Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Oh, blimey. I'm reading one of my flash fiction pieces at Flashtag's Writing Competition event in Chorlton tomorrow. And as usual, before any reading, I feel pretty vomity today. The story is about allotment gardening sexploits; affairs, lies and hardening off. Spare my blushes. I'll have to pretend I'm not the prude I am for a couple of hours (...or perhaps release my inner Mistress.)

So today, I'm trying to edit something for the Bridport Prize, as the deadline is looming at the end of this month. I've had a series of very interrupted days where I've got to the point that I want to be rude to people and slam phones / doors etc. and be left alone for more than one hour altogether to get stuck into my work. Does everyone working from home experience this? People assume you're fair game to be visited / interrupted because you are in? Usually I don't mind, just shuffle in a coffee break I was going to have anyway... but this week is turning a bit epic. To the point that I wonder if I'm the victim of some odd Derren Brown mind game, where they are seeing how far I can be pushed before I sort of explode in violently criminal ways, only to be hypnotised back to mild mannered unassertiveness.

So anyway, on with Bridport. I'm working on a short story and maybe I'll send in a flash fiction entry, too. It would be rude not to. I won't win. I know I won't. The closest I've ever got with Bridport was the shortlist. But a story stands no chance if it doesn't even make it off your screen. And there is something important about seeing the process through and sending work out. When it bounces back I regard it slightly differently, like I want to keep it in play. It needs to keep moving. So I tighten, change, rearrange, swap feedback with other writers and then ping it off again. Hopeful that, eventually, it will catch somewhere.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

National Flash Fiction Day

I love a good flash, me. Tiny complete micro stories of up to about 500 words. David Gaffney, a brilliant writer of flash fiction, writes about it here in the Guardian. And today is the first national celebration of the tiny genre.

There's a minority who are a bit sniffy about flash fiction... making comments like it's an exercise for writing not reading etc. I'm usually the first to back down in any argument, just for a peaceful life, but I would say these doubters are just plain wrong. And probably idiots, too. (And if I hear/read another 'flash-in-the-pan pun I might micro-punch someone.)

Flash fiction is deceptively hard to write well. There's a lot of crap ones that fall into anecdote, or something like your dad would tell as a joke when he's trying to do stand up. 

What I love is that to be a good flash fiction, every single word works really hard. Every word and stanza is chewed over, moved round, tightened like a nut into place to create a really closely honed story. At the same time it needs to feel effortless - like it sort of just hatched perfectly from an egg or something. The reader shouldn't, in my opinion, feel like they are expected to step carefully round it like a piece of abstract art. They should enter into it and consume. It has to be enjoyed without feeling like the writer is leaning over your shoulder to check that you 'got' it. 

Below, is a flash I wrote. It's not my best, but it's the shortest flash I've ever written at 165 words. And that seemed pertinent for today. I hope you enjoy!

Apocalyptic Middle Age

When it happened we went underground and ate tinned meat and lentils someone had thought to bring.
Through shadow days and sulphurous nights we slowly digested ourselves and tried to hold our snippy tongues. We found ancient, urgent entertainment. Within a year we’d sporned our tendrils further down. Babies wriggled the echoing, narrow gauge tunnels, their eyes filming like Mexican Tetras.
Grounded and trapped we grew nostalgic for a past that our children would never grasp or comprehend like us. Breathlessly recalling details by flickering light; Fraggle Rock, Slouch Socks and Teddy Ruxpin... Pop Tarts and Party Rings… Paula Abdul, Magic Eye and those thumbed pages in Forever… Skip-Its, He Man and NKOTB Hangin’ Tough...
And then someone suggested it might all be over.
We mushroomed through the crust. Emerged. Just brushed our feet through the dust of what was. A lonely, orange moon floated like a toy we’d outgrown and we set our children down into the ash of their future.