Going Short, Nancy Stohlman's new guide to Flash Fiction is released on 15th October and is for sale from the Ad Hoc fiction bookshop, Amazon in both paper back and as a Kindle ebook and on Kobo. Jude's representing the publisher, Ad Hoc Fiction and hosting a launch on Zoom on Friday evening 16th October from 7.30 pm - 9.30 pm, London time . We'd love to see you there! Email Jude at jude (at) adhocfiction (dot) com to get your Zoom link. All welcome.
Nancy's worked with many writers in different settings over the years — by phone, online in her many workshops, face-to-face in retreats and at the UK Flash Fiction Festival and via prompts such as Flash Nano the month of flash prompts in November, which she founded. We're delighted that writers from different countries are coming to talk briefly about working with her in some of these settings and that they will read a short piece inspired by their work with her.
From the USA we'll hear from Jayne Martin, Sally Reno, Beth Gilstrap and Christopher Bowen, from Italy Bryan Jansing and Charmaine Wilkerson, from the UK, Sara Hills, Cath Barton, Michael Loveday and Diane Simmons, from Austria, Sylvia Petter, from New Zealand, Nod Ghosh.
It will be a fun evening. Nancy will talk about the book and we'll have the short reading/talking sessions interspersed with 'break-out' groups where guests can talk with writers and others from around the world. There will be virtual cake, and fizz and a draw with a chance for two guests to win a copy of Going Short . Also, because this guide was originally going to be published at the Covid cancelled 2020 Flash Fiction Festival, anyone who buys the book on the night will get a free Flash Fiction Festival Tote Bag to go with it.
In the meantime, do read the advanced praise on Going Short below and you can still pre-order from Ad Hoc Fiction with FREE world wide shipping and look forward to Nancy's book trailer coming soon!
We're so pleased that Ad Hoc Fiction is publishing When it's Not Called Making Love a brilliant coming-of-age novella-in-flash by Karen Jones, who has had many individual flash fictions published in our BFFA anthologies.The novella received a special commendation in the 2020 Bath Flash Fiction Novella-in-flash Awards and you can read judge Michael Loveday's comment on it in his report. Advance sales are open now at the Ad Hoc Fiction pre-order page with FREE worldwide shipping and the novella will be published on November 4th and for sale on bookshop.adhocfiction.com as well as in print form from Amazon and digitally on Kindle and Kobo.
We love the art work for the cover by artist and writer Janice Leagra and the cover design by Ad Hoc Fiction. Another novella-in-flash to add to your novella library.
The novella-in-flash is such an exciting form and this is a great example to learn from if you are a writer, and to enjoy reading if you love excellent, innovative fiction. In the Q & A below Jude asked Karen for a play list to go with the text. She said she had great fun deciding on the songs and we've linked them here. Listen to these songs now to hear a soundtrack to a story about a girl growing up in the 70s and 80s. It will whet your appetite. Also check out Karen's tip for newbie novella-in-flash writers at the end of the Q & A, because it might just give you the inspiration to write your own.
When It’s Not Called Making Love is the story of a girl growing up in the late 60s, through the 70s and into the early 80s. It’s about navigating that leap from childhood to teens to adulthood, with a particular focus on sex and sexuality and the pressures placed on girls by society, by their peers, by boys and, more often than not, by themselves and their own insecurities.
Q & A
What inspired you to write this novella and can you describe how you went about it?
Ah – well I didn’t actually intend to write this novella at all. I’ve been working on a different novella for a few years, and that’s the one I had planned to send, but it’s still not quite right. About a week and a half before the competition deadline, I gave up and thought I’d just miss the deadline, yet again.
Looking through some flashes, I spotted a few that could work together – they weren’t supposed to be about the same character, but I realised they could be. The more I thought about this girl, Bernadette, the more I knew I could write her story. A lot of it mirrors my own experiences growing up and I felt it was important to tackle the subject of how girls are treated and how that treatment affects their behaviour and development. I wanted to write honestly about it and not shy away from any uncomfortable subjects.
