Hysteria Writing Competition https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk Supporting the Hysterectomy Association Thu, 01 Jun 2017 12:52:15 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/cropped-hysteriaukicon-32x32.jpg Hysteria Writing Competition https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk 32 32 Meet Lyndsey Shir-McDermott-Pour, short story judge for Hysteria 2017 https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/2017/06/01/lyndsey-shir-mcdermott-pour/ https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/2017/06/01/lyndsey-shir-mcdermott-pour/#comments_reply Thu, 01 Jun 2017 12:52:15 +0000 https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/?p=28471 Lyndsey Shir-McDermott-Pour is one of the Short Story category team of judges for Hysteria 2017. A few years ago she won a competition to write the opening to a novel sequel by author Geoffrey Iley, author of Navegator. She’s had a short stories…

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Lyndsey Shir-McDermott-Pour is one of the Short Story category team of judges for Hysteria 2017. A few years ago she won a competition to write the opening to a novel sequel by author Geoffrey Iley, author of Navegator. She’s had a short stories published in her paper and the Plague: Aftermath anthology;  a historical article for Celtic Life magazine published in Canada, Scotland and Ireland and the opening of her novel was shortlisted for an event at Chipping Norton literary festival. More recently she had been part of a team of four running an online book review group where self published authors can request reviews for their books.

Who would you invite to a literary dinner party?

Harriet Beecher Stowe if I can pick someone who isn’t alive. I’ve always wanted to ask her what inspired her to write such a novel and if she could imagine people would still be talking about it 150 years later.

What are you reading currently?

Day 21 in the ‘Undead’ series by R R Haywood, a fantastic self published author of the UKs best selling zombie horror series. I’m also rereading a childhood favourite ‘The Brothers Lionheart’ by Astrid Lindgren.

Are you a library lover, a bookshop bird or an online owl?

Library lover first and foremost. I was a bit of a Matilda as a child carrying myself off to the local library and by age eleven I’d already read ‘Gone with the wind’.

What advice would you give your younger writing self?

If you start your novel now, you’ll be finished by the time I have to say this sentence:-)

Which genre of writing do you prefer and why?

Fantasy. Give me a magical quest for a mystical object any day.

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An interview with Ingrid Jendrzejewski, Hysteria 2017 Flash Fiction Judge https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/2017/05/25/interview-ingrid-jendrzejewski-hysteria-2017-flash-fiction-judge/ https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/2017/05/25/interview-ingrid-jendrzejewski-hysteria-2017-flash-fiction-judge/#comments_reply Thu, 25 May 2017 17:26:48 +0000 https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/?p=28466 Ingrid Jendrzejewski is one of the Flash Fiction team of judges for Hysteria 2017. One of two runners up for the Bath Novella-in-Flash competition, her novella (composed of stand-alone flash-fiction pieces) will the published with the novellas written by the winner and…

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Ingrid Jendrzejewski is one of the Flash Fiction team of judges for Hysteria 2017. One of two runners up for the Bath Novella-in-Flash competition, her novella (composed of stand-alone flash-fiction pieces) will the published with the novellas written by the winner and the other runner up later this year. You can catch up with Ingrid and her annual Christmas Puzzles on her website: www.ingridj.com and also on Twitter @LunchOnTuesday

Do you have a ‘must read’ list?

I used to have a ‘must read’ list, but I gave it up when I realised it was so long that I wouldn’t be able to finish it even if I did nothing but read 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, until I turned 100. I decided I liked eating, sleeping and writing too much keep up with that kind of pace. These days, I rely a lot on suggestions from my writing critique group; I have much better luck with the books they recommend than the books I choose for myself, much of the time.

I suspect, however, that many of the poems, stories, books and other works that most need to be on a ‘must read’ list are things that I’ve not yet heard about, very possibly because they’re not yet published.

Where and when do you do most of your reading?

Anytime and anywhere I can sneak it in! I always have at least one book and notebook with me so that I can make use of any little scrap of time that emerges during the day. The one time I don’t read is before bed; if I try to do so, I get so pulled in, I end up staying up all night! (I do, however, often listen to audio books in the evening when I’m winding down.)

Are you a library lover, a bookshop bird or an online owl?

I’m a little bit of all of these! I spend several hours a week at a library that’s just down the road from my daughter’s nursery; I drop her off, then head to the library to write. I have a regular seat, right next to the coffee machine, and have even convinced them to stock decaf. (I’m trying to make it worth their while!) I find the vast majority of my impulse reads at the library.

When buying books, I do my best to support local independent bookshops and small presses. I’m currently reading brilliant collections published by Rose Metal Press and Cinnamon Press, two small presses that I highly recommend.

I avoided ebooks for a long time, but I must admit, I now find it terribly convenient to be able to read hands-free, and to be able to pick up where I left off in different places on different devices. Although I suspect I’ll always prefer the experience of reading a physical book, once I became a mother, the number of books I was able to get through each month more than trebled once I plugged in.

Which genre of writing do you prefer and why?

I love all sorts of writing, but especially literary fiction and hybrid genres. I love it when what I’m reading refuses to play by the rules of the game, yet still manages to shake me to the core. When writing, I like to experiment with different forms and crazy ideas.

That being said, I grew up reading science fiction and often have a Golden Age mystery or cosy crime novel on the go. I occasionally dabble in these genres and have even tried my hand at writing a romance novel.

For me, it’s about the writing rather than the genre. When I’m reading, I don’t care what genre it is, as long as it grabs me. When writing, I usually don’t think about genre until I’ve finished what I’m working on and am looking to find it a home.

What emotion do you associate with good writing?

