A fascinating interview here with Fiona J. Mackintosh, who won first prize in our October 2018 Award,judged by Nuala 0’Connor for her historical flash fiction Siren. Fiona, who began writing young, as you can see in the picture of her with the type-writer, is a self-confessed research junkie, writes (in her head) in the shower and stresses the importance of researching "the hell out of a competition" before entering it. She also tells us the music she likes to play while writing, where she writes and about the projects she’s currently working on. We’re longing to read more of her writing – more flash, or her short story collection and also her five novel saga that begins in the early part of the twentieth century sounds wonderful. It’s exciting that the first volume of this will be ready for submission in spring 2019. Fiona ends this interview with some great revision tips for micro writers. We love this – "Revision is like playing your scales over and over”. And there are many more excellent nuggets of writing advice. Read on...
- Can you tell us how your wonderful story Siren came into being?
Thank you so much for the compliment! As often happens with me, the story started with a single phrase that popped into my head, “She has the juice of silver fishes in her veins.” And then immediately after, I saw the image of the girl putting the cherries over her ear, which we all used to do as kids, right? And (ahem) some of us still do! Then I had to find a way to fill in the middle part of the story, but once I hit on the jealous landlubber admirer, I was off to the races. So the plot fell into place pretty easily; it was the language that took longer to hone.
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Frankie McMillan introduces flash fiction to her students at the Hagley Writers' Institute, Christchurch, New Zealand by studying works of great writers of short-short fiction. Here she describes how she recently taught flash fiction using Meg Pokrass's marvellous new collection Alligators at Night, published in July 2018 by Ad Hoc Fiction and available from the Ad Hoc Fiction bookshop. We thrilled that Frankie is widening the international line up and coming over from New Zealand to teach and read at the next Flash Fiction Festival, taking place at Trinity College, in Bristol, from 28th-30th June 2019. Frankie says: Read in Full
In this fascinating and wide-ranging interview with scientist and writer, Conor Haughton, who won second prize in the June round, judged by David Gaffney with his story 'The Undertakers' Jolly' you can learn a couple of words of Esperanto. Inspiration for flash fiction can arrive at any time and for Conor it was at an Esperanto conference, by the sea in Aberystwyth, when he was a little drunk. I suggest, as well as reading his interview, you watch the short and entertaining video, of him at Ignite Bristol telling the more-or-less true story, complete with cartoon illustrations, of the time he was arrested in London. That event in Bristol was where he was inspired to begin writing and only four years ago. We love his idea of a science and literature spoken-word event and if Conor ever does set one up, a Bath Flash contingent would be there. As he lectures close-by in Bristol University, I'd also love to sneak in to one of the lectures and grasp a little more about mathematical principles via his story telling to explain how theorems work. His longer writing project to write a story, not about a computer programmer but about programming itself sounds very interesting. Especially as it needs to contain some computer code and ways of explaining it. Finally, I've now discovered that possibly one of the vegetables in the picture Conor supplied to go with his bio, is a horse radish. Read in Full
Tim Craig, who won third prize in the June Award judged by David Gaffney with his story 'Northern Lights' only recently began writing flash. We love how Tim was prompted to write in this form by his friend, Mandy Wheeler's suggestion that 'Life's too short to write long things'. It's a great incentive to get into writing short short fiction and then perhaps to stitch the pieces up into longer fictions like novellas or novels. After I received Tim's answers to my questions, I asked him for a photograph of his dog, as he mentioned it. We've noticed many of our prize winners for this contest own dogs. He's included a picture of it looking very chilled under a lattice of shade. We hope he gets some quiet time himself soon to do some more writing. He's a very good reader and we'd really like to hear more of his stories. The other picture included here of what he calls 'the hairy babies' he saw in a French cafe, looks like a perfect story prompt. And his tip quoted from Ray Bradbury, to think of rejection as nothing more than a wrong address is a further incentive for anyone to get those words down on paper and not worry about how they will be received.
- Can you tell us what inspired your powerful and atmospheric flash fiction ‘Northern Lights?
I did a fair amount of hitch-hiking when I was younger, and came across some interesting people on the way – a bit like my character Pavel the truck driver, so maybe it was that. There’s certainly something magical about entering a stranger’s life and hearing their story in such a confined space and limited amount of time. In that respect, I suppose it’s a bit like flash fiction itself.
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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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