Tina Pisco joins us this week as our Author in the Spotlight. She has the honour of having not one, but two of her stories included within this years Twisted Tales Anthology. Both were more than well deserving entries.
Tina have been a professional writer for over thirty years, writing for every medium except radio, but including internet drama and comic books. I started out as a news journalist in Brussels, Belgium. I started writing fiction after I moved to West Cork, Ireland.
The titles of your flash fiction.
I am delighted to have two flash fiction in the anthology: “Counting to Paradise” and “What’s a mother to do?”.
What was your initial motivation or prompt to write this story?
I have been working on a series of flash fiction that are inspired by current affairs. These two stories are from the first three, which I wrote while I was Writer-in-Residence in a wonderful writing retreat in Spain last March (http://www.casa-ana.com/courses_writers_retreats_andalucia.html).
I was also exploring writing in the first, third, and second person. The third story (“Fare Game”) is written in the second person, in the voice of a taxi driver in Dehli who is planning to assault a female passenger. It was inspired by the terrible reports of rape in India. . “Counting to Paradise” is a reaction to suicide bombings in the Middle East. “What’s a mother to do?” was a (painful) exploration of the horror of the Boko Haram kidnappings of girls in Nigeria. I have four daughters and the idea that they could be taken filled me with horror, quickly followed by rage.
Is the character in your story a reoccurring character in your writing?
Not at all.
What sort of message of feeling are you hoping you leave your audience with?
I’m trying to get into the mind-set of the individual people who are caught up in these disturbing world events that flash across our screens. I believe that the personal is political, and I am interested in exploring how the political is personal. I hope that these stories can help readers understand the human story behind the screaming headlines.
What sorts of challenges or insights have you had writing this?
Both stories were a challenge for me, and both were definitely insightful. In “Counting to Paradise” I was trying to see what it would be like to be a sexually frustrated young man, who has very little contact with real women, fantasising about the 72 virgins he will meet in heaven. “What’s a mother to do?” is the answer to the question: What would I do if my daughters were kidnapped by Boko Haram. It was a difficult one to write.
What sort of research did you do before you began writing it?
I read a lot of news feeds! I’m particularly interested in first person accounts of events. At the moment I’m reading a lot of news stories about the refugees crisis in the Meditteranean and writing flash fiction about their journeys.
What sort of stories do you normally write? (Is this story a break from your norm?) What sorts of lengths ( short story, flash, micro, novellas, novels?)
I’ve written novels, novellas, poetry and scripts. This year I’m focussing on a short stories. Flash fiction is a bit of a departure for me.
Why is that?
I’ve found that setting myself the task of writing a flash fiction is a great way to develop an idea. I used to have a starting point for a story and maybe an ending, and then I’d sort of potter around with it, and see how it develops. Trying to get the whole thing out in 500 words is a great way to focus. Sometimes a story refuses to be confined, and grows to 2000 words or more.
Are you focusing on one particular genre or story length style (i.e Flash Fiction, Short Story, Novella, Novel)? What is yours? Why/ Why not?
I have a short story collection coming out next summer with Fish Publishing (http://www.fishpublishing.com ), who published my first short story in an anthology twenty years ago. The finished manuscript is due in January, so my main focus will be on editing old stories and writing new ones until the New Year.
What projects or new story lines do you have coming up in the near future?
Once I’ve put the short story collection to bed, I’m hoping to start on a new novel based on an event here in West Cork in 1631. I haven’t been able to contemplate writing a novel for several years, so I’m very excited. I’m already starting to collect research material. I can’t wait to get stuck into it.
Do you enter many writing competitions ? Why/ Why not?
I don’t do enough in that area. I only really started submitting last year in preparation for my short story collection. I guess that as a professional writer, I’m often blinded by the bottom line and feel that competitions and literary magazines take a lot of time and don’t help much with the rent! I also hate rejections! However, I do recognise that they give your work a much bigger audience and help to get it noticed…
Are you a member of a writing group – either online or a physical one?
I am often a tutor for writing groups. I was a part of an on-line writing group for several years and really enjoyed it. We would get a prompt every day and send each other what we’d written.
Do you think these groups help or hinder a writers journey? Why?
I always encourage my creative writing students to join a writers’ group. They are like a support group for the similarly afflicted. The trick is to shop around, until you find a group that suits you, is at the same sort of level that you are in this writing game, and who are interested in the same areas that you are. It’s no use joining a group of published poets if you’re writing a children’s book…
What encouragement or advice do you have for emerging writers?
Here’s a poem I wrote for one of my students:
Advice to a creative writing student
Listen to your heart beating
Feel the breeze
Smell the message it carries
Forget everyone else
(Tina Pisco, “She be”, Bradshaw Books 2010)
What advice or tips do you have for writers who feel they are stuck or have “writers block”?
Go for a walk alone in Nature. Go somewhere you can hang around and watch people. Watch some mindless TV. Put it on the back burner and let it simmer. Let the guys in the sweatshop work it out while you do something else. I find housework or gardening is great. I also take a lot of naps and let my mind drift..If I’m really stuck and have a deadline, I skip the bit I’m blocked on and write the next bit. That usually frees the logjam. Then you can go back and fill in the blanks.
Where can others find other pieces of your work?A
Amazon has alot of my work available
How can others follow your journey?
Follow me on Facebook
Twisted Tales is an annual flash fiction competition celebrating (Inter)National Flash Fiction Day, published by Raging Aardvark Publications. Judged by a panel of experienced short story writers and editors, submissions over the last four years have been extremely high quality; making the job of the judge a difficult one. Authors are drawn from around the globe and stories ranging from lighthearted tales of childhood memories, to gruesome stories to make the reader shiver.