Interviews

Interview with Amanda O’Callaghan
June 2017 Flash Fiction Winner

  • Can you tell us how your wonderful micro Tying the Boats came into being?

I once knew a woman who really did have a long hank of her hair in a drawer. I think it had been cut off when she was a child, but I have no idea of the background to the story. I’ve only recently remembered seeing it, and from the vantage point of many years I started thinking, “What on earth was that about?” It seemed to me that there was a tremendous amount of regret tied up with the act of keeping it. Of course, hair has always been a potent symbol in stories - of power, strength, beguilement, for instance - but, for me, “Tying the Boats” had to be about regret, the hair a symbol of something lost, of a warning unheeded.
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One in Twenty-Three
by Helen Rye
Nationally Published in Vietnamese

When I read Helen Rye's One in Twenty-Three on the Bath Flash Fiction Award's website, everything froze. I sat there with tears rolling down my face. I come from Vietnam where our natural beauty, homes and people were devastated by wars and conflicts. Many Vietnamese died because of bombs and then afterwards during their journeys on boats. I felt my Vietnam inside Helen's story. One in Twenty-Three is not just about one country or one person, it's about the evil of wars and the strength of the human spirit. I knew I had to translate One in Twenty-Three because I knew many Vietnamese would feel consoled by this story. As soon as I got Helen's permission and the permission from the Bath Flash Fiction Award, I started my translation work, refining it during the next week. My conversations with Helen helped me dive deeper into One in Twenty-Three. I submitted the final translation to the national newspaper Hà Nội Mới and it was immediately accepted. I am thankful to the Bath Flash Fiction Award for organizing such a meaningful writing competition that gives voices to those who need to speak. Thank you to Helen Rye for writing a story that makes me weep every time I read it. I'm delighted that all the commission associated with the publication of One in Twenty-Three in Vietnamese is donated to the Ban Mai scholarship program, to assist poor children of Vietnam in continuing their schooling.

I look forward to translating more of the prize-winning stories from the Bath Fiction Award.

About the Translator

Nguyen Phan Que Mai is an award-winning Vietnamese writer and translator. Fifteen of her books in poetry, fiction, non-fiction and translations have been published in Vietnamese and English. Que Mai’s first international publication, The Secret of Hoa Sen (poems, BOA Editions, 2014) received a Lannan Translation Award. Que Mai’s first novel in English is forthcoming with Algonquin Books (New York) in Spring 2019. For more information about her work, visit her website: nguyenphanquemai.com

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Interview with David Swann
Flash Fiction Award Judge
July – October 2017

David Swann’s flash fiction collection Stronger Faster Shorter was published in 2015. In 2016 he won the Bridport Flash Fiction Competition, his eighth success in a Prize that he judged in 2013. His other publications include The Privilege of Rain (based on his experiences as a Writer in Residence in jail, and shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award) and The Last Days of Johnny North, a collection of his prize winning short fiction. He is currently Senior Lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Chichester, where he teaches modules on fiction, poetry, and screenwriting. His ambition is to ride downhill in a bath.
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Meg Pokrass
Novella-in-Flash Award Judge

Meg PokrassAmerican writer, Meg Pokrass, is a flash fiction writer, poet and writing tutor. Her books include flash fiction collections, Bird Envy (2014), Damn Sure Right (Press 53 2011) and The Dog Looks Happy Upsidedown (forthcoming from Etruscan Press 2016) and an award-winning book of prose poetry Cellulose Pajamas (Blue Light Book Award Winner 2015). Among her many other publications, she has a flash-fiction novella and essay on the form in My Very End of the Universe, Five mini-novellas in flash and a Study of the Form published by Rose Metal Press. Meg is moving from the United States to England at the end of this year. In addition to judging our new Flash Fiction Novella Award, you can join her and others for an evening of flash fiction, booking here.
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Interview with Charmaine Wilkerson
Winner of the Inaugural Novella-in-Flash Award

Charmaine tells us how, on a walk around the ancient wall of Rome she arrived at the inspiration for her wonderful first prize winning novella-in-flash How to Make a Window Snake. When writing at her dining room table, she had to battle interruptions from her family and from others in distant time zones. It is interesting to learn how the structure of this novella emerged and how Charmaine was influenced by many different authors writing stories within stories. The tipping point for her to give the form a go, was reading the novellas-in-flash and essays by Meg Pokrass and others in the guide My Very End of the Universe published by Rose Metal Press. Ending the whole piece was the most difficult part of the writing for Charmaine. But take advice from her if you are embarking on a novella-in-flash – don’t force it. “Let your stories emerge, breathe some life into them, and then see if this is the structure that will allow them to blossom.”

