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Kirsty Logan: really flash – 2 November

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Kirsty Logan with joint President Janice Johnston

Our speaker for 2 November was Kirsty Logan, who reviews books, acts as mentor and writes a column. Her short fiction and poetry have been published in print and online, recorded for radio and podcasts and exhibited in galleries. She has written two books; The Gracekeepers, and The Rental Heart & Other Fairytales, which is a collection of short stories. Her fiction leans towards the weird and mystical, so she was the perfect person to teach us all about flash fiction.

Flash fiction is defined in Writing-world.com as ‘…a short form of storytelling…Some purists insist that it is a complete story told in less than 75 words; others claim 100 should be the maximum. For less-rigid flashers, anything under 1,000 words can be considered flash-worthy. And there are even a few who stretch their limits to 1,500 words.’ So, not much help there, then. However the flash fiction we are working towards in AWC is 250 words maximum.

Sometimes our speakers read from their work and tell us a little about themselves before going into a Q&A session, but Kirsty set us to work instead. For the first hour she set us three sets of 5-minute writing tasks. Each time Kirsty read out one of her pieces then suggested topics for us to choose from.

First we had to write about a situation or emotion, but take the words literally, e.g. what would you do if you really had to drown your sorrows, or eat your heart out, or spit tacks? We all scribbled frantically until Kirsty’s stopwatch rang out. Then she gave us three tips for writing magic realism, which were: don’t over-explain things; be strong on sensory details; and, use emotional truth rather than literal truth. Then we tried the exercise again, getting used to the way the evening was going.

The second set of exercises were in writing a manual or guidebook style. Two 5-minute stints again, after hearing Kirsty’s example of how to deal with selkies. See Kirsty’s web page at www.kirstylogan.com if you want to know more about selkies.

The final set of exercises were for stories shaped as lists or catalogues.  This idea could include a scrapbook, exhibits for a trial, letters and diaries, stops on a trip or items found when beach-combing.

Kirsty kept reminding us that we might find one style easier to write in than another, but doing six separate exercises should result in at least one story to work on later.

After the break she asked for volunteers to read out what they had come up with. Some of these ideas related to robots taking over humans, child abuse, separation, and a manual for cats wanting to find owners. One took literally the idea of giving your heart to someone. Could you ask for it back later on?

I for one left with pages of notes and many new ideas of how to write flash fiction. Thank you, Kirsty, for a very enjoyable evening.

 

Kirsty will be the judge of our flash fiction competition (entries in for 30 November – 250 words maximum).

 

Jennifer West

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