Skills

My Love Affair with Flash Fiction: From Courting to Going Steady

Judging Sun by Matt Martin
Judging Sun by Matt Martin

Regular readers of this blog know that I’m a fan of flash fiction. (You can find out why here, in addition to links to my favourite flash competitions). Over the past few months I have been in the judging seat for @postupak’s Flash! Friday competition. Handing in my final winners list today made me think about how much this journey has taught me. 

Life is busy. While the novel will always be my favourite form of fiction, flash has become a firm favourite, particularly when experienced through one of the thriving online flash communities. Each time I stepped up to the judge’s bench with my quill, I learnt a terrific amount from the writers laying their work bare. Their stories were sizzling feats of imagination, lessons in precision and emotional depth. What other form of fiction would allow me to experience so many different voices in such a small space of time?

Yet despite the joy with which I approached judging Flash! Friday, I felt a sense of responsibility. I was once told that attention = love. It was sometimes difficult to clear the day that I needed to read, rank and critique the stories submitted. I owed the writers 100 per cent focus to mirror the care with which they crafted their stories.

And there was the familiar doubt at the back of my mind. Reading is a subjective exercise. I worried that despite judging blind and using marking criteria there may have been writers amongst the Flash! Friday community whose work, week after week, resonated with me more than others.

I was wrong. As a judge, I have never picked the same winners. In each story submitted, I found something to relate to. I learnt to appreciate genres that I have neglected in the past. In the best stories, I found that the writer’s vision fused with my imagination as a reader, making the story pulse with energy long after I finished reading it, and firing my synapses to build a world around the one which had been committed to paper. That is a magnificent achievement for 150 words.

It’ll be someone else’s turn to judge next week, and I’ll be back in the writer camp. Won’t you join me?

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