Ad Hoc Fiction, our short short fiction press, published the other side of better, by Michelle Elvy in June this year, exactly two years after publishing her innovative small novel in small forms, the everrumble, launched at the Flash Fiction Festival, held in Bristol in 2019. This new book is equally innovative, traversing the line between prose and poetry. In this interview Michelle tells us more about the book, the book launches which took place in New Zealand in June to co-incide with National Flash Fiction Day, NZ and what New Zealand poet laureate David Eggleton said about it. Michelle also talks about how she arrived at the title and the striking artwork for the cover by New Zealand artist, Jennifer Halli. the other side of better is also available from Nationwide and book shops in New Zealand as well as directly from Ad Hoc Fiction and in August and September Michelle is recording some online readings so we will all be able to hear stories from the collection. We are also delighted that Michelle Elvy, who judged our 2021 Novella-in-Flash Award, is judging the 2022 NIF Award which is open for entries now and closes on January 14th 2022. Read in Full
Thank you to all those who entered our fifth yearly Novella-in-Flash Award. We received just over one hundred entries from around the world, about the same number as last year. It’s a difficult genre to write in, and we very much appreciated the range and variety within the entries both in style, setting and subject matter. There were many themes about relationships and family and also wider political issues and contemporary concerns. It was so enjoyable reading them and making the decisions, although hard, on which ones to include in the long list of twenty-five novellas. Michelle has written a wonderful report with comments on her process of selecting for the short list and choosing the winning novellas. We thank her very much for the extreme care she took over this process; many, many hours mulling over the choices for the shortlist and then choosing the three winners and two commended authors.
We love the novella-in-flash ‘genre’ at Bath Flash Fiction Award, and are so pleased that Ad Hoc Fiction is able to publish the entire short list of ten novellas this year. Many congratulations to all authors: our first prize winner, David Swann; our two runners up, Tom 0’Brien and Al Kratz; the two highly commended Hannah Sutherland and Sudha Balagopal and the five shortlisted authors; Michelle Christophorou, Debra Daniel, Tracy Fells, Jupiter Jones and Ali McGrane. You can read the biographies on our winners and shortlisted writers pages on this website and we will be publishing short interviews with them soon.
We are also much looking forward to seeing all these novellas in print to join 14 novellas-in-flash series already published by Ad Hoc Fiction since we ran the inaugural Award in 2017. Hopefully, the books all be available from Ad Hoc Fiction in paperback and from Amazon worldwide in paperback and digital versions by the end of this year or early next year. We will keep you posted.
The 2022 Novella in Flash Award will be open soon.
What a very fine set of flash novellas! And what a daunting task – perhaps the most difficult reading I’ve done. A huge congratulations to every writer who completed a novella-in-flash and submitted, and then a further round of applause to the writers whose work is in the Long List. Wow.
Many thanks also to Ad Hoc Fiction/ BFFA for entrusting me with this challenging and rewarding task. I learn so much every time I read new sets of flash fictions – and this collection of novellas certainly raises the bar.
It’s no easy task writing a collection of stories with a narrative arc, with overtones and undercurrents, with full yet flawed characters, with suspense and mystery in such a small space. Every one of the novellas in the long list has something special about it – many of them intense family portrayals, many of them drawn from history of a place and the nuances from a time long gone, several of them capturing innocence and loss. The form is evolving; writers are taking more chances in the way they write novellas-in-flash, as this long list demonstrates. Some experiment with time; some explore voice and point-of-view in inventive ways; a few play with dialogue and the vernacular; one begins with a recipe.
This long list takes us from Augusta to Reykjavik. And the names: imaginative and evocative, from ‘Fishing Lines’ to ‘Throw A Seven’, from ‘Wild Boys’ to ‘His Raucous Girls’ – I wanted to meet the people in these pages.
The stories captivated me from the opening lines, too. Here are few memorable ones:
I’m starting to believe my own stories. – Remembering What the Doormouse Said
“Two girls in thrift-store broomstick skirts leap from the dinner table, two girls in the
desert smell rain.” – His Raucous Girls
“Sixty-one paces between the Pool of the Monster and the Elm Field. Cara says fifty-five. I don’t argue. Never argue. She’s a year older. Knows things I don’t know.” – Long Bend Shallows
“Greedy and selfish. That’s babies for you,’ said the old woman.” – The End of History
Arriving at the Short List took ages. I moved back and for the between stories, I examined beginnings, middles and endings. I examined dialogue and pacing. I walked away and let them settle into my brain and heart. I read them again. Finally, the ten on the short list emerged as they each took all of the things we love about the short form one step further. They took risks, and I admired them for that. Here’s a hint of what the short list holds:
A Family of Great Falls. Two sisters growing up with a sense of the potential promise that life may hold, as well as the dark realities that are unavoidable with a father who, as an undertaker, is the ‘keeper of the dead’ and a brother buried in the town cemetery. Oh, and a name that must be buried and farewelled, too. Tender but not sentimental, this is a balanced set of stories that reveal the bonds of sisterhood and the way two young girls face the hardest challenges.
