it that way.

Perito:     (3m.45s)  Ingi is the older lady whose, I kind of got the impression she was a bit, maybe a bit like a medicine woman perhaps?

Ali:             Exactly.

Perito:     Providing sort of alternative complimentary therapy to the community but she’s quite a long way away from this place where the family is.  (4m.02s)  You’re from Iran originally, is this kind of the area you’re from did you write about your home area?

Ali:             Your surprised yes, so just to give you a bit of background I am coming from the North West of Iran called the State of Azerbaijan which are the second largest city in Iran, we speak language of Turkic, version of the Turkic which is called Azerbaijani, 30% Iranian are Turkic speaking as Azerbaijani’s so yes which is a very mountainous area and is very close to border with the Turkey and I am from there and this is the story I inspired it is the village that my great parents come from so it’s actually little town and I brought up in the big city called Tabriz which is the fifth biggest city in Iran but we always went for a holiday and all sort of things to this little town called Miskin, these character I inspire, these are the character whether they were a relative, far distant relative of mine or Ingi I inspired by my great grandmother which I was lucky to see her before she died several years, many years ago at the time I was 6 or 7, her character was so strong that has always remain in me and felt is this as the medicine woman it’s a good way to get a better understanding of it but these woman was a Sayyid and Sayyid it means a person who is a descendent of Prophet Muhammad so these people they were kind of a mediator meaning that their prayer heard by the God or Allah so what they did in the Society they kind of, the people come to them and they would kind of channel them through, channel their prayer to the God so God can hear them.  So my great grandmother she was like that and yeah and I found it very inspiring, very interesting.

Perito:     (6m.00s)  Excellent and did she have sore knees and I kind of got the impression with the way the characters have to help her in and out of the Land Rover?

Ali:             Yes.

Perito:     (6m.07)  That perhaps you’d had a lot of experience doing that over the years or someone had?

Ali:             I’m glad you raised it up because it may sound trivial but for me it was a part of his character, she was quite, she was older lady, quite at advanced age but yeah she had suffered from the knees and I think it’s remind me of many of other ladies, woman in Iran particularly very older generation, they work very hard, they wash many things, they always do the things that they eventually had arthritis either because of the knee problem, either because they were doing a lot of household work or it’s because they get, yeah these sort of things and for me it’s always I remember her that because she always couldn’t walk and yeah for me that was the part of that health issue of hers so always a part of her character.

Perito:     Initially Layla struck me as the protagonist of the story but on second and third readings I started to think maybe it’s actually Ingi who’s the character and exclusion comes down to there’s a part where she couldn’t remember the last time that she got out of the house.

Ali:             Right.

Perito:     And then I start to think well from an accessibility point of view that’s exactly it she’d become a prisoner in her own house as you write and then this is almost like a journey for her to go out there and to kind of experience life again.  So that was interesting from the exclusion perspective it wasn’t just, it was how her body had essentially started to entrap her.

Ali:             For me it’s an important point because a, okay many people come, the people like me which coming from, I don’t like this word developing but I have to go for it.  It’s coming from developing country many people say, “oh they come like country, developed country like Britain” they always say, “oh it’s a very nice the rules are, people obey the rules or you’ve got in it’s just etc. etc.” but for me one of the things really struck me is about how many disabled people I can see in the street, it doesn’t, it isn’t because the Britain has a more people that they have accessibility issues compared to Iran, you haven’t many disabled people we had 8 years’ war with Iran they are many people, they lost their limbs and etc. but you don’t see them in Iran on the street because they are not suitable for them, for that reason they can’t find a work, they can’t, they are less preferred finding a job and I suppose it’s not just for Iran for many countries are like that and yeah with the Ingi things she can’t because she can’t walk properly and the house, the way her house is lay out there are many stairs so yeah she become the prisoner of her own house. 

Perito:     That’s really useful I think it gives us the sketch over, we won’t spoil like the principle of people who have to read this story to get the idea but essentially it’s about a small journey to the village which is far away, I kind of get the impression it’s very highland, very bumpy.

Ali:             That’s right.

