Dahlia Books Short Fiction Festival Weekend – 12 and 13 June 2021

The Short Fiction Festival Weekend, hosted by Dahlia Books, is a celebration of the short form, featuring writing workshops, author discussions and networking.

Led by some of the A Brief Pause tutors, the weekend is the ultimate retreat for anyone looking to master the short form.

Click here to find out more and to buy your ticket!


If you’re quick, you can still grab a ticket for an online reading and author talk with none other than Kathy Fish, queen of all things Flash Fiction, hosted by Dahlia Books. Click here for tickets.


Fancy putting some of that workshop knowledge to good use? Why not enter one of your own pieces of short fiction into the Leicester Writes annual competition or submit it to a new PAYING literary magazine called A Present Tense.


One of the positives to come out of the recent lockdown is the online festival and I think it’s here to stay. It’s perfectly suited towards all things bookish. I can honestly say that I’ve attended more virtual author talks, book launches, panel discussions, webinars and writing classes in the last year than the rest of my life combined. There was no rugby scrum for tickets, I didn’t need to book a train ticket or worry about it being cancelled due to the weather. I was able to ‘go to it’ even though the event was held in another country or I was feeling unwell. I didn’t need to find someone to go with, because everyone who attended was on their own. I have interacted with high profile authors in masterclass settings whilst still in my pyjamas. Delegates and Tutors have Zoomed in from all over the world, all coming together to learn, share their knowledge and network. I’ve felt safe, knowing that disruptive people would be booted out (Jackie Weaver style). Spoiler, I’ve never yet attended a Zoom class where anyone has been unfriendly or rude. I’ve found it a much more comfortable setting to learn, and think that these classes foster a sense of intimacy and community from the start.

126. The Aspiration Project on Colony IV


Photo by Sarah Dorweiler on Unsplash

Gemma poked her thumbs through the holes in her sleeve cuffs, then crossed her arms over her chest. Mum said she could sulk and regret it, or make the most of the few days they had left together. If she wanted to be taken seriously and be treated like an adult, then now was the time to start, and to try to appreciate that difficult decisions weren’t taken lightly. Gemma couldn’t understand why Laura had picked that stupid, greasy, lanky boy over her own sister. It wasn’t fair. Dad was dead. Laura was leaving. Every penny they had went on Mum’s medicine, and it wouldn’t be long before Gemma was on her own. At least she’d get to keep most of Laura’s clothes, including the jumper she had on. She looked at the fabric composition label. 60% Recycled Polypropylene. 35% Recycled Acrylic. 4% Recycled Viscose.1% Reclaimed Wool. Almost everything she had ever owned was second hand, vintage, hand-me-down, used, pre-loved. Clothes, toys, books. Colony IV was brand new. Laura would get her own apartment, and everything in it would be straight from the factory. She imagined how Laura would peel off the plastic wrapping from the front door and it would make a sucking sound as it opened. Shiny, clean and white. New intakes always moved into a hermetically sealed zone for the first two years, so they could acclimatise and be monitored for disease. All those teenagers. Taking classes together. Being trained for something important. Good food and free medical treatment. 


Early Colonisers had worked hard to set up The Aspiration Project, and reliable fresh air was a real thing now. There were enough trees growing to make it a renewable resource. She’d heard that people could run outside – on purpose – and were still able to breathe! It sounded amazing. No wonder she felt so jealous. Mum said that she would get her chance soon to apply and to not give up, and that everyone has to make the best life they can with what they’re given.


Laura’s Fare Well Event was in nine days time, and then she would be allowed only five minutes worth of video calls during the rest of her life. Due to the physics of space travel, it would take Laura six months to reach Colony IV, by which time, Gemma would have aged eighteen years. She doubted that Laura would care enough to ever call her again, and that she would sell her video slots to other people who were actually going to miss their families. But there was always the small chance that some time in the future, Laura would contact her. Gemma might even recognise her on one of those Colony documentary shows.


