- Victoria Melekian's novella-in-flash A Slow Boat to Finland was a runner-up in the 2018 Bath Novella-in-Flash Award judged by Meg Pokrass. Meg said of the novella, "We are not sure how a bereaved mother will recover after losing her toddler daughter in a car accident. Especially when the little girl's heart saves another child. The strong and convincing writing will pull you right into this story and make you want to know what happens next." Here Victoria tells us more about how she went about writing the novella, and gives tips to anyone who wants to embark on such a project. You can buy In the Debris Field the collection of three winning novellas-in-flash, which contains Victoria's novella, in several different currencies at the Ad Hoc Fiction Bookshop
- What sparked off your marvellous novella in flash? Was it built around one or two flashes? Or had you imagined the whole story to begin with?
- Can you tell us how you compiled the novella? Writers seem to have different methods of choosing the order of flash fictions?
- Following on from the last question, what was the most tricky part in writing it for you?
- Meg Pokrass said that A Slow Boat to Finland was one of the best titles that she read and it certainly suggests so much about lonely endurance after a tragedy. What are your own thoughts about the title you chose?
- Were you influenced by any other writers who had written novellas or novels in this form?
- What other writing projects have you got on the go at the moment? Would you write another novella-in-flash?
- What advice would you give to anyone embarking on a novella-in-flash for the next competition?
- When and where do you do your writing?
Thank you for the "marvellous". Pretty much everything I write comes from ideas that have percolated a few years. Sometime ago I’d wondered about the notion of a grieving widow, an older woman, developing an inappropriate romantic attraction to the young man who received her deceased husband’s heart. I played around with it in my notebook and there the idea sat until I began thinking more about organ transplants and relationships between donor and recipient. I came up with the possibility of a mother becoming attached to a recipient child and the story expanded. So yes, I had the story imagined before beginning. At first I thought it could be a novel, but I’m a poet and just can’t go long.
When I began writing the story, I had one narrator, and I was trying to decide between first or third person. Neither sounded right. I went back to the snippets in my notebooks and saw that I’d originally written from all different points of view and used different tenses, and that’s when I realized that could be the way for me to create a novella-in-flash—just let the characters tell their parts of the story. I was afraid it would be a jangled mess, but I also had nothing but time to lose so I went for it. Once I let everyone speak, the arc presented itself organically. I rearranged the sequence several times and amended parts here and there to strengthen the story.
Oh, my goodness, the hardest part was making sure each piece stood on its own. There’s a repetition factor, I think, that can’t be avoided, but that’s also what creates the beautiful musicality I hear in my head when I read novellas-in-flash. I tried to just let it flow where it wanted to go, kind of like throwing water on the floor and watching it spread.
I smiled when I read that comment about the title because honestly, endings and titles are the bane of my existence. Of course, my creation needed a title and, as usual, I had no idea what, so I read through the novella looking for something, anything that remotely could serve and that’s where I found “A Slow Boat to Finland.” It seemed to ring true. I smacked it on top of the manuscript, mentally shrugged, and hoped for the best. Maybe our subconscious knows best.
Influenced, I don’t think so. More so, I was encouraged that this was even possible. I read the wonderful My Very End of the Universe and, of course, the three beautiful novellas in How to Make a Window Snake. Seeing that there was no one way to write a novella-in-flash reassured me that I could approach mine however it wanted to be written.
I don’t have a project right now and I do miss knowing exactly what I’m going to work on each day. When I’m in between, I write poetry and flash fiction. I have a file on my computer desktop called “52 Somethings.” My goal is to make sure I write something I kind of like once a week.
If I had the right idea, yes, I would write another novella-in-flash. It’s an exciting challenge and I wouldn’t mind doing it again.
Know that it’s a daunting endeavour, but quite possible. Trust your instincts and you’ll write something amazing.
There’s no certain when and where I write. Once I have an idea, things start popping into my head. If I have no paper, I make notes on my phone. Eventually it goes into my notebook and from there, into the computer. I write on my bed. On my couch. In my car. At work. Waiting for appointments. Oh, yes, and sometimes at my desk. When I made the decision to write the novella, I put all the notes, vignettes and snippets into my computer and began corralling them into separate flashes. Any day I had a substantial chunk of time to spend, I sat outside and worked at my patio table. If the neighbors and dogs were too loud, I plugged in my earbuds and listened to rain, rivers, ocean waves—whatever water I found on my free app. For some reason, it was easier to concentrate outside. It felt like a dedicated space.
A collection of three flash fiction novellas from the second Bath Flash Fiction Award which demonstrate the range and scope of this exciting and innovative genre.
