Mini-Interview with Melissa Goodrich

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

It feels like anything is possible in a shape that small.  It’s like striking a match – quick friction, heat, a perfect edgeless flame burning-down close to the fingertips. For me it’s different because it’s quicker. There’s less lingering in your sentences and paragraphs–in flash, the details aren’t decorative. They are their most deliberate.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

 Oof. I think it’s figurative language. Simile and metaphor especially.  They teach me how not to drown.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

 I think I’m quick/messy–and I love it. The messiness is where the magic happens.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

My anxiety. And how strange it is to be a person.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

 Lydia Davis. Cathy Ulrich. Meghan Phillips. Dana Diehl.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

I love “Sapphires,” a story about trying to calm down, somewhat fruitlessly, in the middle of the night.

Bio: Melissa Goodrich is the author of the collaborative collection The Classroom, the story collection Daughters of Monsters, and the poetry chapbook IF YOU WHAT. Her work has appeared in  American Short Fiction, The Kenyon Review Online, Passages North, PANK,and others.  Find her at melissa-goodrich.com and tweeting @good_rib.

Mini-Interview with Bronwen Griffiths

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

I love writing novels but a novel is like a marriage. Writing a novel requires a long-term commitment whereas flash is more like a passionate affair – it’s often instant and exciting. I think there’s more opportunity to be playful with language and to write on a wider range of topics with flash.    

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Character. Plotting is not my strong point. I love a twisting plot with a surprising end but that’s not my style.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

I’m probably quick and messy at the beginning but I edit, edit and edit. If a flash piece is rejected I will always examine it again to see how it can be improved. But if you ever visited my writing space you’d definitely come away thinking ‘that woman is very messy.’ I cook like this too!

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

I work as a volunteer for an organisation in the UK which campaigns for the Syrian opposition to Assad. I have friends and contacts who are refugees – some were imprisoned by the regime. As a consequence I have written, and continue to write, about refugees and Syria – a book of mine, Not Here, Not Us – Stories of Syria (flash fiction) was published in 2016. However the natural world is also a strong influence in my writing. I love gardening and taking photos of the natural world and am lucky to live in a beautiful part of South-East England.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

The first flash writer I came across – although perhaps she’s not seen as a traditional ‘flash’ writer – is Lydia Davis. I like her style. I also admire the work of Riham Adly, Megan Pillow Davis, Kathy Fish, Len Kuntz, Nancy Stohlman and Tara Isabel Tambraro. I also enjoyed Sophie Van Llewyn’s novella-in-flash, Bottled Goods. There are so many really good flash writers out there now. I swing between being in awe of the talent out there and a feeling of intimidation at the amount of brilliant work that’s now being published. As for the named writers – my list tomorrow might be different – it’s so hard to choose.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

This is a difficult question. In all honesty I’d like more of my stories to be published but I appreciate it’s a competitive market. My piece War Crimes – published in Barren Magazine last year – is one I’m proud of and yes, I’d like more people to read it.

BIO: Bronwen Griffiths is the author of two novels, A Bird in the House (2014) and Here Casts No Shadow (2018) and two collections of flash fiction, Not Here, Not Us – Stories of Syria (2016) and Listen with Mother (2019). Her flash fiction has been published by Bath Flash Fiction, Barren Magazine, Reflex Flash and Spelk, among others. She lives in South-East England. Website: bronwengriff.co.uk Twitter: bronwengwriter

Mini-Interview with Barbara Byar

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

I started writing flash before I knew what it was. In 2015, I started a writers’ group here in Kerry and set weekly prompts for members. The target word count of around 500 words was dictated by how long it would take to read and critique everyone’s piece each week. At the time, I was mostly focused on my novel, but the prompts were creative jump starts and I grew to love writing very short stories.

All our pieces were a bit messy at first but through honest, constructive feedback, we fine-tuned them and learned what worked and what didn’t. I submitted my first piece for publication in Jan 2017 and it was accepted the first place I subbed. That was easy, I thought. Little did I know.

The beauty of flash is it a mechanism to tell epic stories in a minimum of words. And by epic, I don’t necessarily mean the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, but anything from a character study to a thriller; flash’s length belies its enormity. It’s about distillation—a word perfume, with distinct notes forming an overall essence which will hopefully linger long after reading.

Some say you can’t tell a proper story in less than 1,000 words but I say nothing will improve your overall writing craft more than mastering this art of distillation.  

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Oh, plot all the way. To me, the story is key and always a transformative experience for my characters who are frequently just along for the ride.

How my characters react to the circumstances they find themselves in determines either their evolution or demise. Ultimately, the reader learns more about my characters from their actions than anything I can ever say about them. My adage is—you are what you do, not what you say.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Slow and precise sounds like a death sentence to me. My best pieces usually flood straight out. I may fiddle with bits here and there to tighten the prose but if an interesting idea resonates with me emotionally, a piece writes itself.

For example, Bear which was published by Fictive Dream for Flash Fiction February 2019. I envisioned a child whose only friend was her stuffed Bear. It began innocuously enough but I immediately tapped into the well of impotent rage and confusion I felt as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I wrote it in about five minutes.

If you are writing truth as you see it, the words will come dynamically and with power. It is only when we tamper and tone, embellish and prettify that it all goes to shit.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

All of it. Anything and everything is material, even if it’s just plucked from the dark recesses of my imagination.  All good stories are rooted in reality—from literary to genre—doesn’t matter, when you read it, you always hear the tenor of truth.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

Currently, I’m digging: the bubbling, tragic-comic rage of Gaynor Jones; the hypnotic, raw rhythms of Meg Pillow; and Donna Greenwood’s strange and compelling lyricism.

I’m a fan of the magical realism of Cheryl Pearson and Anita Goveas. Also, the quietly tragic narratives of Chris Drew.  I just finished Peter Jordan’s collection Calls from Distant Places and loved it.

From my writers’ group, Ashling Denney and Davena O’Neill are two to keep an eye on.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

Porcelain – this was the first story I ever published and no one took much notice at the time. It’s an alternative-view piece about the Dresden bombing; a romance with the obligatory tragic Byar take.

Bio: Barbara Byar is an American immigrant into Ireland who lives in County Kerry with her two sons and two dogs. A previous Irish Writers’ Centre Novel Fair winner, she’s had pieces in various zines, including: Ghost Parachute, Anti-Heroin Chic, Flash Fiction February, Spelk, The Corridor, EllipsisZine, Litro, and Cabinet of Heed. She was short-listed for the 2017 Over the Edge New Writer of the Year Award and long listed for the 2017 Bare Fiction Prize. Barbara is also a reader and Senior Editor for TSS Publishing, UK and Virtual Zine.

Her debut collection Some Days Are Better Than Ours: A Collection of Tragedies will be published by Reflex Press UK on November 5th, 2019. Pre-order here:  https://www.reflex.press/product/some-days-are-better-than-ours/

Mini-Interview with Chance Dibben

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

I was first really introduced to flash by Deb Olin Unferth. I was lucky enough to take her Very Short Story course when she briefly taught at the University of Kansas. At the time I was thinking more in terms of poetry for what I wanted to do with writing (well that and screenwriting).

I think about the books, stories, and lessons of that class all the time. It was a survey course, but we did have an opportunity to write our own pieces. I sorta tucked mine away. Flash forward (pun intended) some years later and I’m taking on flash writing with a more concerted effort. I was transitioning from a period of performing comedy and running comedy shows. I took that energy into writing stories—so my pieces are very much informed by joke-telling. I write flash because my brain is now wired for it.

What I love about flash is that it is so encompassing! You can have cheeky jokesters like me, you can have folks who create very serious and dramatic scenarios. You can have pieces that subvert fantasy tropes. You can go to space and blow up the earth in a paragraph. You can draw out a characters’ thought over two pages. You can go macro, micro, and everywhere in between. You can break hearts in a sentence. Because the stakes feel lower compared to other forms (and IMO they are not) you get this urge to experiment and explore.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Probably character. Throw an interesting character into the most banal of situations and you’ll probably still have a story. But, in some of my favorite flash stories, the characters are purposefully thin, so the plot becomes the character. I value both voice-driven pieces and pieces that feel like logic puzzles.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Quick and messy. Build the idea or feeling in your head before you write. Let it be something so weird that a) don’t want to write it and b) you have to write it. Sit down, write quick, and surprise yourself as you go along. Then edit, edit, edit, edit.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

So many stories of mine draw from real life situations. Some are only very lightly fictionalized. Both these micros that appeared in Gravel are basically real things that happened to me.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

Kathy Fish
Lydia Davis

Diane Williams

Mercedes Lucero

Deb Olin Unferth

Franz Kafka’s “Passersby
Cathy Ulrich

Megan Giddings

Amber Sparks
Woody Skinner’s “The Wavering Grass”

Amelia Gray (in particular, “These Are The Fables”)
Adam Levin “The Extra Mile”

Meeah Williams “Did I Say That
Tyler Barton
Marisa Crane, (“Beef and Cheddar with Extra Arby’s Sauce”)
This Dave Housley piece

Troy James Weaver “Tennis Balls”

Ryūnosuke Akutagawa

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

Hmm…I don’t know. I’m always happy when a piece gets picked up and someone decides to read it.

My joke answer is: all the ones sitting in Submittable unread!

My real answer is: the flash community is really fucking cool.

**

BIO: Chance Dibben is a writer, photographer, and music-maker living in Lawrence, KS. His poems and shorts have appeared in Split Lip, Reality Beach, Horsethief, Yes Poetry, matchbook, Hobart, as well as others.

Mini-Interview with Peter Jordan

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

I lack stamina, and discipline. And I have a low boredom threshold. Maybe that’s a result of dyslexia (etc & etc.) So, I love reading flash, and I also love writing it. And, of course, I’m an addict: I like to mood alter quickly. Really good flash pieces do that for me. And it’s possible — it doesn’t always happen, but it’s possible — to write a story in one sitting.

