Flash Fiction competitions and why they sometimes suck and why ours doesn’t.

I hate how it often feels as if the writing world is only opened up by having money. If you can afford to pay for an MA, a writing retreat, a workshop, then you not only pay for the knowledge you gain but also the connections you make. The internet is a leveller. I joined a brilliant online writing group and have learned heaps from other writers, for free. However, if I want to submit my work to competitions there is usually a fee. I moan about this to anyone who will listen. Who will win a flash fiction competition that charges £9 to enter? A writer who can afford it. Someone kindly suggested on twitter I could email competitions and ask if they have reduced entry fees for those with a restricted income. It’s a terrific idea to offer such places. The truth is I can pay a £9 entry fee if I really want to, but I choose not to. I want the playing field I am on to be as open as possible.

I’m the Managing Editor of The Forge and we pay writers thanks to the generosity of John and Yosh Haggerty and the writers who submit using our $3 tip jar option. I know it’s unusual to have this private backing and it’s a privilege. I understand the need to charge money to make the prize fund. But… £9 for 300 words?

We are holding our annual flash competition this September and the prize is $500, publication, and, a 2-year subscription to Duotrope (thanks Duotrope). It is free to enter until we hit our Submittable limit of 300. There is also a tip jar option. Our tagline is “Literary excellence is our only criteria.” And it’s true. We are looking for stunning writing and that’s it. We are open to all voices with any background, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual and personal identity. I’m very proud of what we offer and would be grateful if you spread the word. Because it is rare to offer something for nothing I expect we will be inundated so to be sure of free entry get ready to sub asap. I know the writer tendency is to wait for the deadline (September 14th) and then fling something in just before midnight in a last-second scramble but we open on September 1st.

I’m looking forward to reading your work.
(I’m posting this on my personal blog because these are my personal views and I don’t speak for any other member of The Forge.)

Smash Lits with Ben Slotky

I published The Sandwich Judge by Ben Slotky over at The Forge Literary Magazine this week. It is a superb story. The moment I read it in the subs queue I had a glorious “YES ACCEPT NOW” moment. Please do read it.

And then come back and read these daft questions that have nothing to do with Ben’s incredible writing.

1) What would your superhero power be?

Flying, w/o a doubt.

2) What was the last text you sent?

Pink, And I Was Slathered. The Nature of Great Things. Something Classy, Something With Endives. (These are titles for stories I will probably never write, but should.)

3) What has been your most embarrassing moment?

Back when I was in kindergarten, I called my teacher “Mom.” Nothing’s been that bad since.

4) Bacon VS Tofu—who wins? Why?

I’m kind of done with bacon. We get it, it’s delicious, let’s move on. I am a sucker for a good Mapo tofu.

5) Do you have any phobias?

Not a one.

6) You have to swap places with one other writer for a week. Who and why?

Let’s see. That’s tough. It depends on where they were. I’m not good at things like this. I don’t want to swap with anybody. Next question.

7) Do you believe human beings can spontaneously combust?

It’s 96 degrees at 5 PM on September 20. I’ve seen 11 people burst into flames since noon.

8) How do you stop procrastinating and get on with writing?

I don’t. I have been writing the same novel for about 5 years. In the interim, I wrote a novella and about eleven hundred stories. I am always thinking about writing; I will think and think and think about something until it’s pretty much fully formed and then I write it down.

9) What excuse did you use to bunk off school?

Diarrhea. I’m assuming “bunk off” means skip school or get out of school or something. Even if it doesn’t, I’m sticking with diarrhea.

10) Do you have a motto for life?

My grandfather used to say “Never drink out of strange toilets.” That’s served me well. Either that or “I’m sticking with diarrhea.”

11) Have you ever seen a ghost?

Nope. I saw a UFO once. There could have been a ghost in it, I don’t know. It was way up high.

12) What is the most over-rated novel you’ve read?

I’m not one to judge novels.

13) What sandwiches would you make for a picnic with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie?

I’m not one to judge sandwiches. I’d bring a nice salad, maybe. Something classy, something with endives.

14) What is your favourite swear?

I rarely swear. Does “fudge” count? Mother-fudge?

15) What word or words make you cringe?

I don’t like it when people start sentences with “So…”

16) Mermaid, dinosaur or unicorn?

Dinosaur. I’m a Dimetrodon guy from way back.

17) Who is your favourite TV detective?

I wrote a bunch of stories about a Crocodile Detective. He’s probably my favorite, primarily because I made him up and he’s a crocodile.

18) What’s your favourite fairy tale?

Probably Rocky 2.

19) What is the last thing you Googled?

What is “other” on my iPhone?

20) Give me a question for the next Smash List interview I do.

How great is Ben Slotky?

Smash Lits with Kelly Griffiths

We published a powerful piece of creative non-fiction at the Forge last week – The Boots by Kelly Griffiths – which I urge you all to read. Kelly kindly agreed to take part in one of my daft interviews.

