Adventures in short-short fiction

Reading my flash fiction at Christopher Fielden’s charity anthology launch in London.

The Autumn series of flash fiction sessions is up and running at The Ram, Widcombe Bath 12.00 pm – 2.00 pm on Wednesdays. Contact me at my email address below, if you want to drop in. There’s sometimes room. You’ll learn about writing fiction under 1000 words. We’ll read different examples of the form, I’ll  prompt you to write, you’ll get feedback on your drafts and learn ways to hone your pieces ready for submission to magazines or contests.  Continue reading “Adventures in short-short fiction”

My Birthday Month

It’s raining today at the beginning of my  birthday weekend — the day itself is on Monday, but the whole month has been particularly sunny with successes and fun events.  I was delighted that my flash fiction ‘Winter Spider’ won the Flash 500 quarterly competition and now, encouraged by people’s comments, I plan to write a longer sequence around the characters. Less organising and more writing is the mantra for June. Could this happen, I wonder, with the Flash Fiction Festival coming up in July?

In other writing news, my story ‘The Ways of the Flesh’ was selected for the National Flash Fiction Anthology, 2018. I’m very, very  happy to be included in this with a great line up of writing friends. Also, my tiny micro, ‘Wings of Desire’ — which does, yes, reference the film directed by Wim Wenders, received a  highly commended in a new micro contest judged by write and editor Jayne Martin in Bending Genres magazine. And was fun to write.

The evening of readings of Ad Hoc Fiction winners for Ad Hoc’s third birthday earlier this month in Bath went brilliantly with great readings and a birthday cake with a sparkler made by Diane Simmons. This length of micro (150 words) works very well read out loud when there are a lot of readers.  Eleven came from around the country and Louise Mangos came from Switzerland. The pace and the energy was perfect. And many people said how much they liked the variety of fictions and how much could be said in so few words.

Last week, I  had the privilege of going to the Saboteur Festival Day last week and was stunned and so thrilled that Charmaine Wilkerson won the novella category for her novella-in-flash ‘How to Make a Window Snake’.  And I am very pleased for Ad Hoc Fiction who published this beautiful collection of  novellas-in-flash last June and has had this acknowledgement.

This month, I also went to the reception for Creative Bath finalists where Bath Flash Fiction is a short-listed  in the publishing category. Results in June at a party in Queen’s Square, Bath.  Fingers crossed.

Finally, if you like —  check out my mini-interview with  Tommy Dean where I brave a messy desk picture — not the tidied up version seen on another post on this site.

Looking forward to May

May is looking great for flash fiction and related events. First up -Friday May 4th at St James’ Wine Vaults Bristol, 7.30 -9.30 pm. I’ve organised an evening of readings for Ad Hoc Fiction’s third birthday party with ten or eleven writers reading their  Ad Hoc Fiction wins. One of these writers is Louise Mangos, who is coming all the way from Switzerland. She’s illustrated all three wins and her picture here goes with her story, ‘Heat’. Free entry, free wine and free birthday cake. Do come.

On May 16th there’s a  reception in Bath for finalists of the 2018 Creative Bath Awards. Bath Flash Fiction Award is a finalist in the category of Publisher for the anthologies, pictured here, published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2017. You can buy them all at bookshop.adhocfiction.com Or if you’re in Bath, buy from Toppings bookshop and Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights. I applied for these  awards at the eleventh hour and am thrilled to be a finalist.

May 18th- 19th is the Saboteur Awards weekend. These prestigious awards happen yearly and initially, they ask for nominations to create a long list and then afterwards, further voting for the  best of writing and performing in several categories.  Charmaine Wilkerson’s wonderful novella-in-flash ‘How To Make A Window Snake’,  in one of the four anthologies published by Ad Hoc Fiction last year, is short-listed in the novella category. I’m off to London for  the day to hear the outcome at the Awards announcements on the Saturday evening and hoping that she’ll win.Vote for her by the May 9th deadline.

I was also very pleased that my own chapbook, The Chemist’s House was longlisted for the Saboteur Awards short story collections category awards, and another Bath Flash Fiction anthology, ‘The Lobsters Run Free’ was long listed in the anthology category.