Also, I think the very fact that flash is so short has a reader come to a brand new story already primed for the reception of metaphor and suggestion.  Somehow, that makes the writing all the more powerful. In this way, I think, flash is closer to poetry than it is to longer short fiction.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

I’m not sure plot ever consciously features in any of my flash fiction. Character is plot, I can’t remember who said that, but it’s true. In any event, I prefer short stories without plot. The flash stories I write aren’t stories that can be told aloud in a bar or over dinner. It’s all about the combination of words. Often there isn’t a story at all; just a slice of life: a cross section.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

I don’t have any set time or routine. A new story usually starts off quick and messy. I write as fast as I can. Then, after a completed first draft, I edit again and again (ad infinitum). It’s a naturally reductive process. So, a 600-word piece will usually end up as a 300-word final draft. I try to do what Robert Olen Butler suggests in his book From Where You Dream; writing from the subconscious (that pre-dream state where all of the answers come), then I let the completed first draft sit and stew for days or even weeks, before doing the edits using the conscious mind.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

My addiction, most definitely or more precisely the 20-odd years I lost to it — the hospitalisations, the rehab, the psychiatric appointments, and the therapy.

I mean, I hate the idea of imposed themes in short story collections; that’s for bookshop owners and publishers who want to know where to place your book on a shelf, or how to easily promote it.

There is however a thread in my work: often the underdog and redemption. I owe writing a lot. The very act of writing helped me get sober. And it helps keep me sober.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

I remember reading a Raymond Carver interview in which his early mentor John Gardener advised him to read the stories in the small presses. I would say to any aspiring flash writer, read this year’s BIFFY50. Many of the stories on that list are quality. That’s where you’ll learn craft and technique.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

One particular story does come to mind: The Killing Chair (Spelk https://spelkfiction.com/2017/07/10/the-killing-chair/). A friend of mine, an American professor who teaches inner city kids in Philadelphia used that story in his class. That felt better than winning something.

BIO: Peter Jordan is a short story writer from Belfast. Last year he won the Bare Fiction prize, came second in the Fish and was shortlisted for the Bridport and the Bath. Over 50 of his stories have appeared in literary magazines, journals and anthologies. His debut short story collection Calls to Distant Places can be purchased on Amazon. You will find him on twitter @pm_jordan.

Mini-Interview with Todd Dillard

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

Flash is where I go when I am writing about a sequence of events that happen over a period of time (which I think is the foundation of narrative) but want to use the logic of a poem. It’s like the Shark Tunnel at my local aquarium: I have to start at the beginning and reach the end, but what I see in between is always new, always outside the rules and boundaries of my (or my narrator’s) existence. Flash is where I go to observe what I cannot touch.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

I’m not sure how I want to answer this—for me, plot is the stuff that happens based on the character’s desire. Joey wants a hamburger so he goes to the local fast food joint but on the way a whale falls out of the sky, blocking the entrance to McDonald’s. People are inside the whale’s mouth, arguing over a map, one of them asks Joey for directions to Second Babylon, but Joey is really hungry and McDonald’s is closing soon. How am I supposed to choose character or plot here? My sympathies lie with the whale, I think.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

I’m quick and messy with first drafts—I have to be! It’s a race against distraction all the time. I jot most of my ideas down either right before I fall asleep, or on the bus/subway, or on those scarce moments I’m at work and have a beat. Editing is where things slow down, and I will go word by word, sentence by sentence, weighing each against the other, shrinking the content until it’s distilled into just enough to say what I want to say. Sometimes quick and messy is quick and done too! Bust most of the time I need days, weeks, sometimes years to finish a piece. If I don’t get a first draft down quickly though—if I start and then I stop—I have no idea when I will finish it. I currently have three flash pieces arrested in their first halves because I couldn’t crank out an ending ASAP.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

I’m a writer specializing in academic affairs content for a teaching hospital, handling the appointment, reappointment, and promotion materials for our hundreds of faculty, as well as official letters and website content for our department, so I think being able to work with words all day really strengthens my sense of what “works” and what can go in my writing. There’s no opportunity for ambiguity in my work-related writing, which I think really helps me maintain lucid narratives in my creative writing. That being said, I also think being a dad has really motivated me to write and create. I messed around with writing novels for a few years after my MFA (Sarah Lawrence College, 2008), but for some reason as soon as I became a father I started writing poetry and flash again. That was only a few years ago, which feels pretty wild to me since so much has happened related to my writing since then!

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

I think Kathy Fish, Cathy Ulrich, and Kathryn McMahon are some of the best flash fiction writers who have ever lived and I am so thankful they’re alive and writing today!

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

All of them! I love my flash pieces. I identify myself primarily as a poet, so whenever I end up writing flash fiction I’m just so happy because it’s like rediscovering I can still surprise myself. If I had to pick just one though, I’d say my piece “The Hand” in Lost Balloon. It started off as a lyrical, multi-sectioned poem, but it was like trying to dress a bowling ball in chiffon. When I finally adapted it to flash, it suddenly had enough room to make sense, and what came out was a little quotidian horror story about grief and what it means to move on.

BIO: Todd Dillard’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous publications, including The Boiler Journal, Superstition Review, Nimrod, Longleaf Review, and Crab Creek Review. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and daughter.

Mini-Interview with Jason Jackson

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

I write flash for the same reason I write anything: because I love doing it. And flash helps me remember that good writing is about using as few words as possible to tell your story. Writers often like the sound of their own (or their narrator’s) voice too much. Flash reminds me to shut up. Get out of the way of the story. And it’s great for editing practice. Write long if you must. But edit short.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

I can’t write plots. I’ve tried. I can come up with a moment, an epiphany, a striking image to begin or end on. But my writing is character-driven. I hear about people who map things out, or they use a card system, colour-coding, spreadsheets, and I’ve read widely about narrative theory, but it’s too “conscious” for me. Pinter said he just wrote what the characters in his head were saying, and mostly, I do that. Once I’ve got the narrative voice, everything gets easier.   

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

The best stories come out in an unstoppable flow. But then editing is slow and precise. I enjoy both. I often enjoy editing more, the cutting back, the chipping away. I’ve done exercises where you write a full story to a strict, low, wordcount, say, one thousand words. Then you leave it for a day, and when you come back you have to cut it in half. It’s always – always – a better story for it.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

I try not to write autobiographically, but the big things in my life bleed into my stories: being a son, being a father, being divorced, falling in love, giving up booze, losing people, and battling – as many do – with four-in-the-morning fears. Getting up and getting on with it, Like Carver said: “Life. Always life.”

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

There’s a huge amount of flash fiction published, and a lot of it is not necessarily very good. It’s like any art form: much of what is produced is mediocre. And I’m happy to include most of my own work in this! But there are some excellent flash writers out there. I want to mention three, to keep it manageable.

Meg Pokrass writes flash fiction which is immediately recognizable as uniquely hers. It’s something I greatly admire in her work.

Peter Jordan is a writer I’ve come to “know” through twitter. He does something in his stories which makes me want to show them to everyone and say, “See? That’s what I mean!”  The words don’t get in the way of the stories.

Adam Lock often writes a particular kind of flash – brief, present tense, deceptively simple, but full of symbolic resonance. I find them incredibly effective.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

I’m going with a story published earlier this year online at The Nottingham Review called Counterpoint. When I wrote it, I had a feeling that I’d done almost exactly what I wanted to do, that I’d had an idea and I’d put that idea on paper in a way which felt very satisfying. That’s what writing can be, when it works. It made me feel a real sense of accomplishment.  

Bio: Jason Jackson’s prize-winning fiction has been published extensively online and in print. In 2019 his work has appeared at New Flash Fiction Review and Nottingham Review. In January, Jason’s hybrid photography/prose piece The Unit was published by A3 Press. His stories have been nominated for The Pushcart Prize and Best of Small Fictions. Jason tweets @jj_fiction

Mini-Interview with Benjamin Niespodziany

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

I write flash once the poem begins to grow arms and legs. Almost all of my first drafts are done in lined stanzas, and if I feel like there’s more to be said and I need to expand the story or mold a proper narrative, I’ll form paragraphs and run with it. That being said, I always keep it brief. It’s rare that I write something more than 500 words and my comfort zone is 200-300 words. I suppose the divider between prose poetry and microfiction and flash within my writing is less like caution tape and more like a fishing line dropped in a swampy bathtub.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

My lifejacket is a deflating air mattress blown up with internal rhyme and tongue twisters. I love creating pieces around how words sound: like a piece I’m working on called ‘The Indelible Relative’ or another called ‘The Kenosha Poet’. From there, after my mattress has deflated or exploded with words that curtsy in a hearse, and once I begin sinking to the bottom of the sea, I start to (briefly, spastically) pay attention to character and plot.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Very quick and very messy. I write 5-15 tiny pieces every day, most of which I never revisit or revitalize. At the end of every month, with about 250 pieces in the vault, I skim through all of them and print out 25 or so pieces and fine tune them with a hypercritical pen. Then I edit the pieces back into a Word doc and proceed to touch them up 1-10 more times before reluctantly submitting.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

Working at a library! Not only do I imagine what would happen if someone walked in with a licensed therapy snake, or if someone pulled back a book and unearthed a hidden dungeon, but I also check out (and read) numerous books a week. My library has 4.5 million books and a percentage of those are always found resting by my desk, helping me when I hit a speedbump or crash into a thick brick wall. I’m also inspired/influenced by visual artists (via Behance or Instagram) and surreal films (watch everything by Alex van Warmerdam).  

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

The list would be endless! Okay, instead of mentioning members of the community we all vacate (hi, Cathy Ulrich and Noa Sivan), I’d rather mention those I’ve discovered elsewhere. The short stories of Sabrina Orah Mark and Jen George, for example. Seriously, go read Wild Milk and The Babysitter at Rest. The fairy tales of Kate Bernheimer, for example. Amelia Gray! Also, I know it’s not flash, but please read the new novel by Sarah Rose Etter. She has a great short story collection Tongue Party if you want something briefer, but her debut novel is flash-esque and works so well in short spurts and compact fragments. It’s also devastatingly relentless. Ten thumbs up.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

I wrote a piece about ‘Dr. Sky’ in the Spring issue of Gone Lawn that I really enjoy. It’s one of the earlier pieces in my manuscript-in-progress, and while I’ve tinkered with it a bit (with an updated ending), I really like the version over at Gone Lawn. Much love to them.

