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Yvonne Clark, Short Story Finalist, LISP 2nd Quarter 2020

- Can you please tell us about your daily life? In my daily life I am a teacher of English as a Second Language in a secondary school. I have been teaching ESL for twenty years now and it is both rewarding and fascinating, as well as keeping me on my grammatical toes! Prior to this I was a freelance copy editor for a major publishing company and I wrote book blurbs ad infinitum – I think this is where my skills in writing short, concise work must have been honed. I also worked as a content editor for Pearson Education – coming up with original material for comprehension and vocabulary exercises was really challenging but again, good practice for story writing.

- When did you start writing? How often do you write?  I only started writing in September 2019, when I reduced my teaching hours and attended an excellent flash fiction course held in Chichester by Ruth Brandt. This really inspired me and I started writing daily, just in small bursts. At first the ideas came thick and fast, so I jotted them down straight away and then took (much) more time to work through and refine them. I never force a routine on myself – sometimes I don’t write for a week. I always seem to have a list of potential titles waiting for attention. When I’m not writing I’m cycling, gardening or baking.

To date I’ve been shortlisted by Reedsy, runner up in the short story competition held by the Broadway Arts Festival and had some of my flash fiction published by 101 Words, Storgy, Paragraph Planet and Flash Fiction North. - What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing a Short Story?  The best thing about writing a short story is the immediate feeling of satisfaction when you finish – I admire writers who produce a full-length novel and have to go through the agony of rejection. Such a big investment. How do they let go of their ‘baby’? The challenge of short story writing is to keep the readers’ interest while being concise with words; letting go of some phrases you really want to use if they’re not necessary to the plot. Be ruthless!

-  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 don’t really know what inspired me to write The Onion Johnny. A love of food and France, perhaps, and also a need to write something gentler after producing some gritty, dark stories. I originally wrote this in January this year, editing and reediting over about two months.

- Can you please give us a few tips about writing a 1500-word short story? My biggest tip for writing a short story is to revisit and revisit again. I ALWAYS find something I can improve on every few days. I am an inveterate editor!

- What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing competitions?  The hardest thing about writing competitions is that it’s impossible to second-guess a judge’s personal preferences. However good you think your story is, it just might not rock their boat. The benefits of writing competitions are enormous though; it gives you a discipline and a goal to aim for, and of course the enormous satisfaction from achieving recognition which inspires you to carry on. It’s easy to lose confidence in yourself if you aren’t successful, but I would say always keep going. Subscribe to a quality organisation such as LISP, which not only holds competitions but also supports a community of writers with blogs and newsletters.



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