Tag Archives: Michael Loveday

Judge’s report

Michael Loveday, who is judging the Novella-in-Flash Award for the second year running, has been busy reading and re-reading the long list of twenty-seven novellas for the past five weeks. We thank him very much for his work so far and wish him well for the next tough stage of choosing winners from this short list of fourteen excellent novellas-in-flash. Best wishes to all on the list for his final choices and good luck to everyone else on the long list for future publication of their novellas. We agree with him that the standard was very high and we so appreciate all those who tackled this form of fiction and sent entries in to us in this our fourth year of the award. It's all very exciting. Michael will write a further report on the winners and commended writers which will be added to this page when final results are announced in early April.

Michael's comments on the longlist

Every manuscript had genuine merits and I feel for those authors who haven’t made this shortlist; there were some very marginal calls.

My initial “long shortlist” of manuscripts I thought might make the final shortlist (based on a first read) had two-thirds of the novellas on it! There are some astonishingly good novellas in the list of fourteen. The overall consistency across the longlist made for some tricky/tough/brutal [delete as appropriate] decisions. My expectation is that many of these novellas, including some on the longlist, will eventually find publishers and that other readers will experience the same visceral thrill as I did when encountering these stories.

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Interview with Dan Crawley, author of the novella-in-flash, ‘Straight Down The Road’

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!

Read in Full

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Interview with Debra A. Daniel, author of ‘The Roster’, highly commended in the Bath Novella-in-Flash Award, 2019

The Roster by Debra A. Daniel was published in June this year and launched in the UK at the Flash Fiction Festival in Bristol. Our 2019 judge, Michael Loveday, had this to say about the novella:

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

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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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Top Tips For Writing A Novella-in-Flash by Michael Loveday, 2020 Novella judge

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?

Ask yourself: 
(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.

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Interview with Ellie Walsh 2019 Novella-in-Flash Winner

Read this fascinating interview with Ellie Walsh, the winner of our third novella-in-flash award with her wonderful novella, Birds with Horse Hearts.

This year, the Award was judged by Michael Loveday. In his judge's comments copied here, Michael gives a synopsis of the novella. He writes:

Three women take centre stage in this novella-in-flash, a rich and poetic study of a poor farming family in Nepal, with whom a woman from Iowa is staying, for unnamed reasons, after the death of her husband. Here the impoverished and marginalised are, for once, placed in the foreground, and the story is partly about how we can and must find beauty and love amidst harshness and deprivation. At the centre of it all is the enigmatic, beguiling, and tragic figure of the young prostitute Putali, at once trapped in a difficult life, and yet as free-spirited as a butterfly. This is a novella shadowed by loss and the search for belonging; it is also, in its own quiet, subtle and radical way, a love story. The quality of the sentence-making is stunning, the characterisation vivid and unique, and the narrative compelling and effortlessly handled, layered with skilful exposition, motifs and foreshadowings. I couldn’t fault the decisions that had been taken by the author and, although there were several other very fine manuscripts of clearly publishable quality, in the end this dark jewel of a story haunted me the most out of all the submissions – as soon as I encountered it, the characters, setting, and storyline simply refused to leave my head.

We are very pleased that Ad Hoc Fiction is publishing Ellie's stunning novella-in-flash in a single-author book later this year. It's a must-read. Ellie is also a member of a panel at the Flash Fiction Festival UK in June, discussing the Novella-in-Flash, with Meg Pokrass and Charmaine Wilkerson. Michael Loveday is chairing the discussion and facilitating Q and A. Read in Full

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2019 Novella-in-Flash Award Results and Round Up

Many congratulations to the 2019 winners in our 2019 Novella-in-Flash Award and also to the Highly Commended writers. First prize goes to UK based author, Ellie Walsh, for her novella-in-flash Birds with Horse Hearts. The two Runners-Up are Johanna Robinson, also from the UK for her novella-in-flash, Homing and John Brantingham from the US with his novella-in-flash Inland Empire Afternoon.

This year we are also pleased to be able to award three Highly Commended prizes to Francine Witte from the US for The Way of The Wind, Debra Daniel from the US for Roster and Dan Crawley from the US for Straight Down the Road.

