Here at National Flash-Fiction Day we have asked you to do many things - enter competitions, organise events, buy things, sell things, all sorts of stuff - but one thing we have not yet done is that which is at the heart of flash-fiction writing; namely, we have never given you a prompt, a short span of time, and told you to sit down and write something.
Well, today that all changes!
Monday is 23rd April. It is St George's Day. But also, and perhaps more importantly for us writery types, it's Shakespeare's birthday.
So, your task is this. Sit down and write us a Shakespeare-related flash. It could use old Bill himself in the story, or it could be based on a character, event, scene or plot from one of his plays. The specifics are up to you, but it should be a recognisably Shakespearian flash.
And, as the man wrote 37 (confirmed) plays, let's make the word limit 370 words.
This is open to anyone anywhere in the world, and you have until 5pm on Sunday (BST).
Send your completed stories to us at email@example.com (with 'Shakespeare' in the subject line) and they will be posted on our story blog at nffdflashes.blogspot.co.uk on Monday.
And that's it. What are you waiting for? Lay on MacFlash-Fictioneers, and get writing!
- Our biggest news is probably the announcement of our anthology, Jawbreakers. I shan't reiterate all that's been said before, but you can read all about it at http://
nationalflashfictionday.. Just to say that we are hoping it will be available at the beginning of May, that it will be available via Amazon as both book and Kindle or directly from me as book or PDF. I shall send out more about price and how to buy it etc. once I know more. In the meantime, why not 'Like' the new Facebook page for up-to-the-minute info: https://www.facebook. blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/ anthology-final-list.html com/JawbreakersFlash.
- In other news, we have managed to inspire the world with our efforts! New Zealand have announced their own NFFD, details at http://nationalflash.
wordpress.com/. So do please support them in their efforts if you can. And, I've heard this morning that there will be an anthology being produced in Australia to tie in with our Day. More when I have details.
- Closer to home, we now have an event happening in Scotland, Edinburgh to be precise. I haven't had a chance to add it to our website yet, but details are at http://underword.co.uk/.
And there is a whisper of something coming along in Northern Ireland too, so stay-tuned for word of that, or get in touch if you'd like to be involved. However we still have a lack of events in London, of all places. So if you are there and want to get something happening, let me know!
- The Story Cards I mentioned in the last bulletin have arrived and the first lot have been distributed, but we still have more left. So if you want some to pass out to friends, family, neighbourhood arts venues, or to promote your event, please get in touch. The posters are on order and should be here soon. Again, let me know if you want some, if you haven't already.
- A number of competitions have closed in the last week - thank you all those who submitted - but others are still open. The Dead Ink competition in Yorkshire closes today (http://www.nationalflashfictionday.co.uk/northeast.html ) and Lancashire Writing Hub's Flash-Fiction Competition closes on Friday, so don't miss out! http://www.
- Also, Liverpool's Writing on the Wall, who are running the Flash Fiction at the end of the World competition, now have 20 entries up on the site for people to read. They will also be displaying them in a very prestigious site at the FACT arthouse and cinema in Liverpool. All the details can be found here for the final event – http://www.writingonthewall.org.uk/event-listing/flash-fiction-final.html with Author Mike Carey, who is nominated for a Hugo award, who will be reading and judging the final, and go here for all the stories and the entry page: http://www.writingonthewall.org.uk/flash-fiction-submission.html.
- Loads of you have been blogging about the Day, including featuring some interviews with me and some of my writing, So a very big thank you for that. If you would still like to, feel free to get in touch if you need anything.
- Thanks to all of you on Twitter who promoted us last Friday. That was a great boost. It would be wonderful if you could repeat that, say, every week? (Please?) And, if you haven't already, please do 'Like' our page at https://www.facebook.com/
nationalflashfictionday, share it with your friends, follows us on Twitter at @nationalflashfd and generally help get the word out. Oh, and one specific request. If you are Tweeting about NFFD it would be great if you could include the hashtag #nffd or #NFFD in all your messages to see if we can get it trending. (If you don't use Twitter, that will probably mean nothing to you. That's fine. Ignore it!)
‘Porcelain’ by Alex Thornber
‘Repetition’ by Amy Mackelden
‘Love’ by Benjamin Judge
‘Fiver’ by Bob Jacobs
‘Chemoids’ by Brian George
‘Arabesque’ by Brindley Hallam Dennis
‘Mauve’ by Carrie Etter
‘Peekaboo’ by Dan Powell
‘Cheese’ by David Gilbert
‘Marmite’ by David Morgan
‘Ciphers’ by Eli Goldstone
‘Elephant’ by Erinna Mettler
‘Boy’ by Jay Barnett
‘Jawbreakers’ by Jen Campbell
‘Blackhole’ by Jessica Patient.
