Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Interview with Commonwealth Prize Regional Winner - Tracy Fells


Today, I welcome back to my blog my good writing friend, and competition queen, Tracy Fells. The reason I've brought her back is because she's just had a momentous win - regional finalist of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize no less! It's an occasion that cannot be left unmarked so I thought you might like to hear more about her winning entry and Tracy's route to competition success.

First of all, congratulations on being regional winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Can you tell us a little more about the competition?

Thank you, Wendy! The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is run annually and is FREE to enter so it really is worth entering. However, you can only enter if you can demonstrate you are a national of one of the Commonwealth countries (if you get shortlisted you do have to provide proof!). From the shortlist five regional winners are chosen and I was lucky enough to win for Canada & Europe region. The five winning stories are published – this year they are on Granta magazine’s website – and then an overall winner is chosen (£5,000 is the prize). The competition usually opens in September and closes early November – more details here: http://www.commonwealthwriters.org/

You’ve been writing (and winning) competitions for a while now. Was this your first attempt at this prize?

No, not at all. In fact this is the second year I’ve reached the shortlist (first back in 2014), so I was amazed to hear another story had done it again. Looking at my competition spreadsheet (yes, I’m that anal) I can see that this year was the sixth time I’ve entered, proving that persistence pays off!

Your story The Naming of Moths is a worthy winner (I should know as I’ve read it) how would you describe it?

Hmm, I know you would describe it as a typical Tracy Fells’ story, as it has a distinctive thread of magical realism. Its origins come from an ancient folk legend but I would describe it as a contemporary fairy tale and love story.

What gave you your inspiration for the story?

Get yourself a cup of tea as this make take some time … September 2013 I was holidaying with hubby in Swanage (south coast of England). On a blustery and wet coastal walk we took shelter in a cliff-side castle’s café. The walls of that café were covered in glass panels – etched into the glass were the names of hundreds and hundreds of moths. I now wish I’d taken a photo at the time. The names were incredibly varied, lyrical and many of them were beautiful and not scientific at all. This gave me the title of a short story: The Naming of Moths. Unfortunately, the rest of the story refused to emerge even though I knew it would focus on moths and their names. Fast forward to early January 2016 and I was itching to write a story bringing in Hebrew folk history. Some inspiration came from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series and ‘Feet of Clay’ in particular. Other research came from watching episodes of Supernatural and The X-Files. Then I can’t really remember but suddenly the full story sort of appeared in my head and I was ready to write it. I wish I could share the process (so I could replicate it myself!) but I trust to my subconscious to join the dots together.

If interested there’s a video of me talking about the story up on the Commonwealth Writers website here: http://www.commonwealthwriters.org/cssp-2017/

How long did it take you to write?

Again, I have a spreadsheet to check as I record daily any word count and what I was working on. Therefore, I can tell you the first draft was written over two days: 30 – 31 March 2016. It was reviewed by my workshop group, then further edits and proofread by hubby. Though I confess this was a story that wrote itself (when I actually sat down to it) and took little editing time to clean up. Some stories – often the really successful ones – are like that.

Are you a planner or a pantster when it comes to your competition stories?

This is easy! I am a planner and proud of it. I plan everything I write and can’t even begin to start the writing process until the arc of the story is complete in my head.

It’s rude, I know, to discuss money but…. let’s discuss money! The Commonwealth Prize is a serious win – mind spilling the beans?

Okay, just because it’s you, Wendy. I’ve won £2,500, which is the biggest prize I’ve won to date. As mentioned above the overall winner receives £5,000, which is still to be announced.

The presentation is going to be held somewhere very exciting. Can you tell us about it?

All the regional winners are being flown to Singapore for the prize giving event on 30 June (to be held in The Arts House, which looks beautiful). We’re staying on for a weekend of writing Masterclasses with Jacob Ross, one of the judges. To be honest this trip feels like winning another prize!

What are you most looking forward to on your visit?

Meeting the other regional winners and just experiencing Singapore. I’ve never visited Singapore or this part of the world so just hoping to soak it all up and not wilt in the heat …

What next for Tracy Fells. More competitions or a larger project perhaps?

As a short story writer I will continue entering competitions as these are one of the best ways to get your work noticed. I’ve just finished a new story which I’m hoping to enter into the Brighton Short Story Prize. I will be writing more short stories and flash, because how could I stop! And I’m excited about a new project, a novel which I hope to begin after the summer. It will have magical realism and all the elements that signal a Tracy Fells’ story! Right now I’m in that thinking phase for the novel, so not ready to start writing …

You can read Tracy's winning story here


If you want to find out more about Tracy’s writing then she shares a blog with The Literary Pig http://tracyfells.blogspot.com. You can also follow her on Twitter: @theliterarypig.

21 comments:

  1. Thank you for inviting me back onto the blog today, Wendy. You've been a wonderful host :)

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    1. It's been a pleasure, Tracy, and congratulations again x

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  2. What a lovely interview. It's fascinating to find out more about Tracy and her writing, especially the origins of this beautiful, captivating story. I've just read it, savoured it and highly recommend it. It's utterly spellbinding, so exquisitely written and such a worthy winner. Congratulations again, Tracy. I'm looking forward to hearing all about Singapore too xxx

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    1. Thank you, Joanna. I shall be meeting up with a jet lagged Tracy the day after she gets back, to hear all about it.

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    2. Thank you, Joanna for all your lovely comments xx

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  3. I love the genesis of this story. It just shows that it pays (literally in this case) to always keep your mind open to a story. Looking forward to hearing about your experience in Singapore, Tracy.

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    1. Thank you, Richard. These days my mind is always open, but never quite sure what's going to pop into it next :)

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    2. I reckon teacakes are on Tracy next month 😀

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  4. Fantastic news! Congratulations to Tracy. I enjoyed reading about the inspiration and hope I get to read the story itself. Thank you for another super interview, Wendy. I hope all is well with you.

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    1. Thank you, Nicola. I hope you enjoy the story :)

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    2. Hi Nicola. Glad you enjoyed the interview. The link to Tracy's story is at the end.

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  5. Wow, and Wow again and flipping brilliant, well done, Tracy.

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    1. Couldn't have put it better myself, Susan 😀

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  6. Congratulations, Tracy. What a beautiful story.

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  7. Great interview, and congratulations, Tracy.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the interview, Julia.

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  8. Congratulations, Tracy. You'll love Singapore. Go and look round Raffles Hotel, have a meal at the hawker stalls and go down to the river. I'm making myself jealous here. Well done.

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    1. Lots of good tips for Tracy. Thanks, Keith.

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  9. I am in awe of how highly organised Tracy is, with all that info about her writing stashed away for future reference. It was wonderful to find out about the origins of Tracy's short story. Many congratulations to her on her success. I hope she has a wonderful time in Singapore. Wendy, thanks for this interview.

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