We received 108 entries this year, nearly the same number as in 2018 and submissions came in from several different countries including the UK, Ireland, Spain, US, Australia and New Zealand. As our 2019 Judge, Michael Loveday, remarked in his report, the standard of entries was very high. And it has been exciting to read how different authors interpret the form. We love how the novella-in-flash allows for much experimentation, in the whole structure and within the individual flash fiction 'chapters'. We received novellas in several different genres - science fiction based stories, stories showing life within a family or a relationship, historical stories, crime stories. Some covered large time spans, others focussed on events in a day, but all the long listed novellas had their unique 'flash fiction' take, making them very different from a 'standard' novella or short novel. The novella-in-flash is a form growing massively in popularity, with our inaugural winner How To Make A Window Snake , by Charmaine Wilkerson, winning the Saboteur Novella Prize in 2018 and recently, Sophie Van Llewyn's novella-in-flash, Bottled Goods, published by Fairlight Press, being shortlisted for the Women's Fiction Prize.

Having tested the water over the past two years and in light of these developments, we are very keen to further promote the form and to support our winners and commended writers by publishing the three winners each as a single book in both paperbook and digital copies. And we are also offering a similar publishing opportunity to our three Highly Commended Writers. These six novellas-in-flash are all fantastic reads and we believe they will encourage anyone interested in writing one, to have a go at the form.

We also hope, later down the line, to offer publication to the four other excellent novellas on our short list: Kremlin Quixote by David Rhymes from Spain; Off the Resting Sea by US based writer, Al Kratz; At the Bottom of the Stairs by UK author Chloe Banks, and George X by Peter Matthews, also from the UK.

Finally, we offer our huge thanks and appreciation to Michael Loveday, for all his work on judging our 2019 Award. He read and considered all the longlisted novellas very carefully, and has studied the shortlisted novellas even more closely. He is very enthusiastic about the novella-in-flash as a genre and keen on all its possibilities. It has been wonderful having him as our judge and we are very pleased to welcome him back to judge next year. The 2020 Award will open in April and end in mid January, 2020. More details posted soon.

Jude Higgins, BFFA founder,

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Novella-in-Flash 2019 Award Judge’s report

Our 2019 Novella-in-Flash Award judge, Michael Loveday's writes about the process of selecting the short list and this is followed by his comments on the winning novella-in-flash, the two runners-up and three highly commended novellas-in-flash..Michael has judged everything 'blind' and did not know the names of the winners until this announcement. Read more about the 2019 Award on Jude's Award Round-Up post. Read in Full

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Draft your flash novella during FlashNano

In 2012, writer and writing tutor Nancy Stohlman conceived the idea to run a series of daily prompts during November for those who wanted write a flash fiction a day instead of writing a novel during November for NaNoWriMo. Six years on, and a huge number of writers throughout the world take up her challenge each November. Read more about how she started this in my interview with her from last year.  Want to write a novella-in-flash for our third Novella-in-flash Award? We think with the motivating prompts Nancy supplies, November is an ideal month to create a flash fiction novella draft. Thirty stories and you'll have a complete draft manuscript at the end of the month. Don't know where to begin? The prompts themselves may give you initial ideas, and they can also push forward a vague idea you already have and take it in different directions.  You can also sign up to a Face Book group to receive daily prompts from Meg Pokrass throughout the month. Read in Full

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Evening of Flash Readings

With members of Flash Fiction Festivals UK organising team and helpers.

Jude Higgins, Diane Simmons, Santino Prinzi, Michael Loveday, Karen Jones, KM Elkes, Matt Thorpe Coles and John Wheway.

Our readers are widely published writers and experienced performers of flash fiction. Learn more about them at on the festival website and at johnwheway.com. Each writer will have a slot of about 8 mins. A fun and pacy evening with many different styles of short short fiction to inspire you.

Sat. 6th October 
7.30 pm – 9.30 pm
late bar, free snacks
St James' Wine Vaults
www.stjameswinevaults.co.uk
10 St James St
Bath
BA1 2TW
 

Cost £5

for your name put on the door.

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