It’s my editor’s choice week this week, and man, am I nerdily excited about it. We get anything from about 90-250 submissions a week, and this week I get let loose to wander among them, reading every single one of them (blind) and picking my favourite. Yay! I often feel like Charlie Bucket, somehow getting to work at the best flash fiction place in the world – this week, even more than usual. Look at all the beautiful, sparkly, delicious things in the queue. HOW WILL I CHOOSE?
UK National Flash Fiction Day this year is 15th June and the line-up for the annual anthology to celebrate this has been announced. I’m delighted to have a story in it, about when that person who turns up to offer cliched advice about where you’re going wrong whenever you break up with someone is a kind-of slobby Roman deity. The theme of this year’s anthology is Doors, and Janus, whose two faces perpetually look into the past and the future, is the god of doors. I thought he sounded a bit of an annoying know-it-all. The book, including You Don’t Have To Be An All-Knowing God Of The Roman Pantheon To Work Here (And It Doesn’t Really Help) among many brilliant stories, will published in June and launched in Coventry on June 15th. There are free flash fiction workshops on the day too – check out the website! https://nationalflashfictionday.co.uk/
Flashing Norwich is excited to present a stellar cast of writers of flash fiction for this free reading event on Wednesday 1st May, 7-9pm at Bar Marzano, The Forum, Norwich. This is going to be AMAZING – do come! Confirmed readers so far:
Christopher Allen is the author of Other Household Toxins (Matter Press). His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Best Small Fictions 2019, Split Lip Magazine, and Indiana Review, among others. He’s the co-editor of SmokeLong Quarterly and currently the judge of the Bath Flash Fiction award, which you all should enter.
Melissa Fu was the regional winner of the Words and Women 2016 Prose Competition and was a 2017 Word Factory Apprentice. Her work appears in several publications including The Lonely Crowd, International Literature Showcase, and Wasafiri Online. Her debut poetry pamphlet, Falling Outside Eden, will be published by the Hedgehog Poetry Press. Melissa is the 2018/2019 David TK Wong Fellow at the University of East Anglia. She finds flash fiction exhilarating and terrifying, just like lightning.
Ingrid Jendrzejewski’s work has been published in places like Passages North, The Los Angeles Review, The Conium Review, and Jellyfish Review, and is forthcoming in Best Small Fictions 2019. Her short-form work has won fifteen writing competitions including the Bath Flash Fiction Award and AROHO’s Orlando Prize. She serves as co-director of National Flash Fiction Day, editor-in-chief of FlashBack Fiction and a flash editor at JMWW.
Vijay Khurana is currently completing an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. He was recently longlisted for the Galley Beggar Press short story prize and his project ‘A Little Death’, featuring parodies of James Joyce’s ‘The Dead’ in the styles of other writers, is forthcoming on creative criticism site The Bee. His children’s chapter book, Regal Beagle, was published in 2014.
Helen Rye has won the Bath Flash Fiction Award, the Reflex Fiction flash prize and third place in the Bristol Short Story Prize. Her stories have been published and nominated in various places. She is a submissions editor at SmokeLong Quarterly, a fiction editor for Lighthouse Literary Journal, and she helps out from time to time at TSS Publishing and Ellipsis Zine, like a sort of literary odd-jobs person. She lives in Norwich.
James Smart is from the North of England and is a current student of Creative Writing MFA at the University of East Anglia. His work has appeared in Glimmertrain, Penn Review, Adda Stories and elsewhere. He is a Pushcart Prize nominee and was shortlisted for the 2018 Commonwealth Writers Short Story Prize. He’s also a reader for Pank magazine and co-organiser of I’ll Show You Mine: A Sex Writing Symposium, coming to Dragon Hall in June.
David Steward is a regular contributor to Flash: the International Short-Short Story Magazine. He has had longer stories published in, among others, Under the Radar. His first collection, ‘Travelling Solo’, edited by Ash Chantler and Peter Blair, was published in 2018. A reformed Tractor Boy, David now lives in Norfolk.
