Skip to content

From behind a small Venetian mask - a cheap knock-off of a replica, of course - peaks a tome of Shakespeare's works. Next to it volumes and volumes of anthologies sit, their spines all turned to me as though they are critical of my words.

‘We’ve all been written before, my dear,’ some seem to say from the closed pages, while others dare me to read between their lines and find a different meaning for them.

‘What story could you possibly have to tell?’ a thick and haughty book with elaborate letters in gold-coloured relief sneers down at me from upon the dusty shelf, the five letters of the name ‘Grimm’ half-faded, barely legible from use.

I stare at my blank page and wonder exactly that. I’ve always loved stories big and small, murder mysteries and vampires’ broodings, spells and spelling, tales and tellings. Ever since that the great spinning wheel first began to thread the fabric of fairy tale around me, I was lost inside an imaginary world that was all my own.
And then it hits me. ‘What stories could I possibly have to tell?’

Why, my own, of course.

Sandra's blog can be found at

This probably sounds familiar, but I’ve always wanted to write. Hopes of getting published someday, somehow? Check. One must be ambitious, and being a dreamer is inherent to a writer, right?

So I came across the term “flash fiction” this year. Not knowing what that was, I decided to investigate what on earth it meant. It turns out, flash fiction is just really short fiction. A short short story. A situation. A vignette. A small peek into something that might – or just as easily might not – grow into something bigger, like an actual short story or just a medium-sized story or even the full-length novel you’ve always dreamt of writing.

A piece of fiction of 500 words (or less)… That sounded like something I could actually manage. Better yet, it sounded like a challenge. Especially since the particular blog I’d found was this one, about to host Flash Flood day. It winked at me and  said: go on, submit your flash fiction to us before this deadline, and we might just publish it right here! I tipped my imaginary hat and accepted.

I decided to give it a shot. Better still, I discovered that I had actually been writing flash fiction all along. Imagine that. I did a little happy dance when I realised it, because that also meant I was a writer all along. Hooray! Those pieces of paper, the notebooks with barely legible handwriting, the many documents that have been saved to my hard drive without any apparent purpose… I’d been writing flash fiction all along!
That realisation made it easier to open up one of those ghostly white new documents and fill it with words. No more than 500. And it turns out that flash fiction is the perfect vehicle to voice, jot down, safe keep and organise all those stray thoughts that are swimming around in a writer’s head literally all of the time. (I thought it was just me, by the way.)

A short conversation between two people that replays in your mind. An incomplete, otherwise fleeting thought, that might grow into a tale, once upon a time... Something that actually happened to you but that you’re more comfortable voicing when it comes out of a fictional character’s mouth. An observation that was too pretty to discard. The snippets of history you’ve already imagined hiding behind the lines and creases of cashier’s reassuring face when she helped you pick up the broken eggs after you dropped the carton. The hazy memories of a dream that cling almost imperceptibly to your waking consciousness, ready to let go.

They say that to be a writer is to write. No matter what. I say: try flash. It doesn’t demand that much of your precious time, and it’s a perfect way to hone your skills and be at it. To find the right combination of words to achieve the desired effect in as few words as possible. Or just to commit to paper what otherwise may have been forgotten.

Dear NFFD readers, writers and supporters --
We expect to notify you of the Long List and Short List from this year's competition in the coming days, but meanwhile mark your calendars for this year's events on or around 22 June.
The main prize-giving event will take place again this year in Auckland, in the Central City Library on 22 June from  2-4pm. Judges Vivienne Plumb and David Lyndon Brown will be there to present awards. Short-listed writers who can attend will present their work, and a handful of special invited guests will also present flash fiction for our enjoyment. The Auckland branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors is helping sponsor the event, and there will be a reception as well. Do come share a drink and listen to some of the best flash fiction in Aotearoa on this day.
Meanwhile, if you are geographically situated farther south, check out Wellington's flash fiction event on Monday 24 June at 7pm at the Thistle Inn. It's an event for readers and writers, hosted by the Wellington NZSA. 
Details for both these events can be found on the NFFD website. Check the website for local competitions and challenges, too. 
And if anyone is interested in hosting an event in Canterbury or elsewhere -- large or small -- , do let us know and we'll be glad to share your news. 
Finally, if you are interested in flash fiction in other places as well, stop in at FLASH MOB 2013, where more than 100 writers from all over the globe will share stories beginning on 20 June. The winning stories from this year's FLASH MOB competition will be announced on 22 June as well.

