Head Above Water Autumn Courses (Bray) now booking

Autumn14CoursePosterUnder the banner of Head Above Water writers, I’m giving a series of classes this Autumn from Beginners to Improvers and to Flash Fiction. My signature class is Creative Practice in Busy Lives & Short Story Essentials. As a psychology and communications studies grad and busy mum, I’m very much aware of how the creative process and producing fiction requires a combination of technique, practice, talent, time, headspace and mental resilience. All these factors combine to assist the new writer in finding confidence, developing skills, producing ever-improving material and pushing through the setbacks (motivation, uncertainty, skill gaps and the vagaries of the publishing industry) to become as productive and successful a writer as possible (where ‘success’ is defined by you.) As a published short story and flash fiction writer who has now produced longer works for submission I want to share the techniques and skills I’ve learned along the way. But what I hope in particular my courses can offer is the encouragement, support and techniques for producing material within our hectic and demanding lives and to help people find mental resilience and verve in their pursuit of a creative life. For those drawn to a creative path I know how important it is for health and happiness to be able to access and develop that side and not be cut off from it through life circumstances or lack of confidence. It with this in mind that I’ve devised the following programme…

Venue: All courses this Autumn will take place in St. Peter’s Centre, (adjacent to the Coach Inn), Dublin Road, Bray, Co. Wicklow.

Creative Writing for Beginners Sunday November 2nd 10am to 1pm  35 euro

(Get Started Writing, develop ideas, understand main elements of storytelling, build your confidence) Full course details and booking.

Creative Practice in Busy Lives & Short Story Essentials Sunday Nov 16th 9.30am to 1pm 35 euro

(Suitable for Beginners and Improvers. Tips to produce writing & maintain writing verve in busy lives plus the essentials of good short story writing. Full course details and booking

Short Story Intensive Workshop (Improvers)  Sunday Nov 30th 9.30am to 1.30pm 45 euro

(Suitable for those writing a while & wanting to develop skills. We will workshop one of your existing stories (in a supportive & encouraging matter) and do further writing exercises. Interactive and full of creative energy!)

Full course details and booking

Writing Fabulous Flash Fiction Sunday Dec 7th 10am to 1pm 35 euro

Flash Fiction is the epitome of writing verve! This versatile, short form is ideal for readers and writers who want to pack meaning and entertainment into bite-sized chunks. With many publishing outlets for material, flash fiction is the perfect way to sharpen writing skills and raise your profile in the writing world. This course will help you produce competent, unique and memorable short fiction.

Full course details and booking


Please share these details particularly with those in the Wicklow and Dublin areas. For each of the courses I hope that you will go home energized and motivated to pursue your creative endeavours. I look forward to meeting some of you there!

#flashfiction #writeprompt & great submission opportunity

Here on the blog for the May Carnival of Creative Possibility I’ll be throwing out writing challenges and prompts and we may even work up to a writing competition later in the month.

Here’s an interesting one for you, a writing prompt that will get you really thinking and also give you the opportunity of submitting to the wonderful National Flash Fiction day anthology. I’ve been involved in the last two anthologies Jawbreakers and Scraps and the standard of the work included was just wonderful. I’ve waxed lyrical about the wonders of flash fiction before and how it’s been the single most inspiring avenue of writing that I’ve been involved in and has helped me produce an abundance of work within a busy life. If you haven’t written much flash fiction before this will help you hone that craft & hopefully get the same buzz at producing a dynamite piece of writing in a short space of time.

National Flash Fiction Day director Calum Kerr says this

Once again we are delighted to open our submission floodgates to your stories for the annual NFFD anthology. This year, our topic is ‘The Senses’ and you should feel free to interpret that however you like. There are the 5 usual ones, but there is also that strange 6th sense. And what about a sense of fair play, of right and wrong, of place or of humour?

However you care to work with our theme, we want to read your stories. The word limit is 500 words, and you can submit up to 3 stories. Please include them in the email, not as attachments, and follow all the guidelines below.

All writers who have a story selected for the anthology will receive a free print copy of the book upon publication.

This year’s editors will be the Director of National Flash-Fiction Day, Calum Kerr, and this year’s Costa Short Story Award Winner, Angela Readman. The deadline date for entries is 23:59 (UK time) on Sunday 18th May 2014. 

