Tag Archives: flash fiction festival

Interview with Mary-Jane Holmes, Judge, March-June 2020.

Mary-Jane Holmes is a writer, teacher and editor based in the Durham Dales, UK. She has been published in such places as the Best Small Fictions Anthology 2016 and 2018, and the Best Microfictions Anthology 2020 Her work can also be found in The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Spelk, Cabinet of Heed, Flashback Fiction, Mslexia, Fictive Dream, The Lonely Crowd, and Prole amongst others. She is winner of the Mslexia Prize (2018), the Reflex Fiction prize (Autumn 2019) and the Dromineer Fiction Prize (2014).In 2017, she won the Bridport Poetry Prize and her poetry collection Heliotrope with Matches and Magnifying Glass was published by Pindrop Press in 2018. She is currently studying for a creative writing PhD at Newcastle University and she has an unpublished flash collection knocking about that was recently short-listed for the International Beverly Prize for Literature.
@emjayinthedale

  • You have been very successful in major competitions with your flash fiction over the last couple of years, winning both the Mslexia flash fiction competition and the Reflex Flash Fiction competition as well being listed and commended in other Awards most recently in the International Beverly Prize for Literature for a flash fiction collection. What do you enjoy about writing flash? And have you a favourite piece among your winners?
    I think flash fiction is one of the most flexible genres around given that it can occupy that liminal space between prose and poetry. It is also a place that can absorb risk and experimentation because of its brevity and of course it is a great discipline. I would urge anyone who wants to write in longer forms, to first cut their teeth on a genre that will teach them how concision and compression drive prose to be the best it can be. ‘No decorative humbugs’ as George Orwell said. Out of the pieces, that I have been lucky enough to have done well with, I think 'Down the Long Long Line' that will be in this year’s Best Microfiction Anthology is a favourite as it is very much tied with my PhD that deals with looking at history and the female voice.
  • You are a poet as well as a flash fiction writer. Do you find you can move easily between the two forms? Some people make a strong distinction between prose poetry and flash. Others don’t see much difference. Do you have a view on this? 
    I always set out knowing whether I am going to write either a poem or a flash fiction. There has never been anything I have written where I have thought - oh this isn’t a poem, it’s a piece of flash, so I must, on some level see a difference between the two forms although it is hard to pin that down. I suppose that something that has more narrative drive, suits flash fiction and perhaps that is where the distinction lies for me.
    • Which flash fiction writers do you currently enjoy reading? 
      Oh gosh - well pretty much all of the writers that Ad Hoc fiction published last year. Michael Loveday, Charmaine Wilkerson, Ken Elkes, Meg Pokrass. Amy Hempel is probably the writer that got me into considering the short form and Lydia Davies of course. There are many many others….
    • Teaching flash fiction is something you have done for many years, both single workshops, like at The Flash Fiction Festival in 2019 and longer courses. What do you like about teaching this form? In your longer courses, do you find that  there is a point where writers suddenly grasp what flash fiction is?
      I think that teaching flash fiction is ultimately so satisfying because it provides a writer with everything they need to know about narrative structure, style and the character’s dynamics of desire that are key to animating any story. Whether that writer wants to move to the longer form or not, the thing about flash is that the image rather than the idea (Nabakov said ‘all ideas are hogwash’)  drives the tension. Readers really only connect with the emotions a writer is trying to convey when the image is at the forefront, and students of flash fiction quickly understand this and use it to great advantage. If just starting out, this saves a lot of time realizing that summary and explanation aren’t as resonant as drama and action and that as writers our responsibility is to give just enough detail for the reader to build the picture and the story on their own. We want readers who actively participate in a story, not passive listeners being told everything, Flash Fiction is by far the best genre to learn this and to learn it quickly!
    • Have you got any up and coming workshops or courses, people can book on?
      I am really sorry to be missing this year’s Bristol Flash Fiction Festival but unfortunately it clashes with running the Casa Ana writing retreat in Granada, Spain which I facilitate two to three times a year. I have a new online Memoir Flash course that I will be running with Retreat West later in the year and I also run an online course with Fish Publishing Ireland which you can sign up to any time.
    • What makes a winning micro fiction for you?
      A great opening that will draw me in, after all in micro, we are finishing the story almost as we start it. After reading the story, I want to feel that the story’s ending was inevitable and yet surprising at the same time. That doesn’t mean that the ending needs to be nice and neat but I do want to say ‘Wow, of course!’ and not ‘where did that come from?’
    • Tips to help writers  create their best story of 300 words or under?  
      Zoom in on a single event;
      Begin in the middle of the action as close to the arc or climax of the story;
      Decide where your focus is – event, point-of-view, character?;
      Write using active voice and eliminate extraneous description;
      Remember that every word counts;
      Use a directive last sentence that gives narrative insight or opinion;
      Make rereads necessary or at least inviting;
      Close with a phrase that sends the reader back into the story;
      Know when you've made your point.
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  • 14th Award Round Up

