Tag Archives: Christopher Allen

Review by Marissa Hoffmann of ‘the everrumble’ by Michelle Elvy

Michelle Elvy’s small-novel-in-small-forms, the everrumble was published by our Award Winning Press Ad Hoc Fiction on 22nd June this year and launched at NFFD New Zealand on that day and a week later at the Flash Fiction Festival in Bristol, UK. It is an extraordinary book and has received great advanced acclaim from Christopher Allen, who introduced it at the festival, Robert Scotellaro, Tracy Slaughter and Catherine McNamara. the everrumble is currently longlisted for the Not-The-Booker-Prize at the Guardian Newspaper in the UK. If you would like to support a great small novel reaching a larger audience, please vote here for her book by August 5th. You have to make a comment on the book and nominate another one by a different publisher. You can buy the everrumble in paperback in several different currencies for posting worldwide from the Ad Hoc Fiction bookshop or in digital format as a Kindle book, via Amazon. Michelle is doing a reading tour of her book in the USA in August and September and following that in New Zealand and Europe. We recommend it as a ground-breaking book and thank Marissa Hoffmann, a writer based in Switzerland, who came to the flash fiction festival this year, for reviewing the novel below.

Review by Marissa Hoffmann

the everrumble is a journey into the senses with protagonist Zettie who, aged seven, stops talking and finds the world becomes louder with the smaller sounds. So acute is her hearing that Zettie—in love with life—painfully aware of the cruelty of man—finds solace in her connection to the world through living sounds; heartbeats, whale cries, a language in the roots of the trees, or a mosquito several houses down the street. Zettie spends a lifetime learning how to control the cacophony.

In the opening story entitled ‘Dark and Shadow’, we first meet Zettie as a small girl finding a small space in a sensory world, “Zettie has curled herself so tight she can’t feel the fissures anymore; she’s smooth like a marble, no sharp edges. Under the woolly cover, she hears her own breath and nothing else. The blanket is blue and green, with streaks of orange (papaya, really) and yellow (mango really) and a deep red: primeval soil”

Because each story is so rich with colour and texture, with temperature and taste, the exquisite language carries the reader musically, poetically, nourishingly closer to Zettie, leaving us unable to respond with anything other than love for her.

All of Elvy’s stories use Zettie’s experience of sound and space, her primal connection to nature as a way for the reader to understand how Zettie makes sense of the world. A particular favourite story of mine deals with the question of why she is silent, simply with the answer—and the story’s title—’Because’.

The collection reads like a snakes-and-ladders journey, jumping forwards and backwards through Zettie’s whole life and sliding into her dreams along the way. We come to know Zettie’s small world and her sense of the whole world all at once. Playful Zettie names individual bees, curious Zettie travels and finds love—always searching for the ‘everrumble’—and the contented elderly Zettie joyfully embraces her metaphysical investigation into time and truth through sound and stories, phrases and languages.

The structure of the everrumble is supported with markers of time and space. Book notes, made by Zettie, begin each story offering poignant extracts that hold truths for her, quotes she takes guidance from. Elvy has expertly placed a heartbeat of historical moments pulsing throughout the stories that serve to contextualise Zettie’s conflicts and responses. Carefully chosen moments provide the geography of Zettie’s travels by sea and land for example when she shares the first time she sees an elephant or when she tenderly holds a dying child for the crying parents.

We find ourselves slowing our own hearts to listen and appreciate. Although Zettie’s relationships as a daughter, friend, a lover, a mother maybe without voice, they are filled with laughter, with warmth and with shared understanding. Everrumble asks ‘have you ever heard the sleep of a child? It is the colour of soft melon, the smell of freshly moan grass’. That sound, a sleeping child, we know the beauty in that, it’s a physical experience, just as the book is. the everrumble is a whisper and a roar.
Marissa Hoffmann, July, 2019.

