Love Audio Week: Accidental Flowers

“A fascinating and imaginative vision of the future, built on the foundations of our current climate crisis. You get to follow the overall story from multiple view points which allows multiple other issues to be delicately explored through a variety of characters.

A really pleasant surprise from a book I hadn’t heard of! I would recommend it to anyone wanting an interesting, entertaining and thought provoking read.” Audible Review

Our #LoveAudio post today is an extract from the audiobook of Accidental Flowers, a novel in short stories by Lily Peters.

This title was another multi-voiced audiobook. The clip above is narrated by Beth Frieden and we also got to work with several other fantastic voice actors and narrators, including Tigger Blaize. Tigger said:

I loved playing Robin [in Accidental Flowers]! With each role like this, we get closer to having a trans cannon of stories and characters. It’s a brilliant book with a real mix of voices.”

#LoveAudio is the Publisher’s Association annual week-long digital celebration of audiobooks is designed to showcase the accessibility, innovation, and creativity of the format. Follow the hashtag on twitter.

Love Audio Week: 100neHundred

One of the most interesting things about publishing our titles as audio books is when we are working with anthologies and collections that need a multi-voice approach. This creates the challenge of finding authentic, representative voices for each story or poem within the collection – without having to recruit a cast of thousands! 

Today for #LoveAudio week we are sharing an audio excerpt from one of the most multifariously voiced books we have ever published: 100neHundred by Laura Besley is a collection of 100 stories, each of exactly 100 words. We’re delighted to share two stories from this brilliant book, one read by Cornelia Colman and one by Shubhita Chaturvedi:

The book gives the reader the feeling of voyeurism as if we are taking a glimpse behind the curtain of lives unraveling, of decisions being made behind closed doors, of peeking at the most intimate of moments. It’s melancholic, heartrending, hard hitting and joyous all in one!” Ross Jeffrey

#LoveAudio is the Publisher’s Association annual week-long digital celebration of audiobooks is designed to showcase the accessibility, innovation, and creativity of the format. Follow the hashtag on twitter.

Independent Bookshop Week: Lily Peters

To celebrate Independent Bookshop Week, Arachne Press authors and editors are sharing their stories about the bookshops that are closest to their hearts. With Accidental Flowers publishing tomorrow, we caught up with author, Lily Peters: 

As part of my language studies at university, I worked in Asturias, as a foreign language assistant in a secondary school. Every Friday, I would spend an hour teaching English to interested colleagues in the café across the road. Over un café solo, they would question me about life in England:

‘Why do pubs allow dogs and not children?’
‘Does everyone live in a cottage?’
‘Does everyone drink beer by the pint?’

The head-teacher, who was well travelled and wanted us all to know it, would frequently answer for me. I will never forget her description of England: ‘In every town and village, you can always find two things. A pub, of course. And a bookshop.’

Now, as a language teacher, I worry often about the reputation of England in Europe and I clutch on to her description. I think about Kirkdale Bookshop in Sydenham, a stalwart of second-hand books when I was growing up. I remember my first date with my husband, at Barter Books in Alnwick. I transport myself to the award-winning Forum Books, in Corbridge.

Lily Peters

Independent Bookshop Week is part of the Books Are My Bag campaign and run by the Booksellers Association. It seeks to celebrate independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland. Your local bookshop will have their own way of celebrating this week, and we enthusiastically encourage you to visit, celebrate with them and buy a book! Look at #IndieBookshopWeek to keep up with the campaign and follow @ArachnePress to see all our content throughout the week.

Independent Bookshop Week: Lisa Kelly

To celebrate Independent Bookshop Week, Arachne Press authors and editors are sharing their stories about the bookshops that are closest to their hearts. We are delighted to welcome Lisa Kelly to the blog today. Lisa is currently co-editing a new Arachne anthology by Deaf and Hard of Hearing writers called What Meets the Eye.

What Meets the Eye’ is out in the autumn – an anthology of poems and short fiction by Deaf and Hard of Hearing writers based in the UK. Sophie Stone and I are busy working on editing the collection and it is incredibly exciting seeing it come together with inspiring work from established writers such as Raymond Antrobus and Sophie Woolley, as well as poems and fiction from writers we have been excited to discover on our journey.

