Today, the postie delivered not only the latest issue of The Stinging Fly – I’ve just subscribed–but also five copies of Fish Anthology 2014. I was so excited to see my runner-up flash fiction, ‘The Lottery’, in print that I ate six apricots one after the other. Both books have absorbed me most of the day and it’s been fascinating reading such a variety of sparkling prose and poetry.
I began writing Flash Fiction after the short story writer and Arvon Tutor, Tania Hershman led a session on Flash at Mr B’s Emporium, Bath a couple of years ago which we organised at Writing Events Bath. I learned that Flash stories are one thousand words maximum and fifty words, or sometimes less, minimum. There are many different names for the form –smoke fiction, short shorts, drabbles, prose poetry, to name a few. Carrie Etter, a poet and senior lecturer at Bath Spa University, writes prose poetry and teaches the form. Her new collection,’Imagined Sons’ is written as a sequence of prose poems. In a short conversation I had with her, she suggested that flash fiction works well if you write a scene with one or two characters with the action taking place over about ten minutes.
My story ‘The Lottery’, follows that structure, but it’s interesting to see that the winning fictions in the Fish anthology sometimes use longer time frames, and a variety of structures. Robert Grossmith in his story ‘First’ achieves this by the use of headings followed by short descriptions of events from a whole life. Roisin O’Donnell’s powerful story about a man who blew himself up, is in three numbered sections, each one from a different perspective – the mother, wife and child. The time frame ranges from immediate to an unspecified time in the future.
In The Stinging Fly magazine, the flash fictions are longer and more expansive as a consequence. Alison Fisher writes an historical tale set over several years and develops a strong lead character in under one thousand words. Danielle McLaughlin, in a similar number of words, writes a strongly evocative piece which encompasses a short time span, but successfully includes a flash- back sequence.
It’s been a great reading and learning day. I recommend buying both books.