Tag Archive | contest winner

Sixty Seconds IV with: Marie McKay

Ten answers to ten questions in 20 words or fewer. That’s less time than it takes to burn a match*.

(*Depending on the length of the match and your tolerance for burned fingers, obviously)


Our newest Flash! Friday winner is Marie McKay.  She’s one of those rare and beautiful writers who has been with us from the beginning (her first week was Year One, Week 26!). Today marks her FOURTH win, and we couldn’t be more thrilled for her. Take a moment to read her bio & her winnings stories here. Then take another minute or two to get to know her better below. (Note that four-time winners are never held to the word count rule!)

1) What about the 100 Years of Solitude prompts inspired your winning piece?  The words ‘inescapability of family’ really triggered my story. The world of Carers, I am one myself, can be riddled with contradiction and guilt. It’s very easy to feel guilty when you need time to yourself; after all, you love the very person you need time away from. It quite often takes an outsider to tell you it’s acceptable to be kind to yourself. Carers and the job they do can go unnoticed. I do think societies need to look after their Carers.

2) You’ve been writing with us since Year One, and this is your 4th (!!) win. Tell us about your flash fiction journey. I started on a site called CAKE which was a wonderful site for new writers. On that site, I ‘met’ SJ O’Hart who had written on FF, so I quickly joined in. My stories do tend to be dark, and I do like the spaces to do some of the work. I think I’ve developed my style to a degree, but there’s a long way to go. I like to experiment with form – and I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea – but playing safe all the time in flash seems to me like a wasted opportunity.

3) You’ve written SO MUCH flash with FF. What are a couple of your favorite prompts (and/or favorite stories of others’ and/or yours that rose from them)?  Oh, I could be here forever! I loved Jacki Donnellan’s Flashversary winning story. Jacki’s writing style is crisp and beautiful. I loved Casey Rose Frank’s story ‘She Walks‘ that was in response to the Pilgrim’s Progress novel prompt. It is haunting and clever. All of Chris Milam’s winning stories (any of his stories, in fact). Steph Ellis’ first winning story, ‘Holiday Deals‘ (I was runner up that week, but I’m not bitter because her story booted mine right out of the dragon’s lair.) Mark A. King’s ‘The Dance of the Origami Girl and the Porcelain Boy‘ is breathtaking. Prompts I loved, a photo of two women in safety glasses, allowed me to write one of my own winning stories,’The Factory.’ The picture prompt of the three guys looking at fish tanks along with the word prompt ‘farmer’ caused quite a stir, and it allowed me to write a story that was a blatant tribute to Flash Friday and its High Dragoness. But as I said, I could go on forever.

4) What’s going on in your writerly life? During the summer, I had the privilege of meeting Sarah Miles who writes at FF and runs the publishing company Paper Swans Press. I was included in their anthology ‘Schooldays.’ I had the great pleasure of reading my flash piece at the Edinburgh Book Festival, as a result. And now, I am currently working on my Flashdogs anthology stories!

5) Flash is so different from how it was a few years ago–so many writers these days are SO GOOD. How can writers take their flash to the next level? Stay away from cliche.

6) What’s a writerly bad habit you have (or used to have) that you’ve overcome (or are working to overcome)? I think the problem I need to overcome more than anything is confidence. I constantly battle with a voice inside my head that tells me I am a terrible writer and that I am kidding myself that  I can be at all successful. And even as I write this, I am thinking, ‘hey maybe that voice is right.’ {Editor’s Note: WRONG. And a pound in the Self-Deprecation Jar, please.} It has stopped me from buckling down and finishing longer projects. 

7) What have you read lately that you really loved, and why? The Girl with All the Gifts’ by Mike Carey is wonderful. It is like reading a horror version of Roald Dahl’s ‘Matilda.’ It is terrifying, dark and incredibly touching. ‘Girl on the Train’ is another great read. The unreliable narration makes for a gripping story. I am reading ‘The Children Act’ by Ian McEwan, at the moment. I think every writer should read Sebastian Faulk’s ‘Birdsong’, Kate Atkinson’s ‘Life After Life’ and Ian Bank’s ‘Wasp Factory.’ I say this because I think each of them has a very interesting narrative technique- and they are just plain good.

