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.
Come along to the Bath book launch of All That is Between Us, the highly acclaimed debut flash fiction collection by K.M. Elkes published by Ad Hoc Fiction in June, 2019. There will be additional readings from writers who are members of the 2019 Flash Fiction Festival Team, the weekend volunteer group and the festival presenters.
Venue: St James Wine Vaults, 10 St James Street, Bath, BA1 2TW
Date and Time: Saturday 28th September, 7.30 - 10.00 pm.
Free Entry. Plus free wine and nibbles. Late Bar. Books for sale with cash or by card.
As well celebrating Ken's new book, the evening is also a celebration of several recent successes from Bath Flash Fiction and Ad Hoc Fiction:
In May, Finding A Way the flash fiction collection by Diane Simmons, which Ad Hoc Fiction published in February this year was short listed in the short story category of the 2019 Saboteur Awards; Flash Fiction Festival 2018 was short listed in the Literary Festival category of the 2019 Saboteur Awards; in mid June, Ad Hoc Fiction won the publisher category of the 2019 Creative Bath Awards and in late June, the third annual Flash Fiction Festival which is sponsored primarily by Bath Flash Fiction and Ad Hoc Fiction was held in Bristol and was a great success.
K. M. Elkes who is also a Flash Fiction Festival Team Member will begin the evening with readings from his book and we will also hear flash fictions from Jude Higgins, Diane Simmons, Santino Prinzi, Alison Woodhouse, John Wheway, Grace Palmer and Carrie Etter. We're hoping that Michael Loveday will also be able to join us.
Hope to see you there.
All That Is Between Us by K.M. Elkes and Finding A Way are available to buy in paperback from the Ad Hoc Fiction online bookshop or in digital formats on Kindle.
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.
Johanna Robinson's wonderful novella-in-flash Homing was a runner-up in the 2019 Bath Novella-in-Flash Award judged by Michael Loveday. The novella, which spans four decades, tells the story of a family's involvement with the Resistance Movement in Norway during World War 11 and its aftermath on their lives. It was launched at the Flash Fiction Festival in Bristol at the end of June this year. Homing is already on its second print run and has been dispatched all over the world.
You can buy a paperback copy from the Ad Hoc Fiction Bookshop and digital copies will be available from Kindle via Amazon soon. Johanna's novella, although short at 18,000 words, has the scope and depth of a much longer novel, It is currently longlisted for the 2019 'Not-The-Booker Prize'. (although they have made a mistake on the list, saying it is published by Louise Walters Press and not 'Ad Hoc Fiction'. You might like to support her and vote for it. (Voting is openhere until next Monday 5th August) Read the fascinating interview below with Johanna if you are thinking of writing a novella-in-flash, historical or otherwise for our 2020 Award or elsewhere, or if you want to become absorbed in a compelling and beautifully written story on a subject you may know little about.
- I believe you did some of the research for Homing years ago. Can you tell us about this and about the process of transforming it into a novella in flash?
I first picked up snippets about the Norwegian resistance when I was on a year abroad at Oslo University. A few years later, 2002 or so, I began to read the stories of the ‘Shetland Bus’, a scheme whereby fishing boats were used to smuggle men and goods from Norway to Shetland. In fact, I wrote a whole chunk of novel-style creative writing about it, but I never really planned to do anything with it and it has sat on various computers ever since. I couldn’t let go of the stories of that community, though. Then, last year, when doing more research, online this time, I discovered the story of the village of Telavåg, and it was here that I felt the various stories could crystallise. At first – and nothing to do with flash – I wanted to write about the teachers who were taken to concentration camps. This was the first piece I wrote, and it ended up very short, and that felt right. At that point, a door had been opened, a way into writing about that time in history. This coincided with discovering the novella-in-flash format. Actually, this first piece was the only one that changed substantially. Also, two chapters in Homing, ‘Lotion I’ and ‘Lotion II’, began life in that early writing – I was really happy that I managed to weave them into the novella; it seemed the right thing to do.
- The story, spanning several decades, is very compelling and I particularly like how you use the symbol of the paper clip and the suitcase to carry the reader forward. Was this a deliberate strategy on your part?
Yes, and no. The paper clip was something that I couldn’t not have written about, as it was an aspect that I encountered a lot back in the early days of research, albeit often in a minor way. As a result, it featured in a number of the first flash pieces I wrote, and actually drove the story in the early stages. The suitcase, however, was a very late addition, and it emerged in one of the stories I wrote in a Meg Pokrass online workshop in December 2018. It found its way into one piece, and a couple of other workshop participants asked what may have happened to the case next/earlier. Already the suitcase was something that operated beyond the boundaries of that little individual story. When it came to weaving it through, it was a pretty easy job. It was as though my brain had inserted it in that Meg-workshop story, ready to be used elsewhere.
