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We had to cancel our NFFD 2020 live event, so we've brought our celebration online. In our Flash Feast series, we've invited some flash superstars to share some videos and posts over the course of the weekend.

In this, our final Flash Feast of National Flash Fiction Day 2020 with Nik Perring, you can find out where we pinched the name for our 'Flash Feast' series.

Here is a link to Feast if you'd like to read along.

This wraps up our weekend of celebration for NFFD 2020.  Thank you so much to everyone who participated this year, and happy flash writing and reading throughout the year!


Nik Perring is a short story writer and the author of five books. His work has appeared in many fine places all over the world including Smokelong, Word Riot, 3 :AM Magazine, and The Fiction Desk. His re-telling Little Red Riding Hood, Carmine’s Fruit, won the Artificum Short Story Prize. It’s also been read on the radio, performed on the stage, printed on fliers and appeared, with Dave Eggars’, on a High School Distance Learning course in the US.

He has published the books: I Met a Roman Last Night, What Did You Do? (EPS, 2006); Not So Perfect (RoastBooks, 2010); Freaks!, co-written with Caroline Smailes (TFP/HarperCollins, 2012), A Book of Beautiful Words: Some Meanings and Some Fictions Too (RoastBooks, 2014); and A Book of Beautiful Trees (RoastBooks, 2015).

Nik is also an editor and a teacher of writing, working with both and adults and children, working in primary schools, high schools, colleges, universities and the BBC.

Last year, at our 2019 National Flash Fiction Day event in Coventry, we shared some flash written on the theme of 'epiphany' by men at HMP Wandsworth who were participants of Safe Ground's Flash Fiction Project workshops.  We've published these over at our online journal, FlashFlood as part of our Safe Ground series.  We'd like to revisit these stories this year as part of our online celebration of flash fiction in the UK.

You can find all fourteen of these stories on FlashFlood here.

We now welcome Safe Ground Programmes Manager Lindsay Murphy who tells us a bit about the background and philosophy of Safe Ground's Flash Fiction Project...

Safe Ground is a national arts organisation delivering high quality services and interventions in both prison and community settings. Our programmes focus on relationships and identity and use group work and creative techniques for participants to experience alternative perspectives, develop empathy and self-awareness alongside skills and competencies. We challenge people and communities to do relationships differently.

As an arts organisation, Safe Ground relies on the use of artistic practices and techniques to inform and support our programme design, delivery and evaluation. Our methodologies promote reflection, realisation and revelations. They provide participants with platforms for change and routes into transitions. Throughout our programmes moments of clarity can occur, awareness and understanding of situations can be enhanced and participants can find themselves with a renewed sense of the self. Often, participants in our programmes begin or develop skills in performance, drama and creative writing.

Part of our organisational ethos has always been to work in partnership wherever possible and appropriate. Since 2015, Safe Ground is proud to have been in a relationship with Essex University and in 2017 we coordinated a creative writing workshop with the men at HMP Wandsworth.

It was agreed that ‘Epiphany’ was appropriate as a narrative theme, to support the groups to explore moments of change and transformation, which are inherent in the work we do. These epiphanies or turning points can provide moments of clarity but can also bring up an array of issues, dilemmas, decisions to be made and pathways to be pursued. Over two, two-day workshops, a total of 12 men participated and each produced a selection of short stories for submission. Participants ranged in age from 23 to 65 and brought with them a vast diversity of cultural, educational and life experience. The flash fiction pieces produced by participants denote an array of lightbulb moments, of points of sharp realisation, of transparency and revelation.

Our colleague and design partner on this project was Jonathan Crane who writes:

“When the opportunity to work with Safe Ground in the design and delivery of a creative writing workshop for HMP Wandsworth arose, I was studying towards a Ph.D. at the University of Essex. At that time, I had just been researching the concept of ‘Epiphany’ in relation to short stories, and exploring the flash fiction form. To my mind, these elements seemed ideally suited for a creative writing project in a prison setting.

