Creative Flash Fiction Comp Winners

Oh my goodness what a difficult task. I’ve selected 3 winners and 3 runners up for this particular competition but there was a hair’s breath between the winners and those not chosen this time. I hope you enjoyed the challenge and come back for more. I hope to see some of you who’ve just started trying out flash fiction participating in #Fridayflash in the future.

Book winners: Email me at Alison at Brierwell dot com with your email address or postal address as required. Thank you and well done to all!


Alvy Carragher wins Frisky Business (please email with your postal address)

Annie Dyer wins 52FF and Clodagh Murphy wins Kettle of Fish (let me know your email address and if you have a Kindle or other e-reader or else I will send a version that can be read on Kindle app on computer)

Runners Up:

Steve Walker wins Stories to read on the train

Jayne Baldwin wins Stories to make you go ‘ah’

Gerry O’ Donnell wins Stories to make you go ‘ooh’

(let me know your email address (mail Alison at brierwell dot com and if you have a Kindle or other e-reader or else I will send a version that can be read on Kindle app on computer)

31 Days: Incubation and how to find your novel’s Eureka moment

This series of articles running through January will explore ways of keeping our head above water in physical, mental, emotional and creative areas. There will be creative challenges, competitions and giveaways. For the full background see here.

To receive all the 31 posts, sign up for email notification on the sidebar. On twitter it’s at @31HAW or @alisonwells. Hashtag  #31haw and #headabovewater.


We’ve all heard of the famous Eureka moment when Archimedes was said to have stepped into a bath and realised how to calculate the volume of irregular objects (since the volume of water displaced was the same as their volume.) Apparently he jumped out of the bath and ran down the streets of Syracuse naked.

You might not want to do just that but writers, especially of longer works are often faced with knotty problems that sometimes are not easily solved. Writer’s sometimes describe themselves as plotters or pantser (making it up as they go along) but in any creative endeavour there are often elements that need to slot into place before the whole makes a leap forward and becomes something cohesive and multi-layered.

We’ve talked already, and you’ve given your own examples about how walking and running can aid in the process of untangling plot points and forming new ideas. We’ve heard how novelist John Boyne found a whole plot within an hours walk.

When we are busy and addled, how can we find the space in our heads to let innovative connections form, and pieces of the puzzle fit? The tunnel vision of stress counteracts the creative process, also focus and absorption can help it. Repetitive and somewhat mindless activities such as brushing the floor or cleaning windows might free the mind (a good reason to do housework!).


The unconscious process which engenders our best ideas is called psychologists term incubation. I’ve blogged at length about incubation in a previous post, so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel. I said…

Psychological research has identified incubation as one of the key elements in creativity. Incubation is defined as ‘a process of unconscious recombination of thought elements that were stimulated through conscious work at one point in time, resulting in novel ideas at some later point in time’ [2]. Seabrook Rachel, Dienes Zoltan (2003). Incubation in Problem Solving as a context Effect (Wiki)

Incubation is the period between your conscious and practical outlining of your piece and the point where you come up with the hook or the usual slant on your proposed story. It’s the time when all your ideas mingle and coalesce and form unusual associations.

Please go on to read the full Incubation post here

Our slightly geeky and aspergian family tremendously enjoys the comedy show The Big Bang Theory. In this clip, Sheldon, the ‘genius’ physicist takes on what he considers a ‘mind numbing, pedestrian job,’ in order to give space to his musings on a physics problem. Worth a look!


Which activities have helped you incubate and find your Eureka moments? Let us know in the comments.

Flash fiction Creative Comp

Don’t forget the 31/131 word creative challenge. Winners will be chosen Sunday 5th. Please comment on your favourite entries. Thank you!

#Fridayflash 31 (0r 131) Word Creative Flash Fiction Comp

This series of articles running through January will explore ways of keeping our head above water in physical, mental, emotional and creative areas. There will be creative challenges, competitions and giveaways. For the full background see here.

To receive all the 31 posts, sign up for email notification on the sidebar. On twitter it’s at @31HAW or @alisonwells. Hashtag  #31haw and #headabovewater.

31 (0r 131) Word Creative Flash Fiction Comp

Write a short fiction of either 31 or 131 words (loosely) using inspiration from this line ‘The woods were silent, not even the twitter of a bird’ but not including those exact words. You can be as left field as you like, the more innovative the better.

Post your responses in the comments. I’ll leave the entries open until Sunday evening at 8pm here (GMT)

NB: ADDENDUM I’ll announce the winners in Monday’s post!

