Butterflies were circling the nasturtiums in a frenzied race to find nectar, but it had not yet flowered. It was a lush green and ripe for bloom, when the flame flower would climb, scrambling through other plants, covering unsightly fences. She had not yet flowered, when the ‘gardener’ had grabbed her by the waist and forced her onto his lap, kissing her neck and asking her to marry him. She had been nine years of age, he sixteen. She had tried to explain the age difference. He had told her that he didn’t care. The thought had repulsed her, her fierce kicks into the centre of his shins adding weight to her no, and her get off me. He had eventually let go, accepted her resistance too late… read the story at Anti Heroin Chic
I’m thrilled to share the news that my story was longlisted, then shortlisted, and was this week placed as a runner up, along with 3 other wonderful stories. You can read my story at Lunate.co.uk
Entries were judged by the fantastic founding editor of EllipsisZine, Steve Campbell. You can read a blog interview with him here. If you haven’t come across this literary magazine, I would highly recommend a read. You might also find a few of my stories in there.
I hope you enjoy the stories. I’m off to celebrate the news!
The woman sitting opposite me looks like the guy I used to date. Her face is angular, her eyes fixed to the page of a book I cannot see. I wonder why she reminds me of him, and whether her features are particularly masculine, or his more feminine; maybe both. The door clunks back into the frame of the train’s carriage. A thud as it stops makes me jump and a man with a trolley walks through and scans the seats.
“Tea? Coffee?” he asks, glancing at the ex-boyfriend lookalike.
“Neither,” she says, her eyes remaining fixed on the pages in her hands.
He looks at me. “Coffee, black, no sugar,” I say, without waiting to be asked. He lowers his shoulders, exhaling slowly as he pours me a cup from a large metal coffee pot. Steam rises from the spout, the scent of it licking at my nostrils. Saliva fills my mouth in anticipation….continued at Lunate.co.uk
And, in case you missed this one, Do You See Me Coming, was also published in July at the new Burnt Breakfast Magazine.
Do You See Me Coming?
Do you see me coming, when the days are short and the nights feverish, when the family gathers round, wondering whether to call the doctor or let you slip away, peacefully. Do you see me coming when the flicker of evening light reminds you that your ancestors are beckoning you home. You think about your childhood and remember days where you came inside, covered in dirt and Mother shooed you away with a flap of a hand, and the smell of creosote where Father had painted the fence. You loved the smell but you weren’t supposed to. It was toxic, you were told, but you also loved the hot scent of tarmac. You always liked the things that you weren’t supposed to. You remember the way the swallows came in to nest then left, like Father, when I had come to him, too. He saw me coming. The rest of you only saw me leave, taking him with me …. continued at Burnt Breakfast
Who or what inspired you to write short stories and when did you begin writing?
All the writers I read and digested inspired me to write. I was a voracious reader as a child. I started writing when I was in middle school. Some of those stories were written for competitions held at school and some stayed on the pages of my notebooks. I’ve loved books ever since I can remember. Reading stories was such a pleasure and a fascinating voyage of discovery—of other lives and worlds—and I couldn’t resist the temptation of trying my hand at writing them. I was enthralled as a reader and I wanted to see if I could write stories to recreate that immersive and magical experience for my readers.
How has living in various places – New York, Delhi and Taos affected your writing? Do you think travel helps to inspire your work?
Every place I’ve lived in or visited shapes my writing in particular ways. The energy of a place—inspiring, soothing, manic or comatose—rubs off on me. The essence of a place stays in my heart long after I say goodbye. The people I meet and the stories they tell, the sights, sounds, skies, and hidden histories of a place all spark my fiction. Travel is inextricably linked to my process. New places jumpstart my imagination. The memories they gift me are fertile ground for stories to germinate.
Do you create a structure for your stories before you begin or are they more fluid?
I tend to write short stories and flash fiction in a fluid way. I have a basic idea of the flow of the story, but it’s not strictly structured before I begin. Whereas with my novel, which I’m currently working on, I found that I had to create a solid structure before I started.
What advice would you give to writers wanting to submit work to literary journals?
Get your story into the best shape possible. Rewrite, refine, edit and polish vigorously before you submit. Keep at it inspite of rejections. Appreciate the feedback editors give you and incorporate it into your work. Acceptances will eventually come your way.
How has winning writing competitions affected your journey as an author?
Writing competitions come with strict deadlines and they force me to sit down at my desk and finish a story on time. Competitions make me a more disciplined writer in this sense. Winning a competition makes me feel my hard work is being appreciated. That’s a wonderful boost for a writer. It gives you reason to believe in yourself and your art and to carry on writing in a world which is largely indifferent to creative endeavours.
Can you tell us about your collection, A Happy Place, and your route to publication with Harper Collins?
I didn’t start out with a collection in mind. The stories were written one at a time. The title story was published in the Santa Fe Writers’ Project Journal. My eternal gratitude to the editors for that acceptance! Then, a few more of my stories got published in literary journals and magazines, and that gave me the confidence to consider putting together a collection. Once I had enough stories, the hunt for an agent started. It was not easy. Some agents loved my writing, but they were running scared of taking on short stories. It took a lot of effort and patience to find an agent who believed in the collection’s possibilities. She sent it out to several publishers and I was thrilled when HarperCollins said yes to it.
Who are your favourite short story authors?
It’s a long list. To name a few: Chekhov, O. Henry, TC Boyle, Anita Desai, Lucia Berlin, Anne Enright, EL Doctorow, Akil Kumarasamy, Chimamanda Adichie, KJ Orr, Deborah Eisenberg.
What do you think is the essence of a good piece of short fiction?
Telling detail, tension, humour, nuance, startling imagery, and the ability to make a word resonate in different registers at the same time.
What are you currently reading and which book would you take to a desert island, and why?
I am currently devoting all my time to working on my novel, though it’s a tough challenge to resist the call of my very attractive to-read pile. The last book I read and was bowled over by was The Friend by Sigrid Nunez, an incredibly perceptive and well-written novel about friendship, loyalty, loss, and grief. My desert island pick would be Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient. The copy I own is falling apart because I’ve re-read it so many times. This novel surprises me every time I read it. It is so lyrical, insightful, wise, and immense in scope—I’d be delighted to be marooned on an island with it.
Vineetha Mokkil is the author of the short story collection, A Happy Place and other stories (HarperCollins), which was listed as one of the Ten Best Works of Fiction by The Telegraph. She was shortlisted for the Bath Flash Award June 2018, shortlisted for the Desi Writers Lounge Short Story Contest 2018, and is the winner of the New Asian Writing Short Story Competition 2018. She was a nominee for Best Small Fictions 2019. Her fiction has appeared in Barren, Cosmonauts Avenue, Fictive Dream, The Best Asian Short Stories 2018 (Kitaab, Singapore), Gravel, Jellyfish Review, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore and chosen for the Longform fiction pick-of-the-week.