Flash fiction, I felt, could provide the participants with a short, accessible form with which they could experiment. Then, with the concept of epiphany as a central theme for the workshops, the men could be encouraged to reflect on their own experiences, as well as to explore their own realizations and transformations. Yet, more than this, by introducing the idea of epiphany as a focal point of change within a narrative, we could provide a structure which would help the men shape their own flash fiction.

Using Safe Ground’s methodologies, the workshops provided a supportive forum not only for discussion, and for the expression of ideas and experiences, but also for the sharing of work. We encouraged the men to read out their work, and to give constructive feedback on the work of others. This process then fed into a session on editing and drafting stories during which the men worked collaboratively.

When I began this project, I had hoped to share some writing technique with the participants, and to introduce them to a form which might enable their self-expression. In short, I wanted to help them to write, and to have their voices heard. I little knew that the men would embrace flash fiction so keenly and create stories which ranged from the minimalist dramatic short, to the lyrical prose poem, from the poignantly personal to the surreally comic.

It was a privilege and a pleasure to work with Safe Ground and the men in HMP Wandsworth. The men’s eloquence and honesty, their openness to discuss their experiences and insights, as well as to share their stories, not only dismantled my own preconceptions about prison and life therein, but also taught me to appreciate the small things that we so casually take for granted.

---

You can follow Safe Ground on Twitter @Safe_Ground.

We had to cancel our NFFD 2020 live event, so we've brought our celebration online. In our Flash Focus series, we celebrate various independent flash fiction projects around the UK.

Green Stories is a series of writing competitions which asks writers to engage with what a sustainable future might look like.  They aim to raise awareness of sustainability issues, practices, policies and technologies via storytelling.

To celebrate National Flash Fiction Day, Green Stories added a flash fiction category into their mix, with the hope of having celebrating the winners with us at our National Flash Fiction Day event in Coventry.  Since everything has moved online, we've invited the winners to share their stories with us online as part of the National Flash Fiction Day weekend.

We'll be posting some of the stories between 15:00 - 17:00 GMT today over at FlashFlood, along with a little more background to the competition.  And, as an extra treat, we have recordings of some of the authors of the winning and highly commended stories to share with you as well.

Congratulations, Green Stories, on your first season of flash fiction stories, and congratulations to all the winning and shortlisted writers!

 

In 2019, Makeda McMillan of Small Green Shoots took last year's NFFD Anthology theme of 'Doors' and developed it into a project called 'Glass Ceilings, Closed Doors' aimed at young men from her area, with a goal of developing flash and poetry 'pieces around the stereotypes and barriers they face being young, BME and from a deprived area that is spiking in terms of gun and knife crime'.

Makeda received funding from the Arts Council and delivered the project last year, and by last year's National Flash Fiction Day event in Coventry, she was able to share this video and these excerpts and images that came out of this project.

We are honoured that our 2019 anthology theme synergised with Makeda's project, and can think of no better way to celebrate National Flash Fiction Day than by taking time to read and listen to these young writers and artists.

You can find out more about Mikeda, her work and her project at https://www.makedamakes.co.uk/.

We have the same name, the same love of flash, and the same difficulties this year running our annual events due to Covid-19.  We're a completely separate organisation from National Flash Fiction Day New Zealand, but this year we're joining forces to celebrate flash fiction throughout the month.

Although most of NFFD UK's online celebration is condensed into this weekend, we'll be joining NFFD NZ for their events, which welcome flash fiction readers and writers from around the world. They are primarily celebrating on 22 June, but there are a number of things to look out for throughout the month.

