We're glad Anna liked the lobsters on the cover of The Lobsters Run Free: Bath Flash Fiction Volume Two and seeing it first online lifted her mood on a frustrating day. Her powerful story with this title was short listed in the February 2017 round of the Award by Kathy Fish, our judge for that round. We thought it summed up many themes in the anthology, and for this reason we placed it as the final story in the book. We think it makes a fitting ending. The title went on to inspire the publisher's striking cover design.
Anna has some good tips for writing successful flash fiction. She says that readers need 'to be transported from one state of being to another' and the best advice she was given about writing flash fictions was that they require 'movement and resonance'. Her story certainly achieves all these things. At the end of her flash fiction, the image of lobsters escaping and running free in an apocalyptic world is very memorable.
- Can you tell us how your powerful and affecting flash fiction, 'The Lobster's Run Free' came into being?
I had just gotten back from visiting a friend in Paris and brought along two cans of duck confit at the request of my housemate. I hadn’t been writing in a few days, but I sat down in the living room before unpacking anything and just wrote the story I was hearing in my head, more or less fully formed. This was also shortly after the late 2016 elections in the US, where I am from, so there was a heavy apocalyptic feeling in the air. And I’ve always felt sad for supermarket lobsters.
- We'd love to know what you thought when you opened the package and saw the anthology cover?
I actually saw the cover online first. I was checking emails and remembered that the anthologies would be sent out soon, so I went to the website and found out there. It made me so happy! Titles don’t always come to me quickly, but this one did, and the blueish lobsters look beautiful and weird. I’d been having a frustrating morning, but it really lifted my mood to see something that I’d put out in to the world reappear in such a lovely way.
- What writing projects do you have on the go at the moment?
I wrote a first draft of a novel this past fall and will start work on a re-write soon, after a short break. I also have a few (longer) short stories in the editing and submitting line-up, and I’m learning to be patient with the process of getting things published. I write flash fiction and poetry more or less randomly – if I begin to hear a story in my head and like the sound of it, I just write it then and there and make small edits afterwards. I’m also putting together an anthology of stories by queer writers from a reading series I host at Another Country bookshop.
- Any New Year writing goals?
I want to submit more short stories to publications I admire, write a second draft (or third) draft of the novel, and spend more time researching subjects I find interesting but know little about. I tend to write stories that either require minimal specific knowledge or that are based around the settings I’ve already gotten to know. But I’m limiting myself if I don’t learn about new concepts in a thorough and convincing way. I’m also always on the search for the perfect paid work week that gives me enough, but not too much, free time for writing.
- Do you have a special place or time of day when you do your writing?
Early morning is by far the best time for me to write, wherever I am, with some coffee and a view of trees. Preferably before I’ve spoken to another life form. But I also like the kitchen at my partner’s house, or my notebook while on the train, or the Notes app on my iPhone, or writing from a new city I’m seeing for the first time. Sometimes I meet up with my writing friends at their houses for a focused two hour work session and some green tea, and I find that the social accountability works actual wonders.
- You live in Berlin I believe. What is the flash fiction scene like there?
As I’ve experienced with the Bath Flash Fiction competition, there’s a thriving and supportive scene for flash fiction online. But I don’t use Twitter, for example, and my writing community is more centered around fiction writing in general. That being said, I take a weekly workshop with a really amazing organization called The Reader Berlin, which I’d recommend to anyone in town. They put on high quality workshops that last anywhere from a day to eight weeks on a number of subjects. There’s also SAND journal, which publishes high quality literature and is based in Berlin. Other organizations like Fiction Canteen and Transfiction put on events, and once co-organized a reading from the Best Small Fictions anthology. I don’t have an MFA, or anyone else imposing serious deadlines on me, so I think it’s really important to be involved in a literary community. Berlin is great for this if you’re motivated to make connections.
- What cafes in Berlin you would recommend for good coffee, a good place to write and interesting people to look at?
Hm. That’s a tough one! I love writing in cafes when visiting a new city, but write more often at home or in friends’ homes. For good coffee and a people watching walk around the Landwehr Canal there’s a cafe called Katie’s Blue Cat, but I’d guess it’s usually too full for a real work session. There’s a place called Prachtwerk just off Karl Marx Strasse that probably offers the best balance of fancy coffee and practical seating. It’s also just next to the sauna, which helps.
- What is the best piece of advice you've read or heard for writing flash fiction?
What’s cool about flash, in my opinion, is that it’s an emerging genre with fewer rules and conventions than others. This gives contemporary writers and editors the chance to decide for themselves what makes a story good. I think the best advice I’ve come across is that flash fiction really needs to contain both movement and resonance. Pretty language is nice, but people read stories for the feeling of being transported from one state of being to another, because they want to find out what happens. And the images and presentation need to be surprising and strong enough so that people actually remember your story. Flash is a great teacher in that sense.