Interview with Madeleine Hamley, The London Independent Story Prize 2nd Quarter Highly Recommended W
- Can you please tell us about you?
I'm a 26-year-old bilingual English-German translator (and soon to be PhD student in Biology) just about still living in Cologne, Germany. At the moment most of my days are spent organising my upcoming PhD position and the associated move, but the spare time I have is spent writing flash fiction, singing, gaming, or playing violin. Sometimes I even get actual work done!
- When did you start writing? How often do you write? We want to learn all about your writing life!
Aside from a few unique attempts at writing as a teenager, I first became interested in writing in November 2016 during National Novel Writing Month, then moved on to Flash Fiction after stumbling on Christopher Fielden's list of flash fiction challenges (http://www.christopherfielden.com/short-story-tips-and-writing-advice/flash-fiction-competitions.php). The overall challenge of telling a story in as few words as possible inspired me to enter a number of his in-house (on-website?) contests, now partially published in anthologies (such as Sensorially Challenged Vol. 1, Adverbially Challenged Vol. 3, and Nonsensically Challenged Vol. 2), and to try my hand at others on the list - including the London Independent Story Prize!
- 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?
It came as quite a surprise, since I'd entered my story when the contest first opened in early February, but was hugely motivating coming right in the middle of a very work-intensive phase, when I was not sure I'd manage to keep up my writing habit. The confirmation that people actually enjoy the stories I write gives me a warm, fuzzy glow usually only achieved by watching videos of adorable pets, or drinking hard liquor.
- What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing a Flash-Fiction?
Oddly enough, it's the same thing - finding the best way to tell a story in the shortest amount of words. Once you have a story in your head, it can be incredibly difficult to let go off all the intricate details, or even kill off non-essential characters you've fallen in love with. But seeing the word count just tick under the minimum is even more satsfying. Besides, those cut details and characters could always return for a different story.
- 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?
Most female gamers I know have had a similar chat conversation the moment their gender was revealed. It only rarely happened to me, thankfully, and was never as disruptive as it ends up in the story, but did occasionally result in unwanted (often sexual) comments and invitations to meet up. Not a pleasant experience for a then 14-year-old girl just trying to play a game.
The story went few a couple of iterations, some with other characters stepping in, others with more commentary from the narrator, but I feel this version most accurately represents how conversations like this can go - one-sided, with little to no involvement from outside, and ultimately easily ignored.
- Can you please give us a few tips about writing a 300-word flash-fiction story?
Even for the first draft, keep an eye on the wordcount. Feel free to tell a few words more than you need to on the first draft, but don't overdo it. Cutting down a 1000-word story to 300 words is undoubtedly an interesting challenge, but that's a lot of unneccessary pain when cutting all those beautiful descriptions.
I usually write in the evening and edit in the morning, i.e. Sleep on the first draft before editing - a fresh mind might see inconsistencies where a tired mind didn't.
- What's the best thing about writing competitions?
To me, competitions give me a goal to work towards (including a deadline to keep) and often a prompt from which to start a new story. It's a chance to get the tales you tell out into the world, where people will (hopefully) enjoy them and even feel inspired to create something of their own.
-Lastly, do you recommend the writers to give it a go on flash fiction story and LISP?
Absolutely! If you have a computer and input system, some paper and a writing tool, or any other medium to put words on some surface, give writing a story a go and send it in - you never know what might become of it!