A big thrill for me would be to see the anthology in the London Review Bookshop. It has a fabulous poetry section downstairs, and it also hosts memorable literary events. It was here that Ray and I launched the Deaf issue of Magma Poetry which we co-edited in 2017. 

The LRB was packed that November night – the audience excited to witness work by Deaf and Hard of Hearing poets, with live captioning and BSL interpreters for an accessible experience. Having ‘What Meets the Eye’ on LRB shelves would feel like completing a beautiful circle.

Lisa Kelly

Independent Bookshop Week is part of the Books Are My Bag campaign and run by the Booksellers Association. It seeks to celebrate independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland. Your local bookshop will have their own way of celebrating this week, and we enthusiastically encourage you to visit, celebrate with them and buy a book! Look at #IndieBookshopWeek to keep up with the campaign and follow @ArachnePress to see all our content throughout the week.

Independent Bookshop Week: Laura Besley

To celebrate Independent Bookshop Week, Arachne Press authors and editors are sharing their stories about the bookshops that are closest to their hearts. Today, Laura Besley, author of 100neHundred tells us about the best bookshop she’s never been to.

My favourite independent bookshop is Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham, but I’ve never once been there. Why not and why is it my favourite? There are a few very good reasons.

Despite having lived in Leicester for four years, I still consider myself fairly new to the area. I have, over time, slowly become involved in the local writing community and have heard many people talk about Nottingham’s independent bookshop.

I’d wanted to visit for a long time, but unfortunately, it hadn’t happened yet, when Ross, the owner, made a dream come true and agreed to stock my first collection of flash fiction The Almost Mothers (Dahlia Press, 2020). I was definitely going. And then lockdown happened.

I’ve not yet seen my book on their shelves, but I have bought books from Five Leaves during lockdown.

Nearly 18 months later and Five Leaves Bookshop now has copies of not one but two of my books, the second being my collection of micro fiction published by Arachne Press: 100neHundred.

As soon as I can, I’ll be heading up the A46 or hopping on a train, not just to hopefully see copies of my books on a shelf, but to buy some other great ones too.

Laura Besley

Independent Bookshop Week is part of the Books Are My Bag campaign and run by the Booksellers Association. It seeks to celebrate independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland. Your local bookshop will have their own way of celebrating this week, and we enthusiastically encourage you to visit, celebrate with them and buy a book! Look at #IndieBookshopWeek to keep up with the campaign and follow @ArachnePress to see all our content throughout the week.

100neHundred Blog Tour

With are delighted to launch the blog tour for 100neHundred by Laura Besley.

Out on 27 May, 100neHundred is a collection of 100 stories, each of 100 words. A man carries his girlfriend in the left-hand breast pocket of his shirt. During World War II, a young soldier searches the houses and barns of the families with whom he grew up. An astronaut wonders whether she can adapt to life back on earth. This is a moving, funny, powerful collection of microfiction.

Laura said “The more micro fiction I write, the more I love it: the challenge of piecing together what I want to convey in as few words as possible and the absolute joy when it works. I’m extremely excited about the launch of 100neHundred, hoping that people will enjoy reading my tiny tales as much as I enjoyed writing them.”

Follow the blog tour on the schedule above to read reviews of 100neHundred, plus guest posts from Laura Besley, an Author Q and A and some exclusive extracts of stories from the collection. 

Find all the content from the blog tour here too (updated daily):

  1. So much of life is packed into these stories, precious moments and sad ones, humour and grief, gorgeous nuggets of hope and stinging barbs of hurt.” Read Ellie Hawkes’ beautiful review of 100neHundred here.
  2. Read ‘Lowest Ebb’ – one of the stories from 100neHundred – in an exclusive feature on Idle Ink.
  3. One of the things I love most about short fiction is the invitation to experiment.” Read Laura Besley’s guest blog post for Popshot Magazine.
  4. “Laura has created beautiful snapshots, each one alive with precision and emotion. Each story excels in its originality, each one a complete tale, each carefully crafted without a word to spare.” Read an excellent review of 100neHundred – and an exclusive story extract- on Book Bound.
  5. Read @tillylovesbooks’ instagram review of 100neHundred
  6. “The main thing that went into 100neHundred was time.” Laura Besley talked to Elizabeth M. Castillo for an author Q and A.
  7. “…like savouring a perfect little tipple at the end of a stressful day.” Zoe’s Book Nook gives 100neHundred 5 stars.
  8. “With this collection I soon lost track of how many ‘wows’ I was uttering…” Laura Besley credits Morgen Bailey’s 100 word story competition with her interest in micro-fiction. Read Morgen’s review of 100neHundred here.
  9. “This collection of micro flash fiction is possibly the perfect read for the moment, as we all grapple with the changing pace of life.” For Book’s Sake reviewed 100neHundred on Instagram.

