- Can you please tell us about you? Where do you live and how is your daily life?
I live in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Lake Geneva, near where Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. I like to think her creative inspiration floats through the air here. Also, I’m in London, California, and Florida as often as possible.
- When did you start writing? How often do you write? We want to learn all about your writing life!
I began writing at nine. I got halfway through an orange notepad writing a story about the world’s sudden abundance of the color orange -- this was the ‘70s, so it was nonfiction! Sadly, I lost that marvellous unfinished book. Now I write every day, whether it’s a tweet or poem or a short story. I love editing too. I’ve got two novels published: Rapeseed (2013) about a synesthete American expat in London, and Mailbox: A Scattershot Novel of Racing, Dares and Danger, Occasional Nakedness, and Faith (2015). Also, in 2014 I published Global Home Cooking with 140 recipes from 41 countries to support the Tanzanian scholarship girls at the International School of Lausanne. A true labor of love! My most recent honor before this LISP recognition was Louis De Bernieres awarding one of my short stories the second place fiction prize at Cambridge. Oh yeah, I didn’t mention yet that at age 53, I’m back in school doing a Masters in Creative Writing. Never too late! It’s a huge challenge and excellent fun.
- 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?
Awesome and awesome. That’s not to be flippant. That’s really the word, both times. We spend so much time as writers, solo, silently whittling away at what we hope will communicate what we aim for – it’s wonderful when our work connects successfully with a reader.
- What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing a Flash-Fiction?
The constraints of flash are demanding but liberating – like so many constraints are! I love photography too -- also containing an intriguing narrative in a tight space. With good flash fiction and good photos and poetry, there’s always more to the story than what you actually see on the page.
- 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?
Stories usually begin one of two ways for me – with a title or with an image. With Anaconda, it was both. I’d just finished a story called Balaclava and was on a four-syllable-single-word roll – and the word Anaconda wouldn’t leave me alone. The image was the lightbulb in the snake tank at night and the nearly naked deadbeat boyfriend on the mattress. I will play with a story for a while – a few weeks for flash, usually. If a particular line I love emerges, I keep at the story. For Anaconda my don’t-give-up-on-me line was that the whole apartment smelled like snake. It made the story visceral for me. Smells often do that. Faulkner’s writing advice to kill your darlings… Well, If I have a powerful darling in a flash that refuses to die, I work harder to keep it, and to make the story work with it. It’s “don’t kill this line or this story, darling”.
- Can you please give us a few tips about writing a 300-word flash-fiction story?
The great thing about flash is how much you don’t say. It’s like a great conversation with someone super interesting who’s in a hurry, and you only get the gist of their story – or you only get to share the gist of yours. Flash leaves you eager for more – eager to see that friend again. It satisfies and there’s a subtle sense of closure, but also, it whets the appetite.
- 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 the above. If my comparison of flash fiction to a great (short!) conversation resonates, then a writing competition like LISP has to be the place you run into that great friend and keep your intellectual connection alive and inspired. It’s like the life-giving water cooler at work. Write all the time, but it’s important to try to reach readers sometimes too.
-Lastly, do you recommend the writers to give it a go on flash fiction story and LISP?
One hundred per cent!