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Interview with Ozge Gozturk by ZeroFlash

The London Independent Story Prize (LISP) is the new writing competition in town. It aims to create a great networking opportunity for writers and a community that embraces the multicultural differences, brave voices, unique writers and extraordinary artistic approaches to story writing.

LISP founder, Ozge Gozturk, is a published author and award-winning writer whose stories, essays and interviews have been published in numerous magazines, including regular articles for KaosGL. She has also been a judge for NYSA (New York Screenplay Awards). She has travelled extensively and has finally settled in London.

Why did you start your competition?

It happened in one day actually. We realised that we wanted to create a competition with multiple judges to find the unique voices that everyone agreed on. The idea was that wonderful multicultural writers would be judging and the competition would be open to everyone around the world. We contacted the judges and started the competition as soon as we possibly could. The first year we’ll be running a 300-word flash fiction competition but there will be other possibilities as well.

What is the most gratifying element of publishing the written word?

It starts with the experience of reading. Any media, paper, website or e-book, becomes a vehicle for the reader to travel into someone else’s mind and experience her/his state of existence through the written word. And this is fascinating. You can easily empathise with people you think of as strangers while reading their stories. Publishing is a way to unite people, to unite cultures and eliminate the gaps between strangers, which is the most gratifying element of it.

What are your happiest memories in your writing/publishing career?

For our competition, the unforgettable moment was when all the judges were on board and excited. And at that moment, we realised that this fledging creation – the London Independent Story Prize – was already creating a community of great minds. It’s really emotional for all of us because it’s great to have passionate people around and to collaborate with them to find more great writers to jump on board.

And for me, personally, of course, it was to see my name on the writers’ list for the first time. It was a great art project and all the others were celebrity artists and writers. I felt so lucky! However, at the book launch, I was super excited, so I couldn’t speak to anyone. If I were there, not as a writer but a reader, I would definitely have taken lots of pictures! That day, I learned that writing is not just about putting the things in your mind on paper, but becoming public, opening your brain and heart to strangers, which is scary at the beginning but in time, it evolves into some of the happiest memories.

How do you handle success and failure?

The London Independent Story Prize really doesn’t have any goals defined in numbers. There is nothing to achieve, other than creating a community and embracing the best writing we can find. So there is no expectation of being the ‘best’ or reaching the number blah… In this case, things are different. We don’t have to waste time on such questions like, ‘is this enough?’ But we have other worries. We value the effort of trying, the bravery of self-expression, confronting resignations and taking the risk of experimenting. Success and failure are Siamese twins: you can’t get one without the other, so our motto is to leave them aside and keep swimming.

I try to do the same in my personal career. Orhan Pamuk – a Turkish Nobel-winning author – said in a talk that he tells himself to write the second sentence if he struggles to write the first. I try to do the same, just keep moving.

What makes you write when you’re exhausted and your fingers ache?

Writers do not only write on paper or computers, the stories are all in our heads; just closing your eyes and dreaming your story is also a good way of working. Hard work is valuable, but abandoning the joy of fiction is not that helpful in the writing process. In the end, you’re putting a dream down on paper and you have to take it as seriously as a child does. And they definitely take it really seriously!

I have an eight year old and I admire her persistent state while playing her story-tellinggame! Never mind the conditions, just stay concentrated on the story.

What is your advice to young and new writers?

We encourage them to write different small pieces and not only to us but to send them anywhere: competitions, magazines, websites, as much as they can. The more people read you, the better. It doesn’t have to be your best work, but you need to finish it. And start a new piece. Every story, short or long, will teach you something. The worst thing is not to have it done. Listen to the criticisms, but your own unique voice must stay on top of them. Writing is a long journey, don’t over think it, let it flow. Just do it!

Are you a traditionalist or a digital? (paper or eBook)

Now we’re online, as it’s our first competition but we’re both traditional and digital. Therefore, when we reach to a number that can create a flash fiction novel we’ll publish it in print and also as an e-book.

And personally I do like both ways as well, even though I’m traditionally published.

What are the advantages of winning a competition?

LISP is based on creating a great community and, of course, all the writers who attend the competition will definitely be a part of this network. However, winners are winners, and they will have the greatest advantage. First of all, the prize and publication, and when you win a competition, it means that your pen has been recognised, which is a great feature for any writer. Not only while trying to reach agents or publishers, but also the personal satisfaction is priceless. Especially for young writers, it’s a way to build confidence.

As an award winner, I can also say that it helps you to improve. Now you see that you can write things that others appreciate as well, which encourages you to be even bolder.

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