The art of writing #63 : Amanda McLeod


How did you first come to flash fiction? What is it about the form that resonates?

I came to flash fiction by way of the short story - when I first started writing and submitting, it emerged that there was an even shorter form that I could try. Many people think writing short forms is easy, but it's not – you don't have a lot of wriggle room, and you have to trust your reader to fill in what you don't tell them. And you still have to get some kind of story arc – a shift, a change – into that small space.

I love the form because it allows you to really focus on a single idea, and capture a moment. Flash fiction is wonderful for when you don't have the time or focus to dive into a novel (hello, parenting small children!) or when you know your reading is going to be somewhat disjointed. I love flash and other short forms on public transport, because you can immerse yourself for five or ten minutes before your stop comes. And you don't spend ages trying to recall where you were in the book when you sit down to start reading - you can just dive in. I think, also, there's a lot of emotion in flash. Because you don't necessarily get the ending tied up neatly, I find flash pieces tend to linger with me for a long time afterwards. There's a lot of emotional resonance there.

How does a story begin?

Let me count the ways...ha! I've had stories come from almost everywhere. An unusual object (or a very ordinary one, made to stand out), an overheard snippet of conversation, the question 'what if...', dreams (keep a dream journal! I don't often remember dreams but when I do, they're absolute crackers), ekphrastic response to art, writing prompts from workshops or social media, news headlines, historical events. Everyday life is full of amazing things if you slow down and look.

An example I'll give is my story 'Consult Your Doctor if Symptoms Persist', published in Craft Literary. The whole thing was built on my regular trips to the pharmacy to have prescriptions filled. I wondered, what do the pharmacists know (or think they know) about me, from these scraps of paper? How do they manage their humanity when they're dispensing things that indicate people are suffering - how do they NOT say anything, when they're overflowing with compassion? And all that came from handing over a scrap of paper.

Between your visual and prose work, do you see your writing as a single, extended project, or a series of threads that occasionally weave together to form something else?

This is a hard question to answer. It really depends on what I'm working on. 'What Does It Mean to Be a Mother?', my record piece published in Talking About Strawberries All of the Time, came to be after a workshop I did. I found a little stack of old 45 records in a tip shop. They didn't seem to have anything in common, but I was thinking about records and record keeping, who are the record keepers, whose voices are amplified/silenced in the records etc and I noticed a pattern in the 45 records. While each of the voices I explored in that project are really different, there's a common thread there in terms of repression, and things we don't talk about.

My current project is definitely a tight series of threads - all the writing and art in that are focused around nature and connection, and my vision is that each piece will come together as part of the whole to create an object with a message.

But of course, there are also writing and art pieces that spring up that aren't linked to anything else - they just bubble up inside me and I need to get them out.

Have you a daily schedule by which you work, or are you working to fit this in between other activities?

I balance my scheduling around a complex family dynamic. On a school day, in most cases, I'll come home from the school run and work on press-related tasks (I'm the managing editor of Animal Heart Press), or on my own creative work, depending on the day. Once I've collected the kids from school, I'm busy with them. I tend to read at night and on weekends. I also go to a writing group every fortnight, which is brilliant for developing drafts. I'm in a number of courses at the moment as well, which run nights and weekends.

Our family also plans regular off-grid weeks away. During those, I read, write (but on paper!), take long walks, and generally recharge my creative batteries. I highly recommend breaks like that, but be warned the world seems very loud when you come back!

What are your favourite print or online literary journals?

Ellipsis Zine has always been wonderful to me and publishes diverse, really high quality flash pieces. I'm also a big fan of journals like (this one! and) Wild Roof, which publishes art and writing together (a personal passion of mine). Everything I read on Craft Literary really makes me think, and I love the editorial and author notes there which give you insight into the work. And I'd be remiss not to call out FERAL: A Journal of Poetry and Art, since I work on it. I've found some of my favourite new writers through working on that journal.

Who are some of the writers you are reading lately that most excite you?

Shannon Frost Greenstein will blow your mind. Mary Schanuel is doing some incredible, thoughtful things with erasure and found poetry. Janice Leagra writes amazing flash (and edits a great journal too). And Kari Flickinger is always pushing boundaries.






Amanda McLeod is an Australian creative. She's the author of two books, the managing editor at Animal Heart Press, and always has too many projects on the go. Her work is published or forthcoming in EcoTheo Review, Sledgehammer Lit, Dreich, and many other places. She loves being outdoors and can often be found near rivers. If you can't see her there, try Twitter and Instagram @AmandaMWrites.

Some of her work is featured in the eighth issue.