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Amanda Quinn - writer and tutor (Part One - Flash Fiction)

08/11/2018

On the blog today, I’m delighted to have Amanda Quinn, a North East based freelance writer and tutor. I met Amanda when we both creating our new websites as part of New Writing North’s Digi Tech programme.

Amanda specialises in writing flash fiction, short stories and poetry and has had her work published by Shooter Literary Magazine, Open Pen Magazine, Ellipsis Zine, Butcher’s Dog, Papaya Press, and Spelk Fiction among others.

She is also a qualified adult education tutor and teaches creative writing for the Workers Educational Association and other organisations, and offers a mentoring service for adults and young people so they can make progress with their writing. She is, in her own words ‘passionate about the benefits of reading and writing for all.’

I’m gong to hand over to Amanda in a moment to talk about her work, but wanted to say that she has also, kindly, recommended a range of writing resources that she has found particularly useful. The ones connected with flash fiction are listed at the end of this piece and I will be adding them to my Resources for Writers’ pages on this website. I’ll be posting Amanda’s recommendations for short story writers in the next blog post.

So … Amanda ….

 

 

Thanks, Hazel. I’ve been wondering why it is I’m particularly drawn to writing flash fiction. To begin with it was partly a practical decision. I started writing after my son was born so producing a paragraph felt manageable amidst all the playgroups, soft play and pram pushing. It also enabled me to get published at an early stage which gave me the confidence to keep writing. Having said that, I think I would have always been drawn to the form. I’m a naturally concise writer and enjoy seeing how little I can put on the page while still making sense. I’m interested in the gaps – what isn’t written or said – and how the reader has to bring their own assumptions and interpretations to produce a final story.

 

Flash fiction stories often rely on small details that hint at something bigger and I love anything like that in real life too – dedications in second hand books, overheard conversations, Facebook posts. I’m writing this in a coffee shop and the woman next to me has just told her friend, ‘We didn’t have sweetcorn when I was younger.’ I’m now completely distracted by what this means. Vanessa Gebbie has described flash fiction as being like seeing a darkened room lit up for a second and I think this is a brilliant way of explaining how these stories work (you can read more from Vanessa on writing flash fiction at www.bridportprize.org.uk/blog/flash-fiction-all-you-ever-wanted-know-were-afraid-ask)

 

I also like that anything feels possible in flash. Your only restriction is word limit and this forces you to investigate different ways of telling your story. I’ve read flashes with fewer words than their title or set out like board game instructions. Stories written backwards or as an internet search history. A good flash writer can do this without it feeling gimmicky. I also love stories with a more traditional structure. One of my favourites is ‘I am the Painter’s Daughter’ by Kit de Waal. It’s a beautifully written story which I often use when teaching as it illustrates how a short piece can still have room for the traditional elements of plot, character, conflict, resolution, etc. You can read it at http://www.barefictionmagazine.co.uk/2015/10/flash-fiction-i-am-the-painters-daughter-by-kit-de-waal/ 

 

There are lots of places to read and learn about flash fiction and I’ve shared some recommendations below. But, in brief, my tips are:

  1. Experiment with different ways of storytelling. When you have an idea write a list of 20 different ways of telling it – be bold and think about how to make an impact.
  2. See how little you can get away with. Edit ruthlessly and read back to see if it still makes sense. You can double check by getting someone to read it and comment only on whether they understood the meaning.
  3. Read flash fiction. There’s also an active and supportive flash fiction writing community online: follow writers on Twitter and get involved with events such as National Flash Fiction Day or the Flash Fiction Festival.

