Meet Damhnait Monaghan, judge of the short stories (adults) category

DAMHNAIT MONAGHAN is a Canadian writer living in the UK. Damhnait has an MA in Creative & Critical Writing from Winchester University. Her fiction and creative non-fiction have featured in a variety of anthologies including Flash Nonfiction Funny (Woodhall Press), Flash I Love You (Paper Swans), EllipsisZine One and Hysteria 4. She is published in print and online in Jellyfish Review, Understorey Magazine, Still Point Arts Quarterly, The Fiction Pool, Flash Frontier, Brilliant Flash Fiction and elsewhere. She reads for the literary journal FlashBack Fiction and was a judge for the Hysteria Writing Competition last year.

Twitter: @downith

What writing projects are you working on at the moment?

I’m about to commence a brutal evisceration of a novel manuscript, based on some editorial feedback I’ve received. I’m also writing a novella in flash (NIF), after falling in love with the format. It’s a story told in linked flashes, but each one must also work as a standalone piece. I’ve read a stunning one recently: Stephanie Hutton’s ‘Three Sisters of Stone’ (published by Ellipsis Zine). I was inspired to try writing one after reading the three NIF in the ‘How to Make a Window Snake’ collection (the title piece is by Charmaine Wilkerson; ‘A Safer Way to Fall’ by Joanna Campbell; and ‘Things I Dream About When I’m Not Sleeping’ by Ingrid Jendrzejewski) published last year by Ad Hoc Fiction. And I always seem to have a bunch of flash fiction pieces in varying stages of completion.

What inspired you to join the judging panel?

My mother, who lived in Canada, had moderate dementia. She passed away recently and although her death was unrelated to the dementia, she was still living on her own by choice and the services provided by organisations like Link Age Southwark are so important. More selfishly, judging a competition is a wonderful opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t. I learn so much reading submissions and can apply that knowledge to my own writing. Also, there’s nothing better than sifting through competition entries and finding a corker.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

There is so much advice about ‘How to Write.’  I think you should make your own rules based on what works for you. Write when you can. Fit it in around your life, especially if you have young children. I’m in awe of anyone who manages to write in those early years. I know I didn’t.

And find your tribe. Twitter is a wonderful place to connect with other writers, in my experience. Try not to compare yourself to other writers. We are all on our own journey. Celebrate success, not only your own, but that of your peers.

Which writers inspire you most?

So many, but Alice Munro, Carol Shields (sadly deceased) and Kate Atkinson are consistently brilliant.

Which of your creative projects, past or present, are you most proud of?

It has to be my novel which I still believe in passionately. To have written 80,000 words, with a beginning, a middle and an end, and to have come close to publication means so much. I refuse to give up on it. You often hear people say, ‘Maybe I’ll write a novel someday.’ Well, I did.

Find out more about our writing competition here.