Our judge Tara L Masih, was struck by the tight writing style of ‘When the rubber hits the road’ by Lee Nash and the way so much is covered. Many decades are traversed in the one long paragraph and like Tara, we love the way the elements shape the piece, and show how the events that take place instigated by one real and one imaginary man in different centuries, are sometimes out of human control. Henry Wickham, who the story is about, is pictured below along with some pictures of rubber sap collection. Lee writes in several different condensed forms, and her recently published poetry collection Ash Keys includes haibun, sonnets, a prose poem and haiku. She also enjoys writing poems based on historical figures. We think it’s interesting to find a way into a historical character’s life by thinking of how they have overcome incredible hurdles and failures. She has a floating ‘muse’, pointing out that inspiration is all around, and that she combs through all manner of experiences to find an ‘entry point’. Take on her tip to read your flash again and again for syntax, vocabulary and rhythm and maybe try writing your own historical flash fiction for the next round of the Award, which closes in June.
- Can you let us know how your wonderful story, ‘When the rubber hits the road’ came into being?
I'm fascinated by heroes (and anti-heroes) and those who have overcome incredible hurdles and failures. I became enthralled with Henry Wickham's life story, with his tenacity and resourcefulness. I'm also drawn to eco-poetry and to its ideal of raising awareness of environmental issues. Somehow the history of the rubber industry and the idea of a modern-day eco-warrior fused to give me ‘When the rubber hits the road’.
- Historical flash fiction is surging in popularity at the moment. Have you written much flash or poetry on historical subjects?
I've written a number of poems on historical figures, for instance Penelope, Sophia Tolstoy, Paul Wittgenstein and Marie Curie, but not so much historical flash fiction. History was my best subject at school and continues to interest me, so it seems natural that historical themes are finding their way into my writing.
- Your poetry collection Ash Keys was published by Flutter Press in November 2017. Can you tell us a bit more about it? Is prose poetry part of it?
Ash Keys is essentially a memoir, a collection of mostly personal vignettes and observations, so it's quite different in tone. It includes poems in a variety of forms, especially sonnets, haibun and haiku, and one prose poem. It's a hymn to my childhood in South Africa, my experiences in France, motherhood, and the search for love.
- Are you part of a writing community where you live in France?
No, and this is something I need to work on! At the moment all of my writing contacts are from further afield, including my online poetry group. I hope to get more involved in the French poetry scene, for example with Printemps des Poètes, and with local haiku poets.
- You are a free-lance editor and proof reader. Do you offer these services for fiction writers?
Yes, I am happy to discuss new projects. Anyone interested can contact me via my website: leenashpoetry.com.
- Do you have a muse – pet, person, place, passion…?
I'm sure I do have a muse, although I struggle to make the connection to a specific person or place, etc. Inspiration is all around and I'm constantly combing through events, ideas, conversations and so on to find that entry point, that ‘lift’ into a piece of writing.
- And the question we like to ask all authors, because everyone is fascinated by it. When and where do you write and what conditions do you need to produce your best work?
I don't have a set hour to write so make time when I can, usually later in the day when my tasks are done. I nearly always write at home, on screen, although I do carry a notebook with me to jot down ideas, especially for haiku. Ideally I want to be on my own with no interruptions, but in reality this is not always possible, so it's a case of making the most of the quiet intervals, and accepting that work has to be done in bursts, rather than in one fell swoop.
- Finally, your top tip for writing a competition flash fiction.
The piece should please you, so that it can hopefully please the judge. Whatever style it is, it should have energy and confidence. Read it over and over, and see if there's anything that trips you up (e.g. syntax, rhythm, vocabulary) or anywhere your interest dips. Be a tough editor of your own work, and polish!