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We're currently open for submissions for our anthology and micro fiction competition! To celebrate, we've conducted a series of interviews with our anthology editors and competition judges. This week, we conclude with an interview from our artist-in-residence, Jeanette SheppardDiane Simmons speaks to Jeanette about flash fiction, sketching, and where she draws inspiration from...

Diane: As well as being a talented artist, you also write flash fiction, with numerous publications including two NFFD anthologies. Which came first, writing or sketching? Or have you always done both?

Jeanette: Thank you for saying that about my writing and my sketches, Diane. I’d also like to say how thrilled I am to be Artist in Residence for NFFD. The straightforward answer to your question is that the writing came before the on-location sketching, but in a sense they happened at the same time. I enjoyed both drawing and writing as a child, although I only ever copied from drawings in books which is quite a different experience altogether to on-location sketching and I only wrote one story that I can remember. I drew on and off from photographs until my early twenties. I began writing in my early forties. I used to work in TV Drama production so writing scripts felt like the natural place to start, but I was increasingly drawn to prose and then wrote a novel while studying for an MA in Creative Writing. When I discovered flash fiction via the first National Flash Fiction Day in 2012, it felt like a light had been switched on and I began to submit to competitions. Although, I didn’t submit a great deal because there weren’t many places to send flash fiction back then and I didn’t have the confidence to rework pieces and keep sending them out. A few years ago, when I was fifty, I reached a point where I didn’t feel I could write anymore. I was suffering anxiety related to my parents’ increasing ill health and, at the time, my mother’s dementia diagnosis (my father was diagnosed too a year later). I told my step-daughter how I had started to draw again to help with my anxiety and her partner introduced me to Danny Gregory’s Everyday Matters: A Memoir. Danny Gregory taught himself to draw by sketching life around him after his wife became paralysed from the waist down following an accident. Through his book I discovered urban sketching, also known as on-location sketching. Not long after this I began writing and submitting again. Stepping back from writing and looking at the world through a different lens had made a difference. I submitted a flash I’d sent out a while back that had been rejected. It was short-listed for the Fish Prize and later published in National Flash Fiction Day’s 2014 anthology, Eating My Words. Since then writing and on-location sketching have run alongside each other and support each other. Until recently I saw my sketches purely as a way of relaxing while paying close attention to the world, but people are now asking to publish them. I was honoured to be asked to provide the cover artwork for your debut collection of flash fiction and create the artwork for NFFD.

Diane: I see that you have a flash fiction in a short story vending machine at Edmonton Airport, Canada. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

Jeanette: There is a wonderful community of flash fiction writers out there who post information about opportunities. I saw a post by the amazing writer Helen Rye, whose wonderful story is the title of the NFFD Anthology Sleep is a Beautiful Colour, saying that Jason Lee Norman was looking for flash fictions to go into a Short Edition vending machine in a Canadian Airport. There are machines in a number of locations in France and Francis Ford Coppola has one in his San Francisco restaurant, Cafe Zoetrope. I believe the one in Edmonton is the first in Canada. The machine stands in one of the terminals, passengers press a button and out comes a flash fiction. Freya Morris, who, by the way, has just published her stunning debut collection This is (Not About) David Bowie, is in the process of approaching airports in the UK. I hope it happens!

Diane: I understand that you run something called ‘Sketch Coventry’. Could you tell us a little bit about that?

Jeanette: I set up Sketch Coventry five years ago. It’s an open meet-up that runs once a month. Anyone can turn up on the day and sketch no matter what their experience. It’s an opportunity primarily for people to capture life. I came to on-location sketching through anxiety but people don’t need to have experienced anxiety to come along. We are not a mindfulness group, but paying attention is inherent in on-location sketching because you have to look and focus on what is in front of you. People come along for their own reasons. Some come just for the process, some come to practice their drawing skills, others will come because they like the social side, many attend because they feel less self-conscious sketching on the street when they are in a group. Whatever the reasons people come along, the end result is a sketch of Coventry. It might be a sketch of a building or buildings, it might be people in a cafe. It can be whatever the sketcher wants to capture. There are big changes happening in Coventry, especially because it is City of Culture 2021, so our sketches are also a personal record of a changing city.

Diane: Coventry suffered very heavily from bomb damage in the war, but there are still some beautiful buildings left, with the half-ruined cathedral being particularly interesting. Looking at the sketches one your website, I notice that there aren't any of the grander buildings in the city. Is this deliberate?

