Interview with Julianna Holland
October 2016 Flash Fiction Third Prize

juliannaJulianna whittled down a longer story to create her beautiful third prize winning story, White Matter. Her voice is strong in this winning piece, with its wonderful use of language. We like her advice to other writers who might enter Bath Flash Fiction Award – stay true to your writing voice and style and don’t be put off by rejection. She points out how our subconscious lends us a vast bank of memory and imagination to draw on for new flash fictions.The challenge is how to shape that rich wealth of material into meaningful stories. Julianna’s writing group is important to her for feedback and increasing her productivity. Members of the group recommend books to each other and invite guests as well as critiquing each other’s writing. We’d be interested see more of Julianna’s work – the longer piece, her labour of love mapping the story of an elderly eccentric woman sounds intriguing. And of course we’d love to read more of her flash fictions.

  • Can you tell us how your wonderful flash fiction, White Matter, came into being?

White Matter was a longer piece originally so it was a great exercise to whittle it down.
The bones of a true story are in there somewhere but otherwise it is a work of imagination. I found writing from the point of view of an old man liberating. The time lapse allowed me to distil the sentiment while still describing a distressing scene. Baby's Breath is a flower that symbolises innocence and in White Matter I hoped to create an unsettling balance between maintaining the character's innocence and shattering it.

  • Robert Vaughan mentioned your poetic style and exquisite phrasing. Do you also write poems as well as prose fiction

I haven't written any poems as such but I love a richness of words in story telling and find that my own stories often linger on imagery, describing surroundings and the elements in an intimate way that, perhaps, invokes a perception of poetry.

  • Before he knew you had studied film, Robert mentioned the cinematic quality in White Matter. The piece also has great emotional resonance. Do you think your studies in both Film and Psychotherapy have influenced your writing?

I'm sure that everything studied and experienced lurks in a writer's mind. The capacity of the subconscious is unbounded, lending us a vast bank of memory and imagination. The challenge is to draw from that and endeavour to convey the stories and feelings in a striking manner, all the while, visualising the scenes as they unfold.

  • How does your writing group in County Sligo support your writing?

Our writing group is a wonderful amalgam of poetry and prose writers. We meet weekly and submit our work for critique, we share books and ideas. I have found the group members' feedback invaluable. We are also booking writers to come and facilitate workshops with us and we are looking forward to the company of Tess Gallagher in the coming weeks. My involvement in the writing group demands productivity, which is a wonderful incentive as I struggle with discipline and the bare fact that we must face the empty page day after day.

  • Have you been writing in the flash fiction form for very long?

I am relatively new to this genre and can thank Robert Vaughan for his beautiful writing as introduction.

  • Which flash fiction writers do you currently enjoy reading and what do you like about them?

I love the work of Marilynne Robinson and Paul Lynch and Jane Clarke whose novels and poems are laden with staggering passages that stand alone and read as incredibly poignant pieces that continue to reward and astound. My fellow Bath winners are also fine examples of how potent a skilful arrangement of considered words can be.

  • What are your current writing projects?

I am currently writing short stories and occasionally adding to a longer piece which is a slow labour of love mapping the imagined life of an elderly, eccentric woman I knew in my childhood.

  • Finally, some advice anyone who might like to enter Bath Flash Fiction Award?

I would advise entrants not to be disheartened by rejection. You cannot appeal to everyone but, while taking heed of judges and editors, I would suggest, above all, to remain true to your own voice and style.

I was thrilled to be selected by Robert Vaughan and found the Bath Flash Fiction Award a pleasure to be a part of.

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