Tag Archive | Josh Bertetta

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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Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 50: WINNERS

Good morning! Thank you so much for your overwhelming, loving support following Friday’s announcement that I’m closing up shop after December 11’s Flashversary. I’ll have more to say on that over the next three weeks, but today belongs to you; today is not my farewell — not yet –, but Steph & Josh’s (much as you and they are conspiring to keep me in tears for the next three weeks!).

**NOTE!** We still have a couple more global #Spotlight interviews ahead: please join us tomorrow for a trip to Bulgaria with Cindy Vaskova!

And now: a mountain’s height of thanks to Dragon Team Six, Steph Ellis and Josh Bertetta. We should perhaps be a little frightened and/or impressed by the sychronization of your judging thoughts — both of you should probably tuck that away for future use somewhere! It’s been a great honor serving the community alongside you. Thank you for your clever sifting of stories, for your generous comments, for your faithful support of flash fiction and this community in particular. Above all, thank you for contributing your own powerfully unique talents by sharing your stories here. We are so grateful to and for you.

♦♦♦♦♦

Here are Dragon Team Six’s final comments, crystallized by Steph, who apparently has no respect for my deteriorating supply of tissues:   

SE: I was feeling somewhat sad that my time as a judge was coming to an end at Flash! Friday but then came that bombshell from Rebekah about the closure of the site, an announcement which I must say left me feeling almost bereft.  I’ve just had a scan through the Flash! Friday archives and found my first entry back in October of last year.  I find myself amazed that it’s only a matter of some 13 months and not longer; this particular competition has become such a huge part of my life giving my week a writerly structure that I have followed (more-or-less) religiously.  What will I do?  What will we all do?  Well, we’ll carry on writing as she has trained us so well: we will continue with the familiar (MicroBookends, Three Line Thursday, FlashDogs anthologies, Angry Hourglass) and attempt new pastures.  So the gap will be filled, but it will not be the same.  I do have some more to say to Rebekah, but those words you will find in some of my responses to the stories below.

As it’s my last week I would also like to pay tribute to my partner-in-crime Josh Bertetta.  I know he has been unable to take part this week for personal reasons and I missed our few minutes of haggling across the pond.  And when I say few, I mean few.  Nearly every single time, at least half, if not more, of our choices matched; and where they didn’t, we quite often found that we had similar choices ‘bubbling under’ which allowed us room to manoeuvre.

I would also like to thank my lovely eldest daughter for her efforts in stripping the Flash stories for me, especially as she tends to work late; whether it was Bob Dylan or The 1975, she still managed to wake up not too long before noon and get the stories to me and Josh!  For that I have rewarded her with a Korean Vegetarian cookbook – as you do.

And one more big thank you – to all of you who have provided us with such wonderful stories to read.  Keep writing and submitting.  We will see you here until the finish, and hopefully we will continue across the Flashverse, taking our stories into unchartered territories and cheering each other on.

Now, without further ado, let the drum roll begin …

♦♦♦♦♦

SPECIAL MENTIONS

Brady Koch, “Bougainvillea.” An apparently innocent start to the story, a young man returns home having travelled the world, for what you would think would be a much-wanted reunion with is family.  But instead we are faced with him drawing a plant whose leaf ‘grew out of the long-picked skull of the artist’s father’.  Then we discover that not only is there a skull, but a knife in the rib-cage, put there by our returnee.  Not quite the reunion expected.  Nicely dark.

James Atkinson, “Times Change.” A warning to those who would promote isolationism.  Initially the families were separate enough when their village’s isolation first occurred for there to be no problems in terms of marriage but as time passed cousins married cousins so that eventually all became closely related.  This seems to concern only our narrator.  He recognises that they need ‘another supply drop’ but implies this would be not of goods but of people to refresh and strengthen the gene pool; this latter a good example of showing not telling.

Bill Engleson, “Sweetapple Dodds.” Great pulp fiction tone to the narration of this story.  The agent’s in his office and in she walks ‘Hell, you could smell the country on her’, ‘wiggling her fanny as if she’s revving up for the Indy 500’.  He feels sorry for her but he has an ulterior motive, he ‘could see potential, a tremendous chassis’.  Wonderful language and a fun read.

Firdaus Parvez, “Born With the Devil.” I think everyone imagines twins are born with that unbreakable bond, where one would do anything for the other.  You certainly don’t expect them to be so different that the sister hates her brother to the extent that she would slit her wrists and ensure not only his death, but her own.  Unique take on the bond between twins.

♦♦♦♦♦

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Charles W. Short, “The Captain’s Calling.”

An homage to Flash! Friday (Dragonwraith) and its Captain (Rebekah) and an unashamed placing.  This one is slightly different in that it is the creation of Flash! Friday in a world in which flash was almost an orphan.  She built the ship, which grew larger, was a ‘spokeswoman for her cause’ and developed her vision until other ‘Teams developed, friendships formed, and entirely new classifications of vessels took shape’.  We have all seen how the flash world had grown, we all meet up on other sites, not just on this ship so that now we can give the Captain the freedom to take her own path.  ‘A new calling awaits the captain, and she has the proven courage to undertake it.’

