When I made the decision a year and a bit ago to launch an online course on the topic of lyrical writing, I thought in a best case scenario I might find enough takers to run the course a couple of times. Impostor syndrome started kicking in as it has a habit of doing at moments like these. Would people really want to read all my waffling thoughts about using tempo, rhythm, sound and motifs to create startling pieces of flash fiction? I did a test run with a few trusted writing friends and that seemed to go down well. Tentatively, very tentatively, I tweeted about my upcoming course. To my amazement, five hours after that tweet, the course was fully booked. I advertised a second set of dates and that booked up too. Suddenly, I had a waiting list. I felt extremely grateful to everyone who had put their faith in me and also anxious that all these wonderful writers would have nothing to learn from little old me.
The first day of the first course arrived and suddenly there were people on the course website, posting things on the course forum, brilliant bits of writing flying back and forth. The course is structured in such a way that the first week is a chance to play about with words, discussing flash fiction examples, crafting a few experimental micros and generally absorbing the course materials; then in the second week, participants get a chance to take part in a workshop where they can read and comment on each others' work. The course aims to get writers to experiment with their writing and asks them to leave all thoughts of future publication at the door. With that in mind, I wasn't expecting the polished, inspiring set of stories that emerged during that first workshop and have continued to emerge in all the workshops since.
I have run the course six times now. Since January, I have had the pleasure of working with 94 writers based all over the world - Australia, New Zealand, Japan, India, South Africa, UAE, Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Hungary, Norway, Ireland, USA, Canada and the UK (I've almost certainly missed several locations off that list!) For some unfathomable reason, 12% of the writers who have taken part have had names derived from C/Katherine - maybe it's nominative determination, the Kathy Fish effect? Some of the writers have been relatively new to writing; some have had years of experience under their belts.
But what all the course participants have had in common is that they've brought their very best to the table when approaching each of the writing prompts and challenges. As someone who takes about two years to craft a one-hundred word micro, I have been blown away time and again by the quality and creativity of the pieces that have emerged in the space of two short weeks; first drafts that are already sparkling gems. It has been a privilege to read each and every one of these pieces and I wanted to use my final blog post of 2021 to celebrate some of the publication successes that have come about as a result.
Sara Hills | Bath Flash Fiction (January group)
I love the stop-start nature of the rhythm in this piece; the repetition of that 'in this version' / 'in one version' motif; the way the story shifts. I've read this piece so many times since it was first published and each time I find something new.
Sarah McPherson | Janus Literary (February group)
I remember reading this for the first time and being mesmerised by the way this inanimate object is brought to life; how the tension builds in such a clever way; the interplay between the narrator and the lamp.
Amy Barnes | Scrawl Place (Pioneer group)
The sound in this is absolutely breath-taking: "a salty woman made of sobs with knobs and handles and spigots that bob and weave salt pebble wishes" - I could probably quote the whole piece!
Kathy Hoyle | Cambridge Flash Fiction Prize (April group)
One of the things we look at in the course is anaphora (repetition at the beginning of a sentence) and this uses it to such great effect, all those repeated 'take's that build and build and build.
Philip Charter | Reflex Fiction (August group)
There's a lovely staccato nature to all the short sentences in this piece; we as readers are asked to pause and consider each in turn, slowing down even further in those single-sentence / single-word paragraphs right at the end.
Sudha Balagopal | Fractured Lit (January group)
This is such a startling piece, again based around a specific object. I love the attention to sound here - "She tinkled for him when he released a coin into the slot on her back, clinked for him when he jiggled her, chimed when he joggled her"
Karen Schauber | Sledgehammer Lit (April group)
This is from the dream prompt that I set as part of the rhythm topic and I love the evocative nature to the writing - "Waves of titian hair cascade from poll to withers"; the rhythmic intensity of all those mirrored pairs - "It's what you know. It's what you dream about."
Anne Howkins | National Flash Fiction Day Microfiction Competition (February group)
"A cyclist freewheeling. A cyclist; freewheeling along a mountain road..." Those of you who have done the course may remember the challenge of creating a sparse micro out of motifs that shift and change - this does this so beautifully; I'm not surprised the judges picked it as a winner.
Cathy Lennon | Free Flash Fiction (February group)
This is another piece that uses repetition in such an effective way. What I love here is how the repetition of "in the house" shifts between the beginning and end of the sentence; the whole build of the story from beginning to end.
Catherine Ogston | Reflex Fiction (January group)
This piece is infused with so many of the techniques we look at on the course - I love the plosive sounds and the short vowels in that opening sentence; the way the sentences stretch and contract; the insistent repetition in that second paragraph of all those 'think's.
Cath Barton | Ellipsis Zine (Pioneer group)
I love the sense of character in this wonderful story, how the character and his current mood seem to go hand in hand with these short staccato sentences; the use of repetition; the sense of voice that bleeds through - "This won’t do. It will not. Do."
Lucy C Hooft | Flash Flood (April group)
This is another fantasic story that revolves around a specific object. Some beautiful language here - "I lie her down, flattening her fluted back to the trembling floor. I prise her open, grasping the catches, identifying cracks, fractures, flares, exposing the fragile pulse within."
Rebecca Kinnarney | Bluesdoodles (April group)
There is so much original and creative writing in this piece - beautiful images, attenion to sound and tempo, language that startles - "the happy crashing of the timps with their bellies full of life."
Hannah Sutherland | Ellipsis Zine (February group)
I love how this story effortlessly weaves together present and past. Those of you who have done the course might remember the challenge of writing a long rush-and-bustle sentence and the penultimate paragraph of this piece does that brilliantly.
Nora Nadjarian | Reflex Fiction (February group)
This is another piece that uses anaphora to great effect. This is one of those stories that took my breath away when it popped up on the course forum. It has so much depth to it; so much suggested underneath its surface layer.
Brid McGinley | Flash Flood (February group)
I love the attention to detail in this piece - "Thigh deep before the next breaker crashes, you wade through churning water, watch waves rally and rush" - it is written in such a way that I can almost feel it. If you're really paying attention, you might notice the wonderful 'w' sound that permeates through the story.
Abi Hennig | Molotov Cocktail (Pioneer group)
Another piece that conjures such a vivid sense of scene - "Slick-gloss chartreuse so glittery intense it spits in your eye in the sunlight". I love the swell in each of these bell curve paragraphs; that moment of pause where the anxiety is ramped up to maximum on the word "Dark."
Martha Lane | Northern Gravy (May group)
This story is so clever in how it intertwines its many elements - the facts about marmosets, Laura's story, Marnie's story; all of it brought to life in these brief windows of time that thread together into something wonderful.
The stories linked to above are just a selection of the publications I know about and I'm sure there are probably other publication successes that I've not picked up on. I hope you've enjoyed reading through, revisiting stories you might have read before and discovering new ones.
If that has intrigued you then you can find out more about the course here. And if you've already done the course and might like to work with me again then I've got a new Write Beyond The Lightbulb course called "Glorious Words". In early 2022, I'll also be popping up at the Retreat West flash festival and as part of the Great Festival Throw Down series. Hopefully, you won't all get bored of me!
Thank you to everyone who I've worked with this year or who is already signed up for one of my coursesin 2022. I am so grateful that you've put your faith in me and that your collective talent as writers has made my job as a workshop facilitator such an enjoyable experience. I can't wait to see what emerges from the courses I'll be teaching next year.
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