Sunday, 16 August 2015

Good Things Come in Threes (and Get Blogged Late)

In the wake of tragic events "Too soon?" is often used to punctuate (and emphasise) humour that may be considered somewhere dark and distasteful. But in the slipstream of successful and uplifting events there is no such thing as too soon.

Rambling. What am I going on about? Flash Fiction Day, 27th June, for which I helped organise events in Bristol, that's what. And have — until now — completely failed to blog about. That's what.

And what a day it was! It started with some seemingly dodgy exchanges in a car park in the centre of Bristol, two blokes moving boxes from the back of one car to another in a deserted and slightly overgrown concrete space. In truth, it was nothing more sinister than me taking delivery of books from Calum Kerr to drop off at the library and Foyles. Not particularly dodgy, but perhaps a bit geeky: I was going to accuse Calum of nerdiness for wearing a Doctor Who T-shirt, when I realised I was wearing a Nostromo T-shirt and thought better of it. Yes, these are the people who helped bring you a high-quality, high-brow lit event!

In some of the boxes were to be found Landmarks, the rather fetching and freshly minted NFFD anthology featuring some of the readers on the day, as well as other well-known flash authors, and opening with "Hilary Is the Winters of Keith's Discontent", a story of mine that helps get into the geography theme of the anthology — as well as being a perfect opportunity to put some of the airport codes I tweet when I travel to some good use.

The afternoon kicked off at the Central Library with Ken Elkes's workshop on openings. No matter how short a work fiction is, it still has an opening, something that marks the reader's transition from being outside the story to being in its heart. The opening is engagement, introduction, scene setting, mood setting and, hopefully, hook.

There were some great insights and good discussion during the workshop, concluding with a prompt-based exercise that lead to a more complete story than I'd imagined. Using a prompt or two — images, words, quotes, the room around you, etc. — is common for flash fiction, but Ken encouraged all the workshop participants to find multiple prompts from around the library. I ended up with nine and a story I hope to do something with.

Calum followed up with a discussion of the pros and cons of clichés in writing, whether clichéd phrases, clichéd characters or recurring plot structures. You normally want to identify clichés in order to avoid them, but they can be used constructively. Certain cultural clichés, especially in speech or a first-person point of view, allow you to convey things about you characters without having to say them explicitly. In flash fiction, clichés can offer you a shorthand that lets you communicate buckets without kicking the word limit. Clichés also set expectation, which can be subverted to surprise the reader.

Much as I like readings in bars and conventional stage settings, there is something quite special about readings in a bookshop. Stories coming to life in a place of stories, words written and words spoken. But that might just be me.

The readers on the day were Calum Kerr, Judy Darley, Diane Simmons, Grace Palmer, Ken Elkes, Freya Morris, Susan Howe, Jonathan Pinnock, Sarah Hilary, John Holland, Adam Marek, Jane Roberts, Zoe Gilbert and me.

And I know I'm (not) supposed to say this, but I'm going to anyway: of the three BristolFlash NFFD reading events to date, I probably enjoyed the this year the most. Was it the readers, the stories, the location...?

That said, we were pushed for time and ran right up against Foyles' closing time. But that was not the end! Oh no, like a modern Hollywood studio, we had planned for a trilogy. The third and final (and drawn out) event was at Horts. Early indications were that a few people — maybe fifteen — would turn up. In the end it was twice that — so much for polls and estimates, eh? Horts is fortunately not your usual Saturday-night-in-the-centre pub, so there was space and food and drink for all.

Photographic evidence of all (well, some of) this can be found here.

Next year? Again!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

From Talking on the Radio to Talking Tales

I was on Ujima Radio a couple of weeks back, being interviewed by Cheryl Morgan about flash fiction, Flash Fiction Day and various events in Bristol on the day and leading up to it. I read out a couple of stories — "In Love and Debt" and "AutoKnowMe" — and we talked about the flash edition of BristolCon Fringe (Monday 22nd June) and the workshop, readings and drinks on Flash Fiction Day (Saturday 27th June). You can find a recording of the programme via Cheryl's blog. You can also read more about the forthcoming Flash at the Fringe on Joanne Hall's blog.

Speaking of workshops, I had the good fortune to attend Clare Reddaway's Writing for Performance workshop last Saturday. I hope to blog about this in more detail at some point.

