With two weeks to go before the end of our 15th Award on June 7th, here’s another fascinating interview in our winners’ series, this time from Simon Cowdroy, second prize winning author in our February award judged by Santino Prinzi, to inspire all Last Minute Club writers. You can read Simon’s wonderful story ‘The Dissolution of Peter McCaffrey’ here and it will be published by Ad Hoc Fiction in our end of year anthology along with the other winners, shortlisted and longlisted writers from our 2020 Awards. Simon tells us more about his writing process and his influences which include other writers like Australian Clive James and also the landscape in which he lives, pictured here. We asked him about his striking use of language and think his comment that he strives to use ‘imagery derived from finding a powerful and unexpected way to frame the words’ is very good advice for others who want to write memorable flash. We also like his other tips at the end of this piece and his suggestion to ‘write as if it is your last chance to do so’. It was great to meet Simon at the Flash Fiction Festival last year and hope that when we hold the festival again (fingers crossed for such events), he can come again all the way from Australia, and we can hear him read it. Read in Full
Erica Plouffe Lazure was a runner up in the 2020 Bath Novella in Flash Award with her brilliant novella, Sugar Mountain .
You can read Michael Loveday’s judge’s comments on the novella in his report linked here. And Flash Frontier has posted a video of Erica reading a story from the novella which gives the flavour of the whole story, on the Flash Frontier You tube channel as part of the lead up to National Flash Fiction Day in New Zealand. In this fascinating interview, Erica talks about her writing process and how she finds time to write flash in her busy teaching year. Plus some great tips for those who want to embark on writing a novella-in-flash. We are very much looking forward to seeing Sugar Mountain in print, when it is published by Ad Hoc Fiction later this year. Read in Full
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.”
Tracey Slaughter’s brilliant novella if there is no shelter was one of two runners-up in the 2020 Novella-in-Flash Award judged by Michael Loveday. You can read Michael’s comments on the novella in his judge’s report and more about Tracey on our winners’ page.
We are asking the same questions of all our winners and commended authors and it is fascinating to read that Tracey’s novella was inspired by a list of emergency instructions at work and particularly the one phrase ‘if there is no shelter’ that ended up being the title of the novella. For those writing novellas, Tracey has the great advice to ‘Banish doubt and trust the voices and don’t give up on those beautiful damaged characters’. We are so looking forward to seeing her novella in print. It will be published by Ad Hoc Fiction later this year.
- Can you give us a brief synopsis of your novella in flash?
if there is no shelter follows a young woman trying to pick up the pieces of home in the aftermath of an earthquake. As we trace the faltering steps she takes to try to restore her life, we discover the wreckage she was already leaving in her wake before the earthquake struck…a lover, a husband, the letter left stranded in a red-zoned building she cannot re-enter.
- What inspired it?
A poster pinned over the sink in the tea-room at work, where I found myself blinking, burnt-out between classes, clutching my cup with a thousand-yard stare – a stained & peeling list of emergency instructions that included the heading ‘If there is no shelter.’ That was it: somehow the heroine spoke, & started bringing her fragments to the surface…
- I am sure readers who are interested in writing in this form would love to know more about your writing process. Did it take some time for you to arrive at the final order for example?
Although the first pieces of this story arrived in intense, almost instantaneous flashes, conditions of life (which overturned not long after I embarked on writing) left the further construction of the work suspended, sometimes for months at a stretch. The forgiving form of flash (hallelujah!) could cope with the ongoing disruption, & allowed me to focus on each piece I could achieve within my narrow windows. In many ways, it even seemed to echo the chaos surrounding the heroine – I had to scratch for time, pick through scattered pieces, splice a story together from precious remains. In the end, it wasn’t so much order that I knew it needed to witness, as disorder, the truth of fracture – I had to trust that the story should be left to reflect shattering.
- All this may have changed in the present circumstances, but do you have a special place/time to write where you live? Music on or off? Pets as distractions or muses?
Silence, distance, solace, isolation, refuge from the million other pressing demands of life: I can’t seem to write unless I’m alone with my characters, tuned to their voices, breathing in their fates. I remain in awe of anyone who can tap the keys at a café table – I’ve always been secretly convinced they’re faking it!!! But yes, the present conditions are a taste too much loneliness…& with working online the static has just come home!
- And following on from the last question, if you like. If you had a soundtrack for your novella, what sort of music would be playing?
The haunting dissonant industrial poetry of the artist I.E.Crazy – as soon as I heard her twisted original ballads I felt like my book was singing back at me!
Pitfalls and pleasures of writing in this form?
Pleasures: that flash can take you in a rush, plunge you into a character’s senses, keep you fed on bursts of electricity, even when life holds scant time for sustained writing. I thrive on the little fixes it gives, the short stints it lets creativity off the leash, so there’s always a quick source of exhilaration in a schedule that sometimes doesn’t leave much breathing space. And pitfalls: I don’t know if there are any. I find that flash is the central atom of the short story mode, so it’s never wasted, whether the piece stays distilled in a single flash or keeps detonating in a series of ongoing explosions.