So here is your challenge for the next few days. Explore the idea of the senses, chose one or several and really have a think about what a particular sense means and how the lack of it, or a heightened version might affect a particular character and lead to strange circumstances. Surely with the senses the writing should be vivid. I’m writing a book based all around the sensations of food and taste at the moment. The book is very visceral and sense based. One of my recent excerpts was nominated for the Glass woman prize. It might get you inspired to read it. If you’re looking for more inspiration I’ve put some of my tiny stories together in Stories to Read on the Train (for a tiny price).

I’ll give this submission challenge a go, let us know if you’re going to have a go. It’s a particular inspiring prompt so it will be interesting to hear how you got on. Also come back and say if your piece is accepted. The anthology is very well regarded and great fun to be a part of!




Explore! Be Brave! New Planet Cabaret

new planet cabaretNew Planet Cabaret is a brand new flash fiction and poetry anthology full of experimental, wacky, way out and deep in observations, playing with rhythm and beat, irony and satire, postmodern memes and themes and good old fashioned storytelling. Some pieces are self-referential, from Freddy and Jam-Jam Head to Outguard that takes apart narrative and the notion of a book, or this book itself to Kate Dempsey’s Yesterday whose satirical pieces underlines what effect, in an ideal world, poetry and fiction in general should have upon the world (how we wish!). Throughout this is a book that pushes, yearns, puts the finger up and asks questions, there’s a strong thread of laying life on the table and asking is this the way we want it to be, and just look at what we face every day. But in no way are these questions asked while lying quiet and low, there’s defiance and brilliance, like turning a crystal every which way and seeing the bright reflections, this collection dazzles and cuts through, slicing the way through the undergrowth of life to make new paths, new possibilities.

Explore! be brave! this is the message of a book that is entitled New Planet Cabaret, this is the message I felt when I went to the launch in Dublin’s Gutter Bookshop where energetic, surprising and mind bending performances from the likes of beatbox poet Jinx Lennon with North Louth Moustache Sunday Roast, Shush by Colm Keegan (makes you hold your breath), Fighting the Man by Cathal Holden, He Sent her a Text by Brigid O’ Connor, Gawk, Sarah Clancy and Perfection by Mel Kavanagh, the previously mentioned Freddy and Jam-Jam Head to Outguard, and a piece by Sarah Marie Griffin (apologies if I’ve left anyone out, my memory ain’t what it used to be) all these, delighted and inspired and woke me up to what’s been done out there right now by a plethora of unique thinking individuals. And what was performed is just a drop in the ocean, there are forty seven pieces in the book to be devoured. The fabulous cover designed by Julianna O’ Callaghan represents the journey that writers can take in exploring their own new worlds of ideas and words.

Explore! Be Brave! Take chances. For me that’s always what flash fiction and peer review opportunities such as #fridayflash and Fictionaut have been about. That’s what flash fiction is about, the chance to take a single idea, tear it apart and put it back together again upside down. For editor Dave Lordan, it’s all about embracing creativity. The book originated through the Creative Writing Workshops run on RTE Arena arts show by Dave. He gave a prompt each month and people responded. The book is just a slice out of the new pieces that were generated by the show. In all seventeen participants were chosen from the creative writing prompts and then further pieces were added to the book by writers already out there who were challenged to do something completely new. Dave Lordan is passionate about this venture and about stirring up creativity in general. His editorial at the start of the book evidences that. Within the book he made loose groupings of pieces around the headings, The Day Began with Silk, Control to Let Go, Sluminosity, Premature Obituaries, Scroobfish and Slaughtered Dreams, Rebelling against the Signs, Electric Sutras. Each title is a magnet for work with a particular preoccupation and as a whole the book takes us through the preoccupations of Irish society, right down into gutters and back out and to higher reaches as we explore the tar and the blazing light of being human. The other day I was blown away by an Italian chef on Masterchef (more in a future post) who was the epitome of the creative mindset, he was joy and verve personified, he created dishes like mini flash fictions, each told a story and the essence of each story had to be translated into a taste sensation. He decorated plates like expressionist paintings flinging the jus onto the plate. New Planet Cabaret does similar, emotion, colour, tone, rhythm, sentiment flung onto the plate with joy and abandon but the effect is cohesive, the juxtapostions new, startling but wonderfully satisfying.