Wishing you the best

from Michelle Elvy and the NFFD NZ team

She looks in the mirror.  She’s lied slightly about her age. He probably has too. They all do.

Is pink too brash?  Is black too sober?  She wonders what he’s like. He sounded nice online.

She’ll straighten her hair and go for the blue.  Oh, and the killer high heels and new red lipstick. That’ll do the trick.

He simply throws on old, faded chinos, with his favourite shirt and thinks, ‘Yeah, still got it.’

75 word biography:
Helena Mallett is a regular contributor of 75 word stories to Richard Hearn's daily Paragraph Planet.
She has a 100 word story ‘Death and Life’ included in the anthology of Micro-Fiction ‘Pod’ published by Leaf Books in 2011.
Her first collection of Flash Fiction is 75 x 75 = Flash Fraction which tells 75 stories each captured in exactly 75 words.
Helena is a Londoner currently living in the rolling hills of wild West Wales.

(More information at

I am a 75 word storyteller.
I love the discipline of writing to a specific word count with every word examined under a magnifying glass to earn its place.
Some stories are honed slowly and lovingly over time while others rise through sleep and into the dawn of my laptop complete and ready for the world.
I'm currently writing my next collection of 75 word stories due for publication at the end of the year.

For four weeks Russell’s been researching rail travel, because he wants to be Ethan Hawke in Before Sunrise. He’s prepared for other variations if this one won’t work, although he’s not updating Shakespeare, serenading Winona Ryder, or pretending he’s someone he’s not (unless it’s Ethan Hawke, obviously).

I try to be supportive. He asks me, ‘Where can I get a good hamburger?’ until he gets the accent right. We walk around the city, late nights and early mornings, and he keeps saying, ‘I didn’t think it’d be this cold. It didn’t look cold in the film.’ Sometimes, I swear he’s saying ‘Uma Thurman’ under his breath, but he may just be shivering.

He’s got his inter-rail pass already. I bite my lip to stop from saying, ‘This isn’t what Ethan would have, because Ethan’s American.’ I don’t relay any of Russell’s flaws back to him (he really can’t say ‘banana’) because I’m not in the habit of destroying hope.

Before he leaves I ask him, ‘Why Ethan?’ and he mumbles something about oddly tall beautiful women, whilst fastening the clips on his rucksack. I stand on tiptoes, crane my neck and say, ‘You don’t need to travel round Europe for that.’ And then he kisses me continentally, on both cheeks, as his train pulls in.

(originally published in Fractured West Issue 3)

This year I was an intern for National Flash Fiction Day, which involved receiving, compiling and covertly reading submissions before anyone else saw them. Sure, it was an admin task, the core of which involved building a spreadsheet of all the anthology entries, logging names, email addresses and word counts. But it somehow managed to be super fun. It was great seeing entries arrive in the inbox, some from recognisable names, some from newcomers, and getting to read them first. I didn’t have a say in the judging process, but it was awesome reading the stories before anyone else, trying to guess what might make the cut. The main lesson I took from this was that a story might be great, but that doesn’t mean it’ll fit into any project, necessarily. There was such a volume of entries, it must’ve been tough to choose what made it into the book, and what didn’t. And a part of that has to be which stories create a product, fit together, are cohesive. A story doesn’t always find a home on its first submission. Which is why it’s massively worth re-subbing, over and over again if need be. It was cool to see the breadth of responses too, each about a piece of art, be it book, film, sculpture, each so unique, personal, different, new.

From the spreadsheet I created a mail merge, which built a word document containing all of the submissions, each uniform, all in the same font, anonymous, with title only, so that the judges could read every story without the prejudice of knowing its author. I like that Calum and Holly read all the submissions this way, it makes it so much more fair if the first time they see the work they have no idea who submitted it. Everyone has an equal shot.

Once the selection was made, I compiled a new document with the chosen entries in it, which Calum typeset (and I still can’t believe how quickly he made the book happen, and that we’ll have it in a week).