I knew straightaway what my opening flash would be and what my final flash would be, so it became a bit like joining the dots to get a full picture. I started off with about two thousand existing words and just wrote from there. Then I cut a thousand of those original words, which made me a bit panicky, but I kept going and her whole story came together pretty quickly. A few days before the deadline I’d hit five thousand words and at that stage I felt sure I could reach the six thousand minimum wordcount. In the end, the novella came in at about seven thousand words. With more time, I could have added more, but when I read it back now, I’m happy with it as it is and maybe if I’d padded it out it wouldn’t have the impact it has (the impact I hope it has) now.
- The trickiest part for you of writing in this form and the most satisfying?
The most difficult thing is that each chapter has to be able to stand alone as a flash. We’d never ask an individual chapter of a novel to work as a short story on its own. I found that exceptionally difficult, trying to avoid repetitions but get character and story across in each flash. The most satisfying thing was seeing the character develop through the flashes – seeing her grow, as much as she could under the circumstances, and getting her to the end of this part of her story.
- If you made a soundtrack for the novella, what songs/music would you choose?
I had so much fun with this question – a real trip down memory lane to songs I loved, but choosing ones I loved that were also time-appropriate and in some way reflected the main character’s story was more difficult. But I reckon this would work:
The pandemic hasn’t affected me as badly as it has many others. I’m a full-time carer for my mother, so spend most of my time at home any way. I suppose it has affected my mood, so maybe I’ve written stuff that’s (even) darker than usual, but I wouldn’t say my output has been dramatically affected.
I’m still working on the character from When It’s Not Called Making Love – I’m working on new stories about her life beyond this novella. I can’t get her out of my head, so I’ll keep going with that until I think I’ve reached a natural end for her story. And, of course, there’s that original novella, the one that’s never been quite right, that I keep tweaking and tinkering and adding to and prodding with a stick. Maybe I’ll finally get to submit it to the next competition.
- A tip for a novella in flash newbie?
Don’t over-think it. Look at all the work you’ve already created – are there connections in there you hadn’t spotted before? Are there stories that could fit one character, one time, one place? Are there themes you hadn’t realised were repeated in your work? Take those stories and shuffle them around, rewrite them, treat them like pieces of a jigsaw, then write the pieces that are missing until you create the perfect picture.
Eleanor Walsh won the 2019 Novella-in-Flash Award with her stunning novella, set in Nepal, Birds With Horse Hearts. Stormbred, Eleanor's second novella-in-flash received a special commendation from judge Michael Loveday in our 2020 Novella-in-Flash Awards. You can now pre-order it with FREE worldwide shipping from Ad Hoc Fiction and it will be released on 30th October.
Stormbred is another brilliant novella about young women living on the edge. We are very happy that it will soon be published by Ad Hoc Fiction, the fifth novella-in-flash recently open for pre-order of the seven out before Christmas this year. In Jude's interview with Ellie below, you can find out about the story, what inspired it, the research Ellie undertook, her female protagonists and the strong presence of water that features in both her novellas. And make to sure to read her tip for writing your own novella at the end of this interview.
- Stormbred is the second novella in flash of yours that Ad Hoc Fiction is publishing. You won the 2019 Award with Birds with Horse Hearts and the book has been dispatched all over the world. What inspired this new novella?
I’ve been a fan of an Ian McEwan since I was a kid and I always liked the way he wrote grotesque, surrealist love stories that almost slipped into a new dimension. Sometimes they were about obsessive stalkers, other times even stranger subjects like dogs or mannequins. It was a trope I leaned into with Stormbred; the story of a teenage-girl who becomes infatuated with a photo of a Bosnian refugee called Leonela in the newspaper, and becomes convinced that Leonela is headed for the Cornish coast. I was keen on the idea of unrealistic infatuation born from extreme loneliness, so I wrote a protagonist who had been catastrophically let down or abandoned by everyone else in her life, so this is her initial foray into an imagined reality where a woman who intimately understands poverty and hardship will somehow comprehend her in a way that nobody else has before. Ruby’s absence of faith in her ability to get people to like her is mitigated within this fantasy, because Leonela won’t understand English, so won’t get a chance to reject Ruby based on her personality, and also won’t have the means to abandon her. It’s written in second-person addressing Leonela – and as with Birds with Horse Hearts – it’s written in a non-linear narrative that jumps in and out of the fictive present, with much of the context appearing in flashbacks to the protagonist’s life at the boarding school to which she has been asked not to return.