What neither of them knew, or the majority of people on that dying planet would ever know, was that the voyage Laura and her boyfriend were about to take, was not to The Aspiration Project on Colony IV, but to a human recycling plant. Those who actually got to go to one of the Colonies were not the most fertile, physically strong or genetically healthy specimens like the adverts showed. Prime humans at the start of their adulthood were not living their best lives on Colony IV or any other Colony for that matter. Colony IV was designed as a hospice paradise for in-bred, sickly offspring of legacy investors and their extended families. All of the spaces were always going to be permanently reserved for those who could afford it. But to avoid any hint of a rebellion or civil unrest, the lottery for tickets had to be seen to be a fair system for everyone. People cannot be allowed to give up hope.

Photo by Ryunosuke Kikuno on Unsplash

One of the benefits of lockdown is that I have been able to attend creative writing classes on Zoom and continue to work full-time from home. If I was still commuting, I would not have had the time to travel to different locations for classes.

The above short fiction was written to a Science Fiction brief in an ‘Investigating Genre’ class run by InspireCulture.org.uk


JOIN ME ONLINE!

As part of my professional development short story writers group A Brief Pause I am doing a “tight three minute’ reading on Tuesday 27th April 2021 at just after 19:00 BST, as part of their new short story reading series. This monthly space is for writers, readers and publishers to listen to and discuss short stories.

Click here for a link to the Eventbrite ticketing page.

UPDATE- Me doing my reading!

A Brief Pause for a Micro Podcast

Photo by Cory Vincent on Unsplash

*Disclaimer. This is not my actual home studio because I don’t have one. Maybe I will one day though. (No I haven’t been looking up the usb microphones that Emily St John Mandel or Limmy use. That was someone else who looks like me) However, I did actually recently dip a toe into the water of podcast/audiobook/storytelling.

Micro is a podcast for short, but powerful writing

I have always wanted to hear one of my stores read aloud but it never occurred to me that I could be the one to do it. If you’ve ever wondered what my voice sounds like, now is your chance to find out! Please enjoy.

click here to hear me read ‘Minted’

Minted was first published by Dime Show Review back in 2019.

The episode on micropodcast.org was released on Thursday 4th February 2021.

This may be a piece of flash fiction, but recording it was not quick. I live in a house with thin walls near to a school, so there is always the sound of next-door’s telly, car doors slamming or children’s voices. To try to muffle as much outside noise as I could, I piled cushions and a duvet around my desk, and put a giant bath towel over my head to create my own personal fort. Even though my audience was me and me alone, I still had to try to manage the nerves of ‘public speaking’ my own words out loud.


Most of us are staying at home these days, and we’re all getting used to the majority of our interactions with other people being through a screen. My experiences of video calling, facetiming, MSTeams and Zoom are a bit like when Laura Dern in Jurassic Park goes near to a computer screen. Communicating in writing via the chat function, Twitter, texts, emails and WhatsApp are now my default.


I was overjoyed to be accepted onto a short story creative writing, professional development course called ‘A Brief Pause‘. It is run by Dahlia Publishing with funding from Arts Council England and support from The Literary Agency. The list of tutors for the twelve, two hour Zoom masterclasses is impressive. (Xanthi Barker, Susmita Bhattacharya, Rebecca Burns, Emily Devane, Melissa Fu, Divya Ghelani, Anita Goveas, Abi Hynes, Farhana Khalique, CG Menon, Mahsuda Snaith, and Alison Woodhouse.) So I have to try to be cool and not fangirl too much, because this does feel like a big deal for me. I also have to remind myself that I don’t have to buy every single short story collection or writer’s guide that is mentioned!

Photo by Dan Dimmock on Unsplash

Lockdown III (the most controversial of the trilogy) has seen me scour YouTube and rediscover old episodes of ‘Tales of The Unexpected’. YouTube is a rabbit hole for book research as there is always someone who is a specialist in just the exact thing I need for my novel. It sometimes reminds me of being back in the Brownies, when a guest speaker would explain the workings of some puzzling contraption or how something was made. It’s strange to think that during the editing process, I will delete much of that (as yet unwritten) backstory as it will no longer be relevant and considered to be an infodump.

Writing should actually be called rewriting.