Thursday, 25 July 2013

Shipshape and Bristol Flashing by Kevlin Henney

[We asked Kevlin Henney to talk about the Bristol NFFD workshop and readings which served as the main events for this year's day. He said 'yes' and here it is...]

Isn't it odd, I thought, that there are no flash-related events in Bristol on National Flash-Fiction Day? This was 2012, the first National Flash-Fiction Day was happening and Bristol — a happening place in terms of flash fiction, judging by theKissing Frankenstein & Other Stories collection and the number of local authors flashing their short shorts — seemed to be marking the day with a curious lack of happening on the day. How come?

And what was I doing on NFFD 2012 instead? Driving from Bristol to Oxford to slam flash at the first flash slam, presided over by renowned flash author Tania Hershman, who also lives in Bristol. We were there because Oxford was one of the places where things were happening... but by being there, we weren't in Bristol.

The penny dropped. If I wanted something to happen in Bristol for NFFD 2013, then I might have to (1) suggest it and (2) help organise it. A group of us — me, Tania,Sarah HilaryPauline Masurel and Deborah Rickard — got together to make it so.

This year's NFFD was the day after the summer solstice, following the shortest night with a day of the shortest fiction, which conveniently placed it on a Saturday. Convenient until you realise that if you're planning an event on a Saturday in summer, you're also competing with weddings and the like for event space. We reckoned on a couple of events, an afternoon writing workshop and an evening reading event, and through trial and error and luck and generosity found venues for both. Bristol Central Library generously gave us the use of a meeting room for the afternoon and The Lansdown pub in Clifton has an upstairs space with great ambience and decent acoustics.

To really make sure we got NFFD to happen in Bristol, we managed to persuade Mr NFFD, Calum Kerr, to join us for the day. Tania and Calum took the afternoon workshop, leading twenty people — the room's stated capacity! — through discussion and critique, reading and writing, and tea and coffee. The evening brought rainshine, thirteen readers and a room of people ready for a goodnight story or two.

One of the best things about flash spoken-word events is the range and number of stories and readers you can pack in. After five minutes of most short stories you're often still in the foothills of the story; with flash, you've been taken to the peaks of one, two or three whole stories, and you're on to the next reader. Not sure if a story is to your liking? Like buses, wait a couple of minutes and another will be along. But there were no duff stories or readers. In addition to the motley organisers and Calum, we had readings from Anna BrittenKen ElkesPaul McVeighNick Parker,Jonathan PinnockClare Reddaway and Tim Stevenson. Calum also read a couple of stories by other authors from Scraps, the hot-off-the-press NFFD anthology.

Was it good? Was it fun? Do you wish you'd been there? See for yourself. Hope to see you in Bristol next year!

Monday, 1 July 2013

Post-Match Roundup

Well, hello everyone,

It's been just over a week since The Day, so I thought I would catch you up with what happened then and what has happened since. 

Of course, we launched our new anthology, Scraps, and that has done incredibly well. We have exactly 5 copies left from our original printings. 

However, we also have it on Kindle and now, as a print-on-demand book from Amazon, so it will be available in print for ever! (It says 'out of stock' but if you order one, they print it and send it, so don't be put off.) This last option might be more attractive for those outside the UK as it will result in reduced postage costs, especially in the US, and even more so if you get free shipping from Amazon Prime.

If you are interested in any of those versions of the book, then the links are:

(With the Amazon links, change the to .com or whatever, for your local site.)

We also, of course, had FlashFlood running throughout the day. It was about 140 stories long, making a rate of one every 10 minutes or so. You can still read all the stories, and those from previous issues, at FlashFlood

And then, there were the events. I was at Bristol, where a wonderful time was had by all, but much else was happening. Below is a range of blog links to fill you in on other happenings - reviews, stories posted, all kinds of things!

'The Monster Under My Bed' - Ro Smith

NFFD Shrewsbury - Pauline Fisk

Stories from Shrewsbury

'Final Words' - Damon Lord

NFFD - Katy Wheatley

NFFD Bristol - Grace Palmer


NEW Flash Fiction Competition from December House

Flash Fiction on Youtube - Marc Nash

Edinburgh Evening News 

NFFD - D Thomas Minton

'Dry Throat' - Lucy Montague Moffatt

NFFD - Dave Hartley

On a more personal note, NFFD saw the launch of my first full length collection, Lost Property. To celebrate its publication I have set off on a blog tour where I will be posting stories, being interviewed and writing articles about NFFD, my writing, and my thoughts on Flash-Fiction in general. If you think that might be interesting, you can follow the tour on Facebook at

And so, all that is left is to to wrap the ribbon around this year's day and call it finished. Thank you to all who helped with the various activities, to all the writers and organisers of events and competitions, and to all the readers who make what we do so worthwhile.

Specific thanks from me must go to:

The Micro-Fiction Competition judges:
Cathy Bryant, Tom Gillespie, Kevlin Henney, Emma Lannie, Kirsty Logan and Angela Readman.

My co-editor on Scraps, Holly Howitt. And Amy Mackelden who did all the real work. Without her, the book just wouldn't have happened!