1. What was the last text you sent?

“Thank you, Gabe. You saved the day.” (My 13-year-old turned off the water to our leaking refrigerator while we were on a weekend away.)

2. You are wallpaper. What is your pattern?

If Jackson Pollock made wallpaper…

3. Who would play you in the film of your piece?

That’s easy. My piece is cnf. I’m the angry one.

4. Bacon VS Tofu – who wins? Why?

IMG_4947

Bacon, even though I’m not generally a fan of pig. Come up with a salty, crunchy, grease saturated tofu, and I’ll change my answer.

5. Have you ever been attacked by an animal?

A poodle. I still have the scar. But in fairness, I provoked it.

6. What is the oldest piece of clothing in your wardrobe?

Everything. I’m a thrift store hunter, so it’s impossible to tell.

7. Have you ever seen a ghost?

No, but I think one steals our socks.

8. If you could make people read one book what would it be?

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

9. What is your favourite thing to write with?

My laptop.

10. Do you have a recurring dream?

Only the one in which I am on the New York Times Best Seller list.

11. What did you do last Saturday night?

My husband and I walked our dog, then watched a movie with our day-saving son (see #1).

12. What sandwiches would you make for a picnic with Zadie Smith?

Garlic-goat cheese, roasted red peppers, and balsamic dressing on Italian bread.

13. What word makes you cringe?

The f-word.

14. What’s your favourite swear?

The f-word.

15. What is your favourite biscuit?

Do you mean cookie? Because my favorite cookie is chocolate.

16. What is your favourite TV programme?

I don’t watch TV, but I love movies. The Impossible (2012)

17. Your writing is music, what style is it?

On my best day: symphonic metal.

18. What colour is loneliness?

White.

19. Who is your writer crush?

Stephen King.

20. What question should I have asked you?

You should have asked what I’m doing this Friday. It’s far more interesting. And macabre. Between my acceptance at The Forge and my receipt of this fabulous and quirky list of questions (which I loved!), I received word I have a growing brain tumor. By the time this is published I will have had my skull cut open. I pray for a good outcome and look forward to reading this on the other side.

I am so glad to be able to write here that Kelly is recovering well.

Smash Lits with Ruby Cowling

We recently published an excellent story by Ruby Cowling at The Forge – please do read

We Are Part of This

Ruby also agreed to take part in an interview with me. Spoiler alert! I think she might be the only person to ever choose tofu over bacon (so far).

1) How do you organise your bookshelves?

Top shelf of best bookcase: Best Books Ever, featuring George Saunders and George Eliot. Next shelf down: great books that almost made it to the Top. And so on down. Then short story collections, then poetry and plays. The other bookcases are chaos, though I try to keep non-fiction quarantined from the rest.

2) Have you ever been on a retreat?

Many.

3) Bacon VS Tofu – who wins? Why?

My heart says bacon but all my other organs say tofu.

4) What is your favourite smell?

Ugh–I’m a bit phobic about the word “smell.” (And I’ll go out of my way to avoid saying “smelly.”) Probably the *aroma* of woodsmoke on clothes.

5) You have to swap places with one other writer for a week. Who and why?

George Saunders, obviously—because I’d come back a better person.

6) Who is your favourite Neighbours character?

It’s been decades since I watched it, so I actually had to go to Google images for this one. Des Clarke!

7) What would you cook if Salman Rushdie came for dinner?

Something chewy.

8) What is your favourite biscuit?

Something dark-chocolate-and-gingery.

9) Do you have a poster/picture on your wall? Describe it.

I have a watercolour nude done by the chap who owns the framing shop down the road.

10) What is your motto for life?

“Chill the f*** out.” Only as a reminder, because I’m doing the opposite all the time.

11) What’s your most played song right now?

The deeply satisfying “Funtimes in Babylon” by Father John Misty.

12) Unicorns, mermaids or dinosaurs? 

Dinosaurs, because actual existence is a pretty strong trump card.

13) Have you ever seen a ghost?

Not a *ghost*, exactly…

14) What did you do last Saturday night?

Watched the football and then had a ridiculously early night.

15) Do you have any writing rituals?

Rituals, no, but I’ve started using the Pomodoro technique and can hugely recommend it for Getting Stuff Done.

16) Tell me a secret.

No way! My current WIP is all about the importance of not sharing.

17) What would you do if you were invisible for the day?

Probably just loads of eavesdropping. (Just to contradict the entire message of my current WIP.)

18) Can you write a haiku about your story?

A bunch of women
Spending a week in the woods
But who can they trust?

19) What’s your favourite swear?

Heavens to Betsy!

20) What question should I have asked you?

Where do you get your ideas from? *KIDDING.*

Many thanks for taking part (superb haiku!)

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