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Welcome to the fourth in a series of interviews with this year's National Flash Fiction Day anthology editors and micro fiction competition judges! This week, Diane Simmons squeezes out secrets from one of this year's anthology editors, Santino Prinzi...

Diane: The theme for this year’s NFFD anthology is ‘Doors’. Is there anything in particular you are looking for in a submission?

Santino: This is always a difficult question to answer because I’m always surprised and awe-struck by the variety of ways writers interpret our anthology themes. No matter the ways in which I imagine, everyone always takes it to another level. In last year’s anthology, Ripening, authors created such incredibly varied stories about food, taking their stories in directions I couldn't have dreamed.

That’s what I want again this year! I want stories that offer such a unique take on the theme that it’s screaming to be shared with the world. Doors absolutely must be integral to the story – in what way is up to you to decide.

If you’re flummoxed, make yourself come up with 6 different ideas. Not full stories, merely gut responses. This forces you to think harder, to dig deeper. I can almost guarantee idea number 5 or 6 will excite you. Knock on that door, see who answers!

Diane: You are editing the anthology this year with Joanna Campbell. You have worked on previous editions with Meg Pokrass and Alison Powell. Can you explain a little about the editing process and, in particular, whether there is usually much consensus between the two editors over which stories to choose?

Santino: First and foremost: our anthology editors read every single story submitted. Each editor makes a list of their favourite 50 stories from all those submissions and any stories that are on both of the editors’ lists are automatically in. Most years, there’s usually around 20 stories or so that appear on both lists. The editors then discuss which stories fill these remaining spaces. We also only feature one story per person because we like to include as many different perspectives as possible in our anthologies. The only exception to this is when an author has a story selected for the anthology and has placed in the top ten for the micro fiction competition because the micro competition is judged separately. 

Editing the anthology is always such a joy. Every guest editor has their own take, their own preferences. Most of all, every editor I have worked with has shown such care and consideration for the stories they read. They take their time, they read and re-read, and they discuss these stories with such insight. I always learn so much working with these wonderful editors. I think that’s what makes these anthologies quite special -- and the stories of course!

After the stories have been chosen, there’s a lot more work to do. I won’t bore you with those details…

Diane: Last year V. Press published your flash pamphlet, There’s Something Macrocosmic About All of This. Can you tell me a little about the pamphlet, particularly what you learned from putting it together?

Santino: There’s Something Macrocosmic About All of This was born from playful disbelief. I almost didn’t send V-Press the manuscript. When they were open for submissions, I thought that it was something I’d love to do but I didn’t have any material. I didn’t want to waste their time. 

I write stories about LGBTQ+ people. Not consciously, it just happens more often than not. One evening I collected some of these stories together to what would it look like. I saw connections and common themes that I didn’t see in these stories as individuals. I just went for it. If you don't, it's a no. If you do, maybe it might not be...

There's Something Macrocosmic About All of This by Santino Prinzi

There’s Something Macrocosmic About All of This, then, is a series of flashes that attempt to normalise the LGBTQ+ experience. This isn’t, in any way, to devalue LGBTQ+ people and these experiences, but rather to not let these flashes be defined by stereotypes. These characters are LGBTQ+. LGBTQ+ is who they are, it’s not what they do. What happens to the characters in these stories happens to them because they are people. People love, people fight, people learn lessons the hard way. Love is love, an argument is an argument, a lesson learned is a lesson learned. 

Regardless of our differences, we share a commonality. I think the title of the pamphlet suggests this too. We’re all a part of something much bigger than ourselves. We exist in our own little world and our perspective of it, but we’re all a part of the bigger story and the shared human experience.

I'm currently working on a full-length collection of flash fiction. I've developed a new writing process which has meant I have a lot of unpublished drafts, and refining this material will be my focus (I hope) after editing the anthology this year. Some of it may even creep out into the world...

Diane: You studied creative writing at Bath Spa University. Was it there that you first encountered flash fiction? And if so, what was your preferred form before that?

Santino: I think most people who study creative writing do so with certain expectations, certain ideas in their head. I didn’t have a preferred form, though I fancied writing YA. I joke that I was going to write a novel that would out-sell John Green. However, as you dive in to study with pre-conceived notions swirling around, you’re encouraged to loosen your grip so you can be open to new possibilities. I attended a reading by a writer who soon became one of my favourites: Tania Hershman. 