Hairy on the Inside. A group of flatmates try to hold onto their compassion and civilising tendencies in the face of pestilence and plague – mostly. Their new lockdown lives include all the typical things, from counselling sessions to book clubs. But this is no ordinary tale: you will howl when the moon is full and grimace when there’s a hunger for blood. A funny and irreverent monster mash-up, with love in the mix, too, and a serious message about how to be the real you. Carefully written with excellent pacing but also: it’s clear how much fun the writer had writing this!
Kipris. New life, and repeated death on the island of Cyprus. A story that intertwines people and politics, historical drama and myth, in an intricate and lyrical way, moving from the oceanside to the mountains to lemon and orange groves, and then to Liverpool and back again. Spanning across generations from the 1940s to the 1980s, this is a study in self-determination and love, on many levels. And goats – filling us with warm frothy milk, filling the stories with sustenance.
The Death and Life of Mrs Parker. Set in the structure the title suggests, this novella brings the reader into the moment of Mrs Parker’s demise and then, with swift moves and snappy dialogue, takes us through her life (moments both special and mundane), all while the ambulance lights flare and the compressions are counted. A life lived, a life revived, a life lost: there are many wonderful moments in this clever set of stories.
The Listening Project. A boy lost to his family; a young girl growing up without her brother. This is a beautiful story of grief and the way it changes us. It’s also about tuning in, and learning to hear, as the title suggests: to both outside and inside worlds. Moving across generations and sometimes navigating delicate moments and thin ice, this novella takes us through a family’s sad story, but also rebirth – in more ways than one. Musical and rich in tone.
And now, here are the top placements…
Small Things. A beautiful story of loss, told in a way that surprises you, because love is expansive between the people in this story – between Jude and his Da, between Jude and the memory of his Ma, between Jude and Una, between Jude and Kit. And even as the love is grand, the moments are captured with subtle storytelling, and the heart shines with all the small things between them. These stories hold sharp dialogue and sometimes uncomfortable encounters; these feel like real people building real relationships. Friendship and love resonate in these pages, and the ending is both surprising and perfect. The story is layered over the years, from Jude’s first encounter with the new boy Kit (age 7) to his early adulthood when the world is baffling and unbalanced, where weaknesses and strengths come to light. And Kit, Kit Kit, at the centre of it all. Exceptional storytelling!
Things I can’t tell Amma. A coming-of-age story of a young woman studying abroad, reaching across oceans and time to her family back in Calcutta. Deepa misses the spices and comfort of home, but she embraces the newness and choice that this new world has to offer. Deepa’s encounters captivate the reader. The details take us there; this in 1981 America: giggly girls tune into General Hospital and Good Morning, America, President Reagan is shot, Prince Charles marries Lady Diana Spencer. Deepa is far from the traditions and expectations of her known world, and she opens her mind and her heart. It’s a world of jalapeño and new spices and even danger. And humour, too: there’s a clickety typewriter with a missing letter and ‘Whats-his-name’, the pet bird she can’t name. And there is love, first hinted at when Deepa does not pull back as Theo reaches for her hand, and then told delicately in second person and closing the set with a wonderful, gentle ending.
One for the River. An economy of words that tells a richly layered story. This is one of the shortest collections in the batch, and yet here we have so much as the writer shows the death of a boy from many views and paints a picture of the people who inhabit this small town. A great deal of control is exercised here; both the writing and the story are restrained but full. The themes intrigue: impermanence versus permanence; a fleeting moment versus decisive finality; an encounter observed as chance but with clear results. A photograph not taken encompasses the idea of ‘would have/ could have…’, while a stone carved with hammer and chisel reminds us of what can be said without words. This story leaves me with images of these people, and the moments between them – some wicked, some funny, some full of sorrow and also grace. And there’s a play with language, too: the chip van, the chipping of the stone; the rock of one’s life, the rock that Aiden drags, Sisyphean, to the bridge where the drowning boy was first observed. The idea of change, too: what happens to Fat Barry; what happens to Aiden. And then there’s the drowning itself – the five stages that are essential and eloquent, placed between the scenes. Spare in style, this small set of pages resonates with the complexities of an entire novel.