I’m also looking forward to the results of  few flash fiction contests I’ve entered.  I think they’ll be announced in May. My birthday is at the end of the month so getting writing recognition at my enormous age would be a bonus birthday treat. Further on this year and there’s the second  Flash Fiction Festival I’m directing, to look forward to. Everything suggests it’s going to be another fab event. Book up at flashfictionfestival.com  if you are a flash fiction friend  and haven’t yet, because I’ll miss you otherwise…

Latest writing news here

My writing desk — the grand tour

January 2018 is starting off with a flourish. I am honoured to be  interviewed as guest reader for  Smoke Long Quarterly  and am selecting a story from the submissions received from January 8th to January 14th.  They suggested I could include a picture of my writing desk but didn’t use it eventually. Anyway, as it’s now a lot tidier than it was, here is the  grand tour…

  • My Linux Ubuntu desk top computer. I abandoned  Apple Macs last year for the delights of updating the Libre Office word processing software (just as good as Word) free. And the machine won’t need upgrading like Apples either. And it was much cheaper.  It’s very fast.
  •  On the first shelf facing outwards,  the four books that Ad Hoc Fiction published in 2017. Ad Hoc fiction does  all the background competition administration and web development work for Bath Flash Fiction, as well as Bath Short Story Award.  I’m so excited they are now a small press, and published To Carry Her Home,  Bath Flash Fiction Volume One early last February,  How to Make a Window Snake, the collection of winning novellas-in-flash in June. And Bath Flash Fiction Volume 2, The Lobsters Run Free in December 2017 along with Flash Fiction Festival, One. And there’s more to come next year. Individual collections as well as the 2018 anthologies.
  • My debut pamphlet ‘The Chemist’s House is  up there on that shelf  too. One of the highlights of last year was being  published by V. Press.
  • The scented candle in the pink tin.  Rose.
  • The re-useable water bottle. Going to really make big efforts to reduce buying plastic this year.
  • The extremely cheap Nokia phone I use for infrequent calls and texts. I use an iPad for everything else and am resisting a smart phone. The little orange book rests on a note pad which is supposed to detail what I eat every day. But I haven’t filled it in for several months.
  • The junk box. Full of junk. But pretty on the outside.
  • That little flowery box contains some jewellry.
  • Second shelf — the 1815 portrait of my ancestor, Hannah Hopkins. Probably should use this name as an alternative author name sometimes. Just for the luck of it. It’s next to …
  • the hedgehog frame containing a tiny picture of my parents, looking young.  Too small to see.
  • A few book titles just about visible. ‘Sudden Fiction‘, my first intro to flash fiction.  A Richard Ford novel, which is in the wrong place there. Should be on the alphabetical novel shelves. It’s next to Writing the Natural Way, one of the first books on writing I bought, years ago.
  • My hour glass has fallen behind the computer. You can just see a flash of glass and orange sand peeking out.   I do plan to write fiction for at least 60 mins several times a week this year. And to make that a priority instead of the numerous other writing activities I am involved with.  So I have given the hour-glass its own picture. If it’s visible, I won’t forget.  And I want to submit more this year.

Latest flashy news

Launch of Retreat West anthology

Being involved in so many flash fiction projects is really exciting. And in my 60s, it’s thrilling having success as a writer of short-short fiction. There’s nothing like being a late developer. So here’s the latest news…

In early September I read my first prize winning story,’At the Hospital’ at the Retreat West launch of their first winners’ anthology, What was Left,in Waterstone’s book shop, Reading.

Me and Tino Prinzi at my ‘Chemist’s House’ Launch

 

At the end of September I launched The Chemist’s House, my V.Press pamphlet, which was published in June and fellow flash fiction writer,  Diane Simmons, made me a cake pictured here.

The wonderful book cake Diane Simmons made for me

That was a fantastic addition to a fun evening at St James’ Wine Vaults Bath. And a lovely surprise. We ate half of the cake at the evening. And it kept me going in cake for quite a while afterwards. Diane, Tino Prinzi, Conor Haughton, Meg Pokrass and Alison Powell were guest readers at the occasion and all read brilliantly.

On Saturday morning, 11th November, I am thrilled to be reading my August Word Factory flash of the month, ‘Other People’ at the flash fiction event at the Word Factory Citizen Festival . (More about the 0rigins of that story in my previous blog post).

Last month, I  was short listed in the Bridport flash fiction prize with a story, originally drafted in the amazing Kathy Fish Fast Flash online course last May. I have now submitted that one elsewhere. This month, my flash fiction, ‘Swifts’, originally published in the ‘Nottingham Review’ was highly commended in the Inktears flash fiction competition. It will be published on their website soon.

In the last month, I’ve been busy compiling the Flash Fiction Festival June 2017 festival anthology with the help of  Diane Simmons and Santino Prinzi  and that anthology, together with the second volume of Bath Flash Fiction, will be published by Ad Hoc Fiction, by the end of the year. Some great reads inside those. And both books look really good.

My article on turning dreams into fiction will be published in  Project Calm magazine this month. And I am so delighted that stories from Charmaine Wilkerson and Alison Powell, as well as one of mine from my pamphlet, will be included as examples of dreams turned into fiction.  Charmaine and Alison came to my Dream Breakfast session at the flash fiction festival in Bath and drafted the stories there.