- Did you write individual pieces first, before you put them into a sequence?
I wrote them first, without thinking of an order. The sequence came at the very end, although, because it’s largely chronological,that wasn’t a difficult process. Once I had a timeline of people’s ages and the events that couldn’t be moved because of historical accuracy, the sequence really took care of itself. I think having a specific event and time as a springboard for the whole story, and for all the small, individual stories, helped me not worry too much about a narrative pattern when I was in the process of writing.
- Were there any particular novellas in flash you read beforehand that helped you to compose your own?
Yes, definitely. The first one I came across was Stephanie Hutton’s Three Sisters of Stone, in May 2018, and so this was my first encounter with the novella-in-flash form. I was hooked! I then read How to Make a Window Snake and the two others in the 2017 Bath Novella-in-flash anthology; I reread the title novella of this anthology by Charmaine Wilkerson a few times while I was writing mine. I read the Rose Metal Press Field Guide on my Kindle because I was too impatient to wait for delivery, as well as Meg Pokrass’s Here Where We Live, and the other stories in My Very End of the Universe. Finally, I devoured Sophie van Llewyn’s Bottled Goods one weekend in a motor home, in October 2018. I loved that the grand story was interspersed with different forms and strange ideas – as a reader I really didn’t know what I would be getting when I turned over the page, and that in itself kept me turning.
- What did you find the most difficult thing about creating the novella?
Probably the voice in my head that kept saying only some of the pieces were really good enough to be published. Some of the pieces – once I’d found the story – needed to be written to ‘join’ others together, and I just wasn’t sure if they looked like filler pieces, like something dashed off to fulfil a function. Much later on, when the book was nearly published actually, I finally silenced that voice, as I realised not every chapter needs to be the best piece of writing you’ve ever written – and perhaps that’s even more the case the longer the final work is. In Birds with Horse Hearts, the 2019 Bath winning novella by Ellie Walsh, each chapter is filled with beautiful, lyrical writing. It’s gorgeous, and it fits perfectly the length of the book and the setting. With mine, I think another function of the ‘filler’ chapters was to provide a breather from some of the events and fall-out of the war.
- What was the most unexpected thing that happened during the writing of it?
That I created a life for the main character that went way beyond the initial setting of Norway in WWII. Also, how textured it ended up feeling at the end. I liked how, although there is a linear movement, the short flash fiction form allows a texture to build up.
- Top tips for writers who might be embarking on one?
Thinking back, what really helped me was the expectation that no one would ever read it. That allowed me to be experimental with form, to take different perspectives, beyond those of the main characters. Cheat. If you need to get from Chapter 7 to Chapter 9, experiment with Chapter 8 – how can it link 7 and 9 in the brilliant, brief way only flash fiction can? It might work, it might not, but of course, nothing’s ever wasted
The other thing that really helped me – and without it there wouldn’t be a novella – was doing a flash fiction course at the point I’d run out of steam a little. I had come to a standstill – I couldn’t be sure who my main character was, and I definitely didn’t have a narrative arc to the whole thing, or an end in mind. What Meg Pokrass’s prompts course did was, first, make me write seven pieces in two weeks, and second, drag me out of the story, giving me a different perspective. The prompts, of course, had nothing to do with my book’s setting, but they forced me to look at certain aspects of it in a new light, to pull on threads that I hadn’t realised were there and see what came of them.
- Flash fiction is something you have come to only recently. What is it that you particularly like about the form?
In terms of the writing, I love the challenge. At university, I always over-wrote, always had to cut-cut-cut words out of my work, but that’s where and when things get to be good. In terms of reading flash, it has been a revelation to me what people can do in tiny numbers of words – and I feel it especially in historical flash, which can make snapshots into stories. Also, in terms of both reading and writing, I love language and word play, and the little coincidences and thrills that can happen when it really works in a new way. I think flash is just a great crucible for that.
- Have you any new writing projects on the go at the moment?
When I finished the novella, I wasn’t sure I’d do another, because I’d had the history in my head for so many years. Yeah, well, that didn’t last! I’m planning another historical book, but hopefully a lot longer, and hopefully still in flash form. I’ve been doing research for it, and could go on for ever with that, but I’m planning on actually starting to write something soon. It definitely feels different this time – harder to just get on and do it – now that Homing is out in the world.