100neHundred Blog Tour Banner Image

Arachne recommends books for International Women’s Day

Authors and Editors of upcoming titles choose three books  each that they would recommend for International Women’s Day

(Links mainly to our Bookshop affiliate page, except where the book is out of print, where the link will take you to abebooks, or not yet available where the link will take you to the publishers site)

Clare Owen, author of Zed and the Cormorants (April 2021)

The Good Women of China – Xinran

True – often harrowing and heartbreaking – stories of women living during the Cultural Revolution, collected by the host of a Chinese radio call-in show.

Love Among the Butterflies: The Travels and Adventures of a Victorian Lady – Margaret Fountaine (out of print)

The private diaries of a vicar’s daughter who defied her family’s expectations to travel the world collecting butterflies and lovers along the way.

What I Loved – Siri Hustvedt

A beautifully written, intense and intelligent book about art, love and loss from a writer who invariably gets less attention than her husband (novelist Paul Auster)!

Cherry Potts, Arachne Editor in Chief (who gets to choose more than three)

The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula le Guin

A powerful and wildly original Science Fiction novel that tackles gender fluidity decades before anyone else, in passionate and often witty observations of human, and alien frailty.

The White Darkness, Geraldine McCaughrean

I could have picked any of McCaughrean’s young adult novels, but this is the one I read first and adored. A tautly written adventure that doesn’t sidestep difficulties, and is truly shocking at times.

Persepolis Marjane Satrapi

A graphic novel/autobiography about growing up as a stroppy teenager in Iran. Funny, distressing and beautiful.

Second Class Citizen Buchi Emecheta

As a bright young thing in the 70’s and early 80’s, I sought out and read acres of books by black women, many of them American, and some no longer in print. This book bucked the trend, being both British and with sufficient enduring appeal to still be available. There are whole passages in this book I remember pretty much verbatim nearly 50 years later.

The Stone Age Jen Hadfield

Not actually out yet, (18th March) this is my first ‘choice’ selection from the Poetry Book Society. I’d been resisting signing up on the grounds that I like to choose my own books, and poverty, but I finally cracked and I’m really glad I did. This is one of those ‘I wish I’d published that’ books, and taps into all sorts of things that I love, in particular the standing stones of Shetland. Hadfield gives them voice in an entirely convincing way. A total delight that made me want to visit Shetland again.

Ness Owen, co-editor A470 (March 2022)

Inhale/Exile Abeer Ameer  (Seren). The poems I’ve heard so far are a fascinating mix of the personal and political, of language and place. Between Iraq and Britain, the poems move from tender family histories to shocking atrocities.

Flashbacks and Flowers Rufus Mufasa (Indigo Dreams forthcoming, can’t find any information though!) I really enjoyed the journey in this collection deeply rooted in time, place and lives lived with a wonderful interweaving of languages.

Aubade After a French Movie Zoe Brigley (Broken Sleep Books)  This pamphlet includes some of the wonderful Gwerful Mechain’s poetry, bringing it into the 21st century (including an interpretation of the infamous Ode to a C*** in a brave modern voice). The poems are a spoken celebration for what it is to be a women without shame.

Laura Besley, Author of 100nehundred (May 2021)

Mrs Narwhal’s Diary by S.J. Norbury (publisher Louise Walters Books). I heard the author read an exert of Mrs Narwhal’s Diary at an LWB event and completely fell in love with the style of the book and the main character’s unique voice.

The Thin Line Between Everything and Nothing by Hannah Storm (Reflex Press). Hannah Storm’s flash fiction is searing in its honesty, attention to detail and emotional resonance. This collection will, without a doubt, be fantastic.

