- Can you please tell us about you? Where do you live and how is your daily life?
I live in a pleasant town called Irlam, a ward of Salford in Greater Manchester and pass my days working for a parcel company, although I do finish fairly early in the afternoon which leaves me plenty of time to lounge around reading as well as cooking for the family (I’m a great cook) and more importantly, not writing anything. Not writing anything is probably my favourite waste of time.
- When did you start writing? How often do you write? We want to learn all about your writing life!
I started writing very early, I remember knocking up poems and stories all through school then after a (lengthy) period of doing very little, I worked for myself for many years doing various things, most of which involved a lot of technical writing. Somehow, I ended up founding a community news magazine (M44 News) which again needed a lot of copy, so I guess I’ve always gravitated towards making things out of words. Eventually I finished my English degree with the Open University about 7 years ago, and I started writing fiction, especially Flash when I closed the magazine, started a Masters (still unfinished) and got a proper job in 2015. I’ve been lucky enough to get published in a few places I really admire since, like the Bath Flash Fiction Anthology 2016, National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2017 and Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine and places online like Jelly Fish Review and Ellipsis Zine and now LISP. I think goal wise, I’d just like to set more time aside to write or be a bit more efficient and stop staring out of windows, maybe then I can finish my Masters and also, a big goal is just to keep trying to improve my writing, which takes practice and hard work, and a lot of reading. There’s so much excellent stuff out there to read, I could do with another 24 hours a day.
- How did you feel when you learned that you are on the Recommended List of The London Independent Story Prize? How does it feel to have your work recognised?
Delighted, and a little bit surprised. I sent 3 pieces in I think, and I didn’t expect this one to place. Having your work recognised is a huge confidence boost, it really does mean a lot. Writing can feel very insular at times, like you’re just shouting at an empty room, so it’s always encouraging when somebody answers you back.
- What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing a Flash-Fiction?
The best thing is the speed a flash can take to write. Like most people, I seem to only have shorter segments of time available, I’ve got a stack of unfinished longer stories which I never seem to get round to working on but you can draft a flash in half and hour and put it away to work on later. It hits a sweet spot for me, between poetry and the short story, and uses elements of both I like. You need the conciseness and weight of each word, with more space to fill the narrative. I love writing flash, it feels like a natural and easy medium to work in. The hardest – writing something good! I guess it’s a bit like Poker – easy to learn but difficult to master. Editing is key, and even though you can draft something in half an hour, I can spend months tweaking a couple of hundred words.
- 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?
Unfortunately the idea behind the story was the attack in Manchester last year, a truly senseless, tragic thing which is hard to reconcile or understand. I was working late and watched the first reports come in, various news feeds and live social media. I think my partner had been to the Arena the weekend before watching Take That with her friends and family so, I mean – it could have been anyone it was so close to home, and I remember watching it and the reporter instinct kicked in and I started making transcripts from the live feeds and Facebook posts, the tweets and press releases and interviews. Afterwards, I put the file away and didn’t look at it for a long time then, when the anniversary was coming up, I looked over the stuff I’d kept and started working on it, to try and distil it into how I was feeling about the events. It’s impossible for me to imagine the pain of people closely affected but I wanted to shape what I had into something more defined. Manchester came from that process.
- Can you please give us a few tips about writing a 300-word flash-fiction story?
Flash is a funny thing to pin down. It can be anything, really. The smallest thing can provide inspiration, and I keep a scrap book file of possible prompts / flashes which I dip into when I need a boost or I’ve hit a block. Another tip I suppose is avoiding clichés and over used ideas, I read for a competition recently and there were loads of stories about crazy Presidents. Changing perspective is another helpful way to give a piece a kick up the backside. For instance I wrote Manchester in the first person originally, but found the distance of 2nd person worked better. It’s just a case of trial and error sometimes. Another tip is getting people to read your stuff, people who will be honest and critical. Finding a good reading group is a massive help – I don’t have one at the moment, but when I’ve had them on side, it makes things a hell of a lot easier. Another thing, and I know this is a common tip – with Flash especially, it’s all about the spaces you leave; the things you leave unsaid are the things which resonate loudest after your reader has finished the story. There is skill to this, a definite lightness of touch and if I figure out how to do it well, I’ll let you know.
- 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 those things. I like both the competitive side and the deadlines – deadlines get stuff done. If I didn’t have one, I‘d never finish anything. I had the LISP on my radar from last year, after reading some of the stories on the site, and following them you on social media. I marked it on a calendar and thought, I’ll go for that next year,. There are so many good competitions out there for Flash, and it’s turned into a very supportive, energetic community. I know how many people are writing and submitting, so it can be a bit daunting, but the pay-off is great. Being part of that community and getting your work recognised is what drives me I guess. Special thanks too to LISP and other sites who run competitions like this – it’s a lot of work and really appreciated.
-Lastly, do you recommend the writers to give it a go on flash fiction story and LISP?
100% Get writing and get it sent. If you don’t, you’ll never win.