Can you please tell us about you? Where do you live and how is your daily life? I started my professional life as a journalist but retrained in psychotherapy and counseling in my late 40s. My adult children have left home, and I now work part-time to create space for creative pursuits. I live in Dunedin, New Zealand. Gorgeous, remote, cold in winter. I love it! When did you start writing? How often do you write? We want to learn all about your writing life! I began experiencing the joy of writing creatively in my late teens, then left it behind and took it up again in my 30s and 40s, mostly writing poetry. I’ve always loved words, and have journaled throughout most of my adult life. I now have the space to write in a more intentional way (no excuses!) and have given myself the task of writing a short/flash story a month, since forming a writing group with two friends early last year. I published an ebook, called ‘Fields of Gold’ (Rosa Mira, Publisher) in 2004 which is the co-journaled experience of my sister Annie and myself during the last year of her life following a cancer diagnosis. Over the past year I have been awarded third place in Flash 500 and was published in the Bath Fiction Anthology (volume 2) after being long-listed. I was also short-listed for the TSS Flash Fiction competition in December last year. How did you feel when you learned that you were long-listed for The London Independent Story Prize?
I was delighted to be long-listed. There is no high quite like it. I love sending my stories off – just to have them read and considered feels like that’s my money’s worth right there. To get long-listed or awarded a place is a huge thrill. What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing a Flash-Fiction? I love the challenge of condensing a story and making every word count. My aim is to create a textured, multi-dimensional story inside a small frame that will deliver something memorable. I seem to discover characters that I had no idea were floating in my imagination. I’m not sure what the hardest thing is. I love writing this form of fiction! My next challenge is to tackle the longer short story form. How did you come up with the idea for your LISP selected story? Is there a story behind your story? And how long have you been working on it? The conch shell was a word that came up at the end of writing group late last year. (See below). It was my suggested word, and I had no idea where it came from. I then remembered a satin pink shell my mother has brought back from Samoa, and as I sat with the image, I thought about the (somewhat neglected) idea of a yoni symbol. I wanted to connect this with the emerging sexual feelings of a young girl who was living in a guilt-inducing repressive situation. I wrote a longer version of 500 words first of all, then modified it a month or so later for the LISP competition. The redrafting and editing was a reasonably quick and ultimately satisfying process, in order to meet the deadline. Can you please give us a few tips about writing a 300-word flash-fiction story? At writing group we finish each meeting by writing a word and putting the slips of paper together and sharing these as inspiration for the next story. The words are random, and because they’re written, we don’t influence each other. It is like grit that sinks into the lower recesses of my mind. Suddenly I find I’m turning them over, working them, and they start to weave into an idea for a character or story. In crafting the story as flash fiction I am learning to get a fine scalpel and pull words out to meet the required word count. It’s a marvelous discipline and I invariably find the story has lost nothing and is often improved. What's the best thing about writing competitions? Writing competitions have been galvanising for me. They give me a target and a deadline, as well as the promise that someone out there will be reading my story with an experienced and critical eye. Submitting helps me to take my own writing seriously, and when I get recognised in return, it’s enormously encouraging. Lastly, do you recommend the writers to give it a go on flash fiction story and LISP? I’ve appreciated the clear timelines offered by LISP and the range of authors who are involved as judges. It’s been a very good experience for me, and I would encourage other writers to give it a go.