Q & A with Geeta Sanker, first prize winner, Feb. 2021

Geeta Sanker

We’re delighted to post this Q & A with Geeta, who won the 17th Bath Flash Fiction Award, judged by Charmaine Wilkerson. Charmaine’s comments about ‘Let Them Eat First‘ are posted in her judge’s report. We’re always interested in what inspires a story, whether it is memory, meetings with others, the written or spoken word, images or other things. Here, Geeta tells us her story was prompted by a striking visual prompt. She is coming to read ‘Let Them Eat First’ and talk about it at ‘Flash Point: Flash Fiction and Social Commentary’, a half an hour conversation with Charmaine and others at our first Great Festival Flash Off Day, 27th March. This will be a fascinating discussion and we hope you can join the festival day to hear them and participate. Do also have a look at ‘Butternut Tosh‘, Geeta’s short film produced during the lockdown with the London Eclective group she is involved with. Another quite different, yet very pertinent type of social commentary.

Q & A

  • We would love to hear what inspired your very powerful and moving winning story Let Them Eat First?
    I often have writer’s block. Conor Montague of the London Writers’ Eclective (LWE) is great at providing written or visual stimuli for those who feel stuck. Conor showed me a photo of a girl in a queue of females awaiting aid in Mosul. There was a male queue opposite and she was looking away from that queue. I didn’t set my story in a particular time or place, but I tried to imagine why a child might be looking away from a queue of men in a war zone. We hear of such terrible things happening to children and in war zones they are particularly vulnerable.
  • You told us you are donating half your prize money to a refugee charity. Can you tell us more about the charity you have selected in case others would like to donate?
    I have donated half my winnings to Choose Love to help refugees fleeing war, persecution and climate change. I hope this money might help someone like the protagonist of my story. I feel very fortunate living in a relatively stable society. Others aren’t so lucky.
  • We are very pleased you are coming to read ‘Let Them Eat First’ and take part in a conversation about Flash and Social Commentary, chaired by Charmaine Wilkerson on March 27th, one of our Flash Festival days. Does much of your writing address wider social issues?
    Thanks for inviting me! My friends who read my stories tell me there’s often a dark side to them. I think some of my stories are darkly comic, but sinister nevertheless. I used to follow trials at the Old Bailey. The public gallery of a courtroom is a great place to gain insight into what drives people from all sorts of circumstances and I learned a lot. I’m very interested in people and their problems.
    This group, headed up by Conor Montague and Lindsey Booth, brings together writers who are largely London based, through workshops and events. The members are as
    diverse in their career choices as they are in their creative output. We have barristers, civil servants and actors, producing poetry, novels, plays. People dip in and out of the group, but most of us have known each other through LWE for years. We have continued meeting regularly online during lockdown and it has helped to keep us sane!
  • Last summer you made a short satirical comedy film, ‘Butternut Tosh’ which I think is very funny. How did this project come about?
    During lockdown, Conor invited LWE members to write a short monologue and produce it through his production company Vagabond Productions. I wrote Butternut Tosh, a satirical look at the life of a social media influencer during lockdown. The gyms were closed; I had no weights at home. My mother had left butternut squash in my flat when she had last visited and I was using it as a kettlebell while taking part in online classes. The world of online influencers is fascinating. People present a perfect version of themselves to their audience, but the reality can be very different. They jump on popular hashtags such as #bekind when their intentions may be anything but kind and I wanted to show that. It was great fun to produce Butternut Tosh. It was very much a lockdown production. All readings/production took place virtually. Between us, LWE members have produced an assortment of monologues
  • Are you working on any new projects currently?
    Haha, I am the queen of procrastination and I find it much easier to start a new story than to redraft an existing one. I have many unfinished pieces. I should probably revisit my back catalogue and finish off some of those stories.
  • Finally, for anyone wanting to enter BFFA, your best tip for writing a 300 word flash?
    Make the most of the title. It’s a good way to draw the reader in and can elicit emotions even before the reader has started the story. My story was originally called ‘The Queue’ and I’m glad I changed it!
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