What a great – and difficult – question! I can think of examples of great writing that conjure up almost every emotion under the sun, so for me, it’s not a question of which emotions are involved, but how a piece creates its emotional impact.

I feel in great hands if all the elements of a piece of writing – style, setting, characters, pace, tone, diction, etc. – work in concert with each other to create a nuanced emotional landscape in which I am invited to participate. If, however, I feel like the author is hovering over my shoulder, constantly pointing out how I should feel about certain characters, events, or situations, I’m more likely to feel manipulated and disengaged. Crafting an emotional resonance requires delicacy and finesse, which is why it’s so easy, I think, for writers to fall into the trap of taking short-cuts like overusing adverbs, ‘telling’ when ‘showing’ is more appropriate, or relying on too much summary or exposition.

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Meeting Liz Berg, judging the Short Story category for Hysteria 2017 https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/2017/05/15/meeting-liz-berg-judging-short-story-category-hysteria-2017/ https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/2017/05/15/meeting-liz-berg-judging-short-story-category-hysteria-2017/#comments_reply Mon, 15 May 2017 18:05:11 +0000 https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/?p=28455 Liz Berg is one of our team of short story judges in the Hysteria Writing Competition 2017. Liz is a storyteller with a background in education who has told stories in schools, mental health homes, clubs, festivals and parks. She has a special interest…

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Liz Berg is one of our team of short story judges in the Hysteria Writing Competition 2017. Liz is a storyteller with a background in education who has told stories in schools, mental health homes, clubs, festivals and parks. She has a special interest in Jewish stories, both Ashkenazi and Sephardi and is part of Mazed- collecting and retelling stories from  South East Cornwall. You can meet Liz on her blog at: lizberg.wordpress.com

Where and when do you do most of your reading?

I read everywhere.  I read late at night in bed, but I also stay up to finish a book I can’t put down. I read in the car, waiting for the children to get out school.

What are you reading currently?

I have several books on the go at the moment- Judas, Amos Oz; The Museum of Extraodinary Things, Alice Hoffman; The Eyes of Venice, Alessandro Barbero.

Are you a library lover, a bookshop bird or an online owl?

I admit to being indiscriminate. I download books, I borrow from the library and I buy in my local bookshop. I can’t stop. I also borrow from the ‘library’ set up in our local shop and from my writing group friends.

What advice would you give your younger writing self?

My advice is: Have faith in yourself, and persevere. Shut out the controlling advice.

What emotion do you associate with good writing?

Good writing engenders the white water rafting of emotions. I love to laugh and to cry, to feel that pull in the stomach.

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Short stories in short https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/2017/05/09/short-stories-in-short/ https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/2017/05/09/short-stories-in-short/#comments_reply Tue, 09 May 2017 18:34:37 +0000 https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/?p=28430 This time, short stories – for the Sixth International Hysteria Writing Competition, that means a story with the very loose theme “things of interest to women.” Oh, and a maximum of two thousand words. There is nothing like a dame, as…

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This time, short stories – for the Sixth International Hysteria Writing Competition, that means a story with the very loose theme “things of interest to women.” Oh, and a maximum of two thousand words.

There is nothing like a dame, as the song goes, so I bring you a real dame of literature, and six other acclaimed, award-winning class acts who write and judge short stories. Big thanks to our eight short story collaborators this year; the stellar Danielle McLaughlin, Alison Moore, Dame Fiona Kidman, Kirsty Logan, Tania Hershman, Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin and Sinead Gleeson for generously donating their time and pointers this year.

Reading other people’s work can really inspire and boost your own writing, so there’s also links to these fine collaborators, and sometimes, their stories, so you can find out more about their work.

Plus, to get you going, there’s Let The Reader Do The Work – a story generator from creative writing tutor, Mary-Jane Holmes, the Chief Editor at Fish Publishing Ireland. Speaking of Fish, you’ll find another story generator from Kathy Fish along with tips from five other leading flash fiction writers in the flash fiction post last month.

So, here’s what my cyberkuia (wise women online) around the world had to say about short stories…

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Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin

vanessa fox oloughlinMy pointers are extracted from a longer article https://www.writing.ie/resources/writing-wining-short-stories/

One of the keys to entering – and winning – short story competitions is taking your time to find out who the judges are, finding out what they write, and looking at previous competition winners’ work, to see if there is a theme to the type of stories that win. What are the key qualities of a great short story? A short story:

  • Gets off to a fast start – with a catchy first paragraph, ‘the hook’ that draws the reader straight into the action. A line of dialogue can be a great way to bring us straight into the story with a bang.
  • Has a limited number of characters and scenes – sometimes as few as one character in one scene. Short stories are like photographs of an event or episode, and sometimes one character can tell us all we need to know.
  • Short stories always start just as the action begins – and as close to the conclusion as possible.
  • Often deals with one problem or situation – you are not writing a novel, you are showing the reader a scene or series of scenes, in which an event takes place that changes the central character.
  • Only uses the detail necessary for understanding the situation – great passages of description are for your novel.
  • Usually covers a short time period.
  • Has a clear theme. What is the story about? The theme is the message underlying the story – the message behind the words. Give your story a strong theme and it will have more resonance in the minds of your readers.
  • In a short story, every word counts and must be made to work for you. Go over and over your story, refining every sentence as if you are making gravy – reduce and reduce until the flavours are rich, intense, and memorable.
  • Remember the last line of a short story carries as much weight as the first line.
  • Think about your title. Use it to add depth and import to your story.

