Author Profile – HANNAH SUTHERLAND

Hannah won Cranked Anvil’s first Flash Fiction prize with her story Warm Milk. You can read it on our website here.

She has also been placed 2nd in the Writing East Midland’s 2020 Aurora Prize. She’s been listed in a few competitions including Strands International, Retreat West, Flash 500 and The Phare Magazine. 

Her Novella-in-Flash Small Things was Highly Commended in the Bath Novella-in-Flash Award and will be published by Ad Hoc Fiction later in the year. She has forthcoming writing in The Common Breath’s ‘voices in the dark’ series, Ellipsis Zine and (mac)ro(mic).

She can be found on Twitter @HannahWrites88.

Firstly, tell us a little bit about yourself, and the kind of stuff you like to write. 

I’m Scottish. I live in Aberdeenshire, work part time as a teacher and spend the rest of my week looking after my toddler and writing.  I like exploring messy, multi-faceted relationships, whether this be romantically, in friendships or with family dynamics.

I’m just really drawn to capturing the tiny moments which may seem insignificant to an outsider but mean the world to the character, living in that moment. I write short stories and flash fiction and I’m working on a short story collection and novel. I’ve written a Novella-in-Flash and have completely fallen in love with the form. So just a little bit of everything, really! 

How long have you been writing, and what was it that first got you started? 

I’ve been writing since I was at high school. My English teacher was always very complimentary of the stories I’d write and encouraged it. I’ve been teaching for ten and a half years and was a bridal makeup artist for six years too, while I wrote as a hobby whenever I had free time, which wasn’t often.  

In March 2020, I decided to prioritise my writing and started submitting to magazines and competitions, just to see how I’d get on. I think the writing community on Twitter is such a fantastic place where everyone seems genuine and supportive. We’re all writers, we all know how difficult it can be getting our words down, and so it’s great to cheer, celebrate, support and be supported.

What does your writing day/schedule look like?

I work two days a week as a teacher in a Primary School. When I’m not teaching, I look after my very active toddler and if he naps in the afternoon, I edit. I do something writing based every evening from around 6.30pm-11pm, whether that’s working on my own novel, working on a short story, reading a novel or online magazine, or reading and critiquing pieces for workshops.

How have you found writing during lockdown times? Has your writing day changed much from how it was pre-lockdown? 

Lockdown has definitely helped my writing. I’ve prioritised it, whereas before lockdown I was always busy and barely made time to write at all. I did worry that I wouldn’t be able to sustain this level of commitment to my writing when lockdown finishes, but it’s almost been a year now and I think writing is now such a big part of my life that I will always made time to write.

Tell us about the last thing you were working on. And also, a little about your very next project. 

The last thing I was working on was my Novella-in-Flash which has just placed Highly Commended in the Bath Novella-in-Flash Award which is really exciting. It will be published by Ad Hoc Fiction later in the year which still feels like a dream! I am so grateful to Jude Higgins and John at Ad Hoc for taking the chance on my wee NiF 

What successes have you had in the past? How do you feel when you see your work in print? 

I used to feel so vulnerable when I saw my work out there in the world! It was the strangest feeling, to want so badly for your writing to do well, and then when it does, to clam up and feel so exposed, but I’m getting better at managing this feeling and trying to relax and enjoy it!  

My first competition placement was actually the first competition I entered, when I placed 2nd in the Writing East Midland’s Aurora Prize in October 2020. That really gave me the confidence boost I needed to keep submitting and pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Permission to write on, really. 

Since then, I’ve been published in a few online literary magazines and made a few longlists and shortlists, and of course, winning your Flash Fiction Competition in January 2021 was a massive highlight – I still don’t think has sunk in yet – thank you!  

I’ve a few exciting publications coming up in the summer months and I’m really looking forward to seeing them out in the world.  

Do you have a particular place where you go to write? 

I just write on my sofa, under loads of blankets, in complete silence. Nowhere special, it’s just cosy and quiet, and very comfortable and my husband brings all the snacks otherwise I’d forget to eat! 

Do you have any tips or advice for other writers?

I think my first bit of advice would just be to start writing and write uncensored – write what you want to write, get it down on paper (or on your laptop) and the edits can come later. Don’t get hung up with it not being perfect in the first draft.   

Read and read loads. When I’ve a writer’s block, I head to the books, switch off, get lost in somebody else’s world and it really helps.  

Rejection is horrible and it will sting but it doesn’t define your worth as a writer. Writing is so subjective so just try to switch off the outside world and do your thing.   

Make a monthly budget for competition fees and courses. I love learning and so I’m always excited when a course comes up. I’m a total course addict! I’d highly recommend any Curtis Brown Creative Course or Blue Pencil Agency workshop, of which I’ve done many. 

I got so much from Matt Kendrick’s Writing Beyond the Lightbulb Course and Dr Stephanie Carty’s Psychology of Character course. 

Also, don’t underestimate the power of having writer friends. I’m so lucky to have such wonderful beta readers and a strong group of supportive friends after CBC, from Twitter, and a workshopping unit – absolutely invaluable. I also love championing their writing too! 

Finally, some quickfire answers: 

Planner or pantser? 100% pantser. 

Computer, pen & paper, or typewriter? Laptop. 

Do you write every day? Yeah. 

Do you have a daily/weekly word count target? No. I make a wee to do list for each day, whether that’s to edit a piece, read a workshop piece, or do some writing, but it’s not based on word count – I just stop when I feel like I’ve come to a natural end for the day and my brain is mushy!

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