Affirming feedback to a flash

Flash explosion of a star to illustrate flash fiction and the short short story. Image: NASA

Flash fiction – read my winning 127 word story below

I belong to the NZ Society of Authors for the fellowship and their commitment to free speech. Having attended my first Auckland branch meeting in December, I was pleased to receive the details for the first 2017 meeting.

The invite included a monthly members’ competition, to write a poem or flash fiction story of fewer than 150 words on the topic “Playing at ‘god’, with a small g”.  I had an instant sense of what I could write; typed, slept on it, tweaked and sent off the entry.

I enjoyed Friday’s meeting, especially author Stephanie Johnson‘s witty wisdom on writing novels but had to leave before the competition result.  The following morning, I got a voice message from the member who’d arranged the contest to say my entry was the winner.

As I’m in foothills of my second novel, squinting up at the mountain of a task ahead, positive feedback, like a fistful of scroggin, is essential and motivating. Thank you Auckland NZ Society of Authors.

This is my winning 127 word flash fiction short short story. If you want to share it please link rather than copying, thanks.

Playing at ‘god’

She wrote in the darkness, carving words until light bled into the page. Where there had been a gnawing void, she created; the tick of time, the sprinkle of starlight and the swell of ocean. She described the land and wove in the details of tussock grass and restive trees. Between the trees and the waves she laid words for birds and fish and animals, finding nouns to name them and verbs to move them around the world. At the end of the week dialogue hung in her nib, waiting for a mouth. She wrote a man but his voice droned on about his accomplishments until even she was tired of them so she crossed him out and wrote a woman instead. It was time for action.

© Katherine Dewar, 2017

Feedback welcome in the form below.  You can listen to the kind feedback from the NZ Society of Authors Auckland judge in the recording here >

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What makes it feminist?


On the bus from Dumfries this week, a fellow traveller asked me what makes Ruby and the Blue Sky a ‘feminist thriller. This is the first time I’ve been asked that question, so I’m writing this to capture the one reason I told him – and the five reasons I didn’t.  (I am finding I need to self-edit what I say a LOT at present or I wouldn’t talk about anything other than the book!)

I answered my fellow traveller that Ruby and the Blue Sky is feminist because it deals with big world-stage action and issues with women leading the narrative. I find that a lot of fiction is lagging behind movies and TV in having women leading in the public sphere. Books with strong female protagonists, like recent British thriller The Girl on the train, are more commonly located in the  domestic realm. What happens at home is important – but it isn’t the only sphere in which women operate. I am inspired to write by women politicians and activists, artists and journalists and want to tell stories that bring those kind of public experiences to life.

My fellow traveller agreed this was a gap and important to fill.

Now for the things I didn’t say to him.

Ruby and the Blue Sky is also feminist because …

  1. It quietly disrupts gender stereotypes with women working in traditionally male jobs, the way they do in life more often than fiction.
  2. It includes a story line about sexual violence used as a political weapon.
  3. The female characters get their support and help predominantly from other women.
  4. It references the complex  reality of sexual preferences.
  5. One of the novel’s central themes is the conflicting world views that place humans as part of nature versus humans set in God-given dominion over nature.

In the first chapter Ruby, the protagonist writes:

For every zealot there were many, many more of us who just wanted to live and let live. But we were silent.  We had been too silent. 

We’d respected different beliefs to the point where women worshipping everywhere were hidden under scarves and hats, whether they wanted to be or not. Even non-religious, white girls from Bradford were being heckled off the streets if they walked around by themselves after dark.  I’d always felt they were connected, our loss of awe in the planet and its replacement with Big Religion. Our loss of wonder at women – how we swell and birth life into the world, again and again – and this faith in some chaste, male God.  

Everywhere we relegate the awesome abundance of lust, fertility and birth to the bottom division. Sex is unclean, periods a curse and solo mums a burden or stone-able offenders, depending on where you happen to live.  I’ve never forgotten the fuss when I was 10, anticipating my first bra, and Janet Jackson’s boob popped out at the Superbowl.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the harsher the heat waves and the fiercer the flooding and the more afraid we become, the more women are tied down.”

Ruby and the Blue Sky is near-future speculative fiction – it is set in the city of Leeds five years from now, in 2021 – but as I type, extremism of one type or another is making headlines every week.  We need strong feminist voices and peace-building, not violence. Non-violent direct action features in Ruby and the Blue Sky too, but that’s a subject for another day.

As a new author I thrive on feedback so please do post your thoughts on this in the comments box below or on the Ruby and the Blue Sky Facebook page or Twitter @KatherineDewar.