To Tim Stevenson for website and book cover design help.

To Kevlin Henney (again!) for organising such a great event in Bristol. 

And, of course, to the good Lady Flash, Kath Kerr, for help and support beyond all reason, with NFFD and everything else.

And, that's it, I'll go now before I start weeping and thanking God.

Have a good year, keep your eyes peeled for all things flash, some of which are likely to come from us, spread the word about the books and everything we do, and put the date of 21st June 2014 into your diaries now!

All best

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Announcing December House's Flash Fiction Fest 2013 competition

As a publisher we're delighted to be associated with National Flash Fiction Day. For so many of our authors, the short form is where they honed their craft and polished their storytelling skills and for that reason, amongst many others, we are big supporters of Flash Fiction.

Last September, when December House was just a fledgling start-up, we were approached by three fantastic writers who had an idea they were calling "Four Weeks of Flash Fiction". We loved their work and agreed to bring the project under the December House banner and to promote and publish it. As a result Flash Fiction Fest was born.

From day one we'd always planned to make it an annual event, and so this November we'll be doing it all again. This year the theme is "The 7 Deadly Sins" and every day we'll be  publishing a number of pieces of Flash Fiction, both at and on Wattpad. The entire collection will also be available as an e-book.

We've already got 8 of our authors lined up to take part, but we also want to open it up to the wider writing community. So today we're launching a competition to find the best three pieces of Flash Fiction on the theme "The 7 Deadly Sins".

The Prize
The December House team will read every entry, and the writer judged to have the best three stories will see them included in Flash Fiction Fest 2013, and the e-book of the event (for which they'll also be paid royalties). 

The winner will also have the chance to work with our editor on a novel, with the intention being to prepare it for publication by December House.

How to Enter
To enter you'll need to upload your three pieces (which must be under 1,000 words each) to WattPad and tag them "FlashFictionFest". 

There are full instructions on, and you can see some examples from last year's event on the December House Wattpad page.

Want to know more?
Visit or follow us on Twitter and ask us a question.

Happy National Flash-Fiction Day!

Good Morning, and Happy National Flash-Fiction Day,

Yes, the day is finally here and there is plenty going on.

If you follow us on Twitter or Facebook, then you have almost certainly seen the torrent of words which is FlashFlood They are pouring out at a rate of almost one every 10 minutes right through till midnight. Lots of great stories. Enjoy, comment, and share!

In other virtual realms, we have a selection of ebooks, including last year's anthology, Jawbreakers, which will be free this weekend. (Although, at the time of writing, the price promotion hasn't kicked in. That's Amazon, not us, so keep your eyes on the books, they WILL be free soon!)

And, of course, this year's anthology, Scraps, is now available on Kindle too ( 

If you download any of these books, it would be wonderful if you could leave a review. They do make a difference.

Scraps, the paperback book, after a slight delay at the printers. has now officially arrived. It will be available at the Bristol events (more below) and any pre-orders will be shipped on Monday. You can order your copy, and more, at

And, what else? Well, as mentioned above, there are a couple of events happening in Bristol today - a workshop I shall be co-leading with Tania Hershman, and a reading this evening with loads of great writers. I shall be at both, so do come along it would be great to see you. 

And a host of other events are getting underway, including events in Abergavenny and Manchester which have been added in the last couple of days. 

Apart from that, it just remains for me to thank you all for your continued support, to wish you a very happy National Flash-Fiction Day and to hope you will enjoy it and spend at least some time writing those tiny gems which have brought us together again. And please, send us anything you write, whether a blog post, a story, a review of an event, or whatever. We will post them over the coming days and weeks, or share the link (if it is a link). We want to know how you have celebrated the day and then share it with others.

Happy NFFD!
All best
Calum Kerr, Director

Friday, 21 June 2013

'Like A Jewel' by Pauline Fisk

The rocket man said no, even before he set off.  There are some things you won’t stoop to, and bagging moon dust for sale back on earth was one of them, especially sale by some company operating out of Jersey, calling itself Planet Earth Holdings. 

The company texted, phoned and emailed not just Space Control UK, but the rocket man personally, but he refused to reply.  Even after he’d been launched, they were still trying to get through to him as if they actually thought there were mobile phone masts in space. But all they got back was a engaged beeping sound that went on and on and on and on….   

The PR people for Planet Holdings started a grass roots campaign.  They raised public awareness of the value of moon dust by cosying up to the right journalists and a couple of useful blogsites. The idea caught on so fast that it never had time for a tipping point. It went up like wildfire. 

Suddenly everybody was blogging about bringing dust back from the moon.  Pride in the achievements of Space Control UK turned to discontent. All this messing around with rockets had been paid for out of the public purse. Pound for pound, that moon dust belonged to the Great British man and woman in the street.  Their rocket man, funded by their taxes, had a public duty to bring it back to them.

People started phoning Space Control UK.  God alone knows how they found the number. The story made it onto the radio, and then TV.  Chatlines filled up with indignant callers demanding moon dust as their human right. Some wanted it sold to raise money for the International Children’s Hospital on the Isle of Wight.  There were arguments about what would happen if the EU lay claim to it. Some people reckoned it should be adminstered by Lottery.  Some subtle voices whispered that the safest hands in this situation were the good folk at Planet Earth Holdings – a company nobody had heard of before, but whose shares[ on the subject of sky rocketing] were now aiming for the stars.  