- Your best tips for those wanting to embark on a novella in flash for our next Award?
Banish doubt & trust the voices & don’t give up on those beautiful damaged characters & what they need to speak, not for an instant – I nearly caved-in & let go of this story, because it was largely composed during crisis, nearly listened to the offscreen murmurs of fears that were waiting to form a cold chorus. Shut that damned descant out the writing room & do it anyway. You can always fend them off for the space of the next flash.
We’re delighted to publish Mark Budman’s review of The Best Small Fictions 2019. We nominate Bath Flash Fiction Award winners for this prestigious anthology each year. And in the 2019 Anthology we were thrilled that our October 2018 first prize winner, Fiona Mackintosh’s historical flash fiction, ‘Siren’, was selected by the editors as was ‘When The Rubber Hits The Road‘ our second prize winner from the February 2018 Award by Lee Nash There are also stories by Flash Fiction Festival Team members and workshop presenters Karen Jones, whose story Mark mentions, Meg Pokrass, whose magazine New Flash Fiction Review is also featured in the anthology, and Santino Prinzi, who is also the judge of of our 14th Award, which closes on Sunday 16th February.
Mark Budman has been prominent in the world of flash fiction for many years as a writer and as the Editor of Vestal Review and it is interesting to read how he thinks the quality of flash fiction is improving year by year and how this anthology contains such memorable examples of the form. Exciting times for flash!
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Sonder Press (November 5, 2019)
Straight Down The Road , Dan Crawley’s novella-in-flash, highly commended in the 2019 Novella in Flash Award by judge Michael Loveday, was published by Ad Hoc Fiction a few week’s back and is available to buy in several different currencies on the Ad Hoc Fiction online bookshop.
This is what Michael wrote about Dan’s wonderful evocative novella: “As if it were some rediscovered Raymond Carver manuscript, this is a classic novella-in-flash in the mainstream American tradition. A working class family try to keep themselves afloat, travelling the country by car after the father quits his job. The writing is warmly affectionate towards the characters although they’re flawed. There’s an appealing, breezy, summery quality even though real tension bubbles up – it feels like an authentic family dynamic. Some bond of grudging love keeps this family together, when they’re stretched to breaking point. Each flash has the clarity of a distinct memory – like each one might be a family legend. A vivid and highly effective novella-in-flash.”
In our interview below, Dan tells us more about writing his novella, gives some tips to those who are finalising novellas for the 2020 Award which closes in mid January 2020 and describes his day to day writing process, his current projects and who he might cast in a movie of ‘Straight Down The Road’. We’d love to see a movie of this story!
- Can you tell us what inspired your powerful and moving winning story, ‘Angie’?
Early in my career I worked on a project for the United Nations Refugee Council (UNHCR) where I spent time with people who were variously labelled but who shared the same predicament, they could no longer stay where they had always called home, they had no choice but to leave. They made huge sacrifices, travelled in danger and arrived unwelcome. The images of Angie Valeria and her father made real people of the word ‘migrant’ and I wanted to do the same using flash fiction.
- You mentioned on Twitter, that his piece began in a ‘Fast Flash’ online course with Kathy Fish and you worked on it for a long time afterwards. Can you tell us how it progressed from your first draft?
This “ensemble cast” novella has a fresh and original concept — a sequence of stories about a teacher’s pupils at a school, more or less one story for each pupil. The students’ eccentricities, rebelliousness and vulnerabilities are depicted with warmth, fondness, and very often, an absolutely heart-breaking poignancy, as in the case of the child with brittle bones, or the young boy grieving his sister. There is black humour too, in places, and endings that are intensely lyrical. The characterisations are superbly individualised, vivid, inventive and memorable, and are written with beautiful variety of expression. A novella-in-flash of immense charm that has real emotional substance.
Debra has also launched the novella in the US now. The pictures in this post are taken at one of her launches and we’re thrilled that her husband, song writer Jack McGregor, recorded three songs based on characters within the book, which you can listen to here, on sound cloud.https://soundcloud.com/jmcgregor/sets/the-roster You can buy the novella directly in paperback in several different currencies from the Ad Hoc Fiction bookshop.Our 2020 Novella Award is open for entries now until mid January 2020. Read Debra’s excellent tips on writing one at the end of this interview with her. Read in Full
We’re holding the Bath launch of All That Is Between Us by K. M. Elkes on 28th September, 7.30 pm – 10.00 pm, at St James’ Wine Vaults in Bath at our celebration evening of flash fiction readings. It is a wonderful collection which was first launched into the world at The Flash Fiction Festival at the end of June this year. It’s interesting to hear how Ken put the book together and what he says about his own writing style. And the picture below shows Ken’s selfie in front of a happy festival crowd. We looking forward to hearing more stories from the book at the readings in Bath so do come. And you can read more about the collection here in a previous post and buy from the Ad Hoc Fiction bookshop.
Interview – K.M. Elkes
- Writers are always interested in how authors decide on the sequence of the fictions in a collection. Will you tell us how you arrived at yours?
