The search is still open for the best original short story written by a previously unpublished writer. Whether you have completed a writing course with us or not, this is your opportunity to devise a piece of short fiction that will be read by an expert panel of judges, and considered for the £1,500 first prize. With one month to go until our Short Story Competition 2022 closes, we spoke to last years winner, Tong Qiu, author of Love Bug, on her life, legacy and whats next!
Love Bug is a fabulously written story and a worthy winner of our inaugural short story competition, how does it feel a whole year on?
Thank you! I still feel really chuffed about it! It encouraged me to submit works to other competitions too. I’ve not won anything else yet but, for someone who always found it rather painfully vulnerable to share my work, the encouragement to put it out there at all was definitely welcome.
We spoke to you not long after winning the prize last year, and you revealed that lockdown gave you the time and space to get your story finished. How has your writing life been post-pandemic?
To be honest, writing has taken a bit of a back seat since lockdown was lifted. As much as I enjoy it, I, like a lot of others, had sorely missed spending time with friends and being able to travel so I’ve spent as much time as possible doing that. I am hoping to build up a habit of writing more regularly again soon.
You also mentioned that Love Bug might have been an idea for a novel – have you started any longer form projects in the last year or so?
There might be a clue in my last answer to this one! No I haven’t, if anything I’ve gone the other way and written more flash fiction and poems. When I don’t have a lot of time to write, I find that pressure is often the biggest barrier to getting any writing done at all. If I felt like I had to develop a novel, I would just think “I can’t do that in 30 minutes so I won’t bother trying” whereas I’m much more inclined to start a piece of flash fiction or poem.
Could you offer any words of advice for writers aiming to submit to this year’s competition?
Just go for it. If you’re doubting whether your work is good enough to stand a chance, or cringing at the thought of a panel reading it, shake it off and submit it anyway. I was scared of people reading my story, judging me through it, and I certainly didn’t think I would win. But it was so rewarding - not so much the winning in itself, but the proof that people actually enjoyed and were moved by something I wrote. That’s really all I want as a writer.
Have you read any great short stories lately?
I recently read a collection by May-Lan Tan called Things to Make and Break, which contained some really breathtaking stories. She has a real knack for painting characters. For example, in the first story in the collection the narrator’s boyfriend is described as “Not a practising Catholic, just chronic. Sleeps fetal… When he laughs his happiness builds just like a normal person’s, but at the top his eyes go blank, as if there’s nothing there.”
What’s up next for you in the world of writing?
Make more time for it! When I entered the competition last year, I was part of a writing group which would meet every couple of weeks to workshop. I haven’t had that for most of the past year and definitely miss the motivation, inspiration and (let’s be honest!) a bit of pressure to produce something that comes from being part of such a group. I’d like to try to fit it in again into post pandemic life.
About Tong Qiu
About Tong Qiu
As a maths student turned software engineer, I’m not the most likely writer. But I’ve always held a childlike wonder for the power of storytelling, and love having creative outlets to balance out an analytical day job. Besides writing, I enjoy good food and wine, and talking to my cat.