*I know it’s a coffee pot, technically, but I like it. Shhhhh.
One of the happiest things that’s happened to me in approximately ever was being asked, this summer, to join the editorial team of the best flash fiction journal in the world, SmokeLong Quarterly. It’s hard work, endlessly fascinating, funny, challenging and a continual masterclass in flash, and there is nothing like it. The standard of submissions is astonishing and the staff team is so talented I reckon if they all stood in a field you’d see their shiny brilliance from space. It’s such a privilege to be part of it.
Go read this issue and find Sky Like Concrete, the story I chose for my guest editing week – the author’s first publication, sparse and utterly beautiful. And then read We All Know About Margo, which Jan Elman Stout pulled out of the slush pile for us all to read and which we were so excited about we just couldn’t accept fast enough. What a buzz to find something like that in the queue. And so many others. This is an experience that will never get old.
I have a new story up at New Flash Fiction Review, here. It comes with a big content warning for eating disorders, although I didn’t set out to write about that. The seed of this story came from a circus performer I’ve seen a couple of times who eats light bulbs and does other painfully astonishing things, but the story is not about her and the character in the story is not her, only that those skills collided with some other things I was thinking about at the time.
I’m really, really happy to be on this list. This story is close to my heart – the characters live for me and, ridiculously, even though they are entirely fictional, make me cry every time I read it. Writers are strange people. I’m so glad some other people liked it too.
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 rarely 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 a word limit four times its word count. 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.