Flash In Five October 2023 – Christine Collinson

This month our Flash In Five comes from writer Christine Collinson

A Climmer’s Chance, (click title to read) published by Janus Literary (online) and in A Pillow of White Roses (Ellipsis Zine).

Idea: My sources for generating ideas are quite broad: non-fiction books and articles, historic sites, podcasts, period dramas, and documentaries, are some of my typical starting points. I was listening to a BBC History Extra podcast about birds when I first came across ‘Climmers’ (or Climbers) [Pets, pests & portents: birds through time, April 2022]. This led me to some early film footage of Flamborough Head in Yorkshire [The Egg Harvest of Flamborough Head (1908), Cricks & Sharp]. Although black and white, and silent, it was so absorbing that a story idea emerged almost at once.

Development: A routine working day, perhaps, but what more could lie behind a perilous life at a cliffside? At the time, I was often writing stories around the theme of livelihoods (more on that later). The Climmers’ life clearly leant itself to an atmospheric setting, so I just needed to find that unique character arc. The footage of the workers was my starting point. I then considered what might drive my main character. It’s the same basic question for the past as now: what makes people get up every morning? So, my character’s motivation (aside from earning a living), would be partly romantic endeavour; something to keep his spirits up when the going was hard.

Editing: This story didn’t require too much editing, as occasionally happens, which gave me some confidence that the concept held together well. The film footage was in my mind as I wrote the first draft, so those images really helped to frame the main narrative. I often use first person from the outset and it seemed to lend the immediacy I hoped to convey here. Describing the coastal scene was a joy, but as usual in my work, I tried to avoid common phrases. The one I did use, “As sure as eggs is eggs,” was part of speech, which meant I could get away with it!

Submitting:  I think this piece went out to one or two journals and was declined, initially. Declines affect me less than they used to and I’m fully accepting that historical fiction is not always easy to place. I didn’t make any changes after the declines. With time (years!), I’ve learnt to trust my instincts a little more and I was happy with it. Then, I was approached by Janus Literary inviting me to submit to their Editor’s Showcase. I sent three quite varied flash pieces. A Climmer’s Chance was selected from those and featured in the August 2022 Showcase.

Reflections: When I was compiling my flash collection themed around livelihoods for the 2023 Ellipsis Zine Novella/Collection Competition, A Climmer’s Chance was a natural fit. I’m so pleased that as a result of first prize in that competition, it found a second home in A Pillow of White Roses.

Christine Collinson writes historical short fiction. Her debut collection, A Pillow of White Roses, was published in 2023 by Ellipsis Zine (also available from Amazon UK). Over the past five years, her work has been widely published in online journals and print anthologies. Find her on Bluesky and X @collinson26.

October 2023 Monthly Micro Shortlist

Well done to everyone who wrote and submitted a story this month and to the writers who made the longlist. Congratulations to the 10 writers who have gone through to the shortlist! The prompt word this month was SUN.

Vote for your favourite from these fab stories to win the surprise People’s Prize. Our judging team are busy re-reading to choose the winners of the cash prizes. Voting is open until 23.59 (UK time) on 23rd October 2023. Results will be announced on 24th. Good luck everyone! 

A Chance Meeting on Moore Beach

Christine didn’t talk to strangers; so when, in the orange-hued haze of first light, an old woman
approached, her muscles stiffened.

“Would you like a shell?” An outstretched hand cupped a chipped clam. “It’s not perfect, but,”
the woman turned it over, “just look at that purple .”

Christine clasped the shell, holding it between them. They watched as the rising sun illuminated
an iridescent layer, previously hidden. The old woman nodded and continued down the beach.

A seagull soared overhead. Her phone pinged. Pls forgive me. Christine exhaled and pocketed
the shell as the tide stretched to touch her toes.


You lay the blanket across the sand. Moonlight rays shimmering with phosphorescent memories. Somewhere between dusk and dawn I feel your hand in mine, the warmth of your fingers, as I stretch my toes one last time to feel the tactility of grains against my skin. By morning I will be gone. You will fold me in the blanket, slip me back into the room from where you spirited me away, to be discovered as sun slips through slatted blinds. You’ll accept the call, already knowing the news of my passing and the mystery of the sand between my toes.


My mum’s an astronaut, studying solar flares. She’s somewhere so bright I can’t even look
without my eyes watering, but from down here I can blot her out with the tip of my thumb. That’s
called an eclipse.

People say I must be so proud of her. On Earth she glides through parties with her followers in
orbit, radiating a prickling heat that many mistake for warmth.

Personally I’ve always preferred the moon, although it can appear dusty and boring compared
to the sun. Pockmarked with scars, but well practiced in redirecting the sun’s excess light to
illuminate the darkness.

Lifting the Lid

The photographs were the hardest, the need to cull so many memories.

Her grief felt like that time in the playground, the eclipse, the disc of the moon covering the sun, the strange absence of light, of birdsong, the sense of unreality.