Tania’s words off the page as well as on them opened my eyes to the possibilities within very short forms, as well as giving yourself permission to experiment and explore the freedom you actually have when writing. If you are not familiar with Tania’s work, buy her books. You’ll thank me later.

Diane: How important do you think titles are in flash fictions? 

Santino: Titles are powerful and they’re often underestimated. They can define the meaning of your entire story, or the meaning of the title can slowly shift and fade into various meanings as you progress through the story itself. I like titles that demand my attention, that are risky. All writing, in a way, is about taking risks, so why not take risks with our titles?

Titles are also hard to decide upon, but they don’t need to be complicated. As much as I’m a sucker for a title that’s as mysterious as it is poetic, a simple one-word title can be just as effective. I think the title of our 2017 anthology, Sleep is a Beautiful Colour, is a great example. Helen Rye’s title is unusual, conjures a strong image, creates intrigue and, while reading the story, you understand how it is integral to the flash itself.

Santino Prinzi
Santino Prinzi


Santino Prinzi is a Co-Director of National Flash Fiction Day in the UK, a Consulting Editor for New Flash Fiction Review, and is one of the founding organisers of the annual Flash Fiction Festival. His flash fiction pamphlet, There’s Something Macrocosmic About All of This (2018), is available from V-Press, and his short flash collection, Dots and other flashes of perception (2016), is available from The Nottingham Review Press. As well as a nominee for the Best Small Fictions, Best Microfictions, and the Pushcart Prize, his writing has been published in various magazines and anthologies, including Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Jellyfish Review, And Other Poems, The AirgonautStories for Homes Anthology Vol.2 and many more. To find out more follow him on Twitter (@tinoprinzi) or visit his website:


SUBMISSIONS ARE NOW OPEN for this year's National Flash Fiction Day Anthology and Micro Fiction Competition. Submissions close on 15th March 2019. For more information, please visit our Anthology and Competition pages.  

We are also trying to secure funding to offer free entries to disadvantaged and marginalised writers. If you would like to help us do this by donating entries, please contact us at

Welcome to the third in a series of interviews with this year's National Flash Fiction Day anthology editors and micro fiction competition judges! This week, Santino Prinzi speaks with Diane Simmons about judging this year's micro fiction competition, and the release of her debut flash fiction collection...

Santino: Your debut flash fiction collection Finding a Way will be published this week by Ad Hoc Fiction Press. Congratulations! Would you mind telling us a little bit about the collection and how it came into being?

Diane: Thank you, Tino. Finding a Way is being published on the 9th February. It is a collection of 51 connected flashes on the theme of grief. Told from various points of view, it follows a family over a three and a half year period as they navigate loss. Following the death of my daughter, Laura in 2015, I wrote almost exclusively about grief for a while and it occurred to me that this might be an interesting subject for a collection. It also occurred to me that the stories may help people in some way – both those grieving and those dealing with someone they know who is experiencing grief. Originally intended as a pamphlet, Ad Hoc Fiction approached me in January 2018 offering publication if I turned it into a full collection.

Santino: Though you’re no stranger to flash fiction and judging competitions, this is your first year judging National Flash Fiction Day’s micro fiction competition. What excites you about judging for this competition and what will you be looking for as a judge?

Diane: Winning third prize in NFFD’s micro competition in 2015 is one of my writing highlights, so to now help judge the competition is really exciting.  I’m a bit of a fan of flashes with a story to them – a beginning, middle and end. I often prefer realistic stories, but having said that, I’m constantly surprised and delighted by stories that don’t fit my criteria, often enjoying things with a touch of surrealism. I would just advise people to write what they want to write and not try and guess what a judge might favour.

Santino: If flash fiction were a type of food, what would it be and why?

Diane: My first thought was that it should be something I could eat quickly, but that would also be filling and satisfying, but then I thought maybe a curry. If you eat a curry in a restaurant that really knows its stuff, then you can taste every individual spice, but each spice adds up to a wonderful overall taste. I think this is a little like a flash – with so few words every word has to zing and contribute something.

Santino: You’ve read your flash fiction at various live events and on the radio. Has reading your work at events helped you grow as a writer in any way? What advice would you give to writers who may be nervous about reading or may have never read at an event before?