Jeanette: Absolutely, there are many wonderful buildings. The Cathedral ruins are certainly a poignant and powerful reminder of a devastating time in the history of Coventry. There are also other magnificent medieval and Tudor buildings that survived the bombing such as The Old Grammar School and Bond’s Hospital, plus smaller gems tucked away, such as the Weaver’s House and Lychgate Cottages. In answer to your question about why I haven’t included any of the grander building on my website, it’s really a question of what my eye is naturally drawn to. I’m interested in shining a torch on people and on the smaller things in life. Is it any surprise I write flash! Actually, there is only one sketch of Coventry on my website at the moment because many of the images I’ve created to date were drawn across two pages in a landscape sketchbook and they are difficult to reproduce successfully on the website. I never imagined I would have a website, sketching was just for pleasure and something to be shared with other sketchers.

Diane: Most writers draw on their own life experiences in some way in order to write fiction. Are there any periods in your life that you use more than others as material?

Jeanette: I suppose it might help to say here that I’m not a planner. One of the reasons I enjoy writing flash is the sense of discovery it allows. I can sit down and see what comes out then sculpt what’s on the page into some kind of shape. Over the last few years my parents’ physical health and dementia has been an enormous part of my life and without doubt the feelings around that have influenced my writing, but I wouldn’t say I have written about that experience in a direct, CNF way. It is more about tapping into emotions surrounding the experience. One of my flash fictions, for example, features a narrator filling her lounge with water so that she can swim in order to escape the pressures of caring. That obviously didn’t happen in real life, but the emotional truth is there. I’ve recently realised that I’ve probably written some flash as a form of protection: I’ve created situations that I may one day have to face, especially in terms of dementia. My latest flash to be published, in The Nottingham Review, features a mother who doesn’t recognise her daughter. That hasn’t happened to me yet, but after I’d written it I realised I was preparing myself for the day that it might happen. Not recognising family doesn’t happen to everyone who has dementia, of course, I want to be clear about that. I have just completed a novella-in-flash which has absolutely nothing to do with dementia but the emotions that can surround caring for someone are definitely present in some way, be it in a real, magically real, or surreal way.

Jeanette SheppardJeanette Sheppard is a short fiction writer and sketch artist. Her most recent flash fictions can be seen in The Nottingham Review, Ellipsis Zine and Flash Fiction Festival Anthology: Two. Other stories have been published in a number of literary magazines, including Bare Fiction, Litro and The Lonely Crowd. Jeanette’s art revolves around sketching on streets, in buildings, cafes, fields, train stations, anywhere that she happens to be, in ink and watercolour. Every month she runs Sketch Coventry, a self-led open meet up. You can find out more at: jeanettesheppard.com or on Twitter: @InkLinked @JinnySketches

 

SUBMISSIONS CLOSE VERY SOON 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.  

Welcome to the sixth 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, Kevlin Henney, who discusses clichés, live performances, and editing tips...

Santino: Kevlin, you’ve read, written, and judged many micros in your time. What, in your opinion, makes a micro pop?

Kevlin: Like anything that pops, there has to be some kind of energy to release. There’s not a lot of space in a micro, so use of language is essential not just structural. Whether the language is shaken or stirred, it can’t be flat — language is where that released energy comes from.

Depending on the story, the language can be spare, novel, humorous, grave, playful, meditated, slow, fast, but it should definitely be. Every word, every construction, is working in a gig economy, passing through but holding down multiple jobs. They have their grammatical roles to fulfil, but they also need to pass interviews on flavour — or feel or colour or whichever sense metaphor captures for you the quality of the story you sense and want the reader to experience — pace, mood, appropriateness — don’t stumble from pathos to bathos. Write but don’t be writerly.

Santino: Where do you draw inspiration for your own work?

Kevlin: Many of my stories grow from moments, either imagined or observed. A toddler unlocking the door of a public toilet onto a concourse, mother not yet ready. A teenager discovering a seam on her neck. Being served an empty plate in a restaurant.

And then this moment sparks another thought or shacks up with another moment... and before you know it a story is growing, whether gently below the surface of your awareness or in a mad rush through your fingers onto the page. There’s rarely a big idea or a strict intention — if those are present in the final story, they are usually late arrivals, realised sometime after the small idea or the accidental insight.

