Interview with Caroline Reid
October 2016 Flash Fiction Commended

Caroline Reid’s flash fiction, Last Dog, commended by Robert Vaughan in the October round, with it’s energy and passion, cries out to be read out loud. She says that her first love was music and growing up with a Welsh mother and an Irish father, and singing around a piano as a child, might have helped her strong sense of rhythm and enjoyment of performance. We love the photograph of Caroline’s dog and the description of the walks they take morning and evening. Many aspects of the environment are there, as with her story. It’s also great to know where our international entrants live, and how settings are different and similar. And how wonderful that Caroline, a free-lance arts worker, can take on arts collaboration projects worldwide. We’d like to think our Award could help make those connections between artists. Her writing advice for entrants is very helpful – don’t give up on a piece you love – keep sending it out everywhere. Submitting outside of your own country gives a story another chance to be read and published. We’re looking forward to the publication of our anthology with all the winning and a selection of listed stories in print.

  • How did your wonderful story, Last Dog come into being?

A few threads came together in the writing of this story. Dogs, grieving, the destruction of the environment; I was looking for a way to combine very personal grief with a broader sorrow over human destruction of the environment. I read a short story by Josephine Rowe Before the power went out and that was hugely influential on Last Dog It gave me the idea of how I could put all of these threads together in the one story.

  • You write in several other forms as well as flash fiction – plays, poetry and you are writing a novel too. Do you find that these different modes of writing influence each other?

Sometimes, and sometimes not. Flash fiction and poetry are probably most closely aligned. I get to indulge in rhythm and sound to a higher degree than when I’m working on something longer. Having worked professionally as a playwright, I discovered I was a lazy prose writer. When I decided I was serious about writing short stories (and now a novel), I had to re-learn how to write. Playwriting has given me a strong sense of scene, and that’s handy when writing a novel.

  • Do you write with performance in mind?

Music was my first love so I often pay attention to rhythm, sounds and phrasing. It’s important to me, especially with these shorter pieces. Every word counts, the shapes and length of sentences. Also, having written plays and songs, it’s possible I may have internalised a sense of performance. Who knows? I have a Welsh mother and an Irish father – when you grow up with those accents and rhythms, and spend nights singing around the piano, there’s a whole world of unconscious absorption that goes on around words and performance I’m sure.

  • You have worked on writing projects with many different groups over the years Are you collaborating with anyone at the moment?

Alas, a community project that I was due to start work on this month looks like it may have fallen through due to a lack of funding. Such is the life of a freelance arts worker. So I’m on the lookout. I can do long distance…

  • I love your image from your biography about going for a walk with your family under the shade of a large umbrella. Can you describe the route of one of your walks?

On the morning walk we turn left out of our white gate, past the kerb-side violets then left again at the end of the block; continue past the meatworks, the climate-focus primary school and up to the small park next to the local library. Then it’s past the suburban shopping centre, left again down to the big park where the dog runs and I stagger through a jog. Walking with a dog is a bit like walking with a small child. Smells need examining; trees and fencing need squirting, and other dogs need to be barked at. It all takes time. On the evening walk we turn right out of the white gate, cross Sir Donald Bradman Drive, and head straight to the big park where we catch up with other dogs and their humans. We know the names of all the dogs, but not the humans.

  • Who are your favourite flash fiction and short story writers?

Always too, too many to name. Donald Barthelme because he takes the lid off your brain, loosens & rearranges it so you’re never quite the same. Etgar Keret – ditto. Ryan O’Neill for his inventiveness within the form. Franz Kafka for his surreal imagery and humour. Alice Walker for her unflinching eye. Josephine Rowe for her lyricism and sharp imagery. Tom Cho for the way he upends contemporary life and pop culture. Then there’s John Cheever, Ray Bradbury, Grace Paley, Lori Moore … Now I’m listing all the authors in my bookshelves so I’d better stop.

  • What advice would you give a prospective entrant of Bath Flash Fiction Award?

Last Dog had already been rejected four times for publication in Australia. So I decided to stop playing it safe and look beyond Oz. Imagine my surprise when it was selected in the top five stories in this round of the Bath Flash Fiction Award, an International Award. If you see any advice in that, then take it – it’s yours.

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