Diane: I used to be terrified at the thought of reading out loud to an audience. But now I enjoy it and it has really helped my confidence as a writer. Seeing and hearing an audience react to a story (whether they are laughing or crying) is a very rewarding thing. I think it’s really important to practise reading and I start weeks before and record loads of versions on my phone. When I first started reading to an audience, I would grab any friend who came through my door and make them listen to me practise. That really helped me get over my nerves – if you can read in front of someone you know, then doing it in front of a bunch of strangers is not such a problem. I never read from a book, but print out my story in large print and mark dialogue in colour (with a different colour for each speaker). I also read very slowly so the audience has time to take it in and I also try to look up and engage with the audience, though this is difficult to do and can sometimes lead to me losing my place.

Santino: You’re holding an online launch for your debut flash collection on Monday 11th February. Can you tell us more about it? What can we expect and how can we check it out?

Diane: My online launch will be a Facebook event from 8-9pm on the 11th February and will be an open group so that everyone can join in. I think it will be really wonderful to get together lots of my friends from all over the world. There will be films of me reading a few stories and also one of Jude Higgins interviewing me. Hopefully, there will be lots of chat about the book too. There will also be virtual wine, crisps and possibly chocolate brownies. Everyone can join in here:


Diane SimmonsDiane Simmons is a writer, editor, a co-director of National Flash Fiction Day, and part of the organising team for Flash Fiction Festivals UK. She has been an editor for FlashFlood, a flash fiction judge and for three years was a reader for the Bath Short Story Competition. Her fiction has featured in a variety of anthologies and publications including Mslexia; New Flash Fiction Review; To Carry Her Home, BFFA Vol One;The Lobsters Run Free, BFFA Vol 2; Flash Fiction Festival, Vols One and Two; Flash I Love You (Paper Swans); FlashBack Fiction; Micro Madness; and six National flash Fiction Day UK anthologies. In 2009 she won second place in ITV's This Morning National Short Story Competition and since then has been placed in many flash fiction and short story contests, including the HISSAC flash prize; the NFFD micro competition; Writers' Forum Short Story Competition; Worcester Literature Festival Flash Competition; 99 Fiction; NAWG; and The Frome International Short Story Competition. Her stories have also been shortlisted for numerous competitions, including the Bath Flash Fiction Award; Exeter Flash; and Flash 500. Her debut collection of flash, ‘Finding a Way’ is being published by Ad Hoc Fiction in February 2019. She tweets @scooterwriter. You can learn more about Diane at


SUBMISSIONS ARE NOW OPEN for this year's National Flash Fiction Day Anthology and Micro Fiction Competition. Submissions close on 15th March 2019. For more information, please visit our Anthology and Competition pages.  

We are also trying to secure funding to offer free entries to disadvantaged and marginalised writers. If you would like to help us do this by donating entries, please contact us at

Welcome to the second in a series of interviews with this year's National Flash Fiction Day anthology editors and micro fiction competition judges! This week,  Santino Prinzi is in conversation with micro fiction competition judge and Costa Short Story Award winning author, Angela Readman. They talk about Angela's recently published debut novel, and Angela offers tips for writing brilliant flash fiction...

Santino: Welcome, Angela! Your debut novel, Something Like Breathing, has just been published by And Other Stories. Congratulations! Could you tell us a little bit more about your novel? 

Angela: Hello, and thank you! It’s about friends who live on an island, Sylvie and Lorrie, growing up in the 50’s. It starts with the words, ‘I’d tell you about Sylvie, but you wouldn’t believe me.’ I didn’t think I was going to write a novel when I wrote those lines, to be honest. I’d hoped it would be a short story. I’d had some lovely support for my story collection Don’t Try This at Home and really wanted to do another, but the characters wouldn’t let me. I found they all had so many stories within their lives, from a mother obsessed with Tupperware, to a grandfather who runs a distillery and refuses to wear matching clothes. I had to keep writing to find out who these people were. They kept on surprising me.

Santino: I can't wait to read it! Now, some people argue that writing short stories and flash fiction is a “good warm up” for writing a novel, which potentially ignores the different skills and qualities required to write these different forms. What are your thoughts on this? What freedoms or restrictions did you feel when writing Something Like Breathing that you don’t experience writing flash fiction?

