Calum Kerr, who you’ll most likely know as the chap who organises National Flash Fiction Day has a book out, a collection of flash fictions, ‘Lost Property‘. And to help him celebrate, here he is, chatting about being lonely and about National Flash Fiction Day.
Over to you, Calum…
I Wandered Lonely
Ask any writer and they will tell you that theirs is a lonely vocation. Words like ‘garret’, ‘attic’ and possibly ‘tower’ will be mentioned. Long hours of ‘staring at blankness waiting for their brains to bleed’ might also be mentioned.
But, guess what, although the moments of writing might be individual and alone, it turns out there is no need to be lonely. There are many other writers, doing the same thing as you, just waiting to share your pains, your frustrations, your joys and your delights.
This, of course, is not news. As far as I can tell, from my limited perspective, Facebook and Twitter are solely populated by writers. Certainly mine are, and that’s enough. On any given day I can read posts from people securing agents and publishers, stories and poems which have been published, accounts of writers block and rejection, tales of poor grammar spotted in the world, and of course many, many pictures of cats.
And these are not simply random individuals who happen to share a passion for words. There is a real sense of a community.
My personal contribution to formation of this community, and it came as something of a surprise when it happened, was the creation of National Flash-Fiction Day .
When I came up with the idea, back in the autumn of 2011, I was in touch with one or two people who identified themselves as flash-fiction writers, rather than belonging to any other form. But once I started spreading the word, they began to gather around the NFFD flame. They emailed with their details, to be added to the NFFD website, they signed up to the Facebook page or followed the Twitter account, and they added me as their ‘friend’.
Slowly, as the first NFFD approached, I realised that a synergistic reaction was taking place. It was not simply that I was meeting and befriending all of these people, but through the various activities of the day, they were becoming aware of each other, and joining up in projects and events.
Flash-fiction, defined under that particular term, is still a relatively new form, and as a result the practitioners were often isolated, working away at their tiny tales without being able to share their thoughts with many others. As NFFD approached, they started to notice the crowd which was gathering and I even received emails thanking me for bringing them together.
After that initial day, and on through NFFD2, the community has continued to grow, with more and more cross-fertilisation of ideas and projects, until we are reaching the stage where flash-fictioneers are becoming a community to rival that of poets or novelists. I am proud of the day and its output – events, competitions, journals, anthologies, etc. – but more than anything I am proud that I have been able to bring people together to share this activity which brings them such joy.
It doesn’t need to be a national ‘day’ to achieve this kind of cohesion. I have seen the same thing happen with other projects including Jo Bell’s Bugged, but this has been my contribution.
With the wonders of the web and social media (plus that thing where you actually meet up in the real world) it would seem that writers no longer need to be lonely alone.
And, in that spirit, here is a story which is kind of about being a writer.
“What time of night do you call this?”
“About half-ten. I’m going to write my story.”
“Where’s tonight’s set, then?”
“The capital of Outer Mongolia.”
“Why not? It has to be set somewhere.”
“I guess. Are you going to be using dialogue in it?”
“I don’t agree with using dialogue because it never truly captures the essence of speech.”
“Huh? What do you mean”
“We’re talking in complete sentences aren’t we?”
“So people don’t really do that?”
“You mean this is a story?”
“Of course it is. You’re writing it. You should know.”
“And you could say anything you want.”
“Do that one more time and you’ll be in a world of pain!”
“Because it’s just a cheap laugh. You could say anything you want. You could say ‘I like soap’. You could say ‘And then she left to join the circus’. You could even say ‘Impromptu massacres are not what this organisation is about, John.’”
“My name’s not John.”
“It doesn’t matter. You could say anything, but you just say ‘Bum’.”
“Bum! – Ow!”
“I warned you.”
“But it’s my story I can do with it what I like. It’s a woman’s prerogative.”
“Woman? You’re an invention. You don’t even exist never mind have a vagina.”
“And that doesn’t even make sense.”
“Screw it! It’s my story, I’ll do what I like.”
“What does all this have to do with Ulan Bator?”
“Well, you know what they say about little acorns?”
“Well, I’m hoping that if we talk long enough I’ll think of something to write about Ulan Bator.”
“Is it working?”
“Not so far.”
Calum Kerr is a writer, editor, lecturer and director of National Flash-Fiction Day in the UK. He lives in Southampton with his wife – the writer, Kath Kerr – their son and a menagerie of animals. His new collection of flash-fictions, Lost Property, is now available from Amazon, or direct from the publisher, Cinder House.