Michael Loveday judged our 2019 Novella in Flash Award and he is pictured here at a panel about this exciting form at the recent Flash Fiction Festival in Bristol, with from left to right, Charmaine Wilkerson, winner of the inaugural Award in 2017, with How To Make A Window Snake, which later won the 2018 Saboteur Awards for a novella, Johanna Robinson, who wrote the historical novella Homing, a runner up in the 2019 Award and Ellie Walsh who is reading from her first-prize winning novella in the 2019 Award, Birds With Horse Hearts and Meg Pokrass, the judge of our 2017 and 2018 Awards.
Michael judged our 2019 Award and he thought the winning novellas were very impressive. You can read his judge's report here. And we're happy that Ad Hoc Fiction is publishing the three winning and the three commended novellas this year.
In our interview with him last year, we asked what he thought the main pitfalls in writing a novella-in-flash were and here he's updated his answer and given his top three tips after assessing manuscripts from the 2019 Award, which were often very good, but didn't quite work as a whole.
He says, overall the most common manuscript problems were as follows -
(1) Lack of a Thread - Some manuscripts (including some with really outstanding individual flashes) just didn’t link up enough. As you write your novella, it’s worth continually thinking: what’s the thread, what’s the centre?
(a) Will it be clear whose story it is or who the central characters are?
(b) If not, will it be clear what the central plot event is / events are?
(c) If not, will it be clear to the reader what the setting / location is that links the material?
(d) If not, will it be really, really clear to the reader which tightly focused, controlling theme or motif is filtering all the stories in your novella?
If the answer is ‘no’ to all four questions, then it’s likely to mean you have a collection of flashes on your hands – more of a miscellany or story collection than a novella.
(2) Ensemble Casts - It's important to maintain good control of your cast of characters. Having lots of different protagonists is risky, unless they’re linked by location, or a set of central, shared events, or a tightly focused theme. Ask yourself, what’s keeping this novella in balance and focus? Am I letting some characters dominate fleetingly then disappear? Will it be apparent who’s speaking or who an unnamed third person protagonist is in any given story? (At the very least, enough clues should accumulate in the various characterisations for the reader to realise in hindsight when they look back over a novella. A process of delayed revelation is perfectly fine.) Also, if you have dozens of named secondary characters, have you obscured the sense of any centre to the novella?
(3) Timelines – If your novella has a very varied or complex chronology, it can be difficult to get it right. You might need to look hard at your timeline to make sure it’s, in the end, not confusing or too convoluted to follow. This includes thinking carefully about any large or unexplained leaps in time, or any back and forth between multiple “eras” in your story that might be obscured from the reader’s understanding. One option is to include years / months / dates in the headings of your flashes, if it’s a really complex timeline, though this may not suit all novellas. Other devices include using different tenses, different points of view, or adopting other creative devices (such as italics vs. ordinary font) to help readers orient themselves between different “eras” within your novella. For example, Michelle Elvy’s coming-of-age story the everrumble mixes up its chronology into haphazard order but states the protagonist’s age with the title of most chapters, thereby offering the reader a foothold into the underlying sequence of things.
As a final piece of advice, do maintain your patience in the process of compiling your novella! It almost inevitably will feel a bit fragmented, and maybe even a little confusing, as you try to work out how to connect the individual flashes. You may have to write a lot of material that doesn’t actually fit the final manuscript.
Don’t lose your nerve in the face of all this. It’s part of the process, and what makes the novella-in-flash such a magical and rewarding thing to write, and for readers then to read.
Previously published examples from past years of the competition can give you ideas of what’s possible. But these published examples hide the messy processes of their own creation – there may be a long, ungainly “caterpillar” phase while a novella is developed. And you should also feel encouraged to create something entirely new, not previously attempted.
For writers, I’m convinced there really is nothing like writing a novella-in-flash, in terms of how fulfilling a challenge it is to take on and resolve. It’s a very very special form.
We're very pleased to interview Gaynor Jones following her win in the June Award judged by Christopher Allen It's fascinating to hear Gaynor's methods of writing, how she can produce marvellous pieces like 'Cleft' in the spaces she finds in day to day life. After her win, we saw her tweet that she had entered the Bath Flash Fiction Award eight times previously without any luck and her description of her writing journey here shows how persistent she is as a writer. We're very much looking forward to the outcomes of the new writing project she is undertaking. It's bound to be adventurous. And do pay attention to her tip to be a 'flash rebel' when writing a micro for our Award. She suggests that you dispense with any rules and ask yourself the question 'Could anyone else have written this?' A very good piece of advice.
