Bristol Short Story Prize – Joint 3rd!

Bristol Short Story Prize – Joint 3rd!

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.

One Hundred Voices for One Hundred Years (audio piece)

One Hundred Voices for One Hundred Years (audio piece)

http://www.100voicesfor100years.com/voice-of-the-day/2018/4/25/one-in-twenty-three

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.

 

 

Bay Len (Taking Flight) Anthology – One In Twenty-Three

Bay Len (Taking Flight) Anthology – One In Twenty-Three

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.

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Best Small Fictions Nomination

Best Small Fictions Nomination

I was off social media for most of Monday (a situation that usually makes friends panic that I might have died) and so it wasn’t until late in the day that I saw the incredibly exciting news that Sleep Is A Beautiful Colour, the story I wrote about my then- five-year-old, has been nominated by the National Flash Fiction Day Anthology for Best Small Fictions 2018. Yay! Getting the email from Tino Prinzi last summer to ask if I’d let them use it as the title story for the 2017 NFFD anthology was one of my most exciting moments in writing to date. This is the strawberry butter-icing on that cake.

About Best Small Fictions: https://www.facebook.com/TheBestSmallFictions/

Ellipsis Two anthology

Ellipsis Two anthology

Lovely news this week that my story, Reunion – inspired by a reunion with my best friend from school a few months back in which we partied like it was 1999, dancing to terrible music out of hours at a softplay centre – has been picked for the Ellipsis Zine Two anthology. The sheer joy of meeting up with someone you adored for years, and finding you still adore each other, found its way into words that reflect the spirit of rather than reality of our friendship, in this story. We were (and are) WAY less cool in real life, but we had so much fun, always.

An Open Pen Christmas

An Open Pen Christmas

Thrilled to have my downbeat micro flash, Holy Night, chosen by Open Pen London litmag to be the Christmas Eve story in their Twelve Days of Christmas series: http://www.openpen.co.uk/holy-night/ Pretty happy too that they let me have The Smiths’ Please Please Please as my contribution to their accompanying Christmas playlist, on the wafer-thin ground that it was ‘once used in a John Lewis Christmas advert’. It’s one of my favourite songs, especially at the moment.

This flash was originally a free-write in response to a challenge last year to write a Christmas-themed story for our writing group. I remembered it this year and searched in the dozen or so scraggy notebooks I have stuff scribbled all over. Remarkably, I found it in the first one I tried. Even more remarkably, given my ‘disturbed spider fell in some ink’ style of handwriting, I could read all but one word of it, and rewrote it for this year.

Thanks, Open Pen, for letting me be part of your brilliantly warped and slightly disturbing Christmas stocking, this year – it was an honour.

Short Edition Short Story Dispenser

Short Edition Short Story Dispenser

Edmonton airport travellers can read free short stories while waiting for flight

A few months ago I was approached by Canada-based writer Jason Lee Norman about an exciting secret project he’d been working on for some time, bringing Canada’s first ever short story dispenser machine to Edmonton International Airport. The airport was keen to invest in something so creative and innovative and the project had reached the stage where they were looking for flash fiction writers from the local area and from destination countries, including the UK, to submit the stories that would fill the machine.

Was I interested? Er, YES PLEASE. Did I know any other UK flash writers who might also want to submit stories for consideration…? Yes – yes, I kinda thought I might :).

I wasn’t wrong – there was LOT of enthusiasm and excitement among UK flash writers about this project. The short story dispenser launched successfully early in December – I have two stories in the machine, and about a dozen UK-based writer friends have work in there too. We’ve been playing spot-the-story as passengers have shared pictures on the internet of the stories the machine has dispensed to them. We hope they have taken some of them home to keep and to love.

More dispenser machines are planned soon, with the potential for our stories to end up all over the world. The stories are free to the readers, with royalties being paid to authors each time their work is dispensed. Many thanks to Jason for such an unusual and brilliant opportunity.

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