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Interview with Marissa Hoffmann, The London Independent Story Prize, 4th Quarter 2018, Recommended W

Can you please tell us about you?

Thank you so much for the exciting news. I’m delighted to be on the recommended list and gobsmacked. I’m English but I’ve been living and working around the world for twenty two years. These days I am based in a small town in the Swiss Alps with my family.

When did you start writing?

I’ve played with the idea of writing for so many years and dreamed of a bookish life for as long as I can remember. But I’ve held myself back, always considering writing to be an incredible indulgence of my time, drawing me from my responsibilities. It took a huge recent shake up in my life to push me so in February, I decided to set regular time aside to read and to write. I was guided by a wise writer friend who said, ‘just write.’ It dawned on me, that I wasn’t. I feel more like myself for writing. It has been an uplifting ten months with a win at AdHoc fiction, long listings at TSSPublishing Flash400 and Reflex, and a Short List at Bath Flash Fiction Award which resulted in my story The Chalk Line appearing in the anthology Things Left and Found by the Side of the Road.

How did you feel when you learned that you are on the Highly Recommended List of The London Independent Story Prize? How does it feel to have your work recognised?

It’s completely amazing and I’m blown away. I’m really looking forward to reading the winning stories, there is always so much to learn, and I enjoying the supportive Twitter community that emerges when results are announced. I like to express to writers when I enjoy their work. I’m on Twitter @Hoffmannwriter. Appearing on The LISP Recommended List really is a fantastic end to my first year of writing.

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

I enjoy the hybrid nature of flash. It’s with flash that I can play with poetry and facts and complete fiction all in one space. I love words and enjoy arranging them around spaces where there is no room for waffle. I think of it as a chance to step into shoes and walk, or possibly hop. It’s also a socially acceptable way of wearing my heart on my sleeve. The hardest part I’d say is the subjectivity of it all, and with that, the necessity to have thick skin or believe in what you do 100%.

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?

My stories always begin from what I think of as a little yeast starter in a bakery. I keep a notebook with me for things that pop into my head in daily life or whilst reading, and for things that won’t leave my head. At the risk of over using the bakery analogy, my ideas then ferment, and I knead them and roll them around and around. Some stories need proving for weeks or months. This story allowed me to explore behaviour. I feel there are people I regularly encounter who battle with a sense of loneliness, people who are very rarely alone.

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

I haven’t been asked to give a tip before. It might not work for everyone, but I’ve realised recently my best results come when I work with a single live draft. If I delete, I take the chance I may regret that decision, but I feel sure that I’d be able to remember anything good and it would find its way back if it needed to. In the past I might have worked with various versions, but working with one active story helps to maintain a voice.

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?

So far I’ve used competitions as a filter, as a way of trying to assess if anyone likes what I’m producing. I like having a schedule of competitions to write for. I had been writing in a vacuum and it’s only this year I’ve felt brave enough in the anonymity of submitting to competitions. I’m someone who doesn’t accept compliments easily, so a listing in a competition is something I can accept.

Lastly, do you recommend that writers give it a go with a flash fiction story and LISP?

Absolutely because if nothing else, if you love writing, you’ll be doing it.

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