The skill in short story writing comes in crafting the words on the page and making sure all the points on your check list are covered:

  • Description. Show your reader what your characters look like – paint them a picture, but keep it to pertinent, succinct detail. Show the reader what kind of person your character is through their actions. How do they make a cup of coffee? How do they pack when they’re going away on holiday? Use action to inform the reader.
  • Dialogue. Let your reader get to know your character through their dialogue. Important plot details must be worked in, rather announced just because you are short of space. This example was inspired by the hit CSI show: Police Officer (supposedly a forensics expert, but not one who has thought to don his white overall): ‘Look at the footprints leading from the window to the car – he must have gone this way’ Argh!
  • Ensure too that characters do not tell each other something they must already know for the benefit of the reader. This is unnatural and will jar the reader out of your story.
  • Thought. Bring the reader into your character’s head, to show them your character’s unexpressed memories, fears, and hopes.

One of the most important things to remember about entering short story competitions – and in fact any writing competition – is to follow the guidelines. It sounds obvious, but if the organisers want 1000 words, don’t go one word over. If they want it double spaced in hard copy with your details on a separate sheet, don’t email everything in one document. If they DO want it in one document by email, don’t send four attachments! What could be a winning story may not even be read if the competition guidelines aren’t followed to the letter.

And, don’t forget to NUMBER your PAGES!

Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin is the founder of Writing and The Inkwell Group publishing consultancy. Ireland’s leading literary scout, she has assisted many award-winning and best-selling authors to publication, and judged many short story competitions, including the inaugural Colm Toibin International Short Story Award. Vanessa writes crime as Sam Blake – her debut novel Little Bones is an Irish Times and Sunday Times bestseller.

Kirsty Logan

kirsty loganHappy to help! Here’s my three pointers…

  • Use all the senses. Descriptions are usually based on sight and sound, but smell, taste and touch can be far more vivid. The sugary pop of sherbet, the texture of wet sand, the cloying smell of rapeseed: these sorts of details will help your reader to inhabit the world of the story. Pick a few and sprinkle them through your writing.
  • Don’t describe what can be assumed. We know that the sky is blue and grass is green, so there’s no need to mention it. But if something is unlike what we’d expect, that makes it significant and worth describing. For example, a green lawn is unremarkable, but a yellowing lawn tells us a lot about the weather and the personality of the house’s occupants.
  • Let the reader inhabit the location. Rather than making dispassionate statements like “it was cold”, mention how the setting affects the characters. How does extreme cold – or extreme heat – affect your body? Uncontrollable shivering, the burn of freezing air in your nostrils, numbing fingers: these details will make the story feel real.

Kirsty Logan is a fiction writer, book reviewer, and writing mentor for WoMentoring. She also volunteers at Oxfam Books. Basically, her life is all books, all the time.

She has three books in print: one novel and two short story collections. Her short fiction and poetry has been published in print and online, translated into Japanese and Spanish, recorded for radio and podcasts, exhibited in galleries, and distributed from a vintage Wurlitzer cigarette machine. Kirsty regularly performs at events and festivals throughout the UK and Europe. Her fourth book, The Gloaming, will be published by Harvill Secker in 2018. It’s a queer mermaid love story set on a remote island that slowly turns its inhabitants to stone. She’s currently writing a collection of horror stories called The Night Tender.

Dame Fiona Kidman

dame fiona kidmanMy three tips for short stories…

  • Seize your reader from the opening sentence. It doesn’t have to be flashy or overly dramatic but it needs to alert the reader that something unusual is going to happen, whether it is through the actions of a character, or an event.
  • Short stories have their own internal rhythm and pace that is different from a novel. The best stories tend to focus on a small number of characters, and cover a fairly short time span. The intensity of a poem comes to mind, inviting the same exactness of language.
  • Don’t worry about tying everything up in a neat little parcel at the end. The classic O.Henry stories of the early 20th century were wonderful in their way, but they set a fashion for resolving the narrative in a closed off way, with a beginning, a middle and an ‘end point’. Readers may be equally satisfied if the story is left open enough for the magination to interpret what has gone before, and to see the character (or characters) going on with life after the story has ended on the page.

Fiona Kidman lives in Wellington, New Zealand and has written more than thirty books, including include novels, short stories, poems and plays. Her UK publisher, Aardvark/Gallic Books, released her novel The Infinite Air, based on the life of the 1930s aviatrix Jean Batten in 2016, and Songs from the Violet Café in 2016. Her new novel All Day at the Movies won the 2016 New Zealand Heritage Prize for Fiction. Fiona has been awarded an OBE for services to literature, and is a Dame Commander of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Sinead Gleeson

sinead gleesonHere you go…

  1. Surprise the judges – give them a character, setting or ending they weren’t expecting. When reading through a large volume of entries, it’s always the most unusual work that catches my eye. This doesn’t have to be talking unicorns – just something that no one else is doing (you’ll have to figure out that part yourself).
  2. Think about the language. You can have the most ordinary setting, or a story where not much happens, but if it’s told in a unique, lyrical or pithy way, it’ll make a judge want to read it again. Writer Patrick deWitt says, “you need two things to be a writer: economy and musicality – if you have those, it doesn’t really matter what you write about”.
  3. Endings – avoid the obvious. It’s ok if it’s neat, but not if it’s cliched. There’s so much room to be ambiguous in a short story, to leave the reader guessing what happened before and after the 10 pages of your story. Exploit that ambiguity.

Sinéad Gleeson’s essays have appeared in Granta, Banshee, Winter Papers, Gorse and Autumn: An Anthology for the Changing Seasons. Her short story ‘Counting Bridges’ was longlisted at the 2016 Irish Book Awards. In 2015, she edited The Long Gaze Back: an Anthology of Irish Women Writers, which won Best Irish Published Book at the 2015 Irish Book Awards, and in 2016, The Glass Shore: Short Stories by Women Writers from the North of Ireland, which won in the same category. She is current working on a collection of non-fiction, which made the final eight (of 885 entries) of the 2016 Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award. She presents The Book Show on RTE Radio 1.

