Views

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.
Read in Full

share by email

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

share by email

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 recently moved from the United States to England. In addition to judging our new Flash Fiction Novella Award, you can often join her and others for an evening of flash fiction, booking here.
Read in Full

share by email

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.
Read in Full

share by email

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.
Read in Full

share by email

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.
Read in Full

share by email

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.
Read in Full

share by email

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.
Read in Full

share by email

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.
Read in Full

share by email

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.
Read in Full

share by email