Former journalist turned secondary school English teacher Emma Harrowing made the longlist for a flash fiction competition which drew hundreds of entries from more than 50 countries around the world. Here, she shares her story
I’m a secondary school English teacher working at Hethersett Academy. I’m a second year ECT (early careers teacher) so I’ve been teaching for two years – one year training, one-year ECT and from September I will be in my second (and final) year as an ECT and then I will be a fully qualified teacher.
Covid lockdown gave me the chance to step back and rethink what I wanted to do with my life and career. I had been a journalist for over 10 years and had worked in marketing for just over three years and I felt like I wanted to do something more fulfilling. I would recommend the career move, especially for those who have life and career experience as there is a need for teachers who can start to bridge the gap between what kids learn at school and how they can apply this to a career and life in general. It is hard work, but the challenge is worth it.
I completed an evening fiction course at the National Centre for Writing at Dragon Hall this spring as I had always fancied dabbling in creative writing. I did it mainly for me as a hobby and I find it quite cathartic at times. Our tutor Ian Nettleton is a fabulous and generous tutor. He gave us a list of literary competitions to encourage us to enter our short stories and flash fiction pieces – he also said that we could use these to keep writing as the deadlines give us something to work towards (as an ex-journalist I need a deadline!) One of the competitions was by Australian podcast Not Quite Write. It is a worldwide flash fiction competition. I decided to enter the competition as it was one of the earliest deadlines and I wanted to keep up my habit of writing!
When I got the email telling me that I had made the longlist I was shocked! I had forgotten I had entered the competition and I couldn’t remember which piece I had written for it, so I had to look back through my emails! It means a lot to have made the longlist. I didn’t think that my writing would be worthy of such an accolade, so I am so grateful to the judges for including me in the top nine per cent.
The judges posted three prompts at a set time on their website and then you had 60 hours to write a 600-word story using the prompts. The prompts were – crossing a line, use of the word ‘rite’ (which could be used to form a longer word) and to break to rule of using no adverbs. I had just read a story in the press about how AI could be used in care homes in the future to look after our ageing population and this inspired me to write a piece of flash fiction entitled ‘The Robot‘ which is about an elderly lady who had been in a coercive relationship but had broken free by murdering her husband, only for the AI company to rebuild him so that she had someone to look after her. My aim is to question who had crossed the line – the woman who committed murder, the husband who was abusive or the technology company who rebuilt this ‘human’?
I try to write for five minutes every day (it doesn’t always happen though!) and I write short (200-600 word) flash fiction stories. Some of the stories I have written have a similar theme and perhaps these could make a longer piece one day, but at the moment I’m just enjoying having fun with words and themes. To help me write I am entering other literary competitions as I need a deadline to keep me motivated!
Featured image of Emma Harrowing by Antony Kelly