Tania Hershman

tania hershmanHow’s this…

  • The story title is very important, especially for a judge is with a huge pile of submissions, so make it work hard!
  • Are you telling the reader everything you know about your characters –  or only what the reader needs to know? In short stories, you can leave a lot unsaid.
  • Where you start the story has a resonance with the ending of the story – what does your ending say to your beginning?

Tania Hershman curates ShortStops and her new venture, Amfibius, is an online hub for all the spaces where sciences and the arts meet. She is the founder of The Short Review, an online journal dedicated to reviewing short story collections and anthologies and showcasing short story authors, though no longer involved in its activities.

Her first collection, The White Road and Other Stories (Salt, 2008), was commended by the judges of the 2009 Orange Award for New Writers, and contains flash fiction and short stories inspired by science. Her second story collection, My Mother Was An Upright Piano: Fictions, was published in May 2012 by Tangent Books and contains fifty six very short fictions. Her first book of poetry, Nothing Here Is Wild, Everything Is Open, won 2nd prize in the Fool For Poetry chapbook contest and was published by Southword Editions in Feb 2016.

Herstories and poems have won various prizes, been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, been published,broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and 4 & performed. She teaches regularly for the Arvon Foundation.

She co-authored Writing Short Stories: A Writers & Artists Companion (Bloomsbury, Dec 2014) with Courttia Newland, and co-edited, with Pippa Goldschmidt, an anthology of short stories inspired by the 100th birthday of Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, I Am Because You Are.

She has two new books coming out in mid-2017 – Terms & Conditions, her debut poetry collection, from Nine Arches Press, and Some Of Us Glow More Than Others, her third short story collection, from Unthank Books.

You can read one of Tania’s short stories here < http://www.walesartsreview.org/flash-fiction-month-fire-and-granite-by-tania-horseman/.

Danielle McLaughlin

danielle mclaughlinI’m delighted to help – here’s my three pointers…

  1. Specifics, specifics, specifics. Lives are not lived in generalities. Re-read your story, looking for opportunities to move from the general to the specific. I like the writing tip given by Flaubert to Maupassant: ‘By a single word make me see wherein one cab horse differs from fifty others before or behind it.’
  2. The first page of your story shouldn’t read like a warming-up exercise. A short story needs to hit the ground running, right from the title.
  3. I like stories where something happens. When you get to the end of your story, ask yourself: has something happened? If the answer is ‘no’, then go back and make something happen.

Danielle O’Laughlin’s stories have appeared in various journals, newspapers and anthologies, including The New Yorker, The Irish Times, Southword, The Penny Dreadful, Long Story Short The Stinging Fly. They have also appeared in various anthologies, such as the Bristol Prize Anthology, the Fish Anthology and the 2014 Davy Byrnes Anthology, and have been broadcast on RTE Radio 1 and BBC Radio 4. She has won various awards for her short fiction, including the William Trevor/Elizabeth Bowen International Short Story Competition, the From the Well Short Story Competition, The Willesden Herald International Short Story Prize, The Merriman Short Story Competition in memory of Maeve Binchy, and the Dromineer Literary Festival Short Story Competition. Danielle was awarded an Arts Council Bursary in 2013.

Her debut collection of short stories, Dinosaurs On Other Planets, was published in Ireland in 2015 by The Stinging Fly Press and in the UK and US in  2016 by John Murray and Random House. The collection was shortlisted for the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards 2015 in the Sunday Independent Newcomer of the Year category and won the Saboteur Award for Best Short Story Collection 2016.

Listen to Danielle’s story, The Beating of Tiny Wings.

Alison Moore

alison mooreMy three short story tips/observations:

  • When I begin a new story, I have some sense of what it is I’m going to explore, but by keeping the reins loose and letting myself be guided, perhaps steered off the path I thought I was going to go down, I might end up in territory I had no idea was there when I first sat down. Being surprised and unsettled by your own story is one of the greatest pleasures of writing, and that frisson can be felt by the reader.
  • Help your reader to inhabit the world of your story. If we imagine a room, the reader doesn’t need to know the exact layout and dimensions of everything, but help them to know that room in some way – if I say that an inherited wardrobe is overwhelming in a small bedroom, it causes a physiological response in me.
  • Edit very carefully. When a story feels finished, put it away for a while and then read it through with a fresh eye. Read it aloud. Find those typos and clunky and unclear bits and sort them out.

Alison Moore’s first novel, The Lighthouse, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Awards (New Writer of the Year), winning the McKitterick Prize. Both The Lighthouse and her second novel, He Wants, were Observer Books of the Year. Her most recent novel is Death and the Seaside. Her short fiction has been included in Best British Short Stories and Best British Horror anthologies, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra and collected in The Pre-War House and Other Stories, whose title story won a novella prize. Her first book for children (aged seven and over), Sunny and the Ghosts, will be published in 2018. 

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Of course, to let the reader do the work, the writer has to…ahem…do some work herself.

So, dear Reader, more than eighteen pointers from our collaborators to help you develop and hone your short stories. And, remember that there’s no limit on the number of your entries or the number of genres you enter. Have fun, play in the wordy sandpit – we’d love to see your two thousand words in our short story category before August 31 2017 here at the Hysteria Writing Competition.