Bio: Benjamin Niespodziany has had work published in Fairy Tale Review, Jellyfish Review, Milk Candy Review, and a batch of other ‘reviews’. Originally from Mishawaka, Indiana, he now works in a library in Chicago and runs the multimedia art site [neonpajamas].

Mini-Interview with Ken Elkes

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

I dabbled with writing for a good few years, producing some rank poetry, a sitcom pilot that didn’t get commissioned for a series, and a few published short stories that had a cheesy aroma about them. But pressures of full-time work, a lack of confidence and a fat dollop of imposter syndrome stopped me committing to writing. Then I found an online course based around producing flash. I liked the discipline, the production, the way I could fit it into my life. I liked the way the form’s close attention to language nurtures my poetic tendencies while it also feeds my urge to tell a story. I like the way the form defies simple explanation and still feels outside the mainstream. Necessity and intrigue – that’s why I write flash.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Neither. It’s voice. And by voice I mean a composite of elements (such as tone, diction and syntax, point of view, authorial style etc) that produces distinctiveness within a story.
I write flash when the voice of the piece comes to me. It’s the thing that keeps me afloat during the story. It’s what gives me a sense of how and where to come ashore.
If I have to choose from the given options, then character. In flash you can get away without much plot, but a character has to change in some way, or as Rust Hills points out in his book on the short story, there has to be movement. There’s where the sweet stuff is for me – when I don’t merely find out what has happened, but when I found out what has happened to a character.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

The writing stage is, for me, a bit like ‘awkward young man sex’. There’s a lot of anticipation before some very frenetic and messy activity, a bit of ungainly flailing and a sudden, swift end. Sometimes a little lie down is needed afterwards.
The editing stage is a bit more grown up. Although I’ve produced prize winning work in half an hour (which has required no more editing than a wash of the face and a comb of the hair) most times it’s taken several drafts and repeated editing to get a piece right. At the far end of the scale is the flash that has to marinate in its own juices for a couple of years before the story reaches the right level of tenderness.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

Well, for a start, there’s everything. From the dog with ears dyed blue at the tips that I saw in a park two days ago to the smell of the final letter my first girlfriend wrote. From the sound of my father eating a bowl of cool raspberries a few days before he died to the splashy way the stars show themselves at night in a desert. What I’m saying, in an overly florid way, is that the most influential factor in my writing is an openness to experience and observation, and the ability to recognise potential writing material when it is dredged up from memory or when it presents itself in the moment. These are the waves I ride on in my writerly lifejacket.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

Today it is the following. Tomorrow it will probably be very different.

My Jockey by Lucia Berlin

Little Things by Raymond Carver

Mother by Grace Paley

Bs by Eley Williams

Reunion by John Cheever

Roll and Curl by Ingrid Jendrewski

Girl by Jamaica Kincaid

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

I never planned to write a flash fiction collection, so I’m pretty happy that the previously published pieces in All That Is Between Us will get a fresh airing, while the new material I wrote for the collection will find some readers. Obviously, I hope for as wide an audience as possible, and that the collection gets more recognition. But I also know that’s tricky, as flash fiction collections aren’t exactly crammed into every bookshop window. So I tread that fine line between being humble and grateful for the readers that I have found, and a grumpy neediness for more.

Bio: K.M. Elkes lives and works in the West Country, UK. His flash fiction collection All That Is Between Us was published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. He has won or been placed in a number of international writing competitions, including the Manchester Fiction Prize, Fish Publishing Prize, Bath Flash Fiction Award, Aesthetica Creative Writing Award and the Bath Short Story Award. His short fiction has been published in more than 30 print anthologies in the UK and internationally, as well as literary magazines such as The Lonely Crowd, Unthology, Mechanic’s Institute Review, Short Fiction Journal and Structo. He is a short story tutor for Comma Press and has led workshops at the UK Flash Fiction Festival and for National Flash Fiction Day. His work has featured on BBC radio and on school and college curricula in the USA, India and Hong Kong.

All That Is Between Us is available to buy worldwide in paperback or e-book from Ad Hoc Fiction via this link: https://bookshop.adhocfiction.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=65&products_id=192

Accolades and Reviews for All That Is Between Us

“Truthful, revelatory, and beautifully written, All That Is Between Us is a collection you’ll want to read and re-read.”
~ Kathy Fish, author of Wild Life: Collected Works

“K.M. Elkes writes like a fallen angel, making the ordinary divine…This is breath-taking flash fiction at its finest.” 
~ Angela Readman, author of Something Like Breathing

“Whoever you are, whatever you like to read, you need these stories in your life.”
~ Tania Hershman, author of Some Of Us Glow More Than Others

“These insightful and disarmingly honest stories shimmer with quirky brilliance.” 
~ Meg Pokrass, author of Alligators At Night 

Brings a Cheever-esque emotional punch to his stories, married to a sweet, left-of-field insight that is all his own…a masterclass in the heart-jolting satisfaction of great flash fiction.”
~ Nuala O’Connor, author of Joyride to Jupiter

“This was a highly enjoyable collection of flash, a collection often grounded in the everyday but that transcends the everyday in the way of all great fiction.”

~ review from Sabotage Reviews

“Crackles with all the complexities of human relationships, narrative blazes, if you like, that may be tiny in size but vast on matters of the heart. Stories crafted with an emotional wisdom that scythes.
~ review in Storgy Magazine

Mini-Interview with Damhnait Monaghan

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

I started writing flash properly at a point where my novel manuscript had been rejected so many times that I wanted a break from the long form. Then as seems to happen, I got hooked on flash. What’s different for me is its immediacy: it’s a snapshot, a moment in time, a passing glimpse of life, as you drive by in the car.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Can I have a lifejacket and two water wings, please. Sometimes, it’s character, sometimes it’s plot; more often, it’s voice. I hear that voice in my head and bam, it’s on.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Quick and messy, including literal messiness. Sometimes when I look back at my notes, I can’t read my own writing. I’ve been known to take photos of my scrawls and ask for help in deciphering. Editing is where I’m slow and precise. I especially enjoy the challenge of cutting something down or carefully selecting words to meet a micro word limit.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

Motherhood, grief, loss, feeling like an outsider. I’ve learned that my best flash stories have an element of truth at their core. That truth may have been altered, tweaked, and polished, but it’s there.

But random things can also spark an idea – walking the dog, road kill, something I overhear in the street: add some ‘what if’ for kindling and I’m off.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

I’m going to be a bit cheeky and instead recommend a literary journal that is near and dear to my heart – FlashBack Fiction. Our timeline is replete with cracking stories and I’d encourage your readers to dive in. What’s more, I’d love it if they submitted a historical flash to us.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

Honestly, Tommy, I’m grateful if people read any. Shout out to the super supportive flash community on Twitter who read and share my stories.

That said, I have a soft spot for the teenage girls in my micro ‘The Weather Girls.’ It won the Spider Road Press flash competition, but was published only in their subscriber newsletter. I’d love more people to read it someday.

BIO: Damhnait Monaghan was born and grew up in Canada but now lives in the U.K. Her flash fiction has won or placed in various competitions and is widely published and anthologised. Her writing has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best Small Fictions, and Best Microfictions. Her flash pamphlet, ‘The Neverlands’ is out now with V. Press. She’s an Editor at FlashBack Fiction and tweets @Downith.

Mini-Interview with Evan James Sheldon

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

 I don’t have a lot of time. Right now, I’m working four different jobs (all part-time, it’s not as crazy as it sounds) and my wife and I have a newborn. When I make time to write, it is really satisfying to be able to complete something. Then, I can make a pass at editing in a different sitting, and then another, and so on. I heard some excellent advice to always finish the scene. I need that momentum to help carry me through and discover what it is I am really writing about. Once I discover that bit, my interest wanes, and if I’m not interested you know the reader won’t be. 

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

 Neither? That’s not a fair answer, I know, but what really brings me into the story is something weird. Sometimes it’s a character trait, sometimes it’s a strange event, but that is what tends to get me going. That said, once I’m in there, it is all about character. I’ve tried the other way and it always falls apart or feels forced, like I’ve gotten ahead of myself. I think that I need to be able to experience whatever strangeness is going on with the character and let the story grow from there. 

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

 Definitely quick and messy. I carry a notebook in my back pocket and will text myself little tidbits or ideas. I let all of that build until there is something that I can’t get beyond, like an image that I have to reckon with. Then I’ll take a run at it. Most of the time I get somewhere and then can go back and edit the pieces together and bolster the themes that I see appearing. That is a fun part for me because I know that I’m getting close. 

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

 Relationships, particularly family relationships, have always trickled their way into my writing, often when I don’t even intend them to. Now that we have little one, I am so curious how that will influence my work. I probably won’t know or be able to point to another moment that feels so crucial to how I interact with the world, even if I can’t see how it is playing out quite yet. 

 If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

 I love Lydia Davis, Kathy Fish, Meg Pokrass, Cathy Ulrich. I read a piece by Christopher Allen in Longleaf Review a while back that I can’t stop thinking about. We, by we I mean F(r)iction, recently published a piece by Kim Chinquee that is so short and so perfect. Ludmilla Petrushevskaya’s collections are probably my favorite books I own, and Calvino’s Invisible Cities changed how I thought about writing. Joy Williams’s 99 Stories of God should be required reading. There’s more, but if you are looking to get into reading or writing flash any and all of these writers will amaze you. 

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

 I had a story come out with Fictive Dream a while back that I really loved. It has a structure that I was experimenting with that I think gave the ending a lot of force. It’s about a girl who is being chased by horses that only she can see. 