Marissa Hoffmann’s flash has been awarded highly commended at FlashBack Fiction and short listed at the Bath Flash Fiction Award and Flash Frontier’s ‘Micro Madness’ contest. She is an Ad Hoc Fiction winner and has stories at Milk Candy Review, Bending Genres, Paragraph Planet, The Drabble and Reflex Fiction. Marissa has flash forthcoming at Citron Review and StorgyKids and is a fiction reader at Atticus Review. She tweets @hoffmannwriter.

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Interview with Gaynor Jones, first-prize winner, June 2019 Award

We’re very pleased to interview Gaynor Jones following her win in the June Award judged by Christopher Allen It’s fascinating to hear Gaynor’s methods of writing, how she can produce marvellous pieces like ‘Cleft’ in the spaces she finds in day to day life. After her win, we saw her tweet that she had entered the Bath Flash Fiction Award eight times previously without any luck and her description of her writing journey here shows how persistent she is as a writer. We’re very much looking forward to the outcomes of the new writing project she is undertaking. It’s bound to be adventurous. And do pay attention to her tip to be a ‘flash rebel’ when writing a micro for our Award. She suggests that you dispense with any rules and ask yourself the question ‘Could anyone else have written this?’ A very good piece of advice.

Interview with Jude

  • Can you tell us how your wonderful first prize winning story, ‘Cleft’ came into being? Did it go through many drafts before you were satisfied?

I wanted to write a new story for the Bath competition. I have this method where I clear my head and count to 10 and see where my mind takes me. This time the question popped up – what have I never written about before? The answer was a father and son relationship. I thought about my father and the dimple in his chin that my granddad had. My brother and I have it too but my daughter doesn’t. I started thinking about family lines and the overall idea spooled from there. I wrote Cleft very quickly but it went through 8 drafts. Initial drafts were more focused on the protagonist and his husband and had a bit of a cheesy ending. I cut the husband and tried to focus on the 2 main men and the baby. I had some phrases that I loved but they had to be chopped to fit the word count and I think the story is better for that sparseness.

  • You have had many successes in recent years after a gap from writing. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey and the awards you have received?

I loved writing at school but was put off at university by a negative comment from a creative writing tutor and didn’t write again until I was around 28 I think, though I am blurry with dates. I enrolled on an online course and was writing sort of comic, commercial fiction and had a few little publications here and there. My first published piece was a micro comedy about mistreating childhood pets. I am quite open talking about my mental health and unfortunately I developed Generalised Anxiety Disorder a few years into my writing journey. I deleted everything I’d written, threw away hard copies, tried to destroy any trace of my writing. It felt incredibly frightening to have my words and my name out there in public. Fast forward a few years and I had a two year old daughter and I had recovered well with therapy and I thought ‘what do I actually want to do with my life? I want to be a writer.’ I decided to really go for it, and I chose to avoid a pen name as I didn’t want my anxiety to ‘win’. Everything since then has been a pushback against those wasted years. It was the Comma Press course with Lara Williams that really spurred me on, I got so much out of it and Lara was really positive about my work, which encouraged me to carry on once the course finished. I entered the Mairtín Crawford because I like the look of the mentoring prize and I was thrilled to win, I will never forget that phone call – talking professionally on the phone while I was dancing around my bedroom. When I was named Northern Writer of the Year at the Northern Soul Awards last year I was completely gobsmacked. It was the most surreal moment of my writing life. I still have my application on file and it is hilarious, it’s like a sleep deprived comic ramble through my life and I am so grateful that the judges got my sense of humour and enjoyed the story I submitted.

  • I believe you are involved in an event at the Edinburgh Fringe. We’d love to hear more about this

One of the strangest things, to me, about my writing career is that I’ve come to love spoken word. It’s very freeing to perform and luckily in Manchester there are plenty of opportunities. I met Jane Claire Bradley of ‘For Books’ Sake’ when I took her ‘Write Like A Grrl’ course and she is the most incredible, supportive person. I adore her. She encouraged me to do an open mic practise at a social event and since then I’ve performed around Manchester numerous times and even headlined spoken word events. It’s a real privilege to be on the bill for ‘That’s What She Said’ at the Edinburgh Fringe and I cannot wait to perform and watch the other performers.