You can find Amanda’s website here

And follow her on Twitter @amandaqwriter

 

Flash Fiction Resources

My favourite places to read and submit flash fiction include:

www.paragraphplanet.com  (they publish a 75-word story every day and it’s easy to submit your own stories)

www.spelkfiction.com

www.chester.ac.uk/flash.magazine

www.ellipsiszine.com

www.nationalflash.org  (New Zealand National Flash Fiction Day)

https://flashbackfiction.com/

https://adhocfiction.com/

Plus… it’s always helpful to read any of the winning entries in competitions such as www.bathflashfictionaward.com

or http://www.barefictionmagazine.co.uk/competitions/

 

Further reading

 www.nationalflashfictionday.co.uk  (there are lots of resources on this site and it’s also worth looking at the #flashflood on their Twitter feed and their print anthologies which are pretty much a Who’s Who of current flash fiction writers)

https://mslexia.co.uk/workshop/flash-fiction-workshops/

www.smokelong.com/category/features/news/why.flash.fiction-series

 

The World in a Flash (How to Write Flash Fiction) by Calum Kerr

Sawn-off Tales by David Gaffney

The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction by Tara L Masih

Micro-Fiction: An Anthology of Fifty Really Short Stories, edited and introduced by Jerome Stern

Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories From Around the World, by James Thomas, Robert Shapard and Christopher Merrill

 

Thanks, Amanda, see you back here next time for your recommendations that short story writers will find useful …

Mother of the Sea

21/08/2018

There are a whole load of events, displays, projects and entertainments in Newcastle/Gateshead as part of the Great Exhibition of the North and I’ve tried to get to as many of them as I can. It’s been an exhilarating, entertaining and bold exploration of what the North means, what it has achieved and how it sees itself. And I’ve learned a hell of a lot, without feeling that I’ve been lectured to.

One particularly jaw-dropping piece of information reached my brain via a little green sign next to a brass microscope (on loan from the Science Museum Group) at the Great North Museum in Newcastle.

And yes, my photography is rubbish, but I’m putting the photo here anyway to prove it’s real. I’ve typed out the edited highlights below to save you from squinting too much …

 

 

” Kathleen Drew-Baker (1901-1957) Scientist, born Leigh, Lancashire. Studied Manchester University … known for her research on algae which led to a breakthrough in the commercial cultivation of edible seaweed. The Japanese call this Nori and use it to make sushi. Such was her impact, she is called Mother of the Sea in Japan and there is an annual festival in memory of her.’

How amazing is that? Mother of the Sea – I mean, kings and queens come and go, but Mother of the Sea …

A monument was also built to her at the Sumiyoshi Shrine in Uto, Kumamoto in Japan. If you’d like to read more, you’ll find it here 

 

Mari Hannah - Scriptwriter and Crime Writer

Mari Hannah - Scriptwriter and Crime Writer

10/08/2018

I’m delighted to have scriptwriter and crime writer Mari Hannah on the blog today to talk about her latest book THE LOST. I met Mari when her first book THE MURDER WALL was about to be published and we’ve been friends since, part of a little group in this patch of Northumberland connected by a love of writing and good books, not to mention curry! I’ve watched Mari’s career really take off and I am in awe of how hard she works – not just at her writing, but also at forging positive and supportive relationships with her readers and with other writers.

Her awards include the Polari First Book Prize, a Northern Writers’ Award and the CWA Dagger in the Library 2017. Her acclaimed Kate Daniels’ crime series is in development with Stephen Fry’s production company, Sprout Pictures. Mari is also the reader-in-residence for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, Harrogate.

I’m going to hand over to Mari in a minute, but wanted to say that I also asked her if she would be kind enough to suggest some things she’d found helpful as a writer – books, publications, organisations – and I’ve listed them at the end of this piece.  At the moment, clicking on a link takes you to a relevant web page …  over the weeks I’ll add a piece about all of them to the Writers’ Resources section of this website.

Over to Mari.

 

 

 

 

Thanks for inviting me over to talk about THE LOST, Hazel.

As you know, I recently changed publisher. I’m now with Orion, the home of some of my favourite crime writers. My new editor was keen for me to write something new and THE LOST is the result, my first book featuring Stone and Oliver. These two detectives work for Northumbria Police at Northern Area Command, Middle Engine Lane, Wallsend – aka Middle Earth – where they begin the series in general CID.

