Anita Macallum commended by Michelle Elvy for her flash fiction Boobless, tells us how a prompt from her writing group kick started this piece and how keeping things simple is her biggest lesson when she performs her work.
- Can you tell us how your commended story, Boobless came into being?
Being a writer can be lonely so I set up a peer support writing group. We meet once a fortnight to write together. Often we start by writing words on paper and putting them in the middle of the table, on this particular week the prompts were, ‘tutor’ and ‘Tina Turner’. I did some speedwriting with these prompts and the beginning of ‘Boobless’ was born. I went on to re-write and edit down to 300 words and remove ‘Tina Turner’, she didn’t quite fit – but the prompt kick-started my character to imagine numbers dancing off her page.
- You write in several different forms. How did your interest in flash fiction develop?
Honestly I am driven to write flash fiction because my life is so busy! I simply don’t have long patches of time to write on my own. Occasionally I manage a few days away from my chaotic house but on the whole grabbing a couple of hours here and there is all I can manage. Also I do love the efficiency of the word count, it pushes the writing to find the essence of what you actually want to portray.
- You are also writing a play at the moment. Will you give us a brief synopsis?
Currently I’m spending more time writing the funding bid to support the play than writing the play itself. I can say that my focus is the volatile combination of motherhood and mental health. In particular the women who are under the radar of mental health services, surrounded by family who don’t wish to engage in life’s difficulties. My aim is to create site-specific performances that will provoke a visceral response in the audience.
- Which writers do you think have influenced you the most?
The writers that come to mind immediately are, Arundhati Roy, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker and Niall Williams. Three powerful brave talented women and a hauntingly emotional poetic man.
- Who are your favourite short fiction writers currently?
I love Ben Loory, his book Stories for the Nighttime and Some for the Day is a must read. Aimee Bender The Girl in the Flammable Skirt is another. On national flash fiction day, I read a story ‘The Black’ by Tim Stevenson, which was outstanding; I’ve just ordered his book Songs Without Music.
- What have you learned about writing from performing your work?
How my performing informs my writing is an on-going learning. Keeping things simple has been my biggest lesson I think. Audiences like to know what’s happening and why, clear structure in a performance is vital and yet I like room to improvise. Translating that to the page, I guess that means I like a clear structure but also need room for free-writing and poetic exploration.
- Will you give us your best tip for anyone writing a 300 word fiction?
Pick up your pen and write. Use a random word. Use the room you’re sat in. Go outside. Use your environment. Speed-write with no judgement, do that a lot. Edit only when you have finished playing. My best pieces are the ones that make me laugh as I’m writing them. Allow yourself to have fun.