BIO: Evan James Sheldon’s work has appeared most recently in Foliate Oak,Gone LawnNew Plains Review, and Queen Mob’s Tea House. He is a Senior Editor for F(r)iction and the Editorial Coordinator for Brink Literacy Project. You can find him online at evanjamessheldon.com

Mini-Interview with Andrew Roe

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

When I started writing flash it was mostly out of necessity. I was struggling to finish a novel and even traditional length short stories felt daunting. I was a new parent, working full time, with a long drive/commute. My time was limited and so I began writing flash. The sense of completion was very fulfilling, but I also really came to love the form—what makes it different for me is the challenge, the possibility of saying so much in so little space.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

That’s an easy one: character. I like to say plot is my kryptonite. I think I’m getting better.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Slow and precise—that’s me. I labor over sentences, syllables, commas, em dashes, the sound/feel/look of certain letters when juxtaposed against other letters. It takes longer to get a first draft, but usually—usually—it’s a fairly solid first draft. I’m a turtle. I try to focus on achieving momentum—no matter how large or small—every day. Or every week. My writing time lately has been pretty minimal.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

It’s an obvious answer, but it’s true—I’d have to say being a parent and having a family. It does change how you navigate and view the world, and if you’re squeezing in writing fiction in addition to family life and work and anything else, it forces you to focus and maximize any writing time you have. There’s no later; there’s no putting it off until the moment is right and you find the ideal writing conditions; there are no writing conditions except having a desire and compulsion to write and keep writing.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

Wow. So many. I’m just going to start listing without thinking about it too much…

“Three Things You Should Know About Peggy Paula” by Lindsay Hunter

“The Once Mighty Fergusons” by Kathy Fish

“Baby Arm” by Roxane Gay

“Wants” by Grace Paley

“Forever Overhead” by David Foster Wallace

And some writers who do flash: Joy Williams, Lucia Berlin, Deb Olin Unferth, Josh Denslow, Meg Pokrass, Ethel Rohan, Robert Vaughn, Len Kuntz, Kim Chinquee, Heather Fowler, Lauren Becker, Ben Loory, Sara Lippmann…

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

I feel like I’ve been very lucky and have been able to place stories in various publications. One of my favorite stories—and I think one of my best—is “A Matter of Twenty-Four Hours.” It appeared in Glimmer Train and it’s in my collection Where You Live. So I can’t really complain about recognition. But I’d love it if more people found their way to this story.

BIO: Andrew Roe is the author of the novel The Miracle Girl, a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist, and Where You Livea collection of short stories. His short fiction has appeared in Tin House, One Story, The Sun, Glimmer Train, The Cincinnati Review, and other literary magazines, as well as the anthologies Where Love Is Found (Washington Square Press) and 24 Bar Blues (Press 53). In addition, his essays and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Salon.com, Writer’s Digest, and other publications. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and three children. For more information, visit andrewroeauthor.com.

Mini-Interview with William Gilmer

Why do you write flash? What makes it different?
There can be a sort of freedom in limits. A story that’s thousands of words long is going to have expectations about depth, character progression, detailed settings, etc. and flash doesn’t need to be bothered with all of it. When facing a short word count, you just don’t have the time to develop huge sprawling word-scapes or plots that weave the reader through a dozen twists and turns. Flash allows you to hyper focus on the idea or concept that brought you to the page in the first place. I love that can sit down and say, “I want the reader to feel this,” and fully concentrate on that one aspect. I have had a lot of ideas that wouldn’t be able to support pages of story but that work perfectly in the flash arena.
Flash forces us to distill a story down to its best, most critical, parts. It’s the difference between sipping a few fingers of bourbon and drinking a mug of beer. Ideally, you’re going to end up in the same place, one is just going to be a quicker, more intense, ride.  
 
What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?
Wow, how can you choose? I think we all want to see interesting characters doing interesting things, but if there’s a gun to my head, I have to say characters. I can think of dozens of flash pieces that amount to little more than two characters talking. Maybe they’re two robots roaming Earth after the apocalypse, or a wife visiting her husband on his death bed, if they are characters you can feel for, can root for, then it doesn’t really matter to me what they are doing. The reverse is not usually true for me. I have seen too many great scenarios ruined by hollow or cardboard characters.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?
 There’s no doubt that I’m a member of the turtle writer’s club. Is slow and messy an option? I tend to plot things out very carefully when the time comes to get everything on paper. I’m the kind of person that will let a story ride around in my head for weeks or even months until I think I have it all figured out. Fermentation has its benefits, as long as you can be patient.
 
What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences you?
  I would be lost without music! Music, for me, is a great way to get in touch with the emotions I want to present in a piece. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to mimic, or represent, the feelings I get for certain pieces of music with words. Sometimes all it takes is a simple melody to get my head into the right “tone” for a particular story. I’ve gone so far as to listen to different music for different characters or scenes in the same piece. The right song can really help get me into the right head-space.  
 
If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?
My Husband is Made of Ash – By Jennifer Todhunter. While everything that Jennifer Todhunter puts out is amazing, this piece has always had a place in my heart.
http://www.smokelong.com/my-husband-is-made-of-ash/

For Our Light Affliction – By Stephen S. Power. I have a soft spot for crafty Satan characters, and the ending is so “Good Omens”-esque! There probably isn’t a month that goes by that this piece doesn’t pop into my head for one reason or another.
https://dailysciencefiction.com/fantasy/religious/stephen-s-power/for-our-light-affliction

Offspring – By Brenda Anderson. This piece is pure absurdity and I love every word of it! This story taught me that you can do anything in flash, the only limits on our imaginations are the ones we put there ourselves.
http://flashfictiononline.com/main/article/offspring/

 What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?
Wow, that’s a hard one. I appreciate every eye that finds its way to something I’ve written, so I’m never disappointed by any amount of recognition! Back in 2017 The Sunlight Press was gracious enough to publish a piece of mine titled “Sambuca Zen”. The story didn’t gain much traction, which I always chalked up to the fact that it was off genre for me. This was the first non-speculative piece that I had released into the world. While I’m not sure how much recognition it deserves, it will always be something that I’m very proud of.
https://www.thesunlightpress.com/2017/08/22/sambuca-zen/

BIO: Will Gilmer is a writer and poet living in Metro-Detroit. Over two dozen of his stories have appeared in print and online. When he’s not putting his thoughts on paper you can find him piddling in a garden, brewing beer, or practicing for he and his wife’s imaginary appearance on The Great British Bake Off. If there isn’t enough going on in your feed, follow him on Twitter @willwritethings. BIO:

Mini-Interview with Francine Witte

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

I write flash because I adore the compression of it. I love telling bits of a story and letting the reader fill in the rest. I like this in longer work, too. Subtext has always fascinated me.

I also like to write a lot of different things. That’s why I prefer poetry and flash to longer forms. Whenever I am working on a longer story, there’s a part of me saying. I could have written five flashes by now.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

I’m big on character. You get the character, the plot just follows.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Quick and messy, to be sure. If I don’t get a story in the first draft, I move on. Not to say, I don’t revise, but if the bones aren’t there, it’s over.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

Love gone wrong, to be sure.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

Oh my, so many. Robert Scotellaro, Meg Pokrass, Leonora Desar, Pam Painter, Paul Beckman, I could go on and on.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

Every so often, I write a story that I really think hits the mark, and I submit it and it takes forever to get accepted. That one.

BIO: Francine Witte is the author of four poetry chapbook, one full-length collection, and the forthcoming, Theory of Flesh from Kelsay Books. Her flash fiction has appeared in numerous journals, anthologized in the most recent New Micro (W.W. Norton) and her novella-in-flash, The Way of the Wind is forthcoming from Ad Hoc Fiction, as well as a full-length collection of flash fiction, Dressed All Wrong for This which is forthcoming from Blue Light Press. She live in New York City, USA.

Mini-Interview with Kristin Tenor

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

My stories often lean toward the quiet details that surround a relationship, a life, with the hope they’ll somehow uncover the extraordinary. Once during a writer workshop at UW-Madison, our instructor introduced the class to Robert Hass’ “Story About a Body.” Without too much of a spoiler here, the piece concludes with the lasting image of a blue bowl filled with dead bees covered by rose petals. I’m continually amazed and inspired by what the well-chosen detail can convey through image and implication alone. Resonance is the gold standard to any lasting piece of literature, however, the possibilities in flash fiction to meld narrative and emotion in such a concise, complex way defines real artistry to me. It’s something I strive for with every piece I write.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: plot or character?

This often feels like one of those chicken/egg questions, but I’d have to go with character. If neither yearning or an emotional connection exist between the character and reader, you can throw all the plotlines you want into the water. Nothing will save you.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

How about messy and slow? The most difficult part of the process for me is actually getting that first draft down on the page. I agonize over it for days, sometimes weeks, writing notes here and there. I’ll take a walk, visit the library, weed the garden, talk to the kids, bake a batch of cookies, eat the cookies, write down a few more notes, rinse, repeat. Once I have the initial draft down, revision picks up the momentum. I realize it’s not the most productive route, but I’ve come to trust both my subconscious and the process.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

My grandsons, who are three and one, constantly remind me how important it is to stay open and curious about the world. To them everything is a wonder, good or bad.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

One of my favorite flash pieces is Kathy Fish’s “Collective Nouns for Humans in the Wild.” Her work not only illuminates the human condition, but also seeps compassion.

I also love Cathy Ulrich’s Murdered Lady Series. I’m impressed with how these pieces start from the same origin but tell such different and compelling stories. “Being the Murdered Babysitter,” published in Passages North, is both incredible and haunting.

I’m enjoying Josh Denslow’s collection, “Not Everyone Is Special.” He does a fantastic job creating a bridge between his characters and readers.

Christopher Allen’s “How to Shop After the Death of Your Brother” in Split Lip left me speechless.

The footnote structure in Meg Pillow Davis’ “Ten Rules for Cooks on the Verge of Collapse” in Hobart creates such and interesting parallel to what’s on the surface.

K.B. Carle’s “Vagabond Mannequin” floored me with its ingenuity. She’s definitely someone to watch.

Kim Magowan’s “Madlib” and her collection, “Undoing,” are wonderful. The complexity and layers she weaves into the relationships she writes about are so palpable and real.

