Ashley Goldberg

Tell us a little about yourself – how long have you been writing? Any publications?

I live in Melbourne, Australia, where I was born, but I’ve only recently returned after completing an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, and four years of working for the Australian Government in Canberra before that. I’ve been writing for nearly a decade with over a dozen works of short fiction published in journals in the UK, Australia and North America. I’ve also won a couple of competitions and had a smattering of shortlisting and longlistings along the way. Although, on reflection, I think I’d prefer it if a lot of those early pieces had never got to see the light of day. I think my writing took an upswing after I completed a Graduate Diploma of Professional Writing at the University of Canberra. My undergraduate studies were in Commerce and Law and, though I was reading and writing fiction at that time as well, the work I produced was all over the place. While I don’t think postgraduate study of creative writing is a necessity for someone who wants to write fiction, in my case, it helped me understand what kind of a writer I wanted to be.

Specifically, tell us a bit more about your longlisted story – the inspiration behind it, the writing of it…

I’m a fan of the ‘write what you know’ cliché, and the honest, no-holds barred work it lends itself to. That said, I know a lot of good writers who successfully prove the redundancy of that adage with thorough research and extensive time spent in the heads of their characters. Nonetheless, most of ‘Chicken shit’ is based on my actual experiences from different places and times, mashed together. The idea for the story came from a particular instance, similar to that of the protagonist, where I found myself terrified and in prayer to a God I didn’t believe in. I don’t hold any religious beliefs, but I was brought up Jewish, and so that experience raised some internal questions for me. I wrote the story for my MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University as part of a collection of stories that explore the idea of contemporary masculinity.

Name three short story writers you especially admire – why?

I think I’m going to cheat on this one and list three of my greatest influences and three of my favourite contemporary writers.
    My number one influence would have to be Richard Yates for the unflinching honesty of his work. Second is Raymond Carver. At Bath Spa University, one professor said my work draws obvious comparisons to Carver, and I think that’s the highest compliment I’ve ever received. And then there’s Stephanie Vaughn – her collection Sweet Talk is probably the most affecting thing I’ve ever read.
    For the contemporaries I’d have to say Young Skins by Colin Barrett for its dark humour, voice and rhythm, Dog Run Moon by Callan Wink for its subtlety and pathos and finally Debris by Kevin Hardcastle – taut, uncompromising stories.

  • Ashley Goldberg’s 2017/18 GBP Short Story Prize longlisted story, ‘Chicken shit’, is available to read here.