Gentle and Fierce is a new book of illustrated memoir essays by Vanessa Berry. 

Junk Bug / Tin of Papers

Much of my writing I do at my desk, but at certain points I'll take my notes or a printout outside, sit on the grass under a tree, and read over them. All I take out with me is the pages and a red pen, no phone to distract me as I read. But there is always the distraction of insects, which traverse the grass and sometimes land on the page I'm reading. When one does I hold the page up to my eyes, watch the tiny being make its way across. Sometimes I recognise them - flat green planthoppers, red spider mites - but there are many others I don't recognise and can't ever recall seeing before. They walk over the page, then fly or scuttle away to continue whatever they are doing or seeking.

Another of my writing habits is to return to particular short stories and reread them, at times when I need to tap into their specific ideas or energy. One of these is Kafka's Metamorphosis,which I read every year or so, for its arch strangeness and the twists of empathy it encourages, and for the particular abjection of feeling it describes.

Gregor Samsa days sometimes come upon me, and so I wrote my own metamorphosis, with my favourite garden insect, the 'junk bug'. These insects have an irregular appearance, like a ball of lint come to life, each one different depending on what is stuck to its back. In writing it, I thought about the things I carry around with me, emotionally and physically. The material evidence of my life is a stack of journals, a wardrobe of clothes, and a set of biscuit tins in which I keep significant scraps of paper (of which there are many, and thus I require many tins).

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