There is a vibrant performance scene in Ireland whether it be at open mics or festivals, there are many opportunities to get out and connect with an audience and the performance at the Gutter Bookshop which was live broadcast by the superb ARTS show RTE arena emphasized that. Poetry is meant to be read out loud and with flash fiction where a play can be made with rhythm and language it also makes sense. Personally I remember the great buzz I got from the audience reaction to a particular piece EAT! (now forthcoming in the Stinging Fly) I read at one of the Big Smoke Writing nights. For writers, too long sitting down in quiet rooms, to take words to people face to face is to add a new dimension and vibrancy. In the absence of face to face, I’ve recorded my piece The Woebegone’s Slaughtered Dreams here.

I think you should get your hands on New Planet Cabaret. You should get your hands on New Planet Cabaret if you want to educate yourself on the new, modern and into the future kind of writing that is happening in Ireland right now, if you want to be inspired and feel shocked and horrified and hopeful and thrilled, if you want to find a path for your own new ideas, if you want to find a way to explore and be brave, this is a book worth diving right into.

New Planet Cabaret is available from bookshops, is published by New Island in association with RTÉ Arena, and is also available online.

Of Dublin and Other Fictions by Nuala Ni Chonchuir Review and Interview

Of Dublin coverBeing a flash fiction aficionado it was my pleasure to be able to review Nuala Ní Chonchúir’s chapbook of tiny fictions Of Dublin and other fictions. Published by Tower Press in the USA it consists of eleven flash fiction gems. What I particularly love about Ní Chonchúir’s writing in general and this collection in particular is the diverse mode of her writings. She explores both territory that is otherworldly and situations that are utterly real and feelings that are both tender and terrible. In stories such as Penny, Leo and Married Bliss and in the voice of Jesus of Dublin she evokes the colloquial and colourful. We feel a strong affection for the characters in these slices of life. Her stories are lusty, vibrant and irreverent, grabbing you right into the heat of the moment, and with her stories, it’s definitely heat.

In Room 313, From Ugly to Alice and Fish the undercurrent of sexual tension reveals the very human vulnerability of the characters. Throughout, and very much in the more fantastical and philosophical stories such as TreeDaughter, Vincent in the Yellow House and The Road that Mills and Boon ®Built the book is both sensuous and gorgeous in language and sentiment. Striking moments of connection leave the reader with an sense of humanity’s enduring journey throughout time – no mean feat for stories that are only a few hundred words long. Whether it is because of this brevity, the flash fiction stories in this chapbook had, for me a particular potency and resonance. It is a collection that will stay with you long after the read and I highly recommend it.

Nuala on flash fiction…

I had a chance to ask Nuala about the particular characteristics and strengths of flash fiction.I wanted to know what she felt the power of flash fiction is. “I love the way flash stories suit the surreal and the odd; they can be about anything and can be driven by language or mood or by the ‘what-happens’, so there’s a lot of scope for experimentation and/or fun within flash. Their power lies in their brevity coupled with the ability to set the mind ticking; they beg re-reading when they are done well. I like that.

As a reader I enjoy a range of flash: a quirky chunk of banter like Kevin Scott’s ‘Sheltered’ (http://www.fracturedwest.com/issue-4/sheltered/); or an emotion-driven short like Thisbe Nissen’s ‘Deer at Rest’ (http://www.obscurajournal.com/Nissen_Deer_at_rest.pdf). I also love short-shorts that delight in language, like ‘Funky Little Blaze Orange Pork Pie Hats’ by Michael Gillan Maxwell (http://www.metazen.ca/?p=13207)”

Since she works also as a poet and a novelist as well as producing this book of flash fictions, I wanted to know if Ni Chonchuir thought that the subject or sentiment dictated the form and what she thought made something fit into flash rather than poetry mode.

“I have really been neglecting poetry for the last year or so. It’s like that part of my brain has shut down while I get on with writing novels. But I can manage flash (maybe because I am in fiction mode?) The other thing, and it just occurs to me, is that my poetry tends to be confessional (not a dirty word, in my book) and I’m not going through any major upheavals lately, so maybe the poems are not there because life is good.

My flash tend to be language-  and narrative-driven – so the two things have to collide in my mind and offer me a first line that will take me somewhere interesting. So it’s subject coupled with language coupled with a forward impetus. I think the sentiment (the emotion) grows out of the rest.”

