Following up with Flosca Teo.

A few months ago I interviewed the collective of writers that makes up Flosca Teo, and highlighted their rather unusual competitions – recently I got back in touch with them to find out how things were going …

In the couple of months since you launched Flosca Teo and particularly your two competitions, you must have developed quite an insight into how writers and the writing world operates. What's been the biggest surprise?

The biggest surprise has been the enthusiasm with which some well-established writers and publishers greeted our new enterprise. When we set out we were unsure how people would respond to us, and I think there was a fear among some of us that we would be viewed as yet another publishing company trying to squeeze into a crowded marketplace, but after our launch and in the subsequent months we have received some very positive feedback from people who want to see us succeed. Much of their encouragement stems from the fact that, unlike most publishing companies, we are comprised of fellow writers who know what it is like trying to gain an audience while simultaneously trying to develop one's craft, and people recognise this and want the best for us.

How are the entries for the contests coming along?

They are coming in steadily, but at a slow pace so far. We are expecting the majority of entries to arrive in the next few months, before the deadline of December 15th, because (as I'm sure you and your readers know) writers have a tendency to put off submitting for a competition until right before the deadline.

What process are you using for shortlisting? (writers are endlessly fascinated by the way competitions are administered, I find!)

All entries are filed and numbered, with the entrants names removed, and once the December 15th deadline has passed we will use two panels of critical readers to filter down the entries to a reasonable number to be sent to our final judges in each competition - David Means for the Flosca Short Story Competition, and Liam Ó Muirthile for the Flosca Irish Language Poetry Competition (Comórtas Filíochta Gaeilge). The final decision will then rest with them.

Given that you're all recent writing graduates yourselves, you must be having to balance day jobs, your own writing and commitments to the collective. Have any of you had any particularly good/bad literary experiences in the past couple of months that you'd like to share with us?

Besides running Flosca, working the nine-to-five grind of our day-jobs, and contributing to extra-curricular literary endeavours, all the collective has been continuing to write and several Flosca members have completed drafts of novels or poetry collections, a few of which are in the process of being published. Writing is what brought us them together and it is what, they hope, will keep them working together for a long time into the future. Here are the individual literary experiences of some Flosca members, in their own words:

"I have published short stories and poems in Playboy magazine, Bohemian Quarterly, San Francisco Chronicle, Contra Costa Times, ROPES, and other publications. I have completed my first novel which is awaiting publication." W.D.McC.

"I took on quite a demanding job which left a narrow window for creative endeavours. I play a lot of music so this made things even more difficult. Part of my job involves a lot of reading and editing so that has helped keep things in check, and the impulse to create is stronger and building all the time and I'm learning to do it in spurts, and avail of any available time. I'm writing in bits and pieces but am confident it's informing something bigger at the end of the day, a novel or a few collections of poems and short stories. I want to let things settle as well, I'm 23 and don't want to rush in - I want to save, travel, and then take three or four months to attend to writing as a day job, so to speak. I'm currently getting a collection together to enter the Patrick Kavanagh poetry competition. I'm not deferring things but I am looking at February to May to work on a novel. I'm currently writing reviews and a bit of poetry, and I'm constantly writing notes and small pieces for a novel." C.N.

"I read at the launch of The Stinging Fly, and received my first two paychecks for writing. I found this to be an incredible and gratifying experience, but I got rejected from about four magazines, and found that to be an annoying experience. I'm writing a lot and like having a day job because it gives me both ideas and an escape from writing, but I am really coming to terms with how disciplined writers have to be to juggle life and writing." D.D.

"It's summer. Well, not according to the weather. But my small daughter is not in school: with me 24/7 and despite being asked the same question over and over and going on interesting day trips and ringing friends who have gone to sunnier places, I have managed to send work to The SHOp, The New York Times magazine, and Poetry Ireland. Meanwhile, my sleep is interrupted with a few perfect words for rewrites. Tired but happy." M.M.

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