Tag Archive | Sixty Seconds

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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Sixty Seconds V with: Nancy Chenier

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 Nancy Chenier, who in a fit of greedy dragonishness seized her FIFTH tiara this past week. Read her latest (and earlier) winning stories at her winner’s page here. Read her bio and previous interviews there while you’re at it. And now, in 500 (ish) words, please find her newest soul-spill, 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.”

♦♦♦

Some said it was inevitable I’d find myself here, lost in the enchanted woods without a tale to follow out again.

I can smell the candy house from here, but such sweetness holds no seduction for me. Gingerbread might as well be plaster. Those candy canes can just remain as fence posts, thank you very much. I mean really. Who do you hope to lure with them?

I could do with a bit of rye crust, though, to breadcrumb my way through the bracken.

Over there, see? The baleful yellow eyes aren’t scouring the shadows for me. My jacket may have a splash of scarlet on it, but he’s lurking for redder treasures. I can’t tell if my long exhale is a sigh of relief or a hiss from the green dragon of envy—with writers of late, the wolf’s malevolence is part of his appeal. 

On an optimistic note, I have nothing to fear from the scowling and groaning trunks. The lass they seek to reproach has already stumbled over their rude roots and lost silk on their snatching branches. At least she has come out the other side. I’m sure Prince Charming appreciates the homemaker practice she got at the dwarves’ residence. Princesses tend to be useless on the domestic front—at least we have that in common.

Thundering hooves stir the ground beneath my feet, but that’s just another noble-son-and-retinue off to champion another cursed kingdom — neither of which has anything to do with me. From the echo of the clarions, I’d say they’re taking on the taiga hag. Yeah, good luck with that.

I tried to enlist the help of a dashing ranger (dashing enough to make me forget about naughty wolves). But he was in a hurry to take part in another ring cycle, and the look in his devastatingly aquamarine eyes told me the fellowship didn’t have much use for gals, let alone for a middle-aged one who lacked a certain elven litheness (curse those early fantasy writers!). Not to be put off by a technicality (did I mention the chiseled-jaw?), I hastened after him. But, alas, his strides outpaced mine.

Darkness descends around me and still no tale presents itself to lead ol’ anti-hero me out of this interview-fiction. The word count nears its limit. The deadline looms. 

The sticky scent of lollipops tickles my nostrils. Ah! A flash of inspiration in the night. I smell/gag my way to the cloying cottage. While the witch is arguing with some girl over the temperature of the oven, I break off a gingersnap shutter.

It’s not rye, but it should keep me from repeating my steps.

♦♦♦

Lies and Truths:

–Can’t stand candy canes, but I rather like gingerbread.

–On the domestic front: I HATE housework, but I’m an excellent cook.

–Technically, I am middle-aged, but I intend to live to be 120 years old, so I still have a ways to go. I’m not at all frumpy.

–I’ve had a crush on Aragorn ever since reading the LOTR in middle school (long before Viggo only intensified it). Only I prefer him as Strider (then and now).  However, there is no way he would have outpaced me.

–Darkness did descend Tuesday night as I tried to finish this: power outage, a pole fell just down the street.

–I didn’t get inspired in the night. That ending happened just now and there is still light in the sky.

Sixty Seconds VI with: Karl A. Russell

No, you aren’t imagining things: Karl A. Russell has won TWO WEEKS IN A ROW, this latest one making his sixth win (which is a record both for him and for the FF community). Read his bio and stories, and find links to his previous interviews at his winner’s page here. To celebrate his sixth win, he’s spending this #SixtySeconds interview by giving us Six for Six. What does that mean? Here’s Karl to explain: 

♦♦♦

Inspiration:

  1. The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative
  2. The quality of being inspired
  3. A person or thing that inspires
  4. A sudden brilliant or timely idea
  5. The drawing in of breath; inhalation

Inspiration comes in the strangest ways. My story this week came about because I’m reading Chris Riddell’s Goth Girl and the Wuthering Fright to my six year old daughter at bedtime. The plot is building up towards the Literary Dog Show, with Homily Dickinson, Plain Austin, Georgie Elliot and chums all ready to display their prized pooches for judges Pippi Shortstocking and Hands Christmas Anderson, but Charles Cabbage’s attempts to construct a steam powered brain are threatening to derail things. While Ada Lovelace doesn’t actually appear in the book, she popped into my thoughts just the same and proved to be a very popular choice for my story.

But what else inspires me? I could list my faves as usual – comic books, cider, music, cider, movies, cider – but I’m sure you’re all as bored with that as I am. So instead, in honour of my sixth win, here are the six flash writers who consistently inspire me to put the time in, to experiment, to push myself and to try harder.

1) Chris Milam (@blukris) really shouldn’t need an introduction here, but if you want a reminder of who he is, here’s his winner’s page.

