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Clodagh O'Brien, LISP Highly Recommended Writer 1st Quarter 2018

- Can you please tell us about you? Where do you live and how is your daily life?

A lifetime lover of words, I live in Dublin (Ireland) with my other half and 3-year old son. Over the years as I have worked in advertising, journalism, PR and now spend my days writing about all things digital for an education body. Whenever time allows, I read and pen stories, most often on the train these days!

- When did you start writing? How often do you write? We want to learn all about your writing life!

I was always a big reader and devoured books as a child. I remember dabbling in poetry as a teenager, but it wasn't really a form that suited me, so I left that behind in my late teens. I really only went back to writing when I moved back to Dublin and dedicated time to it seriously when I bought my own flat. After that, I enrolled in writing courses, went to book launches, joined a weekly writing group and wrote as often as I could. I was pretty productive in that phase, writing 2 novels (first drafts) and many, many short stories.

On discovering flash fiction about 4 years ago, it's been the form that has inspired me most and suits my writing as I like short, sharp and punchy. It's been more difficult to write as much since having a child and a full-time job in writing, but I do try to scribe 2 to 3 new stories a week to varying levels of quality!

A wonderful thing earlier this year was to learn I had been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best Small Fictions by the wonderful people at Blue Fifth Review. Whatever the outcome, it makes me believe in my writing and strive to get better.

- How did you feel when you learned that you were longlisted for The London Independent Story Prize?

It was wonderful to get the email to say my work had been highly recommended. The quality of the judges is one of the things I admire about the prize.

- What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing a Flash-Fiction?

The best is creating something only you could write. The hardest is knowing when to stop. The editing process can be a tricky beast and I fall in and out of love with it constantly. With flash being such a short form, every word counts so it's knowing what to leave in and take out to make the story as good as it can be. I also find having to lose my first line hard as that's what inspired the story in the first place. However, sometimes that's all it was for and serves no role in the finished story. It's still tough to let them go .

- 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?

There were many inspirations for the story; the Repeal the 8th movement in Ireland, my own pregnancy, news stories on young women in the media. It's a story that told itself really, it evolved from the first line as if it had been waiting to come out.

- Can you please give us a few tips about writing a 300-word fl,ash-fiction story?

Just write. It's easy to do everything else sometimes, but ultimately you need to get words down on a page. For me, I think of a first line on the way to the train station or pick one from my Simple Note app where I store first lines, and just let it flow. Sometimes I get a good skeleton down for a story, others it's just brain vomit. The most important thing is that it's written. Also, make sure you read. Not just flash fiction, but every form that excites you. Inspiration can come from anywhere.

- What's the best thing about writing competitions?

Writing competitions are great because they bring focus. I'm a deadline driven person so I work towards dates and try to stick to them. If you are lucky enough to get shortlisted or even win, it's wonderful to have your work out there for people to read. Connecting with other writers is also so important. With so many wonderful stories out there it's hard to keep track, so I use Twitter to dip in and out.

-Lastly, do you recommend the writers to give it a go on flash fiction story and LISP?

Absolutely. Get writing, editing, and submitting. You never know what jewel of a flash may result.

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