Questions were asked in Parliament.  The country had crippled itself, announced the Labour front bench. In its attempts to prove that it was still an important nation, it had been brought by the present government to its knees - and were they now going to deny its citizens access to what, in effect, was their own moon dust?  A nationalized industry needed setting up, analyzing moon dust and making it available on a basis of need. No way, announced the Tory front bench.  Moon dust should be privatized. Already discussions with Planet Earth Holdings were under way.

At this, a mob took to the streets. The matter was discussed in Cabinet.  When the police joined forces with the mob, a COBRA meeting had to be held. Rumours abounded about moon dust’s properties. The Government’s Chief Scientist was called in. Air Force chiefs advised. The people from the Space Programme were called in.  The Church had something to say. So did Greenpeace and the Friends of the Earth. Was it ethical to remove dust by the rocket load from the moon?

Everybody had something to say, but no agreement could be found, as tis often the way.  The Cabinet was split.  The Prime Minister was prevaricating. The Deputy Prime Minister was no fool.  He appraised the situation like a hawk, and seized his chance.

Up on the moon, the blackness of infinity was so intense that the rocket man could not just hear it, but actually see it sing.  Dust lay like fallen stars beneath his feet.  The earth shone like a jewel. It was the most beautiful thing that he had ever seen.

Flash Fiction Shrewsbury - Pauline Fisk

[First published on 20/06/2013]

Last night in the Shrewsbury Coffeehouse, National Flash Fiction Day was celebrated with an Open Mic and pieces of short, short fiction – very short and often very sharp too.  This is a great writing – and reading – form for a busy world.  If you haven’t the time to read a book, you’ve still got time for a couple of pieces of flash.  That’s the idea at any rate.  You can read a piece of flash in the time it takes you to wait for your bus to come along.  A couple of pieces, if it’s late.  And if you haven’t got time to write that novel you always reckoned you’d got in you, then you’ve got the time to write a story in five hundred words.

'Flash fiction is fiction with its teeth bared and its claws extended...'  'It's a machine of compression, the hugest of things in the tiniest of spaces, flash freakin' fiction...'   'It can be prose poetry, a whole story, a slice of sharp light illuminating a life...'

Three quotes amongst many on what is flash fiction.  The name's believed to have been coined back in 1992 as the title to an anthology of very short stories, and it's a name that's stuck. Short, short stories have been written for a long time.  Kafka did it, so did Chekov, and Hemingway's 'For sale: baby shoes, never worn' has been quoted to death.

However, in recent years, with the growth of the internet, more people reading on e-readers and mobile phones, and the sheer pace of life, the very short story has taken on a whole new life. People don't have much time for reading - or for writing - and the short short story has really come into its own.

Today flash fiction as a phenomenon is being written, and read, all over the world. People have different ideas about how long flash should be. 1,000 words? 50? 10? Ten's pushing it, I reckon. The good people who met at the Shrewsbury Coffeehouse last night have settled for 500.

Last year, Shrewsbury had the honour of launching the first National Flash Fiction Day on May 15th, Flash Fiction Eve.   This year the town was several days in advance.  Last year just a handful of people turned up with stories, and much of the evening was taken up with writing - people collaborating together, in many cases as strangers, but through the medium of writing becoming friends.  ‘I haven’t written a story since I was in primary school,’ somebody said.  And she and many others were back this year, raring to write more. The Shrewsbury Coffeehouse was packed.

This year there was still writing on the tables covered with rolls of lining paper for just that purpose, but where only six people turned up with stories to read, this time the running order had seventeen.  At one point it looked hard to see how they’d all be fitted into one short evening, but by the end of the night when the Muse departed, everybody had read.

In just one evening, we heard about Gabriel Rosetti’s obsession with exotic animals [which he buried in his garden]; window-cleaners encountering ghosts from the past; a new annunciation for a new Virgin Queen; a couple of murder mysteries, one told from the point of view of the corpse; the experience of trench life in the First World War, the experience of being mum to a dysfunctional family, running away to join the Foreign Legion and much, much more. The stories were as diverse as the people who were there.

The names on the running order are Caroline Bucknall, Carol Caffrey, Carol Forrester, Adrian Perks, Matt James, Liz Lefroy, Barry Tench, Lisa Oliver, Katherine Dixon-Miller, Catherine Redfern, Annie Wilson, Ivan Jones, Mal Jones, Steven Lovejoy, Rosemary [you didn't leave a surname, but I loved your story], Faiza Islam [and her sister, who needs thanks for reading with a heavy head cold] and Pauline Fisk. All of these people made the evening special, and need special thanks.

Also during the evening, the Flash Fiction Shrewsbury website was launched. The town already has its own Flash Fiction Shrewsbury Facebook page, but now there’s a place for the people of Shrewsbury to post their stories.  In just the couple of days the website had been up, it had been read by over fifty people in the UK, twenty-six in the US, and one each in Russia, the Netherlands and Singapore.  ‘Here’s a chance for the people of Shrewsbury to put their writing on the map,’ said the MC of the night, who happened to be me.

