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Today we talk to Natalie Bowers , founder and editor of 1000 Words an online journal which publishes some of the best flash fiction on the web.
Jen: Can you tell us a little about 1000 Words – how you came to found it and why you set it up.
Natalie: Firstly, thank you for inviting me to be interviewed. It’s a pleasure and an honour. And thank you for sharing 1000 Words with your readers.
At the start of 2012, I took an online writing course with flash-fiction writer and publisher Calum Kerr. He mentioned that he was in the process of launching the first ever National Flash-Fiction Day and was looking for people to organize events and projects. Since starting his course, I’d fallen in love with flash fiction, and I’d always had a desire to run my own magazine, so I put the two together – along with photography: my other favourite hobby – and came up with the idea for 1000 Words. We published our first stories in the run-up to NFFD 2012.
Jen: Writers submitting to 1000 Words need to choose an image from your image library and base a story on the image they selected. Why did you decide to use this prompt method?
Natalie: I’ve been a happily-amateur photographer for years, and I’ve always enjoyed looking at and taking images that tell a story, that make you stop and wonder about what’s happening and why, so choosing images as prompts was pretty much instinctive.
Jen: What prompts do you use yourself for inspiration?
Natalie: Images. Words. Songs. Overheard snippets of conversation. News reports. Other people’s writing. First lines. Last lines. You name it, I’ve been inspired by it.
Jen: You also write a lot of flash fiction – in what ways do you think being an editor has affected your own writing?
Natalie: I’ve learned not to take rejection to heart. As an editor, I regularly decline to publish other people’s work, but it really is nothing personal – it’s just a matter of taste. These days, when I receive a ‘no’ from a publisher, I dust off my story and send it somewhere else. The stories I do choose to publish inspire me to strive to write better fiction. When reading submissions, I ask myself what I like and what I don’t like about each one, and I try to keep these observations in mind when rewriting and editing my own work.
Jen: As an editor, what do you look for in a 1000 Words submission?
Natalie: I need a narrative voice I can trust. It doesn’t have to be confident, but it does have to be consistent. I have to believe in the narrator to believe in the story. I also look for stories that have something to say, that make me question myself, that open my mind, and like all writers, I love language, so I also look for unusual turns of phrase, subverted clichés, surprising similes and the like.
Jen: As a reader and as a writer, what do you look for in a piece of flash fiction? What makes a great piece of flash?
Natalie: To mix my metaphors, a great piece of flash should be a story that’s had all its fat trimmed and all its rough edges knocked off. Any story can be distilled into flash. For writers, this means deciding what you want to say, and then saying it in as few words as possible – every word needs to carry its weight and then some. For readers, this means being prepared to read between the lines.
Jen: One of my favourite stories on 1000 Words is The Black and the White of It by Simon Sylvester. It’s a mean question, I know, but of all the stories you have published which pieces stand out for you and why?
Natalie: That is a mean question! ‘The Black and the White of It’ is definitely one of my favourites too.
Others that spring to mind are Cassandra Parkin’s ‘What Happened Afterwards’, Ian Shine’s ‘Love and Its Commerce’ and Cathy Lennon’s ‘A Useful Facility In the North’ . They’re all confidently narrated, and they all surprise without employing a traditional twist ending. They all have something to say too, and they say it with subtlety and creativity. More than anything else, they sweep me away every time I read them.
Jen: Editing a literary journal is often a “labour of love”. What keeps you motivated to carry on publishing?
Natalie: If I gave up publishing 1000 Words, I’d definitely miss reading the stories. I’d also miss supporting and interacting with our writers via Twitter. For me, one of the greatest joys of running 1000words is seeing other people enjoy the stories we publish and seeing our writers receive positive feedback on their work.
Jen: Can you recommend a piece of flash fiction online which you read recently that you would like to share with our readers?
Natalie: I’ve recently been enjoying the flash-fiction and short stories published at the relatively new website, Short Story Sunday , and at the risk of sounding sycophantic, I’ve also been enjoying the flash-fiction published online at Litro. Miriam Foley’s ‘The Bloody Litter’ actually made me cry, and that’s no mean feat!
Thank you Natalie for taking the time to talk to us here at Litro.
If you are inspired to write a story for 1000 words you can find the submission guidelines here.
About Jennifer Harvey
Flash Fiction Editor Litro Online