Given the great humour in several of these short fictions, particularly ‘Jesus of Dublin’ and ‘Penny and Leo and Married Bliss’ which comes out best in the voices of your characters. I wondered what Ní Chonchúir thought could be achieved with humour in a very short piece.

I think humour is unexpected in literary fiction – people expect lit fic to be dour and worthy. And I think we are all guilty of feeling this and acting on it – very few writers enter funny stories into lit comps, I find (having judged many of them). I love funny. To me Anne Enright is funny because she uses the self-deprecating, rueful, dark humour that Irish people are good at – we love to laugh, to slag each other, to poke fun. Ulysses is funny, but it’s not the first thing that springs to mind when people think about it. ‘Penny and Leo and Married Bliss’ is a rewriting of the Penelope episode in that novel and I had great fun transposing Molly Bloom’s bawdy humour to the 21st century.

I guess humour works best when it is wedded to something more profound (in Molly’s case, infidelity), so that it achieves more than a mere gag or extended joke – it makes you feel for the character(s). So, while the reader is laughing, she is also being made to think.”

Nuala Ní Chonchúir 2013

Nuala ni Chonchúir lives in Galway. Nuala’s awards for her writing include RTÉ Radio’s Frances McManus Award and the Dublin Review of Books flash fiction prize. Mother America her fourth short story collection was published by New Island in 2012, her second novel will be published in spring 2014.

Of Dublin and Other Fictions will be available shortly on Amazon and from Tower Press direct.

More about Nuala here www.nualanichonchuir.com

#fridayflash Anise Fish and Colin behind the Glass

#FridayFlash (check it out, anyone can do it) as I’ve said many times before has been the single most important influence and inspiration for me in my writing development over the last few years, since I began calling myself a writer, writing everyday and striving to say things that were important to me but to say them new. There are phases when we beaver away in the background – I haven’t posted in FridayFlash for some time while finishing novel work. Due to the inspiration of Fridayflash I wrote a flash fiction about a girl eating the world that is forthcoming in wonderful mag The Stinging Fly. But the story didn’t end there, various vignettes arrived, which will be combined into a very human tale of psychotic consumption, loss, love, depravity – all very human things, many of which are rooted in the excesses and tragedies of the Irish economic boom and bust. Anyhow that’s for later, for the novel but here is a taster as my fridayflash piece today. All feedback very much appreciated.

“What is the sickness that you have?” Colin behind the glass wondered.

“Too much world,” said Anise Fish.

“We have that in common.”

“I’ve always had it, since I was tiny.’ Anise stroked the glass. ‘I ate four cots. They had to keep replacing them… I ate the curtains and the table legs like a puppy. Things used to go missing – pegs, toothbrushes, spoons…”


“Yes, and yoghurt cartons an’ all. One day a man came to the house. He lifted me up and spun me around and I jingle jangled. They did an x-ray and found all sorts of things inside. Once my uncle said that I must have eaten the constituents of a garden. Mud, worms, flowers, rocks, bits of twigs. ..So in a way I have a garden inside me…“

“You do?” he said, then he reached out for her and their fingers touched through the glass.

She saw him pale as wafers, as edible as the moon. “Come outside with me, you can’t live in here.”

He felt: homemade lemonade and the assault of her eyes. He took a deep breath and turned the handle of the window.

“Come into my room,” he said.

He stepped back as she leaned on the window sill and clambered up. He felt the oxygen of the world as she opened the window wider and climbed through. He relived for an instant that trip on the train when he was five and the countryside was moving too fast. The grass was a blur, the cows, dry stone walls, the sidings, wide motorways. Victorian warehouses with old kiln dried bricks, the metal skeletons of goods trains, graffiti filth, the onslaught of cities and their electric lights.

Anise Fish had brought the outside in. He covered his face with his hands and then he felt her hands on him. Her face so immediate, so close. He reached out for her.

There was no honey. There was salt, seaweed and sand, and yellow; the colour of buttercups under her chin. Her skin felt like paper first and feathers and old books, all those old musty books from his room that he had buried his nose in, face down flat on his bed. Her tongue was slippery and muscular like a fish.

She kissed every inch of the half-moons under his eyes, the dark inventive hollows, the hamlets of his temples, his lip topography, licked his cheeks of fragile dawns and fever.