At the end of the evening, 'Snow' by Julia Alvarez was read from the book 'Flash Fiction - 72 Very Short Stories', edited by James and Denise Thomas and Tom Hazuka.  Here was a true master of flash at work.  An inspiration to us all. 'Each snowflake was different,' the story ends up, 'like a person, irreplaceable and beautiful.' And that spoke for the whole evening.  All those people, all those different takes on life. Shrewsbury has so much talent to offer.

'The Language of Angels' by Jonathan Pinnock

“Bonjour M’sieur,” said the guy with the wings, “J’éspère que vôtre mort n’était pas trop douloureuse?”
“You what?” said Jim. The air smelled vaguely of croissants.
“Pardon? Je ne vous comprends pas, m’sieur. Je suis St Pierre. Vous êtes …?”
Jim racked his brains for a moment, trying to work out what was going on. Was the guy saying that he didn’t understand him? Well that made two of them. Then he remembered something important from his school days.
“Pouvez-vous repéter la question?”
The guy with the wings looked at him for a moment, then burst out laughing.
“Répéter, m’sieur. Répéter!”
Then Jim realised. Repéter meant to re-fart, didn’t it? He vaguely recalled his old French teacher forever banging on about that. He had a feeling that he wasn’t making a very good impression.
“Pouvez-vous répéter …?” he began. It probably wasn’t going to help, but at least it would give him more time to think.
“Comment vous appelez-vous?” said the angel.
“Ah! Je m’appelle Jim,” said Jim, with a note of triumph.
             “Ah. Jim! C’est un nom anglais, n’est-ce pas?”
“Er … oui?” said Jim, struggling to keep up.
“Ah. Dans le ciel, on parle Français. Vous ne parlez pas bien Français, je pense?”
Huh? Something about speaking French here? Was that why they’d insisted on teaching it at school? He would have paid more attention if he’d known.
“SORRY,” he said, in a very slow, loud voice. “I … DON’T … REALLY … UNDERSTAND … YOU. CAN … I … HAVE … A … BIT … MORE … TIME … TO … THINK?”
The angel gave him a blank look. Then he shrugged and pulled a lever next to him. The floor under Jim opened up, and he fell down a long shaft, which twisted around several times before coming to a halt in a large warm room. A face peered down at him.
“You all right, mate?”
“I think so,” said Jim. “Do you speak English here?”
“Thank God for that,” said Jim.

“Nearly right,” said the guy with the horns.

Telling Untold Stories - Jonathan Pinnock

Stories exist to be told. A story that goes untold is a story bereft of the reason for its existence. An untold story is a sad story. Even an untold happy story is a sad story. And an untold sad story is a very sad story indeed.

The sad truth however is that, up until relatively recently, there were a whole swathe of stories that were either not told at all or pulled out of shape and told in a way that made them a different story altogether.

The thing is, stories have a natural length. Some stories do fit into a nice Radio 4-friendly two thousand words, but there are many more that don’t fit into any nice comfortable slot. Gossamer-thin stories that don’t stretch longer than fifty words without snapping. Experimental stories that would fry the reader’s brain if the experiment continued beyond a couple of hundred or so. Stories that rely on sheer compression of narrative to make their impact.

The good news, however, is that in the last few years, more and more homes for these stories have appeared, along with a name: flash fiction. Sure, there have always been very short stories bubbling around, but never to the same extent as there are now. And the really wonderful thing – from both the reader’s and writer’s point of view – is that because it’s a relatively new concept, these are all new stories. Fresh stories. Untold stories.

And that, I guess, is what I love about flash fiction: its capacity for originality. You’ll read stuff in flashes that you’ve never encountered before in a conventional short story. You’ll read stuff presented in ways that you’ve never come across before. And sometimes you’ll read truly weird stuff that just couldn’t have worked in a conventional story.

I love writing flash fiction for exactly the same reason: it offers the opportunity to try stuff that hasn’t been tried before, to experiment with unusual styles and unexpected subject matter. Most importantly, it gives those untold stories a chance finally to get themselves an audience.

'Fingerthief' by David Hartley

The bastard may know what those fingers were responsible for, he may feel like chief prosecutor of my soul, he may even feel slighted by the ineffectual judicial system that acquitted me, he clearly knows how to spirit himself in and out of locked doors, how to make surgical amputations without tools, how to make real life feel like nightmare until it is too late, and I’d bet my life he’s watching me now somehow – but I’ll be damned if I’ll give him the satisfaction of seeing me dial 999 with my nose.

['Fingerthief' is just one of the stories in David's collection, Threshold.]

Say No to Flash Fiction - David Hartley

I don’t like the term flash fiction. Which seems a bit of an odd thing for me to say since I class myself as a flash fiction writer, I’ve had a book of flash fictions published, I’m part of a writing collective called Flashtag, and this is the official blog for National Flash Fiction Day 2013. But go with me on this; I don’t like the term – I do like the things themselves. Very much indeed.