‘Buttons’ by Kevlin Henney
‘Beauty’ by Kylie Grant
‘Superman’ by LA Craig
‘Rivals’ by Laura Wilkinson
‘Pink’ by Mark Sheerin
‘Wrapped’ by Martha Williams
‘Ash’ by Natalie Bowers
‘Favourite’ by Nathan Good
‘Bar’ by Nicholas Murray
‘Troll’ by Nick Garrard.
‘Inked’ by Rin Simpson
‘Ed! ’ by Rupan Malakin
‘Harps’ by Sal Page
‘Instructions’ by Sara Crowley
‘Summertime’ by Susan Giles
‘Celia’ by Susan Walker-Stokes
‘Shed’ by SJI Holliday
‘Quick’ by Ali Smith
‘Elsewhere’ by Alison Wells
‘Home’ by Calum Kerr
‘Bonding’ by David Gaffney
‘Bee’ by Emma Lannie
‘Waterman’ by Eunice Yeates
‘Fieldwork’ by Ian Rankin
‘Hammer’ by Jenn Ashworth
‘Camenbert’ by Jonathan Pinnock
‘Rapture’ by Kirsty Logan
‘Minutes’ by Nigel McLoughlin
‘Quinquireme’ by Sally Zigmond
‘Dinghy’ by Sarah Hilary
‘Natural’ by Sarah-Clare Conlon
‘Boom’ by Simon Thirsk
‘Stopwatching’ by Tania Hershman
‘Missing’ by Trevor Byrne
‘Space’ by Valerie O'Riordan
‘Flight’ by Vanessa Gebbie
And we will be including the winners of the Micro-Fiction competition too:
‘Relieving Mafeking’ by Alun Williams
‘Meredith’ by Amy Mackelden
‘The Worst Head in the World’ by Angela Readman
‘New Build’ by Clare O'Brien
‘Black Hole’ by Dan Carpenter
‘Sad Lover’ by Jason Bagshaw
‘New Shoes’ by Jenny Adamthwaite
‘She'll Leave You For a Man’ by Kirsty Logan
‘First Person’ by Martha Williams
‘Alterations’ by Tim Stevenson
Very many congratulations to everyone who made it in! It promises to be quite an amazing collection of stories. And thank you all for your support.
I am guilty of taking myself too seriously. Not to a crazy degree but just to the point of over thinking things a little too often. Over the last couple of years I have been writing short stories almost daily. I have figured out my style, the way I like to write and the things I like to write about and it is working. As a result however a few months ago I found that almost all of the stories I have written recently are of a similar length and invariably centred on a group of fictional friends.
This was not a problem, in fact it was an aim. I had fallen in love with this group of characters and I wanted to write a collection for them to live in. The problem was that every story I wrote was about them and between two and five thousand words. If I had an idea for a story that none of my characters fit in with, or was really short, I would pop it in my notebook and forget about it. I had to be focussed if I was going to get this collection done. Writing took discipline. I’d been told that a thousand times.
But, if there is one thing I have learnt over the years of writing, and receiving advice about writing, is that you should never close your mind to new ideas. I had been ignoring this advice and it lead to what I guess was writers block.
After a few weeks of frustration editing, trying desperately to believe that I was still writing, I decided to go back to my roots.
One of the first stories I had published was a flash-fiction called Movies and Stories From Friends. It was a six sentences long musing about a girl loosing her virginity at a party. I remember writing it in about two minutes; I then spent two months editing it but the feeling that remains is those two minutes. That flash of going from inspiration to finished story in less time that it takes to brew a cup of tea. I wanted that back.
So I put all my current stories to one side and cleared my head of those character names and their voices. I thought I’d try to write a couple of flash-fiction stories. I emptied my brain and waited for it to fill up with new stuff.
It worked. Without constantly thinking about my story collection or the characters who lived in it and focussing solely on trying to write something flash length, I managed to write three flash fictions a day for a month and a half.
I wrote stories about self-service check outs with attitudes, voodoo cigarettes, pre-apocalyptic imaginary zombies, vengeful guitar strings and a tonic that can turn humans into chameleons. Nothing I had ever written before prepared me for these stories, or even hinted that I might some day write stories like this. It was the most incredible creative burst I have had in a long time.
