Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Small is big: short fiction writing competition

Flash. Micro. Ultra. Short-short. Smokelong. Sawn-off. Tiny tales of 1,000 words and way less have many monikers and many exponents, plenty of whom are from or who have at some point brought their art to Manchester.

Tonight, for example, sees the city's FlashTag writing collective head up an event as part of Chorlton Arts Festival; their third, in fact. Now a fixture on the incredibly diverse and immense spoken word scene in the city, this soiree offers a fun-filled culmination to an open-submission creative writing competition, with the shortlist of entrants reading their work - with, ultimately, one of them being crowned the winner. In past incarnations, the runners-up have landed in Chorlton from all over the UK, from Bristol to Edinburgh, which just goes to show that the popularity of the short form isn't limited to our city limits. So flash fiction is big business.

There are a couple of ways of looking at flash fiction. The first is treating prose like poetry, in a way. Every word counts, and there are very few words. You could spend days, weeks, months, even years honing a piece of no more than as little as two or three paragraphs that tells a story, complete with beginning, middle and end, and which provides all the plotlines and characters that a much longer piece would offer - the only difference is that it is reduced to an essence; a hard hit, if you like. For others, it's about writing something short and sweet in a matter of minutes or hours; an energetic fizz of putting words on a page, creating something totally of its moment.

It's up to you which you prefer, so we have a challenge for you, and it's up to you to decide which take will impress us the most. We've teamed up with Creative Industries Trafford to run a flash fiction writing competition, the winners of which we will showcase in an event during Manchester Literature Festival 2013, this coming October. And to help you, CIT are running a special flash fiction writing workshop with pioneer of the short form David Gaffney - author of four critically acclaimed micro-fiction collections - on Tuesday 18 June (1-4pm), for just £5. Click here for more details and how to book.

So, to the competition: We are inviting you to create a flash fiction, no longer than 500 words, inspired by the theme of DNA. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the discovery of the DNA double helix by Francis Crick and James Watson, and we'd love to read your words inspired by the subject, in all genres of fiction - we're thinking creation, mutation, evolution, transformation...

Entry is free and submissions should be sent by email to by 5pm on Monday 16 September.

The winning entries will be featured online during MLF 2013 and short-listed authors will be invited to read their stories at a special event on Saturday 12 October at Waterside Arts Centre, Sale, with the overall winner receiving book vouchers worth £50.

Good luck!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Postcards from the edge

Here's Rosie's postcard...

10 April 1913
My dearest Mabel,

I know you are angry with me. I know you will throw this on the fire. But I shall send it in any case. You’ll have read about the affair by now. It’s in the Courier.

Yes, it was done in protest at Mrs. P being sent down on yet another flummery-mummery charge of incitement. But the intoxication of dashing up and down the waxed parquet, toffee hammers in our fists! Smashing the glass of a dozen paintings before they could hold all three of us down!

I could tell you we did not mean serious damage, which is what I said in court. You ask how I could attack pictures of ladies like ourselves. But Mabel; when I saw those daubs, a veil was torn away. They are not women: they are falsehoods told in paint with spotless skin, perfect limbs, unlined faces, hands that have never had to wring nappies. They are men’s lies told to make us hate our bodies.

I shall not lie and say I did it for you. I did it for all of us, even those who did not want it. I would do the same again, tomorrow.

I remain,
Your affectionate mother,
Annie Briggs

© 2013 Rosie Garland

Historical Note
On 3rd April 1913, Annie Briggs (48, 'a housekeeper'), Evelyn Manesta (25, 'a governess') and Lillian Forrester (33) launched a direct action to protest at the imprisonment and forced-feeding of suffragettes. They waited until Manchester Art Gallery was almost empty at 9pm. Taking toffee hammers from their handbags, they dashed about the room and broke the glass on over a dozen well-known paintings before being overwhelmed by guards. 

Stories from the city, stories from the sea

Postcards From The Past Workshop, Saturday 11th May, 2-4.30pm, Stanley Suite, The Midland Hotel
Words by Desmond Bullen.

 Long before the supposed modishness of flash fiction, prior to the chirpy burst of Twitter, wit at its briefest found its way inked onto the back of a postcard. Denuded of the envelope’s discretion, its commonplaces and tidings were status updates on mass-produced cardboard. To come across one now, forgotten between the pages of a secondhand book, is to have the past blossom with the delicacy of a Polaroid before one’s eyes.
The postcard is of a room. The room is in a hotel, the kind with a history; one whose inlaid angels have witnessed the relentless ebb and flow of guests and staff over years weary and gay, over decades heavy and light. The tales they could tell are on the tips of their tongues, but their tongues are still. The people in the room are not. They prowl and declaim, with varying degrees of self-consciousness, giving rise to an unintentional poetry, part Dada, part poetry.

And conducting this displaced cabaret is the quicksilver figure of Rosie Garland, a protean figure – neither poet nor mistress of ceremonies, neither March Violet nor author, but all, and more – now coaxing ink from pens in a workshop that is far more play than toil.

There is paper, too; the inevitable flipchart, the outpourings of the group in marker pen across it, like benign graffiti. And the pads and notebooks, their lines no longer flat, but beating with prose of which its authors might be cautiously proud. Each table has a soul or two brave enough to voice their new-found words to the room at large. Each has a postcard to send that’s funny or thoughtful, angry or melancholy, flirtatious or droll.

Wish you were here? I was glad I was.

The Postcards From The Past competition, sponsored by The Midland Hotel, closes on 20 July - click here for full details of how to enter. 

Rosie’s latest novel, The Palace Of Curiosities, is out now.