Alicia Bakewell Interview- 2nd Place Winner of The London Independent Story Prize 2nd Quarter 2018
- Can you please tell us about you?
I live in Western Australia. I’m lucky enough to live close to the ocean, which often features in my stories. I have two day jobs – cleaning houses and working for a florist – which keep me busy, and any time left over is devoted to writing. When the ideas won’t come, you will probably find me reading a book, taking a long walk, or doing a bit of baking.
- When did you start writing? How often do you write? We want to learn all about your writing life!
I’ve always enjoyed writing and playing with words, but only started taking it seriously about three years ago. I won a few competitions here in Australia, then last year decided to try my hand at something international. My story ‘Barely Casting a Shadow’ won Reflex Fiction’s Spring 2017 competition, and the UK flash fiction community has really welcomed me. I’m even heading over for a visit this summer.
- 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?
Being longlisted for a prize is the ultimate recognition for hard work. And it’s even more meaningful to know that someone on the other side of the world who doesn’t know me at all has read my story, connected with it in some way, and added it to their ‘yes’ pile. To be awarded second place was a real surprise, I'm so thrilled with the result.
- What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing a Flash-Fiction?
The best thing about flash is that I can work on it in short bursts. I don’t always have a lot of spare time to write, but the first draft of a flash can be put together quickly, then edited painstakingly over a few more sessions when I have the time.
The hardest thing is making sure that every word counts. You can’t fool yourself that a judge or a journal editor won’t find that weak sentence, or a lazy adjective. The whole thing has to sparkle, from whichever angle you look at it.
- 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 wrote this story on the first day of 2018, so it was a good way to start the year. It had been in the back of my mind for probably a few months, but I’d never found quite the right way of telling it. It’s based on a real person, so I put a lot of pressure on myself to do it justice. Eventually I settled on that almost poetry-like format, with matching paragraph lengths and lots of white space. The way it looks nice and orderly on the page, I hope, reflects the character’s pragmatic nature and hides something of the chaos and tragedy of the backstory until the reader reaches the last couple of paragraphs.
- Can you please give us a few tips about writing a 300-word flash-fiction story?
There are many experts around who can give much better advice than me! But in my experience, I usually start with a big idea and distil it down, cutting away anything that the reader will be able to fill in for themselves. If you leave enough clues about the bigger picture, one scene will tell them everything they need to know. If they have questions after reading it, that’s a good sign. You don’t have to tell the whole story. In 300 words, you just can’t.
- What's the best thing about writing competitions? Having a deadline, a motivation to finish the story, the chance of winning, getting recognised by a professional organisation, communicating with other writers or a networking opportunity to meet with like-minded people?
All of the things you’ve mentioned, absolutely. One more I would add, is that I find it really liberating to write anonymously. There’s no pressure, you can try something outside of your usual style, enter a competition you think is out of your league, put yourself out there because the story is going to get to the judge with no name on it. You don’t need a big reputation, an impressive CV or anything like that. You can just have a go. That’s the thing I like best about entering competitions.
-Lastly, do you recommend the writers to give it a go on flash fiction story and LISP?
Of course! Writing flash fiction is a great way to have some fun with your writing. And looking at the stories LISP has chosen so far, it looks as if the team are interested in reading and publishing a wide variety of styles from a diverse bunch of writers. Just look at all those different countries represented on the longlist. That’s got to be a good thing.