Sue Kingham: Thank you for your congratulations. I was thrilled when I received the news from North & South; this win was a great encouragement.
Like most writers I am a bit of a magpie. When I have a shiny nugget of an idea I store it away, sometimes for years. Sitting down to write, I re-look at my note books or news clippings, and stories sometimes emerge. Swan Song is based on the shooting of a pair of swans, which occurred in Christchurch in 2016. I was intrigued by the idea of contrasting a pair of swans mated for life with a couple in a failing marriage. I researched wedding anniversaries and discovered that glass was the third anniversary and I decided that a shattered glass swan would be a great image on which to end the story. I got the tip of ending a flash fiction on an image from a workshop run by Frankie McMillan.
SK: I watched a clip about the swan being treated by the vet on YouTube. The black hoods over their heads looked so ominous I knew I wanted to include them in the story.
It’s hard to say what my usual process is. I wish I had a formula that worked every time! I usually get an image or a word and start to mentally play around with it. I like using an opposite to contrast with the original idea – for example, the loving swans against the failing marriage. It is in the tension between the two ideas that I often find the story.
SK: I hope it has improved! I know that reading and writing regularly are the only ways to develop as a writer, and I also find belonging to a critique group extremely helpful.
SK: Being a part of SIWA has been essential to my development as a writer. The feedback I have received from entering SIWA competitions, along with belonging to a critique group, has been enormously beneficial. A big misconception I had was in my belief that a story had to be perfect immediately. I now appreciate that critical-reader feedback is invaluable.
SK: I have a very eclectic reading taste. I am a fan of Anthony Doerr, Margaret Atwood, Jessie Burton, Jane Gardam, and I recently enjoyed reading Heloise by Mandy Hager.
SK: I did get a bunch of flowers from my husband and another from a friend. I won a lovely Cross fountain pen in the competition, and was delighted when another friend asked me to sign her copy of North & South. I hope to get an opportunity to use my signing pen again in the near future.
Read Sue’s story ‘Swan Song’ on North and South magazine’s Fiction finale: North & South’s Short, Short Story competition winners