I appreciate the honesty in Marvin Shackelford’s work. “The Coyote Eventually Has His Day” in Waxwing and “On Water” in Spry both speak to this truth.

Otherwise, I recommend anything written by Joy Williams or Lydia Davis. Also, Garth Risk Hallberg’s novella, “A Field Guide to the North American Family,” combines both flash narrative and photography to present an artistic feast. Great stuff.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

Honestly, I appreciate any recognition my work receives. The flash fiction community, especially on Twitter, has been extremely generous and supportive. I’m so grateful.

Bio: Kristin Tenor’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Midwest Review, Spelk Fiction, Milk Candy Review, Bending Genres, River Teeth—Beautiful Things, and Spry Literary Journal, where she also volunteers as a general reader. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband. More at www.kristintenor.com or on Twitter @KristinTenor.

Mini-Interview with Roppotucha Greenberg

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

Because longer short stories are out to get me. I sink into their world, meet some characters, hope to make a few friends, and crash. Boom. They end it all. And I am left hanging in the in-between-books type of abyss . I think short stories dislike me. They want me to think about unpaid bills and mortality. Short stories have staid jobs and live in the 1950s.  Flash stories are different. The world is against them, all they have is a thousand words to create a universe, and they manage. By hook or by crook, by blank space or repurposed forms, or by getting re-written five thousand times over. And they get away with it. Flash stories are great people. I don’t know if you’d completely trust them with your wallet, but they are firmly on the side of the infinity.  

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Plot is like using heat and darkness to create something out of nothing. You know the way giants emerged out of the blood-warmed earth, or the way you can leave a few rags in a dark corner to make mice. (A professor I admire told me about this life-hack, but I still have to try it). Or maybe plot is already there at the start, and it’s just a matter of realizing what’s going on, so you’d have a scene with a fishnet, and then three drafts later, you’d get someone bringing in the catch.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Definitely slow and messy. I wouldn’t wish my writing style on my worst enemy. I am confident, however, that doodling is good for writing, tweeting is good for writing, staring into space is good for writing, and not writing is good for writing.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

I moved countries twice, the first time when I was twelve, and the second time as a young adult, twenty or so years ago. I’ve been slowly making sense of that in some of my stories, (‘On the Proper Use of the Mosquitoes’ and ‘Where’s that accent from’). One peculiar result of the first move was that I mistook space for time. My adolescence was literally a new place; if I felt confused and misunderstood by my surroundings that was because I actually didn’t speak the language. The fantastic elements in my writing are probably related to that. Patricia Garcia writes  that ‘space is the fantastic’, that intrusions or subversions of space constitute the common denominator of the fantastic (Space and the Postmodern: Fantastic in the Contemporary Literature, Routledge 2015). And the experience of migration and chronic nostalgia do just that – they turn the space around you into something else, part reflections of the past and part memories of the future. Once you switch countries nothing surprises you. A ghost of an old country behind the radiator, why not. Your boyfriend morphing into the landscape—shame but can’t be helped.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

The writers involved in the #vss365 daily hashtag game have created a glorious hive of micro-fiction. Most readers would probably be familiar with that and similar daily and weekly games. Still, I think the whole project deserves sky-high praise for the commitment of its founders, the spontaneity of its participants, its non-competitive nature, its inclusivity, but most of all because it reads like a magical book. It’s like that book of legend that changes with each reader.

I stumbled upon the #vss365 a year ago. I’ve had fantastic adventures since, culminating in two self-published creature books of tiny stories and doodle-answers to questions by other micro-fiction writers. I am deeply grateful to the community and would feel wrong singling any favourites out here.  

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

I’d love for more people to read ‘Their Untimely Lives’ in The Cabinet of Heed (https://cabinetofheed.com/2019/04/01/their-untimely-lives-roppotucha-greenberg/)

A wonderful writer that I admire gave me some feedback on the story. She said one of the characters should have died. So, I worked very hard and re-drafted the story just to convince her and other readers that he’s better left alive (I’d do anything for my characters). And then my sister said wonderful things about the story. I asked her: ‘Do you think I should’ve let him die?’ And she said: ‘No, of course not, besides, he mostly died anyway, and when the girlfriend tried to save him, she was actually trying to save both of them’.

BIO: Roppotucha  Greenberg’s stories have appeared in  Noon (Arachne Press 2019), Elephants Never, Ellipsis Zine, Twist in Time, The Forge Literary Magazine, Virtual Zine, The Honey and Lime Literary Magazine, The Barren Magazine and  several others. She lives in Ireland and doodles creatures. Her first creature book, Creatures Give Advice, is out on Amazon (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Creatures-Give-Advice-Roppotucha-Greenberg/dp/1091088985/) with the second book, Creatures Give Advice (and it’s warmer now) scheduled for release on 21 June 2019. Web: roppotucha.blogspot.com

Mini-Interview with Melissa Ostrom

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

I enjoy writing all sorts of things: short stories, novels, blog posts, and poems. I’ve even written a play. But I think many of my better pieces are flashes. Crafting flash feels adventurous. It frees me—turns my mind malleable and playful. If churning out a novel is a good marriage, composing a flash is a love affair, precarious, short-lived, and intoxicating. Adherence to a limited word count, rather than curtailing a piece’s potential, somehow, paradoxically, incurs its potent magic. Every word, gesture, and image: fraught.   

What’s your writerly lifejacket: plot or character?

Honestly, Tommy, I don’t know. As soon as I start muddling through a piece, I’ll cling to whatever is working and keeping the flash afloat, whether it be character, structure, plot, tone, setting…

The hard part for me is starting. But once something—a detail, an opening line, a question—snags my imagination and rents an opening into a tale, I just go with it.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

I’m a plodder. I inch along, backtrack, tweak, stumble forward with a line or two, pause, delete, elaborate, tweak, slog onward, retreat, and tweak, tweak, tweak.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

Probably my children. I didn’t begin writing regularly until ten years ago, around the time my first child was born. Sometimes I wonder why her birth and a commitment to writing coincided. My every moment had certainly changed. Maybe I simply channeled the awareness of my life’s new narrative into crafting stories.

Having kids has also multiplied my fears and joys and made me conscious of vulnerabilities, theirs and my own. Love casts a complicated shadow—in the shape of worry. Life has become more…everything: more precious, more frightening, more exhausting. Turbulent. Perhaps writing gives me a chance to exercise some control.   

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

I admire so many flashes, including yours! Your recently published “When the Waters Came” is gripping. I also love Cathy Ulrich’s “Being the Murdered Student,” Helen Klein Ross’s “Birth, Copulation, Death,” Lydia Davis’s “The Cedar Trees,” Carolyn Forché’s “The Colonel,” Lauren Becker’s “Sick Girls,” George Saunders’s “Sticks,” Megan Giddings’s “Three Boyfriends,” Kim White’s “Lily Pad,” Kathy Fish’s “Collective Nouns for Humans in the Wild,” Franz Kafka’s “A Message from the Emperor,” Vincent Poturica’s “The Dead Mother,” and (a new favorite) Stuart Dybek’s “Lights.” No doubt, I’m forgetting a thousand other flashes that have amazed me, but these ones readily come to mind.  

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

That’s a good question. Maybe “Severed,” a flash that appeared in Duende. The Twitter literary community generously reads and shares my work, but I only joined the party about a year and a half ago, so I’m not sure how my earlier publications were received or how widely they were read. I’m glad I am on Twitter now and have met so many talented and kind writers.

BIO: Melissa Ostrom is the author of the YA novels The Beloved Wild (Feiwel & Friends, March 2018) and Unleaving (Feiwel & Friends, March 2019). Her stories have appeared in The Florida Review, Fourteen Hills, Juked, and Passages North, among other journals, and her flash “Ruinous Finality” was selected for The Best Small Fictions 2019. She teaches part-time at Genesee Community College and lives with her husband and children in Holley, New York.

Mini-Interview with Sutton Strother

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

I started writing flash right after I completed the first draft of a novel. For me, it was a chance to flex some writing muscles I’d been neglecting, particularly voice and attention to detail. I’d lost sight of those things because I’d been so focused on sustaining a big plot and a few hundred pages worth of character development, and I wanted to hone those additional skills before undertaking a revision of the novel.

That was over a year ago, and it’s only recently that I’ve even returned to the book, because I’ve fallen so in love with writing flash! I love the immediacy of flash and the challenge of creating an entire world in such a small space. There’s something addictive about it, too. I think it’s kind of retrained my brain, because most of the story ideas that occur to me now are “flash-sized.” I have to get them down on paper right away so I can give them life before the next one crops up.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Character. For me, plot is just scaffolding for character development. Even in conceptual or “genre” stories, I’m more interested in thinking about what all the weirdness means for the characters living through it. Putting plot before character is a recipe for creating a story without much tension, I think. Readers need to care about characters and how they’re impacted by what’s happening in the plot, or else the story lacks any real stakes.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

It doesn’t always happen this way, but I prefer when a story comes out quick and messy. I like to have something whole written as soon as possible, even if it’s wonky. That way, I can treat first drafts like clay to be shaped into the story I see in my head. If I don’t complete a draft fast enough, I find it difficult to sustain the initial momentum or inspiration and will sometimes lose interest in the idea altogether. At this point, I have a digital graveyard of abandoned story ideas that just didn’t get out fast enough.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

Mental illness, without a doubt. I’ve written a few pieces that are explicitly about anxiety and depression, but there are also several stories that are less obviously about that. For instance, my time travel story “Palimpsest” grew out of anxieties around climate change and the current sociopolitical climate; writing that piece was very much a way to create something hopeful and loving in the face of all that mess. I’ve also got a body horror story coming out later this year, which was written during a serious bout of health-related anxiety. Writing about, around, and through mental illness has become a very necessary act of self-care.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

Oh, gosh, there are too many to name here. Flash fiction Twitter is overflowing with amazing writers and incredible stories; anyone interested in writing or reading flash should get plugged into that marvelous corner of the universe as soon as possible, if they haven’t done so already.