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Short story generator from Mary-Jane Holmes https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/2017/05/09/short-story-generator-from-mary-jane-holmes/ https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/2017/05/09/short-story-generator-from-mary-jane-holmes/#view_comments Tue, 09 May 2017 18:33:59 +0000 https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/?p=28432 Mary-Jane Holmes of Fish Publishing has very kindly shared a story generator with us to complement the hints and tips from this month’s Writer in Residence post from Alex Reece Abbott. Let the Reader Do the Work Compression is the…

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Mary-Jane Holmes of Fish Publishing has very kindly shared a story generator with us to complement the hints and tips from this month’s Writer in Residence post from Alex Reece Abbott.

Let the Reader Do the Work

Compression is the use of words to paint a moving picture that tells a story. The idea is to create cinema on the page. This allows the reader to become part of the creative process. The imagination of the reader will provide the meaning of what the words imply. If I do my job, the reader will supply the exposition from my visual suggestions. Guy Hogan

Employing implication is particularly vital in the short story because the genre doesn’t allow the space to make things explicit. However, it is important on another level as well; if we explain everything to the reader they won’t have the opportunity to participate imaginatively in the scene and this will make them passive rather than active readers.

According to the 10 Best Teaching Practices (Donna Tileston), the brain thrives on putting information together to make a pattern, to understand relationships and connections – in other words, the reader wants to be involved in the meaning-making process as if they were right there in the room with the character, observing and interpreting independently – it is this that makes us forget we are reading and think that we are in a different but real world. As the short-short story writer Randall Brown points out: Writers who feel that they make the meaning exclusively resist the idea of the reader constructing meaning and will limit the process that the brain thrives on.

Implication is important – and when we don’t use it, our language becomes fuzzy because we start to use too many modifiers, too many narrative intrusions. One might say about a stressed character – his wide, brown, bushy strung out eyebrows but his ‘strung-out’ eyebrows will be enough to stand in for the other things and help set up a web of association that connects the physical with the emotional, the concrete standing in for the abstract.

One thing to do is to go through a story trying to use sets of words to imply what is going on under the surface rather than explaining what is going on. Yes, basically this is all about ‘showing and not telling.’

Stop Me Before I Say Too Much

A great way to work on implying a character’s mental state (rather than conveying it directly) comes from this well-known exercise, set by John Gardner in The Art of Fiction:

A middle-aged man is waiting at a bus stop. He has just learned that his son has died violently. Describe the setting from the man’s point of view WITHOUT telling your reader what has happened. How will the street look to this man? What are the sounds, odours, colours that this man will notice? What will his clothes feel like? And so on.

By the end of the description, we should know what has happened (or, be pretty sure) without ever having been told.

When you feel that you may be telling the reader too much – do the same thing to your characters. Use implication and you will have an active, focused reader who will find it impossible to stop reading your work.

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Mary-Jane Holmes has been chief editor of Fish Publishing Ireland since 2009, an organisation committed to supporting emerging writers. She directs and coordinates the Fish creative writing and mentoring programs, including the longest running online Flash Fiction course in Europe dedicated solely to the genre. She is also consulting editor at The Well Review, a new international poetry journal based out of Cork, Ireland and teaches creative writing at Casa Ana in Spain.

Her work has been anthologized and published in a variety places, including Best Small Fictions 2016, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Lute and Drum, Prole, The Tishman Review, Firewords and The Lonely Crowd. She won the 2014 Dromineer Flash Prize and has shortlisted for the Bridport Prize for fiction and poetry. In 2017, she won the Bedford International Prize for Poetry and was nominated for a Forward Prize. Mary-Jane is currently completing her post-graduate studies in creative writing at Kellogg College, Oxford.

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Meeting Josianne Barrette, Hysteria 2017 poetry category judge https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/2017/05/08/josianne-barrette-hysteria-2017-poetry-category-judge/ https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/2017/05/08/josianne-barrette-hysteria-2017-poetry-category-judge/#comments_reply Mon, 08 May 2017 18:22:51 +0000 https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/?p=28426 Josianne Barrette is one of our team of poetry judges in the Hysteria Writing Competition 2017. She is a contributor at À l’essai, Cygne Noir, L’Organe, Bad Nudes Magazine (Canada) and Les Éditions des Femmes d’à Côté (France). She was…

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Josianne Barrette is one of our team of poetry judges in the Hysteria Writing Competition 2017. She is a contributor at À l’essai, Cygne Noir, L’Organe, Bad Nudes Magazine (Canada) and Les Éditions des Femmes d’à Côté (France). She was a semi-finalist for the CBC Fiction Prizes in the Short Story category. Her poetry has been published in English in Matrix Magazine, Vinyl Poetry & Prose and will be anthologised in a collection due for 2018. She lives and teaches in the Montreal area. You can meet Josianne on Twitter @JosiannBarrett.

Which poet inspires you and why?

Robert Kelly is my all-time favorite poet. I was thrilled to learn that he was named Dutchess County’s first poet laureate this year (2016-2017). His lyricism will never go out of style. Never precious nor hermetic, rather inclusive and collaborative. Having read his books from the 60’s onwards, I get the sense that Kelly has always been attentive to his environment and to his readers’ (conscious and subconscious) preoccupations. I inevitably go back to his work to refresh and redefine my notion of what language could bring to poetry in both the most mundane and sacred ways.

« I had a theme at last

 a kind of shapely pouting silence

a bunch of words beyond my grasp

all I could do was say them so I did. »

(From Invaders 14, Autumn 1993)

If you are a writer or poet, how did you get started?

