Serendipity? Timing? Either way, while I was lecturing my teenage son about getting outside his comfort zone, an invitation came my way from Jude Higgins, founder of the Bath Flash Fiction Award. How would I like to read at a Flash Fiction Noir event in Bath? My parenting ethos draws heavily on ‘do as I say, not as I do,’ but in a mad moment of solidarity with my son, I accepted the invitation.
And I’m so glad I did. It was a delight to meet and chat with the other readers (Meg Pokrass, Ken Elkes, Jason Jackson , Chris Stanley and John Wheway) as well as Jude (we had previously been in an online writing workshop together led by the inimitable Kathy Fish) and my charming hostess Diane Simmons who kindly offered put me up over night.
I was the second reader so I didn’t have time to be nervous. I read a selection of short dark flash, followed by a longer story, heavy on black humour. The audience was perfect: small but kind. Here’s a picture of me reading:
And here’s what I listened to on the drive to Bath to help me get in the mood!
This time last year I embarked on the novel-writing program – Nanowrimo – where you spend November
eating too much getting no exercise writing the first draft of a novel. And I did it! But that draft is still marinating a year on. I will get back to it, I will.
But today I’m starting NanoFlash – a variation on the original, whereby I will write one flash a day for thirty days. Today’s prompt is to write about someone trying to shake an addiction. And in some ways flash fiction has become a bit of an addiction for me. I like it, I seem to be reasonably good at it and I’m much less emotionally involved when I submit flash, than I was with my novel. Sure the rejections still sting a bit, but I’ve always got several flash on the go, there are so many places I can submit, and I haven’t invested years in writing a specific piece, the way I did with Up She Rises, which despite getting very close to being picked up several times recently, remains unpublished. YET.
So I’m off to write about addiction, but can I share some excellent flash news, please? I have work forthcoming in three print anthologies (more details when I can say more) as well as a super exciting flash adventure that I can’t talk about yet. And, my latest print publication is a flash entitled “Cell for One” which appears in Ellipsis Zine’s ‘One’ anthology. I’m so thrilled to be published alongside so many of my flash heroes. You can order your own copy here.
I saw on Twitter where someone asked what it was like to be a writer and someone replied that they would ring every night at two a.m. to tell her how crap she was. It was funny if close to the bone. Because angst and self-doubt are ever-present.
But so is the flip side – rejection. It’s your classic chicken and egg.
And it’s hard. Even when you’re told it’s a numbers game OR it’s subjective OR maybe the journal you submitted to just accepted another piece with a similar theme
But you suck it up and you keep submitting. Two weeks ago a flash piece I submitted somewhere was rejected. I changed the title and sent it out again and it was accepted for publication within hours. But yes, I did go eat worms first.
This morning a different journal rejected another flash but in the nicest possible way, with an invitation to submit again. Killing me softly. Still, I sucked it up, did a quick edit and sent it back out, this time to three journals. It’s a numbers game, right?
Now, where are those worms?
It’s been too long but I’ve been obsessed with flash fiction. Writing it, reading it, judging it.
In May, I was lucky enough to participate in a two week long online Fast Flash course with the wonderful Kathy Fish. It was intense and a lot of work but I produced some writing that I’m really proud of and it was a joy to work with and get to know the other writers on the course. We’ve decided to carry on sharing work despite the course having ended and I’m hopeful this venture will be as productive and supportive as Kathy’s course was.
I’ve been busily submitting flash to various publications and am pleased that Spelk Fiction will be publishing one of my stories in the next few weeks. I’ll let you know when it’s up on their website. And I’m thrilled that one of the pieces I did in Fast Flash was picked up only yesterday and will be out in an e-book sometime this summer. More on that one later.
The flash community on Twitter is wonderful. Two weeks ago I submitted to Microcosms for the first time after seeing a Twitter friend tweet about it. I was thrilled to be chosen the winner with my flash fiction entitled I Was A Teenage River Nymph. It begins like this: “The sisterhood is a myth. Any nymph will tell you that.” You can read the rest of it here, but you’ll need to scroll down until you find it under “Judge’s Pick.”
And because my story was the judge’s pick it meant I was offered the opportunity to judge the following week. It was a good warm up for my big judging gig later this summer, and I find you learn so much about writing by reading and evaluating other people’s work.
But as much as I’m loving the flash, my second novel is sulking in the corner, wondering why I’ve abandoned it. It’s time for a return to long form with draft two.
And what’s new with you?
I’ve been negligent (spoken like an ex-lawyer) in posting because we were away on holiday for a few weeks, about which more later. But I’m excited to share that I’m one of the judges for the flash fiction category of the 2017 Hysteria Writing Competition. It’s a wonderful opportunity and I’m truly grateful. I know I will learn so much reading the entries and I’m excited to work with the other flash fiction judges who include some pretty amazing writers I follow on Twitter.
If you’ve never written flash fiction, Alex Reece Abbott (Writer In Residence for the competition) has collated some excellent writing tips from flashmasters here.
I was a runner-up in the 2015 Hysteria flash fiction category with a piece called Reunion (later published in the Hysteria 4 anthology). The Hysteria competition is for women from all over the world. The judging is blind and the competition features flash fiction, poetry, and short story categories. There are low entry fees, cash prizes for the winners, and publication in the anthology for winners and runners-up. So why not give it a go? But don’t worry; if you don’t enter, I won’t judge you. (sorry I couldn’t resist)
Last night we took the train to London to see the David Hockney exhibition at Tate Britain. Thirteen rooms of Hockney artwork spanning six decades. It was wonderful. I didn’t like all of the pieces on display but I loved lots of them, including his double portraits and his overlapping Polaroids. Photography was not permitted, but I found this short video online which gives a taster:
Our tour ended in the gift shop. Well, don’t they always? But for once, I didn’t mind.
I can’t draw, but as a primary school teacher I used to create art with my young students. However untalented I was, my finished product didn’t look too bad when displayed alongside those of my eight year old charges.
Several years ago I wrote a short story about a guy who was kicked out of art school, supposedly because he was untalented. In the story, he goes on to seek revenge on one of his teachers.
I’m delighted to announce that the story has just been published in the Spring 2017 edition of Still Point Arts Quarterly. The magazine is a perfect home for my story with its focus on “arts, artists and artistry.” Each issue features gorgeous original art work as well as features, fiction and some poetry.
You can preview the Spring edition, including its gorgeous cover, here. And you can purchase a copy, print or digital, here.
Now, go, make some art.