Today on our blog we have a Q & A with Tania Hershman, about the fantastic Fuel anthology – ORDER HERE
Can you tell us about how the Fuel anthology came about?
I was getting more and more upset last summer, as I’m sure many of us were, as I listened to the UK news telling me that even before the predicted stratospheric gas and electricity price hikes there were already people having to choose between heating their homes and heating their food. It seems so wrong and I wanted to do something to help. As I thought about it more, I realised that I could do more than just make a donation to fuel poverty charities, especially because, as we now know even more clearly, this situation is not going to go away any time soon; more prices increases are coming and it will most likely get worse.
A flash fiction anthology of some sort was my first thought because, after writing flash fiction myself for over a decade, I know most of the flash fiction community, I already had all the contacts. And, knowing the community well, I had no doubt that people would want to help. But I was nervous about doing it alone, I’d never undertaken anything like this, producing a book from scratch – from gathering 75 flash stories by authors around the world all the way to doing the design and layout and getting it printed! Sometimes it’s best not to think at the start about everything you’re going to have to do that you’ve never done before – it was a lengthy but really fascinating, rewarding process, with much help from people along the way. I learned a lot.
Holding the FUEL book in my hands two weeks ago, just 6 months after I first had the idea, was very moving to me. All the profits are being donated to at least four UK fuel poverty charities, and as I write this we’ve already raised over £700 for charity from pre-orders, which is amazing.
What makes this book different from other flash fiction anthologies?
As I began musing about putting together a flash fiction anthology, I wondered if I could not only create something people would buy just to support the charities, but a book that would be unique and potentially useful to writers, a book that could explode some myths and misconceptions and pass on permission to write what you want to write in the way you want to write it. Then the idea hit me: how about a collection of award-winning flash fictions, stories that had all won first prize in various competitions over the past few decades? This was something I’d never come across before but would have loved, especially when I was started to write. A book like this—with an enormous variety of flash fictions of different lengths, shapes, forms, genres, voices— could serve, as I mentioned above, to bust some myths about what kinds of stories win writing competitions, as well as celebrating and giving another outing to all these stories, some of which had never been published in print.
As I reached out to competition organisers—who were all as generous and helpful as I’d known they would be, including yourselves at Retreat West!—and then to authors, and as such a diverse and surprising set of stories started arriving in my Inbox, I thought of more ways to try and make the book helpful to writers. I added something often seen in poetry anthologies but rarely in fiction: an Index of First Lines, so readers could scan the list, see what first line grabbed them, and then read that story. As someone who has judged writing competitions, the first line is where I always hope, faced with a huge pile of entries, that a writer will grab me and not let me go. Here are 75 very different ways that a story can start, each of which grabbed a judge and didn’t let them go!
As well as the contributor biographies, so you can find new favourite writers and read more by then, I’ve also listed all the competitions at the back, with a short description and a list of the first-prize-winning stories included in FUEL from that particular competition. And of course a reader can just dip in and out as they like!
For people unfamiliar with the concept of flash fiction, how would you explain it?
To me, flash fiction is just one name for very short stories, roughly 1500 words and under – sometimes a long way under! The shortest flash story in FUEL is 78 words; the longest is 1000 words. For me, length is the only definition; a piece of flash fiction has to be short, but there are no other rules at all. It can be any genre (we have crime fiction, science fiction, humourous stories included in FUEL); it can be told from all sorts of points of view. Some stories are one long breathless line with, some are in the form of a letter, a play, Internet search results. Flash fiction can be anything and everything – what will yours be?!
Are there any Fuel- related events coming up we can let our readers know about?
We are having an online launch party on Feb 15th, hosted by the wonderful Writers HQ, where I’ll be introducing the book and a line-up of writers from around the world will read their prize-winning stories. We’ll then open it up to a Q&A so you can ask everything you always wanted to know about writing flash fiction and about competitions! What is it like to win, what can it do for you and for your confidence and your writing? How is a competition judged? Please come, tickets are pay-what-you-can, with the proceeds also donated to fuel poverty charities, book here: https://writershq.co.uk/fuel-flash-anthology-launch/
In July, I’ll be hosting a reading of more of the FUEL authors and running a workshop inspired by the FUEL anthology at the amazing Flash Fiction Festival in Bristol, if you’re going to be there please do come along, it’s a joyous weekend celebrating everything flash fiction can be! Details and booking for the festival here: https://www.flashfictionfestival.com/