Because it’s on my mind, I’ll say this: I’ve adored every story I’ve read coming out of Monet P. Thomas’s sex-themed challenges. I’m signed up to participate in the next one, and I’m excited but also a littleintimidated, given how much brilliance I’ve seen result from past challenges. I love that Jellyfish Review has dedicated space recently to stories from Monet’s “Big O Challenge.” Probably my favorite of these has been Kathryn McMahon’s “Bone China,” which is so sexy and mysterious. The ending of that story literally gave me chills. In general, Katy’s work is absolute magic.

I’ve also loved everything published so far at Cathy Ulrich’s new journal Milk Candy Review. Everything there hits my sweet spot for beautiful, slightly off-kilter flash. One of my favorites has been “Other Skins” by Chloe N. Clark. Chloe’s another writer whose work I try to never miss.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

“Two Chambers” at Fiction Southeast was published fairly recently, but it was actually one of the first pieces of flash I ever wrote. It was inspired by a traumatic period in my young adulthood, and revisiting those memories to make sense of them and make art from them, and then to actually put that story out into the world, required courage I didn’t know I had. While I don’t think it’s my best story – I can see how much I’ve grown as a writer in the time since I finished that piece – I’ll always be so proud of that one.

BIO: Sutton Strother is a writer and adjunct professor living in New York. Her stories have appeared or will appear in SmokeLong Quarterly, Pithead Chapel, Lost Balloon, Jellyfish Review, CHEAP POP, and elsewhere. She is currently working on a novel about mermaids, grief, and family dysfunction. You can find her work at her website: suttonstrother.wordpress.com. She tweets at @suttonstrother.

Mini-Interview with Chris Drangle

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

I’m not sure if this is comic or tragic, but I started writing flash for the gratification of finishing something. I was in the middle of writing a novel—years of it behind me, years to go—and I just felt starved for that crossing-the-finish-line feeling, that small moment where you feel like a functional human capable of completing a task. It was (I thought) a simple way to get a quick hit of “The End.”

Of course, that’s also where one of the differences shows up. A friend of mine, Adam O’Fallon Price, used to say that while there’s no such thing as a perfect novel, there might be such a thing as a perfect short story. I think there’s some truth to that, since even short, tight, scrupulously edited novels have a necessarily rangy quality to them. With much shorter forms, on the other hand, the entire thing can fit under a magnifying glass, and both writer and reader can bring a high level of attention to the language. (Not that long form writers don’t also strive for that.) So even if “The End” of the drafting process is closer to the beginning of a flash piece than it is with a novel, the end of the revision process remains a maddeningly movable target.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Well, I don’t think they’re as separable as they’re sometimes made out to be. Character without plot, or vice versa, might be like wearing a lifejacket with no air in it. (Do life jackets have air in them? You know what I mean. A pool float without air.) It’s the interplay between plot and character that makes each “work,” or fails to.

All that said, it’s character for me. The soapbox I’ve been using in class goes like this: has anyone seen a superhero movie recently? Has anyone found themselves watching aliens ride jet skis through the sky while cyborgs shoot lasers at them, and felt, like, bored? If we don’t care about the characters, it’s almost impossible to care about the circumstances surrounding them.

Granted, I love empty calories as much as the next self-proclaimed aesthete, and a balanced diet can certainly include car chases and conspiracies along with early-onset ennui and muted domestic strife. But as a writer I find it easier to engineer plot around characters. It’s harder for me to make special order characters for a premade plot.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

I’ve been trying to change this for years, but: slow and precise? Maybe slow and messy is the inconvenient truth. Although it varies from day to day—sometimes I’m cruising through chapters with the top down, sometimes I’m staring at a paragraph for two hours before changing “fern” to “ficus.” Either way, you have to revise, which is why I wish I was a quick and messy writer. Trying to write a poised, polished first draft is like trying to build a clean, neat stack of kindling at your campsite. However it turns out, the next step is to light it on fire. Speaking of revision, that metaphor could use work.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

This is a really fascinating question. I’ve been super lucky over the past decade-ish in that I’ve been able to keep a day job (academia) that consists of talking and thinking and writing about writing. But that lets in a classic mode of paranoia—do I have anything to say? Am I embedded enough in the real world to write about it? Have my “life experiences” become a closed loop of intensely uninteresting inside jokes?

The catch, of course, is that all life is real life. And there are innumerable paths from experience to representation, very few of which are straight lines. For me personally, I think that sooner or later pretty much everything influences the writing. An awkward date, a documentary about rock climbing, an argument with my dad, a thousand-mile drive, getting injured, getting engaged, watching the news, reading student evaluations, reading Yelp reviews—all of it goes in the tank. And everything in the tank influences how you write about whatever subject is in front of you, whether that’s engaged rock climbers or aliens on jet skis.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

Does everyone say Lydia Davis? I confess that I absolutely did not get Davis the first five times I tried to read her. Not sure why. I thought my friends were pretentious nerds pretending to like these odd, baffling little paragraphs. Then I tried again last year, and for whatever reason it was totally different. I went straight from “I don’t get it” to “she’s a legend because she’s a genius.”

I just discovered Tyrese L. Coleman and Krys Malcolm Belc, and their work is awesome. Amelia Gray is awesome. Joy Williams’ Ninety-Nine Stories of God is fairly rad. “55 Miles to the Gas Pump” has a vintage Annie Proulx ending, a simple sentence that is simultaneously banal and horrific and hilarious. Robert Hass’s “A Story About the Body” is lovely and sneakily heartbreaking. “Binaries,” by S.B. Divya, reads like a six-part SF epic compressed into a thousand words. J. Robert Lennon’s collection Pieces for the Left Hand is criminally undersung.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

The next one! Joking aside (although I’m serious about that), I still think it’s extremely wonderful to get any recognition at all. It’s not a given and I hope never to take it for granted, especially since I wouldn’t blame anyone who decided to re-watch Broad City instead of investing their time in some rando Arkansan’s newest made-up story. So if you’re reading this right now, please trust that I appreciate it!

BIO: Chris Drangle is a writer from Arkansas. He earned an MFA at Cornell University, where he also taught creative writing and served as an assistant editor for Epoch Magazine. His fiction has recently appeared in Split Lip MagazineThe Adroit Journal, and One Story, and has been recognized with a Pushcart Prize, the Margaret Bridgman Scholarship at Bread Loaf, and a Wallace Stegner Fellowship. He is currently a Jones Lecturer at Stanford and splits his time between the San Francisco Bay Area and Athens, Georgia.

Mini-Interview with Hannah Gordon

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

            I started writing flash fiction because of my short attention span. It works better with how I function. I’ll try to write longer stories sometimes, and I find myself getting bored halfway through or coming up with another idea for a different story and abandoning the previous project altogether.

            I love flash fiction. I think it’s magic. It’s so brief, so quick, but it shows you this whole world. You can get lost in just five hundred or a thousand words. It pulls you out of your own experience, plops you down in another, and then sends you back out, reeling. Just like that. And then you want to read it again.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

            This is a hard question, but I think character. My stories are always about connection, about people. Without that, I have nothing.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

            Quick and messy. I write in short bursts, like if I don’t get it out of me, I’ll lose it. I like it, though. I like feeling like the story is in control for a little bit.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

            The people in my life. The people I love, the people who’ve hurt me, the people I used to know, the people I met briefly. The good, the bad—it doesn’t matter. People inspire me. Sometimes you meet a person and you think, Oh my God, I have to write about you.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

            I love Dina Relles. There is so much heart in her work. You feel everything. Leonora Desar is like that as well. Marisa Crane is another voice I love. I read everything of hers. Maddie Anthes, too. Sometimes I read her stories, and I’m like, did I write this? I think our styles are very similar. Cathy Ulrich is obviously the flash fiction queen. Her work just floors me. It’s so original. Jenny Fried is also really, really good. And K.B. Carle! She’s so talented.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

            I’m still in this place of feeling like I don’t deserve attention for my writing—imposter syndrome, doubt, whatever you want to call it. I’m trying to break out of that.

            I really loved writing the story that appeared in The Ginger Collect, “Pyres.” I surprised myself with that one. I want to keep surprising myself.

BIO: Hannah Gordon is a writer and editor living in Chicago. She was born and raised in Michigan, and the Midwest has remained a big influence on her writing. She’s the managing editor of CHEAP POP. You can find more of her work here and follow her on Twitter at @_hannahnicole.

Mini-Interview with Jennifer Wortman

Image by Amanda Tipton Photography

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

I write in many genres and forms, but flash has become a mainstay because it invites the best of all worlds: story, lyricism, intensity, authenticity, innovation. Flash really called to me after my kids were born, partly for pragmatic reasons: I’m a slow writer and had less time to write, so flash allowed me to finish what I started in weeks or months rather than years. But also, giving birth and raising kids puts you in close contact with the forces of life and death. Back then, I found those forces lacking in my longer work. The brevity of flash requires a focus on what matters most, not just artistically, but also personally and philosophically. Along with that focus and urgency comes a beautiful freedom: You can get away with much more in a small space than you can in a large. And when you’re done getting away with one thing, you can start fresh and get away with something else. It’s a great drug!

 

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

My writerly lifejacket is consciousness. I’m fascinated by the human mind: what and how it perceives. Second to that is voice, the personality through which the mind reveals and distorts and conceals. Maybe that’s just a fancy way of saying my writerly lifejacket is character.

 

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

All of the above! My writing process is erratic. Sometimes I start slow and precise until I get stuck; then I’ll switch to a fast-and-dirty freewriting session. Other times, I’ll start quick and messy and then I’ll slow way down to hone in on a section until I get stuck and speed up again. The net effect, though, is pretty slow and very messy.

 

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

Anxiety, depression, obsession, compulsion, desire, rage, loss, family dysfunction, love gone wrong, the inescapability of the self, the death wish, and the grocery store—I get some of my best ideas in the cereal aisle.