    Thank you very much to all the world-wide Flash Fiction writers who entered stories in our 14th Award. I's wonderful that so many people from around the world are writing flash fiction. Our entries increased again, this time to 1367. There were so many inventive stories, so many good ones to choose from to find our long list of fifty. Entries came in from the following thirty-one countries:

    Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States

    The last weeks of the Award were very busy and the Last Minute Club writers who, on the last day, 16th February, received their badge pictured here, this time a sunny yellow, were jostling at the door up until the very last seconds before midnight. We've produced badges for the last six awards and I am sure several writers have collected all of them.

    Several different countries were represented in the long and short lists and this year, our five winners come from four different countries/continents. Many congratulations to our first prize winner Sharon Telfer, from the UK who has now won first prize twice, the last time in Summer 2016. She also had a story commended in February 2019. What a fantastic achievement! And many congratulations also to our second prize winner, Simon Cowdroy from Australia, who has had a story commended by us before, and third prize to Christina Dalcher from the USA, who was also a first prize winner in February 2019. Many congratulations also to Remi Skytterstad from Norway, who was highly commended and Claire Powell from the UK, also highly commended. All five stories are brilliant examples of flash fiction and you can read them on the winners' pages on this site and later in our print anthology.

    It's always exciting to compile the first part of the year-end anthology and many long and short listed authors have already accepted our publication offer for the fifth BFFA anthology, which will be published in December this year, after all three yearly awards have been completed. We hope those who have booked for the flash fiction festival, 19-21st June and who are winners or listed writers, might like to read their pieces in our Open Mic Sessions. It is always great to hear them read out loud.

    This time the Award turn around was even quicker than usual. We wanted to complete it by the end of February and we are very grateful to the reading team for dedicating many hours of reading during the life of the Award and in particular in the last few weeks and the final weekend and afterwards and for our judge, writer, editor and tutor and one of the Directors of National Flash Fiction Day UK, Santino Prinzi, for immersing himself in the longlist over several days to select the short list, find the winners and achieve a very fast result. He told us the whole process was a blast which he greatly enjoyed. Read his report and comments here.

    The next Award judged by writer and writing tutor, Mary-Jane Holmes opens on March 1st and ends on Sunday June 7th. Results will be out by the end of June. We look forward to reading more flash fictions and be astonished, moved, humbled and amazed all over again.

    Jude Higgins
    February, 2020

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    Anthologies Launched in Bath

    On Saturday 8th February, at the full moon and on a blustery night, we launched Flash Fiction Three and With One Eye On The Cows, Bath Flash Fiction Award, Vol 4 both published by Ad Hoc Fiction, our small indie press, at the lovely St James Wine Vaults in Bath. We were delighted that eighteen writers were able to come and read their micros from the two anthologies. It was a fast-paced and fun evening. We had a double-book cover cake, wine, nibbles, a raffle and plenty of time for chatting. The room was packed with our readers, their friends and family members and our guests.

    In the first half of the evening we heard micros published in Flash Fiction Festival Three written by festival director Jude Higgins, festival team members and volunteers, Judy Darley, Michael Loveday, Grace Palmer and John Wheway, festival participants, Dave Alcock, Andrea Harman, Felicity Cowie and Ruth Foster and festival presenter, Carrie Etter. A whole range of great little stories — many of them prompted by workshops at last year's festival.