I never doubted for one second, whether things were at their worst or at their best, that writing was what I wanted to do. I applied to contests, submitted and dealt with rejection a lot. It forced me to open my world to other people and to ask for help and criticism. Only then did things start to unfold and only then did I realize the value of including multiple voices in my process to make it stimulating rather than solipsistic.

What is your favourite piece of writing? Why did you choose this over everything else?

My favourite pieces of writing are Conrad Aiken‘s best-known short story, “Silent Snow, Secret Snow” (1934), ex aequo with Shirley Jackson’s “The Intoxicated” (1949). Both short stories are truly original, like nothing I have ever read before. They both have brought up some deep, primitive fears inside of me. What admirable craftsmanship!

Do you have a ‘must read’ list?

Yes.

Novels:

Essays:

  • Infinite Music by Adam Harper
  • Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil by Hannah Arendt

It’s funny to realise that the concept of silence emerges in almost all of my answers in this interview, from Robert Kelly’s poem to Conrad Aiken’s story to Shūsaku Endō’s novel. Silence must be a crucial part of reading and writing. I’ll look into it.

Do you have favourite writing or reading resources to recommend?

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Meeting Céline Domenech – Hysteria 2017 short story judge https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/2017/05/02/meeting-celine-domenech-hysteria-2017-short-story-judge/ https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/2017/05/02/meeting-celine-domenech-hysteria-2017-short-story-judge/#comments_reply Tue, 02 May 2017 18:40:11 +0000 https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/?p=28413 Céline Domenech is a judge in the short story category of the Hysteria Writing Competition and English is her second language. She won a Write Star competition in 2016 on the theme of Holiday and is currently looking for an agent for…

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Céline Domenech is a judge in the short story category of the Hysteria Writing Competition and English is her second language. She won a Write Star competition in 2016 on the theme of Holiday and is currently looking for an agent for her first English novel, ‘The Shadow of Phaedrus’. It’s a YA magical saga that shows the journey of a strong and determined teenage girl to restore order in her world. You can read an extract from the book on her blog. You can meet Céline on her website, and read an extract from her new novel as well, here http://fluffandpoops.com/. You can also find her on Twitter @FluffAndPoops.

Which writers or poets inspire you and why?

It’s tricky to give an exhaustive list of inspiring authors. So I’d like to name the authors who’ve inspired me to get better.

Leonie Swann, a German writer, has published in 2005 a crime novel from the point of view of a flock of sheep (Glennkill or Three Bags Full in English). I love the creative work she’s done to keep the reader believing the sheep psychology. It’s fun, it’s creative, and it’s well done. The flock of sheep remains to me one of the best examples of an original narrator.
When one thinks of narrators, it is impossible to ignore Jonathan Stroud, who write YA novels. He created the Bartimaeus trilogy in which a magical creature, a djinni, recalls his adventures in London and elsewhere. I fell in love with the way Stroud is using notes on the page. Suddenly, notes stop being an element that cut the story but they become a constant comical commentary of the action. Stroud has a clever way of introducing humour to the story. I find it very inspiring.

David Crystal, the British guru of punctuation, is another inspiration. He may not be the first name that comes to mind when you think of a writer, but he gives an important lesson for non-fiction writers. Conveying knowledge in an entertaining and accessible way is an art indeed.

Françoise Sagan, nicknamed the ‘charming little monster’, is my favourite go-to author when I am feeling in the mood for social revolution and exacerbated sensitivity. She did what she wanted, she wrote what she wanted, but she did it with great talent. Life consumed her in the end, but her words always gave a sharp and honest portrait of the decadence of the world.

Arundhati Roy should be on the list of inspirational writers for anybody. Along with her technique to depict the innocence of children and the loose and natural process of memory, there’s also a voice that denounces discrimination, social classes. Indian politics and human betrayal. Everyone wishes to be that voice of reason in our world.

Finally, I refer to Angela Carter’s Fairy Tales when I want to see a playful and witty turn to a classic. It’s witty, it’s down-to-earth and it still feels like a fairy tale. Of course, others have since repurposed fairy tales into a more modern environment, but I think Angela Carte opened the way to gothic witticism.

Do you have a ‘must read’ list?

No. I have a ‘must check’ list, which implies visiting the closest bookshop, reading the first pages of the book (or reading the first pages online for an ebook) and then deciding if I actually want to read it. On my ‘must check’ list, you’ll find authors I have heard about but never read, classics, newly published books, praised authors, and interesting covers and titles.

Have you ever been disappointed by a ‘highly recommended’ book?

Yes, often. That’s probably why I’ve stopped relying on recommendations (from newspapers, celebrities, relatives, TV and radio shows) to pick my next book. I am the kind of person who frowns at articles that start with ‘top [x] books to read’. It seems difficult to believe that someone’s tastes in reading can match the interests of the entire population. We all have different expectations and needs. But I make a mental note to check these books nevertheless!

What advice would you give your younger writing self?

Write what you want to read. Life is full of inspiring experiences. Some are good, some are bad, some are big, some are small. But all are significant, so you need to live to write. Writing can be a real job too if you work hard on it. Don’t be ashamed of writing.

What emotion do you associate with good writing?

Good writing creates all sort of emotions: Excitement, sadness, fear, laughter, pity, curiosity, etc. It depends on the book you are reading. A thriller should make you shiver with anxiety. A love story should give you butterflies flying in your stomach. But above all, good writing makes you want to turn the page, to know what happens next. Good writing doesn’t let you sleep until you’ve finished the book. When I finish a good book, I feel just like the gourmet whose finger is fishing the last drops of sauce on the plate: Satisfied, nourished, cared for.

