I live in West Sussex (that’s England, y’all!), about 200 metres from the “English” Channel. Still prone to procrastination. Still unemployed, so free to spend most of my time entering flash fiction contests in an effort to improve my writing – seems to have paid off – again! Pedant and stickler for punctuation (see below). Oh, also quite tall (see photo).
100 words ain’t many. How do you fit a story into so few words? Often, I just stick to dialogue. For Micro Bookends, I see what I can do creatively with the opening word – that gives me a start; the closing word gives me something to work towards. I fill out the middle with verbiage, then prune drastically. Sometimes, by accident, I’m left with the spaces that the reader has to fill in to complete the story.
Why do you like flash fiction? It imposes limits and prevents me running off at the mouth. Plus, I can produce something I’m happy with in a relatively short timeframe. I don’t read quickly – can’t skim, need to digest every word – so flash fiction is a nice easy read for me.
Been writing long? A friend invited me to a monthly writers’ group in late 2013; then I added a fortnightly group in mid 2014. At the end of September , I discovered flash fiction contests on the web and have been trying to enter as often as I can.
You write anything else? I adapted a pantomime that was performed several years back; I have three unfinished pantomimes of my own as WIPs. Procrastination…
Any advice for other flash writers? Read a lot, write a lot, check out the work of the winners of online contests – not necessarily mine! I think that the only way to improve is to keep plugging away. Oh, and read through your work several times before submitting, to avoid silly miskates!
Any interesting writerly projects in the pipeline? Just more flash fiction. And those unfinished pantos.
I just finished reading a book. Can you recommend another? Many amateur flash fiction writers don’t punctuate well which distracts me from appreciating their intended meaning. (This week’s bugbear is the lack of a comma before the name of a person directly addressed: compare the difference between “Call me Ishmael.” and “Call me, Ishmael.”) I’m no expert, so I bought Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss – a humorous overview of this topic.
A Winter’s Tale
“‘Catch me? You couldn’t catch a cold!’ Remember you used to tease me with that when we played tag as kids?”
My breath condensed into clouds in the railyard where I’d found him . I cradled Benjy in my lap as he stared into the distance, eyes like glass beads.
The syringe fell from his arm.
I thought my older brother was too wasted to hear my words, until I heard him whisper, “Momma always said life was like a box of chocolates: when you reach the bottom, you don’t have many choices.”
“Yeah, man.” I choked, a tear rolling down my cheek. “She always was good for a memorable phrase.”
The photo prompt was dominant this week, conjuring up a tragic scenario.
Looking up the different uses of the opening bookend to find a jumping-off point is my normal tactic, but this week I was in a hotel in Warwick for a wedding the next day – writing in bed, trying not to disturb my wife… so I went with what popped into my head!
I like to come up with alternative endings to that Forrest Gump catchphrase – too much time on my hands; the one I used tied in with a drug addict’s grim lifestyle.
Having read recently that an author needs to carry one around, I bough a notebook for £1.50 from Tesco. It has a Mark Twain quote on the cover: “Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.”
Simple as that. Anyone could do it!
What I Taught My Daughter About Dating
“’Rating’? No, it should be ‘dating’.”
I was looking over Hannah’s school essay about my work as a palaeontologist.
Fossilised dinosaur bones are found only in sedimentary rock. Researchers have to find adjacent layers that include igneous rock; radiometric dating can determine their age.
“They’re like bookends, indicating the start and end of the period when the sedimentary rock formed.”
I’d also explained how I use a rock hammer to dig out fossil bones. Bobby must have overheard.
Downstairs, he’d covered the carpet with dinosaur models and coal from the Aga and was using our finest dessert spoons to recreate the scene.
Thinking of Eve’s reaction convulsed my digestive system.
Tricky bookends this time, especially the opening RATING: most entries went with it as a synonym of ‘valuing’ or ‘ranking’. I decided to treat it as a typo for ‘dating’ which, together with the dinosaurs in the photo prompt, led me to radiometric dating. This required some research where I found a reference to adjacent igneous rock layers being “like bookends” – a pleasing serendipity! Checking the judge’s blog revealed Rasha’s love of palindromes; so I chose palindromic names for the two female characters, as well as the coal-burning stove!
“‘Meat store’, Grampy?” she said. “Thought you wuz a veti-…”
“Vegetarian. I am, Becca. What have you found?”
He saw the creased Polaroid, its faded hand-written caption, and his heart flipped.
“It… it says ‘Me at store’, sweetie,” he managed to whisper. “That’s me on the cart.”
“The boys have funny hats,” she giggled. “They school uniform?”
“A uniform of sorts. I used to be Amish.”
“Army? You were a soldier?”
He smiled wrily. “No, Becca, just the opposite.”
Turning over the photo Kathryn had secretly given him that day, he saw again the phone number she’d written.
He’d known even then.
One day he would have to break free.
I like to play with words, so “MEAT” led me to “ME AT…”. I know a little about The Amish from “Witness” and a couple of documentaries on TV. I wondered who might have taken the photo, given that Amish people don’t go in for that kind of thing.