A few weeks ago someone posted in a Facebook writers’ group about a flash fiction competition which had published guidelines which specifically excluded LGBTQ themes, putting stories about love and identity in the same list as graphic violence, profanity and pornography.
This kind of blatant, open discrimination is not something I’d seen in flash fiction before. The organisation concerned was one not normally associated with flash writing – in fact, nobody we knew had ever heard of them.
Flash writers are a close-knit and supportive community, in general, and do not take kindly to such offensive treatment of us, our friends and family. More than ever, in the current political climate, it is important that this kind of discrimination is challenged. My brilliant friend Christopher Allen (SmokeLong Co-EIC) and I started a protest campaign on Twitter, joined by dozens of outraged fellow writers.
Although the protests apparently had almost no impact on the stance of the competition’s organiser, they did bring out a beautiful demonstration of love and solidarity within the literary community. Contests have been set up in response to the discriminatory one, to celebrate LGBTQ+ writing and writers, fighting hate with love. And Steve Campbell, the editor of Ellipsis Zine, responded by asking if Chris and I would edit the next Ellipsis anthology, which he would call Love, Pride, and dedicate entirely to LGBTQ+ writers and stories.
Submissions open 29th November for stories by LGBTQ+ writers, or celebrating LGBTQ+ characters. Details here: http://www.ellipsiszine.com/five/ We will be reading blind. Please send us your best, most rainbowy work. Can’t wait to start reading.
Unexpected and terrific news last week that my story, Reunion, published in the Ellipsis Zine Two anthology, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Casually waited almost a whole twenty-four hours before updating my Twitter bio, because, y’know. Playing it cool. Yay! I had to put together a writer CV this week, and it gave me a little warm glow to be able to add this to it. THANK YOU.
Last weekend was the Bristol Short Story Prize ceremony at the beautiful, cathedral-like Reading Room of the Bristol Central Library. Last year I went as the guest of one of my best writing and workshopping buddies, Stephanie Hutton, whose stunning story, Born From Red, made the shortlist and 2017 anthology.
This time, travelling alone, I spent fourteen hours on public transport, got lost in the city centre about eleven times, shared a vegan flapjack with a very friendly pigeon and ultimately took shelter in a cafe/bar from the small hurricane that took to the streets for the Saturday afternoon. It was well worth it. The Bristol Prize is run by some absolutely lovely humans and the sense of occasion at both of the ceremonies I’ve attended was something special.
I was so delighted to find my story of love and grief and war and displacement, Transposition, had been awarded joint third prize, alongside a story called Little Yellow Planes by the brilliant Brooklyn writer Zeus Sumra. The idea for Transposition – a chess term that has other layers of meaning – came from a prompt in Kit de Waal’s workshop at the 2017 UK flash fiction festival and I spent about nine months writing and rewriting it.
Thanks so much to my workshopping partners, the best and most generous writers I know, for all their incredibly helpful feedback on this story – I wish you could have been there.
What wonderful stories we received in this contest. There were nearly 300 entries. I read every one of them, most of them at least twice – most of the shortlisted stories six or seven times or more. There were stories we had to leave out that I really wanted to include in the longlist, and stories from the longlist I was sad to lose from the shortlist. Narrowing all of these down to just five felt like an amazing achievement, and a painful one. The contest organiser, Rupert, and I spent hours discussing and analysing our top 12, making the case for the merits of stories we each particularly loved. In the end we were united in the choice of the winners, but the standard was so high overall we had some tough decisions to make, and I expect to see many of the stories we deliberated over getting published and taking prizes over the next few months. Thanks so much to everyone who entered for making it so beautifully difficult for us.
The results and judges’ report are here. I hope you’ll go and read the stories as they are published on the site – we’re incredibly proud of them and you are in for a treat.
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.