Michael Wettengel, “May-Born.” 

I love the personification of Ambition and Inspiration, those little devils that assail us all but which often never seem to work together, as in this particular story.  Inspiration is intent on wrapping himself up ‘like he’s spinning a cocoon’ whilst Ambition ‘walks and fumes’.  (I will whisper now, I am a May baby so I huff occasionally too).  The deadline hits and they run out of time and Ambition isn’t happy with the rambling end.  But the author walks away to look at the falling snow, as sometimes you have to.

Holly Geely, “Cousin Jackson

Of course I would place a story with a good pun, especially one which worked itself out so easily.  I had no idea it was coming (I mean, a banana plantation in a non-tropical climate?? how did I not see it?) but there it was, waiting, a perfect little gem to be discovered at the end.

Michael Seese, “In Here.”

This trapped me as soon as elephants on shoulders were mentioned.  I knew at this point something crazy was going on, the writing bringing to mind the madness of Carroll’s Wonderland.  The MC, a child, has occasional glimpses of sanity ‘when the mists clear,’ but she cannot leave her world where there are ‘Pixie Stix’ trees and ‘priests in prehistoric garb’ as well as mocking marionettes.  And even though she wants to leave, her mother tells her, ‘You can never leave this place, dear child. Insanity is your home.  Wonderfully crazy.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Nthato MorakabiWhat Child Is This?

The God Delusion!  Casting Dawkins as a priest, working from the inside of religion to subvert its message was a very clever ruse.  Dawkins has pretended to be a priest and foretold the end of the world, indicating certain signs, for example the baby with the pig’s tail would foreshadow it.  The nurse’s message brings him joy, he has been proved right.  But it is a scene he has manipulated (he has no ‘virtue’) by adding chemicals to the water supply so that mutations occur.  He has used science, he had ‘faith’ that science would make these changes.  Now science supplants religion, it has become the new faith.  Nice inversion.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Karl Russell, “One Day, in the Square” 

This is a story about self-belief and self-worth.  There are so many talented people in this world who just never show what they are capable of.  The old man who appears at Juan’s side and gives him such good advice turns out to be the ghost of a musician who’d only just died.  He had been a brilliant guitarist but had never followed the advice he now gave Juan, leading him to his sad ending on the bench by the fountain.  He had wasted his talent and played for the pigeons.  But his ghost returned and hopefully Juan will take his guitar and play to people and not to the birds.  I must admit to a soft spot for this story as I have a son who is a talented guitarist but already he is playing for people.  And to all those of you who think your writing’s not good enough to send out, well, if you’ve been submitting here, you’re definitely good enough – take that step and find your audience.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Mark A. King, “Genesis.” 

How could I not choose something like this considering our Dragoness’ recent announcement? This acrostic builds a true and heartfelt tribute to Rebekah for all her efforts on our behalf.  All of us have fought, as writers, to find our niche, we have all lived ‘in the wilderness’, seeking ‘the lands of promise’, the bookshop windows, we were all ‘alone’.  But she created a place for us, a ‘fortress’ where we could hone our skills and become strong enough to challenge the ‘elite’, where we could make friends and recognise that our own writing has worth.  Through this platform and the support and comments given so freely and generously week in, week out, we have developed to the extent that many are now pushing onwards and upwards, and some have even made it into the bookshop window.  Things are changing indeed, but it is not goodbye.  We no longer need a fortress: we have a world.  This piece was a lovely way for us all to say Thank you, Rebekah.

And now: for her gorgeous, fantastic, stirring FOURTH win, it’s this week’s 

DRAGON WINNER

MARIE MCKAY!!!

for

“To Care: More Than Just an Action

A poem has claimed first place this week with a message that needs to be heard on a larger platform.  The army of carers that is out there amongst us is large but invisible: the husbands and wives having to care for both elderly parents and young children, young children caring for parents or siblings, an elderly wife, herself frail having to care for her husband and vice versa.  This army does so much and their efforts go largely unnoticed and unrewarded but they do it even though they are so often at breaking point – ‘She cares/Until she screams’, ‘You care/Until you break’, ‘I care/Until I reach the edge’ – but they always ‘care some more’. 

Short lines, consistent repetition from different viewpoints punch the message home and wrings out the emotions, the feelings that at times seek to destroy the carer .  We are not allowed to be separate from the message of this poem, we are part of it because ‘We. Should.  Care’.  Simple.  Powerful.  Effective.

