Sue is one of a number of authors who submit to our free micro contest Ad Hoc Fiction every week. We really appreciate her support and it's marvellous to see what good use she has made of entering. It was our intention in launching Ad Hoc Fiction to encourage people to write more short-short fiction and to read other people's work. Sue is so inventive and dedicated with writing and sharing her pieces – an event where people called out numbers to select a story for her to read from her ever-growing collection, a scarf she has had made with the Ad Hoc stories printed on it, writing while in hospital and forming the 'Adhoccers' group.
- You have entered Ad Hoc Fiction since the beginning – I am not sure if you were one of the seventeen writers who entered the very first contest, in April, 2015, but you have submitted most weeks since. Can you tell us what you like about the competition?
I was alerted to Ad Hoc by the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia late 2015 and submitted a couple of times with no success. Then ‘bingo’ – in mid January 2016, I submitted ‘Gerald Gave Her Slippers’ and haven’t looked back. Every week (excluding your usual breaks) I’ve sent a piece in without hesitation. So, that’s 91 submissions/longlisteds to date (17 Jan 2017) in two years. Without a break. Even when I was in hospital twice for cancer surgeries, an Ad Hoc story had to be written and submitted. I think the nurses thought I was bonkers. But it was the commitment I’d made to myself that, if I wrote nothing else, I’d do an Ad Hoc.
Here’s why I love Ad Hoc and why it has become part of my writing routine: Ad Hoc allows me to write without conscious thought. It opens the door to a liberated way of writing. I generally kick it off while the kettle boils for a cuppa, the prompt word rattles around in my head and by the time the tea is ready for sipping the story is written. And sent.
On reading through the diverse works in the weeks that follow I discover that many are embedded with nuggets of stuff that were going on in my life and the lives of others close to home. On occasion even snippets of news that’ve stuck somewhere in my crammed mind. And that I find wonderful; that Ad Hoc has enabled me to capture elements that would have just vaporised in this hectic world of ours.
- A while back you posted on social media that you had done a reading where you asked people to call out a number and you read the corresponding story from your Ad Hoc Collection. We'd love to hear more about this event. It sounds so much fun.
Jude, that event was way back in April 2017. It was a combination open mic, music and words, event in our local café. I took along my Ad Hoc file – nothing else. Instead of selecting and bookmarking pieces, I decided to make it fun and asked people to call out a number between one and 60 (I think) – and they loved it – it was like taking requests. I had no idea I was so funny, even the darker pieces seemed to make people smile. The photo was taken by the host who has just announced another such event – this time for poetry and short stories on 11th February, so I may be able to get you a better photo then. I think the fact that the stories are so short (less than one minute per story) is appealing to an audience, there is no droning on and on, no shuffling in seats!
- You have also had a scarf made printed with your Ad Hoc Fiction stories. How many stories feature on your scarf and how did you get it made? It's a wonderful idea. Have many people have commented on it?
Aahhh, the scarf, my Christmas gift to myself. I was prompted to do it (v. spontaneously) because of the discount coupon from Litographs that popped up in my NaNo ‘winners’ paraphernalia. How could I resist? After checking copyright issues with Litographs, and instead of using my NaNo manuscript (I thought it just a tad raunchy to have hanging around my neck!), I chose to use my (now precious) Ad Hoc collection – 87 stories at the time – but still not enough words to fill the scarf, so I tacked on the text of my novella-in-flash (the one that didn’t make the cut in last year’s Bath competition). It is certainly a talking point when out and about. My husband says, ‘have you seen Sue’s book?’ which results in people getting up close and personal. Not always a great experience! But fun, nevertheless.
- You were voted winner of Ad Hoc Fiction in September 2017 with a story called Walter's Quest. Is this one of your own favourite Ad Hoc Fictions?
I love Walter, I’ve no idea where he came from, but I was on meds for an infection at the time, so maybe that explains him. People still ask me, ‘what is Walter’s Quest?’ My reply, ‘I’ve no idea, you’d better ask Walter.’ The cutting up of the sheepskins from Ikea probably resulted from my seeing (out of the corner of one eye) a snippet in my news feed about the costume dept. of a movie. Or some such thing.
There are some others I am particularly fond of, 'Love on a Wednesday' and 'Purple Balloons' are stories, for instance, that tell of the human spirit. They are all down to Ad Hoc and the prompt words.
- As well as writing for Ad Hoc Fiction, you have also illustrated three of the winning fictions by other writers. Is illustration another big interest of yours?
Jude, I am a visual artist. I once worked in mixed media, photographic art being one of my specialities. I was a studio potter too and still work in silver clay creating unique wearable art in .999 silver. As I read the Ad Hoc winning stories, my fingers tingle to illustrate them. My artwork, btw, has also featured in the arts/lit journal, ArtAscent.
- Have your micro fictions for Ad Hoc Fiction sparked off any other writing projects or been expanded into longer flash fictions?
Oh my goodness yes. Many became chapters for a novella-in-flash. They are like story outlines, nutshells that call to be fleshed out. This means I’m never at a loss for writing ideas, I just have to pick up my ever growing Ad Hoc file and ask myself, ‘what was that all about then?’
- It's always fascinating to hear this from writers – when and where do you write?
We live in an old (for Canada) 2nd Empire, 1898, wooden house. I’ve included a photo taken today in the snow. I often sit by the woodstove in the kitchen in my jim-jams and a notebook, or the back of my shopping list and jot down ideas. I allow myself to ramble – I’ve already talked about writing without conscious thought – I learned that technique from the Canadian author and poet, Susan Musgrave, over 15 years ago. It is well worth giving it a whirl I reckon.
But once the house is up and running, we’ve all (hubby, dogs) had breakfast and a walk, I settle down for twenty minutes at a time at my trusty and quite elderly iMac. The outlooks from the windows are mesmerisingly (I hate ‘ly’ adverbs by the way) inspiring and lure me into a dreamlike state – and then it’s back to work with a cup of strong builders’ tea.
I write most of my poetry on the beach. You can seen the kinds of beaches we have on our doorstep, in my photo with the hounds. I find all kinds of gems I’d completely forgotten about, in coat pockets, months later.
- Finally, Any tips for those new to Ad Hoc Fiction?
Tips? Just write it, check you’ve used the prompt, check your word count, and let it go, don’t sweat the small stuff – it’s already small! Use Ad Hoc to experiment in genre styles you wouldn’t normally consider. It’s a great opportunity to write in the 2nd person, for instance. I do it fast and do it early – the sooner you get your story in, the closer to the beginning of the ‘book’ it’ll be, and that means more people will read it I think.
And finally, since I began, five people in my expat writing group, Writers Abroad, now take part, we call ourselves the Adhoccers. One of them has also passed the information on to another writer friend.
I start to see the same contributors’ names pop up frequently; Ad Hoc is beginning to feel like one big diverse but like-minded family. And for that, I thank you.