Perito:     And the Land Rovers kind of Layla’s father is driving too fast and then you kind of so the build-up and then kind of reach the crescendo and then at the end of it it’s very nice and calmly done and your story has this gentle flow despite the urgency of the family situation.  (9m.24s)  We talked a little bit about why you were writing it in terms of the area but what made you use this particular situation of Layla’s to create a story around, what was the reason behind that?

Ali:             The weirdest thing with the writing you remember some of the things you never thought about, I am a late starter when it comes to writing, I start when I was 30 and I’ve been writing nearly for 10 years, I heard this when I was a little boy and the guy who was telling this story was telling to show how can people can be deceived because they are possessed and it’s superstition etc. and etc. but that wasn’t my take on on it and I just found this story very fascinating and it always was in my mind and I didn’t, yeah in back of my mind and then I start writing about the things and after many things they came straight in was this but I didn’t want to focus on superstitious, another thing if I may add to this exclusivity things you can’t hear the woman voice a lot in the Iranian literature, we are quite advanced society we’ve got many ladies working different part of Iranian Society although it’s a very patriarchal society but the literature you don’t see many woman or woman point of view unfortunately, it’s not a surprise so somehow hearing this story I thought okay actually I’m just gonna, because when the guy was writing this story the guy who was going to deal with this possession is a man and I said let’s, I’m just gonna replace it with a woman and let’s see how it’s gonna happen because I didn’t know the end and I say I just like the setting that this old lady is gonna have, her house is gone a bit knacked in and knacked and then when he’s gonna open it and there’s a guard  roaring father that her child has been possessed.  So yeah and then I start writing it up and then I have to decide and what to write up, how to end it but the real driver of it, it was that story that I heard many years ago.

Perito:     (11m.31s)  Thank you Ali, your first language must be Farsi/Azerbaijani perhaps?

Ali:             Turkic.

Perito:     (11m.39s)  Turkic yeah, so do you find when your writing that you write in your Turkic.

Ali:             Yes.

Perito:     (11m.46s) Language first and then you have to translate it, how do you find that when you’re coming up with these stories and having to go through that computation in your mind cos they’ll be a lot of people who will want to embrace the Perito Prize because we get hundreds of entries from around the world and how did you feel about kind of that translation mission and what sort of techniques did you take on to accomplish it?

Ali:             Sure, okay, well although my mother language is Turkish but I unfortunately because circumstances in Iran you can’t write and read in Turkish so if it comes to the writing yeah we’ve been taught to write in Farsi or Persian but it’s a good point because it is not easy, it’s my third language, I am writing in it, what I did initially I write it in Turkish or in Farsi and then translate it in the English but I found it not particularly useful, I mean if you wanna have a plan just to see what you’re writing it might be useful but when you really wanna compose your text I didn’t find it useful or put it this way, it is a bit of a, it’s not the best use of time what you could do instead you can just start with the crude language of English and then you can just filling in, it’s a very slow process.  What I do sometimes, sometimes when it comes to very complex things or I have to really show some, when I wanna say something very subtle or something like that and I, nothing come up to my mind in English I write it in Turkish and then I translate it, let’s say within the paragraph I needed this last bit, last touch, I write it in whatever language is come to my mind because I’m comfortably can write in Persian as well and then I translate it in English and I think that’s useful but to write whole section in one language and translate it I didn’t find it very, what is the word, is a very effective approach. 

Perito:     (13m.55s)  Okay that’s really useful thanks for covering that off.  So as you know the Perito Prize is dedicated to inclusion, access and inclusive environments did you find that topic difficult to write about or come up with obviously ideas or do you write about that normally with the other stories you do?

Ali:             It is a difficult topic and I didn’t, okay by itself I’m coming from the country you have to self-sensor yourself so but I didn’t find it particularly hard to write. I don’t want to give a spoiler but it’s one of the problems with Iran is the way the woman has been treated for example their virginities, so all the society has made the woman to behave as if their virginity is an asset and there are many things going around that, and also I’m fascinated by that the way the woman or men approach this sort of things.  So you may say what to do with being inclusive or whatever I think it is important because it’s just made in this particular case a woman it is a bit, being considered as a kind of in the position of the men or do you see what I mean so?

Perito:     I do yeah.

Ali:             Particularly with Iran it can be hard issue because there are many layer of it.