And, to wrap things up, on Monday this week I read "Star Signs" at the second Talking Tales. That was great fun, with some other excellent readings.

The next post? Either very soon and I'll be writing about a workshop I gave or attended, or not so soon and I'll be looking back on Flash Fiction Day.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Flash Forward

Things are coming together for National Flash Fiction Day. The judging for the micro-fiction competition is well under way. I've made my selection from the whole intake, so the next step is for Calum Kerr to juice the input from all the judges into a longlist for us to pick through.

To get some idea of who's coming to the BristolFlash events on Saturday 27th June, I've set up some Facebook events:
Flash Fiction Workshop at Bristol Central Library, from 13:30 to 16:30.
An Evening of Flash Fiction readings at Foyles, from 18:00 to 20:00.
An Evening of Drinks and Conversation somewhere nearby, from 20:00.
Please sign up and spread the word!

And to help spread the word, I will be appearing on Ujima Radio this Wednesday at midday. Cheryl Morgan will be talking to me about flash and fiction and NFFD, and I'll read a couple of very short pieces on air.

As a warm-up for NFFD, I'll be running a short flash writing workshop at BristolCon Fringe on Monday 22nd June, which will be followed by a flash-themed open mic. The Monday before that I'll be reading at Talking Tales again.

Looking back — yeah, I know, this post's title is all about forward, but with so many steps forward I think I can afford to take a couple back — "What I Tell You Three Times Is True", my runner-up flash in the Retreat West competition, has now appeared in the Retreat West anthology, Inside These Tangles, Beauty Lies. And — second step — my Sunday selection of four flash tales appeared on 101 Words last weekend, along with my reasons for choosing them.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Bristol in a Flash

National Flash-Fiction Day. It's back. And so are we. Saturday 27th June. Bristol. In a flash.

Yup, that's right, NFFD with all the BristolFlash trimmings — a micro-fiction comp (now closed, but if you've entered, don't give me any clues as I'm judging), an anthology (submissions still open, but hurry), workshops on the day (at the Bristol Central Library) and readings in the evening (at Foyles, Cabot Circus) — is back to make you wonder how you managed the last year without it.

The workshop sessions are free and will be led by NFFD director Calum Kerr and local prize-winning author Ken Elkes, from 13:30 to 16:30 at the Central Library.

Then, from 18:00 to 20:00 and also free, we'll be upstairs at Foyles, enjoying flash fiction readings from the following great line-up (and me):
Judy Darley
Ken Elkes
Zoe Gilbert
Kevlin Henney
Sarah Hilary
Susan Howe
Calum Kerr
Adam Marek
Freya Morris
Grace Palmer
Jonathan Pinnock
Jane Roberts
Diane Simmons
And then we'll go off for a drink or two to discuss the brevity of British summers, attention spans and flash fiction.

This year, the organisation and thought-wrangling for this event has been between me, Sarah Hilary, Freya Morris and Pete Sutton.

See you there? See you there!

Monday, 4 May 2015

Talking Tales

It's all happening on Stokes Croft. A couple of months back I was at Let Me Tell You a Story, Jack, at the Crofters Rights, and a couple of weeks back Stokes Croft Writers kicked off their spoken word event, Talking Tales. It was packed and buzzing, with a great line-up of readers and tales and drinks and conversation.

I was there for the first half, and read "On Taking Measures to Eliminate Fair Play",  but unfortunately had to head off before the second half. The good news is that even if you weren't there for either half, you can listen to a podcast of the event.

The next event is Monday 15th June — if you're a writer, consider submitting something — and my plan is to make this one a game of two halves.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Writing Mapped

Following on neatly from last time, the Writing Maps A3 Review #2 contains my flash, "Things in My Life that Are Blue".

Keeping it short and flashy — although perhaps a little darker — "What I Tell You Three Times Is True" was the runner-up in the Retreat West November 2014 flash fiction competition. It will be published this month in an anthology of winners. For more immediate flashisfaction, my 100-word metafiction, "Drabble on the Line", was published by the Flash Fiction Magazine last week.

At somewhat greater length, "Schrödinger's Pizza" has been republished in the Stroud Short Stories 2011–2015 anthology; I read at the Valentine's Day event in 2012. The launch event for the anthology is tomorrow night, but sadly I can't make it.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Happenings and Happeneds

Meanwhile, in other news, a few things that have happened, that may happen and that are in the process of happening...