Round-up of Recent Things
Updated: Jun 30
It's been an odd year, I think we can agree. It's never really felt like a good time to update this blog, what with Covid induced home-educating of a 9-year-old coinciding with trying to work and complete an MA, as well as managing all the other Crazy Shit life has been underarm bowling. SO, I thought I'd pitch in now (idk what it is with all the sporting language except that it's summer and there's a lot of it about, right) with a general writing update.
Third Place and Finalist x2 QMD Prize
I was honoured to have two stories among the twelve finalists for Manchester Writing School's Quiet Man Dave prize for flash fiction, out of over 800 entries—and delighted to have one of them take Third Prize.
Cambridge University Press Lower Secondary English Textbook
One of the loveliest things to happen to me since I started writing was being approached by Cambridge University Press to use my story One In Twenty-Three as their example of flash fiction in a secondary school English textbook.
I received a copy through the post last month; there are several pages of exercises linked to the story. I am overwhelmed with the thought that kids will be studying it and trying their own hand at flash fiction.
The definition of flash given in the textbook, 'a type of story based on the idea of saying something powerful in a few words' is one of the best I have seen, and anyone working seriously in this often misunderstood form will understand my joy at that.
A Wild And Precious Life
The powerful and important anthology of recovery writing, A Wild And Precious Life, was published recently with a foreword by Will Self. I'm proud to have had included Matt's Song, a prose poem I wrote for the love of the people in recovery and not yet in recovery from abuse and addiction, illness and trauma with whom I worked in my years as a street homelessness and drug and alcohol worker.
Humanity is fucking tough and beautiful and resilient and fragile and there are many stories that never get told. I guess Matt's is one of them, but there were many, many others unfolding in the time I had the privilege to work there.
Interview by Tara Laskowski
I was ALL-CAPS DELIGHTED to be interviewed by one of my dearest friends, Tara Laskowski, whose debut novel One Night Gone, a devastatingly moving literary thriller, won about seventy awards last year. Tara's blog series, What Scares You, is a super-fun interview format. Read about all the things that scare me (okay not all of them because that would be a novel) here: https://taralaskowski.com/2021/03/what-scares-you-helen-rye/
Flash Fiction Take-Over At Cafe Writers
The lovely people at Cafe Writers, Norwich's longest-running literary event, invited Christopher Allen and me to be headliner (Chris) and support act (me) at their April event. We had a blast. It's a wonderful monthly event—do check it out. Thanks so much for having us!
Judging the Olga Sinclair Challenge Shield
I was honoured to be asked to judge Norwich Writer's Circle's Colin Sutton Cup for Humour last year—a fun and challenging task with some excellent entries.
This year I am very pleased to have been invited back to judge the Olga Sinclair Challenge Shield, part of their Olga Sinclair Prize Short Story contest. The contest closes at the end of July and has a top prize of £500—why not check it out on the Norwich Writer's Circle website? The main competition is judged by my friend Stephen Carver, the novelist, short story writer and lecturer who taught one of the first writing classes I ever attended and is as excellent a writer, teacher and general human being as you will find anywhere. https://norwichwriters.wordpress.com/olga-sinclair-prize-2021/
Teaching Flash Fiction for SmokeLong Quarterly
A few weeks ago, I taught a flash fiction workshop for SmokeLong Quarterly, alongside friend and editor-in-chief Christopher Allen, and one of my favourite writers, Amber Sparks. I don' t think I slept for about a week with the anxiety but I did it, and I loved it. What an honour.
I was delighted to have my fun story of the revenge of a small town goddess, Bath Time, nominated for the Pushcart Prize by the UK National Flash Fiction Day Anthology, and my Best Small Fictions-winning and Pushcart Prize-nominated story The Diamond Factory nominated for Best of the Net. I've barely submitted anything anywhere since I started the MA in 2019 as life has just been too overwhelmingly busy, so these were a lovely surprise.
Dear God, Apparently I'm Writing A Novel
It's dissertation time! Somehow, I've made it through the part-time MA with distinction-level grade so far, yay! All I have to do now is write 15,000 brand new words that are good enough to keep this up, which would be about 20 new flash stories by September.
As anyone who writes short fiction seriously will know, a good flash story often takes months to get right. So, my brilliant supervisor Naomi Wood suggested I consider writing longer work, just for the dissertation; and because I can't seem to do things by halves, suddenly I am writing a novel.
A NOVEL. I'm really excited about it. Obviously, it's good practice to write a novel in order to work one's way up to the really challenging job of writing flash fiction [this is a niche literary burn]. Also, though, as it turns out, it's REALLY FUN.
So I'm immersed in plot and structure and psychological arcs and motifs and ALL GET-OUT, and yes, yes I'm going to be using all-caps a lot when I talk about this so everyone may as well get used to it now.
It's a novel of declining circus and petulant gods and The Girl Who Eats Lightbulbs, a circus performer with a strange affinity for birds whose determination never to be weighed down by anyone or anything ever again might jeopardise everything—and if it does, it serves them all right. I have friends who run a circus and we've camped with them every year for the last few years, and there's plenty of inspiration there. Wish me luck, flashfans! xx