Tag Archive | #FlashDogs

Sixty Seconds with: Catherine Connolly

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)

Matchlight

Our newest and final Flash! Friday winner is Catherine Connolly.  A longtime Flash! Friday writer, Poised Pen writing group member, and even a one-time guest judge here!, she’s undoubtedly familiar to all of you. Her win this week, especially as her first and our last, couldn’t be more perfect. Please take a moment to read her winning story on her winner’s page here or at the bottom of today’s interview, then take another couple of minutes to get to know her better below. Since it’s our final Sixty Seconds interview, I’ve lifted the word count restriction. Dearest Catherine, take it away!

1) What about the prompts inspired your winning piece?  Dragons – given the timing of this week’s nostalgic bidding! I couldn’t resist working backwards from the last line, given it seemed so appropriate.  I’ve also been fascinated by the concept of word worlds and the interaction between words and the reader since studying Stylistics a couple of years back, so put a slight spin on that in light of the photo prompt.  Having combined the two in terms of concept, the piece wrote itself very easily after that.

2) How long have you been writing flash? For a couple of years, after @zevonesque brought several pieces of his flash to Poised Pen meetings and Flash! Friday was mentioned.  I’ve been writing flash fiction consistently ever since.

3) What do you like about writing flash?  Many things!  Initially, I began writing flash as a variation on the ‘little and often’ method of writing to produced finished pieces within reasonable timeframes and to make them manageable, as my previous writing had been sporadic and I hadn’t written consistently, save for essays whilst studying, for a number of years.  The brevity of flash still appeals to me and encourages me to think carefully about word choice – and how many I really need!  I do think, however, the changing prompts challenge me to write stories outside of my norm, which stretches me as a writer.   There are certainly a number I would never have attempted had it not been for a specific prompt which encouraged me to think at a slant in terms of genre or style.  Flash is also great for experimenting with form to great effect – I’ve seen great examples of this from both Josh Bertetta and Karl A. Russell previously.

4) What flash advice would you give other writers?  Write many and often. Read many and often. Repeat.

5) Who is a writer we should follow, and why?  Too many FlashDogs to mention, so each and every member of the Pack. Talented writers, all and thoroughly lovely people – a number of whom I’ve been lucky enough to meet in person now on more than one occasion.  A special shout out to FDHQ too – both past and present – for all of their work to date and for producing a number of fabulous anthologies to highlight the work of the Pack.  They work incredibly hard and it is always appreciated.  The Poised Pen people – my writing group – are also a great and friendly bunch.  Some of the FlashDogs have met a number of them too now!  @zevonesque was actually the first person to introduce me to the concept of flash fiction, Flash! Friday as a community (and Twitter too!) and is a great advocate for flash as a form, as well as a thoroughly seasoned judge for a number of the well-known competitions.  None of my flash fiction would be here, save for all of their original encouragement, for providing a supportive community of writers and, sometimes, prompting me to read or share at meetings!

6) Do you participate in other flash contests, and which?  As many as possible, time allowing. Flash! Friday aside, currently mainly Angry HourglassLuminous Creatures (which I understand is coming back for another round in January-February). Previously, Three Line Thursday and Microbookends (not nearly as often as I would have liked), plus others now sadly missed (Mid-Week-Blues-Buster, Race the Date, Trifecta, anyone?).

7) What other forms do you write? Poetry on occasion and short stories.  I’ve also got the beginnings of what I think is likely to be a novelette sitting in a Word file on my computer for expansion.   I’d actually love to try writing a script or play at some point, subject to the right idea presenting itself to me!

8) What is/are your favorite genre(s) to write, and why? Dark, speculative fiction or mythologically based stories.  It’s great fun to write your own rules as you’re going along!

9) Tell us about a WIP. I’ve been working on contributions for pending FlashDogs and Poised Pen anthologies.  Flash and poetry – with a drabble to complete!  A couple of flash pieces are calling for expansion too.  Currently, however, an idea for a world made up of of nightmares and a child protagonist is whispering itself to me…

10) How do you feel about dragons? Their Mother has created an incredible community and nurtured numerous fledgling writers with her time, energy and generosity.  Thank you, Rebekah.  Now it’s for all of us to fan the flames, to continue to support one another and carry on sending our stories out into the world.