As this competition is about just getting yourself to be creative I will randomly pick three winners of the prizes 52FF by Marc Nash, Kettle of Fish by Ali Bacon and Clodagh Murphy’s Frisky Business.

Although, this time, the winners will be picked randomly, it would be great if you appreciate someone else’s story for you to mention it to them in the comments.

#Fridayflash – Take it to another level

As I explained in yesterday’s post #fridayflash on Twitter has been the single most inspiring creative activity I’ve participated in since I began writing seriously. So now that you have written a story why don’t you share it more widely? If you have a blog and are on twitter you can post your story on the blog, then tweet a link to it with the #fridayflash hashtag. You also add it to a directory of stories here, which is another way that people can find it. Writers on #fridayflash are supportive and enjoy the innovation of each others work. So if you like the idea join #fridayflash, if not just enter the comp!

The prizes and their authors

Marc Nash and 52FF

Master of flash fiction and regular participant in #fridayflash Marc Nash describes himself as “Author, literary molotov cocktail thrower. Word contortionist.” He has five books available including today’s prize 52FF, 52 flash fictions compiled out of his #fridayflash activity. If anyone knows about flash fiction here does! You can sample 52FF here.

Ali Bacon and Kettle of Fish

Ali Bacon is an exiled Scot living in the West Country.When she isn’t writing she plays golf, goes ballroom dancing and picks books from her teetering TBR pile, most of which end up being reviewed in one place or another. She has won a number of writing prizes and her novel A Kettle of Fish (Scottish contemporary fiction) was published in 2012 by Thornberry Publishing.  Kettle of Fish has been described as ‘A rollercoaster family drama’, ‘Harsh, gritty, lyrical’, ‘I couldn’t put it down.’ 

Clodagh Murphy and Frisky Business

Clodagh Murphy is a Dublin based author of romantic comedy novels. Frisky Business has been described as ‘Ballsy, witty, warmhearted, refreshingly original and very sexy’ Novelicious, ‘A gripping story with a pacey plot’ Irish Independent. Clodagh is offering a print copy of her book.

Stories to read on the train, Stories to make you go ‘ah’ and Stories to make you go ‘ooh’

I’m going to throw an ecopy of my mini flash collection Stories to read on the train’ into the pot plus a copy of ‘Stories to make you go ‘ah and Stories to make you go ooh’, tiny collections of longer stories 

Flash fiction offering

Since I’ve set the challenge, it’s only fair I should have a go. I’ve put my entry here and in the comments below. Now add your 31 or 131 word entry to the comments and mention if you’d like to be in for an ecopy (52ff and Kettle of Fish) or print copy prize (Frisky Business) or both.

31 days: Why flash fiction can change your life

This series of articles running through January will explore ways of keeping our head above water in physical, mental, emotional and creative areas. There will be creative challenges, competitions and giveaways. For the full background see here.

To receive all the 31 posts, sign up for email notification on the sidebar. On twitter it’s at @31HAW or @alisonwells. Hashtag  #31haw and #headabovewater.

Getting Through

What I’m trying to achieve with this series of 31 posts is to find ways for us just to get through our busy and sometimes daily lives and keep motivated and sane. For me, very short fiction – flash fiction – has allowed me to feel productive and to be productive when family circumstances have not given me the time or headspace to work on longer pieces of work and it’s been successful, as you’ll see from the post.

In the spirit of working smart this post is a slight modification of a previously published post. At the end I include an exercise/challenge to get you writing and see what can be achieved. Have a go at the prompt and add your entry to the comments tomorrow and be in with a chance for a giveaway of some books: 52FF by Marc Nash, Kettle of Fish by Ali Bacon and Clodagh Murphy’s Frisky Business.

Short bursts of work

Being a mother of four young children and lacking daily headspace, flash fiction for me has been an ideal format for exploring ideas and producing a substantial body of work in short bursts. Flash fiction can be anything from a few words up to about a thousand words when technically at that point it might be called a short short. A famous example of a six word story is Earnest Hemingway’s ‘For Sale, Baby Shoes, Never Worn’ or there’s my own creation Wedding Dress on hanger. Fast car.

A year ago I ran a competition on my blog to write a story in just forty words. The entries were incredible.  I’ve also seen brilliant stories in the 140 characters allowed on twitter.

