On being a late developer

I’ve begun to think of myself like the amethyst I’ve got on my shelf.  Pretty craggy and old on the outside but shiny and multi-faceted within. I’ve had the particular stone pictured here for years – it needed dusting off.  But now it’s sparkling again. amethyst

Last Autumn, after taking two courses with Kathy Fish – one weekend and one two week course –  I decided to  submit to literature magazines as well as to competitions.

Since the end of last year, two pieces I wrote on those workshops have been accepted for magazines. (Many other people find this when they do a course with Kathy – it’s magic how she gets writers going). I have a micro in the December 2015 issue of  Flash Frontier. Last week, a longer flash fiction of mine was accepted for the inaugural issue of Halo Literary Magazine. And these are the first two  non-competition pieces I’ve ever sent out, apart from ones submitted to Visual Verse each month.

In the same week as being accepted for Halo, I heard I was longlisted in a Retreat West contest and and longlisted for Flash500 second quarter competition. I’m waiting to find out if I’m going to reach the short list for Flash500. If not, both stories are going travelling again, maybe out to other literary magazines. To cap a really great week I won the Faber Academy’s weekly Quickfics contest and a pile of books with my flash fiction piece. ‘Are we nearly there?’

So what can I  learn from this?  The obvious thing  is that I  have to keep sending my fiction into the world if I want it to be read by others. Competitions, magazines – whatever. And it doesn’t matter how old I am. I can still carry on developing – be a really, really late developer. Editors out there are focused on the writing, not the age of the writer.

April: Join Jude in writing a month of flash fictions

April is poetry month – the task is to write a poem a day. Thirty pieces out there on  screen or on paper. I don’t write poems but flash fiction is a close cousin to prose poetry – some would say even its identical twin.

Anyone want to join me and write a Flash Fiction/Prose Poem a day? Flash fiction writer and director of National Flash Fiction Day, Calum Kerr, wrote one a day for a year. Thirty days is a a snip in comparison.  If you do want to complete thirty days of flash, tweet me on @judehwriter Perhaps we can arrange a regular cup-of-tea  tweet-time each day and compare notes? teapots 2

To get going, I’ll   be consulting my current favourite text on writing flash, the excellent Rose Metal Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction. In this book, with regard to the ongoing debate concerning flash fiction and prose poetry, author, Kim Chinquee, says that although a “prose poem may be more about language and poetics, whereas a flash carries more narrative and story“, they are “interchangeable…more inclusive than exclusive – each of the other.

I also like the following exercise  suggested by Steve Almond in the same book  – a  brilliant idea for revitalising a tired short story or one needing to loose its flab. He suggests that you ” stop whatever story you’re working on and convert the whole thing into a poem. It will end up as a much shorter piece, in which you bid various extra words, characters and subplots, goodbye.” The poem can be as bad as you like.When you’ve finished  you remove the line breaks and examine the resulting piece of prose. Leaner, tighter and now, perhaps, fizzing with energy. I’ve a few sad little pieces that could do with this treatment.

Inspiration also comes  from checking out current flash fiction competitions. It would be good to have 30 pieces to pick from when considering which to enter. It’s a shame I can’t enter Bath Flash Fiction Award – no-go – I’m organising it. ( I would if I could  though – even though I say it myself – with 3 different entry options it tries its best to get as many writers on board as possible. And there are big prizes and a great short list  judge , Annemarie Neary).

The Bridport Flash Fiction competition has its usual pull  – something good  may turn up for that and there are also the super fun competitions  at themolotovcocktail.com to inspire. A new competition, Flash Fury,  is kicking off tomorrow, April 1st and the results of their latest competition, Flash Fool, will be announced on the same day. The guidelines for general submission to the ezine on their site, as I said in a recent tweet on @bathflashaward, must be the most pertinent and funniest around.  For anyone wanting to  write a fresh-sounding story of any length, it’s great advice whether or not you like submitting to magazines. A recommended read.

All that remains is to write –  today, 31st March = warm-up day. I’ll go for a handwritten story in my under-used  new journal.