Interview with Santino Prinzi, Judge for February 2020 Award

Santino Prinzi is a Co-Director of National Flash Fiction Day in the UK, is one of the founding organisers of the annual Flash Fiction Festival, and is a Consulting Editor for New Flash Fiction Review. He writes flash fiction, prose poetry, and is currently working on a novel. His full-length flash fiction collection This Alone Could Save Us is forthcoming from Ad Hoc Fiction. His flash fiction pamphlet, There’s Something Macrocosmic About All of This (2018), is available from V-Press, and his short flash collection, Dots and other flashes of perception (2016), is available from The Nottingham Review Press. His work has been selected for the Best Small Fictions 2019 anthology, and he has received nominations for the Best of the Net, the Pushcart Prize, the Best British and Irish Flash Fiction, and the Best Microfiction anthology. His stories have been published or are forthcoming in SmokeLong Quarterly, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Jellyfish Review, 100-Word Story, Bath Flash Fiction Award anthologies, National Flash Fiction Day anthologies, Reflex Fiction, and others. Twitter (@tinoprinzi)

  • You have done so much for flash fiction in the past few years including being a co-Director of National Flash fiction Day UK, being a senior editor for New Flash Fiction Review, and other magazines and being a member of the Flash Fiction Festivals UK organising team. You are thoroughly immersed in the Flash Fiction form. What do you love about flash and are there any particular highlights you would pick from these activities?
    I have to thank Tania Hershman for my love of flash fiction. In 2013, during my first year of my undergraduate degree at Bath Spa University, Tania visited to read from her collection My Mother is an Upright Piano. It was my first encounter with stories this short and I was mesmerized, not only by how short these stories were, but by how they contained so much.

    That, I think, really captures what I love about flash fiction: on the page, it doesn’t look like much, but there’s actually a tremendous experience waiting for you in so few words. Flash doesn’t lack depth because it’s not 80,000 words long. Flash isn’t easy to write because it’s only a few hundred words. I believe it really is a special form of writing to play with.

    Being in a position to champion the work of others will always be a highlight of being involved in these activities, whether it is publishing someone’s work in a National Flash Fiction Day anthology to working with a team of people to create fantastic opportunities to write new stories and be inspired at the Flash Fiction Festival or National Flash Fiction Day events. It feels good knowing that I’ve made some kind of a difference, I hope.

  • In addition to your editing work you have written two collections and we are happy to announce here that Ad Hoc Fiction, the short-short fiction press associated with our Awards, will be publishing a further full collection of your work in 2020. Can you tell us a bit more about your forthcoming collection?
    Firstly, I want to thank Ad Hoc Fiction for publishing the new collection. I have always admired the work Ad Hoc Fiction do and the brilliance of the collections, anthologies, and the authors they have published over the years. It’s truly a privilege to be a part of it.

    The new collection is called This Alone Could Save Us and the fifty or so flashes I’ve pulled together here are primarily about how we cope or struggle with change. I’ve always been fascinated with how we perceive the world and the people in it, and how our perceptions may not always match reality, so that is another area that these stories explore.

    It will be my first full-length collection; if a flash collection is around the 20,000 word mark, this makes my previous work Dots and other flashes of perception a “mini collection”, and There’s Something Macrocosmic About All of This is obviously a pamphlet so it is shorter still.

    There will be a few previously published stories, but much of the work in This Alone Could Save Us is new. None of the material has appeared Dots or Macrocosmic, which is really exciting for me. I have already marked a few stories that I think will be fun to read at events!

  • You are having a break from National Flash Fiction Day next year. Apart from the final work on your new collection, do you have any other writing projects in mind?
    Yes, I’m having a rest.

    National Flash Fiction Day 2020 will be on Saturday 6th June. Diane Simmons and Ingrid Jendrzejewski are already working away at plans so please keep an eye out! I’ll be back in time to start preparing for National Flash Fiction Day’s 10th Anniversary in 2021.

    Apart from final work on the new collection, I’m starting work on *whispers* a novel. I think. Maybe. I had an idea a while back now for a story that could well be a novel. I’d like to have a good grasp of who my characters are, what happens to them, and what writing a novel actually means before I try it out. I know a lot of this will emerge in the writing itself – I assume – but I think I need some solid ground beneath my feet before I start running. Or maybe I’m already putting it off?!

    Who knows? We’ll see what happens.