8) Name drop for us! who are some writers in this community you’re always excited to read? who are we going to see on the bestseller lists? Well, this one is difficult because, obviously, I cannot name all of the writers I admire in the FF community, there are too many. I love all the Flashdogs, of course. I will only be able to name a few, here: Rebekah Postupak, Mark A. King, David Barrowdale, Grace Black and Rebecca J Allred. These four are terrific writers themselves and are so very generous with their own time. Chris Milam and SJ O’Hart  are incredibly talented writers whose work I can only admire. Steph Ellis, Catherine Connolly and Brett Milam have such beautifully dark imaginations. Voima Oy, Casey Rose Frank, Foy Iver, F.E. Clark and Tamara Shoemaker for their poetic prose. It truly does go on… and on… and on.

9) Do you belong to any IRL writing communities? online? Talk about the Flash Dogs! I only participate online. I take part in a few competitions other than this one: Three Line Thursday, Micro Bookends and The Angry Hourglass. A writing community that I am very proud to be a part of is Flashdogs. They are an incredibly supportive and welcoming group of talented writers. They have inspired me immensely.

10) Final thoughts/comments/encouragement/advice for the community? My final thoughts, well, I think it’s probably obvious that I am about to tell you how much I am going to miss Flash! Friday. It has been a big part of my writerly life for a long time. However, I cannot remain sad for too long when I think of FF, because I am truly joyous at the opportunities it has given me and other writers. Rebekah Postupak, you are a truly gifted writer who has given so much of your time to others. The foresight and imagination it took to come up with the site at all is part of the reason I consider you a leader in flash. The other reasons are manifold. Whenever I’ve had the privilege of reading your work, I have seen how stylish, versatile and effortless your writing is. You have been a teacher. I have read every Flash Points you were kind enough to share, and your knowledge of flash fiction and literature, in general, is staggering. You have championed all of us, when indeed you, yourself, are The Champion. I am forever indebted. Thank you. 

Sixty Seconds III with: Steph Ellis

Ten answers to ten questions in 20 words or fewer. That’s less time than it takes to burn a match*.

(*Depending on the length of the match and your tolerance for burned fingers, obviously)


Our newest Flash! Friday winner is Steph Ellis.  Read her THIRD winning story all about her at her winner’s page hereAnd now, though belatedly (totally my fault, stinking email!!), please take a few minutes to get to know her still better below!

1) What about Alice in Wonderland inspired your winning piece? 

The surreal world in which Alice found herself and the arguments she would have with the various bizarre characters she came across, for example the Cheshire Cat. I veered away from Alice, because as a character I must admit to not being able to stand her (shock horror) but I have always loved the world of Wonderland and its inhabitants.  From there I started to think about logic.  Many, many years ago in my first foray into the world of computing I was offered an industrial year programming logic gates in Fortran (which I couldn’t face at the time).  Then I thought why not turn the logic gate into an actual gate through which some poor soul has to try and pass but with the logic rules still applying and it went on from there.  I really wanted to try and throw in an Exclusive Or but the word count wouldn’t allow it AND by that time I was really getting in a NOT.  From there the last lines wrote themselves which was great as I hadn’t a clue how to end it.

2) You’ve been writing for FF a while, and this is your THIRD win (hurray! though a brutal year’s gap between the first two). How has your approach to flash changed since you started??

I consider my words more carefully.  Reading all the other wonderful entries has shown me how to blend and mix them up so that they hopefully pack more of a punch.

3) How has writing flash affected your other writing?

It’s tightened it up a lot.  When I’m working on a longer story and I’m editing it, I try and look at it in sections as if they were mini flash pieces, that way the task isn’t as daunting.

4) What advice would you give to writers who are new to flash? What might you say to seasoned writers who haven’t won yet?