    In the second half, eight writers published in With One Eye on The Cows came to read their stories. And many travelled a long way.Several of these writers contributed photographs to our photo gallery when their books arrived. We were lucky to catch Fiona Mackintosh from the USA, on a visit to her family in England and Don Taylor came from Glasgow, Dide Siemmond and Clementine F. Burnley from London, Jeanette Sheppard from the Midlands, Leonie Rowland from Manchester and Santino Prinzi and Diane Simmons who live locally. More wonderful micros — winners, shortlisted and longlisted stories, selected out of our yearly total of over 3000 entries for the three 2019 Bath Flash Fiction Awards, last year judged by Vanessa Gebbie, Christopher Allen and Nancy Stohlman.

    Michael Loveday sold raffle tickets with prizes of several books published by Ad Hoc Fiction, to raise funds for reduced cost places at the Flash Fiction Festival and we raised £45, enough to pay for one local writer, who is short of cash, to attend the pre-festival workshop on historical fiction by Nuala 0'Connor taking place from 2.00 pm - 5.00 pm on Friday 19th June, at our festival venue, Trinity College, Bristol. Contact us directly about this if you are a local writer on a low income and would like to take up the place. Nuala is a great teacher, historical novelist, short story and flash fiction writer.

    The 14th Bath Flash Fiction Award closes in one week. And as usual we are looking forward to offering publication in our year-end anthology to the fifty longlisted writers in this round. The Festival is open for bookings and two-thirds of the places have now gone. We'd love to see you there!

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    2019 Flash Fiction Highlights

    Thank you so much to everyone in the world-wide flash fiction community who supported all our enterprises in 2019 and helped them thrive. It's really been a great year for Bath Flash Fiction. We ran three more successful single flash fiction awards, our third novella-in- flash award, our third Flash Fiction Festival, hosted several reading events and Ad Hoc Fiction, our fantastic short-short press, published twelve new flash fiction books pictured above, which are all available to buy from the online bookshop in several different currencies. And, in a first for Ad Hoc Fiction, the everrumble by New Zealand based author, Michelle Elvy first published in the UK in June, 2019 and launched at the Flash Fiction Festival, is now published and available to buy in New Zealand. More details on our year-in-flash below:
    Read in Full

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    ‘All That Is Between Us’, Interview with author, K. M. Elkes

    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.

    Read in Full

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    Flash Fiction Book Launch and Celebration Readings

    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.

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    Review by Marissa Hoffmann of ‘the everrumble’ by Michelle Elvy

    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.

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    Interview with Johanna Robinson about her novella-in-flash, ‘Homing’

    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.

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    Out Now! ‘Birds With Horse Hearts’, ‘Homing’ and ‘The Roster’ – three winning novellas-in-flash

    We launched three of the winning novellas-in-flash at the Flash Fiction Festival in Bristol 28th-30th June. Birds with Horse Hearts by Eleanor Walsh Homing By Johanna Robinson and The Roster by Debra A Daniel. You can now buy all these marvellous novellas in paperback from the Ad Hoc Fiction Bookshop. Just click on the book titles linked above to go straight to the correct bookshop page.

    We were delighted that the first prize winner Eleanor Walsh and Runner-Up Johanna Robinson were able to attend the festival to read extracts from, and talk about their novellas. The 2019 judge, Michael Loveday chaired the panel which included Charmaine Wilkerson, who won the 2017 Award with her novella in flash How To Make A Window Snake and and Meg Pokrass, who judged the 2017 Award and whose novella Here Where We Live, is included in the Rose Metal Press Field Guide to writing a novella-in-flash. It was very interesting to hear from all these writers about the form.

    Debra Daniel lives in the US, and wasn't able to attend the Festival, but all books were available in our festival bookshop and created much interest. It is so exciting to see three new examples of this fast developing genre. They are all brilliant reads and have had much advanced praise.

    Birds With Horse Hearts takes us to the lowlands of contemporary Nepal and "explores the entangled lives of three women as they navigate grief, freedom and their own journeys to find people to call family and places to call home." Judge Michael Loveday said Homing, "an historical fiction encompassing the Second World War and telling the story of a Norwegian family from 1933 to 1970 has more epic sweep than many novels", and commented that The Roster, an "ensemble cast" novella, a superbly individualised, vivid, inventive and memorable sequence of stories about a teacher's pupils at a school is a story of immense charm with real emotional substance."