Angela: I don’t like the idea that flash or short stories are practice exercises for writing something longer.  It sounds like the short form is somehow less valid. I don’t buy into that. Flash is its own art form and it’s amazing.  Novels are completely different. They both have their own challenges and aren’t trying to do the same thing. When I write flash, I’m after a glimpse of something, perhaps something I don’t understand instantly. It’s like catching something out of the window of a speeding car. 

Something Like Breathing by Angela Readman

With a novel, it’s more like being invited in to the house of a stranger. There’s space to look around and really get to know them. It was fascinating. I loved being able to see the characters grow over years in their lives. I found the challenge was there’s no Off switch when you spend that amount of time with characters. It feels like you carry them around with you wherever you go. I’d be in the supermarket and suddenly wonder if Sylvie likes tomatoes. I didn’t anticipate that. It was pretty intense. 

Santino: Many of your stories offer a sense of surrealism cemented in the normal every day, for example, your story ‘Attack of the Robot Grannies’ in last year’s anthology feels both otherworldly and of this world. Is blurring the lines of possibility something you enjoy doing in your writing? 

Angela: I love blurring the lines of possibility. I wouldn’t really describe my work as magical realist, it’s probably more realist magical, or everyday surrealism or something. The work’s grounded in the everyday, but anything could happen there. I hope it can anyway! I’ve written realist work, but I’m drawn to the strange. I’m not sure why. I think it’s something to do with a sense of limitation. I often write characters who seem limited by their location, status or circumstances, ordinary people with ordinary lives. I hate the idea that our opportunities should be limited though, whether it’s by where we live or social status, or whatever, so things that seem impossible always creep in.  The women in Attack of the Robot Grannies had such boring office lunches they just needed those grannies.

Santino: It sometimes feels like writers are under pressure to always be putting words on the page. Are there any other activities, cultural or otherwise, that you feel can be just as helpful to a writer? 

Angela: There’s a sense we should always be writing, but there’s only so long anyone can stare at a screen. It’s useful to do something completely different sometimes, like going to a museum or art gallery, standing still and really looking at something. I also started making things with felt last year. I wanted to try a craft I’d never tried and stick with it for a year. 

There’s something about accepting you don’t know anything and are just trying something out that can be freeing when you come back to writing. Rather than abandon work, or feel it should be perfect instantly, some of that feeling of just giving it a whirl is brought to the page. 

Santino: You won our very first National Flash Fiction Day Micro Fiction Competition and you have judged thousands of micros for us. What are your top tips for authors who wish for their micros to shine?

Angela: It has been a real pleasure to read so much flash. There’s no one way to write it. The joy is flash can be anything, traditional in structure or more experimental. It’s so surprising! The most common mistake I see is trying to fit too much in and generalising to fit it all in. Flash is powerful when it’s specific. It doesn’t need to explain itself. Trust your readers, with something so short it’s amazing how far they’ll come with you. Choose each word wisely and let that do the work. Write your flash, leave it, then go back and edit. Then edit again. Just to be sure, do that again until there isn’t a word you could change. 


 Angela Readman is the winner of the first National Flash Fiction Day competition. Her short stories have since been winners of The Costa Short Story Award, The Mslexia Story Prize and The Anton Chekhov Award for Short Fiction. Her story collection Don't Try This at Home was short listed in The Edge Hill and won The Rubery Book Award. In January 2019 her debut novel Something like Breathing was published by And Other Stories. She also writes poetry and is published by Nine Arches.


SUBMISSIONS ARE NOW OPEN for this year's National Flash Fiction Day Anthology and Micro Fiction Competition. Submissions close on 15th March 2019. For more information, please visit our Anthology and Competition pages.  

We are also trying to secure funding to offer free entries to disadvantaged and marginalised writers. If you would like to help us do this by donating entries, please contact us at

Welcome to the first in a series of interviews with this year's National Flash Fiction Day anthology editors and micro fiction competition judges! This week, Diane Simmons talks with one of this year's anthology editors, Joanna Campbell, about her writing routine, her favourite book, and how she's hoping writers will respond to this year's anthology theme...

Diane: I know that as well as being a prolific writer, you are also an enthusiastic reader. Do you find that what you are reading affects your writing style? If so, does it mean that you perhaps read less than you used to do?