  • You have also been teaching flash fiction in your local area. What do you like about teaching the short-short form?

I love teaching in general, my background is in education in various forms so I am well used to delivering workshops. I like teaching flash fiction because, especially for new writers, it feels achievable. People can come to a two hour workshop with me and leave with a full first draft. I’m very into experimental forms and unusual flash so it’s great to see people’s reactions when they read these weird stories and realise that they can have a go. And I do encourage people to play with form in flash, I love the way flash has moved on in the last few years, there’s so much experimentation and innovation nowadays. We’re hearing so many new voices rather than it being a niche form. It’s a wonderful time to be involved in flash writing.

  • When and where do you write? And do you have a writing muse – pet, person, object, place?

I have no writing routine. I don’t write every day, I don’t even write every week. I write when ideas come, or I sit and force myself to write, it depends on my mood, my life, my health. Every day is different. I don’t have time or space for a muse! I use my bed or the dining room table and I write on an iPad which is on its way out and hurts my wrists. None of it is ideal. I cannot write when my 4 year old is present, that’s impossible. So it’s either when she’s at school in the afternoons once all the housework is done and the puppy is sorted, or it’s once she’s asleep and I’ve had a bit of time to relax and eat and watch telly. I know some people sacrifice these things to make time to write but I don’t want to. I like watching telly. I do take my writing seriously though, I take it very seriously and have ambitions but I also know how important wind down time is for me, I would snap without it. This is why I get so much done at workshops or retreats – I just turn off and power down, there’s no constant refrain of Mummy, Mummy, there’s no puppy barking at the pigeons in the garden. Silent writing time amongst adults is just utter bliss for me. Rare, but bliss. If people with young children can find time to write, then that’s great, but I won’t beat myself up about it. Someone once told me ‘Raymond Carver used to go and write in his car while his children were young’ and I politely said ‘oh right’ but in my head I was thinking ‘well I’m fairly certain Raymond Carver wasn’t breastfeeding a baby with silent reflux while battling post-natal depression for two years’. People can be so dismissive and there’s this myth that if you’re a writer you’ll write no matter what. Well I do my best to balance life, health, family and writing and I don’t always get it right but I think I’m doing okay.

  • Are you someone who likes to write from prompts, like words or images? Or do you get ideas from elsewhere.

I do quite like writing to prompts, yes. I would say around half of my ideas just appear organically as if from nowhere and the other half come from prompts. I have a secret method of creating original stories that I teach on my ‘Go Weird or Go Home workshop’ and I’ve had a lot of success with that. We are so lucky to have the Internet too, you can think of, say, an animal, and go online and find out mythology and facts that you never would have known then weave them into a story. Recently I was trying to find out about a school teacher of mine from the 1980s and stumbled upon minutes from a 1976 social sciences meeting and its fascinating, I’m definitely to go mix it into a story somewhere. Writing is difficult enough so if prompts work for you, use them, don’t make life any harder than it has to be.

  • Writing projects on the go? Anything you’d care to tell us about?

Oh gosh, the short story collection that has been on my bio for eons. I am writing it, honestly, I think I’ve got about 8 stories so far but it is a long slog with so little writing time. I love my stories – it’s important that someone does! But they are so so weird and so dark and just bizarre. It’s the kind of stuff that American writers do so well, but because I’m Northern and they have that Northern dialect and references running through them it’s sometimes like a surreal, twisted version of Coronation Street. I’m not sure who is going to buy it but I’m going to finish it. The other thing I have going on is a new, large, project that is quite different – quite literary, quite serious, very un-Gaynorlike. I think it will surprise people. I don’t want to say too much about it as when it’s complete I’m hoping to enter it in a few competitions so I’ll preserve the mystery and anonymity.