Perito:     (15m.27s)  Excellent thank you very much.  What do you think was the most valuable thing about going through this writing process for you?

Ali:             You mean in this particular story or as a whole?

Perito:     Either, whatever you fancy really just go for it.

Ali:             Yeah the thing is I really don’t, when I talk with other people I don’t say I write it because they, then they say, “it’s a good hobby” and I don’t like it, I think if you want to write you have to take it seriously.  When you write it can be difficult and can be very slow process but at the same time the aspect of the writing I love is, you come back, I’m quite a nostalgic guy so you come back to your past, your own past and you dig in and sometimes you got surprised with things you did as if someone is telling you, “do you remember that?” and I love that and you kept being surprised by yourself, this is self-indulgent I know. 

Perito:     To be honest writing is kind of like that isn’t it as you say it’s kind of like the sudden urge to go and do something cool.

Ali:             Yeah.

Perito:     And you’ve got it put it down.

Ali:             Yeah exactly.

Perito:     (16m.35s)  Brilliant so has this prize made you think differently about how inclusive and accessible the world we live in actually is, you kind of hit on this at the beginning with the idea of the streets of Tabriz and Tehran maybe people are not likely to be seen because there’s not the infrastructure or the culture’s not there in the supportive way.

Ali:             Exactly I mean I encourage in audience to read the previous winners or previous stories they have been published, just surprised about how people consider this topic, take it from the being bullied in school to the like sexuality issues or all sort of things and it doesn’t matter where you come from you will always find this margin part of the society those people they’ve been excluded, some of them they are not we always see them in the TV’s and radios and some of them just they are too subtle to see them so I think for me in every society you’ve got this kind of confliction, we feel those kind of, what’s the word, the majority and those people they are in the outside in the skirt of the centre so.

Perito:     Well as Keshe wrote last year Every Other which probably.

Ali:             Wonderful.

Perito:     Sums it up quite nicely isn’t it.

Ali:             Wonderful story yeah.

Perito:     Everyone else and the others but I guess the interesting thing about exclusion and inclusion is that we’ve all been included and excluded in different ways.

Ali:             Precisely

Perito:     Across different stratas and thinking about Iranian Society you can’t just look at one person isn’t one thing they might have social connections, economic, different history, different religious beliefs and you might be and have maybe in Iran Society I think maybe five or six primary identities that you could be moving through on a daily basis.

Ali:             Exactly.

Perito:     (18m.20s) It’s just a lot of shades of grey isn’t there? 

Ali:             It is, the successful community it’s the one, I think it’s one of the goals to see whether society’s been successful, it’s how you’re gonna integrate all this shade of greys you see what I mean?

Perito:     Indeed, brilliant.  (18m.34s)  So Ali finally any recommendations for people entering next year?

Ali:             Yeah, sure I mean first thing is obviously they have to be interested in this kind of topic which is a very strong topic and people write about it and another thing is if they’re interested in it they don’t have to go and catch those things you always hear about, if you, I think if you have a good look around you will find something relevant, very relevant to your own life, your own little circle of people, your own little hub whether it’s at work or whether it’s a neighbourhood or whatever.  I don’t, in my opinion you don’t really have to look hard it’s always it’s interest, you have to have obviously interest to develop this story and then you will see it’s there.

Perito:     Perfect, thank you very much for that.  I think that’s good advice.

Ali:             Sure, thank you.

Perito:     Now it’s been great to find out more about you and your story, Exit The Shaitan, but now it’s time to sign off and tell listeners about the upcoming Anthology which will be available from Amazon around the world and ideally will be on audio book potentially later on but for now you should be able to buy that in time for Christmas 2021, thanks again to our special guest, Ali Azar.

Ali:             Thank you for having me.

Perito:     Absolute pleasure, who was the author of the short story Exit The Shaitan and thank you very much for coming along today Ali.  You’ve been tuning into the Perito Prize 2021 Podcast that’s a Special Edition thanks for listening everyone, everywhere. 




Perito Prize Winners

Perito Prize 2021 – An Interview With Second Place Author Chiara Bullen

Perito Prize 2021 – Transcript of Our Podcast Interview With Perito Prize 2021 Runner Up – Chiara Bullen


You can find the audio version of this excellent interview with CHIARA on our podcast host and its available on all podcast sites like Apple and Spotify.