There are many reasons I love flash. It’s the first form I really enjoyed working in. I just got it and it, me: it’s like the most reliable boyfriend/girlfriend ever. Flash can tell a whole story, a half of it, or a moment only, as it passes. It’s at times impossible to define, maybe called poetry or a prose poem in the mouths of others. It works in sequence or solo, but it’ll never spawn 7 sequels like Die Hard’s going to. It’s so much more efficient than that. Sparse yet filled with possibility which the reader injects like a jam machine in a donut factory. It’s compact, resourceful, won’t waste morsels. It’s the opposite of a Kardashian. And I’m totally, one hundred and ten percent, in love with it. 
Amy's new Trash TV blog, co-edited by fellow flash writer Amy Roberts is at:

Amy's microfiction site is:

The man was rude to his wife, mostly. But she loved him all the same, loved him as much as when they’d met - her, fresh out of college, him with flecks of grey already creeping into his hair. Decades on, she was still young, black haired, funny, smart. And she was good at her job, well liked by those she managed, and she earned a good wage. Still, when she came home he’d often ignore her, or choose to grunt instead of speaking.
             She loved to cook, and she loved to cook for him – and she was good at it, and not just at your average meal. Her teriyaki was as good as her hot pot and her madras was as good as anything. But mostly, despite cleaning his plate, he’d be rude, critical, grumpy.
             ‘It’s fine,’ he’d snap if she pushed him for a verdict on something new or recently perfected.
             He was retired, had been for years, and his days were predictable, but she still asked him about them.
             ‘How was your day?’ she’d say, a warm smile on soft lips.
             She’d ask, ‘Been in the garden? How are the plants?’
             Sometimes, if he was in the right mood, he’d tell her what he’d been doing, tell her what he planned to do, use words like compost, borders, trimming, pruning, and colour.
             He loved his garden, and not just because he enjoyed the work, or  because he appreciated the exercise and fresh air, or because he loved its smells and colours. He and his plants were friends. He’d talk to them, tell them secrets. Give them instructions – explain when to bloom, and for how long, show them why they should adjust the angles of their stems, which way they ought to face. And the plants listened. But this was a secret. No-one could know.
             The man’s wife knew. Not that she said anything, if it made him happy then fine.
             She’d seen him a number of times, watched him from their kitchen window, seen him with his head inclined towards a hanging basket, nodding as he spoke to it, or with his hands on his hips, chatting to their cherry tree. One day she’d come home to find him on his knees, arms waving, conducting their bedding plants.
             The first time she mentioned it to him was on the day he died.
             He’d become grey and thin very quickly; he had begun to look like an old man, and she, his wife, was worried.
             She found him in their room. He was cupping the head of a poinsettia, whispering to it tenderly and with enthusiasm. She heard him tell it her name.
             ‘Hi,’ she said, ‘How are you doing?’
             ‘Fine,’ he said.
             ‘Is it true what they say?’ she asked, easing herself onto their bed, ‘Does it help them grow?’
             ‘Some people think so,’ he told her.
             ‘What do you say to them?’ asked his wife, patting their mattress, inviting him to join her.
             He straightened and smiled. The mattress creaked under his weight.
             ‘Ever think what you’ll do when I’m gone?’ he asked.
             ‘Don’t be silly! There’s life in you yet,’ she said, that warmth on her lips, hoping.
             ‘I think about it,’ he continued. ‘You’ll be a long time without me.’
             ‘Don’t talk like that.’
             ‘Wish I was younger,’ he said. ‘Or that you were older. Big gap between us.’
             The man’s wife hushed him. She didn’t want to hear this.
             ‘So the flowers,’ she said. ‘What do you tell them?’
             ‘Secrets,’ he said. ‘Instructions. Things they need to remember once I’ve gone. And they will, you know,’ he told her, smiling, ‘Just you wait.’
             She pulled him close and held him, because she loved him. They lay together that night, old next to young, man next to wife. He told her he loved her and that he always would - and that she should believe what he said about the flowers - and he apologised for being grumpy most of the time and explained that it was because he felt guilty for being so much older - and he said that he thought he was selfish and she told him to sshhh.
             In the morning he was dead, died in his sleep.
             With a funeral to arrange and friends and relatives to deal with and wills to action - and everything else that comes with losing a husband - the woman, now a widow, didn’t think about the flowers or about what her husband had said. She went weeks once without watering them.
             She was in the garden when it came back to her, she was just there, just breathing, when she noticed that the flowerbed was different – its flowers made shapes. Letters. Words.
             The words spelled her name, they spelled ALWAYS and, at the end, after the blues and yellows and pinks that formed the name of her husband, they made an X.

