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/
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:
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.
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.
I’m really, really happy to be on this list. This story is close to my heart – the characters live for me and, ridiculously, even though they are entirely fictional, make me cry every time I read it. Writers are strange people. I’m so glad some other people liked it too.
This project is celebrating the 100th anniversary of women’s voting rights in the UK, sharing audio recordings of 100 female-identifying writers telling the story of an achievement in their lives and reading a piece of their work relating to it. Jude Higgins, possessor of more energy and inspiration than ten of most of us, who spends just some of her time running the Bath Flash Fiction Award, Bath Short Story Award and UK Flash Fiction Festival, suggested I write about winning the Bath Flash Award, back in October 2016.
That story, One In Twenty-three, was one of the first subs I ever sent anywhere, one of the first pieces of flash I wrote, my first ever publication. What an experience. It became my way into the literary world, and it brought people into my life who I can’t imagine being without, now.
But I couldn’t see how I could write and record for a project asking women for their personal stories, using a piece that is so very much not my story. I’ve doubted whether I should have sent it out in the first place. Often I don’t know how to respond to the kind things people say about it, when I was writing from a position of privilege about the loss of human life on such a scale – when those are the people that story belongs to. I wrote it because I felt compelled to, from the grief of it all, and also because we were experiencing an obscene groundswell of nationalism and anti-refugee sentiment in our country at that time and I was so angry. But it’s such a painful subject, and these questions are difficult.
I spoke to one or two writer friends who love me and know how I get messed up about this stuff and the patient response was that I should do it, and that yes, 30 seconds of wordless sobbing on audio would probably be FINE. So I emailed the organisers and told them all my misgivings about doing the piece. They messaged back to say: That. Write about that. So I did.
You can hear me talking about all of this and reading the story aloud in this audio broadcast here, which I promise does not contain wordless sobbing: http://www.100voicesfor100years.com/voice-of-the-day/2018/4/25/one-in-twenty-three Do go and listen to the others, too. There are some astonishing pieces from some astonishing women.
A few months ago I got an email that made me cry (in a good way). It was from the award-winning Vietnamese poet, translator and author Nguyen Phan Que Mai. She’d seen the story One In Twenty-Three, written out of grief at the mass deaths at sea of the ongoing refugee crisis, and said she’d felt an echo of the story of the people who fled war in Vietnam that had touched her deeply.
We exchanged some emotional emails, and Que Mai asked permission to translate the story for publication in Vietnam’s national newspaper, Hanoi Moi, and as part of an anthology she was working on. Ad-Hoc Fiction, the Bath Flash Award publishers, and Jude Higgins very kindly agreed to give permission.
The story was immediately accepted by Hanoi Moi last year, which was very exciting and a great honour. You can read about that, and some of what Que Mai had to say, here https://bathflashfictionaward.com/2017/07/one-in-twenty-three-by-hele-rye-nationally-published-in-vietnamese/
This week Que Mai sent me the cover image from the anthology – it’s a thing of such beauty, as you can see. Being on that astonishing list of names has completely made my year, however much of a fluke it is. I also learned that people have been using the story when teaching creative writing courses, which is just – well. Mind-blowing, really.
All royalties from the newspaper and anthology publications are being donated to the Ban Mai scholarship programme, a project that supports children in Vietnam from very poor backgrounds, many of whom have lost a parent, to continue in education.
I was off social media for most of Monday (a situation that usually makes friends panic that I might have died) and so it wasn’t until late in the day that I saw the incredibly exciting news that Sleep Is A Beautiful Colour, the story I wrote about my then- five-year-old, has been nominated by the National Flash Fiction Day Anthology for Best Small Fictions 2018. Yay! Getting the email from Tino Prinzi last summer to ask if I’d let them use it as the title story for the 2017 NFFD anthology was one of my most exciting moments in writing to date. This is the strawberry butter-icing on that cake.
About Best Small Fictions: https://www.facebook.com/TheBestSmallFictions/
Lovely news this week that my story, Reunion – inspired by a reunion with my best friend from school a few months back in which we partied like it was 1999, dancing to terrible music out of hours at a softplay centre – has been picked for the Ellipsis Zine Two anthology. The sheer joy of meeting up with someone you adored for years, and finding you still adore each other, found its way into words that reflect the spirit of rather than reality of our friendship, in this story. We were (and are) WAY less cool in real life, but we had so much fun, always.