Just do it.  There is no other way.  Read the other entries, write your own and keep at it.  We were all new to this once and I still feel as though I’m not ready to discard my L-plates.  I would also say develop your own style, your own voice, even if you think it’s a bit ‘out there’, there is nothing wrong with being different.  Above all write for yourself and not the judges.

And to those who haven’t won yet?  Keep doing what you’re doing.  I can clearly remember some time after I’d started entering FF wondering exactly what I had to do to get anywhere near the placings.  Week after week I would see the same names crop up – and they still do – first win, second win … sixth win, and yes it got me down a little (well, maybe a lot).  To deal with this I became the eternal optimist, the ‘oh well, if not this week, maybe next’ and I took it a week at a time, continued to try and write my best, pressed ‘post’ and crossed my fingers and any other body parts that could be managed.

5) Besides FF :), what are your favorite writing sites/contests/online resources?

Flash fiction tends to rule me a little at the moment.  As far as I’m concerned my writing week starts on a Thursday with Three Line Thursday and MicroBookends, Flash Friday, Angry Hourglass on Saturday plus the new Cracked Flash Fiction that started up this summer (I’d recommend the latter if you’re up for a challenge simply because they come up with the most bizarre first lines); I also enjoyed the Luminous Press flash competition that ran over the summer.  And I am having to be tough with myself, I can so easily get sucked into just writing flash I never get to do anything longer – any other comps will have to be intermittent. 

Oh, almost forgot.  One site I recently returned to after some months away is https://cowrite.net/ It’s real time story building.  You all write a sentence at the same time – you see them as you type and then you vote on the best one, you all then write the next one and so on.  The person with the most lines incorporated in the story is the winner.  It’s pretty fast and furious and lasts about ½ hr.  David Shakes appeared briefly the other week and then vanished.  I think it’d be great if we all descended on the site and had a FlashDogs head to head, although time differences might be awkward.  Malie (he runs the site) tends to tweet when a comp’s up.  I think there’s one tonight actually – maybe once I’ve done my Three Lines and finished my WIP 🙂

My go to site for submission calls (anthologies, magazines etc) is http://horrortree.com/The main focus of the site is horror but there are frequent calls for fantasy, Sci-Fi, dark fantasy, YA or anything that falls under the speculative fiction umbrella, which is quite far reaching;  http://www.darkmarkets.com/ is similar.  There are also a couple of Facebook Groups I belong to – Open Call: Horror Markets (they are now focussing on markets that pay pro/semi rates), International Flash Fiction Network and Call for Submissions (all genres).

6) Any new publications/accolades we should know about?

Not much more has happened on the publication front.  Gothic Tales of Terror by Verto Publishing has just been released.  I share the pages with another FlashDog, Michael Seese – who, by the way, writes some terrific micropoetry on twitter.  I still have some stories due for publication but I know a lot are still floating around on the cyber slush pile somewhere.  Having focused on finishing a novel this summer, I have produced less in terms of short stories but I’m hoping to get back to them properly at some point.  It’s tough fitting it in with work though.  I usually have to wait for school holidays to really get into it.

7) Speaking of publication, what are you currently working on? You told us before that you’d love to publish some of your nursery rhyme twists; anything in the works?

Oh my nursery rhymes are haunting me from in their Jack Skellington folder – it’s Humpty Dumpty that’s done for me, I can’t do a collection without him and I haven’t been able to turn him into an axe-wielding maniac yet .  It was supposed to be this half-term week I finished them, but I’ve got a sub call deadline for Lost Signals end of this month.  I’ve had months to do this (heard that somewhere before?) and had hoped to push myself to the upper limit of the word range, however the story has told itself in just over 10,000 words so with a little tidying up it’s almost ready to go.  In my defence I will say life, work and family have taken huge tolls on my time recently – I really don’t know how others do it.

I think I will also be doing NanoWrimo this year.  I had an idea a month or two back, or more an image of someone suddenly popped into my head and this woman has been stood on Weston Shore gazing at the Solent since then – whilst her brother and sister, neither of whom she remembers as they were all adopted at a young age, are stood, quite by chance a little further down from her.  Yes, there is murder(s) but I want this to be more a thriller/crime type book.  I’ve decided to use Nano to work through my idea, get that woman off the shore! (The Fawley Refinery is not the prettiest of places to have to keep staring at).  I know nothing else about the story, no synopsis, no planning, nothing due to lack of time but if I commit to Nano then I give her the time she needs.  Once I imagine someone then I do have to write about them, I need to know their story myself.

