Monday, 23 July 2018
This weekend I traveled to Bristol for the Flash Fiction Festival at Trinity College. If you write or read flash or are interested in learning more about flash fiction then this is THE annual event to get to - I highly recommend you follow @FlashFictFest on Twitter to find out about events and the 2019 festival, and get your place booked early! This year's festival was wonderful: great workshops with very experienced flash writers, lots of time for networking (ie chatting/gossiping), opportunities for Open Mic, mini competitions, terrific food, a well stocked bookshop (note to self: take more cash next year!) and oodles of time for socialising. I wish I'd had Hermione's time twisting necklace (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) as each session I could have signed up for several simultaneous workshops. Here's a flavour of the tutors: Meg Pokrass, Jude Higgins, Vanessa Gebbie, Nancy Stohlman, KM Elkes, David Gaffney, Michael Loveday, Carrie Etter, Christopher Allen, Ingrid Jendrzejewski, Nuala O'Connor, Haleh Agar, Santino Prinzi and so many others. Basically the Stars of Flash Fiction were at this Festival. Writers had traveled from the US and Australia for the Festival, as well as coming from Ireland and all over the UK. It felt truly international, yet still like meeting up with old friends. I met some lovely new friends too and several of my heroes of flash fiction.
Over the weekend I broke two of my golden rules, as follows:
Never read after drinking alcohol. (See photo opposite, in which I look deadly serious. Photo by Debbi Voisey).
Another writer 'encouraged' me to sign up for the Open Mic readings on Friday night. By then I had drunk at least half a bottle of Prosecco. Maybe this was a rule that needed breaking ...
The second golden rule is not a writing one but since I was in the company of writers ...
Never (ever) do Karaoke.
By this time I had polished off the bottle of Prosecco and possibly started another ... I sang Human League's Electric Dreams (my favourite song of all time) along with Debbi Voisey.
I wish I could say never again, but actually I think I may have enjoyed breaking this rule.
Finally, another golden writing rule was:
Don't write a first draft just before a competition deadline and submit without anyone reviewing.
I broke this at the beginning of June when I wrote the opening 10K words of a new novel, then a synopsis and finally entered it into the 2018 Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller competition (for debut novelists).
If you read this link to Richard and Judy's Bookclub website you'll learn that sometimes it really is okay to break your own rules.
Now I have to finish the novel and submit before 28 December. I'd better get writing then ...
Monday, 25 June 2018
I am delighted to welcome Amanda Huggins on the Blog today. I’ve known Mandy virtually for several years, mainly from seeing her name on competition placings and short listings, and have long admired her writing. It is encouraging and inspiring to now see her short fiction coming out in print and particularly her own short story collection Separated From the Sea (published by Retreat West Books).
After a further edit I submitted it to another publisher, and this time it made the next round, and was sent out to readers. The response was very positive – one reader specifically asked the publisher to let me know that if the book were accepted she would definitely buy it. Yet in the end it was a no – they felt it still needed more work. I was now armed with suggestions for improvements, and as well as making all the changes, I wrote five new stories in a very short space of time that turned out to be some of the best I’ve written. (This is unusual for me, as I’m a very slow writer!). So I was finally able to ditch the weakest stories, re-title the collection and get it back out there.
My stories are occasionally inspired by personal experience, yet I would never write an entire short story about something that actually happened to me. Instead, I draw on small incidents that really occurred and include those as part of a longer piece of work.
When I started writing seriously a few years ago, I concentrated solely on travel writing. There were so many places I wanted to write about, and I had a pile of travel journals from various trips I’d made to countries such as India, Japan, Russia, and Eastern Europe. The first pieces I wrote were for specific competitions, as I found the deadlines were a useful incentive. I sent a travel piece to the Daily Telegraph every single week until they published me!
A few months ago I started work on a poetry collection, which is something I’ve been wanting to concentrate on for some time. A number of the poems are about growing up in a seaside town in the seventies, but others explore themes of grief and loss, and of yearning for a different life, closer to nature.
Thank you, Mandy, for being such a sport and answering all of LitPig's questions. I have to admit we are really excited to hear about a poetry collection and look forward to reading that!
Please do check out the links below to buy this wonderful collection. You can also follow Mandy on Twitter and her blog.
Monday, 12 March 2018
I am delighted to welcome Gail Aldwin onto the Blog today. I first met Gail last summer at the Flash Fiction Festival in Bath, and then again at West Sussex Writers’ 80th birthday/Writing Day in Worthing. We chatted about ongoing projects and I’m pleased to share that her debut collection of Flash Fiction is now available from Chapeltown Books.
Q - How did you go about sourcing a publisher for a flash collection?
I received an email from Chapeltown Books inviting me to submit stories for a single author collection of flash fiction. I had an existing relationship with the publisher Gill James who has included my stories in the Best of CaféLit series and the annual anthology by Bridge House Publishing. Submitting stories to CaféLit as an emerging writer is an excellent way to have your stories reach an audience. I set about putting a collection together by using the theme of human resilience to link new stories and others which had been previously published. One of my favourite stories is about an old woman who reflects on an earlier relationship which became the title story for the collection, Paisley Shirt.
Q - Can you share what you love about flash fiction?
I like to write short fiction alongside on-going projects so that I get a sense of satisfaction in having completed a piece of writing. Flash fiction contains all the elements of a longer story and part of the joy of flash fiction is the ability to distil the details into a short form. Editing is where the fun begins! I love to see my flash fictions become more textured and layered through this process.
Q - For the flashes in this collection have you ever taken a character into a longer piece? If yes, then why and can you tell us more?
