In a moment of recklessness I picked up a gauntlet thrown down on Twitter last week from Richard Hearn of the wonderful Paragraph Planet. The challenge? To take part in Flash Lit Fiction, a slam.
So, on Thursday night, I read at my first (and possibly last) slam. Part of the Brighton Digital Festival, and co-organised by Tara Gould of Story Studio and Amy Riley and Tim Lay of Grit Lit fame it was an evening of competitive fiction reading; not that you’d have noticed any competitiveness on the table where I sat with short story aficionado Shirley Golden and fellow female flashers (ooh that alliteration; nasty), Wendy Ann Greenhalgh, Amanda Oosthuizen, and Jo Gatford.
If you’re perplexed by the term Flash Slam – as I was – it involves writers reading extremely short works of fiction in a series of rounds after which authors are knocked out until a winner and two runners-up are declared. It’s the sort of thing I would normally scarper from pronto, were I able to run in my skyscraper heels. But, I’d promised. So, I dragged my sorry ass to the Latest Bar in Kemp town, where I read – with shaking hands and rigid legs (I thought I might topple over with fear) – two 300 word stories. As a writer more comfortable with 100,000 words, the required brevity presented another challenge.
To my surprise I almost enjoyed it. Almost. Reading that is. I LOVED listening to the other flashers’ work. My God, it was good. And some of it was breathtakingly so. Each and every piece I heard had something surprising, something funny, or magical, or touching, or unsettling. If you’ve never been to a slam, or night of flash fiction, I recommend that you try it. The neatness of the form means that as a listener you’re able to fully concentrate on each and every word, appreciate the story in its completeness. Like holding it in the palm of your hand. Gorgeous. There are some great short fiction events in Brighton – Grit Lit, Rattle Tales, and Story Studio to name three. Check one out. I’m sure you won’t regret it.
Here’s a list of all those who took part at the Latest, with a special mention to the (well-deserved) winner and runners-up. I would have found it impossible to judge.
Tom Briars (@Tom_Briars)
Jo Gatford (@minstrelmonkey) 2ND RUNNER UP
Wendy Ann Greenhalgh (@storyscavenger) RUNNER UP
Marc Nash (@21stCscribe) WINNER
Amanda Oosthuizen (@amandaoosty)
Laura Wilkinson (@ScorpioScribble)
The judges were Dave Swann (author and senior lecturer on Creative Writing at the University of Chichester) and Juliet West (novelist, poet and short story writer whose book, Before the Fall, will be released in 2014)