I could say I spent sleepless nights poring over a moveable patchwork of story titles, scrawled onto old envelopes and bits of crumpled paper, furniture pushed back to the walls, neglected mugs of tea on every surface, working out a sequence that would carry the reader aloft through the whole book. But that would be pure fiction.
In truth, as with my writing, the sequencing was mostly instinctive – finding stories that spooned together like lovers or created syncopation through a sudden change of style or length. Juxtaposing stories that had bounce and urgency in the language, with those that were more dense and required more input from the reader.
A few pieces were more deliberately placed because there are subtle, hazy story arcs in the collection, with the same characters recurring in different sections of the book.
I wish I could offer some practical advice to anyone putting a collection together, but the simple truth is that unless the structure of the book relies on certain stories being in certain places then sequencing is more art than science. The best I can say is start with some good ones, then go with your gut.
Michelle Elvy’s small-novel-in-small-forms, the everrumble was published by our Award Winning Press Ad Hoc Fiction on 22nd June this year and launched at NFFD New Zealand on that day and a week later at the Flash Fiction Festival in Bristol, UK. It is an extraordinary book and has received great advanced acclaim from Christopher Allen, who introduced it at the festival, Robert Scotellaro, Tracy Slaughter and Catherine McNamara. the everrumble is currently longlisted for the Not-The-Booker-Prize at the Guardian Newspaper in the UK. If you would like to support a great small novel reaching a larger audience, please vote here for her book by August 5th. You have to make a comment on the book and nominate another one by a different publisher. You can buy the everrumble in paperback in several different currencies for posting worldwide from the Ad Hoc Fiction bookshop or in digital format as a Kindle book, via Amazon. Michelle is doing a reading tour of her book in the USA in August and September and following that in New Zealand and Europe. We recommend it as a ground-breaking book and thank Marissa Hoffmann, a writer based in Switzerland, who came to the flash fiction festival this year, for reviewing the novel below.
Review by Marissa Hoffmann
the everrumble is a journey into the senses with protagonist Zettie who, aged seven, stops talking and finds the world becomes louder with the smaller sounds. So acute is her hearing that Zettie—in love with life—painfully aware of the cruelty of man—finds solace in her connection to the world through living sounds; heartbeats, whale cries, a language in the roots of the trees, or a mosquito several houses down the street. Zettie spends a lifetime learning how to control the cacophony.
In the opening story entitled ‘Dark and Shadow’, we first meet Zettie as a small girl finding a small space in a sensory world, “Zettie has curled herself so tight she can’t feel the fissures anymore; she’s smooth like a marble, no sharp edges. Under the woolly cover, she hears her own breath and nothing else. The blanket is blue and green, with streaks of orange (papaya, really) and yellow (mango really) and a deep red: primeval soil”
Because each story is so rich with colour and texture, with temperature and taste, the exquisite language carries the reader musically, poetically, nourishingly closer to Zettie, leaving us unable to respond with anything other than love for her.
All of Elvy’s stories use Zettie’s experience of sound and space, her primal connection to nature as a way for the reader to understand how Zettie makes sense of the world. A particular favourite story of mine deals with the question of why she is silent, simply with the answer—and the story’s title—’Because’.
The collection reads like a snakes-and-ladders journey, jumping forwards and backwards through Zettie’s whole life and sliding into her dreams along the way. We come to know Zettie’s small world and her sense of the whole world all at once. Playful Zettie names individual bees, curious Zettie travels and finds love—always searching for the ‘everrumble’—and the contented elderly Zettie joyfully embraces her metaphysical investigation into time and truth through sound and stories, phrases and languages.
The structure of the everrumble is supported with markers of time and space. Book notes, made by Zettie, begin each story offering poignant extracts that hold truths for her, quotes she takes guidance from. Elvy has expertly placed a heartbeat of historical moments pulsing throughout the stories that serve to contextualise Zettie’s conflicts and responses. Carefully chosen moments provide the geography of Zettie’s travels by sea and land for example when she shares the first time she sees an elephant or when she tenderly holds a dying child for the crying parents.
We find ourselves slowing our own hearts to listen and appreciate. Although Zettie’s relationships as a daughter, friend, a lover, a mother maybe without voice, they are filled with laughter, with warmth and with shared understanding. Everrumble asks ‘have you ever heard the sleep of a child? It is the colour of soft melon, the smell of freshly moan grass’. That sound, a sleeping child, we know the beauty in that, it’s a physical experience, just as the book is. the everrumble is a whisper and a roar.
Marissa Hoffmann, July, 2019.
Marissa Hoffmann’s flash has been awarded highly commended at FlashBack Fiction and short listed at the Bath Flash Fiction Award and Flash Frontier’s ‘Micro Madness’ contest. She is an Ad Hoc Fiction winner and has stories at Milk Candy Review, Bending Genres, Paragraph Planet, The Drabble and Reflex Fiction. Marissa has flash forthcoming at Citron Review and StorgyKids and is a fiction reader at Atticus Review. She tweets @hoffmannwriter.