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Looking back, thinking ahead

In six short (mainly locked-down and socially distanced) months, The Phare has travelled from a few ideas over coffee and a (shared) chocolate brownie in the University of Gloucestershire’s refectory, to three successful issues – and our first competition issue due out in February 2021. With my then MA co-student, and now joint editor, Claire Harrison, we’ve curated an impressive array of short story, flash fiction and poetry writers, while sifting through well over 600 submissions from all over the world. With a new year around the corner, now seems like a good time to think about our plans and resolutions, while looking back at our original aspirations for The Phare.

Since 2018, I’d been a fiction and special features editor on a well-established online flash fiction lit-mag but wanted to explore beyond the vast expanses of flash, and beyond the confines of ‘online’. To be noticed in the oceans of lit-mag competition – The Phare was constructed to stand tall as a beacon for both writers and ‘non-writing’ readers. Notice I mention the often forgotten partner in the world of lit-mags – the non-writing reader! Yes, they are out there in large numbers, but in the codified chatter of fiction writers and poets, they’re often overlooked.

I started my own writing journey as an amateur poet but quickly caught the flash fiction bug. The combination in flash of the poetic emotional pull and larger-than-life fictional characters is a potent mix. I still love listening to the firework echo of a great piece of flash fiction, but how much of what’s now published has the non-writing reader in mind? Is it a good read? Now I prefer the more textured feel of a short-form anthology – some short stories, some flash and some poetry. There’s relief in the combined undulations of the more detailed characterisation of the short story, the brief glimpses in flash, and the empty mirror of poetry.

The Phare’s first printed anthology is on our wish list for 2021, featuring the best of our submitted short fictional form and poetry. Looking further into the future, publishing single author collections is something I’d love to engage with. Both anthology and collection, with a mission of re-engaging the non-writing reader; high quality, accessible literature for the modern consumer.

So what else drove me to start The Phare? Part of my Masters’ Degree was the study of the pedagogy of Creative Writing – how do we teach the ‘art’ of fiction and poetry? Can it be taught? Before taking my degree, I’d taken part in many online workshops, writing courses and face-to-face, tutored writing retreats. I’d been amazed at the transformation in my own writing – and now understanding a little of the pedagogical theory – I wanted to put some of it into practice at The Phare. We’ve already run some online workshops and planning our first online retreat in the spring of 2021. I’m looking forward to helping other writers, of all abilities and experience, question what it is they’re really trying to say – to find the truth in their writing.

There will also be some surprises for the writers and readers alike in The Phare’s new year. New prompts, new special features, new ‘genres’, new looks at writing – always partnered with the writer, always with the reader central in our thoughts.

From Claire and me, have a good Christmas and we look forward to seeing you in The Phare in 2021!

Steven John

Joint Managing Editor

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