Michael Loveday, LISP Flash Fiction Semi-Finalist
- Can you please tell us about you? Where do you live and how is your daily life?
I live in Bath, having moved here from London in 2016. There's a more relaxed way of life here. And it helps that Bath is a hub for flash fiction (although I didn't know it before we moved here!) I have worked full-time as a writing tutor, editor and mentor since 2013. I used to do a lot of group workshops in adult education but recently I've been shifting more and more of my focus into mentoring clients one-to-one (by Skype, email and in person). I help early career writers professionalise and make more progress with their writing. It meant a lot to me to become a published author and I realised I wanted to help others to do the same.
- When did you start writing? How often do you write? We want to learn all about your writing life!
I started writing in 2001 to cheer myself up during a period of ill-health. It was a long while before I started to think of myself as "a writer" or even call myself that. Nowadays, I journal every day in the early hours of the morning for 30 minutes, as a form of self-maintenance, plus I try to work on my fiction for about 4 hrs per week on average. I rely on unusual prompts from the International Association of Journal Writers to make sure journaling never feels repetitive [https://iajw.org/]. With my more intentionally creative writing (although I'd say journaling is creative too!) I started with poetry (back in 2001). I had a poetry pamphlet published in 2011 (He Said / She Said, HappenStance Press). Around the same time I started dabbling with short prose on an MA in Writing at Kingston University - and seven years later my dissertation project became a full book of fiction - a short novel composed of linked short-short stories and prose poems (Three Men on the Edge, V. Press, 2018) which was shortlisted for the Saboteur Award for Best Novella in 2019. I do still very occasionally write poems but I'd say I'm 90% working on fiction these days.
- How did you feel when you learned that you are a Semi-Finalist on The London Independent Story Prize?
- What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing a Flash-Fiction?
Getting the words exactly right - every detail matters in flash - is both the hardest thing AND the best thing.
- 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?
It came from a writing prompt, if I remember rightly, about someone "behaving in a way that is incongruous to the situation they are in".
The prompt was from a brilliant book called The 3 a.m. Epiphany by Brian Kiteley - one of the best books I've ever encountered about writing fiction. Highly recommended! The basic bones were written very quickly, and then I tinkered with the details and individual word choices for longer. With flash fiction, "the last 20%" often takes 80% of the time!
- Can you please give us a few tips about writing a 300-word flash-fiction story?
Try to cut out all unnecessary words - keep it lean. I try also to maintain some invention and surprise in the language - a flash is close to poetry in that the rhythm and music of the sentences matters more. There are plenty of other things to think about (relating to character, story arc, and endings for example) but those are two of my guiding principles, at least.
- What's the best thing about writing competitions?
Well, competitions have become increasingly popular in recent years - especially in flash fiction, but also in poetry. I didn't use to send stories or poems to competitions, I preferred to place my stories and poems in print journals. But I feel like nowadays there's an increasing expectation that a writer should have some track record in competitions on their CV, so I've been sending out certain pieces that feel more suited to competitions. Similarly, for a few years, I've been sending out plenty of flash fictions to online magazines, whereas when I focused on poetry I only ever sent to print journals. Markets and habits change and I think it's important to adjust where appropriate. I still occasionally send flash fictions to print journals though. And only a small number of my flashes ever seem suited to sending to a competition - so the majority still go to online magazines.
-Lastly, do you recommend the writers to give it a go on flash fiction story and LISP?
LISP has established itself pretty quickly as a feature of the UK competition calendar among the flash fiction community. I'd say it's worth selecting the pieces you've written that seem more suited to being considered for a competition, and sending them out. But also being prepared for the fact that the majority of committed writers have many dozens more rejections than they have successes with competitions or magazine acceptances. It just goes with the territory. We have to dust ourselves off and go again. If we do that, there's always something around the corner to cheer us up - or bring us back down to earth!