He tasted the air on her skin and the sky with kites, sea spray, bog ale, moss and pine needles, forest floors and old dung at stiles with wind waves of dried sedge beyond, the snap of licorice dogwood, red twig fire between the teeth.

Come outside she had said.  “Come outside.” whispered Anise Fish. And she kissed him again, that soft fishy tongue in the salt of his mouth. And he sucked on her mouth for air and he held onto her shoulders and ribs for his scafenfolding.

He was inside now, right inside, inside this room, inside this girl, all sensation.

Anise: the tips of her fingers were popping, her groin was burrowing into the molten earth core, into dark tunnels of ancient trolls with groping gnarled fingers, down smooth slippery rivers of ice and fire.

Their legs had gone from under them. They sunk into the soft billow of sun sheets. They lay at the bottom of the pond, in the salty rockpools then; watching shoals of tiny two-spotted gobys, sea anemones waving fronds.

His hand fell from her as she rolled away. He heard water running and remembered trips to waterfalls; his own perpetual screaming at the overwhelming sound and the relentless pouring. He recalled his parents’ bemusement. He caught a glimpse of her hair and it was the sun in his eyes. He covered his face.

He rolled onto his back, naked, onto the sheets that were not too anything, feeling his own fingers in his own space, the ghosts of trains still clattering in his exerted heart. He put his finger to his lips and could taste the world from them.

He became aware of an insatiable yearning.

From the pale iced door, returning, Anise’s face contorted. He closed his eyes against the view of her and continued to chew. The bedstead tasted of meatloaf.

Copyright: Alison Wells

Lost Property by flash fiction maestro Calum Kerr

ckerr1smCalum Kerr is a writer, editor, lecturer and director of National Flash-Fiction Day in the UK. He lives in Southampton with his wife –  the writer, Kath Kerr –  their son and a menagerie of animals. His new collection of flash-fictions, Lost Property, is now available from Cinder House: http://cinderhouse.com/product/lost-property-by-calum-kerr/ I’ve known Calum (electronically!) for a few years now and enjoyed working with him on the two National Flash Fiction Day UK anthologies Jawbreakers (2012) and Scraps (2013). I’m talking to him today about his new release and once again that fab phenomenon flash fiction and how it has contributed to his writing.

About Lost Property

Cinder House, on behalf of Dead Ink Books, is proud to present Lost Property by Calum Kerr. This collection brings together four brand new pamphlets of flash fiction produced by Kerr. The pamphlets featured are Singsong, Soaring, Burning and Citadel. This paperback collection contains 83 stories that move from the hilarious to the sinister and demonstrate the unique nature of ultra-short fiction.

How did this particular pamphlet project come about and tell us about the how the four pamphlets fit together & emphasis of each (if there is one!)

Well, between 1st May 2011 and 30th April 2012 I did a project to write a flash-fiction every day for the whole year, posting the stories to my blog before midnight every day. Doing it so publicly was a good way to make sure it happened, as if it was nearing midnight I would start to get messages and emails from readers wondering where that day’s story was. I’m proud to say I never missed one – pre-scheduling stories if I wasn’t going to be around – and at the end I had written about 160,000 words of flash fictions, enough for at least four collections!

I let the dust settle when I had finished, and after a couple of months removed the blog from public access so that I could think about publishing them as collections of some sort. I put together a spreadsheet which listed all the stories and I assigned a variety of genre tags to them so I could look for trends etc. I also assessed which ones I thought were close to publishable, which needed more work, and which were probably beyond saving.

Then, at the beginning of this year, with an eye to National Flash-Fiction Day in June as a possible publication date, I approached Dead Ink in Leeds, a publisher I was already aware of and friendly with, to see if they wanted to publish a pamphlet. They came back and suggested four pamphlets as Kindle e-books and a single collection, gathering them together, as a paperback. Well, obviously, I was more than happy with that

So, I set about sorting them into pamphlets of about 20 flash-fictions in each. At first I started gathering them together by genre, but I soon realized that each pamphlet was going to be a bit ‘samey’, so I abandoned that idea. Instead, I looked through for four stand-out stories which contained themes which would make them a good centre piece for a pamphlet, and also provide a good title for the whole thing. These were ‘Lost Property’, ‘Sinaglong’, ‘Soaring’ and ‘Citadel’. I then went through the other 361 stories, plus other stories written before, during and after the flash365 project, and for each collection found pieces which would either compliment or work against the central story. That’s how they were gathered together in the first instance.

