Malina Douglas, LISP 4th Quarter 2020 Official Selection, Flash Fiction
LISP 4th Quarter 2020 Official Selection, Flash Fiction, 'Brick and Mortar' by Malina Douglas
Can you please tell us about your daily life?
I love to seize the day by getting up at first light, making at big pot of tea or hot chocolate, and settling down to write.
When I'm not writing I enjoy going for walks in nature and cooking delicious meals to share with friends. I also enjoy reading and researching various time periods to weave into stories. I currently live in Goa. I run a weekly writers group and am preparing to teach an author training course.
When did you start writing? How often do you write?
I write daily on a terrace or rooftop looking out over palms, as the birds chirp and the leaves waver in the wind. Writing daily is the best way to keep the current story's momentum.
I started writing stories when I was six or seven years old. I used to fill notebooks with drawings during class until we were told to write in them. At first I resisted and kept drawing until I suddenly switched to writing and from then on I didn't want to stop. I filled up notebooks with stories, until they became one long saga of four lined spiral bound notebooks which I bound together with string. I still have them in a box somewhere.
From that time on, I knew I would be a writer.
The following year, I started making miniature books, some even thumb-sized, with the goal of building up a library. I also wrote poems and songs. I filled a notepad with poems until it got stolen out of my suitcase in a hotel room on a family holiday. After that, I didn't write poetry for a few years until eventually I began another notepad and filled it.
Over the years I wrote off and on, in between school, university, and travel.
I began to write seriously in 2012 when I moved to Bristol and have continued ever since.
As I develop as a writer, my writing grows shorter. I remember at 19 setting out to write a short story for a contest and it grew to 10,000 words. A second 'short story' became 18,000. Then 8,000 words and progressively shorter, all the way down to 300 flash pieces. I most often write stories around 5000 words.
A 300 word story I wrote was published in January by Wyldblood and can be found on their website.
While at St Michael's Mount, Cornwall, I wrote a story set on the island and created a monster to haunt it. Ancient hooded spectres called the Viscerine that pursue anyone who dares to stay there after dark, which is forbidden. The story was published in Volume II of The Monsters We Forgot anthology.
A story about a thief who swipes the smiles off peoples' faces in the back alleys of Gillingham, Kent was highly commended in the Michael Terence Short Story Prize and published in All The Things You Thought Never Mattered.
In Spring 2021, you can find stories of mine coming out in Opia and The Land Beyond the World Magazine.
How does it feel to have your work recognised?
It feels wonderful to finally get it out into the world where people can see and appreciate it. I feel like a lot of hard work is slowly paying off.
What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing a Flash-Fiction?
The hardest part is when you've written something beautiful but have gone over the word limit and have to comb through the story to choose what to take out. Sometimes it seems like it's best the way it is, but as you pick apart sentences or move sections around, you find new ways of conveying the story.
The best part is how quickly a story can come together. From the ideas flowing onto the page to the story unfolding and the editing process, trimming back words till suddenly you have a finished piece.
Unless you've gone a few words over and it's time to start combing through it again...
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 wrote Bricks and Mortar on a balcony in India, while monsoon rain fell in a curtain, silencing the world around with a pleasant hush. As the pounding of the rain grew louder I would keep writing, until it got so heavy I had to dash inside to keep my computer dry! Often a few minutes later, the rain would die down and I would move outside again, where the light was brighter and air cooler, to write until the next burst. Through this battle with the elements the story was born. I spent about a week on it.
Bricks and Mortar is the third of a series of flash fictions following a single Irish family through generations. I'd been on my third trip to Ireland the summer before.
The first story is called The Great Eraser and follows Liam's grandfather, Fergus. It takes place on a bridge in Dublin, where Fergus is standing, dropping stolen objects into the river below as a way to express his anger.
The next story moves along the family line, from their distant ancestor Conn of the Hundred Battles to Liam in the present day. It focuses on a scene when Liam was fourteen and in turmoil. Through a chance encounter with a stranger, he is given information about his family that helps him to change his life so he can break out of the patterns of rage and alcoholism of his father and grandfather.
In Bricks and Mortar, Sean's side of the story emerges as he confronts his son, Liam. I wanted to write something compact and explosive, while giving an insight into Sean's character.
The next story is in progress and tells the story of Sean's great grandfather and the conflict that drove him to fight in the Easter Rising.
Can you please give us a few tips about writing a flash-fiction story?
Writing flash fiction is quite a challenge, especially when it's condensed as small as three hundred words. Where to stop? What to leave out? Often you don't start at the beginning but in the middle.
It helps if you know a little bit beyond the narrow frame chosen for the story, but if you have too much extra material, it can be harder to cut.
It's easier if you aim to write to a certain length. Keep the length in mind as you're writing and keep track of it as the story progresses, but not so much that you disrupt the writing process. You have to find the balance between the story feeling done and ending at the correct length.
What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing competitions?
The hardest thing is figuring out what to submit where, as a piece great for one competition might not be for another. It's often unclear what the judges might like, and what one judge likes may differ wildly to the next. When the contest receives hundreds, if not thousands of high quality entries, it can seem daunting to get your story in.
The best thing is the feeling of excitement when you find out your story has been selected. Even if it isn't, it's worthwhile to learn from the experience and keep trying.
Lastly, do you recommend the writers to give it a go on LISP?
Definitely. LISP offers a great opportunity to get your work out there and join a diverse community of writers.