I love teaching writing and am co-running an intensive ‘Flashathon’. at Trinity College, Bristol on 25th November with Meg Pokrass from 10 am – 4.00 pm. Production of at least six micro drafts is guaranteed and there’s an opportunity to get feedback and editing tips too. We’re holding the second flash fiction festival at Trinity College in July 2018, so it’s an opportunity to take a peek at the venue. Some places left. And anyone already addicted to the form or interested in trying their hand at short short fiction is welcome. Booking and more details  at bathflashfictionaward.com under ‘Event’.

I’m also running a series of eight sessions on writing and editing flash fiction, suitable for beginners and experienced writers of the short-short form, in Bath beginning in January. Wednesday lunchtimes upstairs at Cafe Retro. There are currently six places left. More details and booking at writingeventsbath.com

Inspired by garden gnomes

A tiny, cheerful man

This August I won the Word Factory’s monthly flash fiction contest, which has the on-going theme of citizenship, identity and belonging, with my story ‘Other People’  A lot of people like the story. It’s been lovely to get that feedback on social media. I mentioned on Twitter, in response to a query, that it had been inspired by garden gnomes. Reviled so much for making peoples’ front gardens vulgar, they are now making a comeback. I saw a row of them in a posh Art Gallery near Bruton, Somerset last April. The exhibition, in a reference to Aldous Huxley, was called ‘Brave New World’ so it wasn’t actually a celebration of kitsch.

The characters in my story, who are all lonely, live in different places and gain comfort from different solitary activities. The narrator likes the presence of the garden gnomes, the ‘tiny cheerful men’ in her garden.  Although they are alone, all these people are connected by their relationship with the moon. Which gives some hope.

The piece was also prompted by an invitation from a member of my ‘Flash Follies’ online flash fiction writers’ group, for everyone to write something in the second person, an article I read about a pod of stranded whales, and my hairdresser, who during  the time of the meteor showers last year, told me she and her boyfriend parked up in a lay-by, climbed on the roof of their car and lay flat to watch the shooting stars. I thought that was a wonderful thing to do.

I would absolutely love to read ‘Other People’ at a Word Factory event, something which has been indicated as a possibility for winners. So I hope that comes off.

Latest news

There is so much going on in the world of flash fiction!  The big news for me is that my flash fiction pamphlet, ‘The Chemist’s House’, published by the wonderful Sarah James at V Press is now out in the world and you can buy it here on this site. The picture is me being a proud author on publication day,which was yesterday, Friday 16th June. My pamphlet will also be for sale at the Flash Fiction Festival on 24/25 June in Bath.

In other flashy news, I was delighted to reach the final 22 in Flash Frontier’s Micro Madness contest. They post one story a day until June 22nd, National Flash Fiction Day in New Zealand. Scroll down their blog  to June 14th, to read my story about the Owl and the Pussycat’s future relationship. I am also thrilled that my flash fiction written during Flashnano last November, ‘Ten Ways to Prepare For Your Brothers’ Visit’, is going to be posted on the Flash Flood blog on National Flash Fiction Day UK  at 1.00 pm. It will be nice to see it up there at lunch time on Saturday, during the Flash Fiction Festival.  So many flash fiction friends from social media are coming. It’s going to be amazing. And I will get the chance to read a story from my pamphlet in the evening of readings on the Saturday night. Booking for the festival is closed and nearly everything is now sorted. It’s been great working as the Director with the flash festival team. Meg Pokrass, Diane Simmons, Santino Prinzi, Michael Loveday, Matt Coles and Louisa Bailey. And we also have Freya Morris in charge of the raffle on the day.

For those who are coming, see you soon. For those who aren’t able to make it, there’s always next year. The intention is definitely to hold another one in 2018.,

 

Seeding Stories

I run writing events with my friend Alex Wilson in Bath. We’ve just finished a four week creative writing series, the theme this time – writing about landscape and setting

The other week, I introduced the idea of writing about changes in seasons to convey the passage of time in fiction. The story prompts were based on packets of seeds.
So, give this exercise a go if you want a quick-write this evening to celebrate the end of March and maybe the beginning of your story growing season. Set the timer and go, go, go. Get to the end in 20 mins.

Title first – Choose some words from a seed packet in the picture or a seed packet of your own. Could be the name of the plant, eg. Sungold. Or could be anything else on the packet eg Summer Cropping.

Choose a character completely unlike yourself who grows vegetables. Done it all his/her life. Or not.