The Yet Unknowing World by Fiona J. Mackintosh (Adhoc Fiction). Fiona J. Mackintosh’s writing is a sublime combination of lyrical and startling. I’m very much looking forward to reading her full collection.

Lily Peters, author of Accidental Flowers

The Hazelnut Grove, by Paula Read: [Disclosure: Paula is Lily’s mum, and we’ve published her in the past.] I might be slightly biased, so don’t just take my reviews for it. If you want to escape for a while into the European dream and in turn, discover the harsh reality of how much work it takes to make such a dream come true, this is a satisfying and comforting read.

The Bass Rock, by Evie Wyld: This is the story of three women, in some way related, across three time periods. It is set by the wild North Sea in the Scottish borders and the landscape is a character in its own right. It is unsettlingly written, and it has everything you need: scandal, spooky empty houses and a hint of witchcraft.

Weather, by Jenny Offill: The way Offill writes is gripping and quick. It is the closest thing you can get to instant gratification in literature. This book is all about the relatively unknown under-world of ‘preppers’ – those who are preparing for a potential world-ending apocalypse. Right up my ever-darkening street!

And now for some GOOD News

We could all do with some cheer in the bleak days of January, especially this year, so courtesy of Arts Council England, we are here to do just that.

We are the proud and happy recipients of a £45,000 grant from Arts Council England

This will pay for our next ten books, and (drum roll) audio books! Which means we can smack Covid on the nose by providing another way to enjoy our books without leaving home, and provide some work to actors who aren’t allowed into a theatre just now. I’m anticipating it will also be huge fun. Putting the plans together now with our audiobook partner Listening Books

Thanks to everyone who gave us their thoughts on whether this was the right way to go. It’s one of the fastest growing sectors in literature, but it’s tough to get right, and harder still to market, so the funding will also pay for …

A part-time marketing person, and a (separate) part-time admin person for a few months, so that I can concentrate on finding and supporting new writers and guest editors. We will be advertising these posts very soon. They will be remote working, so if you think that could be you, start polishing your CV, but don’t send anything until you see the advertisment please!

The Books

The books that are being supported by the ACE grant are:

This Poem Here – Poetry collection by Rob Walton (Just the audio book, as we’ve already done the rest)

Zed and the Cormorants -YA Novel by Clare Owen, illustrated by Sally Atkins. We are talking to Sophie Aldred about reading the audio book)

100neHundred -100 x 100 word stories by Laura Besley

Incorcisms -short, strange tales by David Hartley

Accidental Flowers -Novel in short stories by Lily Peters

Strange Waters -Short Story Collection by Jackie Taylor

Jackie

A Voice Coming from Then – Poetry collection (illustrated with collages) by Jeremy Dixon

An Anthology of poems and short fiction from UK based Deaf writers (no title yet) edited by Lisa Kelly and A N Other

Lisa

An Anthology of poems and short stories from UK based Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Writers (no title yet) edited by Laila Sumpton and Sandra A. Agard

Solstice Shorts 2021 Anthology (provisional theme: time is running out but we’ll come up with a better title!)

Lockdown Interviews: No 28 Joanne L.M. Williams interviewed by Laura Besley

Twenty-eighth in a series of author-to-author interviews to distract them, and you, from lockdown torpor.

Joanne L M Williams

Joanne LM Williams

Joanne L.M. Williams (No Spider Harmed in the Making of this Book, We/She) interviewed by Laura Besley (Story Cities).

Laura:   You write a mixture of short stories, flash fiction and poetry. Do you set out to write in a particular form, or do you let the piece develop organically?  

Joanne:    When I start writing I might not always know exactly how the idea or plot is going to play out, or what the ‘ending’ is going to be, but I do know what form it’s going take, because the processes by which I write a poem, or a short story, or a flash fiction are very different. So, yes, for each piece I suppose I do set out to write in a particular form. Or rather the initial idea I have is for a piece of writing in a specific form.

I can only think of one exception to this: Before I had really heard of flash fiction I had an idea for a short story that I could never quite get to work out. It turned out that idea was supposed to be a flash fiction – and once I was introduced to drabbles, that story idea became a 100 word piece called One Hundred Years.

