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Interview with Fiona Perry, 15th Award first prize winner

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.

Interview

  • 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.

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This Alone Could Save Us by Santino Prinzi launched today, August 1st!

Want to listen to some great flash? This Alone Could Save Us Santino Prinzi's new collection, which was published by Ad Hoc Fiction yesterday 31st July, is being launched today, Saturday 1st August, on Zoom, 7.30 pm - 9.30 pm. The book's available to buy from the Ad Hoc Fiction bookshop for worldwide delivery and also in print or as an ebook on Amazon and as an ebook on Kobo.
The picture here shows Tino with his 'book cover' cake which Jude made for him and delivered as a socially-distanced surprise for publication day yesterday along with some 'book cover' Leibniz biscuits and jaffa cakes.

Tino will be reading several of his flash fictions and we will also hear stories by Kathy Fish, Meg Pokrass, Diane Simmons and Vanessa Gebbie who gave advanced praise for the book and are quoted on the back cover of the collection. It will be a fun event, hosted by Jude, with break-out groups interspersed with the readings for people to chat with Tino and the others and meet their flash fiction friends.

If you would like to join us, you can still get a Zoom invite today if you email jude at adhocfiction dot com before 6.00 pm. Thanks and hope to see you there!

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‘This Alone Could Save Us’, by Santino Prinzi, Launch event, 1st August

Santino Prinzi's new full collection, This Alone Could Save Us is the latest single author collection published by our small press, Ad Hoc Fictio. It's published on 31st July and is being launched on Zoom on Saturday, 1st August, 2020 7.30 pm - 9.30 pm BST. We'd planned to launch the book at our fourth Flash Fiction Festival which was due to take place in June this year, but of course this was cancelled. The picture of Tino here is when he was reading at last year's festival. One of the advantages of Zoom is that we can still hear Tino live and also include guests from all over the world.

Jude, director of Ad Hoc Fiction, is hosting the event and Santino has asked writers who provided quotes for his brilliant book, to read along side him. So, as well as Tino, we'll hear Kathy Fish, Meg Pokrass, Vanessa Gebbie and Diane Simmons. It will be a great night with break-out groups interspersed with the reading sessions so you can talk with your flash fiction friends from around the world. Plus virtual cake and fizz. If you would like to come and support Tino, please email Jude asap at jude at adhocfiction dot com to get your Zoom invite.

Available here now.

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Interview with Nod Ghosh, Judge for 16th Award, July – October, 2020

Originally from the U.K., Nod Ghosh is a graduate of the Hagley Writers Institute in Christchurch, New Zealand. Flash fiction, poems and short stories have been published in numerous journals, including the New Zealand publications Landfall, JAAM and Takahē.Nod's story story 'The Cool Box' won second prize in the June 2017 round of the Bath Flash Fiction Award. Truth Serum Press has published two books: The Crazed Wind (a novella in flash, 2018), and Filthy Sucre (three novellas, 2020). Nod has judged short story and poetry competitions and regularly offers critiques in a range of genres including flash fiction and novels. Nod was associate editor for Flash Frontier: An Adventure in Short Fiction (2016), and is a relief teacher at Write On − The School for Young Writers in Christchurch.

Interview

  • Can you tell us more about Filthy Sucre your newest collection of three novellas in flash published by Truth Serum Press?

    As you mention below, the three novellas in Filthy Sucre were written to prompts provided by Nancy Stohlman in her annual Flashnano event. Each collection was compiled in the month of November, from 2016 to 2018. After writing the first two or three stories, it became apparent each year what I wanted the sum of the parts to be, and how the main protagonists' characters would develop.Sugar in the Folds, Sand in the Creases centres on Vincent, a man who can't keep it in his pants, whom women are strangely drawn towards. Another Silent Movie features Roley who is haunted by the disappearance of a fifteen-year-old boy. A boy he is in love with. A Benign Deity is about Albert, who is not what he seems. Albert is everywhere, including in places he shouldn't be, at times he ought not to be. Is he a man? Is he something else?

    All three novellas feature loss, futile love and misguided manipulation. One cheeky character pops up in each collection, providing another cohesive link. Fellow Christchurch author Zoë Meager summarises the themes in her introductory blurb ..."people being kind and brave, rebelling, giving in, and doing some very shitty things to each other."

  • On the panel you recently participated in for NFFD New Zealand you talked about writing to prompts and how that’s successful for you. Daily prompts by Nancy Stohlman during Flashnano in November helped you write each of the novellas in your collection. Can you give our contestants a prompt for them to write a new flash fiction?
    Nancy Stohlman's Flashnano events have been running online for eight years and attract up to 800 participants. The event provides a sense of community, camaraderie and companionship in addition to the prompts themselves. Authors share stories, encourage one another, moan about the state of the planet, and lick each other's wounds.
    The upside of a prompt is that it can navigate writing away from the tropes and norms a writer usually focuses on. You could liken it to two people following a recipe, but producing subtly different results. The size you cut your potatoes alters the texture the pieces impart to the gravy. Including a scene with a group of cacti, when you wouldn't normally think to write about cacti imparts a different flavour to your story.
    Here are ten prompts:

