☼ Jaffareadstoo is delighted to welcome you all to our Summer Picnic ☼
☼ I'm delighted to welcome author Josa Keyes to our Summer picnic ☼
☼Josa, welcome to Jaffareadstoo.What favourite foods are you bringing to our summer picnic?
I cannot beat a classic smoked salmon sandwich, made with really good brown bread, butter and black pepper, with a lemon quarter on the side. There would be a salad my mother used to make, of chopped tomatoes, cucumber and avocado in well-seasoned yoghurt. I would also bring a dolce – an Italian pudding I learned when I was a teenager on exchange. It’s a sponge cake flavoured with orange flower water and packed with toasted pinoli (pine nuts). It can then be iced with chocolate ganache, but is also wonderful without.
☼What would you like to drink? We have white wine spritzers, locally brewed beer, traditional Pimms, sparkling elderflower cordial, or a thermos of tea or coffee?
That all sounds delicious. I do like a glass of New Zealand Sauvignon blanc, and strong black coffee afterwards.
☼Where shall we sit, by the pool, in the garden, in the countryside or somewhere hot?
Out in the woods, in the English countryside, with sunlight dappling through the leaf canopy, birds singing, and fallen trees to sit on. Perhaps with a view of rolling, sheep dotted hills through the trees.
☼Do we have a wicker hamper, tablecloth and cutlery, or is everything in a supermarket carrier bag?
We have a sholley for easy transport, and proper cutlery, those excellent perspex glasses and melamine plates.
☼Do you have favourite place to have a summer picnic?
I love the Wiltshire Downs, looking out over Pewsey Vale. We used to go up there to spot the crop circles that appeared every year, more and more complex and beautiful – but the anonymous artists who created them – and a tremendous local mystery – don’t do so any more.
☼Which of your literary heroes (alive or dead) are joining us on the picnic today?
Frances Burney, because I could question her closely about life at the court of Queen Charlotte (where this clever woman was terribly bored at being forced to work at court), life as an ex-pat called back to Paris by Napoleon (her husband was a French aristocrat who survived the Terror) to advise on court etiquette, and her extraordinary recovery from breast cancer in her forties, as she was attended by Napoleon’s highly skilled surgeons. She was completely cured by the surgery (without anaesthetic), and lived on into her eighties – as in all things I look to literary figures for inspiration on how to get through my own challenges.
☼Which summer read are you bringing with you today?
I would spread a blanket on the ground, prop my elbows up on a cushion and sink deep into some treasure on my Kindle. At the moment I have a stack of books on there for when I have some more leisure – from Helena by Evelyn Waugh to The Garden of Forgotten Wishes by Trisha Ashley, The Secret Bridesmaid by Becky Chambers to The Ornatrix by Kate Howard.
☼What is your earliest summer memory?
My mother wading into a swimming pool, when hugely pregnant with my younger brother, to fish me out when I got into trouble with the tractor tyre inner tube we used as rubber rings (my father had a chicken farm) – I would have been nearly 4. This incident, and other perilous encounters with water, inspired my poem Not Drowning in the new collection My Love Life & Other Disasters.
☼Do you have a summer music playlist? And if so will you share with us a favourite song or piece of music that makes you feel happy?
One of the lullabies I sang to all my children is Summertime (and the living is easy). A playlist would always include some lovely classic jazz songs to go with it, sung by Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holliday.
☼Do you find that your reading tastes differ between winter and summer?
My reading tastes don’t differ by season but by how I feel. So when I had covid in February I spent a month reading the most unchallenging, entertaining books I could find – Jilly Cooper and Penny Vincenzi, with Georgette Heyer on Audible when I was too fatigued to read. I also read a lot of poetry, if in doubt I go straight to Mary Oliver and Sharon Olds, with many a swerve into John Donne (an ancestor), Andrew Marvell and Shakespeare of course. But my tastes are very broad.
☼Do you find it easier to write in the summer months or during the winter?
I write all the year round pretty steadily, so I think the answer is no. These days I write in my notebook, which I carry everywhere (and also keep open on my bed when I sleep in the hopes of capturing those wisps of ideas that appear as we nod off – I get tangled in dreams and often cannot read my writing in the morning), in the notepad in my phone, and on my PC when I am working on other things. I never know when a poem will come, or an idea, so it’s best to be ready.
☼What can you tell us about your current book or WIP?
I have several projects. The poems just come to me constantly now, and I will have enough for another collection soon to follow My Love Life & Other Disasters. I’m experimenting with fun new formats, themed collections and even poetry-themed journals. I am also writing a sequel to my 2014 novel, Sail Upon the Land, and I have another novel idea that needs a lot more work!
Josa, where can we follow you on social media?
You will find me on TikTok @josa_keyes
Twitter @Josa Keyes
Instagram handle: @josa.keyes
Josa, thank you for sharing your summer picnic with us today.
And thank you for inviting me to join you and dream of warm days, delicious food and drink and reading until the moths come out.