For those of you attempting to grab the leaving train you have exactly 8 hours to rack up the bottom of your filing cabinet and find a good story.
But I’ll leave Melissa Ford to tell you everything about it cos’ we have other cats to whip – french proverb – and celebrate the birthday of MindandLanguage, a blog about loads of super things but especially creative ones.
So Mindandlanguage started a year ago and is now enrolled for its second National Blog Posting Month challenge and Zoe Gilbert, its author, is its unequaled pro-active writer. Having cruised through and through the meanders of literature to bring us back chestfuls of folk-trad poetry and libraries of adults and children fiction, here she embarks again on the monthly quest.
Although an unpublished writer – I have heard rumours of a self-publication of The Tarny Scalp, her first long book and also a paper cutting tale – she is coming fast and strong in the face of creative writing and with a groundbreaking idea that has left a few at the art desk a bit palish from jealousy. Basically for the length of Nablovember, Zoe Gilbert will be using 30 different images of artist’s artwork who specifically exhibited at some point during the month in London. 30 images and 30 stories, all, exactly a 100 words long inspired by the picture. First one’s here.
This is where the worthy bit appears: the stories are not necessarily about the picture. They reflect, compliment or simply make use of the picture as a creative springboard.
flash fiction. Although writers and theorists disagree on what the upper word limit is for a flash piece, it remains constant. The project started as an exercise because Zoe Gilbert liked the constraint “to force a story out.” One day she discovered a stuffed hare wearing jewels. Meaning to put it in a story for ages she then said to herself: “Hell, why not do it for a short hundred of words.” The Bejewelled Hare was born and what follows comes as expected: another artist, John Stark, saw the piece and asked her to do the same for his work and went on doing some writing for an exhibition catalogue. She believes it is a useful tool for an artist to add an extra element to an exhibition or a catalogue.
Obviously, this requires skills and Zoe Gilbert is full of it but she feels “soul” is what is needed for a good flash fiction. “You can’t convince anybody with a piece of writing whether a hundred words or a hundred thousand unless your heart is in it,” she claims. “I think it’s fair and really fundamental. If you try to do something that feels awkward to you or out of your current kind of range, people won’t go for it. For Nablopomo I try to write something that relates to the picture but also has to be within my writely realm. It’s not to say I don’t push myself; you always have to, but I write something that does not feel false to me.”
Interestingly, one might think that telling a story using only a hundred words and the plot will suffer and lack depth. She disagrees and thinks that there are deliberate shortcuts that one can take while writing flash fiction and that there is a massive advantage when writing to an image: elements of the setting is already provided to the reader. Zoe Gilbert relies on inference and deduction for the reader to see what the phrase implies. For example, the first picture, from Edgar Martin Wapping Project, involves a large chunk of a power station; a very industrial image there is no human being in it, but the story goes to talk about human family and human elements. The story and its picture are not identical relationships. Some of them will take the picture as a starting point and spin off into somerthing wher the story content is completely different.
As for the pictures, the selection guidelines were for the image to spark a story whether immediately or maybe at second look. But she maintains that she wanted to support specifically artist who might be up and coming, going for people who are having a first exhibition in East London; making a point to helping draw attention to what they are doing hoping that in the long run this might lead to work directly with the artist to complement their work.
We wish her luck.