The Tony Bone Stories. A strong and sure narrative, this lively set of stories explores truth and fiction, the line between reality and make-believe, and the way one story will influence the outcome of another. It is worth noting that this is one of the few novellas in the Short List that does not deal with death and grief; this is a completely different take on The Meaning Of Life. I applaud the writer for taking a route that is fresh and fun. Rich in layers and confident in voice, the writing is witty, humorous and charged – and leaves the reader with a delicious set of questions to ponder, without being overly ponderous. It’s a romp through Tony Bone’s world – the good moments (he has a girlfriend!), the sleepless nights, the trip to Vegas – all the while working alongside his, and the narrator’s, existential crisis. Tony Bone has to exist, yes, but there must be a reason; as we learn here: you can’t just take someone from a news story and create a character to bring to your writing group, right? The narrator must build Tony – and plausibility – before our eyes. What a fun and rewarding exploration of the relationship between character, narrator and reader, and a reflection on possibilities, down to the very last marvellous line.
Season of Bright Sorrow. A girl lives by the sea, and the rhythm of life both lived and observed emerges in these pages. Here we have a gathering of things unexpected: an external exploration of young Lana’s world, and the internal workings of her imagination, both built artfully by the writer. This collection stands out for the rhythmic storytelling and the variety the reader encounters in these small fictions – told in fragments, in lists, in long breathless sentences, in repetitions, in sharp and believable dialogue. There is great care here, and yet the stories spill from the page seamlessly. We peek into a bag and see what’s being collected; we have glimpses of a map, shards of shining things. There is both breadth and depth in these stories, and each page reveals something more: faraway objects and items close up need examining, need understanding. The strong characters are woven together beautifully: Lana with her missing father, her not-too-sober mother, an old man collecting objects along the beach and an unlikeable boy. The encounters are poignant and surprising. And we get the sense that, despite a yearning for order and control, there is a wildness, too: from lions to spiders to whelks to whales to the sea itself. By the end, Lana – and the reader – come to terms with realities and limitations that this life delivers, but there is an innocence and a hope that lingers, too. A superbly designed set of stories, from beginning to end. And although the style and confidence of the prose itself is enough to garner the top prize in this competition, it is worth mentioning here that the sketches that accompany the writing add another intriguing layer.
An extraordinary set of novellas-in-flash! I hope you enjoy them as much as I have!
|Novella-in-Flash 2021 Award ShortList|
|A Family Of Great Falls||Debra Daniel|
|Hairy On The Inside||Tracy Fells|
|One For The River||Tom O’Brien|
|Season Of Bright Sorrow||David Swann|
|Small Things||Hannah Sutherland|
|The Death And Life Of Mrs Parker||Jupiter Jones|
|The Listening Project||Ali McGrane|
|The Tony Bone Stories||Al Kratz|
|Things I Can’t Tell Amma||Sudha Balagopal|
Michelle Elvy teaches online at 52|250 A Year of Writing, edits at Flash Frontier: An Adventure in Short Fiction and Best Small Fictions and chairs National Flash Fiction Day NZ. Recent anthology work includes Bonsai: Best small stories from Aotearoa New Zealand (Canterbury University Press 2018) and Ko Aotearoa Tātou | We Are New Zealand (Otago University Press 2020). She has guest edited and judged competitions for SmokeLong Quarterly, Flash 500, Reflex Fiction, Bath Flash Fiction Award and the Whangarei Poetry Walk, among others. Her book, the everrumble (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2019), launched at the 2019 UK Flash Fiction Festival. Her new hybrid collection, the other side of better was published by Ad Hoc Fiction in June, 2021. Michelle lives in Dunedin, NZ
- We thrilled Michelle, who judged our 2021 and selected some fantastic novellas in flash, ten of which (winners and shortlisted) are being published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2021, has agreed to judge the 2022 Novella-in-Flash Award, open for entries shortly and will close in mid January, 2022 Results out April, 2021 Read Jude’s interview with her below if you want to write a novella for our Award. Michelle has many interesting things to say about the form and the process of writing a novella-in-flash.
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.
It’s 22nd June and National Flash Fiction Day in New Zealand! On this auspicious day, Ad Hoc Fiction, our short-short press, which recently won best publisher category in the Creative Bath Awards, is thrilled to publish the everrumble ‘a small novel in small forms’ by Director of NFFD, New Zealand, Michelle Elvy and All That Is Between Us the debut flash fiction collection by K. M. Elkes from Bristol, UK, who was one of the judges for NFFD New Zealand’s micro competition, MicroMadness which culminates today. We love these global connections from authors in different hemispheres. And is doubly exciting that Ken and Michelle are teaching workshops at the Flash Fiction Festival, Bristol UK next week 28-30th June and are launching their books there.
Both collections have received many glowing endorsements from well known flash fiction writers and teachers.
Here’s one from Tania Hershman about All That Is Between Us
“I could dazzle you with well-chosen superlatives or make clumsy attempts to sum up K. M. Elkes’ work, but really what I want to say is: This collection is so good. So very, very good. Whoever you are, whatever you like to read, you need these stories in your life.”
Tania Hershman, author of Some Of Us Glow More Than Others
And one about the everrumble from Christopher Allen.
