The Birth of flash & cinder

flash & cinder is a new literary magazine dedicated to flash fiction and poetry encircling a single idea. Our first issue, Spirit, is due to be formally released in July 2018 to start of our summer/winter alternation. We love writing that pushes boundaries and dares to experiment.

We’ve already received bounties of wonderful flash fiction and poetry, but we’re always interested in reading more. We love literary magazines such as Smokelong Quarterly MagazineNew Flash Fiction Review and Magma Poetry, and want to build something that will eventually stand proudly among them.
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We are open for submissions for our very first issue now! If you have flash fiction or poetry on the theme of Spirit, we’d love to read it. Poems may be up to and including 32 lines long, while flash fiction can only be up to 750 words.

If you’re interested, please submit up to three pieces to Submissions close March 31st 2018.

We look forward to reading your work.
flash & cinder

Vote Now and Help The A3 Review Decide

This month’s contest theme over at The A3 Review is inspired by The Raw Soul Food Map and Writing the Love Writing Map. Dates and Dating, respectively!

We’re looking for flash fiction, poems and artwork about sweet fleshy things. Dates! And yes, about dating, too. Sweet fleshy moments of love, potential love, and times when the sugar’s just not there! Write about a couple on a date in a noisy bar. Turn a Tinder, Findhrr or Grindr profile into a poem. Compose a praise song to the perfect dating partner, or an elegy to the date that went wrong!

Deadline is the 24th of June. The only restriction is a word-limit of 150 and images should fit well into an A6 panel. Visit our Submittable page for more details and to enter. Follow us on Twitter, too. There’s publication, Writing Maps and cash prizes for the winners.

Choose contest themes for The A3 ReviewNow, we need your help… Have your say in the new themes for our next issue, The Gold Issue. If you click here, you’ll be taken to the poll. As a thank-you, we’ll pick three winners from all respondents to receive a full set of The A3 Review (Issues 1 to 6).

Happy writing, and we look forward to reading your work.

PS. There are still three places left on the Write Around Town online course with The A3 Review‘s editor, Shaun Levin. Six weeks of inspiration, writing, feedback, and community. Check out all the details here.


Try a FREE taster of the Writers’ HQ Short Story course!

The next round of Writers’ HQ’s 6-week online Writing Short Fiction course starts on the 20th of March but you can try out a FREE taster week HERE!


Writing Short Fiction

6 Week Online Course from Writers’ HQ

Starts 20th March, £140 (Get 10% off when you use promo code SHORTSTOPS10 before the 12th of March!)

Short stories aren’t just easier versions of the novel. They’re a broad, complex and rewarding art form in their own right. Writers’ HQ’s new online writing short story course will help you see the bigger picture and compress it into short stories with real punch.

Short stories have been here since the dawn of time. Based in the oral tradition (stop sniggering at the back), they’re the apocryphal family legends our grandmas/weird uncle used to tell us over Christmas dinner; they’re the school-yard urban myths; the sleepover ghost stories; the soliloquies in our diaries; the wine-soaked rants to that random person you cornered in the kitchen at that party after so-and-so dumped you. Short stories are all around us. <cue X-Files theme>

But super short stories are not super easy for writers, natch. In fact, the shorter your story becomes, the harder it is to distil what really matters onto the page. I would have written a shorter letter, so the famous quote goes, but I didn’t have the time.

So what makes truly great short fiction? The kind that leaves you dribbling, slack-jawed, slap-faced when you finish it. The kind you remember forever, like some weird dream-memory. Well. We can’t write it for you, but we can give you a nudge, a shove, and a poke with a sharp stick (whatever floats your boat) to help you on your way. With the help of writing prompts, advice from award-winning short fiction writers, inspiring exercises, and our awesome little online community, you’ll come out the other side at least one fully formed short story to call your very own.

TRY OUT A FREEBIE WEEK HERE AND BOOK YOUR PLACE! (Don’t forget to use promo code SHORTSTOPS10 to get 10% off when you book before 12th March.)


