Interview with Damyanti Biswas
Bath Flash Commended

Damyanti Biswas

Our second commended writer, Damayanti Biswas, tells us how a blog challenge propelled her into writing flash fiction and owning Betta fish inspired her story for the inaugural Bath Flash Fiction award.
  • Can you tell us the story behind your commended piece – was it prompted by a word, a memory, a scene, a wish to write in a new way?

I had a betta fish, several of them in succession in fact; till I found out their truth. The gorgeous betta males fight to the death any other fish other than female betta, and since the female betta are rather homely-looking, hobbyists don't want them. The male betta, full of vigour and flashing beauty, are forever quarantined in small bowls alone. This is what propelled me to write the story. Somehow, as I wrote it, it became about all creative endeavour – its lonely, untouched splendour, and its sense of isolation and disconnect.

  • What do you particularly like about the very short form? Have you been writing in this genre for long?

I started writing this form five years ago, as part of a blogging challenge, when I wrote 26 pieces over 26 days, with prompts thrown at me from my audience. Blog audiences have short attention spans, so I told my stories in brief, and since I joined last minute, I had to riff off a piece each day. I loved this trance-like writing – groping my way in with words, but leaving those very words behind in search of emotion, sensation, resonance.

  • Which short story writers have inspired you and what is it about their writing that appeals to you?

I've been inspired by Hemingway, Raymond Carver, Amy Hempel, George Saunders, Lydia Davis, Tania Hershman, Olga Masters, Rabindranath Tagore: I'm awed by their ability to move their readers as much by the white spaces as their words. I also love reading haiku and all manner of poetry. To me, flash fiction is closer to poetry in its denseness of imagery, metaphor, and ability to compress time and space.

  • When and where do you do your writing?

I write at all times inside my head and body. I sit down to write at my desk each morning, but can write at any time and place as long as I have noise-cancelling headphones playing white noise or a piece of addictive music on loop.

  • What are your current writing projects? Have you further writing ambitions?

I'm currently finishing a novel, recently longlisted for the Mslexia Novel Competition. My ambition is to write a story or novel I would still like if I came back and read it much later.

  • We'd love to know your best tip for writing flash fiction.

Trust your body, follow your breath, and remember that your words matter only as much as what they bring into being.

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