This burst was prolonged by one of my current undertakings: the National Flash-Fiction Day project Flashpoints. I’m one of a small team consisting of myself, Emily Cleaver and Rachael Dunlop, under the captain and champion of all flash-fiction endeavours Calum Kerr. Together we’ve been working on this project that we have dubbed “a site-specific mass writing event.”
Flashpoints is for everyone, wherever you are in the world. This is not a lit mag or blog in the traditional sense; it is a completely open writing project to celebrate the joys of flash-fiction. Anyone can get involved.
At Flashpoints we encourage people to get out in the world, writing flash-fiction rooted in their surroundings. We ask them to write stories on a single page, photograph where they are and send it all in to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Some contributors have even left their stories in the wild for strangers to find, all in the name of flash-fiction celebration. We ask them to push themselves, write a story in one burst, squelching the desire to edit. We feature every story we receive and there is no limit to how many times a writer can contribute, the more the better.
Seeing what people do with the form has been wonderful for my writing, boosting my own creativity. People have written on scraps of paper and coffee shop napkins, in play parks and underground trains. The variety of submissions and experimentation has truly been wonderful to see. Flash-fiction is a delicate art. It takes a lot of discipline and effort but it does allow complete freedom for your imagination. There is nothing you can’t do in a flash fiction. That is why I love it.
Writing Flash-Fiction has warded off my writers block and my frustration. Above all though, it has made writing fun again. I’m never quite sure what I’m going to write next.
You can see all the stories to date for some inspiration and more information about the project on our blog over at http://nffdflashpoints.blogspot.co.uk
[And you can read all about Alex, and some of his stories, over on his own blog at http://alexthornber.wordpress.com/]
Submissions for the first NFFD Anthology closed last Tuesday and Valerie O'Riordan and myself have had a hard week reading through the 297 entries we received.
Saved by Alex Josephy
Porcelain by Alex Thornber
Repetition by Amy Mackelden
Dare by Andrew Blackman
Endings by Angela Ramsell
Love by Benjamin Judge
Fiver by Bob Jacobs
Chemoids by Brian George
Arabesque by Brindley Hallam Dennis
Fun by Carly Holmes
Mauve by Carrie Etter
Waiting by Cathy White
Skyscraper by Charlotte Unsworth
Homeless by Colette Hill
Fat by Colin Watts
Peekaboo by Dan Powell
Cheese by David Gilbert
Threshold by David Hartley
Marmite by David Morgan
Burn by Denrele Ogunwa
Justice by Dorothy Evans
Retriever by Edward Price
Ciphers by Eli Goldstone
Recovery by Elizabeth Welsh
Courage by Emily Cleaver
Elephant by Erinna Mettler
Flight by Freya Morris
Manager by Gavin Inglis
Branch by Helen Ladderbird
Gum by Helen MacKinven
Thaw by Helen Pizzey
Bycatch by Holly Corfield-Carr
Rain by Isabel Rogers
Incoming by Jacky Taylor
Feathers by Jan Harris
Boy by Jay Barnett
Vertigo by Jayne Thickett
Jawbreakers by Jen Campbell
Potatoes by Jenny Adamthwaite
Blackhole by Jessica Patient
Cat-Cash by Joan Lennon
Calling by John Broken Willow
Watchdog by John Freebairn
Birdcage by Juliet Boyd
1800 by Katy Watson
Buttons by Kevlin Henney
Promotion by Kristian Jackson
Beauty by Kylie Grant
Superman by L.A. Craig
Rivals by Laura Wilkinson
Falling by Lorna Louise Hutchison
Procrastination by Maggie Storer
Skint by Mandy Taggart
Pink by Mark Sheerin
Wrapped by Martha Williams
Innocence by Michael Grafton
Cheesed by Michael Leonard
Whaler by Nasser Hussain
Ash by Natalie Bowers
Favourite by Nathan Good
Bar by Nicholas Murray
Troll by Nick Garrard
Tattoo by Nicola King
Misgivings by Norma Meechem
Crucifixion by Oscar Windsor-Smith
Freeman by Pauline Frisk
Rhubarb by Pauline Masurel
Kite by Peter Domican
Tarnished by Rachel Green
Space by Rhoda Thompson
Inked by Rin Simpson
Celia by Rosie Williams
Ed! by Rupan Malakin
Noose by Ryan Foster
Harps by Sal Page
Instructions by Sara Crowley
Unteachable by Sarah Schofield
Traditions by Shirley Golden
Zomband by Stephen Green
Crosswords by Stephen Partridge
Summertime by Susan Giles
Eyewitness by Susan Howe
Isolation by Susan Shipp
Shed by Susi Holliday
Valhalla by Tracy Fells
Misunderstanding by Vivien Jones
[Super Power: The ability to make oneself unseen to the naked eye]
If I stay totally still,
if I stand right tall,
with me back against the school wall,
close to the science room’s window,
with me feet together,
if I make me hands into tight fists,
make me arms dead straight,
if I push me arms into me sides,
if I squeeze me thighs,
stop me wee,
if me belly doesn’t shake,
if me boobs don’t wobble,
if I close me eyes tight,
so tight that it makes me whole face scrunch,
if I push me lips into me mouth,
if I make me teeth bite me lips together,
if I hardly breathe,
if I don’t say a word.
