Thursday 16 January 2014

From Deadlines to Darkness

The pressure of a deadline is often what is needed to get a story out of me. That happened with The Kraken Rises! at the Bristol Festival of Literature. It happened again with the Quantum Shorts competition and my entry "In the Garden of Uncertainty, and What Alice Found There", a competition whose deadline was no surprise to me, but which I decided to enter only at the last minute when the inspiration for an Alice-based take on quantum mechanics struck me. The deadline was brought forward for me by the necessity of boarding a long-haul flight.

Another deadline-driven event, but this time planned, was the second challenge of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge. Given a brief, you have 48 hours to write a story in no more than 1000 words. The first round had been slightly outside my comfort zone — write a thriller — but that had obviously pushed me into coming up with something fresh as I came third in my group. Buoyed by that result and given a more comfortable brief — write a romantic comedy set in a planetarium, featuring a smoking pipe — I had high hopes for the second challenge. Sadly, although I was happy with my story, this comfort may not have provoked the writing to stand out as much as the previous one. I did pick up a point for it, but it was not enough to keep me near the head of the group to qualify for the next round. The good news, though, is that it was great fun and I now have two stories, by virtue of deadline, that I would not otherwise have had! (And one of them has already been accepted for publication.)

Speaking of publication, I've also had another couple of stories published. When it comes to stories, writers have favourite children — stories they like best for good reason, for some reason or for no reason. For whatever reason, these were two of mine. They'd both been well received at spoken-word events, and one had almost reached publication earlier in the year, but for whatever reason they'd struggled for acceptance. The first is "Ashes to Ashes, Mañana, Mañana", which was published by Kazka Press, a paying market, and the second is "Possession", which appeared as a #FridayFlash with Litro.

Both of these stories also had recent outings. Along with "Authenticity", I read "Possession" at Bristol Festival of Literature's Word Karaoke evening. Then, just before Christmas, Joanne Hall and I both read at the BristolCon Fringe. While Jo gave a sneak preview of her forthcoming novel, the second book in The Art of Forgetting series, I headed to the other end of the writing scale and read three short stories: "Remembrance of Things Past""Ashes to Ashes, Mañana, Mañana" and "Milk Teeth and Chocolate Eggs". Given the season, these were not exactly the cheeriest stories I could have chosen! But sometimes a little darkness is needed to appreciate the light.

If you'd like to recapture some of the spirit of that near-solstice darkness, you can listen to podcasts of the event: first, "Remembrance of Things Past" and "Ashes to Ashes, Mañana, Mañana"; second, "Milk Teeth and Chocolate Eggs" and then Q&A with me and Jo.

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