Tag Archives: Tracey Slaughter

Interview with Tracey Slaughter, Runner-up 2020 Novella in Flash Award

Tracey Slaughter's brilliant novella if there is no shelter was one of two runners-up in the 2020 Novella-in-Flash Award judged by Michael Loveday. You can read Michael's comments on the novella in his judge's report and more about Tracey on our winners' page.
We are asking the same questions of all our winners and commended authors and it is fascinating to read that Tracey's novella was inspired by a list of emergency instructions at work and particularly the one phrase 'if there is no shelter' that ended up being the title of the novella. For those writing novellas, Tracey has the great advice to 'Banish doubt and trust the voices and don’t give up on those beautiful damaged characters'. We are so looking forward to seeing her novella in print. It will be published by Ad Hoc Fiction later this year.

    Interview
  • Can you give us a brief synopsis of your novella in flash?
    if there is no shelter follows a young woman trying to pick up the pieces of home in the aftermath of an earthquake. As we trace the faltering steps she takes to try to restore her life, we discover the wreckage she was already leaving in her wake before the earthquake struck…a lover, a husband, the letter left stranded in a red-zoned building she cannot re-enter.
  • What inspired it?
    A poster pinned over the sink in the tea-room at work, where I found myself blinking, burnt-out between classes, clutching my cup with a thousand-yard stare – a stained & peeling list of emergency instructions that included the heading ‘If there is no shelter.’ That was it: somehow the heroine spoke, & started bringing her fragments to the surface…
  • I am sure readers who are interested in writing in this form would love to know more about your writing process. Did it take some time for you to arrive at the final order for example?

    Although the first pieces of this story arrived in intense, almost instantaneous flashes, conditions of life (which overturned not long after I embarked on writing) left the further construction of the work suspended, sometimes for months at a stretch. The forgiving form of flash (hallelujah!) could cope with the ongoing disruption, & allowed me to focus on each piece I could achieve within my narrow windows. In many ways, it even seemed to echo the chaos surrounding the heroine – I had to scratch for time, pick through scattered pieces, splice a story together from precious remains. In the end, it wasn’t so much order that I knew it needed to witness, as disorder, the truth of fracture – I had to trust that the story should be left to reflect shattering.
  • All this may have changed in the present circumstances, but do you have a special place/time to write where you live? Music on or off? Pets as distractions or muses?

Silence, distance, solace, isolation, refuge from the million other pressing demands of life: I can’t seem to write unless I’m alone with my characters, tuned to their voices, breathing in their fates. I remain in awe of anyone who can tap the keys at a café table – I’ve always been secretly convinced they’re faking it!!! But yes, the present conditions are a taste too much loneliness…& with working online the static has just come home!

  • And following on from the last question, if you like. If you had a soundtrack for your novella, what sort of music would be playing?
    The haunting dissonant industrial poetry of the artist I.E.Crazy – as soon as I heard her twisted original ballads I felt like my book was singing back at me!
    • Pitfalls and pleasures of writing in this form?
      Pleasures: that flash can take you in a rush, plunge you into a character’s senses, keep you fed on bursts of electricity, even when life holds scant time for sustained writing. I thrive on the little fixes it gives, the short stints it lets creativity off the leash, so there’s always a quick source of exhilaration in a schedule that sometimes doesn’t leave much breathing space. And pitfalls: I don’t know if there are any. I find that flash is the central atom of the short story mode, so it’s never wasted, whether the piece stays distilled in a single flash or keeps detonating in a series of ongoing explosions.

    • Your best tips for those wanting to embark on a novella in flash for our next Award?
      Banish doubt & trust the voices & don’t give up on those beautiful damaged characters & what they need to speak, not for an instant – I nearly caved-in & let go of this story, because it was largely composed during crisis, nearly listened to the offscreen murmurs of fears that were waiting to form a cold chorus. Shut that damned descant out the writing room & do it anyway. You can always fend them off for the space of the next flash.
    share by email
  • 2020 Novella-in-Flash winners

    Many congratulations and more details below about our 2020 winner, Mary-Jane Holmes from the UK (who is also the judge for our June 2020 single-flash Award!) and the two runners-up, Tracey Slaughter from New Zealand and Erica Plouffe-Lazure from the USA.
    Read judge Michael Loveday's report on their brilliantly written novellas-in-flash to find out a brief synopsis of each of them, and his comments.They are all very different and it is wonderful to have such variety among the winners and the special commended novellas. We hope that all three of these winning novellas will be published later this year and we are so looking forward to seeing them in print.

