Welcome to the third in a series of interviews with this year's National Flash Fiction Day anthology editors and microfiction competition judges! This week, Diane Simmons chats with one of this year's microfiction competition judges, Rob Walton, about death, love, infidelity and writing, not to mention what he's looking for when judging our micro competition...
Diane: You won the National Flash Fiction Day micro competition in 2015 with your story Fly. Since then you’ve been a judge for a few NFFD micro competitions and I wondered if there are any themes that you see cropping up year after year?
Rob: Death. Love. Infidelity. In some of the competitions I’ve judged, domestic violence has been a recurring theme. Obviously an incredibly sensitive issue which has been handled in many ways but, sadly, rarely in a way which stops you in your tracks or makes you think or feel in any way differently about the subject. In a competition which attracts so many entries, there are bound to be some where people are working through things. Clearly this is massively important, but it doesn’t always lead to the best flashes.
Diane: Do you only write flash or are there any other forms that you enjoy writing?
Rob: I began by writing short stories, and then moved to flash and then to poetry. I now write mostly poetry and flash, but sometimes other things emerge which are happily without labels. I like things which are hard to pin down. When things occur to me, it’s usually quite clearly as the beginning of a specific form, but not always. I have also written work which has been unsuccessful in one form, but then worked when I’ve tweaked it into another. I have an ongoing battle with script which I think I should be able to write, but it doesn’t quite happen. I also have a page or two in most of my notebooks which are essentially jokes which never see the light of day. Let us gather together and give thanks.
Diane: How important do you think social media is for writers?
Rob: I’m never quite sure. It obviously works for a lot of people, but it’s also very crowded and it can be hard for some great voices to be heard in the middle of all the uninspiring noise. I use twitter, instagram and my personal facebook page to mention publication successes. I tend to avoid mentioning the rejections, and concentrate on blowing my own trumpet, hoping I can one day put ‘Scunthorpe’s Biggest Bighead’ on my twitter profile. I hope people take it as read that each acceptance sits on a big pile of “No, Not on your Nellie”. Curiously (or not), I do appreciate it when other people post about their non-acceptances/rejections/insert your own. I particularly love it when they’re specific. It can be very reassuring when you know writers you like and respect have also had a No Thank You/Bugger Off/You’ve Got To Be Kidding Me!/Do You Want A Fight? from a particular publication.
Diane: Judges often say that there are not enough funny stories submitted to competitions. Has that been your experience?
Rob: Yes, definitely, and it’s something I always hope to find. In submission opportunities like NFFD’s micro competition there will be a few, but rarely any that make me laugh. I often find they try too hard and/or rely on a punchline which you can see a mile off.
Diane: Do you set yourself a schedule for writing?
Rob: I usually work part-time, teaching in a primary school on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. This should mean that I spend those other four days doing more writing, but it doesn’t always work out like that. I’m very motivated by deadlines and once in a while they force a schedule on me. I have no problem with ideas and sometimes think it would be good to have fewer so I could spend more of my disorganised not-really-a-schedule on the ones I’ve already had. I would pay good money for Writers’ Ideas Block. And up to thirty pence for a loaf of bread.
Rob Walton grew up in Scunthorpe, and now lives in Whitley Bay. His short fiction and poetry for adults and children appears in various magazines and anthologies. His flashes have appeared in Blue Fifth Review, 101 words (US), Flash Frontier (NZ), Love Bites (Dostoyevsky Wannabe), Port (Dunlin Press), Flash, I love You! (Paper Swans), Story Cities (Arachne Press), Ham, Ink, Sweat & Tears, The Cabinet of Heed, Number Eleven, National Flash Fiction Day anthologies, Bangor Literary Journal, Northern Voices, Popshot, Pygmy Giant, Reflex, Spelk, Words for the Wild and others. He has also written for performance and collated the text for the New Hartley Memorial Pathway. His words have appeared in shop windows and Scunthorpe United’s matchday magazine. He is a past winner of the UK’s National Flash Fiction Day micro-fiction competition.
SUBMISSIONS ARE NOW OPEN for this year's National Flash Fiction Day Anthology and Micro Fiction Competition. Submissions close on 15th February 2020. For more information, please visit our Anthology and Competition pages.