Chris is the master of atmosphere, swathing his tales in a fog of cigarette smoke, coffee steam and alcohol that most writers would struggle to cut through. Luckily, his words are more than sharp enough. His characters tend towards the downtrodden, the broken and the helpless, hanging on for one more drink, one more misguided assignation, and it’s a wonder that any of them make it past the final paragraph alive, but like Timothy in his recent tale for Bartleby Snopes, they just keep on going.

If you want a story that pins you like a butterfly on a board and hits you like a hammer, Chris is your man.

My personal favourite: House Arrest

2) Way over on the other side of that coin is Casey Rose Frank (@CaseyRoseFrank).

Although her only winner at Flash Friday is a heartbreaker, I normally associate Casey with a kind of upbeat positivity that she seems to embody in everything she does. (I like to imagine that if one of Casey’s tales met one of Chris’s, it would be like a collision of matter and anti-matter – I feel like I’m taking a huge risk just putting them next to each other here).

If you need a smile, a sweet natured tale with a sprinkling of magical mischief, go Casey.

My personal favourite: Communing With Nature

3) Voima Oy. Voima Oy. Voima Oy. Even that name is poetry, a mystery to conjure with as much as anything this wonderful writer has invented.

Voima’s hallmarks are weather, SF concepts and the strange poetry they create when she welds them together. Her tales make you feel the wind between the stars, the light rain of a Martian Spring and the melancholic loss of Autumn’s turning. Even her tweets are more poetic than anything I could aspire to.

Voima is your go-to writer if you want a tale which will linger in your heart long after it melts from your mind.

My personal favourite: Same Time, Next Year

4) Next up is the only writer on this list that I’ve met in person, and someone whose world building skills are on a par with the Magratheans, Catherine Connolly (@fallintofiction).

Despite being one of my nearest flash colleagues geographically, Catherine’s work transports me further than most. Her speciality is a darkly fantastic tale set in a world so real that you have to wonder if it actually exists somewhere, just waiting to be discovered. Revelling in ritual, peppering her stories with strange names and telling observations, Cath weaves tiny tales that seem like fragments of a much larger, fully realized epic.

Read Cath’s work if you want to be plunged headlong into an alien culture, with a breathless rush to learn the rules before it’s too late.

My personal favourite: In Loving Memory

5.) One of the joys of flash fiction is the opportunity it affords for experimentation. I’ve played around with acrostics, palindromic stories and utterly garbled language a few times myself, but my fifth writer takes it 411 7H3 W4Y. Step forward Josh Bertetta (@jbertetta).

 Josh has very quickly established himself as a writer of great range and depth. While his “straight” fiction is polished, professional and affecting, it’s his startlingly quirky experiments with the form that really stand out for me. At first glance they can appear undecipherable, but if you take a moment to let your brain reset itself to his new language, you will find that they are not only readable but perfectly suited to the story they tell.

 Read Josh to see how style and content can work together to produce something utterly new.

 My personal favourite: 7R4NSP051710N

6) My final choice is a bit of a left fielder as she is far less prolific than I would like. She’s the most dedicated flash fanatic around and has fearsome writing skills, but has never ever received that coveted Flash! Friday trophy, and almost certainly never will.

I’m talking, of course, about our own dear dragonness, Rebekah Postupak (@postupak).

For three years now, come hail, rain or shine, through all the ups and downs of life, Rebekah has ensured that we always have a warm, welcoming space to come and practise our craft. Even when events have conspired to make it an odds-on certainty that the contest will have to skip a week, there she is, dead on the stroke of midnight, posting a prompt and forcing us all on to ever greater heights.

I actually did a double take when she recently tweeted about work; be honest now, how many of you thought, as I did, that she ran this place full time? Between the contest, the results, the winners interviews and the general maintenance, that has to be a full time job, right? And the Ring of Fire Badges? And the Spotlight features? Warmup Wednesday? Flashpoints?

‘Fess up Rebekah – When exactly did you perfect cloning, and just how many of you are there?

And if all that wasn’t inspiring enough, our host has those aforementioned skills. As you’d expect from her introductions, Rebekah has a wicked sense of humour (and yes, a tendency towards dragons) but her playful prose works in any setting, as I found when I blind judged Micro Bookends recently.

Read Rebekah. Just because you must.

My personal favourite: In Memoriam

 And there you are: my Six for Six. These are the people I measure myself against when it comes to language and impact, feeling and verisimilitude and out and out commitment. I’ve never read a clunker from any of them, and I don’t expect to, and with every new story I read from them, I feel the need to up my game, again and again and again. They cover every definition of inspiration, right up to that sharp intake of breath.

Note: The hardest part wasn’t choosing the six, just not carrying to sixteen, or sixty. I could have included Stella’s coldly twisted revenge tales, Shakes’ eye for an arresting image, Bart’s laugh-out-loud wit, Tamara’s endless inventiveness (and ability to somehow have a story written before the prompt has finished posting!) – the list of awesome Flash! Friday writers goes on and on and on. Here’s hoping that the contest does too!