Here's what's happening, though do check their events page for updates:

Online readings

  • YouTube reading series – featuring new books, journal editors, youth readers, NFFD judges past and present, Bath novella-in-flash readings, City Chairs and more
  • Micro Madness – June 1-22 micro readings from our annual international micro competition, with lockdown micros and no-theme micros – two per day!
  • Book Day – June 15, celebrating books published in 2020 from around the world

Panel discussions

  • The Language of Flash: A Roundtable with Journal Editors Around the World June 13, 9am NZ time – including:· Christopher Allen, Smokelong Quarterly (Germany)
    · Nuala O’Connor, Splonk (Ireland)
    · Grant Faulkner, 100 Words (US)
    · Meg Pokrass, New Flash Fiction Review (US)
    · Vaughan Rapatahana, Flash Frontier (Aotearoa New Zealand)
  • Imagination Unbound: Five Women on the Poetic Narrative Form June 14, 4pm NZ time– including:· Helen Rickerby, author of How to live (AUP 2019)
    · Anne Kennedy, author of Moth Hour (AUP 2019)
    · Nod Ghosh, author of Filthy Sucre (Truth Serum Press 2020)
    · Diane Brown, author of Every now and then I have another child (OUP 2020)
    · Gail Ingram, author of Contents Under Pressure (Pukeko Publishing 2019)
  • Best Small Fictions and Best Microfictions: an international reading June 20, 9am NZ time: a sampling of readers from the 2020 anthologies
  • Youth Voices June 21, 9am NZ time – readings and discussion from youth entrants in the 2020 NFFD NZ youth competiton

The June 22 Online Awards Celebration
livestreamed!

We are also excited to see so many international writers in the volume this year, including the following from New Zealand: Johanna Aitchison, Anita Arlov, Melanie Dixon, Jan FitzGerald, Alison Glenny, Kamala Jackson, Heather McQuillan, Nod Ghosh, Cherllisha Silva, Kirsten Strom and Iona Winter. BSF will be released later this year -- watch for news!

More about Best Small Fictions on The Sonder Press website.

NFFD 2020Join us from 7 – 10 pm BST for the virtual launch of the 2020 NFFD Anthology, Root, Branch, Tree.

Readings from the anthology will be posted on our YouTube channel and we’ll be celebrating with chat and virtual toasts on Twitter and our dedicated Facebook event. All welcome!

And of course, don't forget to pre-order the print edition or buy an ebook at the NFFD Bookshop!

National Flash Fiction Day has been celebrating flash since midnight, but Small Green Shoots is way ahead of us -- they have been celebrating all week!

Poster for Small Green Shoots

National Flash Fiction Day and Small Green Shoots are sharing a common 'family' theme this year, and we're excited to see all the fantastic new work that has come out of this intensive week of creativity. Do have a look at everything that's going on; you can find links to everything via Instagram @smallgreenshoots and Twitter @smallgreensh00t.

Small Green Shoots is an arts organisation dedicated to running transformational arts projects to improve life chances for young people.  It was founded in 2009 with aim of giving young people from disadvantaged backgrounds an opportunity to engage with music and the arts, and to use these experiences as a springboard for their future. You can find out more about their story, their work, and ways to support them here.

Huge congratulations to everyone involved in Flash Fiction Week; let the celebrations continue!

 

 

 

We had to cancel our NFFD 2020 live event, so we've brought our celebration online. In our Flash Feast series, we've invited some flash superstars to share some videos and posts over the course of the day.

In our second Flash Feast, Jonathan Cardew of Bending Genres shares some insights about fun and form in flash...

 

Eighteen Bullet Points, or (re)Forming Flash,
Making It Not Crap

by Jonathan Cardew

  • If you are like me and you’re rubbish at writing and you’ve got nothing of real worth to say and you’re just counting down the minutes on this earth waiting for inspiration, then you might just need to form the crap out of your flash.
  • By form, I mean structure. By structure, I mean a straightjacket.
  • Paragraphs are a straightjacket.
  • But we’re bored of paragraphs, aren’t we?
  • When we write a well-structured paragraph, with a nice lead in and logical close, we want to kill ourselves, don’t we?
  • Every woman and her labradoodle has written a paragraph.
  • We are not every woman and her mixed breed canine.
  • So, we’re going to blow the pants off form!
  • We’re going to do what Jennifer Fliss does in Barren Magazine and we’re going to write a story on the side of a cleaning product bottle.
  • We’re going to forget about narrative ENTIRELY (well, not entirely) and we’re going to write a list of objects like Thaddeus Gunn does in Kenyon Review Online.
  • We’re going to madlib a story like Kim Magowan does in her flash over at Okaydonkey.
  • We’re going to read EVERYTHING at Diagram because form is the name of the game there, and we’re definitely going to read everything there right now this instant.
  • There is no such thing as crap writing.
  • We just sometimes need bullet points.
  • Bullet points are a liberation!
  • They keep going.
  • And going.
  • Also, paragraphs are fine.