"In the Debris Field by Luke Whisnant... chronicles the unconventional experiences of a male protagonist from childhood through middle-age. It is a breathtakingly imaginative study of the strangest ways family members will accidentally scar one another. Readers will relax and enjoy the ride, because they’re in the hands of a flash fiction master.
A Slow Boat To Finland by Victoria Melekian... in which we are not sure how a bereaved mother will recover after losing her toddler daughter in a car accident. Especially when the little girl’s heart saves another child. The strong and convincing writing will pull you right into this story and make you want to know what happens next.
Latter Day Saints by Jack Remiel Cottrell... is a highly inventive quest story. A young man tries to find answers about life and whether it is worth living, from his visits to ‘saints’. Flawed characters, the saints include a labourer, a celebrity, a taxi driver, a city business woman, a second-hand dealer, and an old and frail man. They sometimes help him, and often make him question more."
—Meg Pokrass, writer, poet, editor, tutor. Author of Bird Envy, Damn Sure Right, The Dog Looks Happy Upside Down and Here, Where We Live and Alligators at Night.
196mm x 134mm, 112pp
Paperback ISBN 978-1-912095-61-2
£9.99 GBP Buy Now
We’re thrilled to announce that How to Make a Window Snake, the novella-in-flash by Charmaine Wilkerson and published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2017, won the best novella category in the prestigious Saboteur Awards 2018. Charmaine also won first prize with this novella in the inaugural novella-in-flash Award 2017, judged by Meg Pokrass. When Meg heard about the Saboteur results she remarked – “There was no question in my mind about this novella. Finding a gem like this was a gift.”
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We’re thrilled that How to Make a Window Snake by Charmaine Wilkerson, which won our inaugural novella-in-flash Award in 2017 is short listed in the Saboteur Awards 2018. Thank you to everyone who nominated her. There were nearly 5000 nominations over all the categories and we think it is a great achievement both for Charmaine and for Ad Hoc Fiction, the publisher.
Please support Charmaine further by voting for her novella-in-flash to win before 9th May. Results are announced on 19th May at the end of the Saboteur Awards Festival running from Friday 18th to Saturday 19th May.
In her brilliant novella, Charmaine takes different angles to show the impact of the loss of a child upon a family. Our judge for the 2017 Novella-in-Flash Award, Meg Pokrass, commented “The author creates a brilliant picture window through which we see a loving but deeply wounded family trying to survive more tragedy.” And in a five star review, Raluca A. writes:
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It’s so interesting to see how Luke Whisnant, first prize winner in our 2018 Award created his novella-in-flash. His method has to be encouraging to other writers when he suggests how flexible this form is and that you can ‘find’ a novella-in-flash out of flash fictions you have already written. We’re interested that language, more than plot or character, is Luke’s first interest in all the forms of writing he does. Our 2018 Novella in Flash Judge Meg Pokrass, in her comments on his novella, was very impressed with his use of language. She writes “This author is a keen emotional observer, gifted in his specific, quirky and visual details, as well as in creating superb juxtapositions between sentences and fluid temporal leaps between chapters...”
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Michael Loveday's flash fiction novella Three Men on the Edge, is published by V. Press in summer 2018, and his poetry pamphlet He Said / She Said by HappenStance Press (2011). His writing has appeared in The Spectator; Flash: the International Short-Short Story Magazine; Funny Bone: Flashing for Comic Relief; and the National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2017. He is a tutor in Adult and Higher Education, a Director of the National Association of Writers in Education and was judge of the inaugural Tongues and Grooves Prose Poem Prize, 2018. He runs a blog for flash fiction, poetry and prose poetry at www.pagechatter.org, and will be appearing both as a presenter and member of the team at this year's Flash Fiction Festival UK.
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In the Debris Field
Luke Whisnant's fiction, poetry, and nonfiction have been published in over 50 different journals and anthologies in the USA, the UK, France, and Portugal. He is the author of four books: two poetry chapbooks, Street and Above Floodstage; the story collection Down in the Flood; and a novel, Watching TV with the Red Chinese, made into an independent film in 2012. Whisnant is Professor of English at East Carolina University, and is a two-time winner of his department’s Excellence in Teaching Award. Since 2006 he has edited Tar River Poetry, a nationally ranked magazine of verse. His website is lukewhisnant.com
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Thank you very much to everyone who entered our second novella in flash fiction award. We received 111 entries, a few more than last year from fourteen different countries. The twenty six writers on the long list represent Austria, Australia, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Switzerland the UK and the US.
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The Novella-in-Flash Fiction is one of my favorite forms in the genre and it is truly exciting that more flash fiction writers are experimenting with it. Thank you to Bath Flash Fiction for creating this opportunity and providing the impetus. This is my second year of judging the Award and it’s been an honor to do so.
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