*I know it’s a coffee pot, technically, but I like it. Shhhhh.
I was at work scrubbing limescale off an Air B’n’B shower screen when one of my writer buddies messaged me to congratulate me on making the Bristol Prize longlist. I was nearly as surprised as I was delighted – my story is only just over flash length and, although I love it, I’m never convinced with any of my work that anyone else will, and I hadn’t kept track of when the longlist was being announced, not thinking it could stand up to nearly 2,200 stories in a competition with double the word limit. Hooray for people liking brevity in fiction! I am of course keeping everything I have crossed for the shortlist, but I feel lucky to have made it this far – I know some outstanding stories were entered, and the standard of the anthology last year was incredible. It has put a spring in my step, though.
I’m honoured – and right now, a tiny bit emotional – to be judging the Autumn round of this terrific flash fiction competition with Rupert Dastur of The Short Story. The deadline is 15th September 2018, for stories of up to 400 words. £400 first prize, £100 second, £50 3rd and up to five highly commended prizes of £25 each. Entry fee is £5. Details of how to enter are here: https://www.theshortstory.co.uk/flash-fiction-400/ Bit emotional because of Rupert’s standout commitment to encouraging diversity in publishing by offering free competition entry to writers from marginalised or disadvantaged communities, or people experiencing economic hardship:
‘This may include, but is not limited to BAME writers, those who identify as LGBTQ+, disabled people, or those on universal credit.
Writers may send one flash fiction (adhering to the T&Cs) as a word attachment (no PDFs please), to email@example.com (Please note this has changed from the summer comp).
Please include your name in the email, but not on the attachment itself. No explanation is needed, unless you wish to provide such details. All entries are accepted in good faith.
We look forward to reading your work.’
And I’m excited, too. Send us your polished 400-word gems and we’ll look after them, I promise. I can’t wait to read them.
I’m so excited to be guest editing at my all-time favourite literary journal this week. SmokeLong has always been my go-to place to find the best flash fiction. I can’t quite believe they’re asking me to pick this week’s story, but I have the Submittable queue now, so I guess it must be true. I LOVE reading and choosing stories so, so much. Getting to pick from the incredible submissions in the SLQ slush pile is not just an honour but also a huge treat. Thanks so much for having me, you guys.
This project is celebrating the 100th anniversary of women’s voting rights in the UK, sharing audio recordings of 100 female-identifying writers telling the story of an achievement in their lives and reading a piece of their work relating to it. Jude Higgins, possessor of more energy and inspiration than ten of most of us, who spends just some of her time running the Bath Flash Fiction Award, Bath Short Story Award and UK Flash Fiction Festival, suggested I write about winning the Bath Flash Award, back in October 2016.
That story, One In Twenty-three, was one of the first subs I ever sent anywhere, one of the first pieces of flash I wrote, my first ever publication. What an experience. It became my way into the literary world, and it brought people into my life who I can’t imagine being without, now.
But I couldn’t see how I could write and record for a project asking women for their personal stories, using a piece that is so very much not my story. I’ve doubted whether I should have sent it out in the first place. Often I don’t know how to respond to the kind things people say about it, when I was writing from a position of privilege about the loss of human life on such a scale – when those are the people that story belongs to. I wrote it because I felt compelled to, from the grief of it all, and also because we were experiencing an obscene groundswell of nationalism and anti-refugee sentiment in our country at that time and I was so angry. But it’s such a painful subject, and these questions are difficult.
I spoke to one or two writer friends who love me and know how I get messed up about this stuff and the patient response was that I should do it, and that yes, 30 seconds of wordless sobbing on audio would probably be FINE. So I emailed the organisers and told them all my misgivings about doing the piece. They messaged back to say: That. Write about that. So I did.
You can hear me talking about all of this and reading the story aloud in this audio broadcast here, which I promise does not contain wordless sobbing: http://www.100voicesfor100years.com/voice-of-the-day/2018/4/25/one-in-twenty-three Do go and listen to the others, too. There are some astonishing pieces from some astonishing women.
Gatehouse Press publish the beautiful quarterly print journal, Lighthouse (check out their font, a digitisation of a vintage typeface – blooming gorgeous), as well as poetry and short fiction chapbooks. They’re based in Norwich UK, where the launch of Chris’s outstanding flash fiction collection, Other Household Toxins, took place last month. If you’re on Facebook, you can still view the video stream of that on the I Must Be Off blog page – you’ll need to scroll forward to the 40 mins mark to get to the start.
Gatehouse kindly offered to publish an interview on their blog in the run-up to the launch. We worked on it and I sent the text to the editors – yay! Only, it was the wrong file (because I am a writer and those genes have clearly nuked the smart, organisational ones I’m sure I would otherwise have expressed with great efficiency). However, the brilliant and long-suffering Andy from Gatehouse has put that right, and the actual proper version of that interview is now up on their site, here: http://www.gatehousepress.com/2018/01/interview-christopher-allen-flash-fiction/
It contains some invaluable flash writing advice from someone Kathy Fish describes as ‘a writer of uncommon skill and grace’, and Sara Lipmann calls ‘a master of flash fiction’. Christopher Allen is the managing editor of the legendary flash journal SmokeLong Quarterly, whose 15th anniversary flash contest is currently running, so this might be of interest to anyone who’s considering entering that (which you can do here: http://www.smokelong.com/the-smokelong-quarterly-award-for-flash-fiction/)
And if you haven’t bought the collection yet, you really should. It really is all kinds of awesome.
The lovely humans and other exotic creature creatives at Nothing In The Rule Book asked me for an interview. Here it is: https://nothingintherulebook.com/2018/03/26/creatives-in-profile-interview-with-helen-rye/
A few months ago I got an email that made me cry (in a good way). It was from the award-winning Vietnamese poet, translator and author Nguyen Phan Que Mai. She’d seen the story One In Twenty-Three, written out of grief at the mass deaths at sea of the ongoing refugee crisis, and said she’d felt an echo of the story of the people who fled war in Vietnam that had touched her deeply.
We exchanged some emotional emails, and Que Mai asked permission to translate the story for publication in Vietnam’s national newspaper, Hanoi Moi, and as part of an anthology she was working on. Ad-Hoc Fiction, the Bath Flash Award publishers, and Jude Higgins very kindly agreed to give permission.
The story was immediately accepted by Hanoi Moi last year, which was very exciting and a great honour. You can read about that, and some of what Que Mai had to say, here https://bathflashfictionaward.com/2017/07/one-in-twenty-three-by-hele-rye-nationally-published-in-vietnamese/
This week Que Mai sent me the cover image from the anthology – it’s a thing of such beauty, as you can see. Being on that astonishing list of names has completely made my year, however much of a fluke it is. I also learned that people have been using the story when teaching creative writing courses, which is just – well. Mind-blowing, really.
All royalties from the newspaper and anthology publications are being donated to the Ban Mai scholarship programme, a project that supports children in Vietnam from very poor backgrounds, many of whom have lost a parent, to continue in education.