Sarra Culleno is a British BAME poet, mother and English teacher who performs her writing at events across the UK. She writes about children’s rights, motherhood, identity, gender, age, technology, the environment, politics, modern monogamy and education. Sarra is widely published. She has written fiction and poetry for publication, performance, print, audiodramas, podcasts and radio. Sarra was longlisted for the Cinnamon Press Pamphlet Prize, for Nightingale and Sparrow’s Full Collections 2020, and nominated for Best of the Net 2020 by iambapoet. Sarra co-hosts Write Out Loud at Waterside Arts, and performs as guest and featured poet at numerous literary festivals.
1) Your short story collection is speculative fiction. Why did you choose this medium to explore the parent-child bond?
Chimamanda Nogozi Adichie gave a moving Ted Talk recently, entitled “The Danger of a Single Story”, where she outlines that while, as an African, she had consumed multiple narratives about America, Americans had only consumed one or two about Africa. Afrofuturism is important for the same reason Sci-Fi is important - how can we exist in the future if we have not imagined it first? Toni Morrison is one of many writers to say “write the story you want to read”. I would go further to say that we actively narrate the future into being. These are my motivations for exploring my themes; to give the universal human premise of parent-child bonds the due representation they deserve, across genres and styles.
Many narratives about motherhood are absent. The feminist narrative is lacking, the non-binary narrative is deficient, examples of men ditching toxic masculinity is absent, the rights of the child are missing, and portrayals of disfigurements always leave me reeling. I wanted to write narratives challenging the stories which already exist. I wanted to continue from genres I had enjoyed, but did not speak for me. I wanted to unpack Attachment Theory as a theme reconnoitred through Speculative Fiction, where mothers and mothering, as a dyad, are not invisible.
I am a proud sci-fi fangirl, and teaching Media Studies A Level has only fuelled this. My influences for Machina Ex Deus, range from Orwell, Huxley, The Dune Trilogies, The Social Dilemma, Asimov’s Law (I, Robot), Oblivion, Star Wars, and of course, Ex Machina. Sci-fi, or Speculative Fiction robots are often a metaphor for the marginalised, frequently in the form of fetishised and ‘otherised’ fembots, from Metropolis in 1927, to The Stepford Wives, right up to Scarlett Johansen’s Her in 2013. While my robot may descend from this tradition, I wanted to expand beyond it, to explore the biological drivers of mothers, without gender expectations or hyper sexualisation. I also wanted to acknowledge the child in the dyad, the Pinocchio character from AI in 2001 being my primary inspiration.
2) Which story did you find the most challenging to write and why?
The story I found most challenging was The Fledgling Heart. Writing in a conversational, chatty style, was a new experience. I overcame this by using a journal format so that my protagonist, Becky, is not really addressing a reader, but more herself in the form of personal memoir. I also found it difficult to kill off a character in The Legend of Baguley Brook. My sorrow for the hero of that tale is real!
3) How did you find the time to complete your novella, having children yourself?
We are so busy usually. No one is home before 6.30pm most evenings with the piano, football, ballet, karate - pack lunches eaten for dinner in the car while the other sibling does their thing! So lockdown was truly a gift to my family. We all used the time to crack on with the things we love. Our nature walks, and even feeling homesick for London, brought some inspiration for The Hares and Baguley Brook. I especially loved being able to hug them at any time of the day! I never thought I would ever find the time to write a book, but lockdown allowed me that. My current work-in-progress is a full novel, and it is not moving along so smoothly!
4) Do you think being a parent has changed your writing in any way?
I read somewhere once that each writer has a single story which they can't help retelling with every new piece. I have always felt that as a parent, part of my role is to be a voice for my children. They are society's vulnerable; physically, emotionally, and politically. They are dependent in every way. If I don't speak for them, they can't speak up for themselves. This seems to seep out in everything I write.
5) Could you tell us about your book in a few lines?
Bonds: Four stories. Four explorations of universal ties, cords, and attachments, examining what it means to be bonded, adult to child.
In the year 2130 in a post-apocalyptic Abu Dhabi, Sirona’s Igo robot appears to malfunction, propelling her into a corrupt under world, and a mission to reunite the citadel’s children to their lost guardians, in an action-adventure Cli-Fi.
In old Cheshire of 500 years past, a local cunning woman and grandmother learns that over-protective instincts ensure the survival of children, in this mythological folk-horror.
It’s 21st century, Home Counties suburbia, and one morning, Becky’s heart bursts right out of her chest, in this Kafka-esque tragi-comedy. How will she navigate the surrealist struggle to live with her soul separated from her, on the outside?
On the first day of Spring, 2020, Ealine finds solace and wisdom from the ancient hares hidden in plain view, connecting her to natural order, and to generations past and future, in a magical realism tale based on the Legend of Horsa Don.
These diverse short stories span genres, proving that the parent-child bond is a universal theme worthy of representation across all story narratives.
6) Where can we find your book?
Bonds is out now! It is available on Amazon and directly from the publisher website: https://www.caabpublishing.co.uk/store/ .
Find out more about Sarra here:
Youtube.com/user/sarra1978 – YouTube
@sarracullenopoetry – Instagram
@sarra1978 – Twitter
Sarra1978@hotmail.com – Email
facebook.com/sarracullenopoetry – FaceBook
Published poet and novelist inspiring, supporting and giving mums a space to write.
Part of the Writing Producers' Scheme 2020
Thanks to Paper Nations for their support and guidance
Nikki Dudley (facilitator)
Copyright © 2019 · All Rights Reserved · Nikki Dudley