No flash-in-the-pan! Or how Deborah Rickard’s story got a life of its own

Posted: February 3, 2012 in Friday Guest
And so the story continues…

Writers often refer to their stories as their ‘babies’; an analogy which often rings true long after leaving the metaphorical womb because stories, like babies, go on to gain independence and often surprise you with what they get up to.

Even during the conception of ‘The Black Widow’, this particular baby threw a surprise at me. I’d intended it being a 2000-3000 short story but as soon as I’d introduced the female protagonist, attempted to gain reader empathy and established some conflict, the story turned round and told me what to do and suddenly I knew I had to end it with a swift slice of the knife. Hence the twist in the tail which neither I nor I hope, my reader, expected. Thus, a piece of flash fiction was born.

Fortunately it didn’t need much of a ‘rub-up’ to make sure it was as polished as I could manage, because I’d just noticed the Cazart Flash Fiction competition and its imminent deadline. I whisked it off to fettle on its own like a child at nursery and forgot about it (so not quite like a child then). A few weeks later I got an email announcing the winner.

That feeling you get when you see your story’s title in the number one position is almost akin to when you hear your child’s achieved good exam results, and even when the prize money isn’t great the reverberations bring their own rewards and surprises. But the story goes on …

As a result of winning the competition, ‘The Black Widow’ was published in the Cazart Authors Anthology in June 2011 (as well as online), and then a local community group asked for a recording of me reading to link it to their website. However, a professional quality recording was required.

I looked forward to the studio experience and, remembering when I used to co-present a folk music programme for BBC Radio Bristol in the 1970s, thought it would be a doddle. Eventually, ensconced in my acoustically padded chamber, armed with microphone, muffler (to diffuse plosive sounds) and manuscript, I was raring to go.

Why is it you can read a story out to yourself in private without a hitch but as soon as a disembodied voice calls through a speaker; “When you’re ready, then!” your teeth start to trip over each other and your tongue rolls into confusion? And, I found, it’s not like simply talking or presenting on the radio. Reading a story out loud requires considered momentum, expression and, depending on the story’s point of view, a degree of acting to convincingly become the character. I soon relaxed though, and got into the flow by remembering to take breaths at suitable moments and that when I tripped over my words, all I had to do was pause and start again at a convenient point. Mistakes can be cut out in the editing.

The feedback was great and I revelled and relaxed for a while in a post-success bubble, until Bea Moyes from Ether Books sent out a missive encouraging Ether authors to submit story recordings to My Word Radio, a radio station you can listen to online or download as a free App for iPhones etc. Once again, a professional recording was required. But hey – I had one of those! I packed it off post haste and chewed my nails.

Smiles of joy and sighs of relief when it was accepted! It first went on air at the end of January and will be repeated on Saturday 4th February 2012 at around 3pm, and further repeats will be scheduled. But the story doesn’t end there.

As a result of the broadcast I’ve been asked if I’d like to do more radio presenting, been invited to write a piece for another local community publication and, of course, Sue kindly invited me to guest on this blog.

And so, like a child, the story – and the surprises – go on…


Deborah Rickard trained as a journalist in the 1970s. After raising her children she took up writing again in 2009 while studying for her BA (Hons) degree in Literature. She has since had short stories published in women’s magazines, an anthology of short stories and online. She’s also achieved some competition success and had a short monologue performed by the Bristol Show of Strength Theatre Company. Deborah has some short stories available on the Ether App for iPhones and has work featured in the anthology; ‘Pay Attention: A River of Stones’. You can hear a recording of Deborah reading ‘The Black Widow’ on YouTube.

Deborah Rickard

  1. […] I guest-blogged on Susan Howe’s ‘the long and the short of it’ and mentioned how reading stories aloud requires considered momentum, vocal expression and a degree […]

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