Nik Perring is a short fiction writer from the UK. His stories have been collected into books (Not So Perfect (Roast Books) and (with Caroline Smailes) Freaks!(TFP?HarperCollins)), published in many fine places all over the world, been used on a distance learning course in the US and a number of other cool things. His online home is here ( and he’s on Twitter as @nikperring and he’d love you to say hi.

Despite being labeled as a flash fiction author (quite rightly, it’s what I do and what I’ve been doing for many years) I very, very, rarely set out to write something small. When I sit down to write a story, the most important thing by far is to do the story and the idea that generated it justice – to turn it into the best thing it can be. To make it interesting. To make it affecting. To make it, if at all possible, good. Word count is never anything I worry about, nor is how long it’s going to take me to finish. For me, it’s all about the story.
But what’s happened over the past few years (I think my first flash was published in 2008, over at the wonderful Smokelong) is that the stories I’ve written have ended up being short. And often that’s surprised me. Often, when writing them, or working on them, or spending days and days tweaking and polishing and (sometimes) starting all over again, the stories feel big. There have been a few occasions when I’ve finished and gone to check on the word count and been surprised, thought: Really? Is that all?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not disappointed when something I thought could have been a few thousand words is actually a few hundred. If I thought about it (which is something I don’t often do – I’m only doing it now because I’m writing this for the great National Flash Fiction Day) it would make me happy. It’d mean I’ve got rid of everything that doesn’t need to be there, and that the story’s as concise and efficient as I can make it. It also means – and I think this is the point – that story actually IS bigger than the number of words I’ve used to tell it. I like to think of it as something similar to a kiss; it can last a moment and a lifetime too.
And that is the point. It’s not about the number of pages or the number of words that dictates a story’s size – it’s the story itself.

And, as we’re talking about kisses and stories, the next post is a story called ‘Kiss’ (from NotSo Perfect). 

Hello everyone,

Well, we are now one week away from the day! Hasn't it come around quickly.
Sorry that the bulletins have been a little thin this year, there is a really good excuse, and I'll tell you what it is when I think of it.
Anyway, a quick roundup as we go into the final week.
Once more we are running the FlashFlood journal. It's looking for your stories - up to 3 stories, up to 500 words each - and they will all appear on the site on NFFD itself. We want to make it a full day, so please send us in your work. Details and submission guidelines are over at
During the week we will also be running a series of posts about flash-fiction, with accompanying stories, over on the NFFD blog ( Do please go and have a read, and we have a few spots left so if you'd like to write something for us, please get in touch.
I also have an inkling of a plan for something online on the day itself. If you might be available to help out next Saturday, please do get in touch about that too!
What else? Well, the anthology has gone to print and will be here in time for the day. Copies will be on sale at the Bristol events (more below on that) and are currently available to pre-order from the website at
If you can't wait that long, of if you find paper to be just too passé then you can now buy the ebook from Amazon at (if you are outside the UK, just change the to something more relevant...)
We have also added a shop to the website so you can easily find your flash-fix from our authors' books,. our anthologies, or our beautiful short-story cards. That's up at
And then, most importantly, we have events that are happening on the day. They are quite nicely spread out - Bristol, Cardiff, Dublin, Edinburgh, Hartlepool and Shrewsbury. If you have an event that we haven't yet listed, please let us know. If you already have, and we've missed the email, please poke us with a stick.
I will be appearing at the Bristol events, with fresh copies of Scraps, leading a workshop with Tania Hershman and then reading in the evening with a huge range of wonderful writers. Do come along if you can. More details at
I'm sure there are more things I should tell you, but that's enough to go on with, don't you think?
If you have anything we've missed, please drop us a line and we'll spread the word.
And so, until next week, happy flashing!
All the best
Calum Kerr
Director, National Flash-Fiction Day
This bulletin was original sent as an email to the Mailing List. If you would like to join the list, drop us a line at