I’m delighted to have Jude Higgins on the blog today talking about the UK’s first ever Flash Fiction Festival, which she has launched along with a team of other talented flash writers. Jude is also behind the Bath Flash Fiction Award and won the first RW Flash Fiction Prize in 2016 with her story, At the Hospital, which will be published in the anthology later this year. She also won one of our 2016 themed flash competitions with her story, Out of Bounds, which you can read here.
Sadly, I cannot be at the Flash Fiction Festival as it is on the same weekend that we are running the Crime Writing Retreat in Dorset – 24-25 June. But I know it will be a great weekend filled with great workshops, talks and stories.
Jude, you’ve now launched both the UK’s first ever flash fiction festival and the Bath Flash Fiction Award – can you tell us what gets you so excited about this very short form?
It’s true, I am excited about the short short form. For myself, I like the challenge of writing succinctly and the many ways to be inventive. Also, so many writers of flash fiction are experimenting and developing the form. I read hundreds and hundreds of stories from around the world each year and marvel at the brilliant use of language and structure, the different themes and subject matter.
I launched the Bath Flash Award to share the love of short short fiction and help it grow. I believe there is a huge surge of interest in the form so, with support from Meg Pokrass, it seemed the right time to hold the first ever UK flash fiction festival this June and bring so many great UK writers and teachers together. And it’s exciting to have Meg and Pamela Painter, both leading American exponents of flash fiction involved too. I am very grateful to the Arts Council England for funding the festival, along with Bath Flash Fiction Award.
How did you go about designing the programme to make this first flash festival suitable for beginner and more advanced flashers?
All the workshops and talks at the festival are suitable for beginner and experienced flashers. I’ve taught a lot of creative writing workshops myself as a tutor for Writing Events Bath, an organisation I run with a friend, and know if people who have never written before are given prompts and exercises, they can write a first draft. Often something they never thought they could create. And that’s a great confidence booster.
Experienced writers also love getting new ideas from exercises. All the tutors at the festival are intending to get people writing. I expect everyone will come away with several little stories drafted. The talks and readings will be inspiring for newer and old-hand flashers too. I like the phrase, ‘Zen mind, beginners mind’. If you are open and aware, you will always learn something new, even if it’s something you’ve heard hundreds of times before.
As an award-winning flash writer yourself, which of your stories are you most proud of and why?
I am proud of those two winning flash Fictions I wrote for Retreat West. At the Hospital which won the yearly contest and Out of Bounds which won a themed monthly contest. These two are a couple of fictionalised pieces based on my childhood. They’ll both be published in different versions in my forthcoming V.Press Flash Fiction pamphlet.’The Chemist’s House.’ It is a great boost to win something, and it’s also lovely to receive comments from judges and feel acknowledged.
Which flash writers have inspired you?
I have always liked fiction by American writers and currently I love Meg Pokrass’s flash Fictions and the way she takes such unexpected leaps. Her collections Damn Sure Right and The Dog Looks Happy Upside Down are a revelation. Kathy Fish’s writing, like her teaching, is very inspiring. A recent flash I read of hers called Strong Tongue which will be published in Best Small Fictions 2017, says so much in so few words. Pamela Painter is a genius for great beginnings and endings. I keep looking at her work to see how she does it.
Beyond coming to the festival, what is the best advice you can give aspiring flash writers?
Yes, do come to the festival because it will be so much fun. Actually having fun writing is my best advice. Even if you are writing about something very hard, have fun thinking about the language and form. It’s astounding what can emerge from your imagination. It never ceases to amaze me what can be on the page after ten minutes if you let yourself play.
Thanks so much for coming, Jude, and I’m very sorry to be missing the festival.