Laura:   Your poem ‘Gifted’ has been selected for the upcoming Arachne Press anthology, No Spider Harmed in the Making of this Book, and focuses on the mythological Arachne. Did you draw from your background in History for inspiration?

Joanne:    Not especially – I have a history degree, but it didn’t cover the classical world. My degree is in what Oxford, slightly archaically calls ‘Modern History’, by which they mean everything from around 500 AD onwards. Ancient History is a separate department.
However I’ve been fascinated by all kinds of mythology, and especially Greek mythology, since I was quite a young child. I’ve played around with a lot of the myths in my writing before, but I’ve never written about Arachne, and this seemed a good opportunity. I really enjoyed getting under the skin of a version of the character that I imagined.

Laura:   In We/She (short stories by women from Liars’ League, Arachne Press, 2018) your story Cages is written from the point of view of a dragon. Do you enjoy the challenge of writing from unusual perspectives?

Joanne:    Very much so – although it’s perhaps less of a challenge and more of a desire to give those characters a voice. As a young reader I was usually much more interested in the secondary characters, the sidekicks and the ‘baddies’ in a story, than I was in heroes and heroines, so as a writer I often like to explore where those characters are coming from, and what their own stories are.
It’s also a device which allows me to explore the experience of being othered in various ways: Most of my central characters are marginalised, and many of them are queer.

Laura:   As well as Cages you have had several other stories performed at Liars’ League in London and Hong Kong. Do you enjoy listening to your stories being read aloud by others?

Joanne:    Usually, yes! It’s certainly an interesting experience. I tend to think of any piece of writing as a living thing, or a conversation, that’s interpreted by its readers, listeners or performers anyway, but that’s made particularly obvious when someone else is reading it to an audience in front of you. Sometimes an actor will bring out elements in something that I hadn’t even fully realized were there – often humorous moments, or poignant ones.
When I first heard Cages read out, by the wonderful Susan Moisan, she drew laughs and responses from the audience in a few places I wasn’t necessarily expecting, which was very gratifying! It was such a pleasing delivery that I have to admit, when I later read out that story myself, I borrowed heavily from her performance in places.
Still, there can be some anxiety in handing over something you care about so much. A bit of me doesn’t like giving up creative control, but that’s something it’s good for me to learn to do. I’ve only ever had one bad experience, with one group, where I wasn’t really happy with the end result – but that was a situation where I wasn’t able to speak directly either to the actor performing my piece, or to the person advising/directing. Liars League are great because they generally give an opportunity for the writer and actor to discuss the reading in advance.

Laura:   One area in which you enjoy performing is competitive dance. Do you find that movement unlocks creativity?

Joanne:    Dance definitely helps me to unlock my feelings – it’s common for me to go into a dance practice and find myself working through a mood I hadn’t even realised I was in. It’s incredibly helpful in that respect.
I do also find dancing in a style that has a formal structure and technique can drive creativity in the same way that writing in a fixed form can. I love ballroom dancing for the same reason I love metric poetry: Something about the juxtaposition between the intense emotions being expressed and having a tight form to work within has creative power. I have a very long-standing project I’m playing with at the moment, writing poems based on dances where the metre of the poem matches the rhythm of the dance, as I want to explore that similarity.

Laura:   Like many writers, you also have a day job, in your case working in theatres in an organisational role. Do you find that a job which requires a completely different skill set allows more, or less, space for creativity in your free time? 

Joanne:    I’ve always written, and as a child had ambitions of being solely a writer, but I realised whilst I was still in my early twenties that it wasn’t something I could do full-time. I’m an extrovert and like being around and working with people too much – if I spend much time alone it affects both my mood and my productivity very negatively.
Theatre working hours can be long and anti-social, which can make fitting in time for writing, as well as dancing and studying, tricky. But at the same time, it’s absolutely necessary for me to work around people in a job I love for me to then have the emotional energy and ability to write. And even though I don’t write specifically for the stage, getting to see so much creative content as part of my job is beneficial too. Just as reading as much as possible is useful to a writer, so is watching a lot of theatre.

Laura:   When you read something that you think is perfection, how does it make you feel? Does it spur you on, or intimidate you?