Perito:     Welcome to Episode 2 of the Perito Podcast 2021, a specialise Podcast series all about celebrating the writing and creativity for this year’s Perito prize and anthology, now in this episode we’ve got Chiara Bullen joining us from Glasgow.  Chiara wrote the runner up story for the Perito prize 2021 called Smelly Cat which can be found in the Journal section of the Perito website and was selected by the judges as a second place story for this year.  (0m.29s) Welcome to the Podcast Chiara.

Chiara:    Hi James, thanks for having me.

Perito:     (0m.36s) Hi, it’s an absolute pleasure so before we start then how about some kind of quick warm up questions iron out any of those nerves or anything that you might have?

Chiara:    Sure.

Perito:     (0m.46s) Let’s a little about your writing routine then so what kind of things like where you like to sit, have to drink or maybe the music that you like to listen to?

Chiara:    So I think quite a lot of writers would be quite horrified at my set up and for most of my PHD it’s been the pandemic so it’s just my desk at home and it’s always super messy and when I’m finished with my PDF work for the day I usually just launch straight into writing so nothing really special about that which is probably isn’t great but I do like listening to sound tracks to inspire my writing kind of like video game and TV shows sound tracks and things like that.

Perito:     I am obsessed with the Elderscrolls Ambiance soundtrack on Spotify I just have it on repeat because it just sits in the background and does its thing.  So I can relate to that but I think what probably surprised me the most with your answer was the fact that you can write after work, I’m normally at the end of work I don’t want to do anything else so I tend to prefer writing in the morning.  (01m.43s) What is it about the afternoon that works for you?

Chiara:    By the time I’ve finished work it’s normally the evening I suppose but yeah I don’t know, I guess I just sort of associate it as my sort of downtime even though it’s still like, it’s still working, it’s still quite difficult, I guess I’ve always just been a little of a night owl when it comes to my writing so I can’t be one of those people who get up really early and do it before work I think I just need to, I wouldn’t be able to start my day at that point so.

Perito:     (2m.17s) So you’re not kind of like a Raymond Chandler with a whisky in hand in the evening?

Chiara:    Not quite (laughter).

Perito:     Good okay (2m.26s) tell us about the PhD, what are you doing at the moment for the PhD?

Chiara:    So I’m in my third year of my PhD, I’m doing it across the areas of publishing studies, literature and law and I’m kind of looking at like the social responsibilities of the book publishers in the 21st Century so for example right now I’m kind of looking at like what happened in the publishing industry in the wake of the Me Too Movement, for example of authors who were accused of sexual harassment and things like that, I’m just kind of getting an idea of what’s happened in the industry in the past few years cos obviously there’s quite a lot of kind of like discussion and controversy around it so it’s just kind of examining that.

Perito:     (3m.07s) Have you come to any kind of hypothesis or conclusion as to what might need to change or is there change underway?

Chiara:    I mean change is definitely happening, I wouldn’t want to talk about any findings I have yet we’ve got another year to go to iron them out but I do have some ideas of what’s going on and kind of what needs to be changed and things like that.

Perito:     Perfect.  (3m.33s)  Okay, so second question then, when you’re wondering about you’re going to write about in the evening who do you turn to for inspiration and why?

Chiara:    Well I don’t really have just like one figure, I suppose I kind of always keep in mind that like widely used advice which is that to be a good writer you have to be a good reader and read widely kind of in your field and know what’s out there and what works, what doesn’t, what gaps are there and how you can fill them.  I think if I ever have a bit of a writing block and like I think I’ll just spend a good few weeks like reading and enjoying myself and then I’, sort of like refreshed to go back to it.

Perito:     (4m.14s) So are you admitting there is such a thing as writer’s block?

Chiara:    I’m currently, I’m actually currently suffering it with my academic writing, (laughter) not my grade of writing but I guess, yeah I guess some things it’s really hard to get the words out, I think you can always kind of writing something is better than nothing in those instances even if it’s not great or what you’re entirely happy with but yeah you can definitely feel a little bit like stuck.

