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Interview with Stef Smulders, The London Independent Story Prize 4th Quarter 2018 3rd Place Winner

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

I a man 58 year old Dutchman who moved to Italy with his husband and dog to start a bed and breakfast in the hills of the Oltrepò Pavese, a large but unknown wine region south of Milan.

We started our B&B Villa I Due Padroni (check it out at in 2008 to live our dream of hosting nice guests and enjoy the famous ‘dolce vita’.

- When did you start writing? How often do you write? Please feel free to mention your previously published works or awards or any other achievements in writing. We want to learn all about your writing life!

I started writing quite late, about 15 years ago and then still tentatively. I liked writing research reports in my work as an advisor very much though: composition, forming the sentences: a joy.

Once we were in Italy however, I started writing a blog about our adventures which a few years later I turned into a book. It is available in translation as Living in Italy: the Real Deal and has met with quite a good success.

After that I continues writing vignettes about my life, youth which I up until now still struggle with to turn into a book. Early this year I discovered the joy of flash fiction and I have written over 100 of these since then. A few of the English language ones I posted on Sweek (see my profile

- How did you feel when you learned that you won the 3rd Place of The London Independent Story Prize? How does it feel to have your work recognised?

Fantastic! As a writer (I still hesitate to call myself that) you are always in need of feedback and recognition to boost your confidence I think. It is the main reason to join a competition, not the prize money.

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

The best thing is that a full draft can be written in a hour or so, as I am too lazy to spend hours, days, months for a complete novel.

This also means it is easy to continue writing day after day as you start all over again each day! No more procrastination issues. In short: a great way to get started as a beginning author.

Then it takes effort to get every word, sentence, paragraph right of course.

It’s also a great exercise in writing concisely, the best there is, actually.

The most difficult but very important thing is the rhythm I think. The story has to flow and (in my case) end with a bang.

- 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?

It is one of my memories and therefore autobiographical. The work was selecting the right elements to present and put them in the best order possible.

On and off it took me a few hours to write (and translate) I guess.

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

I think you need to have very clear idea from the outset of the setting (which has to be very limited) and the ‘event’, what is going to be happening in the story (has to be limited as well).

Then you write it down in a first version without watching the word count but avoiding digressions. Then you either rework the draft after a day or so or immediately look at the word count and start cancelling out everything that is redundant.

- What's the best thing about writing competitions?

I like it when there is a theme to adhere to or a keyword to insert, as it sets your imagination in motion. Then there is the excitement of the competition of course, the recognition you would like to receive.

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

I do recommend it highly! It is a great way to learn to write concise and even better, to keep writing. Because as the saying is: A writer writes. Do it!

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