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1

My parents were astonished when I was born with a tail.  My mother respected the narrative it held; she refused to let the doctors remove it.  My father shrugged.  He never bowed to day-to-day decisions.
When I was eight, I asked my mother, ‘Why don’t my friends have tails?’She said people are afraid of difference.  ‘Don’t be too quick to conform to others’ ideals,’ she said.  She chopped her fingers as if they were a pair of scissors.  
Her words bemused me but her snip, cut, snip made me giggle.
When I was twelve, Martha Karn called me a freak and my mother a liar.  I ran home and burst into her study.  Papers spiralled upwards in a malformed helix.
‘Why didn’t you let them cut it off?’
She caught my tears.  ‘It can’t be removed as easily as you might think.  Besides, it wasn’t my choice to make.’
‘I want it gone,’ I said.  ‘I want to be like everyone else.’
‘Wait until you’re older.’  She stroked my hair.  The fabric of her blouse was full of the scent of highlighter pens, books and dust.
At sixteen, Marcus Ace pulled up beside me, revved his bike, tugged on my tail and winked.  He didn’t care what anyone thought.  My friends were jealous we were dating.  Then I learned of his brag.
After that, I coiled it beneath dark, baggy jumpers; strangers assumed it was rolls of fat.
At eighteen, I had it removed.  My mother wept as hard as when I showed her the engagement ring.  
Later, I caught Marcus in bed with my best friend and realised he was no different from anybody else. 
If I sit quietly and don’t concentrate too hard, I can sense it shifting from side to side as it puckers the scar etched into my skin.


When Calum asked for volunteers for a writing project last year, I put myself forward, not knowing exactly what was involved.  When I found out it was to be an editor for a flash fiction journal in the run-up to the first National Flash Fiction Day, my initial reaction was I’m not qualified.  Then I paused and calmed down.  I’d been writing for around six years, read many books on the craft, had fifty or so short fiction publications (including a few short lists and competition placements), had attended writing classes and had reviewed short stories for Ether Books.  My qualifications had crept up on me.  So, I agreed to give it a go.

The format, as I’m sure many already know, is that the FlashFlood is open to submissions for seven days (a short window).  We don’t publicise before the start date, which makes submissions more spontaneous.  The seven editors each take a twenty-four hour shift.  Because of the short duration there is little room for discussion and the decision of each editor for a story that comes in on their shift is final.  I like this autonomy, and the fact that the editors are experienced authors in their own right, each with individual approaches.  I feel it gives our selections a diversity that might be lost if we spent a month discussing the merits of each entry and made a collective decision.

In terms of selection, I usually know within a couple of sentences if I’m not going to accept a piece (although I always read every entry at least twice); because however amazing a story might be, repeated typos, poor grammar and sloppy language will lead to rejection.  Thankfully, the quality of submissions is generally high.  But this makes our job that much harder, and ultimately, subjective.  

I have a preference for the fantastical or sci-fi, and I’m not keen on twists (unless done extremely well).  I like stories that contain subtexts but I require accessibility, or at the very least, to feel a connection to the character or their circumstances.  If I reach the end and I’m not sure what it was all about, I’m likely to reject it, however accomplished the language.  But of course the other editors will have inclinations for different genres and styles.

We are now on our fourth journal in the run-up to the second National Flash Fiction Day and editing has proved to be an enjoyable and rewarding experience.  The response time for submissions is possibly the shortest for any journal running, and entries close at midnight on Thursday 20th June.  So, what are you waiting for?  Get flashing!