Flash fictions are the art of brevity, and brevity is such an attractive thing in a gluttonous world of broadband teleportation, purple-sprouting dragon fruits, and eye-pad iPads. They fit well; on screens, in lives, into the fragmented rituals of our daily timeframes. And I believe they are a healthy medium too. They teach us control. And patience. And that leaving things out is almost always better than putting things in. Ahem.

They show us that stories don’t have to be long and consuming to be long in the mind and wholly consuming. Characters don’t need names. Or descriptions. Or back stories, or baggage, or a claim to the iron throne through something your half-sister’s cousin’s marriage partner’s spy said to a baby dragon seven thousand years ago. All you might need to say is ‘the ventriloquist’ and already the reader has a picture in their heads – and so do you, the writer, and now all you need to do is play that picture like a postmodern symphony of flavour until everything is mixed up and frightening and unsettling and then – BANG – hit them with the creepy dummy that they’ve almost forgotten existed, and stalk out of the room triumphant.

My problem with the term flash fiction is the word ‘flash’. It implies the brevity – ok that’s fine – but it also implies a certain unimportance, and that’s not fair. As more and more people discover flash fiction – readers and writers – its critical importance as a medium is becoming increasingly apparent. Many of the major short story writing awards now have a flash fiction category, and published collections are leaving in the super-short tales, rather than taking them out. Flash fictions fit neatly in the allotted timespan of an open-mic spoken word night, and as we train ourselves to speak brief on social media, our creative writings are evolving in the same way. Flash fiction is crucial – not a flash in the pan.   

Ultimately, flash fiction is just another way of saying ‘short story’ which, in turn, is another way of saying ‘story’, because the length of a thing does not necessarily determine if a tale has been told or not. I came to this realisation when I read the short story ‘Super-Toys Last all Summer Long’ by Brian Aldiss – which became the bloated and flawed film A.I: Artificial Intelligence in 2001. Aldiss’ tale is not short enough to be considered as flash fiction, but it is still surprisingly brief and packs a powerful punch – which the film takes a long and relatively weak time to deliver. Aldiss chose his words carefully and released just the right amount of information to kick that chill into my spine, and, in turn, my fingers onto the keyboard.

Aldiss showed me that even that most complex of genres – science fiction (another troublesome term) – could be delivered in a tiny amount of words for the same, or even greater, affect. But that affect does not come quickly. And here lies another problem with ‘flash’ – it implies the writing is quick. Well, compared to a novel, yes your flash fiction is going to be finished first. But that doesn’t mean you should trust your first words any more than you would the first draft of your novel. Flash fictions need gentle massage and brutal violence too; a shed word here, a change of tone there, a restructure of that sentence, a shift in point of view or, sometimes, a complete re-write. Make those words work hard, because they are no less important that the 100,000 words tussling to be free in that epic romance fantasy spy drama you’ve got going on deep in the back of your mind.

But really; it doesn't matter what we call them. As long as they get people to ink their quills and hammer all night on clunky keyboards in the creation of something beautiful, then their mission is accomplished. And if ‘flash fiction’ as a term has one thing going for it, its this; it still makes people frown, turn their heads and say ‘what’s that then?’ And when they discover what it is - and how accessible, exciting and experimental it is - there really is no turning back. 

Thursday, 20 June 2013

'Garnet' by Suz Winspear

It was a bargain on e-bay, a real garnet ring. There were no other bids, and she got it for £4.99, plus postage. She wore it every day, and almost everyone admired it.

Some people, however, told her that garnets were notoriously unlucky stones. She said this was nonsense, but sometimes she did wonder why hers had been the only bid. Still, she kept on wearing it. It was, after all, a beautiful ring; the stone was big and red and had lustrous sparkles within its structure. Yes, a few things had happened, but that was coincidence, nothing more. Her mother had died – but that was old age. Her aunt had died – ditto. Her cat disappeared – cats do that. The outbreak of e-coli following her sister’s wedding anniversary party was more of a shock. She was in hospital for a week, and three close friends died. But that was down to the caterers’ hygiene, nothing to do with the ring at all. How could it be? And the same was true of both car-crashes, the sinking ferry, the collapsing walkway, the flood, and the train derailment. She survived them all, and believed herself to be unusually lucky.

And then one windy November day, she was walking down the street when an advertising board blew off wall and struck her. As the emergency services retrieved the body, maybe someone noticed that the advertisement was for a jeweller, and the part of it that had crushed her skull carried an enormous photograph of a garnet ring just like the one she was wearing. But if they did, nobody mentioned it.

Two days after the probate had been settled, a new listing appeared on e-bay – a magnificent garnet ring, with an opening price of £4.99. What a bargain!

A Poem or a Flash? - Suz Winspear

Poetry and Flash Fiction are fabulous forms within which to work, and I love writing and performing both. At their best, they make for concise and memorable works of convenient length for live performance, not going on for so long that the audience loses attention, and they can pack a lot of meaning into a limited space. Both are equally enjoyable to perform. Yet although they have shared features, the two forms of writing are different; they communicate in different ways. The main similarity between the two is that neither has space for extraneous words or slack verbiage. Every word has to pay its way; in crafting effective poems and Flashes, there simply isn’t time or room to ramble or digress. But the use of those carefully-chosen words, and the intended results, are not entirely the same in the two literary forms.

