Brendan Thomas, Flash Fiction Semi-Finalist, LISP 2nd Quarter 2020
I am originally from Dublin but moved to San Francisco in 1995. I was an Accountant by profession but I'm retired now. I began writing 3 years ago with my wifes encouragement. I started with short stories and found 300 word flash fiction late last year. I've been writing only flash fiction since then.
-Can you please tell us about your daily life?
Nothing extraordinary. I was fortunate to retire and spend time with my kids while they were still young. They're college age now so I have more time to engage my own interests. I'm an avid vegan (groan) and golfer (louder groan). Now I write also. I get to spend more time with my wife and dog and none of it is fuel for writing. Growing up in Ireland during the Troubles, and when the Church's influence was still strong, has significantly influenced my writing. I find those conflicts and influences seeping into my stories and story choices constantly, and to a certain extent influencing my life choices. I see travel in my future.
-When did you start writing? How often do you write?
I mentioned that I started to write 3 years ago. Late last year I started a collection of 300 flash fiction stories of 300 words or less, each with an historic reference. The two semi-finalist stories are from that collection. Because of the virus lockdown I've been able to write almost every day and have continued to carve out time to do that. I find it easier to write when I have a focus and daily or weekly goals. Last year one of my short stories was shortlisted for the Martin Crawford Prize in Belfast which was a huge confidence boost. Since then I've been published on a few smaller Flash websites.
-How does it feel to have your work recognized?
To be honest it feels great. This morning I was beaming when I opened your email. Writing is tough as is any creative activity. You're surrounded by so much unrecognized talent that you read and think WOW, I wish I could write like that. You experience a moment of joy when your sister or friend enjoys a piece you thrust upon them so when LISP acknowledges something you've written it gives you energy for the coming weeks and words.
-What's the best and worst thing about flash fiction?
The best thing about flash fiction is finishing a piece that satisfies you. It's as much a discipline as an art in my opinion. You've added that little extra element of difficulty by restricting yourself to 300 words while still wanting to produce a meaningful and interesting piece - 301 words is 1 too many, take one out without impacting the story. The worst thing about flash fiction is again likely the same as other creative pursuits. The blank page at the beginning, sitting there, and challenging you to be interesting.
-How did you come up with your LISP selected story? Is there a story behind your story? How long have you been working on it?
Yousafzai came about from my son doing his homework. I'd just read an article about Malala, and he was doing his math homework and the story started from there. It's the only time I've written a piece from start to finish without blinking, and I only made one small edit. It won't happen again. The Quarterback was the opposite. I was writing a group of Kamikaze stories for my story collection and trying to approach the subject from every angle. A mother's grief is hard to articulate. I'm a member of a writing group called "The Writers Tribe" and they had ideas how to work through the story. I re-edited a number of times and it took me several months of revisiting to be happy with it, so two very different experiences.
-A few tips about writing a 300 word flash fiction?
Story is everything for me. I want it to be a story, not a moment or an emotion. So I focus on the story. If I've captured that I work through the challenge of pruning back to 300 words. Sometimes you say the same thing twice without realizing it so line by line, word by word. It's just hard work. Sometimes it's harder if you have words to play with. With 300 words every word is meaningful which everyone will say but it's the challenge of the medium. And practice.
-What's the best thing and worst thing about writing competitions?
The best thing just happened to me. Thank you. The worst thing is believing in a piece, sending it into the competition world and it not being recognized and you're not sure why. Why wasn't it good enough, how could it be better? The lack of feedback is harder than the disappointment.
-Do you recommend writers to give flash fiction stories and LISP a try?
I love the 300 word format. It's captivated me since I tried it for the first time. So many skills come into play. At a minimum flash fiction will advance your editing skills and improve your writing efficiency which you can take into other preferred mediums, and you may even fall in love with it like I have. Having a platform for 300 word flash is fantastic and LISP is such a well regarded competition. Each competition has its own personality and different people in the 300 world view flash differently. Some see it as an extension of poetry, some value words over story and in my opinion LISP values both story and words which I believe to be the most honest approach and I will continue to support LISP.