One of the most significant influences on my writing development over the past eighteen months has been my discovery of the Fridayflash on Twitter. A group of individuals write a piece of flash fiction up to 1000 words long, post it on their blogs, publicize the link to the work on Twitter and log it on a central website. People peer review as many of each others flash fiction stories as possible. While this review is often at a high level it’s very encouraging when you know that a particular piece has worked or that people ‘got it’. You do get a sense of which are your strongest pieces.

While you are not bound to produce a flash piece every week, the discipline of doing so, of sitting down on even on a Wednesday and Thursday and saying ‘what now?’ is very productive. I often just choose a sentence that I have jotted down in a notebook as the core of the idea or begin writing the first phrase that comes into my head and adding to it by free association.

The beauty of flash fiction is that you can let yourself go with any idea and take it as far as your imagination allows. What appears is often quirky and original. What I also love about flash fiction (and short stories too) is the way I can take an interesting news, science, nature, history or anecdotal item and explore my fascination within the story. The world is a wonderous place and it’s wonders deserve to be told. For me wordplay is very important, juxtaposing words that sound alike or using the same or similar words to create a theme as I did in a story that in tongue-in-cheek manner name Flash. I used the word ‘flash’ to conjur up the ideas of lightning, the aurora, epilepsy, a father fixing the flashing on his house, the idea of time going too fast for two teenagers that were parting.

A body of work

My forays into flash through the discipline of FridayFlash have been invaluable. Without it, I never would have produced the body of work that I have, many of the stories would never have been written. One of the pieces that I wrote off the cuff for my weekly flash fiction peer review was accepted by the well respected literary magazine Crannog. Many of the flash pieces seem to have a special quality to them, they give rise to interesting and unique characters who sometimes beg for another appearance, so much so that I decided to write and have just completed a book of interlinking flash called Flashes of Sadness and Light, interrelated stories of different characters, and scenes that crossover between stories. We catch glimpses of the teenagers Emily and Eddie from Flash much later in life in different circumstances in Sideways. The story about the boy Barry in Close Encounters with Goldfish explains why the adult Barry in Origami Flamingos behaves the way he does.

An art and a discipline

The beauty of the inherent word limits in flash is that its a fantastic training ground for editing down to the very essence of a story, to make every word work and work hard, maybe even double time. Words can do their work twice. If you put a knife on the kitchen table it describes a scene and possibly the fraught relationship of the protagonists. Ever verb must just say what it has to say, so someone strides instead of walks, or slams instead of closes.

One of my favourite short story collections is Tania Hershman’s The White Road and other stories. What I find enthralling about her work in particular is her ability to draw a character so vividly in sometimes extremely short pieces. Indeed flash fiction often is character as story, your description of a person hints at the nature of their current position and relationships and their possible future.

In terms of audience flash fiction is popular and becoming more so, it is easily and quickly consumed and shared. There are many sites where you can post, submit or read flash fiction, FictionautMetazen and Smokelong Quarterly being just three.

Achieveable deadlines

Whether or not you do it with the challenge of a weekly deadline such as in the FridayFlash system or whether you just set yourself a challenge of writing a flash of 40, 250, 500 or 1000 words it is an exercise well worth doing. If you don’t have much time, it may be a good thing, just go for it, get the words on the page, be playful and experimental and you may be surprised at the results. If you haven’t already realised, I’m a little bit, or maybe a lot in love with flash fiction and I know you won’t regret it if you give it a try.

Creative Exercise and Competition

One of the most optimistic and energetic things you can do is create something spontaneously. So here’s my challenge to you.

I’ve just opened the lovely book I’m reading (The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey) and taken a line “The woods were silent, not even the twitter of a bird”.

What I want you to do is write a short fiction of either 31 or 131 words using the idea this generates in you, but not including those words. You can be as left field as you like, the more innovative the better. Jot down your responses and post in TOMORROWS competition entry post. Please share this post and the competition with your pals.

31 Ways to Keep your Head above Water

CillrialaigdawnGOOD INTENTIONS

Jan 1st 2013. We get out of bed and we want to do things better this year even though we might just slide back into the old ways, we’re starting with resolve and a heightened optimism. As we stare out the window and think, yes, i should get out there we know that we need to galvanise that wish into something more focussed. Our minds are wimps really, they need goals and encouragement and a kick up the…

As I writer I’m well aware of the swings between enthusiasm and doubt, as a parent of young children, one of whom has aspergers, I know about trying, about joys, failures, frustrations, exhaustion, delight, about getting up from setbacks over and over and keeping going. Across the world the recession has hit families badly and here in Ireland a harsh budget will bring massive trials and difficulties to already stretched people.