Interview with Jude
- Can you tell us how your wonderful first prize winning story, 'Cleft' came into being? Did it go through many drafts before you were satisfied?
I wanted to write a new story for the Bath competition. I have this method where I clear my head and count to 10 and see where my mind takes me. This time the question popped up – what have I never written about before? The answer was a father and son relationship. I thought about my father and the dimple in his chin that my granddad had. My brother and I have it too but my daughter doesn’t. I started thinking about family lines and the overall idea spooled from there. I wrote Cleft very quickly but it went through 8 drafts. Initial drafts were more focused on the protagonist and his husband and had a bit of a cheesy ending. I cut the husband and tried to focus on the 2 main men and the baby. I had some phrases that I loved but they had to be chopped to fit the word count and I think the story is better for that sparseness.
- You have had many successes in recent years after a gap from writing. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey and the awards you have received?
I loved writing at school but was put off at university by a negative comment from a creative writing tutor and didn’t write again until I was around 28 I think, though I am blurry with dates. I enrolled on an online course and was writing sort of comic, commercial fiction and had a few little publications here and there. My first published piece was a micro comedy about mistreating childhood pets. I am quite open talking about my mental health and unfortunately I developed Generalised Anxiety Disorder a few years into my writing journey. I deleted everything I’d written, threw away hard copies, tried to destroy any trace of my writing. It felt incredibly frightening to have my words and my name out there in public. Fast forward a few years and I had a two year old daughter and I had recovered well with therapy and I thought ‘what do I actually want to do with my life? I want to be a writer.’ I decided to really go for it, and I chose to avoid a pen name as I didn’t want my anxiety to ‘win’. Everything since then has been a pushback against those wasted years. It was the Comma Press course with Lara Williams that really spurred me on, I got so much out of it and Lara was really positive about my work, which encouraged me to carry on once the course finished. I entered the Mairtín Crawford because I like the look of the mentoring prize and I was thrilled to win, I will never forget that phone call – talking professionally on the phone while I was dancing around my bedroom. When I was named Northern Writer of the Year at the Northern Soul Awards last year I was completely gobsmacked. It was the most surreal moment of my writing life. I still have my application on file and it is hilarious, it’s like a sleep deprived comic ramble through my life and I am so grateful that the judges got my sense of humour and enjoyed the story I submitted.
- I believe you are involved in an event at the Edinburgh Fringe. We’d love to hear more about this
One of the strangest things, to me, about my writing career is that I’ve come to love spoken word. It’s very freeing to perform and luckily in Manchester there are plenty of opportunities. I met Jane Claire Bradley of 'For Books’ Sake' when I took her 'Write Like A Grrl' course and she is the most incredible, supportive person. I adore her. She encouraged me to do an open mic practise at a social event and since then I’ve performed around Manchester numerous times and even headlined spoken word events. It’s a real privilege to be on the bill for 'That’s What She Said' at the Edinburgh Fringe and I cannot wait to perform and watch the other performers.
- You have also been teaching flash fiction in your local area. What do you like about teaching the short-short form?
I love teaching in general, my background is in education in various forms so I am well used to delivering workshops. I like teaching flash fiction because, especially for new writers, it feels achievable. People can come to a two hour workshop with me and leave with a full first draft. I’m very into experimental forms and unusual flash so it’s great to see people’s reactions when they read these weird stories and realise that they can have a go. And I do encourage people to play with form in flash, I love the way flash has moved on in the last few years, there’s so much experimentation and innovation nowadays. We’re hearing so many new voices rather than it being a niche form. It’s a wonderful time to be involved in flash writing.
- When and where do you write? And do you have a writing muse – pet, person, object, place?
I have no writing routine. I don’t write every day, I don’t even write every week. I write when ideas come, or I sit and force myself to write, it depends on my mood, my life, my health. Every day is different. I don’t have time or space for a muse! I use my bed or the dining room table and I write on an iPad which is on its way out and hurts my wrists. None of it is ideal. I cannot write when my 4 year old is present, that’s impossible. So it’s either when she’s at school in the afternoons once all the housework is done and the puppy is sorted, or it’s once she’s asleep and I’ve had a bit of time to relax and eat and watch telly. I know some people sacrifice these things to make time to write but I don’t want to. I like watching telly. I do take my writing seriously though, I take it very seriously and have ambitions but I also know how important wind down time is for me, I would snap without it. This is why I get so much done at workshops or retreats – I just turn off and power down, there’s no constant refrain of Mummy, Mummy, there’s no puppy barking at the pigeons in the garden. Silent writing time amongst adults is just utter bliss for me. Rare, but bliss. If people with young children can find time to write, then that’s great, but I won’t beat myself up about it. Someone once told me ‘Raymond Carver used to go and write in his car while his children were young’ and I politely said ‘oh right’ but in my head I was thinking ‘well I’m fairly certain Raymond Carver wasn’t breastfeeding a baby with silent reflux while battling post-natal depression for two years’. People can be so dismissive and there’s this myth that if you’re a writer you’ll write no matter what. Well I do my best to balance life, health, family and writing and I don’t always get it right but I think I’m doing okay.
