The Monthly interviews Flash Fiction Armagh organiser Byddi Lee

Could you tell us a little bit about Flash Fiction?

Flash Fiction is a complete story told, in our case, in less than 750 words. Some journals may even stipulate a lower word count.

Flash Fiction Armagh gives writers an opportunity to deliver their work to a live audience. It is not an open mic because people are selected to read at these events.

How do you go about selecting the people to read at your events?

There is a submission process and the writers submit their material to the organisers; there is a deadline and once that closes, we set about choosing the readers for the next event.

We usually have somewhere between 10-12 readers and at the event this evening (June 14th 2018) we have a very full room; over 60 people have turned up to hear the material being presented.

Is there a reason why this approach has attracted people?

I think people are very used to, in this social media age, receiving vast amounts of information in short bursts. We find that people want high quality work but presented in a short format.

When people read at Flash Fiction events they don’t really get to offer long winded stream of consciousness pieces or longer considered works; they have a short space of time to convey a completed work and they have to deliver that in around 4-5 minutes.

With brevity similar to that of poetry, I feel that flash fiction has more accessibility. The succinct package of such a short story, well told, packs a powerful punch, engaging and connecting with a wider audience. Everyone loves a good story. And it’s a busy world so there is an big appetite for these bite-sized stories.

Are there any other Flash Fiction events in Northern Ireland?

As far as I know this is the only Flash Fiction event at this point in time in Northern Ireland. There are some events in Dublin and Belfast has “10 x 9” which is a short story event with particular rules but Flash Fiction Armagh is out on its own at the moment.

Why did you decide to run an event like this?

I was living overseas, in San Jose, California in the US and I regularly attended and participated in a Flash Fiction event there, Flash Fiction Forum San Jose, and enjoyed it immensely.

When I moved back to Northern Ireland and after meeting with another Armagh author, Réamonn Ó Ciaráin, we thought that it would be a good idea to make it happen locally. Our starting point was to make literature more accessible, and the San Jose model, I thought would work for people in Armagh.

Réamonn helps with the Irish language submissions and we take turns to be MC. Réamonn was the MC at this evening’s event.

The two events we have held so far have been very successful.

Have you been surprised by the quality of the work presented?

There have been a couple of pleasant surprises. We have been encouraged by the number of submissions for the events and we have had to deliberate at length over who gets selected to read.

The quality of the writing has been wonderful and sometimes it has been very difficult to exclude people.

Do you get many people submitting who are new to writing?

We have had a few first time writers who have delivered their work particularly well. That is a good sign that first time writers feel that they can be part of the process.

We have had people read in Irish, so we have had a multilingual aspect to the events.

What about the make-up of the audience?

We have had audience members travel from around Northern Ireland and further afield. We’ve had people from Dublin and Donegal attend both events.

Our event is for everyone, not just for writers but also for people who like to be entertained by good writing as well. Our audience reflects that. We have a lot of women in the audience and while we have quite a few people from an older age group we do have some young people who come along so that is a good sign for future events.

So all in all Flash Fiction has worked well and we are looking forward to building the momentum leading up to the next event in September.

Submissions are open until 20th August for Flash Fiction in the Orchard on 20th September 2018 as part of the Armagh Food and Cider festival, at the Armagh Cider Company at 7pm. This time the event is ticketed because it includes locally produced food and cider tasting.

Tickets are £7.50 per person and available at the link below

armagh-navancentre.ticketsolve.com/shows/873588612

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