    First Prize Don't Tell The Bees by Mary-Jane Holmes
    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. Her flash fiction 'Flock' was recently selected for Best Small Fictions, 2020.
    @emjayinthedale

    Runner Up: If There is No Shelter by Tracey Slaughter
    Tracey Slaughter is a poet and fiction writer from Aotearoa New Zealand. Her latest works are the volume of short stories deleted scenes for lovers (Victoria University Press, 2016) and the poetry collection Conventional Weapons (Victoria University Press, 2019). Her work has received numerous awards including the 2020 Fish Short Story Prize, second place in The Moth Short Story Prize 2018, the Bridport Prize 2014, and two Katherine Mansfield Awards. She lives in Hamilton, and teaches Creative Writing at Waikato University, where she edits the literary journals Mayhem and Poetry New Zealand.

    Runner-Up: Sugar Mountain by Erica Plouffe Lazure
    Erica Plouffe Lazure is the author of a flash fiction chapbook, Heard Around Town, and a fiction chapbook, Dry Dock. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Carve, Greensboro Review, Meridian, American Short Fiction, The Journal of Micro Literature, The Common's "Dispatches" series, The Southeast Review, Fiction Southeast, Flash: the International Short-Short Story Magazine (UK), Vestal Review, Wigleaf, Monkeybicycle, National Flash Fiction Day Anthology (UK), Litro (UK), and elsewhere. She lives and teaches in Exeter, New Hampshire, USA.

    share by email

    Interview with Emma Neale, Third Prize Winner, October 2018

    Emma Neale won third prize in the October 2018 round of Bath Flash Fiction Award with her densely evocative and powerful flash fiction, The Local Pool. Nuala O'Connor the judge for the October 2018 round said this about Emma's story.

    I loved the elliptical nature of this flash, the reader is told just enough and the opening paragraph is a perfect blend of language and sense-memory. The story perfectly captures the confusion of adolescents dealing with large issues and does it at a remove that adds to the power of the piece.

    In this interview Emma tells us more about the background to the story and shows how one event based in a small community in the past can, in the way it is written, give resonance to many larger concerns, also highly relevant today. So many layers in such a short piece. We very much like her advice to other writers about not rushing to a finished flash but rather leaving it for several weeks to 'marinate' so those deeper layers can emerge and then crucially, reading it aloud. Emma's story is now also available to read in print in Things Left And Found By The Side Of The Road our new anthology of flash fictions from the 2018 Awards and you can also read her story. Courtship which was commended in the Bridport Prize in their new anthology. We also look forward to reading Emma's new poetry collection, To The Occupant, forthcoming in 2019. It's fascinating to see where a writer works; there are so many interesting objects on Emma's wall, desk and door. And also we love the picture of her with the family rabbit which she sometimes pops out to see during a writing stint. Read in Full

    share by email

    Tracey Slaughter
    February 2018 Commended

    Compact

    by Tracey Slaughter

    It’s a junkshop find that brings back the smell of them – a kind of sweetened pinky-beige topsoil my aunts would carry everywhere with them, gilded flip-open discs of powder, hard-caked, that still puffed traces over everything. A push-in metal tooth worked the clasp, then they’d unhinge it, anywhere they needed to, perched on a bus-seat, queueing at the cinema, blotting off steam and suds over the sink. Inside lived another face. A swipe of coating for the wrinkles and pitting, a swab of glamour for the sweat and the soot, and they’d dab and polish with their onion-skin hands, and re-emerge, their smiles resurfaced, to take themselves off to a matinee or square off their seats in the cafeteria for a good old session of sip, hiss and gossip. Friends met them there, equally floral and bloodyminded. But it took my aunts to preside. And I pick the bronze disc out of the litter of the shop, and I fiddle with the rust of its scalloped fastening, and a gust of them wafts out, the sound of them cackling, the squeak of their complicated undergarments, the musk of their costumes, all dancehall and armpit, the cumbersome tamped-down plenty of their blue-silk busts. Always jolly, until you crossed them. Thick as thieves, a formidable old-maid front, glossy and tough as they come. Mouths akin to fruit in their tropical acrylic, over a crooked assortment of teeth. Battlers. Hard-nuts. And I used to be able to see myself in the circle of light, when I rifled their handbags, I used to take a peek and think I could rub in their tint, could repaint myself robust, could frost my little face with a swish of their moxie, be brazen, bold-as-you-please. But I’ve disappeared in the mirror. It’s like dusting for fingerprints.

    About the Author

    Tracey Slaughter is a poet and short story writer from Cambridge, New Zealand. Her work has received numerous awards, including the international Bridport Prize (2014), shortlistings for the Manchester Prize in both Poetry (2014) and Fiction (2015), and two Katherine Mansfield Awards. Her latest work, the short story collection deleted scenes for lovers (Victoria University Press) was published to critical acclaim in 2016. She is currently putting the finishing touches to a poetry collection entitled ‘conventional weapons’. She teaches at the University of Waikato, where she edits the literary journal Mayhem.

    share by email