Jonathan Cardew is a contributing editor for Best Microfiction and blog editor/ workshop leader for Bending Genres. His flash fiction appears or is forthcoming in SmokeLong Quarterly, wigleaf, Passages North, Atticus Review, Craft Literary, Superstition Review, and others. Originally from the UK, he lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

 

For more craft articles and workshops on hybrid writing, check out the Bending Genres website.

 

We had to cancel our NFFD 2020 live event, so we've brought our celebration online. In our Flash Feast series, we've invited some flash superstars to share some videos and posts over the course of the day.

In our first Flash Feast, Michelle Elvy shares some thoughts about flash in an essay first appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly on 26 January 2017 as part of their Why Flash Fiction? series.

Four Vignettes on Flash Fiction
by Michelle Elvy

  1. Prélude

When I was a kid, I studied classical piano. I played the requisite Bach and Beethoven, Chopin and Brahms, sure. But my favourite works, hands down, were Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Russian Easter (Suite No.1 for Two Pianos, op.5 mov.4) and Claude Debussy’s La fille aux cheveux de lin (The girl with the flaxen hair, also known as Prélude No 8). I played Russian Easter with my two-piano partner; the relentless ringing of those bells rumbled my soul. The composer said he had written the suite to paint a picture – and I believed it. At around three minutes, it was demanding and challenging. It required control and focused energy. It told a story in a short interval with a bang – that piece, more than any other we played, was the very embodiment of intensity and precision.

But if I loved the technical challenges of Rachmaninoff, my favorite piano piece to play, when I was sixteen, was Debussy’s No 8 in his Book of Préludes. I could bang out more outwardly impressive works, sure, and even longer ones. But I was in love with that piece because of the apparent simplicity hiding a rich well of emotional content. I loved the colours, the harmonies. I loved all 39 measures, all 2 ½ minutes. I loved it for its brevity, and for its emotional impact. I loved that, precisely because of the quiet nature of the piece, every single note mattered. I loved it for its deceptively complex expansiveness, for the challenge of the phrasings, for the rolled chords. I loved it for the hushed legato, the subtle phrasing. I loved it for the quiet echoes that remained after I’d reached the last note. Playing Debussy’s Prelude No 8 was my first introduction to something so short and so powerful and so beautiful.

  1. Birds

In a recent discussion about prose poetry, New Zealand poet Michael Harlow wrote about the idea of story and language:

Inherent in all poems (there may be some exceptions) is some ‘story’ or fragment of a story wanting to be told or beginning to be told. It is in the nature of language that one word is always in search of another word, and then another.

I like this idea of words chasing each other, or perhaps singing to each other. Flash fiction can be as wee as two birds on a fence – but they can’t just be sitting there; they have to be shifting, or chatting, maybe even singing. Singing may be too much – trending toward the expected thing birds would do. But they must be doing something. That’s what makes it a story. Two birds in collusion, or in conflict, or in love – something about their relationship is central to them sitting there on the wire. The birds/ words seeking the relationship: that’s what makes the story.

