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The Splonk 5 – Adam Trodd

Adam Trodd lives in Dublin, Ireland. His fiction and poetry have appeared in publications such asThe Irish Independent, The Cormorant, Crannóg, Banshee, The Molotov Cocktail, Ellipsis and The Caterpillar as well as the Bath Flash Fiction and National Flash Fiction Day anthologies. He won the inaugural Benedict Kiely Short Story Competition and the Book of Kells Creative Writing Competition and was one of the selected poets for Ireland’s first Poetry Jukebox installation in Belfast. He has been shortlisted for the Cúirt Short Story Prize, the Over The Edge New Writer of the Year, and the Bath Flash Fiction Award. Twitter: @A_Trodd

The Splonk Five:

Can you tell us a bit about your relationship with flash? Why it appeals and what frustrates you?

I started writing flash in the late noughties and it was love at first sight, greatly helped by the fact that I got a piece into the first Powers Short Story Collection and got to meet the kind and encouraging Maeve Binchy at the launch. So, you could say flash wooed me. That gut punch, that sense of the bigger, looming thing, condensed. Like a shot. Sudden, loud. It felt very powerful.  Still does. What frustrates me about flash is getting that emotional snag right, the essence of what makes a reader pause and let it in. It’s so hard to capture. I feel perhaps only one or two pieces of flash I’ve written are up to snuff. Maybe chasing that big moment is not the way to go but it’s hard not to do it. It’s probably a dopamine thing. I want to feel what the reader will feel too. I want to reach them.

In terms of construction/technique, how is flash fiction different, in your view, from other genres – in particular poetry (including prose poems) and the short story?

Beginning, middle and end, for one, as opposed to more free expression. Even though flash is small, it still needs that. So many flashes end up being vignettes or snapshots of an event or renderings of a feeling rather than stories that are told and they verge into poetry territory. To me a flash still must tell a story and I mean that in quite a broad sense. That’s not to say you can’t have a loose bundle of language but what it hints at, what is squatting at its fringes can be a very powerful story, that gives the reader the beginning, middle and end in one surge. It is hard to pin down though and, even as I answer this, I second guess myself. Recently I heard an interview with Tracy K. Smith, former Poet Laureate of the United States and she read a ‘found’ poem (an existing piece of text with pieces redacted to reveal hitherto undiscovered poetic meaning, something I never rated as poetry) and I liked it. So…I’m still learning. What I think now could change next week, depending on what I uncover.

Fundamentally, for you what makes a flash piece successful?

What I’ve mentioned in 1 and 2, the emotional hook, the hinted-at larger story in the margins. It sounds obvious but make every word count. This matters enormously in flash. You only have a certain amount of words to work with, particularly if you are writing to a limit for a competition or a lit mag submission. There is no latitude. If you feel you need room to roam, you’ll end up writing a short story, which can be a nice surprise! I’m sure lots of short stories have flash in their lineage.

What flashers do you admire and why? Are there any specific pieces that you found compelling?

There are so many excellent flash writers out there. In recent years, Sharon Telfer stood out for me. Her writing is so emotionally resonant, reading it feels like passing through a dreamscape. Her 2016 and 2020 winners of the Bath Flash Fiction Award are superb, as are the pieces we published in issues 1 and 3 of this magazine. (Read Sharon’s stories at Bath here and here. In Splonk here and here.)

What flash piece of your own are you most proud of? Where can we read it (if it’s available)?

I wrote a piece called Darkness at its Heart that I’ve always been fond of for a magazine called Brain of Forgetting, which is sadly no longer running.

I have a soft spot for Ophelia from Issue 3 of Banshee.