During the editing process, we decided to make Lost Property the title of the collection as a whole, as it seemed to say something about all of the pieces, and about the nature of flash-fictions in general, and we didn’t want to have confusion between the title of the book and of the pamphlet. So, that pamphlet was renamed after ‘Burning’, another story whose title seemed to encapsulate the other pieces in that particular pamphlet.

As to the ordering of the pamphlets in the book, my editor thought ‘Spellbound’ would be a great story to open the collection with. I wanted to finish the whole thing with ‘Revelation’ and its final invocation to ‘come and see…’, so the pamphlets Singalong and Citadel were placed first and last to achieve that. And I also wanted the pamphlet with the title story, ‘Lost Property’, to appear in the third quarter of the book, and that’s how the two middle collections were then ordered.

It’s been a fascinating process to see how you can go from over 400 individual stories to a collection which does have a series of coherent themes and structures via a series of seemingly independent decisions – some to do with theme, some with reader engagement, and some purely aesthetic.
Does flash fiction allow you to go places you wouldn’t normally with your writing?

Over the course of flash365 it really freed me up. I decided, very early on, that I would attempt to delve into as many different genres, styles, perspectives, voices, etc. as I possibly could, and so I ended up going to a lot of new places and discovering things about both the genres and my own writing. When I looked back across the spreadsheet I mentioned above, however, I was surprised to see how often I considered a story to be humorous, and how often they were tagged as ‘dark’. Very often these were the same story! It certainly taught me the areas I most enjoy writing in and so, after finishing the project and embarking on a novel, I was able to make the decision to have both humour and darkness in the work and know that I would be playing to my strengths.

I think also, because it is so short, flash allows you to try something new without having to commit a huge amount of time or energy to it. If it doesn’t work, never mind, you can discard it and try again. If it does, then you have discovered something new. It’s very powerful in that respect.

These stories ‘move from the hilarious to the sinister’ Which is your own favourite in the collection and at which end of the spectrum does it fall?

Many writers, when you hear them speak or get interviewed, say that they have a particular question which they get asked a lot and which they can’t really answer. The usual one is ‘where do you get your ideas?’ For me, it’s ‘which is your favourite story?’

It’s a really difficult question to answer, because they have all been included because I like them. They were written on different days and when I was in different moods, and so depending on the mood I’m in when I get asked the question, the answer will be different. One of my favourites is ‘The Saxophone’ the story which I partly analysed on Jonathan Pinnock’s blog yesterday (http://www.jonathanpinnock.com/). I think it is one of the better written pieces and, whenever I read it live, it still moves me and gives me a crack in my voice by the end. That’s a sad one, and a realistic one. But another of my favourites is ‘Animate’ which features all the fixtures, fittings and furniture in a man’s flat coming to life. It’s silly and funny and I had an absolute ball writing that one.

I think, though, that more than a particular story, there is a particular type of story which appeals to me. These are the ones which seem to occur in a perfectly ordinary world, but somehow it has become reflected in a funhouse mirror. Stories like ‘Idle Hands’ where a woman is able to split a tea-atom in her kitchen, or ‘The Carpet Man’ where the house-sitting son gets a visitor that is not who he expected at all. They edge towards magical realism, or sci-fi, or horror, but never quite take their back foot out of the realist camp. I do quite a lot like that, and I do enjoy them.
You’ve spent a couple of years under the discipline of writing a flash fiction a day, can you look back and see how this has developed you as a writer in terms of skills, persistence, motivation etc.

It has certainly honed my skills. Recently I have started doing flash-fiction writing as a performance art, displaying the word processor on a big screen, taking prompts from the audience, and writing a story in just 5 mins while they watch. They are never quite as good as stories crafted with a little more time and privacy, but they always work and they always have a certain something about them. I have learned that I can always write, as long as the pressure is there, and that I can write well in as many genres as you care to mention. That sounds immodest, but it’s really important for a writer to be able to actually know that they can produce good work. Because there are days when you feel you are nothing more than a hack, producing words with no meaning, so it’s good to know that you can actually do this thing!
Why ‘Lost property?’