Poetry allows ambiguity, suggestion, and the delicate evocation of atmosphere. Serious (as opposed to comic) poetry often works by hints and implications, allowing the listener or reader to find their own meanings within the piece. It often says those things that cannot easily be spoken directly, working on the subconscious level, so that I have sometimes found that the imaginations of the audience will find meanings in a poem which the poet did not originally notice was there.

Flash Fiction is equally concise, but more direct. To communicate to an audience, the Flash Fiction has to hold together as a story; it cannot be just a beautiful invocation of ambiguous atmosphere. Of course there can be plenty of atmosphere and ambiguity in a Flash Fiction, but they have to be there in the service of the story, not as an end in themselves. A Flash Fiction is not the same thing as a poem re-written without end-stops. It’s a story; it needs narrative, structure and development, leading to a conclusion that audiences will find satisfying (if sometimes rather unsettling). Remember, a flash is something brief, bright, direct and illuminating. You can’t have a hazy or a misty flash.

Of course, this is a personal opinion, based on what I’ve found that out through trial and error, from writing and performing, and by learning from the effects that different pieces have on an audience. Still, I do think that there is a distinction between what sort of thing works best in a poem and what makes a Flash Fiction effective . . . . And when it comes to deciding whether the brilliant piece of inspiration that came to you in the shower this morning would be best turned into a poem or a Flash, well that decision is yours to make – try it out, see what works, write and enjoy!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

'The Blank Page' by Sandra Hessels

From behind a small Venetian mask - a cheap knock-off of a replica, of course - peaks a tome of Shakespeare's works. Next to it volumes and volumes of anthologies sit, their spines all turned to me as though they are critical of my words.

‘We’ve all been written before, my dear,’ some seem to say from the closed pages, while others dare me to read between their lines and find a different meaning for them.

‘What story could you possibly have to tell?’ a thick and haughty book with elaborate letters in gold-coloured relief sneers down at me from upon the dusty shelf, the five letters of the name ‘Grimm’ half-faded, barely legible from use.

I stare at my blank page and wonder exactly that. I’ve always loved stories big and small, murder mysteries and vampires’ broodings, spells and spelling, tales and tellings. Ever since that the great spinning wheel first began to thread the fabric of fairy tale around me, I was lost inside an imaginary world that was all my own.
And then it hits me. ‘What stories could I possibly have to tell?’

Why, my own, of course.

Sandra's blog can be found at

Flash Fiction - Sandra Hessels

This probably sounds familiar, but I’ve always wanted to write. Hopes of getting published someday, somehow? Check. One must be ambitious, and being a dreamer is inherent to a writer, right?

So I came across the term “flash fiction” this year. Not knowing what that was, I decided to investigate what on earth it meant. It turns out, flash fiction is just really short fiction. A short short story. A situation. A vignette. A small peek into something that might – or just as easily might not – grow into something bigger, like an actual short story or just a medium-sized story or even the full-length novel you’ve always dreamt of writing.

A piece of fiction of 500 words (or less)… That sounded like something I could actually manage. Better yet, it sounded like a challenge. Especially since the particular blog I’d found was this one, about to host Flash Flood day. It winked at me and  said: go on, submit your flash fiction to us before this deadline, and we might just publish it right here! I tipped my imaginary hat and accepted.

I decided to give it a shot. Better still, I discovered that I had actually been writing flash fiction all along. Imagine that. I did a little happy dance when I realised it, because that also meant I was a writer all along. Hooray! Those pieces of paper, the notebooks with barely legible handwriting, the many documents that have been saved to my hard drive without any apparent purpose… I’d been writing flash fiction all along!
That realisation made it easier to open up one of those ghostly white new documents and fill it with words. No more than 500. And it turns out that flash fiction is the perfect vehicle to voice, jot down, safe keep and organise all those stray thoughts that are swimming around in a writer’s head literally all of the time. (I thought it was just me, by the way.)

A short conversation between two people that replays in your mind. An incomplete, otherwise fleeting thought, that might grow into a tale, once upon a time... Something that actually happened to you but that you’re more comfortable voicing when it comes out of a fictional character’s mouth. An observation that was too pretty to discard. The snippets of history you’ve already imagined hiding behind the lines and creases of cashier’s reassuring face when she helped you pick up the broken eggs after you dropped the carton. The hazy memories of a dream that cling almost imperceptibly to your waking consciousness, ready to let go.

They say that to be a writer is to write. No matter what. I say: try flash. It doesn’t demand that much of your precious time, and it’s a perfect way to hone your skills and be at it. To find the right combination of words to achieve the desired effect in as few words as possible. Or just to commit to paper what otherwise may have been forgotten.

Update from NFFD New Zealand

Dear NFFD readers, writers and supporters --

We expect to notify you of the Long List and Short List from this year's competition in the coming days, but meanwhile mark your calendars for this year's events on or around 22 June.