  • Before you were overtaken by other flash fiction activities you wrote a lot of reviews for the Bath Flash Fiction website. And judging from your posts on Goodreads, you are the most prolific reader in all genres that I know. Your stash of books purchased at the recent Flash Fiction Festival alone must have weighed down a few bags. Which books have you enjoyed most recently?
    I read on average 100 books a year, which isn’t prolific compared to some readers. It’s enough to keep me busy, though! Perhaps I’m better described as a prolific book hoarder?

    I do like to read a variety of books. I naturally lean towards fiction because that is what I write, but I’m always on the look-out for interesting non-fiction. I think reading outside of what you write can be really eye-opening.

    I’ve recently finished reading Forward: 21st Century Flash Fiction, an anthology of flash fiction and craft essays by writers of colour which was edited by Megan Giddings. It’s an absolutely brilliant anthology which I thoroughly recommend everyone reads. It’s one of those books that manage to delight, inspire, and teach all at the same time.

    I’ve also recently enjoyed Water Shall Refuse Them by Lucie McKnight Hardy, A Bright and Pleading Dagger by Nicole Rivas, and On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. Kirsty Logan’s Things We Say in the Dark is a short story collection I’m currently enjoying, and I’m looking forward to spending some time with Fly Already, which is a new short story collection by Etgar Keret.

  • How would you say reading so extensively has influenced your own writing?
    I consider reading to be a vital part of writing for me. I read and ask myself several questions about what the writer has done, how they have done it, why they have done it. This is how I learn about how other writers build worlds, how they develop character, create conflict and suspense and tension. I know I can’t be alone in this approach.

    Although I believe reading is perhaps the best way to inform our writing, there are many other activities that can be just as rewarding. Everyone works differently and everyone is inspired in different ways. Whatever it is that works for you, it all contributes to your writing.

    For me, reading time is writing. Thinking time is writing. Having a break from writing is writing. It all contributes to what we create, but we also have to balance this with our own health and wellbeing. You have to do what works best for you and how you create.

    I also read for the sheer joy of it. There’s a good chance I’m reading right now.

  • You have led several workshops on experimental fiction and I would say ‘experimental’ is part of your own style of writing flash fiction? Would you agree?
    Maybe, yes, I hope so? It depends.

    I love playing with form and structure in my writing, but I believe the act of writing itself is inherently experimental. We are, I think, continually striving to find new ways of telling stories, whether through form, language, character, narrative, setting… each draft is an experiment.

    The workshop itself is as much about experimental forms as it is about experimentation with writing. At the beginning of each of these generative workshops, I emphasise that the point is to play, to have fun, to give yourself permission to experiment with telling stories in different ways. Fundamentally, what I hope people take away from the workshop is the confidence to try new things, that they give themselves permission to explore their stories in whichever way they like, that they never tell themselves they can’t do something.

  • What sort of micros would you most like to read in the contest?
    Here’s the thing: I’m really indecisive. Anyone who has seen me in a biscuit aisle knows I can easily take a long time deciding what I want to scoff.

    That said, I don’t see choice as a burden. I love diversity, and I especially want to hear stories I haven’t heard before.

    Maybe my answer to the previous question offers some hints. I’d like people to have fun! I hate the thought of people worrying themselves trying to write “the perfect Bath Flash Fiction Award story” – just write what excites you, write what moves you and means something to you. I want you to write something you love.

    Besides, as I always tell myself as I approach the biscuit aisle, I’ll know what I’m looking for when I find it.

  • And having read hundreds of submissions for the publications and competitions you have been involved with, what do you think writers of flash should avoid?
    Reading is a form of entertainment. Naturally, you want to avoid boring your reader. You must hold their attention. As much as you don’t want to get to the end of a film and wonder why you bothered watching, a reader doesn’t want to get to the end of your story and think ‘so what?’.

    It isn’t my place to tell people what they can or can’t write about, but I’d especially encourage those writing a story about frequently explored topics, such as death, cancer, dementia, relationships dissolving, etc., to think carefully about how this story is different from every other story of that type.

  • Finally, following on from the last question, what tips do you have for writers to finesse their micros of 300 words or fewer?
    I would say allow yourself as much time as possible to redraft your story, but I’m confident there are some people out there who can pour out 300 perfect words in their first draft at 11:55pm on the day the competition closes.

    Asking someone else to read your story or, failing that, reading your story aloud to yourself while editing is a great way of smoothing out the creases.

    Most importantly, just make your story something you love.

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