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Book: Seventy Percent Water by Jeanette Sheppard

About the book

Someone or something is missing from their lives.

The manuscript for Seventy Percent Water won the 2020 Ellipsis Zine Flash Fiction Collection Competition and was published in July. Sophie van Llewyn (author of Bottled Goods), judge of the Ellipsis competition, described it as dazzling in its clever use of language, beautiful imagery, wry humour, and deep understanding of humanity and feeling. Stephanie Hutton, author of Three Sisters of Stone, praised it for being a psychologically astute collection that invites you to step inside multiple lives. Kathy Fish (author of Wild Life: Collected Works from 2003-2018) said the stories move with the fluidity of dreams and called it a highly original debut

This collection of thirty-one stories explores familial, social and romantic relationships through a sense of who or what is absent. Several of the stories evoke the theme through magical realism — the title story about a woman who tracks down her ex-lover in a hospital corridor takes a fantastical turn of events impossible to see coming (Han Clark, Lunate Fiction); a woman who accidentally buys trumpet arms on the internet seeks to understand what has gone from her relationship when her human arms are replaced; a young girl struggles with her brother’s lack of love until a buzz begins in her ear; in the opening story, collective fear takes over an ancient village when a missing woodcutter returns physically transformed into a giant creature. Other stories are firmly anchored in the every day — a daughter challenges a medic’s lack of compassion as she conveys powerful images of her mother before she fell ill; a woman with Alzheimer’s asserts her sense of self; a child longs for her jelly-making Dad; a mother, whose adult children have left home, confronts the absence of self-belief when she decides to take up drawing; after the death of her father, a photo on Twitter causes a daughter to reflect on the gender bias in her childhood.

The collection is made up of a range of small forms, including hermit crab flash, one breathless paragraph, prose poem, micro-fiction told in a handful of sentences, and fragmented flash — some spanning a lifetime. More about the book on Jeanette’s website.

Seventy Percent Water is available in paperback, on Kindle and in digital format. Purchase the collection from its page on the Ellipsis Zine website.

What people are saying

Seventy Percent Water depicts with startling sensibility the way beloved persons may disappear — sometimes bit by bit. The collection is dazzling in its clever use of language, beautiful imagery, wry humour, and deep understanding of humanity and feeling.

Sophie Van Llewyn, author of Bottled Goods 

In thirty-one tiny stories, none more than two pages long, Jeanette Sheppard offers us the vast worlds of her imagination. She gathers everyday moments like kindling and deftly sparks them into flame, creating heat and magic. These stories move with the fluidity of dreams, rich in image and emotional resonance. A highly original debut, Seventy Percent Water is not to be missed.

Kathy Fish, author of Wild Life: Collected Works from 2003-2018

Exploring the intricacies of connection and loss, Seventy Percent Water is a psychologically astute collection that invites you to step inside multiple lives while reflecting on your own. Each image is carved with care using language that dances to form a moving, insightful journey.

Stephanie Hutton, author of Three Sisters of Stone 

Jeanette Sheppard writes convincingly about relationships — familial, romantic, social — and what happens when these human connections rupture. Her stories are moving, her prose surprising. I love this collection.

Damhnait Monaghan, author of The Neverlands

In Seventy Percent Water, Jeanette Sheppard writes with deep sensitivity and powerful imagery. Her empathy and humour shine through, resulting in a debut collection that is highly memorable.

Diane Simmons, author of Finding a Way

Excerpted story

Seventy Percent Water

He’d told her at night in the sweep of a lighthouse beam, after Storm Angus. As they stood on the rocks looking down on a beach littered with dead starfish, he’d told her he was leaving. Moments before, he’d told her a fact he’d learned at medical school — our bodies are seventy percent water. Always remember that, he’d said.

Months later, she walked into the hospital where he worked. It was her plan to see him again. She didn’t need to speak. She saw him at the far end of the sea-green corridor walking towards her. The clank of trolleys, the squeak of wheelchairs, and shoes on vinyl stopped as her head rattled with the clack of pebbles in the lap of the sea and the glitter of starfish. The lighthouse beam swooped across her face. Her lungs crashed against her chest.

Splits in her skin began at her feet. Pools of salted water seeped into the gaps — pushed through her veins to her calves, thighs, hips, waist. She began to swell. The lighthouse flashed again revealing her barnacle-white knuckles either side of her rounded body. She had passed the seventy percent. She was now a hundred percent. Her swollen skin sprouted holes until finally she drained away and merged with the ocean.

In the sea she reformed and swam away from the storm.

Jeanette Sheppard is a writer and artist living in the UK. Seventy Percent Water is her debut collection. Her manuscript won the 2020 Ellipsis Zine Flash Fiction Collection Competition and was published in July. Jeanette’s stories have been widely published in literary magazines and anthologies. Her novella-in-flash, Mother Jellyfish, was Highly Commended in the 2019 Ellipsis Zine Flash Fiction Collection Competition. She is currently redrafting this ready for submission to publishers. 

As an artist Jeanette began by sketching in live situations. More recently, people are asking her to create images for their book covers. She still sketches for pleasure, but she now also creates watercolour paintings and mixed media work from her imagination. She is artist-in-residence for the UK’s National Flash Fiction day — her images appear on the social media banners, the 2019 and 2020 anthologies, and she provides images as prompts for the annual Write-in. Her work also appears on the front cover of Diane Simmons’ flash fiction collection Finding a Way (Ad Hoc Fiction) and she has just completed the front cover image for Alison Woodhouse’s soon to be published novella-in-flash, The House on the Corner (Ad Hoc Fiction). You can find out more about Jeanette from her website.

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