“A tour de force, Michelle Elvy’s the everrumble is a profound, poetic constellation of notes on the Earth’s ‘alive noises’, the hope that lives in the natural world. Zettie’s story – all her moments of evolving, her capacity to listen, and her gift of becoming all the sounds of the earth – affected me to the core.”
Christopher Allen, author of Other Household Toxins
You can buy both of these brilliant collections now in paperback in several different currencies for worldwide posting directly from the Ad Hoc Fiction online bookshop. Go straight to the bookshop page for All That Is Between Us by K M Elkes here and straight to the bookshop page for the everrumble by Michelle Elvy here. And you can also buy in digital format on Kindle via Amazon. Links to Kindle for each collection are on the bookshop page.
We’re so thrilled and honoured that Ad Hoc Fiction,the short-short fiction press which publishes all our anthologies and flash fiction collections won the publisher’s category in the Creative Bath Awards, 2018 announced last night, June 13th, in Bath, a recognition for all the publishing work we did last year. Jude, Ad Hoc Fiction’s representative here, is pictured proudly holding the trophy which was designed by a student at Bath Spa University and she is with Ad Hoc fiction published authors, Diane Simmons, holding her book Finding A Way and the prosecco and Alison Woodhouse, an Ad Hoc Fiction micro winner. The Awards are sponsored by Bath Spa University among others, so it’s altogether thrilling. And we hope this continues to extend the reach of flash fiction in the South West and beyond.
Huge thanks to John at Ad Hoc Fiction who has worked very hard to produce so many beautiful books since 2017 when our paperback publishing venture began. Hundreds of writers have been published in the five anthologies compiled from Bath Flash Fiction Award submissions over the years since 2016 and from submissions by participants who attended the flash fiction festivals and these publications have travelled around the world. Hundreds more have been published online in the weekly free Ad Hoc Fiction micro contest, which John administers and which has a worldwide writing, reading and voting community. Without his work in typesetting and designing the books we would never have reached the stage of receiving this prestigious Award..
It’s timely to receive it, because Ad Hoc Fiction is publishing several new books this June. First up on 22nd June, National Flash Fiction Day, New Zealand New Zealand based author, Michelle Elvy’s ‘small novel in small forms’, the everrumble, and local writer, K M Elkes’ debut collection, All That Is Between Us will be published in paperback and available in paperback for purchase in many different currencies for posting worldwide from the Ad Hoc Fiction online bookshop as well as for sale in various locations in New Zealand on 22nd June. Ken’s collection is available for pre-order here and Michelle’s here. Both marvellous books. And NFFD New Zealand is a good day to support them. We’re also very happy that both Ken and Michelle will be at the Flash Fiction Festival running workshops and talks and their books will be for sale for cash or by card there.
We’re also launching Birds With Horse Hearts the winner of the 2019 Novella in Flash, Homing, the runner-up novella by Johanna Robinson and Roster by Debra A Daniel, highly commended in the same Award. These three books will also be published on 29th June, the Saturday of the festival and the three amazing book covers will be revealed on that day.
Ad Hoc Fiction, our short-short fiction press, is thrilled to publish All That Is Between Us, the dazzling debut flash fiction collection by Bristol-based author, K.M.Elkes. The collection “explores the complex fragility of human relationships, both the challenges of belonging and how much we risk to avoid being alone. It is a book of moments, evoking the beauty and comfort that connection brings, and the pain when it is severed.”
All That Is Between Us, includes Ken’s first-prize winning flash fiction, Extremities from Bath Flash Fiction Award, June 2018 and many more wonderful fictions and is highly rated by the eight well-known flash fiction writers quoted below. The art work for the stunning cover is by Bridport based artist, Suzanne Clements.
Read in Full
Ad Hoc Fiction is honoured to be publishing the everrumble, “a small novel in small forms” by Michelle Elvy. It’s a wonderful and important work of fiction highly praised by the writers quoted below. The striking cover art is by acclaimed Ethiopian artist, Eyayu Genet.
“the everrumble is a poetic imagining of intense focus and sweeping ideas. Zettie’s story is fluid and in motion, transcending geographies and time. She stops talking, at age seven, and starts to listen – to the worlds she finds in language and books, and to the people and places she encounters as she moves across continents. Her silence connects her to people, to nature and to the elemental world. Magical and beyond boundaries, this collection focuses on small fragments, taking Zettie, and the reader, inevitably to the place where human history began.”
the everrumble was launched at the Flash Fiction Festival, UK on 28th-30th June where Michelle ran workshops, chaired a panel on Flash Around the World, introduced the latest Best Small Fiction anthology, and talked about flash fiction in New Zealand. It is for sale at the Ad Hoc Fiction bookshop in paperback in several different currencies and in Kindle ebook format via Amazon. Read in Full