8) What are you reading? Favorite book of this past year? Which author would you love to write like, and why? 

I have a weakness for Scandi Crime (I joined the Nordic Noir group on FB!), it’s what I binge on when I get the chance.  I finished the Flatey Engima by Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson yesterday – which I found a bit disappointing as there were two dead bodies and the story read like a crime thriller but no actual crime was committed.  I have two Arne Dahl books waiting – I watch it on TV and thought I’d give the books ago; I’m a big fan of The Bridge, The Killing and anything of that ilk and that led me to Scandinavian/Icelandic literature.

My favourite book of the last year is a tie between Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes (Hitler returning to life in 2011 – hilarious, and in no way is it an approval of the man himself at all) and Survival in the Killing Fields by Haing Ngor and Roger Warner; the latter was profoundly moving and I feel that what happened at that time has been largely forgotten by the West.

Who would I like to write like? Tough.  I don’t think anyone particular person, it would be a mixture.  Ray Bradbury for the sheer poetry of his prose and the way he creates a sense of darkness and foreboding with such lightness of touch; Terry Pratchett – his humour is wonderful; Bernard Cornwell – the pacing of his stories which just keep you turning over the page.

9) Let’s talk writing communities. Belong to any IRL? How about writers’ conferences or workshops this past year? Which conference/workshop is your favorite, and why? 

Writers’ Groups.  No.  Occasionally I think about it but the local group is the other side of the city and I just have the feeling that they would be literary vs my genre style.  They seem to meet in community centres or libraries at times that don’t fit in with work, I’m more the pub type myself.

Conferences.  Bit of a sore spot with me.  Two years running I’ve tried to get to the British Fantasy Con, each time an anthology with a story of mine in was launched and each time something family related cropped up.  This also happened with the FlashDogs meet up in the UK, I mean 365 days in the year – I only ask for a couple. 😀

Sanitarium Magazine has just announce a Horror Con at Brighton next July – it’s a Saturday, I could probably get to it but I’m sure something will go wrong.

10.) Let’s say you won a grant to use in any writerly way you’d like. Where would the money go, and why?

I’d probably use it to take a sabbatical from work to free myself up to write but having said that, if I get free time and no deadline pressures I know I will do anything but, I’d probably have a very clean house though.  I would also use it to travel to a place that might be featured in a story.  You can only get so much from Google Earth!

Bonus 11) Any shouts out/thoughts/comments/messages?

Firstly to yourself, Grace Black at Three Line Thursday, David Borrowdale at MicroBookends, Rebecca Allred at The Angry Hourglass and all those others who host these competitions week in, week out for the love of it.  Thank you so much for introducing me to this world.

Secondly to the FlashDogs, in particular those at FDHQ who are the driving force behind the anthologies: Mark A. King, David Shakes, Emily June Street, Tamara Rogers and now Karl A. Russell (I wish I could write horror like he writes horror, whoops that should be in question 8) and Voima Oy.  Check out their website, buy their anthologies (many excellent stories to be read, and all written for a good cause), enter the competitions they support and become one yourself.  The pack is large and welcoming.

Sixty Seconds III with: Mark A. King

Ten answers to ten questions in 20 words or fewer. That’s less time than it takes to burn a match*.

(*Depending on the length of the match and your tolerance for burned fingers, obviously)


Our newest Flash! Friday winner is His Majesty Mark A. King.  Read his winning story here. Note that this is his THIRD!!!! yes, THIRD!!!!! win (we did predict this; and did you notice this week how he loftily swept off with the champ trophy and first runner up!? breathtaking!) — read his previous #SixtySeconds interviews here and hereThen take another minute (or two; third-time winners aren’t bound by word count) to get to know him better below.

1) What about the prompt inspired your winning piece?

