27th Apr 2012
Five-Minute Friday: Sarah-Clare Conlon
For the next few weeks, we’ll be meeting some of the women involved in this year’s National Flash Fiction Day, and finding out what they’ll be doing for it alongside all our usual questions…
Name: Sarah-Clare Conlon
Day job: I’m an editor and writer, and I do press and marketing for Manchester Literature Festival, Chorlton Arts Festival and National Flash-Fiction Day, among others.
Extra-curricular: I write flash fiction, organise events and anthologies with the Manchester-based FlashTag writing collective, and perform as one half of spoken word/music combo Les Malheureux with author David Gaffney.
I love going to the theatre, cinema and art galleries, and I pretend to be all highbrow about that kind of thing on my award-winning blog, Words & Fixtures. I’m also a big fan of cycling, and you can often spot me pootling about on my Dutch bike, Hettie.
Favourite book of all time: Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan and Les Belles Images by Simone de Beauvoir. They’re both about complex and slightly fucked-up relationships within the French jet-set, so they go well together. They’re also both really short, which is a prerequisite to my reading choices.
Literary pet peeves: Happy-ever-afters and badly proofed manuscripts.
Guilty pleasure: Putting red lipstick stains on white wine glasses.
Three favourite authors: For novels: Douglas Coupland; for short stories: David Gaffney; for poetry: Philip Larkin.
Favourite fictional character: I love the characters in Armistead Maupin’s Tales Of The City series, particularly Michael “Mouse” Tolliver, Anna Madrigal and Frannie Halcyon, who is partial to a mai tai or two, so a woman after my own heart.
Other recommended reading: My favourite reads of the last year have been Alan Bennett’s Smut and Nicholson Baker’s House Of Holes. I’ve become a little bit obsessed with slightly naughty stuff. I’m also into the Oulipo “school” of experimental writing, particularly Georges Perec, who I studied at university, and (whisper it) the Beats.
Why I wanted to get involved with National Flash Fiction Day: I always find it fun to be involved in collective endeavours and NFFD has given the FlashTag writers a chance to try out something new and different. I also thought the day was a great way of promoting flash or micro fiction to a wider audience, who might not be aware of the genre.
What I’m doing for it: FlashTag will be flashmobbing Manchester with some guerrilla story-telling in various locations around the city throughout the day.
Where you’ll find me on the day itself: We’ll be moving between venues from the university into town – and finally ending up at the Bad Language shindig at 3 Minute Theatre in Afflecks Palace in the evening for a well-earned beverage.
The appeal of flash fiction: I’m a magazine editor by trade and I’ve always loved the challenge of cutting copy while retaining story, meaning, tone – and not letting the writer notice. Writing flash fiction is like the creative version of copy-fitting to me.
Three flash fiction stories I love: I love The History Brush by David Gaffney, from his most recent flash fiction collection, The Half-life Of Songs – it contains a beautiful swear and is one of the stories we perform as Les Malheureux.
I recently heard Tania Hershman read from her upcoming collection and I really enjoyed the title piece, My Mother Was An Upright Piano – some great imagery and language, despite being so short.
Lynsey May’s stuff is always enjoyable and I’m really pleased FlashTag have published her twice now: my favourite is perhaps Among The Books And The B’s, which appears in our smutty collection Quickies: Short Stories For Adults.
For readers: There are loads of anthologies, literary magazines and websites publishing flash fiction of many styles. I often find out what to look at through the writers and writing organisations I follow on Twitter, and from going to prose and poetry nights.
For writers: Keep an eye out for literary events so you can hear about other writers and listen to their work. Sign up for writing workshops and open mic slots, as these are really useful for feedback and meeting like-minded souls.
Always carry a notebook and a pen for jotting down ideas – even the tiniest snippet of conversation overheard on a bus can spark an incredible short-short story. Don’t expect your first draft to be your last: a flash fiction piece might be short and sweet in the end, but it can often take a while to reach that stage.
The FlashTag collective are currently running a flash fiction writing competition as part of Chorlton Arts Festival: you have until midnight today to enter! Full details here. Les Malheureux are performing at Sounds From The Other City festival on Sunday 6 May. Full details here.