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Meet Shaheen Hussain, Hysteria 2017 poetry category judge https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/2017/04/24/meet-shaheen-hussain-hysteria-2017-poetry-category-judge/ https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/2017/04/24/meet-shaheen-hussain-hysteria-2017-poetry-category-judge/#comments_reply Mon, 24 Apr 2017 17:29:48 +0000 https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/?p=28402 Shaheen Hussain is a judge in the Poetry category of the Hysteria 2017 Writing Competition; she is also a novice writer who has had two poems printed in books of poetry by the United Press Limited, entitled Oh How I…

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Shaheen Hussain is a judge in the Poetry category of the Hysteria 2017 Writing Competition; she is also a novice writer who has had two poems printed in books of poetry by the United Press Limited, entitled Oh How I Wished it Missed, and Colourful life.

Which writers or poets inspire you and why?

I came across Sue Townsend in my mid 20’s, and I must say I instantly warmed to her writing.

Although she is no longer with us I’m sure here writing will be read across the globe.  I have always been fascinated with her ability to intertwine wit in everyday life issues whether that be, pain, turmoil, health, love, issues that affect all human beings at some juncture of their lives.   She’s able to show real life but in such a unique way, which keeps her readers gripped.  They say a poet becomes a poet, as he/she has been inspired by love, and having read poetry by John Keats I must confess I was smitten, by his poetry of course.  The Eve of St Agnes is one of my favourite.  His speech is often enchanted into fantasy and reality and one can easily find himself lost, which I suppose is reflective of love; as you have to immerse yourself in love in order to find the true spiritual love.  I must confess my first poem was about love too!

What is your favourite piece of writing? Why did you choose this over everything else?

It has to be Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy.  Having studied this classical piece of literary masterpiece for my GCSE’S (20 years onand the withered copy still sits on my bookshelf!),I was amazed at Hardy’s ability to create a conduit into late 19 Century and early 20 Century life.  Amongst, the vast themes, the book stood out for me as it allowed me to connect to nature; the sweeping passages describing the landscapes of English countryside took my imagination far and beyond the realms of city life, the only surroundings which I was familiar with at the time.   As a 16-year-old, I was very moved by the scene where Tess is raped.  It is portrayed so subtlety that one questions whether it did manifest into her violation.  This for me is Hardy at his best, leaving the reader the freedom to make his own mind up.

Who would you invite to a literary dinner party?

It would have to be the one and only Alan Bennett.  I would love to ask him how he keeps tenacity alive when it comes to keeping all those diary entries, often detailed and poignant when it comes to understanding himself as a writer and his characters.  I would also get him to deliver some of his monologues from ‘Talking Heads’, classic pieces of wry humour, meshed with serious issues affecting ordinary folk.

What are you reading currently?

John Grisham –The Litigators, coming from a legal background I must admit I do enjoy reading about the profession in a satirical way; Grisham is gifted at doing this.

Which genre of writing do you prefer and why?

I am a realist, so it would be fitting to say that the genre I most prefer is realistic fiction.  Stories and narrations about characters that often resemble real life, real issues and real emotions.  It’s the degree of familiarity and security I find in such works that allow me to empathise with such writing.  I find I am drawn to this genre particularly, because it is a mirror reflection of contemporary life, and as a reader you are often left asking what I would do if I was in the character’s place.  I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer, however, it does provide a platform for a debate, which is always healthy.

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Meet Jenny Roman, Hysteria 2017 short story category judge https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/2017/04/17/meet-jenny-roman-hysteria-2017-short-story-category-judge/ https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/2017/04/17/meet-jenny-roman-hysteria-2017-short-story-category-judge/#comments_reply Mon, 17 Apr 2017 15:08:46 +0000 https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/?p=28306 Jenny Roman is a judge in the short story category of the Hysteria Writing Competition 2017. Her stories have appeared in a variety of magazines including Writers’ Forum, Woman’s Weekly, Scribble, The People’s Friend, The Weekly News and Yours. Her fiction has been published online,…

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Jenny Roman is a judge in the short story category of the Hysteria Writing Competition 2017. Her stories have appeared in a variety of magazines including Writers’ Forum, Woman’s Weekly, Scribble, The People’s Friend, The Weekly News and Yours. Her fiction has been published online, and as e-downloads, including ‘Snowball’, a story for Young Adults published by Ether Books.

She has been short-listed in numerous competitions; ‘Beyond Words’ was 2nd in the Writers’ Forum competition in July 2014, ‘The Bluebell Wood’ was voted 3rd by readers of the Scribble Summer 2015 issue, and in December 2015, ‘Bit Part’ was the winner in the Pens of Erdington creative writing competition.

You can meet Jenny on her website at jennyroman.wordpress.com and on Facebook.

Which writers or poets inspire you and why?

Too many to list, but here is a selection of favourites:

Julian Barnes – his writing is economical, but well observed, and creates such a vivid picture. And his short stories based almost entirely on dialogue are genius – they shouldn’t work, but they do.

Donna Tartt – when I read the first page of The Secret History, I puffed out my cheeks knowing I could write for a hundred years and never be as good. On the other hand, she gives me hope as it seems to take her about 10 years to write each novel!

Alan Bennett – a master of the narrative voice, and creator of real, complex characters in an often deceptively humdrum environment – a writer who can always both entertain and deeply move his readers.

Sophie Hannah – this is someone who knows how to plot – how to lay a trail of clues and conundrums to keep her readers turning the pages.

Jasper Fforde – the exception to my “I don’t like fantasy” rule. His Thursday Next and nursery crime novels are a joy for us bookish types.

Arthur Miller – his plays are like onions – layer upon layer of misunderstanding and half-truths until the real truth is exposed.

If you are a writer or poet, how did you get started?