Most of my characters come fresh to the page with each new piece of writing. I sometimes reuse the setting of a flash fiction story to develop a longer piece. One of the first pieces of flash fiction I had published was called At the Hostel. It tells the story of an elderly homeless man who befriends a young girl at the homeless hostel by reading her poetry. I used this setting again when I wrote a 30-minute screenplay about young people struggling with the challenges of homelessness in an urban environment. This was delivered as a scripted reading at Bridport Arts Centre in 2016.
Q - You also write longer fiction, can you tell us about that and any other writing projects you're working on?
Blog: The Writer is a Lonely Hunter
Chair DWN: http://www.dorsetwritersnetwork.co.uk
Gail’s new collection of short fiction Paisley Shirt is available in Kindle Edition from Amazon. The paperback is available from all good bookshops.
Monday, 12 February 2018
But I want more ... and what I really want to do is step it up.
I talked about this with my husband over Christmas and he shared something he'd read about snooker (yes, snooker). Snooker players train/practise endlessly to improve their game. Many do well, gain successes but then hit a plateau where despite the process their success stalls. The World Champions get to the podium by reassessing and changing their process. Maybe not all at once, perhaps introducing small changes at first or continually trying new things. That is the push they need to get off the plateau and start winning bigger.
I think I'm stuck on my own writing plateau and I need to get off ...
[Naff homemade graph warning]
I want to get off the plateau ... so I've been tweaking the process. In January I had only the sketch of a story in my head, not the usual oil painting, but I made myself sit down and start writing. The story started somewhere I didn't expect, which led to its ending - I wrote both back to back and then over a week I filled in the middle of the story. At almost 7,000 words it became one of the longest short stories I've written. It has been entered into a competition and only time will tell if this new approach is successful. What it did show me was that my process doesn't have to be fixed. I tried something new and I still wrote and finished the piece. I can change! Importantly, I actually enjoyed the experience.
I needed a kick to try something new and reading Chuck Wendig's 'The Kick-Ass Writer' has helped. This has "1001 ways to write great fiction. Get published, & earn your audience." Each section has 25
This is something from the book I am taking to heart: "It's time to start taking some risks ... Throw open the doors. Kick down the walls of your uncomfortable box. Carpet bomb the Comfort Zone so that none other may dwell there."
P.S. After writing this post I came across an article by Alison Moore in Mslexia (Sep 2017) 'I get knocked down (but I get up again' which sort of echoes some of how I've been feeling lately. One quote that gives me hope is: "A few times ... I noticed in retrospect that just when I had the gravest doubts about my work, and considered stepping out of the ring for a while - and maybe even did so - I was in fact in the process of making a leap forward."
Monday, 22 January 2018
Tuesday, 2 January 2018
For the geeks here are the stats:
Short stories written = 4
Flash stories written = 6
Features written = 2
1 new novel started
Crime novel was called in by 6 literary agents but sadly no offers (and very little feedback as to why...)
I was also commissioned to prepare and lead two writing workshops: one on writing for competitions and the other on micro fiction. Both were successful with a good turnout.
Competitions entered = 42 requiring fees, 21 free entry
- Successes (i.e. long/short listings, placements) = 13
- Acceptances = 10
Here are some of the places my work was published in 2017:
Thresholds Short Story Forum
50 Word Stories
In the Moment magazine
Flash Fiction Festival Anthology ONE
Brighton Prize Anthology
I YOU HE SHE IT Experiments in Viewpoint anthology (Huddersfield University)
The Prosecco and Walnut Whips came out for the following successes:
Regional Winner (Canada & Europe) Commonwealth Short Story Prize, which included publication on Granta (links below in A-Z), £2,500 prize and an all expenses paid trip to Singapore for the prize giving. It was the high point of my year and of my writing career to date. Writing Magazine also published my 2-page article on winning the prize.
Other paid wins/placements included:
Runner-up Retreat West themed flash comps x2
2nd Prize GRIST Point-of-View comp
2nd Prize Flash500
3rd Prize Reflex Fiction Autumn Flash comp
Story of the month on 50 word stories
Notable listings included:
Longlisted for Mogford Prize, Reflex Fiction, Flash500 Novel comp (for a speculative novel)
Special Commendation for Fabula Nivalis prize
Shortlisted for Flash500 Novel comp (for a crime novel) and Bridport Flash Fiction.
Looking back at these stats makes me realise what a good year it has been. Odd, because I felt it was a bit of a wasted time as I hadn't written as much as previous years. Much of my success/publications came from work written before 2017, which demonstrates the 3 P's of writing: Persistence, Patience and Positive thinking. So I'm hoping new fiction written in 2017 will start to prosper and find good homes in 2018 (and beyond). I'm also really fired up to write new fiction: long, short and perhaps even some drama.
Finally, I looked over the stories published in 2017 and animals feature in many so I thought I'd end with a brief A-Z of animal themed stories that came out last year.
B is for Bird: Twitching, shortlisted for Bridport Flash Fiction and to be published 2018 FLASH: International Flash Fiction magazine
C is for Cat: Pandora's Cat, 3rd Prize Reflex Fiction - read it here
D is for Dragon: Skylighter, 2nd Prize Flash500 - read it here
H is for Hare: The Frost Hare, Brighton Prize Anthology (published in paperback) AND Hare, published on Spelk, read it here
R is for Rat: Positive Outcome, Runner-up Retreat West - read it here
S is for Swan: Inheritance, published on Reflex Fiction - read it here
M is for Moth: The Naming of Moths, published on Granta (CW Prize Regional Winner) - read it here
W is for Whale: Fish of the Sea, published Nov issue In the Moment magazine
W is for (Were)Wolf: Lunacy, Runner-up Retreat West - read it here
Sunday, 24 December 2017
As you can see LitPig is already for Santa. Not sure how long the mince pies will last so I hope he gets here soon. From LitPig and me we'd like to wish all our followers/readers a very