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Interview with Michal Calo, The London Independent Story Prize 2nd Quarter 2018 Winner

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

I live just outside Tel-Aviv, Israel, and am a Literature graduate student so most of my time is spent reading and writing papers. I'm 27, so it feels like I should have more of a stable life, but I don't.

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

I started writing short stories, flash-fiction, and poetry when I was in high-school. I've never participated in any competition or had anything published, and other than an anonymous deviantArt account I had when I was about 16, I almost never shared anything I wrote. I submitted my writing to LISP to get over my anxiety regarding my own writing and my fear of letting others see it.

- How did you feel when you learned that you were longlisted for The London Independent Story Prize? How does it feel to have your work recognised?

I was surprised and very excited, but didn't actually expect to win. I'm quite timid, so this experience was a lovely confidence-booster and very motivating.

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

It was years after I started writing that I realized that there was a name for what I was creating: flash-fiction. I've always written these vignettes, and for me they're always more about setting a mood, trying to convey an emotion or articulate an atmosphere, rather than constructing a plot-line. This is what I love about flash-fiction--that it's just a snippet of something, but at the same time it's a thing unto itself. The hardest thing about it, especially when confined to a very specific word-limit, is being economical. I'm verbose, and I like long convoluted sentences. Trying to reign myself in is a challenge.

- 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?

I was writing a paper about Emily Dickinson for my studies, and constantly imagined these unbound leaves of paper, covered in her scribbled poems, with words crossed out and edited to smithereens so that they were almost incomprehensible, shoved into trunks and drawers. At the same time, I was staring at these same poems neatly typed up in a book, or worse still, online, where they're intangible and exist in this virtual plane that I can't understand. I romanticize handwritten text, its material presence, the splotches of ink on fingers, the wrist cramping up, but can never manufacture it--it's just too hard. There's some indefinable incongruity for me between art and digitization, between this visceral expression of yourself and the technology through which it manifests. That's sort of what I was thinking about when I was writing the story. I wrote it about a month before the deadline and let it simmer for a while. I kept going back to it in intervals, changing a word or adding a comma. In actuality, it didn't take very long, but it's a process.

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

Edit. Make sure that each word is important and carries meaning for you.

- What's the best thing about writing competitions?

Having a specific goal and a a deadline is very helpful for me, as I think it is for many people. In the day-to-day humdrum it's sometimes difficult to find the time, motivation, and focus to write, and competitions create a framework to ground you.

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

Of course, Go forth and write!

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