♥♥♥

Catherine’s winning story:

Through Lettered Lands

There’s a world of words, they told me.
Mythic in size and proportion.
The magic admits those
who write a sentence on entering,
leaving chocolate drops behind
to mark their route through lettered lands.

Some territories are unknown, they told me.
You must map them yourself,
with other explorers.
They seek you out, supportive,
once you know where to find them.
They run together in packs.

Take care, little wanderer, they told me –
once hunted, few care to return from
the beauty of script scribbled in spaces,
blank, ‘til creation begins.

It expands on arrival, they told me,
so few know how large it’s become,
save for those who’ve travelled since beginning
their journey some long-score prompts passed.

It inhabits hearts and minds, they tell me –
take it wherever you go,
its end starting whole new beginnings,
cartographic creators’ creations,
living inside ever after, full grown.

Explorers seek it, perpetual.

All write on entering –
Here be dragons.

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Spotlight on Scotland: F.E. Clark

Today we conclude our series of global #Spotlight interviews by spending a few moments with F.E. Clark, who writes and paints in Scotland. It’s been a pleasure getting to read F.E.’s work here and at other places on the flash circuit; I’m also gratefully thrilled (thrilledly grateful?) to share with you she is generously contributing a book to this week’s Flashversary prize pot. You’ll see that mentioned a bit later on in the interview.

Thank you so much, F.E., for putting up with all my questions (35, did you say??? surely not!!!), and answering them so honestly and graciously. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you here at FF, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for you! Welcome to #Spotlight — here’s the mic. 🙂

FE Clark

 

Tell us about your writerly journey.

One way or other I have always written; recently I have begun to share some of it.  Thanks to my parents, voracious readers who made sure of trips to the library and gave books as gifts – I have always loved reading.  The books of Enid Blyton, the tales of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, C.S. Lewis, William Burrough’s Tarzan, all brought exotic adventure to my childhood.  Early on I insisted I was going ‘up the Amazon’ – this is a trip I have still to make in reality.

While being a reader was acceptable when I was younger, the idea that one might call oneself a writer or an artist was something else.  I was brought up on a farm, I was a quiet and solitary child, books were my friends and where I learnt what I needed to learn, my journals were my confidants. 

I would love to write novels.  I have a character who appeared a piece of flash fiction – whose story will perhaps lead me into a novel.   Currently I am writing flash fiction and short stories.  I am delighted to be part of the Flashdogs community, and have two stories submitted for their next anthology along with one story written collaboratively with the fabulous Voima Oy

How do you balance (and find inspiration for) both writing AND painting?

Although I have in the past been terribly stuck, I find now, that it is time and energy that lacks first, rather than inspiration.  Writing and painting feed each other.  I am inspired by the magical land, sea, mountains and forests around me.  I am very lucky in this respect.  I believe that creativity comes in waves – the scrying for ideas, researching, drafting, editing, more editing, resting, thinking, beginning again – all part of the process of making something.  Often we can be on one part of the wave and mistake it for being stuck. 

I am still learning to balance all the elements in my life.  Juggling whilst running on water – I have learnt neither.  Spiders love our house, I never reach the bottom of the laundry basket, there is paint under my fingernails and on the sleeves of most of my clothes.  Still, I am here, I write, I paint.

What does your daily writerly life look like?

I live on the mainland of North East Scotland.  I write mostly at home; I may make notes long-hand then transfer to my laptop, editing as I go.  It gets cold in our cottage, I often write in bed wrapped up in jumpers, furry hat firmly on my head.  Coffee is required. Living in a rural area, there is nowhere locally where I would go to write in public.  When venturing further afield, I might write in the notebook I always carry, over a ‘fine’ coffee.  It is not rare to see people sitting with laptops and notebooks in cafes and libraries here.

Being part of groups is another balancing act – to have the autonomy, space and energy to write, but also be involved in some sort of community.  Thanks to David Shakes, I am very glad I found the Flashdogs community online.