Perito:     I’m sure everyone whose listening can relate to that at one time in their lives certainly, okay perfect, thank you very much for those answers that was really interesting.  (4m.52s) Moving on to the prize then so what made you enter the Perito prize and how did you find out about it in the first place?

Chiara:    I really liked Perito’s dedication to accessibility, for example, I really liked that there was no entry fee which is often a barrier for lots of people and there were options to submit like audio files and an option to get in touch if you needed to submit your application in any other way like the team would help.  I really like that side of Perito and I don’t just enter my writing kind of like anything, well first of all there’s a lot of times where I can’t afford to, so yeah I just thought that was really great also you were open to young adult stories and young adult short stories are quite hard to be placed cos there’s not, there are places for them but there aren’t as many as adult section and things like that, then I heard about the prize via The Mslexia Newsletter so that’s a magazine for women writers and they do, it might be monthly or it might be every few weeks, they do a newsletter where they showcase writing opportunities and things like that.

Perito:     Perfect, thank you very much.  I think you’ve hit the nail on the head from an access point of view, I just always got really annoyed about the idea you had to be from South Norwich, 6 foot tall and have £50.00 waiting to be able to spend…

Chiara:    Yeah.

Perito:     …in order to even get submitted so the prize is definitely designed to encourage everybody to try and get involved which is why we tend to get, certainly last year, 50 or 60 countries around the world and that’s another great point about sterling GDP, pounds don’t translate well into other currencies…

Chiara:    Yeah exactly.

Perito:     …due to inflation and things, so.

Chiara:    And I completely understand that opportunities, magazines, competitions they do have, they have something to pay their staff, they should always pay their staff but they have running costs and things like that so I am completely sympathetic to that sometimes there just has to be, there just has to be a charge but it’s good when there are options in place, for example if an organisation is gonna charge sometimes they will have a certain amount of slots for people who can’t afford to enter and things like that but I definitely still think there is more that should be done for, to widen accessibility sort of like wider writing competitions and things like that.

Perito:     Thank you very much Chiara that’s a great response.  (7m.21s)  So some people may not have read your story yet and can you tell us about what’s Smelly Cat’s all about and kind of the message that you wanted to write about?

Chiara:    Yeah absolutely I’m don’t blame them if they haven ‘t read it yet (laughter) which is good.  So the story is about a girl, a teenage girl who is bi-sexual but she hasn’t come out to her friends yet and she’s sort of internally agonising over what she should to do because she’s already come across a lot of bi-phobia and bi-sexual erasure and things like that and she’s just not very confident and what the reaction will be like.

Perito:     (8m.01s)  And how does the, without kind of ruining the entire plot line, how does the whole kind of 90’s pop culture vibe fit in?

Chiara:    I suppose, I mean it just sort of got me thinking about how pop culture can really shape it, can really have an impact on our identities but popular culture can also have a kind of harmful effect because it can provide inaccurate stereotypes and things like that, so for example the main character reflects on the fat phobia in friends amongst other things and some people if they watch that a lot when they’re younger in the 90’s or if they’re coming to a little bit later they might always then replicate those stereotypes and those feelings for their whole life, even though they don’t think that it’s harmful because it was a funny joke on Friends, how horrible can it be and that just sort of creates this kind of, kind of strange cycle and makes kind of marginalised people feel even worse and it’s, I think it’s how we get to these conversations when people will say something offensive or hateful and they’re like, “oh but I didn’t mean it, this was just what I was this was what I thought was the case” so yeah, I was just thinking about that when I wrote the story.

Perito:     It’s a great point you make about kind of people reinforcing cycles of exclusion and if you’re watching, how many episodes of Friends are there 300 odd.

Chiara:    Something like that yeah.

Perito:     Yeah and if you’re watching them like I used to, the Sunday omnibuses or whatever, you’d maybe 3 and 4 and yes you’d laugh and things but actually the messaging of and also their casual stupidity as well sometimes, particularly with Ross.

Chiara:    Yeah.

Perito:     Kind of sets in doesn’t it and then as you say the people are then going to think well actually that’s reasonable, if someone whose, and they’re all reasonably good people fundamentally and if they’re saying it then why not, why not we just use that and take that on.  I definitely agree with you the idea of society and media has a role to play in kind of re-framing the conversations around that sort of stuff.  So that’s why I particularly liked Smelly Cat because it really kind of gets to the point and in a nuance way and says, “yeah have you thought about this”.