Inspire us with your true travel tales

Travel, Indien, India

Here we go!  Launching the 2016 Ouen Press Short Story Competition

Ouen Press are pleased to extend an invitation for writers to submit an original short story in line with this year’s theme – ‘The Journey’. Winning authors will receive cash prizes and be published in an anthology early in the New Year. This follows on from the success of last year’s competition and subsequent publication of the winning entries in Last Call & other short stories.

The short story must be true, but can be about a journey in any setting, of any distance, or at any time. The judges will be particularly interested in well-written pieces about encounters that have profoundly thrilled, possibly terrified or provided humour. The ideal submission will elicit a strong emotional response conveying travel experiences where the writer’s life has been transformed or enlightened as a result.

Deadline for entries is 31st October 2016 – full information and rules of the competition, which is open to writers worldwide, can be found at

For updates on our activities – come follow us on Twitter @OuenP

NEW for 2016 – We’d be thrilled if you Like our Facebook page

Power of Weakness: Mandy Taggart in conversation with Long Story, Short Journal

Part of the interview series by Laura PerremLong Story, Short Journal Contributing Journalist.

austin granger

Photo copyright Austin Granger


I’ve always been struck by the power of weakness – how much control a vulnerable person can have over the behaviour of those responsible for them.





Long Story, Short Journal
presents the next instalment of our interview series: a conversation with Mandy Taggart, author of our February 2016 story ‘Pride’. Interview series by Laura Perrem. 


Laura Perrem: Where are you now? 

Mandy Taggart: At home – which is near the North Coast of Northern Ireland, a short-ish drive from the sea. I’d like to say I nurture creativity with long, contemplative walks on the beach, but I’m a fair-weather walker. When I do go out I usually have the family with me.

LP: What does a writing day look like for you?

MT: Fragmented! Like most people, I fit writing into the spaces between other things. If I held out for an extended stretch of uninterrupted time, I’d never write a word. With the most recent story I finished, at one point I set up a laptop on the kitchen counter and was editing with one hand while stirring risotto with the other. I like to shut myself away for the first draft but, once the words are on the page, editing in fragments seems to work best, creatively as well as practically.

I do have opportunities for more concentrated work. I hope to get down to the Tyrone Guthrie centre at Annaghmakerrig, Co. Monaghan, later this year, and also get away occasionally on mini-retreats with a group of writer friends. The company and encouragement of other writers keeps me going – without it, it’s easy to stop seeing writing as a valid thing to do.

LP: When did you start writing?

MT: Like many/most of us, I wrote obsessively as a child, with great encouragement from teachers who told me I should always keep it up. Unfortunately, I didn’t do this – I gave up at the first setback. In my early teens I wrote a story (about my cat, I think), sent it off to the Reader’s Digest, got the inevitable rejection slip, and decided that this meant I couldn’t write at all. I didn’t attempt anything further for the next twenty-five years, by which time I’d missed all the years when I had fewer responsibilities. It’s really important to encourage young people to write, but we also need to teach them resilience in the face of rejection!

I took it up again about five years ago. I joined a writing group at Flowerfield Arts Centre, Portstewart (led by Bernie McGill, author of The Butterfly Cabinet), and began submitting stories and having them published. Winning the Michael McLaverty award in 2012 was a huge confidence boost.

LP: The theme of re-capturing/re-living runs through Pride, can you speak a little about this? 

MT: The story is full of new starts: Laura’s experiences in Greece, house moves, new jobs, new people – even her DIY activities. Laura sets out as a great beginner of projects, but as the story progresses she loses momentum, becomes less and less able to see things through. She grows older, makes some serious mistakes, and finds that she can’t simply discard everything and begin afresh. Eventually she has to retrace her steps, go back to places where she was before.

Someone who read the story asked me whether there was a Christian aspect to it – these ideas of blood and sacrifice, sins and redemption. That really interested me, because I didn’t consciously put anything like that into the story at all – yet you could certainly argue that it’s there. I grew up in a very devout, Presbyterian part of the world and, although I’m not religious myself, those ideas just soak into you. But if anything, I think the concepts of ‘re-living’ in the story are in contrast with the religious idea of completely fresh starts, that evangelical notion of being washed clean and ‘born again’. It’s a more secular redemption, a way of forgiving yourself while continuing to carry the things that you’ve done, rather than being relieved of them.

