Read KM Elkes first prize winning story, 'Extremities' selected by David Gaffney in the June round of the Award for an example of great flash fiction. Ken's a writing tutor as well as a writer, and he ran an excellent workshop on 'voice', an aspect of writing he refers in this interview, at the recent Flash Fiction Festival in Bristol. He gives further useful writing advice, including "write hot, edit cool..., buy (or at least read) the publications you want to appear in (it creates a virtous circle. Pay close attention to language... don't submit your sense of worth as a writer along with your story." There are several more tips to inspire below. To stimulate his own writing, Ken frequently takes pictures of settings or objects that can evoke a mood and also photographs people and places when he is travelling. There's some very evocative photographs included here that are likely to spark off stories from anyone who sees them. We now expect entries in our next competition about older men, beaches and prayers for success...
- Can you tell us how your powerful and affecting winning story ‘Extremities’ came into being?
Ever had an earworm - a song that just won’t let go, that you keep playing over and over in your head? Extremities started like that - a single, crisp image of a hand lying on the floor of a forest while around it rain made a sound like applause. I carried that hand around with me a long time, but didn’t really know what to do with it. I put it in a notebook, like you might press a flower hoping to preserve it, but those fingers scratched against the pages until I had to pay attention. Eventually I went into the realm of What If? Along with prompts, What Ifs are the firestarters of fiction. What if the hand was just one of many limbs littering the forest, accidentally cut off in logging accidents. What if it was so common, people didn’t care that much. I found momentum, images coalesced, and with them came themes and tone and the big one (for me at least) voice. Not the voice of the hapless, handless Bobby, but his so-called friend, who has a distinct tone of detachment (see what I did there!). After all that, it took about an hour to write the basic text that formed the story.
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Jack Remiel Cottrell is one of two runners-up chosen in the 2018 Bath Flash Fiction Novella-in-Flash award judged by Meg Pokrass Here he describes how his novella 'Latter Day Saints', published in our trio of winning novellas-in-flash In the Debris Field emerged from one single line which sparked his imagination and how he gets inspired from authors in many different genres and forms, including writers of 'Twitter' stories. We very much like his advice not to worry about what you are writing, or get hung up about different genres and making your novella fit under a 'Literary' label. Jack often writes in one of the most mesmerising locations we've heard about yet — the laundromat. We haven't a picture of Jack in the laundromat, but we've included his note book and beer picture, his comment being "Are you really a writer if you don't have a large stack of half-filled notebooks on your kitchen table? (Beer added for scale. Also for drinking." In the second photograph taken by his writing teacher Kathryn Burnett, Jack can be seen "hunched over second from the left at the back, trying not to be distracted by the outside world."
- Will you give us a brief synopsis of your wonderful novella-in-flash, ‘Latter Day Saints’ for those who haven’t read it yet?
A young man is attempting to find his patron saint, and in doing so meets a number of patron saints as they live in the 21st century.
- At Bath Flash Fiction, we think ‘Latter Day Saints’ is a very inventive quest story. Can you tell us more about what sparked the idea to write it?
I was 20 tabs deep in the mire of TVtropes.com when I came across something which prompted me to think of the line “It’s dark at the end of the universe.” If there’s one thing I love, it’s a good line. So I needed to find someone to say that line. I gave it to St Dominic, who is the patron saint of astronomers, who didn’t end up making the cut for the novella. From there, I wanted to explore the idea of patron saints in a modern setting. My narrator was initially supposed to be a reader proxy rather than a character. I wrote about three chapters before my writing group told me the narrator was actually the most interesting character, and they were right.
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The very least you can ever ask of a story is that it transport you, even if only for a short while, to another place. Just the title of this collection of flash fiction – Brightly Coloured Horses – transported me. Until I read the title story, which is number 14 of this 27 strong collection, I was not sure what it meant. It made me think of toys or a child’s dream. It immediately made me think I was going to go on a journey of discovery. And I was not disappointed.
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We’re thrilled to announce that How to Make a Window Snake, the novella-in-flash by Charmaine Wilkerson and published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2017, won the best novella category in the prestigious Saboteur Awards 2018. Charmaine also won first prize with this novella in the inaugural novella-in-flash Award 2017, judged by Meg Pokrass. When Meg heard about the Saboteur results she remarked – “There was no question in my mind about this novella. Finding a gem like this was a gift.”
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We’re thrilled that How to Make a Window Snake by Charmaine Wilkerson, which won our inaugural novella-in-flash Award in 2017 is short listed in the Saboteur Awards 2018. Thank you to everyone who nominated her. There were nearly 5000 nominations over all the categories and we think it is a great achievement both for Charmaine and for Ad Hoc Fiction, the publisher.
