As part of my ongoing guest post series in this blog, we heard from Tara L. Masih last week. Today, it is my pleasure to welcome Jude Higgins, a UK author, writing coach and the founder of the Bath Short Story Award and the Bath Flash Fiction Award. She gives great advice about the writing life, flash fiction, submitting to writing contests, and how to keep fiction writing fun. I’ve highlighted the parts I found particularly insightful in blue.
- What brought you to fiction?
Our house is full of books and I’ve always read a lot but I never tried writing fiction until I joined a writing group with award winning novelist Lindsay Clarke in the 1990s. I was hooked from the beginning. Completing my first short story draft was like crossing the ocean in a rowing boat. I still love the challenge of writing – you can try anything you want, even if it seems impossible.
2. What writing rules would you personally never break?
I’m not so keen on the word ‘rule’ – all rules can be broken in experimental writing but I do avidly read suggestions about writing from authors I admire. This list by Thomas Morris, whose debut story collection I refer to later, is partiuclarly good. My mantra is ‘you can always learn something new, however old you are‘. For me, this is applies to life, as well as writing.
3. What makes a successful short story? How is it similar or different from successful flash fiction?
Today I’ve read A Ford Mondeo, a story by novelist, poet and short-story writer, Gerard Woodward, from his 2008 collection, Caravan Thieves. It’s both deeply unsettling and witty, and raised many questions. Flash fiction can work in the same way. It’s exciting to read tiny pieces where the language sparkles and much is said in few words. For me, a story of any length is successful if it lingers after reading.
4. For a writer joining a writing group, what advice do you have based on your experience of running workshops?
Ask if it’s fun. I run sessions in Bath with my colleague Alex at Writing Events Bath In these groups, we introduce prompts to spark off short pieces. Beginners feel encouraged, experienced writers enjoy a boost. In a feedback writing group, writers need to be willing to ask for and accept precise, concrete feedback from anyone who has read and thought carefully about their work. The feedback process should be fun too. Writing is playing.
5. Could you link us to three of your short stories on line. Why did you choose these in particular?
A flash fiction, Their Memories, was inspired by a photograph on the Visual verse website and the piece was later highly commended in the 2015 Ink Tears Flash Fiction competition. I chose it because the pace works well. Both Maturity, one of ten winners in the National Flash Fiction Day micro contest and When I Met the Devil, share an enduring theme about the mother/daughter relationship.
6. You mentor aspiring writers. What are the qualities that incline you towards mentoring them?
I will mentor any writer or budding writer who wants one-off sessions or on-going support to get them started or to continue a project if they are stuck. I’ve many years experience of one-to-one work from my long career as a Gestalt Psychotherapist. Read more on my blog.
7. Could you recommend any three books you’ve read recently, and that you think all aspiring writers should read?
I’m currently reading two new debut short story collections – We don’t know what we’re doing, by Thomas Morris, who edits the literary magazine The Stinging Fly in Ireland and Dinosaurs on Other Planets by Irish Writer, Danielle McLaughlin.
I’m also reading Rift, an exciting flash fiction collaboration by well-known flash fiction writers from the United States, Kathy Fish and Robert Vaughan. Be prepared to be challenged and awestruck by the quality of the writing in all three collections.
8. You run the Bath Short Story Award and the Bath Flash Fiction Award. Could you tell us more about these?
I launched Bath Short Story Award with friends from my Bath writing group four years ago. We thought Bath needed an international short story contest with a substantial prize fund to complement the two literary festivals hosted in the city each year. The contest has grown rapidly and several up-and-coming writers have won the main prizes. We have a special prize for unpublished writers and produce a print and digital anthology each year.
A year ago, I set up another big prize competition, the International Bath Flash Fiction Award to spread my enthusiasm for reading and writing very short fiction. It’s enhanced by another Bath Flash project – Ad Hoc Fiction, a popular free weekly micro competition where each week, longlisted writers have the chance to be published in an easy-to-read ebook. The week’s winner, chosen by public vote, receives a free entry to the main contest. The second round of Bath Flash fiction ended on 14th February and you can read the winning pieces on the website.
9. What are the three things you wish you knew when you first started off writing?
- Make many radical drafts. Keep asking what your story is really about.
- Write from the white-hot core of your being. (And have fun!).
- Years slip by quickly, so if you love writing, don’t stop.
Jude Higgins is a writer, writing tutor and writing events organiser. She founded the International Bath Flash Fiction Award and co-runs The Bath Short Story Award and Writing Events Bath. Jude has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University and writes short stories and flash fiction. Her work has been successful in many writing competitions and she’s published in Visual Verse, Landmarks, (the 2015 anthology for National Flash Fiction Day), the Fish Prize Anthology, 2014 and Cinammon Press.
Is fiction writing fun? Do you write short stories or flash fiction? Do you submit your stories to writing contests? What issues do you face while writing fiction? Do you have questions for Jude ? Have at it in the comments!
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