Judi Walsh lives in Norfolk. Her stories have appeared in Synaesthesia Magazine, Blue Fifth Review and elsewhere. Her work has been listed for the Bath Novella-in-Flash Award, and nominated for Best Small Fictions. She is on the editorial team at FlashBack Fiction.
SmokeLong Quarterly, the US flash fiction journal I edit for, is running a half-day flash fiction workshop in Norwich on Saturday May 4th, with Christopher Allen, the co-Editor-in-Chief, author of acclaimed flash fiction collection Other Household Toxins and over 100 published stories. He is the current judge of the prestigious Bath Flash Fiction Award and a friendly and fun workshop presenter. Places are limited and it’s filling up fast, so do book your place now if you’d like to come. We would love to work with you! We have one free place available to a low-income writer, which has been generously sponsored by TSS Publishing – applications for this place are open until Friday 19th April: please email email@example.com if you would like to put your name forward. Thank you! More details here:
This was my second year at AWP, the largest writers’ conference in North America. It attracts 15,000 people each year and is a gigantic mix of book fair, panels, reading events, food and alcohol and people who mostly only see each other once a year socialising across a broad range of love, joy, awkwardness and social anxiety. It’s a lot of fun. Last year I helped out on the SmokeLong table, but this year we decided to go free-range, with co-EIC Christopher Allen and I *being* the SmokeLong Quarterly Roaming Table, complete with swag and books to give away.
SmokeLong also held an off-site reading event, which was completely wonderful, frankly. The venue had limited capacity, and we didn’t know until afterwards that a number of people were turned away by the staff there as we were full. We’re so sorry, if you were one of them.
I was privileged to read at the epic Festival of Language event on the Wednesday night alongside a huge cast of writers.
Other highlights for me, apart from catching up with old friends and making new ones, included the Split Lip and Indiana Review reading party and the Moon City Press reading. Such beautiful work. We missed so many events and people, too, though – there is never enough time. Oh, and flying over A VOLCANO on the way in. That was pretty neat, too.
‘Til next year, AWP-ers.
I love Atticus Review, and having this story published there a couple of weeks ago made me very happy. It started from a prompt in a workshop at the Flash Fiction Festival last year led by Vanessa Gebbie, and took shape when I and some writer buddies undertook each to write a story about the end of the world because, you know, it’s just that kind of mood right now.
I read this story most recently at the Festival of Language reading event at AWP in Portland, which was packed out but friendly enough that it wasn’t scary:
SmokeLong is travelling! The SmokeLong on the Road blog series will be featuring video interviews with as many of its editors and contributors around the world as possible over the course of the year. This interview was recorded in January this year, while I was visiting my friend and SmokeLong’s Co-EIC, Christopher Allen, in a snow-carpeted Munich. As always, we approach it with deep seriousness and nobody does anything silly at all. Nope. Not us. http://www.smokelong.com/smokelong-on-the-road-a-video-interview-with-helen-rye/?fbclid=IwAR2LHUeWjD5XQ_2_i3TTKxPKO7MgUsACXwQEnDQWThC7OdIzpRnITnpqHXw
It’s February, and I’ve finally accepted that the New Year is over and 2019 is definitely here. It’s been cold for approximately 400 days and summer is an urban myth, but even so, this is an exciting year.
I was honoured to spend a couple of weeks in January co-editing the wonderful Ellipsis Zine LGBTQ+ anthology, Love/Pride. We read stories that were funny, moving, inventive, heartbreaking and beautiful. I can’t wait to see the finished book. The quality of submissions was stellar. We read blind, so we still don’t know who wrote the stories we didn’t take, but thank you, if you’re reading this. So many came very close to being included, and maybe on a different day we’d have made a different decision about some of those.
I’m about to start teaching a second Introduction to Creative Writing course through The Public House community education, and having had such a lovely group the first time round, I can’t wait to meet everyone. It should be a lot of fun.