You’ll be able to read How to Make a Window Snake, and the two runner-up novellas-in-flash by Joanna Campbell and Ingrid Jendrzejewski shortly. Our publisher, Ad Hoc Fiction, is in the process of compiling the book, due to be published in June.
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Interview with Emma Zetterström
February 2017 Flash Fiction Third Prize

Emma lives on the edge of a Swedish forest and tells us that when she is writing, she often compares the landscapes of Sweden and Scotland, where she is from. In Sweden the seasons are definite, unlike Glasgow, and the skies are very dark with many visible stars. Working as a translator and a teacher of Swedish to refugees, she thinks about words very carefully, and draws inspiration from her knowledge of different languages, the similarities, the differences and the gaps in between. She refers us to a poem to illustrate this. Emma moved from song writing, to writing lyrics which felt like a natural shift and she loves the enormity of what flash can express in a small amount of words. Like many of our other prize winners, her tip for writers who want to enter the Bath Flash Fiction Award is to keep re-reading your work and to get other people to read it too and edit a great deal. Then take the plunge and send. That final action is always worthwhile.
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Interview with Nicholas Cook
February 2017 Flash Fiction Second Prize

There’s much to learn about writing flash fiction in this interview with Nicholas Cook who won second prize in the February 2017 round of Bath Flash with his wonderfully titled and moving story, The Peculiar Trajectory of Space Objects. Nicholas tells us more about the structure of this piece, white space and about the title and the use of titles in general in short short fiction. We learn about his journey to flash fiction via screen writing and the parallels between writing and coding. He also mentions Jane, his most beautiful greyhound/part Saluki dog, who I think, from the photograph, would be most writers’ favourite muse. I love his writing tip that you can even write about a ‘toaster pastry’ as long as the emotion is there and the language interesting.
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Interview with Emily Devane
February 2017 Flash Fiction First Prize

Emily tells us about jotting down ideas for fictions in her notebook, wherever she is. Her habit has resulted in two flash fiction stories shortlisted in previous rounds of the Award and now published in To Carry Her Home: Bath Flash Fiction Volume One and her first-prize winning story from the February 2017 Award. It’s fascinating to read about what inspired all three stories. In her winning story, seeing an angling magazine took Emily back to past memories of fishing. She tells us how she shaped the story to include the child’s shift of perception, the central idea of the piece. Emily also describes how her former career as a history teacher helped her write stories that have subtext and certain inferences. We learn about her time as a Word Factory Apprentice and how it has taken her writing to different places. And she has some great tips for flash fiction writing at the end of the interview.
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Interview with Caroline Reid
October 2016 Flash Fiction Commended

Caroline Reid’s flash fiction, Last Dog, commended by Robert Vaughan in the October round, with it’s energy and passion, cries out to be read out loud. She says that her first love was music and growing up with a Welsh mother and an Irish father, and singing around a piano as a child, might have helped her strong sense of rhythm and enjoyment of performance. We love the photograph of Caroline’s dog and the description of the walks they take morning and evening. Many aspects of the environment are there, as with her story. It’s also great to know where our international entrants live, and how settings are different and similar. And how wonderful that Caroline, a free-lance arts worker, can take on arts collaboration projects worldwide. We’d like to think our Award could help make those connections between artists. Her writing advice for entrants is very helpful – don’t give up on a piece you love – keep sending it out everywhere. Submitting outside of your own country gives a story another chance to be read and published. We’re looking forward to the publication of our anthology with all the winning and a selection of listed stories in print.
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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.
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