 

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

This is the hardest question, because there are so many! I’ll start with my flash hero, John Edgar Wideman, who is more known for other genres but has a remarkable flash collection called Briefs­­­­­—it’s out of print but you can find used copies on the internet. A few more of the many flash writers I admire: Leonora Desar, Nicholas Grider, Kathryn McMahon, Tara Isabel Zambrano, Michele Finn Johnson, Raven Leilani, Michelle Ross, Kim Magowan, Christopher Gonzalez, Leesa Cross-Smith, Ruth LeFaive, Tyrese Coleman, Cathy Ulrich, Pat Foran, Sara Lippmann. And, if you’ll bear with me, I’d also like to share some stories I think merit an extra spotlight:

“What If I Never Write a Novel?” by Billy Ray Belcourt

“A Lesson about Love, Featuring Andy Kaufman and Clark” by Lee Matalone

“Sky Like Concrete” by Mike Riess

“Fever Dream, Dream City” by Andrea Lopez

“A Memory of the Christ by the Apostle John” by Adam McOmber

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?          

I’m grateful for any recognition I get and am always touched by how my stories are received. But I’ll use this space to share a story that came out back in the dark ages before I was on Twitter, in case anyone who hasn’t seen it feels like taking a look: “Man in the Night.”

BIO: Jennifer Wortman is the author of This. This. This. Is. Love. Love. Love., a story collection forthcoming from Split Lip Press in 2019. Her fiction, essays, and poetry appear in Glimmer Train, Normal School, DIAGRAM, The Collagist, SmokeLong Quarterly, Monkeybicycle, Brevity, Hobart, The Collapsar, and elsewhere. She lives with her family in Colorado, where she teaches at Lighthouse Writers Workshop and serves as associate fiction editor for Colorado Review. Find more at jenniferwortman.com.

 

 

 

 

Mini-Interview with Sophie van Llewyn

Sophie van Llewyn_pic

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

I should start by stating that I’m probably a novelist, at my core. I began writing by finishing a novel, but then I didn’t have a clue about editing it. So I moved to shorter forms of fictions. Through AdHoc Fiction, I discovered flash fiction (Jude Higgins & the Bath Flash Fiction Award are doing such an amazing job at promoting the form). Flash gave me the feeling that I was more in control of what I was saying, and I learned to self-edit by editing my flashes. Also, the community is amazing! I connected with other writers through Twitter, I met my writing group during a workshop with Kathy Fish.

Nearly three years later, I can say that my flashes come from a very different place than my novels and that my writing process is entirely different. But I didn’t know that in the beginning. Flash gave me the tools that I needed to grow further as a writer, and the flash community gave me the support I needed so dearly.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

I often build my flashes around a particular situation or idea and then start questioning my characters’ motivations, and how they got to that point. Like in my piece ‘The Caesarean’  where a surgeon steals a woman’s kidney during a cesarean section. This is the naked, cruel fact that was my starting point. For my novella-in-flash BOTTLED GOODS, it was the image of a hungry woman who had been detained at the Socialist Republic of Romania’s border for days, hiding something very small and precious in a perfume bottle. I built my novella around that, and it branched out in the most unexpected direction.

But just as often, a flash fiction, especially one that comes from deep within, might be triggered by an emotion. This is often the case with flashes I write in longhand, without overthinking. The story just flows and finds its own focus in my notebook. I just have to step back, find the story, and start typing it up on my laptop.

 

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Ooof. It depends so much on what I’m writing. If a piece comes from within, it pours quickly, and I rarely change everything once it has come into focus while I transferred it from longhand to computer.

But much more often, I write a flash slowly, obsessing over every single word, every single sentence, while my mind tries to figure out if this is indeed the most relevant aspect of the story I’m trying to write. I think writing flash fiction has made me very picky when it comes to what I choose to put on the page when and what I leave out. I constantly question if I’m presenting the most relevant details where plot, character traits or dynamics between characters are involved.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

If I only had to choose one single thing, I think that would be a certain feeling of displacement, a motive that recurs in so many of my flashes. I grew up in Romania, now I live in Germany and I write in English for English-speaking markets. I guess you realise where the displacement theme comes from.

 

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

There are so many writers I admire for their skill with words, you wouldn’t believe it! So many stories that stayed with me. Flash fiction world is absolutely effervescent right now. However, I’m lucky enough to be the Resident Flash Fiction Writer at TSS Publishing, for whom I’ve written a series of articles. I’ve been able to link to most of my favourite stories to underline certain aspects of the craft of flash fiction. Let me refer you to a couple of these articles, where you can discover some brilliant stories:

https://www.theshortstory.co.uk/unusual-structures-in-flash-fiction-part-i-by-sophie-van-llewyn/

https://www.theshortstory.co.uk/time-in-flash-fiction-by-sophie-van-llewyn/

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

It’s not necessarily about recognition, but I’m very fond of one of the pieces from my novella-in-flash BOTTLED GOODS, and particularly a piece called ‘The Saturday When Everything Changed.’ I used an unusual form — the story is formatted like a timetable, following Alina’s steps throughout the day. At the end of each entry, I repeat the phrase ‘Nothing has changed,’ until the very end when everything changes for my protagonist. Then, I put in so many childhood memories, evoked the atmosphere in Romanian classrooms, maths textbooks and the stifling gossips of a small town. Also, I mention chicken Kiew. I love chicken Kiew, but then, my entire novella is peppered with mentions of my favourite foods.

https://www.fairlightbooks.co.uk/short_stories/5-minutes/the-saturday-when-everything-changed/

Bio: Sophie van Llewyn was born in Romania, but now lives in Germany. She’s an anaesthetist. Her prose has been published by Ambit, New Delta Review, The Lonely Crowd, New South Journal etc. Her novella-in-flash BOTTLED GOODS (Fairlight Books) has been longlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Prize 2019 and for the People’s Book Prize. Sophie is represented by Juliet Mushens at Caskie Mushens. @sophie_van_l

 

 

 

Mini-Interview with Leonora Desar

headshot_leonora desar

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

My brain naturally loves flash. I’m not sure if it’s a journalism thing (I used to be a journalist).[1]. It might just be an attention thing, or maybe a commitment thing. I think though it’s a bullshit thing. I hate writing/drafting long stuff and thinking, I don’t need this, I don’t need this, I don’t need this—why is this even here.

Flash cuts to the chase.

I do wish I could write long though. At least sometimes. I have this fantasy; I get some Krazy Glue and stick it all together; all the short stuff. Then I get some Magic Marker. I write NOVEL on it and send it to an agent. And she or he is like; wow; we’ve never seen anything like this—CALL US!!!

[1] Sort of. It was mostly tagging along with people who were way cooler than me and trying to get them to open up.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Voice. If I can’t get the voice right there’s nothing else.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

All the pieces I really love are the ones that I’ve written fast. But this doesn’t mean that I write like this all the time. In fact, I don’t. Those pieces you will never see. They are buried in a very dark attic of my computer. It’s labeled “dangerous” and “really boring.”

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

Probably my childhood. My life since then hasn’t been as interesting which I guess is also an influence. Sometimes I sit around talking about how Uninteresting things are and try to make this Interesting but this usually doesn’t work. So it’s better just to go back to the Bronx, to childhood—

We had a lot of weird neighbors. There was this babysitter who lived downstairs—Suzi. We used to listen to Little Orphan Annie on the record player and then her boyfriend would come and they’d make out. I’d sit there feeling jealous and imagining that when you got to be a teenager it was all about making out to Broadway show tunes—

Then there was this other neighbor, Mr. Greenberg. He was always yelling at me. He said, turn down the music which was odd because I never played any, only when Suzi was around. So I imagine there was some ghost who probably lived between his apartment, 3f, and my apartment, D11. And that’s another thing; the apartments—they didn’t make any sense. I spent hours trying to figure out why his was 3f and mine was D11, and came up with many different theories, none of which I was really able to prove.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

Yikes. This is a hard and easy one. Easy because there’s so much great writing out there and hard because that means I’m going to inevitably leave something out—that I love.

Here are a few writers that I am crazy for. (Okay; maybe more than a few but still not the whole deal):

Jennifer Wortman. This piece is amazing and you should just read it and see why for yourself.

Adam Lock. There’s such a good story here which Adam is so great at; creating story. His pieces always feel so deep and true, and there’s a fullness to them, even if they’re flash.

Hillary Leftwich. Because she writes with Voice. I wish I could tag her FB posts. They’re f**ing amazing. Her stories, too. She writes in a way where you feel like there’s a direct line from her pen to gut to screen. Do they make those? I think they do and Hillary has dibs.

Tara Isabel Zambrano. I love this piece. I had read it in a workshop we were in and remember thinking “wow” and “give me more.”

Frances Gapper. This does what many of my favorite pieces do. It’s funny-sad. No, scratch that, it’s sad-hilarious. Frances is so great at this, she reminds me of a modern and sassier Jane Austen.

Jaquira Díaz. I read this at work on the sly and couldn’t put it away. It kept calling to me. A little voice said, do your work Leonora and I ignored it—

Marcy Dermansky. Because I love anything by Marcy Dermansky. She’s amazing. I read her on a plane trip to Orlando and she completely changed my life. When I left JFK I was a writer who wrote Very Serious Stories that-weren’t-very-engaging and when I landed I was still a writer who wrote Very Serious Stories but I wanted to be different, to be funnier, to talk like Sue from her novel Twins.

Miranda July. She is another one I used to read at work. I kept her hidden beneath my desk and sometimes she would sneak out and slip me crackers.

Claire Polders. Because she speaks to you in a way that’s elegant and true.

Pat Foran. I love everything he writes. He has a signature style and an energy and there’s music in his writing. Can’t you hear it? It sounds like: I am feeling so much writing this—Here is my soul, it’s yours.

Al Kratz. Because you need to read this. It’s all about the Voice. And magic. When you read it you will know.

Janice Leagra. This is also about magic—it’s a whoosh story!!! As in it feels like it all came out in one big, magical whoosh!!!

Josh Denslow. His pieces are great. They make me laugh. And not just in a ha-ha way. In a deep way. There’s poignancy here, and sadness.

Paul Beckman. Because he’s a genius. He has a way of writing that doesn’t sound like “writing,” more like chatting in your ear. Plus, he’s a genius.