The Team are:
Calum Kerr
Caroline Kelly
Cassandra Parkin
Nettie Thomson
Susan Howe
Susi Holliday
Shirley Golden

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Most of the time writing flash-fiction is exactly unlike writing anything else. The immediacy of the form bypasses the rational and the words come, not from careful planning or deliberation, but from somewhere more connected to a moment, a single frame in the movie that plays outside our windows.
This instant of creation comes from prompts, a trigger from any medium that pops one thought into a writer’s head.
“I knowhow this story ends.”
Endings in flash, at least for me, are the key. I resist the surprise, the sleight of hand reveal, instead trying to continue the narrative to a conclusion that fits wholly within the world of the story but takes the reader towards a new, less obvious corner.
I have recently finished a collection of flash-fiction based on the I Ching which, as a series of prompts, were entirely magnificent. The non-specific nature of the words were like mishearing something on the bus, or catching a snippet of conversation as the radio dial moves.
For example, from the I Ching fortune for “Grace”:
Grace has success. In small matters it is favorable to undertake something. Constant perseverance brings good fortune. Humiliation, but in the end good fortune. Simple grace. No blame.”
This small element has so many possibilities for a good story that if you stop and think about it for too long you will be overwhelmed by them. Think fast, what is the first idea that drops into your head?
Mine was girl-guides selling cookies.
It didn’t end as nicely as you’d think.
The I Ching, I was happy to discover, was full of these strange little moments. They were somehow, soft, malleable, a kind of mental plasticine that begged to be squeezed and re-shaped.

Statements are limiting, as a writer all I really want is a nice, vague non-rhetorical ‘what if…” to get the creative juices flowing.
And mood music.
And coffee.
When thinking about a flash, or in fact any kind of fiction, my method is always to know how the story ends. The simple reasoning for this is that water always flows downhill. I can start where I like, take as many detours as I want, but I always know where I’m heading.
Sometimes the really interesting stuff happens when you realise there is another valley on the other side of the mountain, the happy accident of the unexpected second ending.
This happens all the time, and those stories are always my favourites.


Learn more about Tim at www.timjstevenson.com

‘It was like being at war, I suppose,’ the Professor said.
 He relaxed deeper into his red leather armchair and sipped his brandy in the candlelight.
 His wife raised an eyebrow and stuck the poker into the remains of the fire before retrieving her cup of tea.
 ‘Not battles. Not soldiers in the trenches. That’s not what I mean.’ He stared at the last flames in the hearth.
 ‘It was a race to be the first,’ he began again. ‘The speed of sound, the moon landing, you know the kind of thing.’
 ‘The atom bomb?’ she asked.
 ‘Precisely,’ he replied.
 She knew not to pry any further. He’d always known how to keep a secret. All she knew was that deep in the Atacama Desert was a machine and it had kept her husband from her.
 ‘It was difficult,’ he said at last.
 ‘The work?’
 ‘Missing you.’
 She reached across the gap between them and gently squeezed his hand.
 ‘Not being able to call, not even being allowed to write a letter, that was the hardest thing to stomach.’
 His wife closed her eyes and let him talk. Four years of pent up thoughts rolled across the carpet.
 ‘I wondered if you’d changed,’ he said. ‘I had your photograph by my bed and wondered if you’d cut your hair or decided on a new favourite dress. It was hard to remember you.’
 She put her hand up to her curls and ran her hand through the auburn and the grey.
 ‘It’s strange how some things are hard to recollect, the little details,’ he said. ‘But that place we used to go to for tea on the square, the rickety tables and the homemade cakes, as clear as day. I used to dream about it.’
 ‘And the sofa by the fire,’ she said.
 In the deep orange glow her husband smiled.
 ‘Yes, all those crumbs under the cushions,’ he said. What were they? Coconut? Banana bread?’
 ‘Almonds,’ she said.
 ‘Oh yes. Crushed almonds, that wonderful smell.’
 Her husband had come home early. Homesickness he’d said, but she suspected.
 ‘I love you Julie,’ he said.
 She turned to face him. ‘Judith,’ she said.


'The Almond Crumb Sofa' is one of the stories from Scraps, the 2013 National Flash-Fiction Day Anthology. 

Learn more about Tim at www.timjstevenson.com

We now have only just over a week to go until this year's National Flash-Fiction Day. Can you feel the excitement in the air? We can almost taste it...

Once more, we are running the FlashFlood journal and submissions are now open over at http://flashfloodjournal.blogspot.co.uk/.

We also have events listed on our website that you can get involved with: http://nationalflashfictionday.co.uk/events.html.