LP: There are interesting moments in ‘Pride’ in which you describe Laverty’s lion and Enya in similar terms. Did you want the animal almost to stand in for Laura’s daughter?

MT: Not directly, although they certainly echo each other. I think what the lion does, most of all, is force Laura to look things in the face. I’ve always been struck by the power of weakness – how much control a vulnerable person can have over the behaviour of those responsible for them, just by the fact of their vulnerability. Dependency isn’t a straightforward thing. It can be terrifying – especially if you lack faith in yourself, as Laura does by this point – to look at someone else and think: ‘You are vulnerable. You must be looked after. You are my responsibility. But I might get it wrong.’

Even with the best of intentions, being human yourself, I think you can never fully do right by another person. We can all look back on family, friends, lovers – especially after they’ve gone – and drive ourselves mad picking over all the ways that we failed them. That can be a source of immense guilt: and, for someone like Laura, frustration as well, because she’d set out with such high standards. I can recognise her fear and anger near the end of the story, when she tries to reject the lion. She sees how he has flourished under her care, but knows from past experience that this works two ways. In showing her success, he makes her face her failures.

LP: Although you tell us that the little lion is a fiction, in reading ‘Pride’, there is still an ambiguity as to Laura’s complicity in his existence in her life. Is this something you planned for or something that emerged in the writing process?

MT: It emerged as the story emerged. Some of the questions that Laura asks herself came from the very first draft of the story. I was describing the lion investigating Laura’s house, eating her food, disarranging her laundry – but was continually bringing myself up short by wondering what was ‘actually’ happening. The story only really began taking shape when I discarded the notion of an ‘actual reality’ and left the ambiguity there instead. Laura repeatedly comes up against this problem of the ‘Real World’, and other people’s notions of it, which rarely correspond with her own. I was attracted to that as an idea, wondering how much importance we really need to place on objective reality when it comes to how people feel, and see, and react to one another.

Since my teens I’ve had a hallucinatory sleep disorder, which means that seeing and reacting to things that aren’t there is almost commonplace. You can’t spend a couple of decades seeing giant spiders and clockwork machines flying around the room on a nightly basis without developing a sense of different levels of reality! You can state that something isn’t there – and you may well be right – but being right isn’t everything. Even if it’s only a product of your subconscious, in some sense it’s there all the same. And Laura knows, on some level, that she needs the lion to be there.

LP: What does your next project look like?

MT: I’m working on my first collection, which features characters from a previous story (‘Season’s End’, published last year in the winners’ anthology from Kingston Writing School’s Hilary Mantel award). In the immediate future I’ll be participating in #WomenAloudNI, an initiative to mark International Women’s Day on 8th March with a series of readings by female writers across Northern Ireland.


Mandy Taggart lives on the north coast of Ireland. She received the Michael McLaverty Short Story Award in 2012, and has previously been shortlisted for the Lightship One Page Prize and the KWS Hilary Mantel Award. Her short fiction has been published widely in print, audio and online. She is currently working on her first collection. Follow Mandy Taggart on Facebookand Twitter.

Laura Perrem is a Fine Art graduate of the Crawford College of Art and Design. She practices in both visual and written media. Her written practice includes poetry, short stories and art criticism. She has had poetry published in the Belleville Park Pages and is working towards her first collection of poetry.

Born in San Francisco in 1970, Austin Granger has worked as a baker, house painter, naval radar operator and camera salesman. He first began to photograph while studying philosophy in college as a way to get out of his head. Preferring to use traditional film cameras, Granger has come to see his photography as a spiritual practice—a way in which to shape his life and enrich his relationship with the world. He likes motorcycles a lot too. View more of his work at Flickr.


Writing Maps January Contest

BlueWrite about Blue Things.

The prompt for January’s Writing Contest is: Make a creative list of blue things. Write this list as a list poem, or in the form of a short story, a graphic story or a snippet of memoir. Fiction or autobiography, SF or mis mem, erotic or academic. Think blue skies and the deep blue sea, think music and the blues, think blue movies, blue collar, and blue plasters in restaurant kitchens. Think literally and metaphorically, what has been and is blue in your life or the life of a character. Maximum 150 words.

