Jude, Ken, Meg, Tino, Diane, Carrie

Our First Evening of Flash
An account and the start of something new

When we learned that Meg Pokrass, our novella-in-flash judge, was in the UK this summer, prior to moving here permanently, we grasped the opportunity to invite her to read and meet some other flash fiction writers in the South West. The evening was a resounding success. The lovely upstairs room in St James' Wine Vaults in Bath was packed and the audience enjoyed a true feast of flash-fictions – a great mixture of styles, tastes and cultural differences.

Members of the audience, not all of them familiar with flash fiction or story evenings, told me how perfect flash fiction was for such an occasion. The short length of each piece made it possible to concentrate on the whole story and have the satisfaction of hearing how it ended. They said it was fascinating to hear the variety of stories from very different personalities. Some added it made them want to have a go – they didn't know very short fiction could be written in so many ways. This was gratifying as the goal of Bath Flash Fiction Award is to encourage people to write in the short-short form.

Six of us read for about ten minutes each – and we heard over twenty flash fictions during the evening with a break in the middle for everyone to chat and buy drinks.

Santino Prinzi, widely published and recently graduated from Bath Spa Creative Writing Department with a first-class BA honours degree, was up first and gave us a taste of some of the flash fictions from his first collection, Dots and other flashes of perception, forthcoming this September from The Nottingham Review. He also read a very inventive piece called I am Lasagne and in an odd co-incidence later, found out that the day of the reading, 29th July, was National Lasagne Day. Doubly apt as he'd also eaten lasagne in our pre-event Italian meal!

Local author, Diane Simmons, came next and read us three of her fictions from her many prize-winning and published pieces, with great style and presence and using a brilliant Scots accent in one of them. The subject matter of her stories spanned the years from childhood and ended with A Collection, her extraordinarily moving flash fiction on the theme of loss. You can read this story in A Box of Stars Beneath the Bed The National Fiction Day Anthology, 2016.

Carrie Etter, Lecturer in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, poet and reviewer, well known in Bath for her poetry readings, finished off the first half with flash fictions from her new chapbook, Hometown, stories which give brilliant glimpses into the lives of people in small-town America. Her use of dialogue is exemplary and she read the pieces with her usual dramatic flair. I think these fictions could easily be made into little films.

I read next, as a last-minute extra, a real treat for me as organiser. One of my pieces, Their Memories originally published on Visual Verse and then highly commended in last year's Ink Tears Flash Fiction competition, raised some laughs. If you've ever had a row when walking through a field of grain, you'll know why...

KM Elkes, who has won or been placed in many short fiction competitions, and is widely published in anthologies and literary magazines, followed me and treated us to some powerful pieces, which really struck a chord with the audience – parenting, climbing figurative mountains, and sex. A great combo. He even questioned the audience on their knowledge of certain sexual vocabulary. Brave and with a dry sense of humour, he has a wonderful way with language and plot. You can read two of the stories he read, Biological from An Earthless Melting Pot and Sisyphus and the Black Holes in the Fish Prize Anthology, 2013.

Meg Pokrass finished the evening by reading stories from her marvellous new collection The Dog Looks Happy Upside Down. In these flash fictions, as with all her work, her style is highly imaginative and her use of language so inventive – funny and unusual. Check out this description of the man in Giant Killer, one of the stories she read:

“I adore men of a certain type – this type. He is Jesus plus Meatloaf meets The Little Prince. Shorts, white T-shirt, pot-belly peeking out...a sexy, rock-star curl to his lip.”

Her rendition of the stories she read made everyone laugh a lot. It was a fabulous end to a great evening.

And finally, if you couldn't make it this time or want to do it again, we're pleased to say you'll be able to come to more. With Carrie Etter's encouragement, we've decided to run regular flash fiction events in Bath every quarter, hopefully at St James' Wine Vault. We'll keep you posted.

Jude Higgins
Founder Bath Flash Fiction

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