Stephen Tuffin, a Creative Writing Lecturer at New College Swindon, was inspired to start submitting his stories to magazines following the success of former student and published flash fiction writer Santino Prinzi. Stephen has since had one of his short stories published as part of the National Flash Fiction Day 2017 Anthology.
Santino Prinzi visited Stephen’s class as part of the College’s annual literature festival in November, to talk about his collection of flash fiction stories Dots and Other Flashes of Perception. Little did he imagine that he would also inspire a lecturer from his former College.
Stephen said: “I’ve never stopped writing, but I wasn’t very good at sending things off. Seeing Santino’s success with Flash Fiction was a catalyst. I thought – I need to be brave – I should be sending my writing out.”
The Flash Fiction genre covers stories of varied length, generally shorter than 500 words. It therefore poses a unique challenge for writers, who can only provide a snapshot of their character’s lives, while hinting at a more complex backstory.
Stephen’s story, The Sun on The Dash, is an unlikely romance.
“I try to write about people who aren’t obvious protagonists. I’m fascinated by the complexity and drama of ordinary working class lives.”
While this is not Stephen’s first literary success – his stories have been published in on-line magazines in the past – it is the first time his work has appeared in print.
As a lecturer, Stephen needs to find a balance between producing his own writing and encouraging others to do the same. Due to these constraints on his time, flash fiction is the ideal genre.
However, while he acknowledges that this condensed form of storytelling is well suited to writers like him who are pressed for time, he is keen to stress the genre is no less challenging than other forms of writing.
“I’ve tried writing novels in the past, and I’d have to say that the word restrictions with Flash Fiction make it more accessible in some ways, but there’s more pressure to find the perfect words.”
He says his approach to writing is simple: “I postpone perfection. I like to get my story down on paper first and focus on crafting my language choices second. You can’t put too much pressure on yourself to write something that’s perfect right away; you’d never get started. That’s what the drafting process is for.”
With recently renewed confidence in his storytelling, Stephen is keen to inspire others to engage with Flash Fiction. He feels that in a world where we digest information in bite-sized chunks, the immediacy of the flash fiction genre really comes into its own.
“Flash Fiction is well suited to modern readers. It’s the kind of literature that you can read on your phone. It could be great educationally, too. A lot of people can feel daunted at the prospect of reading a whole novel, so a flash fiction story could be far more appealing”
If you would like to read Stephen’s story, The National Flash Fiction Day 2017 Anthology is now available from the organisation’s on-line shop at http://nationalflashfictionday.co.uk