My first short stories were published by PONY magazine when I was a teenager. Without knowing it, I did everything right in those initial submissions – I knew the magazine inside out (having been a regular reader for years) and I was passionate about my subject matter. I thought “That’s it – I’m a writer – this is easy!” Then there was a change of editor, and the new one didn’t like my stuff, and then they stopped running stories altogether, so that was that. I tried sending normal teenage-girl stories to normal teenage-girl magazines but they were all rejected (I knew a lot about ponies, but not much about being a normal teenager). As I didn’t know what I’d done right with PONY I didn’t know what I was doing wrong with these other magazines. It took a long time to pick myself up from that. I’m talking like 20 years. (If you think I’m kidding, take a look at my writing credits on my blog!) Yes, I still wrote in those 20 years (on and off) but I didn’t get any fiction published.

Where and when do you do most of your reading?

I’m an avid fan of audio books for the car, but I do most of my real reading in the evenings, curled up with the cat on the sofa, or occasionally in the bath (not with the cat, obviously), or tucked up in bed just before going to sleep. You need to be warm, comfortable and quiet to enjoy a good read. Before we moved, we had a hammock in the back garden which was glorious for reading, but there’s no suitable hammock space in our new garden.

Are you a library lover, a bookshop bird or an online owl?

I’m passionate about public libraries – they are such a valuable resource and it’s a great shame that so many of these great physical spaces filled with real, tangible books, and manned by helpful, knowledgeable staff are in jeopardy. I’m a regular library user – particularly for the aforementioned audio books. That said, I think the internet has opened up a wealth of opportunities for readers and writers – particularly for genres such as the short story which tends not to be favoured by traditional publishers – and I’m a convert to the Kindle.

Which genre of writing do you prefer and why?

I generally prefer contemporary writing – and generally like fiction to be realistic (I say “generally” because writers like Jasper Fforde create worlds I’m very happy to jump into). People often say they read for escapism, and like to be carried away on an adventure, or a romance, or fantasy, but I’m not sure I read like that. I’m interested in how other people deal with the normal stuff of life – and I think that’s what reading allows you – a glimpse into someone else’s mind. Perhaps it’s simply so you can say, “Oh, thank goodness – it’s not just me!” Or because they’re better at putting into words something you’ve felt but haven’t been able to describe even to yourself.  I also like fictional situations that are intriguing – I enjoy psychological thrillers for the twists and turns. More important than a particular genre, I love a good strong narrative voice. But the best thing about reading is discovering something new you didn’t think would be your thing, and loving it!

 

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Meeting Maya Pieris, Hysteria 2017 poetry category judge https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/2017/04/09/meeting-maya-pieris-hysteria-2017-poetry-category-judge/ https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/2017/04/09/meeting-maya-pieris-hysteria-2017-poetry-category-judge/#comments_reply Sun, 09 Apr 2017 12:21:29 +0000 https://www.hysteriauk.co.uk/?p=28295 Maya Pieris is one of the judges for the Hysteria 2017 poetry category. She has had poems and prose published in the South Poetry anthologies, Dorset Voices, This Little World (Dorset Writers Network), the 2015 Canterbury Poetry Festival anthology, Poems From…

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Maya Pieris is one of the judges for the Hysteria 2017 poetry category. She has had poems and prose published in the South Poetry anthologies, Dorset Voices, This Little World (Dorset Writers Network), the 2015 Canterbury Poetry Festival anthology, Poems From the Oak Room ed. Annie Freud, Emma Press (due out next year), Narrative Thread pub by Bridport Story Traders, the East Coker Poets occasional anthologies and got a commended from the Winchester Literary Festival.

She also won a play award from the Tacchi Morris Arts Centre, Taunton, for her first play about a strike by female networkers in 1912. At the moment she is working with three other local play writers on producing comic sketches for a local amateur dramatic company, will be reading in Chichester for South Poetry and and is currently putting her first poetry anthology together.

Which poets or writers inspire you and why?

Philip Larkin is probably my dessert island poet-I love his accessibility and brilliant use of language and his melancholy which disguised another Larkin. I’m also a growing fan of Emily Dickenson and Walt Whitman who were such radical poets and really like contemporary poets John Hegley, Annie Freud, Greta Stoddart, Mark Doty, David Briggs and Lorraine Marriner. Again they are all accessible poets writing with humour and tragedy as bedfellows and in command of their language and styles.

Are you a library lover, a bookshop bird or an on-line owl?

Mostly a bookshop lover- always have been because my parents were. And I like to dip in when I’m ready which is why I find book clubs hard. I try to support my local indie bookshop and secondhand bookshop as I do find the “pile them” high approach of the high street chains can be off putting. But I do use libraries mostly for research purposes though I also borrow- have now mastered the self service check out!

How did you get started?

Creative writing was always a favourite lesson at primary school and I missed its presence at secondary school where it got pushed out by exam requirements. I did, however, continue to mess about with words and workshops but it’s only been in the last 6 years since moving to Bridport that I’ve really pursued it seriously and had prose, poetry and some journalism published.

What advice would you give your younger writing self?

To be more confident that other’s advice can be valuable but also to be true to your own writing self. And to keep going like Emily Dickinson. And always write for yourself first.

Are there some themes you enjoy more than others?

I’m assuming this relates to my own writing. Writers are pirates, magpies and plunder where appropriate! I, like many, plunder myself but always try to see my experiences and feelings in a more “global” way- people don’t want to read a therapy poem or piece of prose! So the themes I often return to in my poetry are quite internal and often melancholic and concerned with quite hard or poignant situations. In my prose I can be more humorous and also macabre!

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