Thursday 12 March
Flash Fiction with David Swann
David Swann was born four doors up the street from the novelist Jeanette Winterson, who scared him stiff with spooky stories. Later, he was given the even more frightening task of reporting on Accrington Stanley's football matches for the local newspaper. After a three-year stint as a journalist in the Netherlands, he returned to England to take an M.A. in Creative Writing at Lancaster University, which he passed with Distinction. From 1996 to 1997, he was Writer in Residence at H.M.P. Nottingham Prison. A book based on his experiences in the jail, ‘The Privilege of Rain’ (Waterloo Press, 2010), was shortlisted for The Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry. He teaches modules in fiction, poetry, and screenwriting at University of Chichester. Dave's short stories and poems have been widely published and won many awards, including five successes at the Bridport Prize and two in The National Poetry Competition. His debut short story collection, 'The Last Days of Johnny North' was published by Elastic Press in 2006. In 2013, Dave served as judge for the Bridport Prize’s international flash fiction competition. He is now hard at work on a trilogy of novels and other writing projects.
Review of the Meeting
Dave Swann is a senior lecturer in the Faculty of English and Creative Writing at Chichester University. His profile page (link here) and the university list of his e-publications (link here) provide evidence of his energy and success in academic and other forms of creative writing. Dave’s talk proved to be engaging, knowledgeable and inspiring – both introduction and masterclass for flash fiction writing and appreciation.
Dave began by defining flash fictions as ‘one-page-wonders.’ He told us the idea of a smoke-long story came from China, and recommended the on-line US magazine SmokeLong Quarterly (website here). Short flash fiction (half a page long) became popular in the 1980s.
He felt it was important to say what flash fiction is NOT. It is NOT (a) a squashed novel, (b) a pub anecdote, (c) a truthful record, necessarily, (d) a joke building up to a punch line.
Dave worked towards identifying flash fiction by defining what a successful ‘flash’ needs – but with the caveat that sometimes a flash story succeeds despite contravening the principles that usually apply. So, in principle, a flash should (a) have a point or twist – an author may turn an anecdote into flash by identifying that point or twist, (b) make sense – unlike real life, (c) float on facts, trying to reach a truth (d) end with resonance – twang not bang (e) have a good title, like Janet Frame’s story – You are now entering the human heart (can be read on-line here).