The main prize-giving event will take place again this year in Auckland, in the Central City Library on 22 June from  2-4pm. Judges Vivienne Plumb and David Lyndon Brown will be there to present awards. Short-listed writers who can attend will present their work, and a handful of special invited guests will also present flash fiction for our enjoyment. The Auckland branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors is helping sponsor the event, and there will be a reception as well. Do come share a drink and listen to some of the best flash fiction in Aotearoa on this day.

Meanwhile, if you are geographically situated farther south, check out Wellington's flash fiction event on Monday 24 June at 7pm at the Thistle Inn. It's an event for readers and writers, hosted by the Wellington NZSA. 

Details for both these events can be found on the NFFD website. Check the website for local competitions and challenges, too. 

And if anyone is interested in hosting an event in Canterbury or elsewhere -- large or small -- , do let us know and we'll be glad to share your news. 

Finally, if you are interested in flash fiction in other places as well, stop in at FLASH MOB 2013, where more than 100 writers from all over the globe will share stories beginning on 20 June. The winning stories from this year's FLASH MOB competition will be announced on 22 June as well.

Wishing you the best
from Michelle Elvy and the NFFD NZ team

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

'Still Got It' by Helena Mallett

She looks in the mirror.  She’s lied slightly about her age. He probably has too. They all do.

Is pink too brash?  Is black too sober?  She wonders what he’s like. He sounded nice online.

She’ll straighten her hair and go for the blue.  Oh, and the killer high heels and new red lipstick. That’ll do the trick.

He simply throws on old, faded chinos, with his favourite shirt and thinks, ‘Yeah, still got it.’

75 word biography:
Helena Mallett is a regular contributor of 75 word stories to Richard Hearn's daily Paragraph Planet.
She has a 100 word story ‘Death and Life’ included in the anthology of Micro-Fiction ‘Pod’ published by Leaf Books in 2011.
Her first collection of Flash Fiction is 75 x 75 = Flash Fraction which tells 75 stories each captured in exactly 75 words.
Helena is a Londoner currently living in the rolling hills of wild West Wales.

(More information at

75 words on Writing Flash Fiction - Helena Mallett

I am a 75 word storyteller.
I love the discipline of writing to a specific word count with every word examined under a magnifying glass to earn its place.
Some stories are honed slowly and lovingly over time while others rise through sleep and into the dawn of my laptop complete and ready for the world.
I'm currently writing my next collection of 75 word stories due for publication at the end of the year.

Monday, 17 June 2013

'Julie Delpy' by Amy Mackelden

For four weeks Russell’s been researching rail travel, because he wants to be Ethan Hawke in Before Sunrise. He’s prepared for other variations if this one won’t work, although he’s not updating Shakespeare, serenading Winona Ryder, or pretending he’s someone he’s not (unless it’s Ethan Hawke, obviously).

I try to be supportive. He asks me, ‘Where can I get a good hamburger?’ until he gets the accent right. We walk around the city, late nights and early mornings, and he keeps saying, ‘I didn’t think it’d be this cold. It didn’t look cold in the film.’ Sometimes, I swear he’s saying ‘Uma Thurman’ under his breath, but he may just be shivering.

He’s got his inter-rail pass already. I bite my lip to stop from saying, ‘This isn’t what Ethan would have, because Ethan’s American.’ I don’t relay any of Russell’s flaws back to him (he really can’t say ‘banana’) because I’m not in the habit of destroying hope.

Before he leaves I ask him, ‘Why Ethan?’ and he mumbles something about oddly tall beautiful women, whilst fastening the clips on his rucksack. I stand on tiptoes, crane my neck and say, ‘You don’t need to travel round Europe for that.’ And then he kisses me continentally, on both cheeks, as his train pulls in.

(originally published in Fractured West Issue 3)

The Internship - Amy Mackelden

This year I was an intern for National Flash Fiction Day, which involved receiving, compiling and covertly reading submissions before anyone else saw them. Sure, it was an admin task, the core of which involved building a spreadsheet of all the anthology entries, logging names, email addresses and word counts. But it somehow managed to be super fun. It was great seeing entries arrive in the inbox, some from recognisable names, some from newcomers, and getting to read them first. I didn’t have a say in the judging process, but it was awesome reading the stories before anyone else, trying to guess what might make the cut. The main lesson I took from this was that a story might be great, but that doesn’t mean it’ll fit into any project, necessarily. There was such a volume of entries, it must’ve been tough to choose what made it into the book, and what didn’t. And a part of that has to be which stories create a product, fit together, are cohesive. A story doesn’t always find a home on its first submission. Which is why it’s massively worth re-subbing, over and over again if need be. It was cool to see the breadth of responses too, each about a piece of art, be it book, film, sculpture, each so unique, personal, different, new.

From the spreadsheet I created a mail merge, which built a word document containing all of the submissions, each uniform, all in the same font, anonymous, with title only, so that the judges could read every story without the prejudice of knowing its author. I like that Calum and Holly read all the submissions this way, it makes it so much more fair if the first time they see the work they have no idea who submitted it. Everyone has an equal shot.

Once the selection was made, I compiled a new document with the chosen entries in it, which Calum typeset (and I still can’t believe how quickly he made the book happen, and that we’ll have it in a week).