- What did you learn from writing Birds with Horse Hearts that you applied to writing Stormbred?
While I was writing Stormbred I sometimes felt as if I had learned nothing! The idea felt like a non-starter for so long; I actually spent months on a first draft and then threw out the entire thing and started again from scratch. I wonder if that’s because Stormbred was conceived of and constructed in a totally different way from Birds. It’s far more plot-driven, where Birds was image and symbolism-based, and so it was a real learning curve for me to lead with a robust narrative.
I also didn’t have to research prior to writing Birds, because the content came from my PhD fieldwork, whereas Stormbred required a huge amount of research as I had no prior knowledge of any of the elements of the story. I had to read extensively about the obvious components, like the Bosnian war and John Major’s response to the refugee crisis, and I also spent a long time on Reddit crowd-sourcing people’s experiences of being bullied or outed as gay at boarding school. I joined the Beltex sheep society and learned the care routine for March through June in detail, and read a lot about lambing practices and sheep diets and ailments. The book is set in 1993 which is before my lived memory, but not necessarily beyond the recollections of the reader, so I had to work hard to get the details right. Everything in the story is chronologically accurate down to the smallest detail: the lunar eclipse, the hantavirus outbreak, Operation Irma in Bosnia, even the release of Jurassic Park!
I suppose the one thing I learned was to persevere with it, even after having thrown out the entire first draft. I reasoned that if I had finished one novella there was no reason to tap out before the end of the second.
In both of your novellas, I found the accounts of the brave struggles of the protagonists – young, poor women in testing situations – very moving. Would you agree that this particular focus on women is something largely unexplored in fiction?
Thank you, I’m glad to hear it’s a moving read! Both Birds and Stormbred involve female protagonists and secondary characters and there’s no discernible male presence in either of them, which is a fairly unusual dynamic. Archetypal female protagonists are usually defined by their relationships with men: even when they’re not romantic storylines, they’re still about women who find themselves dealing with a male antagonist. In reality when women are faced with struggles they seldom turn to men for help – nor do they curl up with a copy of The Bell Jar and cry – so my writing is not a political statement, just a literary reflection of reality.
The river was an important symbol in Birds with Horse Hearts and the ocean seems as significant in Stormbred. Is there something about the presence of water that helps facilitate a powerful setting?
That’s true, I like to think that they facilitate strong settings and also support the protagonist’s progression through the story. For the women in Birds, the river is a symbol of subjugation. It cuts them off from the rest of the world and imprisons them in their village, smothering any autonomy in their own freedom or future. In Stormbred, the ocean is a force of duality: it takes away Ruby’s sheep by drowning them, but it’s also the ocean that will bring Leonela by dinghy to the shore. In reality it’s a source of peril for Ruby, and yet in her imagination, she re-writes it as the force that can give her everything she wants. By the ending it’s a symbol for renewal, for characters to absolve themselves of their pasts.
Have you been able to write during lockdown and if so, what have you been working on?
Yes, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to write a lot during lockdown. I wrote a handful of poems, some of which have been published, but the main thing I completed was my first novel called Stargazy which is also set in Cornwall, which I’ve just sent out for representation. I’m lucky enough to be in a group of fantastic and motivated writers and we’re always passing work back and forth, and I think that’s helped prevent any of us falling into a state of inactivity. I know it’s been difficult for writers who have children at home, so I’m fortunate in that respect. I have a rigid writing routine and my desk must be precise and never interfered with. I need a full spectrum of highlighters, a pack of Sticky Quips, a tea made with one of those teabags that affects grandiose by hanging on a piece of string, and my agave plant has to look hearty and ebullient. The distracting sound of a child’s laughter outside my window will usually send me on some kind of livid rampage, so I really am in awe of writers who’ve managed to keep working while they’ve been in lockdown with young families.
