This weekend, Jude Higgins pulled off a wonderful feat in initiating the first Flash Fiction Festival in Bath.
Gaining support from the Arts Council Fund, she was able to attract some of the best flash practitioners to give readings and workshops to enthusiastic participants from five countries.
Vanessa Gebbie, Kit de Waal, Tania Hershman, Paul McVeigh, David Gaffney, Ashley Chantler, Peter Blair, David Swann, Meg Pokrass, Jude Higgins, K M Elkes, Christopher Fielden, Michael Loveday and Calum Kerr all gave generously of their time and expertise.
The weekend course opened with an overview of the genre from Peter Blair (Senior Lecturer, University of Chester) who led through saucy double-entendres and allusions to describe the range of names and kinds of very short fiction. From dribbles, drabbles, palm-held, micro-fiction and many others, he showed how a world could open up from a hard-worked choice of words, and from the power of omissions. Using examples of thought-provoking word-minimalists he discussed the significance of white space, and came near viewing the tiny story on the big page as an art form.
The writing tutor, Pamela Painter, Emerson College, Boston, opened the workshops with a charm that held the audience in her grip. Within minutes she had writers composing the most unlikely but captivating story titles.
Subsequently her workshop plummeted writers into developing stories they had not known were in their heads.
In a thought-provoking and directly helpful workshop Kit de Waal brought participants into her world of powerful stories. She demonstrated how to make the title work for the writer, and used images to stimulate imagination within the ‘container’ that is flash fiction.
Jude, herself, led a dream workshop that produced amazing results. Using three different techniques the original dream fragment developed into a meaningful whole, using myth, underlying thoughts and a current experience.
Charismatic Paul McVeigh talked of the power of every word to summon up a setting, a character, an era through saying little but saying it exactly. He described “opening a box in readers’ brains” calling on their past knowledge to furnish what was not written. He advocates laying personal pain on the line and imbuing every sentence with passion.
Tania Herschmann enlivens her writing with her scientific background. She fascinated her workshop participants with examples and exercises using scientific concepts to form innovative prose.
There were other workshops from Vanessa Gebbie and Christopher Fielden: it was impossible to attend them all but informal discussion between events revealed a very high level of satisfaction. There was enthusiasm for the possibility of a second Flash Fiction Festival next year. Will it need a larger venue to meet the demand?