I’ll magic meself invisible,
and them lasses will leave me alone.
- Today we received the Story Cards that I've been promising ( https://www.facebook.com/
photo.php?fbid= 266835560074710&set=a. 227547067336893.51806. 163757727049161&type=1&theater ) so if you requested some of these to hand out and help promote the day, then they'll be in the post to you before the end of the week. If you would like to request some, just drop me a line and I'll send them off. There will be posters too, as soon as we can get them, but they will be limited in number, so get your requests in now!
- Yesterday, flash-fictioneer Deborah Rickard was interviewed on Radio Bristol about the day and what's going on in the area. ( you can listen at http://www.bbc.co.uk/
programmes/p00qcf6lfrom about 1.53.30). If you are organising an event, taking part in an event, or just as excited as we are about the Day, why not drop your local station a line and go and tell the world?
- The Derby Telegraph are running a flash competition to tie in with the Day, and they interviewed me for last week's edition. (http://www.thisisderbyshire.
co.uk/Author-Calum-urges-). So, the same thing is true for your local papers. Don't forget to get them involved. writers-explore-flash/story- 15703324-detail/story.html
- The Guardian, on the 14th May, will be publishing an article by David Gaffney to promote the day. They will be listing our events. So, don't forget to let us know what's happening so we can add you to the list. (And if you don't have anything happening, there's still time to set something up!)
- We have launched some new projects for the Day. There is the on-going project, Flashpoints ( http://nffdflashpoints.
blogspot.co.uk/), which asks you to go to a place, write a story, and leave it there. And now we have unveiled plans for an International Write-In ( http://thewrite-in.blogspot. co.uk/) to happen on the Day itself. Please do get involved with these, and spread the word to all and sundry.
- Along with this bulletin we have started to publish Guest Posts on our blog. We will be inviting a range of people to write for it, but if you have something you want to share, please drop us a line!
- And finally, don't forget there are still competitions on-going with a range of deadlines. ( http://www.
nationalflashfictionday.co.uk/) And we are pleased to announce that the top-three winners in all of the competitions will end up in a special e-book anthology published by NFFD. competitions.html
Everything is a collective effort at Flashquake. We’ve got a great team working together to deliver the best content because our readers deserve just that. With that being said, we want to offer a collective response to what it is like to publish flash.
From Cindy Bell, Publisher and Editor-In-Chief:
We have a long tradition of publishing flash fiction, flash nonfiction, and short poetry including prose poetry. We've got a solid decade behind us, but aren't taking anything for granted. We strive to improve, to grow, and to offer our readers a quality publication. We're adding 10-minute plays, translations, multi-media, and reviews to the mix this year!
From Kellie Doherty, Editor and Segment Leader of Critique-A-Flash:
My experience with Flashquake has broadened my mind to what flash fiction is and how many writers love the style. As the segment leader of Critique-A-Flash, I am exposed to a wide variety of flashes each week. The quality ranges, of course, but, as long as they meet our requirements, I critique them, stating what could be changed or what I particularly liked. Writers, I believe, like the test of penning a flash. It challenges the very core of what a good story is truly about and, with my job, I feel like I'm helping those writers become better at what they love to do and allowing them to get the publication they rightly deserve. It's hard to write good flashes and the ones who try should be rewarded.
From Nichelle Seely, Editor:
Working with flash fiction has been an eye-opening experience. It's been an education to be on the editing side instead of the submission side. When faced with choosing four out of a hundred submissions, I can now appreciate how meaningful each nuance of care and style becomes. Amazing pieces pop out of the field with their originality of subject or beauty of language. At first I felt, 'who am I to judge,' and yet, that was my responsibility--it's humbling! And because Flashquake responds to every submitter with a brief critique, it reminds me that there's a human being with hopes and dreams on the other side of the story, someone who might be hurt or encouraged by whatever I have to say. I try hard to include something that works as well as the reason a story was rejected, because almost everything I've read has some merit. It usually takes me longer to compose my two sentence critique than the time it takes me to read the story.
