- Tell me a little bit about your background and what you write.
I write full-time and facilitate creative writing workshops for community groups. In the past it was always the novel that attracted me, I’ve just finished writing my third. In May 2015, Liberties Press (Dublin) published my debut, The Bones of It. Some of my work is crime fiction and some is literary fiction. In the breaks between redrafts, I’ve discovered a passion for reading and writing short stories. My collection of stories will be published in spring, 2017.
- How did The Incubator Journal get started and what/when do you publish?
The idea was there for a long time. I’d think, if I founded a journal this is how I would do it. For instance, asking for submissions to be sent without biographies was important. That way it is really about the storytelling. I wanted a journal that was online, therefore instantly accessible and easily shareable, but it had to look like a magazine, and have a print option. I also wanted to showcase all forms of writing. I like journals that don’t have a theme, and people write what they want to.
It was quite spontaneous, in the end. One night I couldn’t sleep for the cogs turning and I sat up, designing the journal. I asked a brilliant local writer, Anne Caughey, if she would edit the flash fiction, to which she agreed. And Claire Savage, another wonderful writer, and journalist, agreed to become the features editor – we run a feature per issue on a local writer who has just published a book. We’re all volunteers and the journal has never been successful in funding applications, unfortunately, so it’s a labour of love.
The Irish short story is famous for its brilliance, yet in Northern Ireland there seemed to be little in the way of showcasing this. Everything felt very poetry heavy, hence we always say that the short story is at the heart of The Incubator. We publish short stories and flash fiction, giving them equal page space. The journal is a quarterly publication. We’re coming up to issue ten and have been going for two and a half years now. Each quarter we highlight one other form, be it memoir, play, poetry or personal essay.
- What do you consider the biggest challenge in editing a journal?
It takes a lot of time and work, on all the editors’ parts. It isn’t a blog, so there is formatting to do. I want it to look professional.
It’s horrible feeling when you have to redirect a submission, but this is when you realise how subjective the whole thing is, and also how important it is to make sure you have edited your piece as well as you possibly can before you hit send. Editors, especially volunteers, don’t have the time to do major edits to a piece.
I think it is a good lesson to any writer to edit someone else’s work. It makes you have the utmost respect for other editors.
- What made you decide to make room for flash fiction in The Incubator?
Flash fiction just had to be equal to short stories. Some journals want short stories past a certain word count, and flash under another, and then there is this void in the middle. Where do those stories go? We wanted to say, it doesn’t matter what your word count is (as long as it doesn’t exceed 3000 words) but if it is under 1000 words, we’ll call it flash, and it needs to be somewhat punchier.
- Flash fiction has risen in popularity in recent years, why do you think that is?
It could be a number of things: the recent sexiness of the short story, twitter, people who exclusively write flash. I think all these factors have helped. Some would say that short stories are read by writers, and that not everyone would pick up a short story as a first choice. The shorter the fiction the harder it is to get right. Flash is notoriously hard to do a great job of and writers love to challenge themselves.
- As an editor, what do you look for in a flash fiction submission?
Anne loves submissions that are original and pull you straight in. Something has to be at stake. Flash must have everything a longer piece has, but the writer needs to be even smarter about what they choose to show the reader, and what they don’t. The title is very important, opening line, closing line, voice. Every word counts.