The story begins with this character planting the seed. Each shift of season is a major shift in the story. Show the plant growing too and indicate the changes in inner and outer landscapes for your character. The story ends when the plant has come to the end of its life. But the character is not the plant So it’s change, not death.

And yes, of course it has been done before. Jack. The Beanstalk. The Giant. The Golden Goose. Fi fo fi. etc. But never mind. Your story is different. Make it foolish if you like, ready for the beginning of April.

February is the coolest month

I don’t mean climate-wise. It feels okay for me write  ‘cool’. If I attempt to say ‘cool’ out loud, I sound like a pigeon, apparently. The word just doesn’t sound right coming out of my mouth. It’s an age thing.

Anyway, the cool February  events: Three of my  tiny flash fictions have been published on Great Jones Street, the short story app which contains around 1000 stories to read on the move, on mobile devices. And I got money and a  free tee-shirt too. Search my name to find my fictions.

I won the Retreat West yearly flash fiction contest judged by David Gaffney with my flash fiction ‘At the Hospital’. I wrote the first draft of this in one of the brilliant flash fiction online weekends with Kathy Fish. Winning first prize was  a huge and wonderful surprise. I thought I had included a big  spelling typo in this story. But apparently not. A different version  will be published in my forthcoming pamphlet from V Press. David made some very nice comments

“At The Hospital is an intimate and moving encounter between a young girl and her dying grandparent, and the way it focusses on the minutiae of the scene – the grape she is peeling for her granddad, the colour of his skin, the bird outside the window opening and closing its beak – create a emotionally powerful vignette. ‘The hairs on his chest are still black and wiry,’ she says and ‘a pulse ticks in his throat. I don’t like the way the grape trembles in my fingers. ‘ Its hard to end a scene like this but the author does it brilliantly with the stunning last line ‘I still don’t know how to put on the brakes.'”

The third piece of big news this month was the launch  Bath Flash Anthology at the beginning of this week. Ad Hoc Fiction, designed the cover,  and laid it out beautifully.  It’s the first book from their new press. People (and me) love the way it looks and reads.  I am so pleased. 145 page-long stories from authors in eleven different countries from the first four rounds of the Bath Flash Fiction Award  Do buy it, because it contains such a wide variety of flash fiction.

Finally, with the help of Festival Curator, Meg Pokrass and the festival team, Diane Simmons, Michael Loveday, Tino Prinzi, Ken Elkes and Linda Selick-York, I have organised the first UK festival entirely devoted to flash fiction, taking place at the New Oriel Hall in Bath on 24th and 25th June, the same weekend as National Flash Fiction Day on the Saturday.

Every one of the UK’s finest Flash Fiction Practitioners said ‘yes’ when we asked them if they would like to come and lead workshops or do talks. Also, it was a major achievement on my part to obtain Arts Council Funding to cover costs for the workshop leaders and more.  Pats self on back for that. It’s going to be fabulous. We hope anyone who wants to find out more about flash fiction or extend their skills will come and get addicted to the creative potential of flash fiction.  It’s now open for booking. Do come.  Look at the action-packed programme on flashfictionfestival.com and you won’t want to miss it.

Some new definitions of flash fiction

I love good definitions of flash fiction. There’s some marvellous ones listed in the back of Flash Fiction International, the anthology of world-wide writing edited by Robert Shapard, James Thomas and Christopher Merrill, recently reviewed by Santino Prinzi at bathflashfictionaward.com. But the definitions below also capture the essence of the form really well. They’re from a great blog post by the Netherlands based author, Richard de Nooy, who has won the micro-fiction contest adhocfiction.com twice, most recently last week. His winning stories are linked in his blog.

Richard had a twitter conversation about flash fiction with award winning flash  writers Emily Devane and Sharon Telfer and here are the definitions they came up with:

Richard says “Flash fiction forces writers to develop motif, setting, character and story at high speed, drawing readers in like moths to flame, before blowing out the candle, leaving them in darkness, wondering what the hell they just saw and wanting to read it again in slow motion.”

Sharon adds”For me, it’s as much about depth and layers. Infinite riches in a little room”

And Emily’s response is .”That’s what’s great about short short fiction: it can be anything from impressionistic sweep to microscopic focus“.

Read the whole of Richard’s blog here.

I’m excited that the Bath Flash Fiction anthology, volume one is at the printers.  There’s a hundred and forty five pieces from eleven different countries drawn from the first four rounds of the  Bath Flash Fiction Award. And those stories fit the definition of flash fiction above very well. They linger, they resonate. You have to go back to read slowly. There are sweeps of life, or minute foci. I can’t wait to see what the book-in-the-hand looks like  when it’s back from the printers in a couple of week’s time.