Being an editor for Flashquake has improved my own writing. Flash fiction by nature must be laser-beam tight, and extraneous verbiage sticks out like a corn stalk in a pumpkin patch. My spidey-sense for needless words gets stronger every issue, and I now have a much better idea of what an actual paid editor must go through, and what they're looking for (or at least what puts them off!)
From David Bowles, Editor:
For me, flash fiction at its best is about the relationship between the author and the reader, the power of resonant writing to interact with a reader's own brain and create a story that is just hinted at on the page. This sort of intimacy is what many writers crave: a one-to-one collaboration with the audience from which powerful shared narratives arise. Finding pieces that accomplish this amazing feat is a joy for me, and sharing them with other word junkies is almost a responsibility.
From Elia Seely, Guest Editor:
I write flash fiction for the challenge of distilling a story down to its purest elements. I read this genre for the same reasons; that pure shot of "ahh" that comes from a perfectly measured portion of character, tone, setting, dialogue. Editing for an online magazine offers and immediacy of experience for both myself and the submitters; it feels good to be able to respond with some feedback right away. I love seeing people's imaginations at work, at it inspires me to get my own work out there.
Our Spring issue is now up in a new format we are proud of and excited to deliver to our readers. We also just opened up our submission period and will be accepting literary works of flash as well as art through May 20th.
At Flashquake, we have a theory: Words are meant to make an impact, to leave a trace, to enlighten and to inspire. We hope you’ll read along with us.
I’ve been entering flash fiction contests for a while now, and have just launched Flashbang, my first attempt at running a contest for others to enter. It’s made me think afresh about the value of contests, and how to describe flash fiction to those coming at the concept for the first time. I’m someone who took to flash like a fish to batter, and landed an impressive tome of rejections along the way, but I hope I’ve got useful things to say to those just setting out on the contest road.
I say I’ve been rejected many times and it’s true. I used to keep a spreadsheet of my entries and their fates, but it got too depressing looking at all the boxes coloured like Elastoplast (the colour I used for rejections). Still, my first big win – in anything – came with flash fiction. I wrote a 300 word story about Lizzie Borden which won the Fish Criminally Short Histories Prize. Hard to imagine a better thrill than that, and for a long time afterwards I was hooked on entering flash contests. It’s fun to be on the other side of the fence now, watching the entries to Flashbang roll in and thinking of the buzz the writers will get when we announce the shortlist, and the winners.
But what if you’re not one of the winners? Well, I have more experience in that neck of the woods than in the winners’ enclosure, and I still think entering contests is a terrific way to get ahead as a writer. Why? Firstly and most importantly, it makes you write. We should be writing all the time, of course, but sometimes a competition is the kick in the pants that reminds us to get on with it.
Secondly, it makes you write something for someone else, which means we start thinking about the readers, or a specific reader – the judge. We check out what the judge likes, and we write towards that, rather than simply pleasing ourselves. Thirdly, contests get us writing to a deadline and a set word count. Again, important skills if we take our writing careers seriously.
Fourthly – okay, that sounds weird. My fourth point: it means we have to let go. Put our words out there, to be judged. This is a really tough part of writing, and I don’t think any author ever gets over how hard it is. As long as we’re in control, we can tell ourselves our stories are great. Fantastic even. But we won’t know for sure, until we send them out into the world of Other Readers. It’s scary, but it’s a vital part of writing. Letting go frees us up to start something new.
Five? You might win! Or make the shortlist. Or the long list. Each of these is a milestone which should be celebrated. Even – and here’s a bruiser – being rejected. Knock-backs come with the territory and the sooner we can start accepting them, the better. Suck in the honey, spit out the bees, as someone said to me recently. Or, as Peter O’Toole says in Lawrence of Arabia: ‘Of course it hurts. The trick is not minding that it hurts.’ In many ways, failure is your friend. I blogged a bit on that theme, here.
I’d encourage everyone to enter Flashbang. It’s free (which is increasingly rare these days) and the judges have provided brilliant hints as to what they’re after in the winning entries, which include some great definitions of flash fiction. Don’t be put off if you’re not a crime writer; perhaps the very best thing about flash is how many hats you can try on. I’ve written horror flashes, comic flashes, and literary flashes. You don’t need to be an expert in the genre to write 150 words – and you may discover a talent you didn’t know you had. So give it your best shot (pun intended) and I look forward to reading your entries.
Visit http://flashbangcontest.wordpress.com/ for full details, and follow @FlashbangGang on Twitter for latest news.