Unsurprisingly, my most read posts this year have been competition round-ups, short story awards being of particular interest. Everyone likes a list (my annual stats have quadrupled since last year as a result of featuring them), and it’s handy to have chronological guides for the main ones so you don’t have to worry about missing deadlines. I’ll continue to feature them in 2020 as it enourages me to keep on track of things as well.
I’ve written relatively little this year as it’s been fairly turbulent family-wise. I have early drafts of all sorts – short story, flash fiction, novel – but finding the headspace to finish things has been challenging. So most of the work I put out into the world in 2019 was what I completed some time ago. Luckily, many of those pieces have found homes I’m proud of.
Early in the year, Fictive Dream published my flash ‘Baggage’ as part of their annual Flash Fiction February series. ‘Final Supper’ was published in the first issue of historical fiction journal The Wellington Street Review. ‘Pattern’ was selected as part of National Flash Fiction Day in June. Also in June, Spelk Fiction featured my dark little artist-inspired flash ‘The Owl House’.
‘It’s The Little Things’ was published in the University of Limerick creative writing faculty’s print journal The Ogham Stone. ‘Mind Games’ was a flash about a hypnotist’s wife that was published in relatively new journal Lunate. A teeny-tiny flash called ‘Travels With Fairy Lights’ was published in The Bangor Literary Journal when it was shortlisted for their 40 Words Competition.
And finally, ‘Pure Lucky’ was included in a very worthy charity anthology called No Good Deed, published by Retreat West.
In my annual review last year, I vowed to do a lot more author Q&As. This didn’t pan out as expected, but what I lacked in quantity I made up for in quality – my three interviewees providing excellent, thought-provoking responses to nosy questions about their writing processes. They were Catherine Kirwan talking about her debut crime novel Darkest Truth, award-winning Cork short story writer Billy O’Callaghan on the release of his second novel My Coney Island Baby, and microfiction writer Adam Lock, who published a novella-in-flash called Dinosaur.
Flash fiction acknowledgements
There were a few writing surprises too. Firstly, one of my flashes – ‘You Will’, published in Jellyfish Review last year – was selected for the BIFFY50 list (Best British & Irish Flash Fiction 2018/2019). Two others – the aforementioned ‘Baggage’ in Fictive Dream and ‘The Owl House’ in Spelk – have been nominated by respective editors Laura Black and Cal Marcius for consideration for Best Microfictions 2020.
I didn’t have a great reading year. My TBR pile is stacked high with barely-commited-to reads, my Kindle full of books halted at 5%. The books I did finish and enjoy all had one thing in common – a lightness of touch that was obviously what I needed most of all from my reading material.
Hands-down my favourite book of the year was Leonard & Hungry Paul by Rónán Hession, a beautiful, delicate tale of friendship between two sweet souls. Trying to summarise it is difficult because, in truth, not much happens. But it’s so gorgeously written and so drenched in the goodness of humanity that it’s a joy to spend time in such company.
Here are my top choices. Three of them admittedly had problematic endings, but I loved the universes they conjured up:
One of my writing highlights last year was attending the Creative Writing Winter School held by the University of Limerick in Doolin, Co Clare. It had such an impact on me that I applied this year for one of a few places for returnees. I was accepted and found it even more useful second time around. I wrote about it here so I won’t go into the whole thing again, other than to say it has given me a clearer focus heading into 2020. I know exactly what I want to do for the first time in ages, and am channeling my energies into one project rather than the finger-in-many-pies approach I have had in recent times.
If you are working on a novel project and feeling a bit stuck, I would urge you to consider applying for a place next year. It’s a fabulous experience, with some of the best writerly types you could meet, both attending and facilitating.
Thank you for reading this blog over the year. Wishing you all a productive and happy 2020.