Santino: I have seen you read your flash fiction at various live events and you always read with energy and character. How important do you think going to live readings of flash fiction, or any literature, is?

Kevlin: Where the written word counts as a single medium of expression, reading counts as many. The written word can come alive through sight, through sound and, via Braille, through touch. Reading is sensual.

Giving life to fiction through live readings adds a public performance side to the otherwise private life of personal reading. Stories can support public and private experiences, extrovert and introvert contexts, the prosocial and the hermetic. A live reading can show both listener and reader different sides of a story, it can bring stories to new audiences, it can contribute to the experience of an event, it can be downright fun!

Compared with longer forms, flash fiction is the fiction of minutes not quarter hours, falling comfortably within the limits of attention span, jostling with poetry as a natural fit for this platform.

Santino: People argue that the key to writing great flash fiction isn’t only in the act of writing itself but in the editing, too. Could you please share your favourite writing and/or editing tips that help you transform the idea in your head into the piece of writing you wish it to be?

Kevlin: Editing is where the story can go from toddling around, bumping into inconsistencies and not yet sure of itself, to coming of age, with a sureness of purpose and more solid wordfall.

For me, editing is where I wrangle the words and sentences to defamiliarise and refamiliarise myself with the story. Work out what story is being told while working out how to tell it. Noise words, jobless clauses and filler sentences served a supporting role in the initial draft, but their contract’s over, so let them go.

But what about repetition and cliché? Repetition is double edged (or triple, quadruple...). Conventionally repetition is something to strike out, but repetition can lend a story foreshadowing, theme, pace and rhythm. The answer is not as simple as three strikes and it’s out.

And rather than say that clichés should be avoided, any cliché should either tell us of era or of person — if a cliché has a strong association, work that angle, you’re worldbuilding with an economy of words — or it should be played with and subverted — surprise the reader! But clichés that just fill the space don’t spark joy, so bin them.

Santino: If you could liken flash fiction to a piece of technology, fictional or real, what would it be and why?

Kevlin: Flash fiction is a smartphone. It fits in your pocket but contains the world. You can get lost in it. You can show others. You can take it anywhere and anywhen.

Kevlin Henney writes shorts and flashes and drabbles of fiction and books and articles on software development. His fiction has appeared online and on tree (Daily Science FictionLitroNew ScientistPhysics WorldSpelkReflex FictionLabLitFlight Journal and many more) and has been included in a number of anthologies (The Dark Half of the Year,North by SouthwestWe Can Improve YouHauntedSalt Anthology of New WritingRipeningSleep Is a Beautiful Colour and many more). As well as having his work rejected and make no impression whatsoever on writing competitions, Kevlin’s stories have been longlisted, shortlisted and placed, and he won the CrimeFest 2014 Flashbang contest. He reads at spoken word events, winning the National Flash-Fiction Day Oxford flash slam in 2012, and has performed his work on local radio (BBC Radio Bristol and Ujima). Kevlin has been involved in the organisation of the Bristol Festival of Literature and events for National Flash-Fiction Day. He lives in Bristol and online, where he can stalked as @KevlinHenney on Twitter, @kevlinhenney on Medium and @kevlin.henney on Instagram.

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 would like to start by thanking everyone who has donated to National Flash Fiction Day. This has enabled us to be able to offer free entry to authors who may not otherwise be able to submit. It makes a real difference, so thank you.

We have a number of free entries for our Micro Fiction competition and our “Doors” themed anthology available to authors from marginalised backgrounds or anyone suffering economic hardship.

To be considered eligible for a free entry, you must meet at least one from the following criteria:

  • Recipient of Universal Credit or Carer’s Allowance.
  • Recipient of a state retirement pension and little other income.
  • BAME writer.
  • LGBTQIA+ or Non-Binary writer.
  • Disabled.
  • Full-time university students.

You do not need to state which applies to you if you’d prefer not to, and we will not be asking for proof of eligibility.

We expect demand to outstrip the number of entries we can provide, and we would like to offer entries to as many people as possible. Free entries will be offered in good faith, but we would like to advise authors who do have means to pay for entry to do so instead.

To apply, please send an email to FreeEntryNFFD@gmail.com and state which is your first choice: micro fiction competition entry, or “Doors” themed anthology entry. If we are able to offer you a free entry, we will advise you on how to redeem this.