She pulled another box towards her, and there was her childhood in black and white, long-forgotten friends, Mrs Insley smiling in the 1961 class photo. She lifted it out, remembering how the kindly teacher had come to stand beside her as darkness had fallen – had sensed her distress. She reached for her bag and carefully placed it inside.

Never Let The Sun Go Down On Your Anger

Gran reckoned anger, left to fester, turned your insides bad. Best to nip it in the bud before you went to bed.

The Summer Mum left, taking only the new curate and the bump under her baggy tops, the air at Gran’s Bible class was thick with flies and gossip. I sat at the back, peeling corpses off fly papers and pulling off the legs. Later, I’d bake the bodies into scones to serve to the church ladies, passing them off as currants. I was a credit to Gran, the ladies said.

Somehow, I didn’t feel so angry, after that.

Orbiting Sol

People used to call before visiting. Now they appear saying, ‘just wondered how you’re doing,’ ‘just found these baby clothes in the attic’, ‘just cooked extra for dinner’. They orbit the cot, waiting for Sol to wake. You rotate through an endless cycle of eat, sleep, cry, while drooping flowers shed pollen on the white kitchen worktop.

You escape one morning craving birdsong, the chill of autumn air, the sight of a golden leaf twisting in the wind. But it’s your gut that’s twisting, and there’s a heavy, inexplicable pull deep inside your chest. At the street corner, you hesitate.


“How does the sun roll across the sky?”, my brother asks as he hurls his ball against the yard wall. I tell him the Ancient Egyptians believed it was carried on the back of a scarab. We don’t mention the thunder in our stomachs or how Ma won’t rise until dusk or that if the big kids borrow his ball, he’ll be kicking bottles. We put our lips to the tap to ease the drought. “Later,” I tell him, “Ma might fry eggs.” I think of us dipping our forks in the orbs of their yolks to taste the summer.

The Burning Question

Gender identity freezes my heart, resulting in deep thinking and shallow, painful cuts. Confusion and uncertainty serve to magnify my desperation for answers. What am I?

Not knowing which way to turn, I look upwards shouting: “I love the sunshine.” The sun’s neutrality calms my anxieties.

Liberated, I chase my new, heavenly saviour around the beaches of Europe.

In France, Le Soleil is masculine. He heats up my body.
In Germany, Die Sonne is feminine. She wraps me in her rays.

If the sun isn’t clear about its identity, surely I can live a colourful life beneath its glorious rainbows.

The Complications of a Sunburst

Sometimes, I imagine them like a white-hot sun, mostly because at school, when Ms. Carruthers told us not to look at the sun directly, we did it anyway. See who could stand it the longest. We’d remove our Barbie sunglasses and squint until we had to blink, the aftermath glinting behind our lids in oil-spill rosettes.

Like stealing a bit of light, she used to say.

I imagine them like a sun, the headlights, because even though I wasn’t with her at the end, it makes me think she saw them and pretended. Closed her eyes.

Maybe, thought of me.

The dark side of the sun

There’s a lot of talk about how terrible the weather will be this summer, hot and windy, they say.

Hundreds of pictures of the last bad summer are still on your phone, saved in an album named ‘fires’ and sometimes you can’t help looking for that one picture of the crowd on the beach with the horse, the sky behind them and the sand around them and even the sea in front of them glowing some part of the spectrum of the colour orange. They were waiting for boats, for rescue.

As always, you wonder what happened to that horse.

Please vote using the form below. If you have any problems with the form, you can also vote via this link: https://form.responster.com/y3athW

Christmas Advent Comp 2023 Shortlist/Winners

Well done to the writers of the following stories that have gone through to the shortlist and been selected for the Advent Story Countdown! We will publish them once a day starting on 4th December. In advent calendar style, the prizes each writer has won will be announced on publication of the stories!

  • All I Want For Christmas by Cole Beauchamp
  • Boxing Day by Mairead Robinson
  • Cards for Christmas by Lucy Bignall
  • Christmas Realms by Fran Turner
  • Christmas Unravelled by Katie Holloway
  • Doctor, I’m In Trouble by Gordon Pinckheard
  • Kill a Tree by Mikki Aronoff
  • Lottie and me by Rhona Stephens
  • Notes to Self on Christmas Gifts Received and Subsequent New Year’s Resolutions by Taria Karillion
  • The Clicking Keeps me Company by Alan Kennedy
  • What I Learned from Blue Peter by Stephanie Percival
  • Writing Santa by Jan Kaneen

Photo by Rodion Kutsaiev on Unsplash

Monthly Micro Longlist – October 2023

Many thanks to everyone who submitted a SUN-inspired story this month. We had 65 submissions so the cash prizes are £70 for first prize and £46 for second.

Congrats to the writers of the following stories that have made the longlist. No telling which is yours though!