Joanna: Reading inspires me to work harder at refining my own style. I focus on how an author has achieved that perfect sentence, that realistic piece of dialogue, that breath-taking segment of description. If I do manage to discover where the magic lies, I will try to add that technique to my own work. I am a completely self-taught writer and everything I have learnt has emanated from reading.

Diane: As well as being a successful flash writer, you have published a short story collection, When Planets Slipped Their Tracks, and a novel, Tying Down the Lion. Do you have a favourite form?

Joanna: I don’t have a particular favourite because I love writing solely for its own sake. It’s the characters who appeal to me, whether they warrant a full-length novel, a novella, short story or a flash. Once I know who I’m writing about, the character lets me know which form they need. For example, I have abandoned many attempts at novels because the characters eventually made it plain they were more suited to a short story. On the other hand, Tying Down The Lion is a novel resulting from a short story which didn’t offer the reader a satisfactory ending, as if the characters were demanding more. However, although I can’t choose a favourite form, my novella-in-flash—A Safer Way To Fall—was the one which brought the most fulfilment. This is because of the thrilling moment when I realised that many of my flash fiction pieces revealed a strong, linking thread. It was an amazing discovery and my heart still beats faster to recall it now.

Diane: Can you tell us a little about your writing routine?

Joanna: I get up very early in the morning, between 4.30 and 5, and I might begin to write straightaway, but often I’m busy thinking or reading. There is also a lot of staring into space and a cup of coffee left to turn cold, but it feels productive. A little later on, I take my daughter to the station, then do a few jobs around the house and check emails. After that I write throughout the day until late afternoon. My husband usually works at home and we break for lunch together, but only for about fifteen minutes because we’re mentally still at our desks. At the end of the day, I never know how many words I’ve written. I just hope to finish with a sense of having made some progress, less in terms of quantity as quality.

Diane: Is there a book or story from your childhood that makes your heart leap a little when you think about it?

Joanna: Definitely, yes. The Prevailing Wind by Joan Lingard is the book which made me long to be a writer. I took it out of the library in 1973 and never returned it. I sometimes wonder how much the fine would be. It was a dreadful thing to do, but I simply couldn’t part with it. I still have it and always will. The smell of its yellowed pages, packed with old wafts of my father’s cigarette smoke, takes me back to that first daydream of writing my own book one day. It’s a novel about family dynamics, how people can so easily misunderstand one another, and the way hidden emotions can damage those you love and send your life—and theirs—off the tracks. It is set in Edinburgh, the beautiful city becoming a character in its own right. I have re-read it countless times and eventually treated myself to a second copy signed by the author. (I didn’t steal that one.)

Diane: This year’s theme for the anthology is ‘Doors’. Is there anything in particular that you’re looking for in a submission?

Joanna: I am excited to see the different and original ways in which the theme of ‘Doors’ is interpreted. Doors can signify all kinds of possibilities. None of us live without them. It’s vital to have a key to your own private haven, to block out the world and be yourself in a way that never happens in public. However, sometimes it’s equally vital to open your door and let other people into your life. Or to step outside, close the door behind you and re-enter the world. A closed door can represent both a trap and a refuge. Obstruction or admission. And think of how the crunch of footsteps on a path followed by a knock on your door can stir an entire gamut of emotions from relief to curiosity to fear. Who do you allow in and who do you keep out? I’m looking forward to finding out how our writers weave layers of emotional significance into this theme.

Joanna Campbell


Joanna Campbell is a full-time writer from the Cotswolds. Her short stories have been published in numerous literary journals, including Mslexia, The New Writer, Writers’ Forum, where she won the monthly competition four times, and The Yellow Room, as well as in anthologies from, among others, Salt Publishing, Cinnamon Press, The Exeter Story Prize, Rubery Book Award, Stroud Short Stories, Spilling Ink, Earlyworks Press, Unbound Press, Retreat West, The Bridport Prize and two volumes of The Bristol Short Story Award.


SUBMISSIONS ARE NOW OPEN for this year's National Flash Fiction Day Anthology and Micro Fiction Competition. Submissions close on 15th March 2019. For more information, please visit our Anthology and Competition pages.  

We are also trying to secure funding to offer free entries to disadvantaged and marginalised writers. If you would like to help us do this by donating entries, please contact us at