Melissa Ganendran, Highly Recommended Writer, LISP 1st Half 2019
-Can you please tell us about you? Where do you live and how is your daily life?
I live in Kent with my husband and work in a part time administrative role for the NHS which I really enjoy. Other than writing, my hobbies include meditation, mindfulness, reiki, exploring gardens and nature, and of course reading. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease a little over two years ago and have been struggling with my health ever since, but it’s gradually coming under control. It’s been an “interesting” journey to say the least, but all writers know that experiences, whether good or bad, help to develop you as a person and as a result, your creative work.
- When did you start writing? How often do you write? We want to learn all about your writing life!
Like most writers, I always enjoyed creating stories as a child. However, it was only about 8 years ago that I really started to spend more time on it and felt the urge to begin writing books. I have self-published several books on Amazon, predominantly mysteries/adventures for young adults. I love self-publishing because I can write exactly what I enjoy, and I don’t like being told to do things a certain way! As Cyril Connolly once said, “Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self!” My latest book came out in May this year and was a collaborative project with my husband called The Porcelain Cat: A Detective Amarnath Mystery, which introduces an unconventional duo of an Indian detective and his female assistant against the backdrop of Victorian London. I love experimenting with different genres and trying new styles, and I still have a long way to go with improving characterisation and dialogue, so those are elements I want to focus on next. Recently I have particularly enjoyed writing short stories and this year I have been delighted to achieve the following:
Shortlisted for the Lapidus International short story competition, “A Moment of Kindness”
Shortlisted for the Flash500 short story competition
Shortlisted for the Writers Forum competition
And of course, being on the Highly Recommend List of the London Independent Story Prize!
- 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 is a wonderful feeling to learn that people have read your work and enjoyed it so much that it has made the Highly Recommended List, so I was incredibly pleased and proud. When you start to be shortlisted and recognised in competitions, it really does give you the encouragement and confidence boost you need to continue improving your writing and submitting it.
- What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing a Flash-Fiction?
I love the challenge of telling a story in so few words; it’s very satisfying. I like to be concise and if you can do it in 300 words, why use more? It’s fascinating the way a Flash Fiction piece can give the reader a brief but vividly intriguing glimpse into another world for just a short time. I find the hardest part is choosing a subject which is just the right size and shape to grab the reader’s attention, tell a story, and yet perhaps leave something unanswered at the end.
- 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 liked the idea of exploring tales and superstitions from a culture with which I was unfamiliar, and my interest had been piqued by a story about my in-laws. Some members of the family had always been warned that women and children should never look at an urn full of ashes when it is brought over the threshold into a home after a funeral. The reason for this wasn’t entirely clear, but I thought it would make a tantalising premise for a short story which would leave the answer to the reader’s imagination. Although the family’s culture is different from the one I eventually wrote about, I felt these kinds of beliefs could be much more prevalent than I realised, so I built up a story around it.
- Can you please give us a few tips about writing a 300-word flash-fiction story?
Don’t feel that you have to answer everything and leave no loose ends. I think Flash Fiction style stories are often more gripping when the reader is left with questions and continues to think about it afterwards. Also, a story can be made out of almost anything, even something ostensibly mundane – it’s how it’s told that matters. Some people find it better to write the story they want then cut it down to size, but personally that doesn’t work for me. I tend to set out with the 300 word limit at the forefront of my mind, so I know that the beginning can be roughly 100 words, then the middle can be around 150, and the “end” about 50. Of course, the beauty of such a short medium means it doesn’t necessarily need to have an end, or even a traditional format at all, so the best thing to do is experiment and see what works. Finally, I’d say write about what speaks to you, rather than second-guessing what the judges want to read. That way, it will reflect your authentic voice and you will be much happier with the result.
- 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?
Having a deadline is very helpful as it can give you something to work towards and sometimes even a set theme to get you started. It’s motivational to know that you’re writing for a specific purpose and of course, the chance of being recognised by the organisation can give a real burst of energy for creating and showing your best work.
-Lastly, do you recommend other writers to give it a go on flash fiction story and LISP?
Absolutely. Flash Fiction is very fun to write and if you find yourself struggling with longer short stories, as I often do, then why not try something a little different? You might find Flash Fiction becomes your new favourite genre and LISP is a great competition to enter. The more you write, the more you will learn about your own style and how you can improve.