    The 2020 Novella in Flash Award, judged again this time by Michael Loveday is now open for entries and closes January 12th 2020.

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    Nancy Stohlman Flash Fiction Award Judge July 2019 – October 2019

    Nancy Stohlman is the author of Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities (finalist for a Colorado Book Award), The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories, the flash novels The Monster Opera and Searching for Suzi, and three anthologies of flash fiction including Fast Forward: The Mix Tape She is the creator and curator of The Fbomb Flash Fiction Reading Series, the creator of FlashNano in November, and her work has been published in the W.W. Norton anthology New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction and will be included in the 2019 Best Small Fictions. She lives in Denver and teaches at the University of Colorado Boulder as well as co-facilitates flash fiction retreats around the world. Find out more at www.nancystohlman.com

    We sent Nancy these questions while she was at the end of her writing sabbaticaL. And since then we've seen her at the Flash Fiction Festival, 28-30 June, in Bristol, teaching and performing her flash. She ran some great workshops on performing work and we got to hear her read and saw her in a special video created by our last judge Christopher Allen and his husband. So much fun!

    • You have recently been on a writing sabbatical for three weeks. Can you let us know how it went? What was the most worthwhile thing about deciding to take some time out in this way? And has the time resulted in another collection ready to go?.

    It was amazing (actually I’m in my final days right now). First of all I can’t remember being alone for 3 weeks—maybe ever. Really alone. So I went through a lot of creative levels—excitement, possibility, self-doubt, fear, breakdown, breakthrough, acceptance, and lots and lots of gratitude. I think my biggest discovery is how essential boredom is to creativity. I just wrote a whole essay about Holy Boredom here

    But staying in the same place for a long time is different than the usual travel, where we are rushing past things and quickly taking pictures, barely skimming the surface. I recognize the townspeople now, they recognize me. We wave like friends passing on the street. I can spot the new crop of tourists, fleshy and pink and overeager. I’ve been here so long I know who the town crazies are, know that they are harmless. The waiter asks: how is your book, you find inspiration yet? Just today he brought me my coffee exactly how I like it before I even ordered. When I needed a new snorkel the shopkeeper takes it out of the wrapping—you pay me tomorrow he says.
    Are you sure?
    Did you come here to steal? You pay me tomorrow.
    It feels like acceptance.

    New manuscript? Let’s hope so…I’m leaving with a nearly completed draft of…something. Time will tell.

    • Can you tell us more about your collection Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities (which was recently a finalist in the literary section of the prestigious Colorado Book Award) and how it came about?

    Yes, another crazy impulse that turned into something. As usual I didn’t set out to write a book, I just started writing the pieces as individuals and then collaging them and then realized that indeed I was writing a bigger story. Many of the pieces in Madam Velvet are my shortest ever—tiny stories, micros. And they started to play together and create a cabaret of their own, a variety show with an impulse running from beginning to end. A traveling freak show on the page.

    I often use theatrics as a framework for my writing. I wrote another flash novel (published back in 2013) called The Monster Opera, where the story was an opera within an opera. Super weird. I’ve actually performed both Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities and The Monster Opera as full shows with full casts and original music composed by Nick Busheff. You can see clips from both these on the links.

    And the Colorado Book Award—yes! I was especially excited because of course there was no flash fiction category so I submitted the book as a short story collection, which isn’t exactly right but close enough. Then I was told that all the short story entries were going to be combined with literary fiction and I thought: Well shit. Now I have no chance! So to have this book, this very strange, out of the box book, be a finalist in literary fiction, was a double and triple win for me and I feel for flash fiction in general.

    • I recently attended a writing retreat you led with Kathy Fish in Italy and saw you perform some of the pieces from this collection wonderfully. Reading a story outloud is always good for revision purposes, and do you think performing it as if to an audience might help a writer learn more about it?

    We loved having you! And thank you — you not only got to see me perform but you got to see me accompanied by Nick, so that was an extra treat. And yes, because I have a performance background — I’ve been on various stages, singing, acting, etc—since I was 10 — it naturally bleeds into my work as a writer. I think it lends a certain ear for musicality, dialogue and timing.

