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The Splonk 5 – Sadhbh Devlin

Sadhbh Devlin lives in Dublin, Ireland. She writes short-form fiction for both children and adults. Her picture books have been shortlisted and won several prestigious awards. Geansaí Ottó (Futa Fata, 2020), won the LAI: Book of the Year Award in 2021 and Amuigh Faoin Spéir (Futa Fata, 2022) won the Irish language literature award, Gradam Réics Carló, in 2023. Sadhbh also writes flash fiction in Irish and has had several pieces published by, where she is now the Irish language editor. She was the Dublin City University Irish Language Writer in Residence for 2022.

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

As I primarily write picture books for young children, I am always attracted to short-form narratives and finding ways to express a concept or pack an emotional punch in as few words as possible. I started writing flash to explore ideas that would not be suitable as work for children (!) and found that there are a lot of similarities between picture book texts and flash in terms of basic structures; similar word-count goals, jumping straight into it without preamble etc. But with flash I don’t have to worry about what’s happening in any illustrations, so I get to be even more creative with language. Ironically, while that’s exciting as a writer, it can also be the trickiest thing with flash for me because I’m so used to relying on images to tell half the story!

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?

I think that flash is extremely fluid in form and therefore ripe for experimentation – which makes it difficult to define absolutely. For me, flash differs to poetry in that poetry is often told through the lens of the poet themselves rather than a character or characters and is less likely to have a narrative arc. Obviously, the short story generally features both characters and a narrative arc, but the brevity of the flash form means that one has the freedom to float somewhere between the two and play with ideas that do not quite fit either of those genres. Flash is somewhere to capture those stories that are barely stories, fleeting moments that could almost be ignored yet they capture our imagination or have an emotional significance that deserves to be expressed.

Fundamentally, for you what makes a flash piece successful?

I enjoy when a flash piece resonates with me either through an emotional connection or creating a strong visual that won’t leave my head after reading. Something that makes a ‘flash’ go off in my head that makes me see something in a new way.

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

So many! I feel like flash fiction is often under-appreciated or sometimes plain unknown as a genre, but once you dip your toe in you find that there is a huge pool of talent making incredible work.

My first experience of reading flash (though I didn’t know it as flash at the time) was when I was twenty years old and reading Richard Brautigan’s Revenge of the Lawn on a train travelling from Chicago to San Francisco. So that collection in general holds a special place in my heart.

I admire the work of fellow Irish-language flash writer, Gearóidín Nic Cárthaigh and enjoyed her uplifting piece Rialacha an Tí which is told from a child’s perspective. It was published in Howl: New Irish Writing (2022, I think). I’m looking forward to her first collection, Geansaithe Móra, being published (by Comhar) as it’s the first flash collection ever to be published in the Irish language!

Alligators At Night by the prolific Meg Pokrass from her collection Alligators At Night (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2018) is one of those ones that the visual image it conjures has lived rent free in my head for years. I love the quiet threat that looms in every sentence.

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

I think it’s this one: Níl Tú Marbh (You are not Dead) published right here on! I am not usually a particularly ‘abstract’ writer so this one was a little different for me in that I was trying to capture an emotion – the frustration of dealing with someone who won’t/can’t communicate – rather than telling a story. I was thrilled when it was chosen for publication.