Congratulations, Marie! Thrilled to see you take your fourth crown this week, which you’ve done and drawn our attention to this underappreciated cause. Thank you so much for sharing this achingly beautiful poem. Here’s your updated winner’s page — a page that includes your winning tales dating back to your very first in Year One (Week 26!!!! darling thing, still here after so long!!). Please watch your inbox for instructions regarding your interview for your fourth #SixtySeconds! And now here’s your winning story:

To Care: More Than Just an Action
*inspired by Carers’ Rights Day in the UK

I care
my hands raw;
my eyes black;
my arms sore;
my hair out.
I care way beyond my own lifetime.

You care
yourself to sleep;
yourself awake;
yourself guilty;
yourself frail.
You care yourself lost.

She cares
herself bruised;
herself hungry;
herself lonely;
herself sick.
She cares herself away.

He cares
himself angry;
himself gaunt;
himself blunt.
He cares himself blue.

They care
themselves invisible;
themselves insular;
themselves inadequate.
They care to the quick.

I care
until I can’t, and then I care some more.
You care
until you cry, and then you care some more.
She cares
until she screams, and then she cares some more.

I care
until I reach the edge, and then I care some more.
You care
until you break, and then you care some more.
He cares
until he says he won’t, and then he cares some more.

I care
You care
She cares.
He cares.
They care.
And us?

We. Should. Care.

FFwinner-Web

Sixty Seconds V with: Michael Seese

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 Michael Seese, who’s (no surprise!!) joined the elite crew of writers to have won Flash! Friday FIVE times. Read his winning story at his winner’s page here. Read his bio and previous interviews there too. And now, in 500 (ish) words, please find his interview, Flash! Friday style.

Requirements

* Up to 500 words
* In it you need to reveal 5 true things about yourself and 5 invented things 
* You’ve got 5 prompt words/phrases that you must include: flash, fiction, champion, writer, green dragon of envy
* Starting sentence: “Some said it was inevitable I’d find myself here.”

♦♦♦

Her Lover
576 words (so sue me) *Editor’s Note: Don’t leave town.*

Some said it was inevitable I’d find myself here. After all, it’s where I lost myself. And found him.

In hindsight, I suppose I must have looked like the easiest mark in the world. A short, blue-eyed blonde, alone at the bar, nursing a rum & Coke. (My favorite drink.)

His come-on was so smooth.

“I will take you to places you’ve never seen, but only dreamed of.”

How I wish the good angel hadn’t gotten sloshed and slipped from my shoulder an hour ago. If she were still there, she would have screamed in my ear, reminding me of the various realities germane to my life.

You’re married. Happily. You have three kids. Three kids who often drive you insane, yet melt your heart when they ask you to lie in bed with them every night.

I should have said “No.” Correction. I should have said “No, god damn it!”

But I didn’t.

He was so smooth. So seductive. Impulse took over. I took him home.

I knew the children would be asleep, as would Grandma, who had come over watch them so I could get an evening to myself while my husband was out of town on business.

It was so…

Blissful.

Heavenly.

I didn’t want it to end, and fought to stay awake just one more minute to revel in the pleasure. But the Sandman had other ideas as he dragged me kicking and screaming from my lover.

In the morning, he was gone and I realized I had fucked up royally. I vowed to never see him again. But…

I found myself wanting him again. The sane me would would have said it was more the thrill than anything. I simply couldn’t get enough. If my husband fell asleep early, I would have him, quietly, in the basement rec room. Sometimes I’d call into work sick, and enjoy an all-day orgy of pleasure. I even tried to connive a way to hook up with him at some point during our family vacation to Florida. (Take that, Mickey!) That plan fell through, and instead I spent a week on pins and needles.

Eventually I told my best friend about the affair. Secretly, I hoped she’d smack some sense into me. She tried.

“You’re an idiot!” she said, morphing into a green dragon of envy, breathing fire and spitting venom. Ella never was one to mince words.

But I refused to listen. (What’s that expression about leading a horse to water?) I told her she was being naive. That she didn’t understand. But she couldn’t. She couldn’t know how he made me feel. She couldn’t know that when I was with him, I could do anything. Skate like an Olympic champion. Pen words like a great writer. (Admittedly, since he came into my world my ability to craft fiction had to improve dramatically.)

I thought I was being so clever. But apparently I didn’t cover my tracks as well as I’d thought. It all came crashing down. In a flash I lost it all. My dignity. My husband. My children.

My life.

So here I am, back where it all started. Alone. Anxious. Sweating. Unable to sleep. The candlelight dances in my eyes as I search for a willing vein.

A spoon is a lot deeper than one might think. The funny thing is, I don’t mind drowning in it.

Because I know he’ll be there, waiting for me at the bottom.

♣♣♣

The lies:

“A short, blue-eyed blonde, alone at the bar, nursing a rum & Coke. (My favorite drink.)”

Actually, I’m tall, with hazel eyes and light brown hair. And even if I were blond, I would not be a blonde. And I hate Coke. (For the record, I suppose I also should state I’ve never done heroin.)

The truths:

I am married. Happily. I do have three kids. The rest of the paragraph pretty much holds as well.