Again, we would like to thank everyone who has helped make this possible through donations. We shall remain open to donations, for those who wish to still donate, which can be done through the donation button on our submission guidelines pages.

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Welcome to the fifth in a series of interviews with this year's National Flash Fiction Day anthology editors and micro fiction competition judges! This week, Diane Simmons chats with one of this year's micro fiction competition judges, Judy Darley, about her forthcoming collection and what she's looking for when judging our micro competition...

Diane: Your collection, Remember Me to the Bees, was published by Tangent books in 2014 and your second collection, Sky Light Rain, is out soon. Can you tell us a little about them both? 

Judy: Remember Me to the Bees was actually published by micropress Scopophilia, though Tangent Books kindly host it on their site. It brings together 20 of my short stories exploring the way people attempt to survive and thrive, and the mistakes we can make in the process. A reviewer described it as a book of lost and broken people and things, which seems to fit. 

Sky Light Rain will be published by Valley Press, and will contain my short stories, flash fictions and poetry. Flash fiction is increasingly the medium I turn to in exploring my fascination with the fallibilities and strengths of the human mind.

Diane: For the last couple of years, you have run a flash walk in Bristol to celebrate NFFD. Could you tell me a bit about the walk and how it came into being?

Judy: I love experiencing fiction in different ways. A few years ago I took part in a St Ann’s Day pilgrimage across part of Bristol in which actors performed site-specific stories. One of mine was included and there was something magical about being part of a horde of people all brought together with the same intent, listening to words unfurl in unlikely places. At last year’s Flash Walk, we got a trio of fantastic actors on board to share 12 amazing stories. My favourite bit is meeting people who have never ventured out on anything like a flash walk before, and seeing the intrigue on the faces of people passing by. The enjoyment of fiction can be contagious!

Diane: I have heard you perform your flashes several times and always read so well. Do you enjoy reading to an audience? 

Judy: Thanks so much! I love reading to an audience, but I have to make sure I practice a lot beforehand. There’s always a chance nerves will wriggle in and make my mind go blank. If I know the story well enough, that’s not a problem: the words just bubble up and I keep going with, hopefully, the audience none the wiser.

Diane: You are one of the judges for this year’s NFFD micro competition. Is there anything you are particularly looking for in a micro flash? Is there anything that you think makes a micro stand out?

Judy: A micro flash can be such a powerful thing. I’m hoping to discover pieces that move me with emotions that bubble just beneath the surface. A skilful flash writer can condense the resonance of a novel into 100-words. I want to read pieces that leave ripples.

Diane: Do you have a favourite flash? Either one you’ve written, or one by another writer? 

Judy: There are so many breathtaking flash fiction writers emerging that I seem to discover new favourites most days. Frances Gapper has some wonderful flashes in her collection In The Wild Wood, and 'Gingerbread' by Joanna Campbell, which appeared in Ripening: National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2018, is a rare, unsettling treat. The true test for me is whether I remember them long after reading. Grace Palmer’s ‘In 1960’, published by FlashBack Fiction  has haunted me for months.

 

Judy Darley is a British fiction writer, poet and journalist who can't stop writing about the fallibilities and strengths of the human mind. Her flash fiction and stories have been published by magazines and anthologies in the UK, New Zealand, US and Canada, including Seren Books, MslexiaUnthology 8 and SmokeLong Quarterly, as well as in her debut collection Remember Me To The Bees. Sky Light Rain, her second collection, will be published by Valley Press in autumn 2019. She has shared her stories on BBC radio, as well as in cafés, caves, an artist’s studio and a disused church. Find Judy at http://www.SkyLightRain.com, and https://twitter.com/JudyDarley.

 

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 nationalflashfictionday@gmail.com.

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: santinoprinzi.com

 

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 nationalflashfictionday@gmail.com.

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: https://www.facebook.com/events/1112066998950546/

 

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 https://www.dianesimmons.co.uk/.

 

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 nationalflashfictionday@gmail.com.

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 nationalflashfictionday@gmail.com.

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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 nationalflashfictionday@gmail.com.

 

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Entries for the 2019 National Flash Fiction Day Micro Fiction Competition are now open! This year’s judges are Angela Readman, Diane Simmons, Kevlin Henney, and Judy Darley.

Send our judges your very best micro fictions of 100 words or fewer!

Entries are open from Friday 4th January 2019 until Friday 15th March 2019, 23:59pm GMT.