I was in Germany/Austria last week and recorded an interview for the SmokeLong On The Road series, which will be up on social media in a week or two. In it Christopher Allen and I talk a bit about the experience of editing at SmokeLong and mess around a bit like the overgrown kids we slightly are. Beta watchers (best friends, kids, dogs, etc) have found it entertaining – hopefully they won’t be entirely alone.
At the end of March I’ll be at AWP, the American Association of Writers and Writing Programmes’ gigantic conference, which attracts about 10,000 visitors a year and this year is held in Portland, Oregon. SmokeLong doesn’t have a table at the book fair, this time – instead we are having two readings on the Thursday evening featuring a cast of flash fiction legends: Dennis Norris II, Meg Pillow Davis, Gwen Kirby, Nancy Au, Josh Denslow, Kathy Fish, Tyrese Colman and Sherrie Flick. This is crazy-exciting. I’m also reading at an off-site event, and we’ll be around and about the city interviewing people, too.
In June, the third UK Flash Fiction Festival is back in Bristol. After the unexpected wild success of the makeshift karaoke sessions we organised last year (with, again, deepest apologies to anyone we might have kept awake on the first night – we did not realise), I have been officially put in charge of Entertainments, this year, which means that there will be proper karaoke in the bar on the Friday and Saturday evenings – a separate building, so there’ll be no noise disturbance for anyone who prefers the quieter life. This, as anyone who joined in last year will attest, will be THE BEST FUN.
Then, in September, I’ll be starting a two-year MFA in creative writing at the UEA, working with some utterly wonderful human beings and brilliant writers. I live very close to the campus so often go and read submissions or edit stories in a university cafe. I am so very happy to be going to study and write there as a student, not just a neighbour. I have never been to university, and I never thought I’d be going to study on such a legendary programme.
That’s probably about as much excitement as I can honestly take at one time, so maybe that will be it for 2019. I have a story coming out in one of my favourite journals in March, and one which just made the longlist in the Mslexia flash contest. I need to submit more. I need to WRITE more. I’m working on it. See you somewhere this year, I hope, lovely humans.
A few weeks ago someone posted in a Facebook writers’ group about a flash fiction competition which had published guidelines which specifically excluded LGBTQ themes, putting stories about love and identity in the same list as graphic violence, profanity and pornography.
This kind of blatant, open discrimination is not something I’d seen in flash fiction before. The organisation concerned was one not normally associated with flash writing – in fact, nobody we knew had ever heard of them.
Flash writers are a close-knit and supportive community, in general, and do not take kindly to such offensive treatment of us, our friends and family. More than ever, in the current political climate, it is important that this kind of discrimination is challenged. My brilliant friend Christopher Allen (SmokeLong Co-EIC) and I started a protest campaign on Twitter, joined by dozens of outraged fellow writers.
Although the protests apparently had almost no impact on the stance of the competition’s organiser, they did bring out a beautiful demonstration of love and solidarity within the literary community. Contests have been set up in response to the discriminatory one, to celebrate LGBTQ+ writing and writers, fighting hate with love. And Steve Campbell, the editor of Ellipsis Zine, responded by asking if Chris and I would edit the next Ellipsis anthology, which he would call Love, Pride, and dedicate entirely to LGBTQ+ writers and stories.
Submissions open 29th November for stories by LGBTQ+ writers, or celebrating LGBTQ+ characters. Details here: http://www.ellipsiszine.com/five/ We will be reading blind. Please send us your best, most rainbowy work. Can’t wait to start reading.
Unexpected and terrific news last week that my story, Reunion, published in the Ellipsis Zine Two anthology, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Casually waited almost a whole twenty-four hours before updating my Twitter bio, because, y’know. Playing it cool. Yay! I had to put together a writer CV this week, and it gave me a little warm glow to be able to add this to it. THANK YOU.