21 Jun 2015

Micro Madness

From Standing Room Only, 1:30 pm on 21 June 2015

Eileen Merriman and Nod Ghosh
Eileen Merriman and Nod Ghosh

National Flash Fiction Day is a celebration of extremely short fiction (works consisting of 1000 words or less), and this year micro fiction—works consisting of a word count of 100 words or less, puts writers through their paces in a category called ‘Micro Madness,’ run by writers Eileen Merrimen and Nod Ghosh.

Shoulder tapped by the founder of National Flash Fiction Day Michelle Elvy, the two women say that the micro series has given writers the opportunity to put their skills to the test and produce some extraordinary work.

Ghosh says they had a list of criteria for which to judge the 145 submissions from around the country. The chosen pieces would then be published on the NFF website, with a new one featured each day.  

Both women agree that there were pieces that grabbed them straight away, as well as a number of writers who submitted more than one piece of writing, but who could only be featured on the website once.

“We set about designing a scoring system at first [for instance ; how attention grabbing it was, originality of the story and characterisation, consistency of point of view, imagery…There were some mighty fine writers,” says Ghosh and she cites that the best pieces of work immediately created an atmosphere and mood.

“ If it’s done well it can be extremely beautiful,” says Merriman, a Doctor by day and avid writer by night. Like Nod, she completed a writing course many years ago. Both writers have been published and believe that  it is the distilled essence of the writing that can makes a piece worthy of publication.

U.S born, now Wellington-based Sally Houtman has been published numerous times in NZ journal “Flash Frontier” and has a natural ability to bring her reader directly into a time and place, of which she says: “the descriptions end up telling the story.”

Her story ‘At Barrett Reef’ was inspired by the Wahine disaster and the idea of what it means to return to a place of tragedy. In the story she quickly establishes two characters and their relationship to one another and the mood that belies their connection is as dark as the disaster itself.

She adds that when dealing with a real event or history that one has to be very careful and respectful, so as not to become trite or glib. She has a strong connection to her internal, emotional world which shows in her work. A point of difference for her as a writer that as someone who is also legally blind, she claims she makes full use of her imagination to bring these characters and their worlds to life. “I don’t want to write what’s too easy. I don’t want to write what everybody else writes, I don’t want to write what everybody else sees. I want you to know what I experience, or what the character I created experiences.”  

Having worked in addiction services for 21 years in the United States, Houtman has come to writing late in her life. But asked whether she draws some of her ability and emotional intensity from that experience, she says: “It was always in me, [that] ability to piece together those voices and snippets of what people are saying, and trying to make meaning out it.”

 More information can be found on the National Flash Fiction day website.

Micro Fiction featured in the audio story: 
At Barrett Reef by Sally Houtman, read by Sonia Sly and Maggie Hedge
Rose-Tinted World on Winter-Licked Sheets by Patrick Pink, read by Adrian McKenzie
Blind Tasting, by Heather McQuillan, read by Helena Nimmo