I am rather obsessed by Flash! Friday and I am always looking for possible stories, settings or characters that I might use if the right prompt comes up. This one happened the day before. I have a picture calendar on my desk, when I scrunched the old picture and threw it in the bin, like I do every day, I was presented with Thursday’s picture of an amazing sculpture called the Singing Ringing Tree (although I changed the order of the words in my story). It just called to me, and I knew then that I would have to write a story about it. The story elements fitted perfectly, so I went with it.

2) How has your approach to flash changed since you started writing flash fiction?

I think it’s about 14 (ish) months since my first FF story. I’d like to think I’ve got better at focusing on the characters and less on my previous obsession with world building. I love the world building, but it’s pointless without an emotional attachment to the character. I try to do both, if I can. But it’s sooo hard with about 100 words to play with.

3) How has writing flash affected your other writing?

Up until recently flash fiction has been my only writing. I’m finding longer forms very, very frustrating. I want to take a chainsaw to my current/first novel. However, I know if I do that then I’ll just keep revisiting the beginning forever. Which is what has happened to date. So, I am writing in a continually forward direction, but my flash fiction brain can’t wait to go back and fire up the chainsaw.

4) What advice would you give to writers who are new to flash? What might you say to seasoned writers who haven’t won yet?

New writers should be true to themselves. Don’t try to copy another writer, no matter how good they are — it will only fail, as you’re not them and they’ve had longer at being themselves than you have 🙂 Experiment. Be brave and try unique ideas or structures. As a previous judge, I know that a story that is well-written but whose plot is the same as twenty other stories will not stand out. 

For those folk that are great and haven’t won yet, your time will come. A change of rules really helped me. It’s likely that a change of judges or rules might help you. It’s all subjective; don’t take it to heart. There are no bad writers at FF. Just keep doing what you’re doing.

5) Besides FF :), what are your favorite writing sites/online resources?

FF is my favourite and it is a fantastic resource for any writer. It’s an incredible place and it has changed lives (it’s so much more than being wonderful fun).

6) Any new publications/accolades we should know about?

FlashDogs Vol 3 is in the planning stages and we’re keen to find the next generation of flash fiction writers, and send them here and to the other wonderful comps.

It’ll be themed on ‘time’, with Past, Present and Future prompts, and will be launched Chinese New Year 2016. #FlashFicTime

7) Speaking of publication, what are you currently working on? Back in July you told us you were 5k into a novel. How’s that coming along?

Thanks to some prompting and advice from the Best Mentor in the Universe™ (I’m looking at you, Tamara Shoemaker), I’ve made great progress recently. I’m about 25K in now, and that’s about 10K more than I’ve managed before. It’s scary as I know how much work I have yet to do. Then when I’ve finished, that’s just the beginning of another stage. It’s a bit pathetic, but I have a lot on and I’m super proud that I got this far. I’m kinda excited by the project.

8) What are you reading? Favorite book of this past year? Which author would you love to write like, and why?

Eek. This is really an awkward question. One probably best answered in a blog. I’ll write about this sometime, but it was very personal and life-changing in many respects, so it will look really odd answering it here.

9) Let’s talk writing communities. Belong to any? How about writers’ conferences or workshops this past year? Which conference/workshop is your favorite, and why?

FlashDogs, obviously 🙂

I had a rather interesting experience of a writing group last night — actually, it was the first time I’ve ever tried one. Lovely people, incredibly talented, but I don’t think this is for me. I’ll have to find other ways to fill this valuable method of writing development.

10) Let’s say you won a grant to use in any writerly way you’d like. Where would the money go, and why?

I’d buy you some sparkly things for the dragon cave, some fire-proof Cadbury, and maybe a trusted helper (like Dobby, but real – and better). {Editor’s Note: I GRATEFULLY ACCEPT!}

Bonus 11) Any shouts out/thoughts/comments/messages?

Quick shout-outs to Shakes who is on sabbatical from FDHQ. Emily June Street and Tam Rogers for just being themselves (incredible). Karl and Voima for FDHQ service to come. Tamara S for reasons mentioned above.