I have recently joined the Dundee and Angus Writers group as an associate member (I don’t live close enough to attend their meetings) and have submitted my first two pieces of flash fiction to one of their contests.  I joined this group due to the enthusiasm of one of its members, Elizabeth Frattaroli, whom I met on a writing course this year.  I have enjoyed keeping in touch with Elizabeth, who is currently writing a YA book, and we have met to catch up since at the Dundee Contemporary Art gallery café.

There are many opportunities to attend writing workshops, book festivals and courses in Scotland.  We have The Scottish Book Trust and Creative Scotland, and public libraries – all good resources for a creative person to investigate.  This year I have attended a week-long workshop on novel writing at Moniack Mhor Writers’ Centre with the authors Jess Richards, Rachel Seiffert and Peter Salmon as tutors; a short workshop via the city library led by Alan Spence, and a writing workshop at Barry Mill near Carnoustie led by Sandra Ireland

What’s the publishing situation like from what you can see?

In common with the other countries, to get published here one needs an agent.  Many publishers will not read unsolicited manuscripts.  Even for published authors, new work must be commercially viable to make it to print.  Self-publishing has become much more common, but leaves the author with the roles of proofing, editing, publicity, distribution.  I look to those who go before me for their experiences of this journey, as I have yet to venture far.

Tell us about books and/or authors who’ve inspired you!

Books and authors who have inspired – too many to list them all, but here are a few:

Isabelle Allende for the magical realism in her novels and her YA books, Annie Proulx for the crystal clear detail in The Shipping News and her anthologies of short stories.  Haruki Murakami for the wonderful surreal quality of his novels, and allowing an autobiographical view of his life in, What I Talk About When I Talk About RunningStephen King: his books made me really see the meaning of a story being character led, and his book, On Writing, I would recommend to any genre of writer.  Julia Cameron, for all her books on creativity, starting with The Artists’ WayPatricia Cornwell’s early books, Elly Griffiths, William Gibson, China MievilleNeil Gaiman, Michel Faber, Joanne Harris…. [list cut down from a million trillion fabulous names].

Who are your favorite Scottish writers (both of all time, and today)? For someone unfamiliar with Scottish writers, which authors/books would you recommend starting with?

On Scottish writers: you may have heard of Robbie Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Lewis Grassic Gibbon, so here are a few others I would recommend. Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain about the fabulous Cairngorms. Any of Andrew Grieg’s lyrical yet gritty writing.  Written in Doric, the dialect which is local to me (we got strapped for talking in it when I was at school), The Waater Mannie by Neil Mutch – is the story of a water diviner in the North East of Scotland written in his own words.  For those who love the thriller/mystery/police novel – Val McDermid, Stuart McBride, Anne Cleeves, Iain Banks, Ian Rankin.  Or, Irvine Welsh, Christopher Brookmyre, Louise Welsh [list cut down from another million trillion fabulous names].

What are you reading now?

I am due some time to catch up with the lovely stack of books growing by my bedside; there never seems to be enough time, and my poor brain loves to launch into the stories of others.  At the moment I am reading Island of Wings, by Karen Altenberg.  The novel is set in the 1830s on the island of St Kilda, off the west coast of Scotland. I am enjoying it very much.  I am also reading from Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times, a beautiful anthology of poetry to dip into.

Who else has inspired you?

People who not only walk, but make their own path inspire me.  My parents – farmers both, my father surviving two strokes and still turning wooden bowls and learning to use a e-book reader.  My partner’s belief in me is inspiring.  Meg Robinson, whose life drawing classes I attended as a teenager, down in the red light district of Aberdeen, has been a huge inspiration to me – artist, writer, teacher, humanitarian.  Meg lives in Spain now and it is her book Drawn By a Star, that I am adding to the Flashversary pot of prizes, as I have not written my own…… yet. 

Final comments for the flash family?

I only began participating in this flash community in February of this year.  I counted, and during this time I have written over 100 pieces of flash (a miracle for me, nothing to the more prolific writers).  I am sad that Flash! Friday and Microbookends are both ending, and am very grateful to all who create these safe places for people like me to write in.  I trust there will be more as things move and flow.  I wish the Dragon-Queen well. 

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)

Matchlight

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.