What is your top tip for anyone wanting to enter our next Novella in Flash Award?
Have a ton of flash to work with. The luxury of being able to throw away massive amounts of material and only work with the pieces that best fit your project is a hugely beneficial starting point. The other thing that helped me was to continue reading constantly alongside my writing, which assisted my way into the material. I read representations of inadequate fathers, rural poverty, animal suffering, as well as many surrealist texts. Writing a novella-in-flash is like solving an agonizing riddle, but there are writers out there who already have the answers! Reading their solutions will help with your own.
Alison Woodhouse's wonderful novella in flash,The House on the Corner which received a special commendation by judge Michael Loveday in our fourth yearly Bath Novella-in-Flash Award earlier this year, is now open for pre-order on Ad Hoc Fiction with FREE world-wide shipping. It will be released for sale on 30th October, when it will also be available on Amazon and as an ebook. The stunning cover image for the book is by artist and writer Jeanette Sheppard. You can read Michael Loveday's comments about the novella in his judge's report and in Jude's interview with her below, Alison describes how she went about writing it and how it exciting she found the process. This makes fascinating reading and is very useful for anyone thinking of embarking on writing a novella-in-flash for our 2021 Award or for any other purpose.
Synopsis: Set at the end of the eighties and early nineties, The House on The Corner traces the changes in the lives of a middle-class nuclear family. As history unfolds outside the house, an ever-deepening crisis threatens the fragile, tenuous connections within.
We're proud to announce that Ad Hoc Fiction is publishing if there is no shelter, the novella-in-flash by Tracey Slaughter, the well-known poet and prose writer from New Zealand, in October. It's now available for pre-order from Ad Hoc Fiction today, 17th September. There's free worldwide shipping for anyone pre-ordering during the weeks until the novella is released on October 30th. The novella will then be for sale on the Ad Hoc Fiction bookshop and soon afterwards on Amazon and in ebook formats.
Tracey's novella was a runner up in the 2020 Bath Flash Fiction Award, and we agree with the 2020 judge, Michael Loveday, that it is a extraordinary example of the form. We've copied his comments from his judge's report here, which also summarise the story:
Read in Full
Erica Plouffe Lazure is one of two runners-up in our 2020 Novella-in-Flash Award and we're so excited that Sugar Mountain s now up for pre-order with our publisher Ad Hoc Fiction with free world-wide shipping to join our winner Mary-Jane Holmes novella-in-flash, Don't Tell The Bees. The novella will be released for sale on the Ad Hoc Fiction bookshop on 26th October and all pre-orders will be send to arrive on that date.
Do read 2020 Judge, Michael Loveday's report on this novella and also Jude's interview with Erica about Sugar Mountain and what Erica said about writing in this exciting form. It may inspire you to have a go at writing one yourself. Our next Award closes in mid January 2021 and is judged by Michelle Elvy.
Sugar Mountain is a wonderful novella-in-flash and we are so looking forward to seeing it in print. We also think the cover is great (image supplied by Erica and design by Ad Hoc Fiction).
Mary-Jane Holmes won first prize with Don't Tell The Bees in our fourth yearly novella-in-flash Award this year, 2020 and we're excited that you can now pre-order the novella with free world-wide shipping from Ad Hoc Fiction.It's released for sale on the Ad Hoc Fiction bookshop on 22nd October and will also be available as en ebook on Kindle and Kobo and from Amazon as a paperback too. Read what Mary-Jane said about the story and how she wrote it in our interview with her earlier this year and also 2020 Novella-in-flash judge Michael Loveday's comments about it. With exquisite writing and an such an evocative and poignant story, we'll sure you'll enjoy it. Mary Jane read a piece from the novella at our evening of novella-in-flash readings in June to mark the covid-cancelled Flash Fiction Festival weekend where her book would have been launched. Hopefully. we'll be able to hear her reading more from it soon.