Well, I mentioned above that it’s the title of a story. It’s not the kind of story that you would think, either. It uses the term as a metaphor, and that’s also how I use it in the title of the collection. Flash-Fiction exists, very often, as fragments of a story. Elsewhere I have talked about them as being the perfectly shaped jigsaw piece which allows the reader to extrapolate the whole of the finished puzzle. But as such, they are a piece on their own. The rest of the puzzle, and the box, are elsewhere, and this single piece has been found down the back of the sofa, or dropped down the back of a bookcase. It is all that remains, but it is enough to know what the whole thing once looked like. In that sense, I think all flash-fictions are, in some sense, lost and cut off from the whole. I think it’s a good title.

lostpropertyfrontsmLost Property, is now available from Cinder House.


Flash Mob: Holographic Dog


It’s far from holographic dogs I was reared. We had Shep, Fido and Bounder – good sheepdogs they were. We had a mongrel named Patch, apt that. He was gone in the head, didn’t know you he’d go right through you.

Thing was, there was a ‘spate’ of burglaries round our way. More used to spats than spates, I’d give them a fistful but I got married and that put manners on me. Then on account of the child’s allergy to dander there was no chance of a wee pet, a nice sharp toothed Rottweiler, a manic spaniel or any sort of homicidal Hooch. We had to go holographic.

The chap from Holographic Guard Dogs Dot Com was prompt fair play to him. The Guard Dog was up and running in a jiffy. The wife thought the dog ‘loomed large’ across the driveway. The child said he was ‘slick.’ He had a big head on him and a mouth full of teeth like knives and the sound of him was atrocious.

There’d been two chancers days before – made off with my wife’s handbag and the child’s Nintendo DS, some ructions that caused. But the word was they were desperate see so I lay in wait watchin’ what might conspire and was the holographic dog any good.

In they came again, eejits really, all innocent looking and laughing mind you. Only then they looked up and got an eyeful. I hadn’t bargained on what happened next. I’d just nodded when the lad said about the upgrade, the wife was insistent. The gadget jiggery poked them somehow and they got thinner on all sides. The screams of them as they flattened into electronic wafers. The holographic Rottweiler roared, he went right through them and ate their digital signatures for breakfast.

Flash Mob is being run in honour of National Flash Fiction Day UK on June 22nd. This is the last day for entries so hurry. You need a piece of flash of under 300 words to post on your blog and then you email your entry, with a short bio and picture to the flash mob site. Experimentation is called for and there will be prizes on the day. All the details here!

Submit to the National Flash Fiction Anthology

The UK National Flash Fiction Day is on June 22nd and here is your chance to get involved and submit to the anthology. The closing date is very soon – on May 17th. It’s a particularly interesting challenge this time as you are to write a 500 word flash related to another cultural object/art form that inspires you. The full details and links to the competition are here on my writing.ie post as well as news on my flash fiction piece The Wobegones Slaughtered Dreams being chosen as a winner of the May New Planet Cabaret creative writing challenge on RTE Radio’s arena. 

Hope your writing is going well this week!

Local book launch and a longlist

Mary Grehan’s debut book

I just want to extend my heartfelt congratulations to Mary Grehan on the launch day of her debut novel Love is the Easy Bit published by Penguin. The launch takes place this evening in Dubray Books Grafton Street. Unfortunately family events have conspired so that I have a conflicting engagement tonight but I’m really looking forward to reading the book.

Here is a description “The novel is the story of 37-year-old Sylvia Larkin’s struggle with, and ultimate survival of, her family history. According to the company, the story is told in Sylvia’s irreverent, quirky and, at times, angry voice and is a book of huge emotional power which examines relationships, family, love and death through a compelling story.”

Well done to Mary and best wishes.

Onwards and Onwards

I’m polishing my first lit novel for submission and it’s been a long road and has required me to stop following other shiny projects and push through with finding the heart of this thing and trying to bring it to the fore. Consequently there hasn’t been as much time for blogging or for submitting other pieces. However it’s wonderful from time to time to hear something to keep the writing spirits up and so thanks to National Flash Fiction Day where I’ve seen my name and that of twitter pal Anouska Huggins on the MicroFiction Longlist. Hurray! The wordcount was 100 words or under. I love flash fiction!

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.