Chiara:    Definitely.

Perito:     (10m.21s)  So do you find you write a lot about TV shows or popular materials, current affairs and things in your other work?

Chiara:    Actually this is the only time that that’s happened, I usually write like speculative and fantasy and sci-fi and things like that, I honestly, if I may be completely honest, I don’t know where the story came from I think it was just a manifestation of thinking about what we’ve just discussed and a sort of instance where, where that particular episode of Friends might have a negative impact like in real time because the, if people read the story the episode that I’m referring to that always kind of, always bothered me so yeah.

Perito:     Yeah it’s a little bit like Little Britain, even Little Britain I never particularly found it that funny, there were some good bits but often you were still sitting there even back in the 2000’s just thinking, “no I’m not sure that quite works in a way maybe they’re intending” and I think Friends obviously is earlier but at the same time it’s no real excuse because these same conversations were happening then at the same time.

Chiara:    Yeah exactly.

Perito:     Okay, perfect, thank you.  (11m.33s)  So as the Perito prize is dedicated to inclusion, access and inclusive environments did you find that topic difficult to write about or concede with the ideas?

Chiara:    I didn’t really, I do write other genres like fantasy and stuff that’s something that I always keep in mind and I always write about some sort of kind of like injustice and things like that so inclusively is something that I do think about a lot and I like to keep learning and kind of like educate myself to be a little bit of an ally for areas that are that I’m not like part of and things like that.

Perito:     (12m.10s) Despite being a little bit too close to a long conversation but particularly with your skills and understanding of the publishing industry, do you feel that kind of class and social status plays a big role in these sort of coming up with stories and background and certainly being able to get published.

Chiara:    Oh yeah absolutely (laughter) I could be here forever if I worry to talk about that but yeah I mean for so long we’ve had the majority of stories and writers they come from the same, they’re white middle to upper middle class if not more and we have those kind of stories and I started kind of noticing like when I thought about the popular media I consumed like maybe like throughout my whole life, there’s so many recurring issues like, where like the parents getting divorced or not being able to live up to an older sibling or a very successful parent is like the main conflict, the main difficulty and I sort of, and those are horrible things regardless right but I realised that for so many people writing and who they assume the audience to be that those were like the most pressing things that people would ever deal with in their life and then again those are really, those are really difficult things to deal with and recently we have popular shows are tackling things like racism and ableism and tackling the stigma and mental health and stuff that’s really great and I’m really glad to see that happening and there are changes to make publishing more inclusive and diverse, maybe not quite as fast as we would like but I think, yeah I think things are definitely changing but the money that it costs to sort of just often get a story out there, for example creative writing courses and degrees are really popular now and they cost a lot of money and time and there’s scholarships available but there’s not, these opportunities available for everyone and you’re often kind of up against these people who have a lot more time and money to put towards their craft and things and it’s just kind of, yeah it’s definitely kind of been eye opening looking at things from a publishers side and then from the writers side, but yeah sorry that was a bit of a (a ha) a conscientious answer but I hope that kind of answered your question.

Perito:     Well I’m actually thinking of a whole different podcast about these subjects actually to be honest, I’m sure there’s gonna be plenty of people on who’d happily listen to your thoughts all day about that stuff so maybe watch this space, that’s brilliant.  (14m.41s)  So what was the most valuable thing about going through this writing process for you?

Chiara:    I think it really was just with this story in particular it just helped me get my thoughts about pop culture and what we’ve just discussed like really together and put them on the page and just sort of see how that can, yeah how that can impact people but it also helped me to remember that again things definitely aren’t changing fast enough whether that’s in publishing or the film industry or in TV or whatever but there are more pieces of popular culture tackling injustice and raising awareness to issues and issues with stigma surrounding them and things like that and that is great, I suppose yeah it kind of taught me to sort of, there’s still a good reason to be hopeful and things like that.

Perito:     There is definitely, yeah 100%, that’s great.  (15m.34s)  Now I suppose a continuation of that theme, has the prize made you think differently about how inclusive and accessible the whole world we live in actually is?

