An interview with Ingrid Jendrzejewski, Hysteria 2017 Flash Fiction Judge

Ingrid Jendrzejewski is one of the Flash Fiction team of judges for Hysteria 2017. One of two runners up for the Bath Novella-in-Flash competition, her novella (composed of stand-alone flash-fiction pieces) will the published with the novellas written by the winner and the other runner up later this year. You can catch up with Ingrid and her annual Christmas Puzzles on her website: and also on Twitter @LunchOnTuesday

Do you have a ‘must read’ list?

I used to have a ‘must read’ list, but I gave it up when I realised it was so long that I wouldn’t be able to finish it even if I did nothing but read 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, until I turned 100. I decided I liked eating, sleeping and writing too much keep up with that kind of pace. These days, I rely a lot on suggestions from my writing critique group; I have much better luck with the books they recommend than the books I choose for myself, much of the time.

I suspect, however, that many of the poems, stories, books and other works that most need to be on a ‘must read’ list are things that I’ve not yet heard about, very possibly because they’re not yet published.

Where and when do you do most of your reading?

Anytime and anywhere I can sneak it in! I always have at least one book and notebook with me so that I can make use of any little scrap of time that emerges during the day. The one time I don’t read is before bed; if I try to do so, I get so pulled in, I end up staying up all night! (I do, however, often listen to audio books in the evening when I’m winding down.)

Are you a library lover, a bookshop bird or an online owl?

I’m a little bit of all of these! I spend several hours a week at a library that’s just down the road from my daughter’s nursery; I drop her off, then head to the library to write. I have a regular seat, right next to the coffee machine, and have even convinced them to stock decaf. (I’m trying to make it worth their while!) I find the vast majority of my impulse reads at the library.

When buying books, I do my best to support local independent bookshops and small presses. I’m currently reading brilliant collections published by Rose Metal Press and Cinnamon Press, two small presses that I highly recommend.

I avoided ebooks for a long time, but I must admit, I now find it terribly convenient to be able to read hands-free, and to be able to pick up where I left off in different places on different devices. Although I suspect I’ll always prefer the experience of reading a physical book, once I became a mother, the number of books I was able to get through each month more than trebled once I plugged in.

Which genre of writing do you prefer and why?

I love all sorts of writing, but especially literary fiction and hybrid genres. I love it when what I’m reading refuses to play by the rules of the game, yet still manages to shake me to the core. When writing, I like to experiment with different forms and crazy ideas.

That being said, I grew up reading science fiction and often have a Golden Age mystery or cosy crime novel on the go. I occasionally dabble in these genres and have even tried my hand at writing a romance novel.

For me, it’s about the writing rather than the genre. When I’m reading, I don’t care what genre it is, as long as it grabs me. When writing, I usually don’t think about genre until I’ve finished what I’m working on and am looking to find it a home.

What emotion do you associate with good writing?

What a great – and difficult – question! I can think of examples of great writing that conjure up almost every emotion under the sun, so for me, it’s not a question of which emotions are involved, but how a piece creates its emotional impact.

I feel in great hands if all the elements of a piece of writing – style, setting, characters, pace, tone, diction, etc. – work in concert with each other to create a nuanced emotional landscape in which I am invited to participate. If, however, I feel like the author is hovering over my shoulder, constantly pointing out how I should feel about certain characters, events, or situations, I’m more likely to feel manipulated and disengaged. Crafting an emotional resonance requires delicacy and finesse, which is why it’s so easy, I think, for writers to fall into the trap of taking short-cuts like overusing adverbs, ‘telling’ when ‘showing’ is more appropriate, or relying on too much summary or exposition.

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