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Welcome to The Literary Pig's blog - a safe haven for all those afflicted with
the unbearable urge to write.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Short Story Masterclass with Melanie Whipman

I met Melanie Whipman during my MA in Creative Writing at Chichester University where she's an Associate Lecturer. She is currently completing her PhD there and her debut short story collection Llma Sutra (published by Ink Tears Press) is now available. When it comes to writing short stories then Melanie is an expert so I was really looking forward to her Short Story Masterclass, a day devoted to the art of the short story.
The Masterclass was held at Lingwood House, Churt, in Surrey (see photo right) - a perfect rural location for a day of writing. No traffic or noise distractions, just a lovely garden to explore if we needed
inspiration. Attendees started arriving for 10am and we soon knew a little about each other before Melanie reigned us in to focus on short stories. Up until lunch we discussed what makes a good short story and also considered the importance of character versus plot. There was work to do and an interesting exercise involving all five senses, later developed into exploring a character. All of the group had the makings of a short story from this short writing exercise - I was very impressed at how effective it was.
We rested our writing brains over a tasty lunch of home-made quiches and salad, followed by pudding and coffee. Coffee and tea (and biscuits) kept us well nourished all day. The afternoon session allowed us to consider the importance of setting in the short story. We then worked through several writing exercises using setting and character mood. Many of us returned to the characters we'd created in the morning to further expand their stories. I'm not usually a fan of writing to order and often hit a blank with 'on the spot' exercises, but I found Melanie's techniques worked for me and I ended up with several pages of prose that I can develop further (and have done so post the class!).
Ring fencing time to focus a day on short story writing worked for me and I left feeling motivated and re-invigorated to get writing short stories again. With the added bonus of the bones of a new story beginning to emerge after the writing exercises. The setting was idyllic. The atmosphere relaxed, friendly and encouraging where everyone got the chance to share their ideas and thoughts. There was no pressure to read out any of the work from the exercises, but our group were all happy to do so as it felt like being amongst friends. Interestingly, not all the group wrote short stories and all of the content and exercises made sense for longer fiction too - so I think we all got a great deal out of the Masterclass.
Melanie is running this Masterclass again (January 2017) and other writing workshops are scheduled, full details are on her website here. Once a quarter she organises Live Lit evenings at The Hollybush, Frensham (Surrey), where I often read along with other writers (prose and poetry). These are always fun evenings, read more here. Hope to see you there one evening! The next one is 21st November ...

Melanie Whipman is a writer and lecturer who specialises in the short story form. Her fiction has been broadcast on Radio 4, has won various literary prizes and has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies. She runs creative writing courses in Farnham, and is an Associate Lecturer and PhD student at the University of Chichester. She is also Commissioning Editor for The Story Player. 
Her debut short story collection ‘Llama Sutra’ is due out in November with Ink Tears Press.
You can find her at www.melaniewhipman.com, and can order her book here: http://www.inktears.com/book-llamasutra/
You can also join the launch for Llama Sutra - a joint launch party is being held with Joanna Campbell for her collection When Planets Slip Their Tracks. Full details on Facebook here.

All photographs provided and reproduced here with the kind permission of Melanie Whipman.

Monday, 7 November 2016

30 days of Flash

November is NaNoWriMo month when many writers set themselves the challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel. I actually did this (and met the target) back in 2011, but swore NEVER AGAIN for various reasons. There seems to be more and more alternative November challenges popping up: a poem a day, 50,000 words but all on short stories etc. One that caught my interest is on Facebook: Flash Nano 2016, where a group of writes have set out to write one flash story a day.
October turned into a writing fast for me, not by design, yet somehow I slipped into a limbo state as I waited for feedback on my crime novel. I'd planned to start other projects and simply failed to get anything off the ground. On 1 November I was determined to write something. ANYTHING. I strapped myself down and managed a new 500 word story. The next day was my monthly goal setting session with writing chum Wendy and I had to come up with a November goal - particularly since I'd failed to meet October's target. Foolishly I made a snap decision and told her I would join the Flash nano challenge and write a new flash story every day: 30 days of Flash!
'So,' said Wendy, 'you've had a complete block on ideas for October and now you're going to need 30 different ideas - one a day - to meet this challenge?' (OK, she may have been a little blunter than this in reality).
'Yes,' I replied, beaming like a madwoman. 'It's going to be fun!'
And it has been tremendous fun. It's only day 7 of the challenge, but I have written a unique new story every day so far. I'm treating this as an opportunity to try out genres I never usually write ie horror, scifi etc. I'm also experimenting with word count from 50 up to 500. On the plus side I should end up with 30 new pieces which I could submit or perhaps adapt into longer stories. The ambitious side of me is already planning a new challenge: to place all 30 pieces. I may not confess that one to Wendy ...
If you fancy writing some Flash and are wondering about opportunities for submissions then here's a short list of some of my favourites - all FREE (there are hundreds more & competitions too if you have the time to search them out):
Blink-Ink - 50 words
Paragraph Planet - 75 word stories
Readers' Digest 100 Word story - closes 20 Feb 2017
Spelk - up to 500 words, submissions open again mid November
Smoke Long Quarterly - up to 1,000 words
http://www.smokelong.com/Jellyfish Review - up to 1,000 words

Watch out for National Flash Fiction Day in 2017 which runs competitions and opportunities for publication. Left is the 2016 anthology A Box of Stars Beneath the Bed, which includes 2 of my flash stories ...