For list and colour inspiration, visit us on Twitter throughout the week. In the meantime, check out Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, watch Derek Jarman’s Blue, read Julie Maroh’s Blue is the Warmest Colour.

Please make sure to view our full guidelines here. In brief, the main rules are:

Entry is free. One entry per person. All genres welcome. All writers welcome. 150 words max.

Deadline is 31 January 2015.

The two winning entries will be published in The A3 Review, Issue #2, and will receive a set of our new #iamwriting Notecards.

Good luck and good writing!

Writing Maps’ July Writing Contest & The Big Gay Writing Map

The Big Gay Writing MapThis month’s Writing Maps Writing Contest coincides with the official launch of The Big Gay Writing Map: Story Ideas for Anyone Who’s a Little Bit Different.

The prompt for July’s Writing Contest is our toughest challenge yet! Write a sex scene without using gender-specific pronouns and without using any punctuation (except a full stop/period at the end, if you want to). This could be a story, poem, graphic story or snippet of memoir. Fiction or autobiography, SF or mis mem, erotic or academic. In 150 words, gender-neutral and punctuation-free. Enjoy!

Please make sure to view our full guidelines here or on the Writing Maps website by clicking here. In brief, the main rules are:

Entry is free. One entry per person. All genres welcome. All writers welcome. 150 words max.

Deadline is 26 July 2014.
The two winning entries will be published in A3, the Writing Maps Journal, and winners will receive 2 copies of the new Writing Map.
Good luck and good writing!

Writing Maps June Contest and Pack of Notebooks

Writing Maps NotebooksWriting Maps, the illustrated posters with creative writing prompts and story ideas, launches its 4th monthly Writing Contest. The June contest coincides with the official launch of the Writing Maps Pack of 5 Notebooks, and this month’s two winners will receive a complete pack of notebooks, along with publication in A3, a new fold-out literary magazine. The first issue will appear in September 2014.

The challenge is to write a 150-word piece in response to the Prompt of the Month.  June’s Writing Maps Writing Contest opens on 21st June 2014. Deadline is: 28 June 2014. Did you know we’re the quickest contest in town – one week between announcement and deadline!

The prompt for June’s Writing Contest is a title. Write a story, poem, graphic story or snippet of memoir called “Ode to My Notebook”. For some extra inspiration, check out Pablo Neruda’s “Ode to My Suit” or Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons. As always, we’re looking for pieces that are quirky and intense, that give us a glimpse into private worlds, and that make us feel nicely awkward. In 150 words, show your notebook (or a character’s notebook) some love!

Please make sure to view our full guidelines here or on the Writing Maps website by clicking here. In brief, the main rules are:

Entry is free. One entry per person.
All genres welcome. All writers welcome.
150 words max.
Deadline is 28 June 2014, which is just a few days from now.
The two winning entries will be published in A3, the Writing Maps Journal.

Writing Maps: May Contest and Box of Maps

Writing Maps Box SetWriting Maps, the illustrated posters with writing inspiration and story ideas, launches its 3rd monthly Writing Contest. The May contest coincides with the launch of the Writing Maps Box Set, and this month’s two winners will receive the box set, along with publication in A3, a new fold-out literary magazine to be published every six months. The first issue will appear in September 2014.

The challenge is to write a 150-word piece in response to the Prompt of the Month.  May’s Writing Maps Writing Contest opens 17 May 2014. Deadline is: 24 May 2014. Yes, we’re the quickest contest in town! Click here to visit the site for submission guidelines and the May prompt.

April’s prompt was inspired by the new Write Up Your Street: A Neighbourhood Writing Map. The prompt was: Write about something someone told you about your neighbourhood: a rumour, an urban myth, an event, a local hero/villain, a landmark or a building that’s no longer there. Tell the story in their voice or your own, or the voice of a fictional narrator. The winning entries were: Mark Bicton’s “Grave Robbers” and Francesca Brooks’ “I Came to Find You”.