Please support Charmaine further by voting for her novella-in-flash to win before 9th May. Results are announced on 19th May at the end of the Saboteur Awards Festival running from Friday 18th to Saturday 19th May.
In her brilliant novella, Charmaine takes different angles to show the impact of the loss of a child upon a family. Our judge for the 2017 Novella-in-Flash Award, Meg Pokrass, commented “The author creates a brilliant picture window through which we see a loving but deeply wounded family trying to survive more tragedy.” And in a five star review, Raluca A. writes:
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It’s so interesting to see how Luke Whisnant, first prize winner in our 2018 Award created his novella-in-flash. His method has to be encouraging to other writers when he suggests how flexible this form is and that you can ‘find’ a novella-in-flash out of flash fictions you have already written. We’re interested that language, more than plot or character, is Luke’s first interest in all the forms of writing he does. Our 2018 Novella in Flash Judge Meg Pokrass, in her comments on his novella, was very impressed with his use of language. She writes “This author is a keen emotional observer, gifted in his specific, quirky and visual details, as well as in creating superb juxtapositions between sentences and fluid temporal leaps between chapters...”
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Michael Loveday's flash fiction novella Three Men on the Edge, is published by V. Press in summer 2018, and his poetry pamphlet He Said / She Said by HappenStance Press (2011). His writing has appeared in The Spectator; Flash: the International Short-Short Story Magazine; Funny Bone: Flashing for Comic Relief; and the National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2017. He is a tutor in Adult and Higher Education, a Director of the National Association of Writers in Education and was judge of the inaugural Tongues and Grooves Prose Poem Prize, 2018. He runs a blog for flash fiction, poetry and prose poetry at www.pagechatter.org, and will be appearing both as a presenter and member of the team at this year's Flash Fiction Festival UK.
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Molia Dumbleton won third prize with 'Why Shit is Still Like This Around Here and Probably Always Will Be' Our judge Tara L. Masih said it was ‘a precise and perfect’ micro and we agree.
Kathy Fish, who judged our February 2017 Bath Flash Fiction Award is renowned for sparking stories that get published and win contests in her Fast Flash intensive writing online course. Molia’s piece was partly inspired by attending one of these amazingly productive courses and also from a random event that stuck in her mind. Her advice to other writers of flash is to sometimes just let the writing ‘come out’ and if this was the case with her piece here, it has worked very well. She also has interesting things to say about finding a title – how it is worth thinking about them for a long time. We think her long title for this story adds much to the story itself and it’s interesting that other story titles reference Shakespeare and the Bible and enhance the layers of the stories in question. She also has another discussion starter in her view that collections can contain a mix of flash fictions and longer short stories. And why not? We’re certainly looking forward to reading her collection that contains both. Finally, we thank Molia very much for her kind words about the Bath Flash Fiction Award and for being ‘with us’ from Day One over three years ago. We love flash fiction, and enjoy helping to build a friendly writing community.
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Our judge Tara L Masih, was struck by the tight writing style of ‘When the rubber hits the road’ by Lee Nash and the way so much is covered. Many decades are traversed in the one long paragraph and like Tara, we love the way the elements shape the piece, and show how the events that take place instigated by one real and one imaginary man in different centuries, are sometimes out of human control. Henry Wickham, who the story is about, is pictured below along with some pictures of rubber sap collection. Lee writes in several different condensed forms, and her recently published poetry collection Ash Keys includes haibun, sonnets, a prose poem and haiku. She also enjoys writing poems based on historical figures. We think it’s interesting to find a way into a historical character’s life by thinking of how they have overcome incredible hurdles and failures. She has a floating ‘muse’, pointing out that inspiration is all around, and that she combs through all manner of experiences to find an ‘entry point’. Take on her tip to read your flash again and again for syntax, vocabulary and rhythm and maybe try writing your own historical flash fiction for the next round of the Award, which closes in June.
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Jo tells us how she moved from writing her prize winning story in her head while driving, repeating the words out loud and then shaping the story on the page later. A busy writer, with all sorts of projects on the go, she is drafting a second novel with an interesting theme about survival in an apocalyptic world, has given herself the challenge of making 100 submissions this year and also co-runs the inspiring Writers’ HQ which gives opportunities, encouragement and support to writers from all backgrounds and income brackets. Whenever she’s lost for inspiration in her own writing, she always returns to Shakespeare and points out that reading Shakespeare, or “Shakey P” as she calls him “will tell you everything you need to know about writing”. Her other great writing tip for those wanting to enter Bath Flash Fiction Award is to find the “fundamental nugget of human truth in a story; something that resonates with a reader, almost on an unconscious level.” I am sure Shakespeare would have agreed with that.
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