    Running away
    Scorched
    Archways
    The darkness beneath
    Tournament
    Enigmatic historical figure
    A vehicle breaks down
    Servitude
    Animal love
    Corpuscle

  • Did writing the novellas in Filthy Sucre and your previous novella in flash The Crazed Wind, alter your way of thinking about and writing individual flash fictions?
    Yes it did. Novella-in-flash requires each story should stand alone. However, they lend themselves to severe 'paring away' compared with independent stories for separate publications. The reader will experience each story with prior knowledge of the characters and what they want. Some 'stories' in the books were scandalously short, only a few sentences long. That starkness has carried over into the way I write flash outside the novella form. I leave more unsaid, because I found removing unnecessary repetition and explanation still leaves an intact story.
  • Have you any other projects on the go? And has the current situation affected your writing.
    I usually work on multiple projects simultaneously.

    Currently I am expanding and re-drafting a novella-in-flash Toy Train, which examines the topic of casual sexual abuse. I want to encourage dialogue in this area. As a writer, making a story is a way bringing the conversation to the table without being didactic. I hope to send Toy Train out later in the year. I'm also redrafting my third novel, Paper Prison, which is a speculative utopian/dystopian contradiction featuring a disabled protagonist.I'm polishing several short stories and giving them a kick up the backside prior to submission to upcoming competitions.I'm preparing a spoken word true-life piece for a podcast.

    I critique work for other authors, and occasionally teach young people and adults. The teaching in particular has been different recently. I'd never used on line media such as Zoom for teaching until SARS-CoV-2 altered the way we do things.
    Apart from Covid-19, the virus also causes afflictions that affect writing such as 'What's-the-Pointism'. Related conditions include 'Don't-Be-Too-Hard-on-Yourself-itis' and 'Open-a-packet-of-Crisps-and-Bottle-of-Wine-Instead Syndrome'.

    Speaking to other writers, these pathologies are not uncommon. When the world is crumbling and vulnerable people are falling through the cracks, it seems morally corrupt to worry about using too many adverbs (badly). It feels decadent to be disappointed about cancelled book launches or how the financial constraints on the publishing industry will affect one small part of the book manufacturing and distribution process: the writer.

    The antidote is this: a reminder that worrying about the situation won't change it. We need stories. If we don't use our minds to make something meaningful when we can, we might regret it later, when we can't.

  • What style of flash fiction most appeals to you?
    I was involved in 'FlashFlood' (UK National Flash Fiction Day) at the end of May. We selected flash fiction pieces to showcase the best work in the genre globally. The team reviewed previously published and new work. In my closing statement, I mentioned that the stories covered wide variety of subjects.

    Certain 'hot topics' tend to be popular at certain times. I didn't want to be prescriptive and say we'd seen too many stories about 'forgetful old people', 'apocalypse' or 'the plight of migrants'. If a story shone, it could be selected, irrespective of the fact that several people had already written about mermaids, tonsillectomies or purple unicorns. It's the originality in how the subject was handled that counted.

    Selections were made primarily on the quality of the language. Elements I paid particular attention to included:
    the finesse an author used to craft sentences, word choices, rhythm and patterning;
    how the writer kept the reader's attention by displaying care with story structure; maintaining clarity, even when layering and underlying meaning was present.

  • And related to that, what ingredients for you would make a stand out flash fiction story?
    A carefully chosen title that intrigues and invites
    Check for freshness and originality
    A cupful of concrete nouns
    A finely sifted soupçon of adjectives
    An assortment of well crafted sentences
    A cupful of conflict

    (Word) process using a hook the reader cannot easily disentangle from
    Treat the subject or theme sympathetically to allow poignancy without pathos
    Beat out clichés with a well-paced rhythm
    Work at it long enough to solidify
    Trim away preamble without casting out the magic
    Decorate with layers of meaning
    Allow to stand before sending

  • Any final tips for finessing flash fictions? Especially 300 word pieces, the maximum word length for our Award.
    Consider these points:

    Brevity of language, compression is key.
    Start when you must, finish when you can.
    Leave space for the reader's creative response.
    Pace and story arc.
    Show don't tell.
    Characters should be well balanced and have plausible motivations.
    Consider: conflict is the basis of drama.
    Vary sentence length.
    Use rhythm well, use patterns and repetition effectively.
    Consistency of tense, point of view.

    Thank you, Jude and BFFA for the opportunity to answer these questions.

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Pre-order ‘This Alone Could Save Us’ by Santino Prinzi

We're thrilled that Ad Hoc Fiction, our small press is publishing Santino Prinzi's wonderful new collection. This Alone Could Save Us. The collection was due to be launched at our cancelled 2020 Flash Fiction Festival UK.

Available here now.

Read what writers say about it here:

With This Alone Could Save Us, Santino Prinzi has fashioned a collection of small, smart fictions that read large. Here is work undergirded by innovation, incisive wit, and a keen ability to navigate terrain that is personal, and at once universal to us all.’