Longlisted Stories

  • A Chance Meeting on Moore Beach
  • Audabe
  • Eclipse
  • Helios
  • His Father’s Son
  • It’s the thought that counts
  • Lifting the Lid
  • Mary Poppins Willed Me Her Carpet Bag
  • Moulten
  • Never Let The Sun Go Down On Your Anger
  • Orbiting Sol
  • Scarab
  • Solar Eclipse
  • Sun Child
  • Sunflowers
  • Sunday Loves Monday, Monday Loves Thursday, Thursday Makes a Rainbow
  • Sunshine Digby has two left feet
  • The Burning Question
  • The Complications of a Sunburst
  • The dark side of the sun
  • The separation of sunsets

The shortlist will be online for voting on Monday. Good luck everyone!

Flash In Five – September 2023 Emily Devane

This month our Flash In Five comes from writer Emily Devane

The Word Swallower (2018) Ellipsis Zine (click title to read)

Idea: This story came about by accident. I wanted to write a piece of flash for the National Flash Fiction Day anthology, on that year’s theme of ‘food’. I still have my notebook, filled with abandoned notes. I wanted to write something that would stand out. It was in thinking around the theme that an idea came to me: what if I told a story about people who eat things that aren’t food? I was familiar with stories about pregnant women craving coal, earth or chalk. I have hypo-sensory tendencies, so this was something I could relate to, albeit in a small way. I went down a lengthy research rabbit hole, exploring the phenomenon of people eating non-food substances. Pica, as it’s known, is classed as an eating disorder. The story started life as a paragraph with the holding title ‘The Paper Eater’.

Development: At the back of my mind was the expression: you are what you eat. I became interested in the concept of a person eating paper, and somehow becoming the words on the page. The story set out in a playful direction. Perhaps I shouldn’t admit this but the tale about the eaten lunch ticket actually happened to me, and it provided a humorous jumping off point. Then I thought of other things that might be eaten – and what might be rejected by the discerning paper eater (I had fun with that part!). But at this stage, the story was a series of anecdotes. As I worked on the story, it became clear that this character was eating paper due to a lack of something. By the final draft, this girl has become so shaped by the words she has consumed, she is now unrecognisable to her own mother. Everything slotted into place with that last line – another literalised metaphor. Sometimes that happens, and it feels like magic – a ‘ta-da’ moment.

Editing: During the editing stage, I switched perspectives. In the first draft, the story was told from the mother’s perspective but that made it harder to convey the final message. Third person allowed me to shift tones as the story progressed. I decided the title, ‘The Paper Eater’, wasn’t doing enough work. This girl wasn’t just eating paper, she was consuming words – and swallower seemed to have more resonance as a word. We talk of people swallowing a story whole or being swallowed up by something. That word seemed to better reflect the transformation at the heart of the story, and I felt it would prime the reader for something a little deeper. I still have the first draft of this story and it was one that grew and evolved rather than being honed and polished. I know I’m unusual in this, but I resist over-editing. First drafts have an energy and rhythm to them that’s hard to replicate.

Submitting:  I ended up not sending this to the NFFD anthology – ironically, in my attempt to think outside the box, my story had become too removed from the theme of ‘food’. I submitted the story to Ellipsis Three (the print edition), along with another story, ‘Night Music’. Steve told me he’d like to publish both stories – ‘Night Music’ ended up in the print zine, and ‘The Word Swallower’ was published online. I was thrilled when it was later nominated for Best of the Net and went on to be a finalist.

Reflections: I’m still fond of this piece because it reminds me to play. Too often, I forget that bit!

Emily Devane is a writer, editor and teacher based in Ilkley West Yorkshire. She has taught workshops and courses for Comma Press, Dahlia Press, London Writers’ Cafe and Northern Writers’ Studio. She has won the Bath Flash Fiction Award, a Northern Writers’ Award and a Word Factory Apprenticeship. Emily’s work has been published in Smokelong Quarterly, Best Microfictions Anthology, Lost Balloon, Ambit and others. She is a founding member at FlashBack Fiction. Emily co-hosts Word Factory’s Strike! Short Story Club and runs a monthly social writing group at The Grove Bookshop, Ilkley. Find her on twitter @DevaneEmily and @WordsMoor

September 2023 Monthly Micro Winners

Well done again to all who made it through to the shortlist this month and congratulations to our winners!

First Prize: Why My Big Sister Won ‘The City of The Future’ Art Competition by Mairead Robinson

Why we chose it: A sad and timely, but also hopeful micro

Second Prize: Two Boys, One Book, In Jim Crow’s Jackson by Fiona Dignan

Why we chose it: A poignant and powerful micro

People’s Prize: Two boys, one book, in Jim Crow’s Jackson

(Winner by just one vote this month!)

Shortlisted Stories

Mairead and Fiona win the cash prizes and Fiona also wins feedback on 1000 words.

We have a new workshop on the first Sunday of the month related to this competition for our community members to sharpen up their micro writing skills and get the prompt ahead of it going live on the website the next day. Join the community here.