Quotes from the backcover by former Bath Flash Novella-in-flash Judge, and well-known writer and teacher Meg Pokrass plus an extract from Michael's report and a further quote by writer Janet Fraser, are reproduced below. Read in Full
We're thrilled that Ad Hoc Fiction, our small press dedicated to the short short form, is publishing Going Short a guide to writing flash fiction by Nancy Stohlman, well-known flash fiction writer, editor and teacher from the USA who was a judge for the Bath Flash Awards in 2019. Going Short is a marvellous guide to writing and perfecting flash fiction, acclaimed by fellow flash fiction experts Kathy Fish, Randall Brown and James Thomas and it distills Nancy's many years of experience as a writer and teacher. It's definitely a guide to add to your library if you are a beginner to flash, an experienced flash fiction writer or a creative writing teacher. Everyone interested in short or longer form prose will gain from reading this book which is immensely practical and engaging, like Nancy's teaching style in general.
Pre-order now via Paypal or any card (from August 31st to October 14th) here from Ad Hoc Fiction with free worldwide shipping. Going Short is also available for pre-order as an ebook from Kindle and Kobo and will be available in hard copy from Amazon as well as on the Ad Hoc Fiction bookshop on 15th October.
The book covers all topics of interest to flash fiction writers from defining the form, getting started, sculpting drafts, building collections, flash novellas and novels and we particularly like the fact that it is written in short flash-fiction-like-chapters with titles that draw you in immediately. Here's a few tasters: Found Forms: Literary Squatters;Flash Myth #1: Smaller Is Easier; Flash Myth #2: Readers Have Short Attention Spans;Flash Myth #3: Bigger Is Better;I Was a Flash Fraud; High-Wire Flips and Narrative Contortions; Bribing the Muse: The All-Night Diner of Inspiration..
We love the cover image too by artist and writer Janice Leagra. Read in Full
Fiona Perry is our 15th first prize winner in our three times a year Award, which has been running since 2016. Here she tells us how her winning story emerged from a 'Covid' dream about her father and a memory of going fishing with him. The painting reproduced here by Nod Ghosh, writer and artist, who is also the judge for our 16th Bath Flash Award, which ends in mid October, is called 'The Sock' and we agree with Fiona that it is very evocative of the sock of mussels alluded to in 'Sea Change Fiona gives the tip to read lots of flash in order to get into the swing of writing it. We agree. There's so much amazing stuff out there in anthologies, online and collections. Flash is evolving all the time. And we are very happy that 'Sea Change' will be published in our fifth year-end anthology in November this year, with many other great pieces from our 2020 Awards.
- Can you tell us how your wonderful story 'Sea Change' came into being?
Fragments of the story originated a Covid dream. My Dad died almost two years ago, I woke up with images of him visiting me at home. In the dream, he was in his prime and happy, we cooked mussels together. He had a friend with a boat and in the summer we would be given crab claws which we would boil and bash open with a hammer on the doorstep to eat with buttered new potatoes grown in our garden. We also loved the holiday oysters we would eat in Carlingford. Fishermen sold on them shucked on the roadside. You could park up in layby and wolf them down with Tobasco sauce! I think those things must have been swimming around in my head before I went to sleep.
Before I structured the story, I researched mussels farming briefly, it was a bit of a gift because the language itself is so evocative and the process of mussel farming sounded symbolic of fatherhood (and transformation) to me so I wrote the story with that in mind. I'm also fascinated by how things and locations appear and disappear in dreams- a bit like a weirdly edited film- but somehow we accept that weirdness in dreams, we are rarely surprised. That's how it came to be. It was interesting that Mary-Jane alluded to Gabriel García Márquez in her report. I re-read 100 Years of Solitude in lockdown so I guess that influence seeped into the story somehow too.