  • Any tips for our Award entrants on writing a micro of 300 words or less?

I wouldn’t listen to me because I’m a bit of a flash rebel. I don’t ascribe to the notion that flash has to have forward motion, has to have a clear narrative, has to have anything. As long as the word count is right, give me lists, give me prose poetry, give me vignettes, give me half scripts half spells, give me whatever words you want to write. I love it when people are free in their writing and play. Somewhat controversially, I don’t need writers to justify these creative choices in anyway – I like experimentation for experimentation’s sake, I like weirdness for weirdness’ sake. It’s what I enjoy reading and writing.

Personally, I do like flash to have some emotional impact but another reader will tell you something else is just as important to them. My only bit of flash writing advice is: could anyone else have written this? Or could only you have written it? Answer that question honestly and ditch anything in the former category.

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Award Round-up June 2019

Thank you to everyone from around the world who entered the June Award. Our fourth ‘Last Minute Club’ badge was collected as usual by a large number of intrepid entrants and we ended up with 1062 entries this time. We really do appreciate you all so much for entering the Award. Thirty-six countries were represented.

Australia, Belgium, Bermuda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Cook Islands, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Malaysia, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Poland, Republic of Korea, Romania, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States

Our big thanks to Judge Christopher Allen for his work in judging and writing his report with his very useful comments on all the stories and for his support and sharing of the Award on social media. Christopher announced the results live at the Flash Fiction Festival in Bristol at the same time as the results were posted online and it was all very exciting. This summer, Gaynor Jones from the UK won first prize, Anita Arlov from New Zealand won second prize, Stephanie Hutton from the UK won third prize, Hilary Dean from Canada was commended and Tim Craig from the UK was commended. Tim Craig was actually attending the Festival and read his story, The Falling Silent for us. And Christopher Allen read Cleft by our winner, Gaynor Jones. It was great to hear these pieces and also lovely to have a New Zealand writer Anita Arlov as one of the winners as she is known by festival presenters from New Zealand, Michelle Elvy and Nod Ghosh.

Many of the authors of the fifty longlisted stories have accepted publication and we are looking forward to reading those and the shortlisted and winning pieces in our end-of-year anthology which will be published by Ad Hoc Fiction in digital and paperback versions and sold online at the Ad Hoc Fiction Bookshop. All published authors receive a free copy of the anthology. The 13th Award is open now and closes in mid October. Results will be out at the end of October. Early bird entrants can buy reduced cost entries until mid-August. And anyone winning our free weekly contest run by Ad Hoc Fiction gets a free entry to the Award. This time the Award is judged by writer, editor and teacher Nancy Stohlman. Read all about her and what she is looking for in Jude’s interview with her.

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Judge’s Report

Choosing 20 stories for the shortlist has been a challenge. My criteria for inclusion, apart from solid and compressed writing, were poignancy and heart. Does this narrative capture the depth of a moment in a way that feels honest and new? Is this narrative emotionally affecting? Does this story have something to say, something the world needs to hear? I think each story on the shortlist fulfils these criteria, each in its way. 

There’s humor and pathos in these stories, conventional plots alongside innovative structures. A few stories toe the boundary between prose and poetry. There are personal stories and those concerning larger cultural themes. While I didn’t consciously compile such a balanced list, I’m pleased it turned out that way. I loved the humorous voice in ‘The Layer Chromatography Day’ but also the disturbing situations in ‘Black Sky’ and  ‘Armstrong’s Mixture’. The urgent rhythms in ‘Asomnia’ and ‘Shoes and Trews and Shell Dust’ are impressive. ‘Kit Carson’ and ‘Rolling Six Feet Apart’ use repetition deftly. I found something to love in all the shortlisted stories. 