Joanne:    Oh it inspires me, hugely. That’s why I want to write ultimately – the sheer excitement when you read something wonderful. I want to be able to create that sort of magic with words too.

Laura:   As writers, we have to deal a lot with rejection. Do you have a ‘tried and tested’ method, or does it depend on the mood you’re in or the piece that you submitted?

Joanne:    I don’t really have a method per se. The majority of the time rejections don’t bother me too much – I know what the statistics are like for almost all writers in terms of rejections per accepted piece.
Of course, there’ll sometimes be a ‘no’ that stings more than I was expecting it to – perhaps if I’ve grown especially fond of a piece of work, or conversely, if it was especially difficult to complete but I thought I’d cracked it.
At the end of the day though, I can always move on fairly quickly. In a way I know I’m lucky, because writing is my ‘side-hustle’ so to speak, and my income doesn’t depend on it.

Laura:   Do you have particular writing goals for the next year, or years? Do you, for example, want to write a novel or a play? Do you see writing as part of your career, or more of a hobby?

Joanne:    I’m aiming to finish the collection of poems based on dances mentioned above, and I’m also looking to write some stories in styles that are new to me. I have the beginnings of some ghost stories brewing for example, and I’d like to write more comedy.
I’ve no immediate plans to write a novel again. I attempted one years ago, completed it, got feedback and put it through several edits. I then never submitted it anywhere because by the time it was finished I no longer believed in it, either artistically or emotionally. I find I enjoy the process of writing short stories and poems much more. As for a play, the problem I have is that the thing I find hardest of all to write is realistic-sounding present-day dialogue! Of course, not all theatre takes the same form, so never say never, but it’s not among my short-term plans.
To answer the last part of the question, even though writing isn’t my primary job, and it doesn’t make me money, I do see it as part of my career, yes. I’ve always been interested in doing lots of different things or jobs; some of them pay me and some of them don’t, but they’re all important and part of my ‘portfolio career’.

Laura:   How have you been managing in lockdown? Have you been able to use this time to write more, or are you – like many others – struggling to put pen to paper? If you are managing to write, what are you working on?

Joanne:    It’s been similar to before in terms of productivity if I’m honest. There’s lots of extra time, but my ability to write fluctuates – some days I’m inspired and write in a burst, and other days are just not writing days. I’m afraid my writing habits have never been especially consistent, and that hasn’t changed. One thing I am finding useful though, is an online writing group that a friend is running for a few hours each evening – I don’t join every night, but when I do it’s a good motivator.
I’m working on two pieces – one short story and one poem – for two upcoming deadlines at the moment. They’re both inspired by, or are responses to, famous pieces of literature (respectively the novel Little Women, and a Robert Southwell poem for Arachne’s Solstice Shorts call out).
However, that’s about all my two projects have in common – they’re very different in tone as well as form. I’m also busy redrafting some existing stories, including a couple of modern fairytales, and a dramatic monologue from the point of view first Mrs Rochester.

Lockdown Intervews: no27 Laura Besley interviewed by Joanne L. M. Williams

Twenty-seventh in a series of author-to-author interviews to distract them, and you, from lockdown torpor.

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Laura Besley (Story Cities) interviewed by Joanne L. M. Williams (No Spider Harmed in the Making of this Book, We/She)

Joanne L M Williams

Joanne LM Williams

Joanne:        You have several flash fictions published, including your collection The Almost Mothers, and a piece in Arachne’s Story Cities. What is it about shorter fiction that you especially enjoy? Do you also write using other forms, or is flash fiction always your preference?

Laura:    When I first started writing I had no intention of becoming a short fiction writer. I’ve always read a lot, but novels, and had initially seen that as my only path. However, when I first started writing, I had lots of ideas, but struggled to get past a few cohesive sentences, or paragraphs.
I stumbled across Calum Kerr online and his challenge to write a piece of flash fiction every day for a year. I decided to do the same and started in May 2012. Some of the pieces were fine, some were terrible, some were never finished, but I learned a lot about myself as a writer in that time, the most important being that I had fallen in love with short fiction and the precision needed to tell a story.
I don’t feel ready to take the leap into longer fiction yet, but I’m fairly sure I will one day.

Joanne:        When did you start writing fiction? Have you done so since you were young?