There are many reasons I love flash. It’s the first form I really enjoyed working in. I just got it and it, me: it’s like the most reliable boyfriend/girlfriend ever. Flash can tell a whole story, a half of it, or a moment only, as it passes. It’s at times impossible to define, maybe called poetry or a prose poem in the mouths of others. It works in sequence or solo, but it’ll never spawn 7 sequels like Die Hard’s going to. It’s so much more efficient than that. Sparse yet filled with possibility which the reader injects like a jam machine in a donut factory. It’s compact, resourceful, won’t waste morsels. It’s the opposite of a Kardashian. And I’m totally, one hundred and ten percent, in love with it. 

Amy's new Trash TV blog, co-edited by fellow flash writer Amy Roberts is at:

Amy's microfiction site is:

Sunday, 16 June 2013

'Kiss' by Nik Perring

The man was rude to his wife, mostly. But she loved him all the same, loved him as much as when they’d met - her, fresh out of college, him with flecks of grey already creeping into his hair. Decades on, she was still young, black haired, funny, smart. And she was good at her job, well liked by those she managed, and she earned a good wage. Still, when she came home he’d often ignore her, or choose to grunt instead of speaking.
             She loved to cook, and she loved to cook for him – and she was good at it, and not just at your average meal. Her teriyaki was as good as her hot pot and her madras was as good as anything. But mostly, despite cleaning his plate, he’d be rude, critical, grumpy.
             ‘It’s fine,’ he’d snap if she pushed him for a verdict on something new or recently perfected.
             He was retired, had been for years, and his days were predictable, but she still asked him about them.
             ‘How was your day?’ she’d say, a warm smile on soft lips.
             She’d ask, ‘Been in the garden? How are the plants?’
             Sometimes, if he was in the right mood, he’d tell her what he’d been doing, tell her what he planned to do, use words like compost, borders, trimming, pruning, and colour.
             He loved his garden, and not just because he enjoyed the work, or  because he appreciated the exercise and fresh air, or because he loved its smells and colours. He and his plants were friends. He’d talk to them, tell them secrets. Give them instructions – explain when to bloom, and for how long, show them why they should adjust the angles of their stems, which way they ought to face. And the plants listened. But this was a secret. No-one could know.
             The man’s wife knew. Not that she said anything, if it made him happy then fine.
             She’d seen him a number of times, watched him from their kitchen window, seen him with his head inclined towards a hanging basket, nodding as he spoke to it, or with his hands on his hips, chatting to their cherry tree. One day she’d come home to find him on his knees, arms waving, conducting their bedding plants.
             The first time she mentioned it to him was on the day he died.
             He’d become grey and thin very quickly; he had begun to look like an old man, and she, his wife, was worried.
             She found him in their room. He was cupping the head of a poinsettia, whispering to it tenderly and with enthusiasm. She heard him tell it her name.
             ‘Hi,’ she said, ‘How are you doing?’
             ‘Fine,’ he said.
             ‘Is it true what they say?’ she asked, easing herself onto their bed, ‘Does it help them grow?’
             ‘Some people think so,’ he told her.
             ‘What do you say to them?’ asked his wife, patting their mattress, inviting him to join her.
             He straightened and smiled. The mattress creaked under his weight.
             ‘Ever think what you’ll do when I’m gone?’ he asked.
             ‘Don’t be silly! There’s life in you yet,’ she said, that warmth on her lips, hoping.
             ‘I think about it,’ he continued. ‘You’ll be a long time without me.’
             ‘Don’t talk like that.’
             ‘Wish I was younger,’ he said. ‘Or that you were older. Big gap between us.’
             The man’s wife hushed him. She didn’t want to hear this.
             ‘So the flowers,’ she said. ‘What do you tell them?’
             ‘Secrets,’ he said. ‘Instructions. Things they need to remember once I’ve gone. And they will, you know,’ he told her, smiling, ‘Just you wait.’
             She pulled him close and held him, because she loved him. They lay together that night, old next to young, man next to wife. He told her he loved her and that he always would - and that she should believe what he said about the flowers - and he apologised for being grumpy most of the time and explained that it was because he felt guilty for being so much older - and he said that he thought he was selfish and she told him to sshhh.
             In the morning he was dead, died in his sleep.
             With a funeral to arrange and friends and relatives to deal with and wills to action - and everything else that comes with losing a husband - the woman, now a widow, didn’t think about the flowers or about what her husband had said. She went weeks once without watering them.
             She was in the garden when it came back to her, she was just there, just breathing, when she noticed that the flowerbed was different – its flowers made shapes. Letters. Words.
             The words spelled her name, they spelled ALWAYS and, at the end, after the blues and yellows and pinks that formed the name of her husband, they made an X.


Nik Perring is a short fiction writer from the UK. His stories have been collected into books (Not So Perfect (Roast Books) and (with Caroline Smailes) Freaks! (TFP?HarperCollins)), published in many fine places all over the world, been used on a distance learning course in the US and a number of other cool things. His online home is here ( and he’s on Twitter as @nikperring and he’d love you to say hi.