Flash fiction is a merciless form. Its brevity invites multiple readings. A piece of flash fiction might be read 10 or 20 times by the judge of a competition. Stories either get better and better with each reading, or their imperfections start showing. My top five stories all accomplished something extraordinary: they all got better and better. 

First Place — ‘Cleft’

‘Cleft’ relates the history of the narrator, from his childhood to his current relationship with his adopted son, but it also implies the history of patriarchy and toxic masculinity. The writer employs fragmented and compressed syntax to effect economy and urgency in a micro that suggests eight distinct scenes. And there is a lot of heart. I’ve chosen this story because I feel it has done the most with the word count. ‘Cleft’ is a story that needs to be told, and the writer has done it amazingly well.

Second Place — ‘a god and his famous digging stick dug this’

The language in this story is daring and dense. ‘a god and his famous digging stick dug this’ is a intricate example of stream-of-consciousness writing that unfolds–at least for this reader–only after several readings. It wends through the depths of the moment rather than following a conventionally linear plot, while claiming the freedom to associate unexpected sensations and impressions with this moment of sexual discovery.

Third Place —  ‘Cosmina Counts’

This is another story that relates the history of its main character innovatively and endearingly. Why does Cosmina need to measure the room? I keep asking myself this question. Does she need to know how much of the world is hers? Does she need to know if she’s paying too much for the room? This story poses more questions than it answers. She measures the room in pas mic (small steps) just as she measures her life. ‘Cosmina Counts’ is a memorable, tragic story. 

Commended — ‘The Falling Silent’

I have to admit that I spent a ridiculous amount of time researching the context of this story. Even without knowing the cultural background, I had a sense of the communal and senseless call to duty that informs this story and removes the music for these characters’ lives. 

Commended — ‘Arts and Crafts’

Jocelyn may indeed be a danger to herself and others, but she is also endearing, smart and memorable. And Carl may just be doing his job. This story deftly portrays the unfairness of mental illness while creating a complex, layered character in just a few words.

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Out today! ‘All That Is Between Us’, by K. M. Elkes and ‘the everrumble’ by Michelle Elvy

It’s 22nd June and National Flash Fiction Day in New Zealand! On this auspicious day, Ad Hoc Fiction, our short-short press, which recently won best publisher category in the Creative Bath Awards, is thrilled to publish the everrumble ‘a small novel in small forms’ by Director of NFFD, New Zealand, Michelle Elvy and All That Is Between Us the debut flash fiction collection by K. M. Elkes from Bristol, UK, who was one of the judges for NFFD New Zealand’s micro competition, MicroMadness which culminates today. We love these global connections from authors in different hemispheres. And is doubly exciting that Ken and Michelle are teaching workshops at the Flash Fiction Festival, Bristol UK next week 28-30th June and are launching their books there.

Both collections have received many glowing endorsements from well known flash fiction writers and teachers.

Here’s one from Tania Hershman about All That Is Between Us

“I could dazzle you with well-chosen superlatives or make clumsy attempts to sum up K. M. Elkes’ work, but really what I want to say is: This collection is so good. So very, very good. Whoever you are, whatever you like to read, you need these stories in your life.”
Tania Hershman, author of Some Of Us Glow More Than Others

And one about the everrumble from Christopher Allen.

“A tour de force, Michelle Elvy’s the everrumble is a profound, poetic constellation of notes on the Earth’s ‘alive noises’, the hope that lives in the natural world. Zettie’s story – all her moments of evolving, her capacity to listen, and her gift of becoming all the sounds of the earth – affected me to the core.”
Christopher Allen, author of Other Household Toxins

You can buy both of these brilliant collections now in paperback in several different currencies for worldwide posting directly from the Ad Hoc Fiction online bookshop. Go straight to the bookshop page for All That Is Between Us by K M Elkes here and straight to the bookshop page for the everrumble by Michelle Elvy here. And you can also buy in digital format on Kindle via Amazon. Links to Kindle for each collection are on the bookshop page.

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