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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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Fissures
by Grant Faulkner
Reviewed by KM Elkes

In his introduction to Fissures, A Collection of a Hundred 100-word Stories, the author Grant Faulkner explains that the book is a “bag full of shards”, each one capturing the small, telling moments of existence: “I’ve always thought life is more about what is unsaid than what is said. We live in odd gaps of silence, irremediable interstices that sometimes last forever.”

Fissures is certainly an apt title – many of the stories revolve around moments of separation and disconnection; the heartache of missed chances, sexual loneliness and the deep cracks that open between lovers, travellers or families.

It’s not an easy task to achieve this level of resonance and depth when much of the armoury deployed in narrative fiction – plot, characterisation, pacing, extended imagery, description etc. – is limited by the drabble form. But this brings another kind of freedom – to create stories, sometimes tilted towards the fantastical, that contain just enough narrative thrust to create movement and change.
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Flash Fiction International
Very Short Stories from Around the World
Eds. James Thomas, Robert Shapard, Christopher Merrill
Reviewed by Santino Prinzi

Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories from Around the World (W. W. Norton & Company, 2015) pulls together flash fiction by writers from all over the globe; UK, US, Mexico, Iraq, Israel, Peru, New Zealand, Germany, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Argentina, Brazil, India, and Ancient Rome are but only a handful of countries represented in this anthology. For avid readers of flash, there are many recognisable names, but there are new faces too. The stories in this anthology have also been selected from across time, demonstrating how flash wasn’t a product of the Internet as many claim it to be (though, of course, the Internet has certainly helped it flourish, but that’s a different discussion). Out of all of the flash fiction anthologies in this series from Norton, Flash Fiction International really is as flavoursome and engaging as it intends to be.
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We the Animals
by Justin Torres
Reviewed by Stephanie Hutton

We the Animals is a novella-in-flash by Justin Torres. The stories add up to a brutal and believable insight into family life for three boys growing up in a troubled family in New York. Despite its short length at only 125 pages, it covers big topics including racism, consent, domestic violence and sexuality. The choice of form is interesting – what does the piece gain from being written as a series of flash fictions that could stand alone rather than as continuous prose?

The first story We Wanted More throws the reader into the children’s desperate situation of hunger. The language is poetic and raw – ‘we had bird bones, hollow and light, and we wanted more density, more weight.’ We are introduced to these fighting boys surviving in dire circumstances with a violent father. This first piece reads like a flash, it contains a whole world and ends on a line that stops you from turning the page.
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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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Interview with Christopher M Drew
October 2016 Flash Fiction Second Prize

So many different experiences and images went into the creation of The Perfect Fall Christopher’s striking second-prize winning flash fiction from our October round judged by Robert Vaughan. He shows us how meticulous his writing methods are, from the arrangement of the words on the page, to his many, many rewrites. He carves out the basics in a quick rough draft, then chisels in the fine details. This process can take a few months or longer. The finished result in his winning story demonstrates the attention to detail very well. It’s a story with several layers and we like his advice for others — "remember to write two stories: the one on the page and the one between the lines." Christopher also points out that ideas can come from the most unexpected places and multiply once you get started. You can find flash fictions in your longer stories if you ruthlessly cut down the words. We look forward to seeing more of his fiction, both the long and short pieces and hope his intriguing George and the Dragon comic fantasy tribute to Terry Pratchett gets completed and into print.
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Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine
by Diane Williams
Reviewed by Santino Prinzi

fine-fine-fine-fineFine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine (CB Editions [UK], 2016 / McSweeney’s Books [US], 2016) is the newest collection of short fiction from Diane Williams, the founder and editor of the literary annual NOON. Described by Lydia Davis as ‘one of the very few contemporary prose writers who seem to be doing something independent, energetic, heartfelt’, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine is a collection of challenging, but not impenetrable, flash fictions that examines their subjects with absolute precision.

‘The Skol’, possibly the shortest story in the collection, is about Mrs Clavey who is walking out to sea. It is the perfect example of a flash in which every single word is required, and each word contributes to the greater story being told, for example: ‘She didn’t intend to drink, but she did drink—more.’ This creates the impression that Williams’ language is stripped back, however, the almost minimalist style means that Williams creates imagery that is both concise and evocative without being superfluous. The fact Mrs Clavey didn’t intend to drink more, but continues to do so, reveals much to the reader about the nature of her situation without Williams needing to say more. When Mrs Clavey swallows a tiny amount of water, we’re told ‘It tasted like a cold, salted variety of her favorite payang cougou tea’, Williams demonstrates how the specific choice of words can provide a vivid image, as well as reveal more about the type of woman Mrs Clavey is.
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Interview with Helen Rye
October 2016 Flash Fiction First Prize

helen-rye-homeHelen entered her incredibly moving first prize winning story just before midnight on October 12th, the final day of our last Award, judged by Robert Vaughan. Her ancient computer kept crashing and nearly stopped her from entering and we’re glad to say the prize money made it possible for her to buy a new one, pictured in the photograph here. In this interview she tells us what the title of the story, One in Twenty-Three means – a deeply shocking and sobering fact. She also describes her writing life in the hotbed of talented writers in Norwich. Her supportive writing group played the theme tune to ‘Rocky’ when she walked in soon after her win! I think cake might have been involved too. Take note of Helen’s top tip for prospective entrants – don’t let a lack of self-belief stop you, just go for it.
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