Stone and Oliver – two detectives with their own secrets
Detective Inspector David Stone has just arrived in the area from the south. This charismatic loner has fifteen years under his belt in the Metropolitan Police but has taken a demotion and come home to Northumberland where his roots are. His name doesn’t fit his character. He’s no hard man, but a thoughtful, intelligent and compassionate detective doing a job that chips away at his spirit on a daily basis. One incident in particular sits on his shoulder like a heavy weight, a closely guarded secret he’s unwilling to share.

His second-in-command is local detective, DS Frankie Oliver. This third-generation enigmatic cop followed her father and grandfather (both Frank) into the job. There has been a Frank Oliver in Northumbria Police since 1966. Having worked in many departments, Frankie has found her niche as a DS in the CID where she’s been for the past two years. She’s ambitious, confident in her abilities, the kind of officer you would not cross, but with a hidden vulnerability. Like Stone, she has a past she’s keeping under wraps.

There is a reason Stone and Oliver deny themselves openness. Any sign of weakness is frowned upon within the force. Consequently, their individual experiences act as an ever-present threat that could come back to haunt them at a moment’s notice. These two central characters are set to become a tight and loyal unit.

THE LOST begins abroad, then switches to the UK where a child has inexplicably gone missing when his mother is on holiday in Majorca and he’s in the care of his step-father. The book is a psychological thriller, very different from anything I’ve written before. What I love about THE LOST is that Stone and Oliver haven’t worked together long and are just getting to know one another, feeling each other out. I like working with a blank canvas.

A sense of place is crucial
It’s what makes a book work for a reader whether they know an area or not. As with all my books, this new series is set in and around Newcastle and the dramatic wilderness of Northumberland where I live. It’s a diverse patch that includes a party city that has undergone widespread regeneration in recent years, the windswept Hadrian’s Wall, stunning coastline, villages and market towns, a landscape unchanged for centuries that is as much a character as the locals.

Setting makes any book come alive. That’s why I visit locations at different times of the day and night. You can’t pick up smell or sound by looking at a picture on Google. It’s not the same as being there physically. Some of my best plot twists have come from visiting scenes, hearing and experiencing the vibrancy of a place. You need to feel the landscape and listen to what it tells you, including where your main characters live and work. When it comes to crime scenes, a personal visit is a must in order to capture the drama. You can’t work in a vacuum. You have to get out there, otherwise you’re writing blind.

The theme of the book is betrayal and how this can and does impact on the lives of those it touches. The idea came to me in a flash. It was one of those ‘what if’ moments, a plotline I played with for a couple of years before I did anything with it. It’s about a married couple – both entrepreneurs – and how their perfect life crumbles when their son disappears.

Every series I’ve written has been character driven. Man, woman or child, you have to get inside the head of your characters to explore what they’re going through. It’s the emotional interaction between them that excites me. In the writing process, I’ve inhabited the personalities of a distraught mother, a forlorn teenager, a football coach, a business partner, more than one entrepreneur, a serial philanderer, a sinister figure with murder in mind. The list goes on . . . I hope you will enjoy meeting these two.

Happy reading . . . and thanks again for inviting me to your blog.

Mari

 

 

THE LOST is Mari’s ninth book and was published by Orion on March 22, 2018.
Book two in the series – THE INSIDER –will follow on Nov 1 this year.

THE LOST can be found in all good bookshops. I’m including links to three in my area of the world Forum Books in Corbridge, Cogito Books in Hexham and Waterstones in Hexham

It can also be bought via Amazon

You can find Mari on Twitter here: @mariwriter
You can view her website here: www/marihannah.com

 

 

Writing Resources that Mari has found helpful

The Society of Authors
New Writing North
Writers’ and Artists’ Handbook
Mslexia
From Pitch to Publication by Carole Blake
Write a Great Synopsis by Nicola Morgan
The Literary Consultancy