It’s always interesting to see what inspired our first prize winning writers. Here our winner from February 2023, Louie Fooks, from Oxford, describes how a menacingly hot day followed by a storm inspired her winning story about a street seller in Milan. A great example of how a number of things co-incide to create a story with many levels. Read judge Sudha Balagopal’s comments on Louie’s story
(photo of the Duomo by alexandr hovhanni on Unsplash)
Q & A
- Can you tell us what inspired your powerful and resonant story, Market Forces?
Absolutely! As part of my MA in Writing, I spent a term in Milan in summer 2016, working with author Tim Parks. The UEFA Champions League final was being played in the city, which was full of tourists and football fans, and it was a really hot, humid day. It felt like something was about to happen… a terror attack or some kind of incident.
But what happened was a terrific thunderstorm, just as the match finished and everyone came out onto the streets at the same time. The street-sellers were doing a great trade in cheap umbrellas, and it sparked the idea for the story. I wanted to explore the experience and vulnerability of the migrants coming up from Sicily at that time, but also to show their enterprise and agency. And I also wanted to illustrate that who holds power in any situation isn’t static and changes as circumstances change and events unfold.
(photo by ken-anzai-w3wXkDgXhG8-unsplash)
- Did it go through many different versions?
Not really. I had imagined a longer story but found it worked really well as a flash. It only took me about an hour but there was a lot of knowledge and life experience that I drew on in writing it. I’d like to develop it into a longer story or perhaps a memoir piece someday. I worked in Milan as an au pair when I was 18 so it also sparked a lot of reflections on how the world, and my life, has changed in that time.
(photo by simone-daino-Ji8W2boOb98-unsplash)
- Were there particular writers that sparked off your interest in flash fiction?
My friends Hilary and Julie! I hadn’t really considered flash as a form because it seemed too limited. But seeing how beautifully they were able to craft really powerful stories in only three hundred words inspired me to give it a try. And I love the form. You can really hone your ideas and make sure every word counts. You just edit and polish until it works.
- I believe you are currently writing a novel. Can you tell us more about it? Are the themes in this novel similar to the themes in your winning story?
My novel is an adult ‘growing up story’ set in the late 90s and early 20th century and the protagonist is a young English photographer finding his way in life as he navigates work, fatherhood, love, and family relationships. But it’s set against a background of world events and the conflict and migration of the period – so there is a lot about how society and individuals should respond to such issues. It’s a very ‘placey’ novel, and moves between London, South Sudan, Brazil, The Isle of Purbeck and many other locations along the way.
- Do you have a favourite place for writing?
To be honest, most of the time I write in bed. Sometimes in pyjamas! I need absolute silence and no distractions so I’m not good at the café thing. I always write on a laptop, never longhand. And I edit constantly as I write. Things are never finished, I just run out of steam with them eventually.
- Are you currently writing any more short fiction?
Not at the moment. My ‘day job’ is as a freelance policy writer, so I have limited time for the creative stuff, and I’m concentrating on editing the novel. But I’d love to do more flash fiction and I’m hoping to return to it later this year. Bath is a great competition in that it gives writers something to aim for and a regular opportunity to get published.
Louie can be found on Facebook or contacted at louiefooks (at) hotmail (dot) com
Our 24th Award ends on Sunday June 4th.Judge Tim Craig