Someone asked me recently how ‘What we ate’ is a story. I think the answer lies in the idea that the words must be seen in relation to each other, as Harlow suggests. We like to trim away adjectives and adverbs in flash fiction – but this story is going too far! It’s all nouns! Look:

Honey

Honey, fish and toheroas

Honey, fish and toheroas, plus eels

Honey, fish, and toheroas, plus eels, and also ducks

Honey, fish, and toheroas, plus eels, and also ducks, and pheasants and hares

Honey, fish, and toheroas, plus eels, and also ducks, and pheasants and hares, and godwits

Honey, fish, and toheroas, plus eels, and also ducks, and pheasants and hares, and godwits and snipe

Honey, fish, and toheroas, plus eels, and also ducks, and pheasants and hares, and godwits and snipe, plus kumara, spuds, corn and watermelon from Spirits Bay

And yet, there’s an implied relationship to the nouns – a before, and before, and before. Or an after, and after, and after. Either way: the words are chasing each other. There’s a momentum in their arrangement on the page. The language is what matters here. Content matters (though content in this case is limited by a historical document – this is found material), but content can only be achieved via language. It’s a bit of a leap to find the story in lines that are essentially lists of nouns. But if you look, I think it’s there, possibly in the implications of the words ‘and’ and ‘plus’. To me, flash is about play, about breaking down expectations. Look again: maybe you’ll see that’s not merely an arrangement of nouns. Something happens. Something changes over time. And it happens in a particular place, too. Whether it’s a good story or not – well, that’s not for me to decide.

But there they are, those words, chasing each other line after line, like a family of birds.

  1. Beast

I don’t count words when I wrote flash fiction. Not anymore. I write and the story takes shape. I know the feel of a 250-word story versus a 1000-word story versus a micro. I know if it’s going to sprawl into something more; some things you can’t say in 1000 words. With flash, I count at the end, yes – to see where I’ve arrived. Then I step back and see if the word count matches the feel of it. And the feel determines what kind of story it is – not the word count. That’s why I balk at the six-word story, never mind Hemingway’s mythically proportioned napkin. The six-word story is, for me, too brief. There can be expert six words. But they are rare, and they seldom reach the brush stroke beauty or the emotional mystery of the simple haiku. An awful lot of six-word stories result in summary (the tiny memoir is a classic) or declaration (see me or don’t: I matter) or the overly clever (giveaway: wedding dress, worn and fucked). Those are pithy and maybe even fun, but they don’t breathe much life. How can there be life if there’s no pulse, no movement? Life happens beyond gimmick. And so does a really good story. The pulse is what matters. The essence, the pull, the rhythm and music. Not strict word count. Sure, we impose word counts in journals we edit: 1000 here, 500 there, 250 there. But that’s merely a framework, something that helps tame the wild beast. The key is to let the beast roar, somehow, no matter which format the story takes. I like that in a 250-word story, or even a smaller micro, the beast growls below the surface. In the 500-word story, he may actually say something, and tangle with more than a couple other characters. In the 1000-word story, he may experience a full evolution of some kind. No matter the word count, it’s the deep reverberating hum of the beast’s heart that matters most. The scratching beneath the surface, the inevitable howl.

  1. Tell tales

Depart. Sail across an ocean. Arrive in port. Life has happened while you’ve been disconnected. But life is here, in this space, in your boat. Thirty days at sea: a blip or an eternity. Time and space collapse. Ocean swells lift you and drop you and lift you again. You think you stop time but no: time is relentless, neverending. Current flows. Wind comes and goes and comes again. Sometimes screaming, sometimes sighing. Your jib frays in light wind. You look up and see the tell tales have gone. When did they go? It doesn’t matter. Life is still happening, and you’re sailing on, tell tales or not.


Michelle ElvyMichelle Elvy teaches online at 52|250 A Year of Writing, edits at Flash Frontier: An Adventure in Short Fiction and Best Small Fictions and chairs National Flash Fiction Day NZ.  Recent anthology work includes Bonsai: Best small stories from Aotearoa New Zealand (Canterbury University Press 2018) and Ko Aotearoa Tātou | We Are New Zealand (Otago University Press 2020). She has guest edited and judged competitions for  SmokeLong Quarterly, Flash 500Reflex Fiction, Bath Flash Fiction Award and the Whangarei Poetry Walk, among others. Her book, the everrumble (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2019), launched at the 2019 UK Flash Fiction Festival. Michelle lives in Dunedin, NZ. michelleelvy.com