When I started this blog Head above Water meant mainly being able to juggle the demands of at that time, a very young family while finding headspace to write. Now I want to broaden that to incorporate the range of demands people find themselves under.

Note: As this series goes on I’ll add the 31 links to this post so you can access all other posts from here, so you’ll get the full 31 by the end of January.

Day 1: How writing & running help you get creative  Day 2: Finding the space & time to create

Day 3: Why flash fiction can change your life Day 4: Flash fiction creative writing challenge

Day 5: Incubation and how to find your novel’s Eureka moment Day 6: Inspiration and Daily Practice

Day 7: Writing Goals: How to achieve them and what if you can’t

Day 7a: Creative Flash Fiction Comp Winners Day 8: Celebrating the creativity of David Bowie

Day 9: Stop or HALT, have a day off and Smile! Day 10 Guest Post: Photography – taking up a new creative pursuit

Day 11: Photo Write Prompt Comp Day 12: Finding Wordfire

Day 13: Saying Thank You Day 14: Sad Thinking and How to turn it round

Day 15: Say what you want to be Day 16: Thinking about others

Day 17: Guest Post: Derek Flynn: When is a poem not a poem

Day 18: Five Fives for Inspiring the Mind  Day 18a: Photo Write Prompt Results

Day 19: I’m not here  Day 20: Questions of Flow in Writing

Day 21: Fiona Melrose: Poetry performed alchemy on my prose

Day 22: Reasons to Live, Reasons To Love, Reasons to Write

Day 23: What’s important to you Day 24: Using your writing creatively for financial resiliance

Day 25: Bowie WritePrompt & Gerry O’ Donnell Story  Day 26: The benefits of laughter

Day 27: Claire King: How do you keep the joy in writing?

Day 28: Take Heart

Day 29: Guest Post Eliza Green: Why Self-Publishing can be good for Debut Authors

Day 30: The Benefits of Creative Pursuits: Feltmaking and more

Day 31: When writing is at the heart of us we will not let it go


The dictionary definition of keeping head above water says:

1. Lit. to keep from drowning when swimming or floating. I was so tired I could hardly keep my head above water.
2. . Fig. to manage to survive, especially financially. We have so little money that we can hardly keep our heads above water. It’s hard to keep your head above water on this much money.
3. Fig. to keep up with one’s work. It’s all I can do to keep my head above water with the work I have. I can’t take on any more. We have so many orders that we can hardly keep our heads above water.
These definitions cover the physical, financial and organizational challenges we face. But there are also emotional and creative aspects.
So what I want to do in these 31 days of January is to explore ways of keeping our heads above water in all the areas above. I want to talk about keeping ourselves mentally and physically able, to enhance our creativity and to deal with financial issues as well. These are all things that have been covered here to some extent but this will be a more focussed and practical approach, using real examples and including fun activities and challenges. Alternatively we can have a long nap till February comes.
There’ll be an at least weekly creative challenge, some of these will be competitions for prizes. We’ll also have various other fun challenges and exercises. Every post will be interactive and allow people to share their experiences good, bad or indifferent of what we’ve been doing.
I’m not a guru. I don’t have all the answers. I want to know what works for you, what you’ve tried and if we suggest something new here I want you to tell me if it worked or if it didn’t and if the idea sucked. I am also very open to suggestions as to areas to explore. My background is psychology and communications so while I might lean in those directions I’d be glad to be drawn to other ways of looking at things.
For anyone who has done the Nanowrimo writing challenge (or any other) or Weightwatchers or anything of that ilk, what really gets us going is the camaraderie, the sense of charting our progress alongside others, comparing our ups and downs, so I’m hoping to get a good sense of community here. If you like what’s happening, share with friends and always comment and reply to what others are sharing.
If you want to make sure to receive all the 31 ways to keep your Head above Water posts, sign up for email notification on the sidebar. This is my general blog notification but if you get fed up of me after 31 days you can unsubscribe! I’ve also set up a twitter account specially for this. It’s @31HAW (the more obvious handles were taken!) Otherwise I’m at @alisonwells. I’ll also hashtag on twitter mainly under #31haw and #headabovewater. I’m on facebook as Alison Wells but if we move to anything specific will let you know!
Posts will commence later today with a walking/running post. So my first challenge to you is to go for a vigourous walk today and come back later and answer some questions about how it worked for you creatively and energetically. We’ll also see how walking goals work & if there’s any point!