    Can we learn how to edit our work through reading to an audience? Definitely. Many times I’ve been reading something to an audience and instinctively know during the reading that a sentence is going on too long, or I need to change a word. And I’ll do that on the fly. Then, as soon as the reading is over I’ll make those same changes on the page. Pay attention to the audience’s cues: Where they laugh. If they didn’t clap at the end because they didn’t know it was over. Etc.

    In 2013 I started the Fbomb Flash Fiction Reading Seriess in Denver (and helped facilitate the NYC spinoff in 2016 with Paul Beckman). One of my goals with that series, besides creating a dedicated showcase for flash fiction, was to help writers get better at reading their work. It’s not something that comes easily to a lot of people. But it’s so important.

    • You have been teaching flash for many years. Can you tell us more about your current online workshops and how writers may join them?

    I’ve been teaching flash fiction since 2009 and teaching online flash workshops since 2012, and in that time there have been so many evolutions! In some of my earliest (online) classes we actually had telephone conference calls (!), which of course no longer worked once the students became international.

    My online offerings for the summer are just about full. I’m about to launch a new Flash Novel class in July—it’s full with a waiting list we we’ll see how it goes. The best chance to work with me this summer is during my weekend workshop “Through the Back Door: Absurdism as a Way to Truth” hosted by Bending Genres August 23-25.

    Monthly Online Workshops

    I also have a Writing Flash Fiction self-paced generative workshop that has rolling registration—it includes 5 self-paced lessons with accompanying prompts, readings, and videos.It’s a great starter to flash and/or a jump start if you are feeling in a rut and want to shake up your creativity. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find it. It’s a good introduction to me as well. And then there are always the in-person workshops—I’ll be teaching with Kathy (Fish) and Randall Brown in Colorado this August. Unfortunately I’m beholden to the university schedule so I load up my classes during the summer and winter, mostly. But look for me to run FlashNano again in November (8th year!) and I’ll be offering a new crop of classes in the winter break Dec/Jan.

    • What do you like about teaching flash fiction?

    Well, and I’m not alone in this, as a teacher it’s extremely helpful to guide students through entire drafts from beginning to end, something that’s tough with long works. And of course the best is the a-ha! Whether it’s the a-ha! of a new idea brought to fruition or the a-ha! of finally unlocking the key to a story that hasn’t worked yet (I’m crazy about revision). The great thing about teaching for so long is I have worked with writers who were new to flash fiction once, and then over the years I have watched them publish, then win awards, then publish books, then have those books win awards! It’s super rewarding.

    But mostly I love being on the front lines of the flash fiction movement, seeing how this tiny little genre is changing all of literature, changing how we tell stories.

    • What sort of micros would you love to see among the entries?

    That’s hard to say because I’ll just know it when I see it. I’ll tell you want I don’t want to see: stories that are trying too hard. Trying too hard to be: cute, clever, weird, poignant, traumatic, intense, etc. I can always see through that.

    Actually, you know what I really want to see? The story that arrived for you seemingly out of the blue, the one you drafted in just 15 minutes because it just poured out of you, almost effortlessly, almost as if you weren’t the one writing it. That magical gift-from-the-muse story. Those are my favorite because they feel like they spring from a deep well of creativity that isn’t always easy to tap.

    • A tip for a writer finessing a micro of three hundred words or under?

    I hesitate to give absolutes, like “don’t try to do too much in a micro”, because as soon as I say that then someone writes a story that does “too much” and it’s brilliant and it works perfectly. So in the end, write what wants to be written (see gift-from-the-muse story above). The story that chooses you as a midwife, not the other way around.

    But my very favourite tip for editing in general is to cut the story in half. Then cut it in half again. I was first inspired to do this exercise by Bruce Taylor, and since then I have had many students do it and have done it myself many times. That doesn’t mean that either of the “cut” version are THE final version; the final version might be somewhere in the middle. But forcing yourself to make the hard decisions of what stays and what goes when you cut in half is extremely revealing. It’s an excellent way to get honest with ourselves.

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