- Are you someone who likes to write from prompts, like words or images? Or do you get ideas from elsewhere.
I do quite like writing to prompts, yes. I would say around half of my ideas just appear organically as if from nowhere and the other half come from prompts. I have a secret method of creating original stories that I teach on my 'Go Weird or Go Home workshop' and I’ve had a lot of success with that. We are so lucky to have the Internet too, you can think of, say, an animal, and go online and find out mythology and facts that you never would have known then weave them into a story. Recently I was trying to find out about a school teacher of mine from the 1980s and stumbled upon minutes from a 1976 social sciences meeting and its fascinating, I’m definitely to go mix it into a story somewhere. Writing is difficult enough so if prompts work for you, use them, don’t make life any harder than it has to be.
- Writing projects on the go? Anything you’d care to tell us about?
Oh gosh, the short story collection that has been on my bio for eons. I am writing it, honestly, I think I’ve got about 8 stories so far but it is a long slog with so little writing time. I love my stories – it’s important that someone does! But they are so so weird and so dark and just bizarre. It’s the kind of stuff that American writers do so well, but because I’m Northern and they have that Northern dialect and references running through them it’s sometimes like a surreal, twisted version of Coronation Street. I’m not sure who is going to buy it but I’m going to finish it. The other thing I have going on is a new, large, project that is quite different – quite literary, quite serious, very un-Gaynorlike. I think it will surprise people. I don’t want to say too much about it as when it’s complete I’m hoping to enter it in a few competitions so I’ll preserve the mystery and anonymity.
- Any tips for our Award entrants on writing a micro of 300 words or less?
I wouldn’t listen to me because I’m a bit of a flash rebel. I don’t ascribe to the notion that flash has to have forward motion, has to have a clear narrative, has to have anything. As long as the word count is right, give me lists, give me prose poetry, give me vignettes, give me half scripts half spells, give me whatever words you want to write. I love it when people are free in their writing and play. Somewhat controversially, I don’t need writers to justify these creative choices in anyway – I like experimentation for experimentation’s sake, I like weirdness for weirdness’ sake. It’s what I enjoy reading and writing.
Personally, I do like flash to have some emotional impact but another reader will tell you something else is just as important to them. My only bit of flash writing advice is: could anyone else have written this? Or could only you have written it? Answer that question honestly and ditch anything in the former category.
Thank you to everyone from around the world who entered the June Award. Our fourth 'Last Minute Club' badge was collected as usual by a large number of intrepid entrants and we ended up with 1062 entries this time. We really do appreciate you all so much for entering the Award. Thirty-six countries were represented.
Our big thanks to Judge Christopher Allen for his work in judging and writing his report with his very useful comments on all the stories and for his support and sharing of the Award on social media. Christopher announced the results live at the Flash Fiction Festival in Bristol at the same time as the results were posted online and it was all very exciting. This summer, Gaynor Jones from the UK won first prize, Anita Arlov from New Zealand won second prize, Stephanie Hutton from the UK won third prize, Hilary Dean from Canada was commended and Tim Craig from the UK was commended. Tim Craig was actually attending the Festival and read his story, The Falling Silent for us. And Christopher Allen read Cleft by our winner, Gaynor Jones. It was great to hear these pieces and also lovely to have a New Zealand writer Anita Arlov as one of the winners as she is known by festival presenters from New Zealand, Michelle Elvy and Nod Ghosh.
Many of the authors of the fifty longlisted stories have accepted publication and we are looking forward to reading those and the shortlisted and winning pieces in our end-of-year anthology which will be published by Ad Hoc Fiction in digital and paperback versions and sold online at the Ad Hoc Fiction Bookshop. All published authors receive a free copy of the anthology. The 13th Award is open now and closes in mid October. Results will be out at the end of October. Early bird entrants can buy reduced cost entries until mid-August. And anyone winning our free weekly contest run by Ad Hoc Fiction gets a free entry to the Award. This time the Award is judged by writer, editor and teacher Nancy Stohlman. Read all about her and what she is looking for in Jude's interview with her.