Please read our submission guidelines carefully before submitting.


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.

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 You can learn more about Diane at https://www.dianesimmons.co.uk/.

Kevlin Henney writes shorts and flashes and drabbles of fiction and books and articles on software development. His fiction has appeared online and on tree (Daily Science FictionLitroNew ScientistPhysics WorldSpelkReflex FictionLabLitFlight Journal and many more) and has been included in a number of anthologies (The Dark Half of the Year,North by SouthwestWe Can Improve YouHauntedSalt Anthology of New WritingRipeningSleep Is a Beautiful Colour and many more). As well as having his work rejected and make no impression whatsoever on writing competitions, Kevlin’s stories have been longlisted, shortlisted and placed, and he won the CrimeFest 2014 Flashbang contest. He reads at spoken word events, winning the National Flash-Fiction Day Oxford flash slam in 2012, and has performed his work on local radio (BBC Radio Bristol and Ujima). Kevlin has been involved in the organisation of the Bristol Festival of Literature and events for National Flash-Fiction Day. He lives in Bristol and online, where he can stalked as @KevlinHenney on Twitter, @kevlinhenney on Medium and @kevlin.henney on Instagram.

Judy Darley is a British fiction writer, poet and journalist who can't stop writing about the fallibilities and strengths of the human mind. Her flash fiction and stories have been published by magazines and anthologies in the UK, New Zealand, US and Canada, including Seren Books, MslexiaUnthology 8 and SmokeLong Quarterly, as well as in her debut collection Remember Me To The Bees. Sky Light Rain, her second collection, will be published by Valley Press in autumn 2019. She has shared her stories on BBC radio, as well as in cafés, caves, an artist’s studio and a disused church. Find Judy at http://www.SkyLightRain.com, and https://twitter.com/JudyDarley.

Submissions for the 2019 National Flash Fiction Day Anthology are now open, and this year will be more exciting than ever!

Our theme is filled with possibility…or not! Our theme can reveal secrets to us and it can keep danger hidden. Is our theme trying to keep everyone from getting in, or is our theme trying to keep you from getting out? Knock, knock, who’s there? It’s our theme: Doors!

We want you to open the door to stories wild with imagination. We’re looking for those creepy mysteries about doors we can’t find the key to. We want those funny tales of frustration when doors do exactly what they’re supposed to when we don’t want them to. Maybe the stories you want to share are about metaphorical doors, filled with the disappointment of doors that are closed to us or brimming with excitement at new opportunities. Whichever door you decide to write about, make sure it’s your best and that is fewer than 500 words!

The co-editors standing in the doorway of this year’s anthology are Joanna Campbell and Santino Prinzi. Submissions are open from Friday 4th January 2019 until Friday 15th March 2019, 23:59pm GMT.

Please read our submission guidelines carefully before submitting.


Santino PrinziSantino 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. He is also a reviewer of flash fiction collections and novellas-in-flash for various outlets. As well as a nominee for the Best Small Fictions 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, Ink Sweat & Tears, The Airgonaut, Litro Online, Stories for Homes Anthology Vol.2 and many more. To find out more follow him on Twitter (@tinoprinzi) or visit his website: santinoprinzi.com

Joanna Campbell is a writer from the Cotswolds. Her short fiction has been published in numerous literary journals and anthologies. For example, her short story, Upshots, won the 2015 London Short Story Prize. In 2017, Bath Flash Fiction Award published her novella-in-flash, A Safer Way To Fall. Her short story, Much, came second in the 2017 Exeter Story Prize. In 2018, Brad’s Rooster Food, shortlisted in the Royal Academy Pin Drop Award, was chosen for the Simon and Schuster anthology, A Short Affair. Her flash fiction has been widely published, including five times in NFFD anthologies. In 2017, Confirmation Class came second in the Bridport Prize, for which her short stories have been shortlisted eight times. In 2016, her solo collection, When Planets Slip Their Tracks, was published in hardback by Ink Tears and shortlisted for the 2016 Rubery Book Award and longlisted for the 2017 Edge Hill Short Story Prize. In 2015, Brick Lane published her first novel, Tying Down The Lion, which was longlisted for the Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize. Joanna is working on two new novels, one of which, The Days Between The Hours, was judged second in the 2018 Stroud Book Festival competition. You can find her online at Joanna-Campbell.com.