To whet your appetite for the day, (and, frankly, to ramp up the tension), over the next week we're going to be posting a series of articles about flash-fiction from a variety of different writers. We'll also feature one of their stories, just to give you some relief from that horrible non-fictiony stuff. 

If you would like to contribute an article and story, please get in touch at nationalflashfictionday@gmail.com.

But, with no further ado, let's on with the first one, from this year's Micro-Fiction competition winner, Tim Stevenson.

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Hello everyone!

Well, it has been very, very difficult to make a decision, but Holly Howitt and myself finally managed to whittle down the nearly 300 submissions for this year's anthology to the final 50.

With no more fanfare, the names and stories are:

Amanda Oosthuizen - ‘Perfectly Black Sky’
Amanda Quinn - ‘Changing Light’
Ana Martinez - ‘The Veronicas’
Ariel Dawn - ‘Life Drawing’
Bart Van Goethem - ‘The Meaning of Life’
Becky Tipper - ‘The Art of the TV Chefs’
Beverly C. Lucey - ‘Peppermint Just the One’
Brendan Way - ‘Why Do Fools Fall in Love’
C Norman - ‘The Lonely Heart’
Cathy Bryant  - ‘The Man with Hands Amid the Rich Tea’
Cathy Lennon - ‘A Forest of Hands’
Chris Connolly  - ‘Q&A’
Claire Collison - ‘Second Look: Goat With Lawnmower’
Claire Ibarra - ‘Scraps’
Clare Kirwan - ‘Finding Trainspotting’
Dan Powell - ‘Her 12 Faces’
Danielle McLaughlin - ‘The Woman in the Bowl’
David Gullen - ‘The Spade’
Diane Simmons - ‘Images’
Eabha Rose - ‘The Elephant Is Contagious’
Emma J. Lannie - ‘Annie’
Emma Shaw - ‘Shadows’
Freya Morris - ‘Feed a Fever’
H Anthony Hildebrand - ‘The Paper Oak’
Ian Shine - ‘www.medicaldictionaryforthewoundedheart.com/gonorrhoea’
J Adamthwaite - ‘Coffee’
James Coates - ‘Aspirations to Anonymity’
Jim O'Loughlin - ‘Celery’
Joanna Campbell - ‘Bright New Morning’
John Keating - ‘Vigil (After Bruno Schulz)’
John Paul O’Neill - ‘Autumn ‘
Judy Darley  - ‘Quench’
Kylie Grant - ‘Elsie Manor’
L.A. Craig - ‘Shoe Fly Baby’
Mark Kockelbergh - ‘Orpheus In The Underground’
Natalie Bowers - ‘Broom’
Paul Kavanagh  - ‘Religion’
R A Martens - ‘Omelettes’
Rachael Kealy - ‘Exile’
Sam Russell - ‘A Canvas Darkly’
Shelley Day Sclater - ‘In a Moment’
Siobhán McNamara - ‘Slipping’
Sonya Oldwin - ‘Orange ‘
Stella Turner - ‘Penitence   ’
Stephen McGeagh - ‘#’
Thaddeus Howze - ‘The Warden’
Thomas McColl - ‘Takeaway Poetry Joint’
Tim Stevenson - ‘The Almond Crumb Sofa’

Tracey Upchurch - ‘Rose Petal Eyes’

And each one is a little gem!

These will be appearing alongside stories commissioned from Jenn Ashworth, Tania Hershman, Jonathan Pinnock, Kevlin Henney, Vanessa Gebbie, Sarah Hilary, David Hartley, Alison Wells, Nuala Ní Chonchúir and Amy Mackelden, as well myself and Holly. 

We are currently working on a title for the book, and starting the typesetting process so that we can have the book ready for National Flash-Fiction Day on 22nd June. It will be available in print and Kindle formats. So, stay tuned for more information as we have it.

Thanks to all those who submitted, and sorry that we couldn't include more of you. 

All best
Calum Kerr - Editor and Director of National Flash-Fiction Day