Laura:    I remember writing a story about a fairground when I was about nine or ten, but that’s the extent of my childhood writing experience. I started writing again when I was in my late twenties, while I was living in Germany. Initially I was writing non-fiction, about my travels and experiences there. Once I’d moved to Hong Kong, I started writing fiction.

Joanne:        Do you have a daily or weekly schedule or pattern for writing? How does this fit in with the rest of your life?

Laura:    I have two young children (six and two) and have to fit my writing in around them. Before lockdown, I used to write while my eldest was at school and my youngest was napping. Now, I’m lucky that my husband is working from home and I write every morning from 7:30-9:00 before he needs the office, and I need to take over the childcare.  I’m a morning person, so this works well for me. Once the children are in bed, I’m usually too tired to write new things, but do other writing-related things for an hour or so like editing or submitting.

Joanne:        Where do you write? Do you have a particular place you always sit to work for example, or any associated rituals, or can you write anywhere?

Laura:    I can write anywhere, in a supermarket queue or while my son is having a swimming lesson, but my preference is in cafés. I like the cacophony; the snippets of overheard conversations, people watching, the small interactions you have with strangers, the coffee. Obviously at the moment that’s not possible, so I’m either in our office or at the kitchen table.

Joanne:        How has your experience of living in different countries and cultures influenced your writing?

Laura:    Directly, not a lot. I’ve only written a few stories set in other countries (I’ve lived in the Netherlands, Germany and Hong Kong), but everything you see and experience gets filed away. I hope one day to write about these places that have played a big part in my life.

Joanne:        What are your literary influences and who are some of your favourite writers?

Laura:    Always a tough question because there are too many to mention. My current favourite authors are Elizabeth Strout, most famous for her novel-in-stories: Olive Kitteridge; Kate Atkinson, I think her companion novels Life After Life and A God in Ruins are perfection; and Maggie O’Farrell whose books I love, but it was also after reading an article by her wherein she stated that if you wanted to write, you should “take yourself seriously”. I think that advice completely changed my attitude towards writing.

Joanne:        Do you ever write specifically in response to prompts, or call-outs for work on a particular theme, and do you find this useful? Or does your inspiration mainly come from other sources?

Laura:    I often write to prompts or call-outs for particular themes, but not exclusively. If I have an idea about something, I’ll jot it down and maybe it won’t be used for months, or years, but I never throw anything away.

Joanne:        Flash fiction is less well known, and perhaps less easy to find, than other fiction forms. Are there any online sources of shorter fiction, or printed collections, that you would recommend?

Laura:    There are so many online journals for flash fiction, too many to mention here, but I’ll list a few of my favourites: Adhoc Fiction, Ellipsis Zine, Fictive Dream, Fifty Word Stories, Lunate, Reflex Fiction, Smokelong Quarterly, Spelk.
Something relatively new, but gaining popularity fast, is the novella-in-flash: a novella, but each chapter is a piece of standalone flash fiction. I’ve read a few recently and really enjoyed them: An Inheritance by Diane Simmons (Adhoc), Dinosaur by Adam Lock (Ellipsis), Three Sisters of Stone by Stephanie Hutton (Ellipsis), The Neverlands by Damhnait Monaghan (VPress), Tethered by Ross Jeffery.

Joanne:        What is your own favourite piece (or pieces) that you’ve written and why?

Laura:           I’ve chosen three pieces that are very special to me.

  • ‘Near and Far’ (Spelk, 2018) holds a few threads of my mother’s childhood, she was born and spent the first few years of her childhood in Indonesia;
  • ‘That Apple’ (Fictive Dream, 2018) was my first ever journal publication. It’s written in 2nd person point of view and I know popular opinion generally doesn’t favour this, but personally I love it and use it whenever I can.
  • ‘The Motherhood Contract’ (Ellipsis, 2018) is about a mother who is struggling and there is a lot of my early motherhood emotions in this piece.

Joanne:        Finally, what are you working on at the moment?

Laura:    As well as individual pieces, I’m also working on a novella-in-flash. It’s been several years in the making, but am hoping that this is the year I finish it. I’ve also found myself writing about the current situation a lot, either my own experiences or fictional ones. If there are enough good pieces, hopefully I’ll be able to bundle them together.