-Can you please tell us about your daily life?
I live in Warwickshire with my partner and two daughters. For the past year I have been studying for an MA in Creative Writing at The University of Leicester, after being made redundant from British Airways. I was Cabin crew for over twenty years!
I loved being a student but have now graduated and am currently job-hunting which is both exciting and terrifying.
-When did you start writing? How often do you write?
From an early age, I adored books, reading was always my means of escape but as a working-class kid growing up in the North - East, authors were like magical unicorns, not something I could ever aspire to be. I wrote… short stories, birthday ditties for friends, endless journals, letters and emails to various pen pals, but I never thought of myself as an actual writer until very recently.
For my fortieth birthday, post-new-born baby, bored, tired and crotchety, I decided, on a whim, to sign up for a Creative Writing Course with The Open University. I was soon hooked. I returned to work and completed my degree by writing assignments in hotel rooms around the world. It took me six years, but I eventually graduated with a First and now I can’t imagine not writing. I was recently made redundant, so I took the opportunity to further my studies and completed my MA at the beginning of this year. Over the past few years, I have been writing steadily and am proud to have had work published in literary magazines such as Virtualzine, Another North, Spelk, Cabinet of Heed and Reflex Fiction. I have also been shortlisted in various competitions, including The Ellipsiszine Flash Collection Competition, The Exeter Short Story Prize, the Spread the Word Life-Writing Prize and The Fish Publishing Memoir prize. A real highlight for me this year was receiving a Pushcart Nomination from Lunate Literary Magazine for my story ‘None of Them Say You’.
I try to write weekly but with a young family it’s not always possible and I’ve learnt not to berate myself if life gets in the way. Often I write in bursts, I’m always keen to get a full draft of anything down before I stop, not a method I’d recommend as its quite exhausting! But I do find it difficult to pause mid-way through a piece. I may need to adjust my methods when I start writing novels!
-How Does it Feel to have your work recognised?
It’s always surprising and wonderful! Writing is so solitary, to have some validation is lovely.
-What’s the best thing and hardest thing about writing Flash Fiction?
If you are working on a singular flash (not a collection), the best thing is that there is no complex planning required. You have a thought, image, idea and off you go. The hardest part, of course, is conveying that idea effectively with such a tiny word count!
-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 was brought up on the North-East coast so many of my stories and ideas feature the sea. I suppose I always have a subconscious yearning for ‘home’. This particular story started life in a Smokelong Quarterly Workshop. We were encouraged to write from the heart, a compelling narrative without being overwrought or sentimental. As is often the case with flash, once I focussed on the overriding theme, the story seemed to write itself. I then left it to settle a while and came back a few months later to edit. I used to have a terrible habit of sending out work way too early, but I’ve since learnt to let things simmer and go back with fresh eyes.
-Can you please give us a few tips about writing a 300-word flash-fiction story?
I still consider myself a ‘new’ flash writer, I’m learning all the time. The best advice I can give is to read as much flash as you can. Not just fiction but CNF and also essays on crafting flash. If you know the rules, you can then feel more confident about breaking them. Be brave, be weird, with your subject matter and structure if you want to, but don’t do that simply for the sake of standing out. I think a good flash must always have some kind of emotional resonance.
-What’s the best thing and the hardest thing about writing competitions?
Competitions are always a bit of a double-edged sword. It’s really wonderful when you are listed or placed in a competition because you have a sense of validation. I’m always elated when it happens! Conversely, if you have something you’ve worked tirelessly on and it doesn’t make a list it can be really disheartening, especially if you are new to competition writing. I try to remember that writing really is so subjective. If your piece doesn’t feature this time around, polish it up and send it elsewhere. I do know many writers who focus primarily on publication and rarely enter competitions, so my advice is just do what works best for you.
-Lastly, do you recommend the writers to give it a go on flash fiction story and LISP?
I really do! I was truly surprised and delighted to see my story make the semi-finals. It’s wonderful that LISP focuses on giving writers a platform to showcase their work and connect with new readers.