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.
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
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.
Last weekend was the Bristol Short Story Prize ceremony at the beautiful, cathedral-like Reading Room of the Bristol Central Library. Last year I went as the guest of one of my best writing and workshopping buddies, Stephanie Hutton, whose stunning story, Born From Red, made the shortlist and 2017 anthology.
This time, travelling alone, I spent fourteen hours on public transport, got lost in the city centre about eleven times, shared a vegan flapjack with a very friendly pigeon and ultimately took shelter in a cafe/bar from the small hurricane that took to the streets for the Saturday afternoon. It was well worth it. The Bristol Prize is run by some absolutely lovely humans and the sense of occasion at both of the ceremonies I’ve attended was something special.
I was so delighted to find my story of love and grief and war and displacement, Transposition, had been awarded joint third prize, alongside a story called Little Yellow Planes by the brilliant Brooklyn writer Zeus Sumra. The idea for Transposition – a chess term that has other layers of meaning – came from a prompt in Kit de Waal’s workshop at the 2017 UK flash fiction festival and I spent about nine months writing and rewriting it.
Thanks so much to my workshopping partners, the best and most generous writers I know, for all their incredibly helpful feedback on this story – I wish you could have been there.
What wonderful stories we received in this contest. There were nearly 300 entries. I read every one of them, most of them at least twice – most of the shortlisted stories six or seven times or more. There were stories we had to leave out that I really wanted to include in the longlist, and stories from the longlist I was sad to lose from the shortlist. Narrowing all of these down to just five felt like an amazing achievement, and a painful one. The contest organiser, Rupert, and I spent hours discussing and analysing our top 12, making the case for the merits of stories we each particularly loved. In the end we were united in the choice of the winners, but the standard was so high overall we had some tough decisions to make, and I expect to see many of the stories we deliberated over getting published and taking prizes over the next few months. Thanks so much to everyone who entered for making it so beautifully difficult for us.
The results and judges’ report are here. I hope you’ll go and read the stories as they are published on the site – we’re incredibly proud of them and you are in for a treat.
I have a new story up at New Flash Fiction Review, here. It comes with a big content warning for eating disorders, although I didn’t set out to write about that. The seed of this story came from a circus performer I’ve seen a couple of times who eats light bulbs and does other painfully astonishing things, but the story is not about her and the character in the story is not her, only that those skills collided with some other things I was thinking about at the time.