–– Robert Scotellaro, author of Nothing Is Ever One Thing

‘Santino Prinzi is a word-wizard of the heart—a writer who fearlessly excavates uncomfortable secrets. In This Alone Could Save Us, Prinzi's first full collection of flash fiction, human nature is the subject, gentle surrealism the medium. Bizarre yet real, funny and crazily sad—it's mesmerizing to watch Prinzi's vulnerable characters work to free themselves from life's stickiest webs. Subversive, haunting, beautiful—a must-have collection!’

–– Meg Pokrass, author of Alligators At Night and Series Co-Editor, Best Microfiction 2020

'This Alone Could Save Us is a richly varied collection of flash fiction. In these compact gems, Santino Prinzi makes exquisite use of magic and the surreal, but also the quiet, evocative gestures of ordinary life. You will find the deliciously unexpected within these pages, along with moments of breath-taking stillness. Highly recommended.’

–– Kathy Fish, Wild Life: Collected Works from 2003-2018

‘Tender, poetic, and wonderfully surreal, Prinzi understands that stories can save us. Powerful flash fiction that lights up the page, this is the book we all need right now. It is one for the ages. This stunning collection will stay with you for years.’ 

–– Angela Readman, author of Something Like Breathing and Don’t Try This At Home

‘In This Alone Could Save Us, Santino Prinzi demonstrates his enormous talent for drawing readers into his stories, often surprising them with surrealistic touches that appear totally believable and natural. The flash fictions in this impressive collection are widely varied, but each story is unmistakably Prinzi.’

–– Diane Simmons, author of Finding a Way

‘Exceptionally engaging, closely observed and thought-provoking, this collection shows us a flash master at work as he explores the fault lines that crack open under our feet at moments of unplanned change. Seen through his eyes, the familiar becomes strange, solid becomes unsteady, and even the moon loses its faith in humanity, so moves on. Sometimes sad, sometimes playful, always memorable.’ 

–– Vanessa Gebbie, author of The Cowards Tale and five short fiction collections.

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BIFFY50 2019-2020, Nominations

Thanks very much to TSS and this year's editors for again compiling the list of fifty Best British and Irish Flash Fictions (BIFFY50) published online between August 2019 and May 2020. We are very happy at Bath Flash to nominate 'Eight Spare Bullets' by Sharon Telfer which won first prize in the February 2020 round of our Award and Valentine' by Claire Powell, which was highly commended by judge Santino Prinzi. Read his comments on the stories in his judge's report.

Our final story of the three nominations allowed is 'The Wild West' by Francis McCrickard which won second prize in the October 2019 Bath Flash Fiction Award judged by Nancy Stohlman and you can read her comments here.
The authors live in the UK and we think their stories are wonderful examples of flash fiction.
Very best wishes to them all.

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Interview with Sharon Telfer, first prize winner, February 2020

    It's good to catch up with Sharon Telfer to find out more about 'Eight spare bullets', her second first prize win for Bath Flash Fiction Award, and about her writing in general. The first time Sharon won with another marvellous story, 'Terra Incognita' back in June, 2016, we learned she had been walking in the Welsh mountains and only found out about her success when she got home. This second time, she wasn't checking emails and social media because she was completing a big work project and discovered all the excitement at the end of the day!

    The 15th Bath Flash Fiction Award judged by Mary Jane Holmes ends in three and a half weeks on June 7th. Mary Jane gave some great writing tips in her interview with us and there's more tips from Sharon at the end of this interview and in the quote below, near the beginning. It is a wonderful piece of advice for the current situation we are in, and has a particular reference to Sharon's winning story.

    "...If you’re not writing for whatever reason, don’t force it and don’t despair. Those seeds are lying dormant, just like in the Svalbard vault. Give yourself time and what light and warmth and good soil you can. Germination always happens first unseen and underground.


    Good luck to everyone entering our 15th Award. Results will be out at the end of the June."

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Interview with Mary Jane Holmes, First Prize Winner, 2020 Novella in Flash Award

Mary Jane Holmes won our 2020 Novella in Flash Award, judged by Michael Loveday last month with her stunning novella in flash Don't Tell the Bees. Read Michael's comments about it in his judge's report. And you can also read more about Mary Jane, who currently also happens to be the judge of our 15th single flash fiction Award, on our winners' page. Mary Jane, who is a poet, prose writer and for many years a teacher of flash fiction and other forms, has had an extraordinary few years where both her flash fiction and poetry has achieved much recognition. Ad Hoc Fiction is delighted to be able to publish Don't Tell The Bees, which is her first novella. It's really interesting to read about what inspired the story, to see inside Tom, Mary Jane's writing caravan and to have her insight into the pitfalls and pleasures of writing in this form. We expect the novella to be out later this year.

  • Can you give us a brief synopsis of Don't Tell the Bees, your winning novella-in-flash?

    A stonemason climbs the steeple of the village church to mend the weathervane his father had made many years before and falls to his death, leaving a family to survive in a 20th century but feudal run rural backwater of western France. The story’s main focus is the youngest child, a girl with a love of maths, who has to negotiate poverty, sexism and the arrival of a new road into the village where she lives.

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