Chiara:    Yeah, yeah definitely, I think it’s sort of made me think, it’s sort of reinstated that in terms of making an inclusive and accessible world there’s still so much, we’ve so much further to go and just another reminder that there’s still so much to learn and there’s still ways that you can help and things like that, yeah it just sort of reinstated all of those kind of values and the things that we discussed earlier particularly about publishing and accessibility and things, I liked how the prize, that spelling, grammar doesn’t matter and this is open to everyone and we can help with that and I thought that was great and that’s something I often don’t see in publishing and is something that I often, I don’t, for example I don’t end up talking about that in my work and maybe I might or maybe I should think about that when I think about inclusive publishing and things like that.

Perito:     I’m a Dyslexic, relatively moderate to severe and I used to get called stupid at school by my teachers and two in particular and without, what’s that’s done is really set the kind of, the scope for actually what if you aren’t a particularly good speller or you don’t have a Cambridge Grads academic understanding of the English correct grammar than how are you meant to kind of cruise through this, how are you meant to get your voice and story out there if the first people are doing is looking at your, the way that you pronounciate and accentuate your words so that’s, it’s nice that you spotted that as well cos that was a really big important thing for me personally.

Chiara:    Yeah and it often disadvantages people who are, who English might be a second or third or a fourth language, I know that’s a big issue in academia with journal articles for example, people not getting necessarily accepted because of that but all the ideas and the research are right there, it’s not something that should include, exclude people with good ideas and have voices that should be heard.

Perito:     Well exactly if you think from a voices perspective how are you going to engage with a lady from Benghazi if her English is not great and how are you going to get her story, I bet the first thing you do is look at how many spelling mistakes she’s made but that’s only in English.  So it’s a really important point and I think sometimes it does take a while for people to understand, that’s one of the messages that I’m trying to get across by putting this prize together is that idea that we’re not being exclusive just because the be all and end all is whether your grammar and spelling is literally perfect.  You can always pay someone to check it but at the same time if you’re not gonna win that’s expensive.

Chiara:    And also sometimes you just can’t, like that’s not something you have a budget for so yeah it’s just, it’s just something to think about I suppose.

Perito:     (18m.47s) Brilliant and so finally then any recommendations and tips for people entering next year, now I’ve got high hopes for this one Chiara so you (laughter) lay it out there and give everybody as many tips as you possibly can that would be fantastic.

Chiara:    (laughter) So much pressure, I hope you’re not gonna be disappointed with my answer but it was basically, it sounds kind of cheesy but honestly like don’t give up, with this story Smelly Cat I’d entered it in a few places and it got quite a lot of rejections but I would take it back and rework it and honestly went I sent it to this prize I was like this was the last time I’m gonna send this out because I just don’t think there’s a home for this story and obviously it worked out really well but, and it kind of made me realise like oh even if it wasn’t placed here definitely shouldn’t have given up because so much about publishing is just subjective, maybe you don’t quite fit with the theme of like being with the anthology or the issue that you’ve submitted for sometimes the people putting together the magazine or the competition they just don’t feel passionate enough about it, it doesn’t mean that your writing isn’t good and it doesn’t mean that there’s not a place for it, finding the right home for your writing is way more important than just trying to gonna get it published anywhere so yeah, sort of keeping, yeah don’t give up when you’re trying to place a story and just think about what would suit as much, what would suit the story as much as the sort of like just the sort of feeling that you need to get it published, I just think it’s more important to find a good home for it.

Perito:     That’s a lovely point, thank you very much and I think again there’s lots of wisdom backing that up as well so Chiara that’s wonderful.  Now it’s been great to find out more about you and your story but now it’s time to sign off and tell listeners about the upcoming anthology which would be available from Amazon in time for Christmas 2021 and thanks again to our special guest to Chiara Bullen, Author of the short story Smelly Cat, thanks for talking to us today Chiara.

Chiara:    Yeah it was so good, it was so great to speak to you.

Perito:     That’s brilliant and thanks for all your lovely information as well.  Now you’ve been tuning into the Perito Podcast 2021 special addition, thanks for listening everyone, everywhere.