Following on from the success of their anthology Quickies: Short Stories for Adults and Flash Fiction Competition with Chorlton Arts Festival 2011, Manchester’s FlashTag collective found time give an interview to the Lancashire Writing Hub. You can catch FlashTag at this month’s Word Soup and find information on their new competition and the group themselves here.
Flashtag were interviewed by Mikey Goddard, guest editor and volunteer with Lancashire Writing Hub. FlashTag had so much to share that this interview will be split – so look out for the second part tomorrow.
There are many definitions and parameters for Flash Fiction – what does it mean to you?
Benjamin Judge: ‘Flash’ is just a useful label for shorter short stories. I am very dubious about people trying to claim it as having any particular defining features: usually those claims relate to what that writer is doing with the form, not what the form does in itself.
Sarah-Clare Conlon: Short-short stories no longer than 500 words. Even that’s too long for my liking.
Dave Hartley: Writing stories is all about control; I love the restrictions that Flash places upon that control. Weirdly, it allows you to do more; you literally drop into to any story anywhere and then quickly shoot out again, leaving all the nuances and further possibilities floating around inside like fairies. Flash Fiction is the art of story suggestion.
Fat Roland: Fiction is whatever length it needs to be. I don’t recognise my writing as “flash”. Flash suggests you write quickly and don’t edit. I like to write quickly and instinctively but then spend a lot of energy in the edit. You are welcome to not edit your writing: I just don’t think it will be as good as it could be. Having said that, I don’t mind using the word “flash” if it promotes me and writers I like. In other words, I have no standards and will sell my own reputation at the drop of a trilby.
What is it that attracts you to Flash Fiction over other forms like poetry, short stories or novels? Do you dabble with these forms too?
BJ: I don’t really consider myself a Flash Fiction writer. I write short stories. A lot of them end up being very short. Lately I have been thinking about novels. I do this sometimes. It rarely ends well.
Tom Mason: I like the idea of placing a reader in the middle of a scene and letting them create their own bookends around the narrative. I want the reader to create the world they’ve stumbled into; imagination is much more powerful than words. Also, I have a very short attention span.
S-CC: I’m a magazine editor by trade and I’ve always loved the challenge of cutting copy while retaining story, meaning, tone – and not letting the writer notice. Flash fiction is like the creative version of copy-fitting to me. I can’t resist a tiny wordcount.
DH: I tend to write quite a lot of short stories, and I’m working on a novel. Flash Fiction allows two things; firstly it’s a testing ground for ideas that might become longer pieces, and secondly it’s a neat framework for pruning down those unwieldy story epics that have overgrown and become baggy. Flash allows you to return to the purity of the story you were trying to tell.
FR: My writing can be very, um, “language-y” so in one sense I use poetic rhythms. Poetry, though, isn’t something I understand too well. Imagine a gorilla trying to sculpt a Taj Mahal out of its own dribble: that’s me trying to write poetry. I do intend to write a novel at some point, but for now my inadequate attention span is perfectly suited to the short sto— hey, an ice cream van!
How did FlashTag meet and how long have you been an ensemble? You seem to have a lot of fun together – how important is that?
BJ: The others don’t like to talk about it, but we actually all met for the first time in past lives, probably in cave man times. You know that scene in Space Odyssey when the monkeys smash each other around with tapir bones? Well it was like that, but with biros instead of monoliths.
TM: It is a lot of fun. We were friends before we teamed up to form a flash-fiction fighting force.
S-CC: We’re all bloggers, and we performed together for the first time at the 2010 Manchester Blog Awards when we all read contributions we’d made to 330 Words, a micro-fiction site curated by Tom. We had such a laugh, we started going to open mic nights together and began reading on a regular basis.
DH: We met at various literary nights around Manchester, especially the annual Manchester Blog Awards, and have a lot of fun gracing various stages with our open mic frivolities. Yes it does help that we each bring our own flavour of fun to the table, even if Clare’s tastes a little fruity at times!
FR: I’m only in Flashtag because I hope they’ll lend me money when I become destitute. I take myself way too seriously, so it’s nice to have the gang around me to remind me how stupid I am.
Flashtag – from left to right are: David Hartley, Tom Mason, Benjamin Judge,Sarah-Clare Conlon and Fat Roland (left to right).
The picture of you together has been referred to as a ‘band pic’ – Do you write as a collective sharing ideas with one another, how does it work?
BJ: Are you sure they didn’t say ‘banned pic’?
TM: I steal most of my ideas from the bins outside of Fat Roland’s house.
S-CC: We collaborate on events and projects, and we sometimes crit and edit each other’s work. Ben and I have published a couple of blogs together and we all contribute to 330 Words and Dave’s site Screen150. I’ve also performed a story Tom wrote specifically for a double act as part of a festival, but we don’t really write material together – our styles are all very different.
DH: I’ve noticed us influencing each other’s writing quite a lot, and all our creative ideas together helps to shape our events and performances. But as yet, we’ve not really written a story together. We all submit things to each other’s blogs occasionally as well.
FR: Really? I don’t recall seeing that kind of picture in the NME. Can I be the bassist? The others can do the rubbish instruments like drums and stuff. I’m surprised we don’t write together more, but some of the group have their own crit meetings with other people, and we bounce off each other a lot when working on a project. Our brains are wired up differently enough to spark creative oomph.
…which is where we will have to leave it for now! Look out for Part Two coming soon!