 Cathy Ulrich and her amazing murdered girls. Especially that babysitter.

Rebecca Saltzman. Because cannibals on the Q train.

 What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

I have an advice column. It’s about writing, usually all the ways I’m avoiding it, and how you shouldn’t. I give ways for not avoiding it and then don’t follow my own advice. There’s also been a lot of stuff about TV shows, weird people. Bodega kings and blind photographers; stake-outs, messy socks (that don’t match); and when the writing is all crap.

There is also (sometimes occasionally) actual practical advice. This happens once every 6th-dozenth solar flare.*

*I actually don’t know how common a solar flare is. I should probably google this.

PS:  I’ve also been lucky to have some awesome writing teachers—Meg Pokrass, Lisa DePaulo, Kathy Fish, Christopher DeWan, Robert James Russell, all of them great writers, too.

I wish I could keep them hidden beneath my desk and ask them writing advice but this would probably not be legal.

PPS I know I talked in the beginning here about cutting to the chase. I should probably tweak some of this.

BIO: Leonora Desar’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in River Styx, Passages NorthBlack Warrior Review OnlineMid-American ReviewSmokeLong QuarterlyHobart, and Quarter After Eight, among othersShe won third place in River Styx’s microfiction contest and was a runner-up/finalist in Quarter After Eight’s Robert J. DeMott Short Prose contest, judged by Stuart Dybek. She writes a column for New Flash Fiction Review—DEAR LEO. She avoids writing @LeonoraDesar and by fiddling with www.leonoradesar.com. She is the new fiction editor for Pidgeonholes. She was recently nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best Small Fictions 2019, and the Best Microfiction anthology.

 

 

Mini-Interview with Megan Pillow Davis

pillow davis new headshot

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

I started writing flash because I felt like I’d lost something in my writing. In myself, too, to be honest. I’d had some very demoralizing experiences with critique where professors saw nothing of value in my work, and I lost a lot of confidence in my abilities. I would write these 25 and 30-page stories that had interesting moments and interesting characters, but they would just wander all over the place and eventually disassemble all over the page. I would write and write, and after I’d write, I’d cry in frustration. And so I stopped writing. I didn’t write for five years. I had all this old work stored on my computer, dozens of stories that just sat there, but I didn’t write anything new or submit anything for publication for a very long time. For a while, I honestly thought I wouldn’t ever write again.

And then, as I always do in times of stress and sadness, I started reading. And I discovered flash. Well, rediscovered it, really. I remember picking up the copy of the first book I bought when I moved to start my MFA program – The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction: Fifty North American Stories Since 1970 – and re-reading Donald Barthelme’s “The School” and thinking oh fuck yeah, I love this piece. I love what he’s able to do in such a compact space. I’ll bet there are a lot of other people out there doing this. And I thought maybe if I focused on compact writing, on compressed narrative, it could teach me a few things about writing longform fiction. So that’s what I did. I started following journals and reading who they were publishing. Some of the first pieces I read were pieces by Kathy Fish and Cathy Ulrich, and I was astounded by their work. So I just read more and more, trying to learn, trying to figure out how to approach this genre that I knew very little about, and then I started tinkering around.

What I discovered by reading and writing flash was that for me, longform had become such a laborious process, a lot like the process of childbirth (I have two kids, so this isn’t just hyperbole here). When I was writing longform fiction, I would get so stressed and so focused on the end game, on gritting my teeth to just get through, that I often missed honing those critical connections that the reader needs in order to invest in the piece. But then I discovered that for me reading and writing flash is for me like a single contraction: pure pain, but also pure beauty and joy, and the intensity of it is so powerful but so brief that I can just give myself over to it completely, let my mind and my body steep in every single word. When I read a really great piece of flash, I don’t just think about it for days or weeks afterward. I feel it for that length of time too, the same way my body can still feel the reverberations of those contractions from childbirth when I think about them: I remember what I was drinking when I read a piece, how it tasted, what the light looked light in the room, the sound of my breath as it caught in my throat when something in that piece tore me open or made me laugh. And while I did learn a valuable lesson about longform from writing flash – which is that, just as with labor, longform is a series of well-synchronized contractions that propel a person along to a moment of impossible revelation – I also discovered that I loved flash not just for what it taught me about longform but for what it was in its own right. And now, I’m devoted. Flash taught me a better relationship to and understanding of longform – instead of gritting my teeth through it, I’ve learned to pace myself, to pay attention to the details, and to love it despite the pain. But flash? Flash is where I give myself over to the pain, where the pain brings me joy.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Characters always come to me first. I’m a people-watcher and very curious about why people do what they do and how we react and respond to those decisions. When I start thinking about what motivates a character, the story usually springs from those motivations. I would love to be one of those writers for whom a carefully-constructed plot comes easily, but I was not blessed with that particular skill.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Both, actually. I’m a very quick and messy drafter. For a flash piece, I’ll usually sit down and have a working draft in an hour to an hour and a half. But that’s after thinking, usually for weeks, about what the story is about and how it will come together, and then it’s followed by weeks and sometimes months of laborious revision during which I sometimes end up rewriting the whole damn thing. I wrote my story “We All Know About Margo” in an hour – and then spent a month and a half in a frenzy of rewriting, reworking the beginning and ending multiple times and switching POV several times, among other things. I like the freedom and fluidity that writing quickly affords me, but I know I can’t get a piece to read exactly how I want it to without spending a lot of time in revision.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

My Ph.D. program and my kids. Both have taught me incredible time management skills and discipline. They’ve taught me to write in 30-minute increments and even sometimes in 10-minute increments, when necessary, and to still make progress. They’ve taught me to trust in my ability to do thorough research, but they also remind me that I’m never going to be an expert on everything, I’m just going to learn a whole lot about one little sliver of the world, and I need to trust the other experts to guide me in my understanding of the rest. Most of all, they’ve taught me to survive on very little sleep, which frankly is the only way that a Ph.D. student with two young kids is ever going to get any creative writing done.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

This is always such a difficult question to answer because there are so many writers I fiercely admire. But in addition to Kathy Fish and Cathy Ulrich, whom I always read, and the work of the women of color writers I talked about in a recent SmokeLong Quarterly interview, I’ve also been floored by writers like Allie Marini, Marisa Crane, Josh Denslow, Kathryn McMahon, Christopher Allen, Kim Magowan, Emi Benn, and Jennifer Fliss. These are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head, though. I’m sure I’ll wake up at 3 a.m. thinking of at least a dozen more names I should have mentioned.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

I don’t really think I have one. I know that probably sounds ridiculous, but I haven’t been back to publishing for very long – my first piece in a long while was published in the spring of 2017 – and since then, I’ve had work accepted at some amazing journals, been nominated for some awards I honestly never thought I’d get nominated for, and most of all, received tons of support from the writing community. So I feel very lucky. Instead of sending you to another story of mine, I’d say instead seek out a writer you’ve never read before, especially somebody emerging, and read them instead. If you like their work, share it, and please tell them it meant something to you. The people who have taken the time to do that for me, those are the people who kept me writing. They’ve made up for all the years where I felt like my work didn’t matter. Right now, there are tons of brilliant writers out there, maybe even reading this, who are racking up the rejections, who feel like their one or two publications this year didn’t get much traction and didn’t have an impact, and they feel very alone. Some of them are wondering whether they’re really cut out for this gig, and they’re thinking about quitting. I know because I was them. And more than anything, they need someone to see their work, to love it, and to let them know. They need that recognition and the encouragement that comes with it. I hope more than anything that we can give it to them.

Bio:  Megan Pillow Davis is a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in fiction and is currently a doctoral candidate in the University of Kentucky’s English Department. Her work has appeared, among other places, in Electric Literature, SmokeLong Quarterly, Memoir Mixtapes, and Mutha Magazine, has been featured in Longreads, and is forthcoming in Collective Unrest, Jellyfish Review, Pithead Chapel, Longleaf Review, and X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine. She has also been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize and for Best Small Fictions. Megan is currently revising her debut novel, has begun work on her second book, and is completing her dissertation. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her family.

Mini-Interview with Michele Finn Johnson

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Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

Flash is like a no-fuss best friend to me—it’s much easier to manage than the more time-consuming, “high maintenance” short stories and essays that I also write. I can usually count on flash to show up when I’ve got limited time to dedicate to writing, to not be too fussy in revealing the truth of what it’s dying to say. Flash also big-time motivates me with my longer pieces, builds my confidence to know I can find many micro-level ways to bring them to the finish line. If I sound like I’m gushing here, it’s because I’m in love with flash!

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

If I told you I heard voices in my head, would you have me straight-jacketed? That’s usually what happens. A first line appears generally out of nowhere and I puzzle it in my head until it feels right. Then I start to write and let that voice tell its story. Usually, that voice is a character, but sometimes it’s a question (which I guess is more similar to plot).

 

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

I’m somewhat slow in my head to nail down the opening sentence or two, and then I’m quick onto the page to finish a draft. I first started writing flash in a game-changing Kathy Fish Fast Flash© workshop, and so fast has stuck as my primary first-draft method.

 

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

Tommy, this could be a therapy session! I’m an engineer and, in part, work on environmental cleanups. It’s a terrific, if not an obvious, metaphor for real life that finds its way, either overtly or subtlety, into my work. While nature can be beautiful, I’m trained to see all the ways it’s messed up. That extends to humans too—I’m an extrovert who probably asks more inappropriate questions of people than I should (always couched with humor!). Revealed details sometimes make for fabulous story kernels!

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

Here are a few flash writers/example pieces I turn to when I want to be awed and moved and inspired. I tried to vary the list from previous interviews as best I could, which meant omitting so many of my go-to writers (sorry!).

  • For how she evokes emotion: Jennifer Wortman, As It So Happens in Vestal Review
  • For setting and razor-sharp detail: Jason Shults, Dodge in SmokeLong Quarterly
  • For genius structure: Kim Magowan, Madlib, in Okay Donkey
  • For killer dialogue and up-front tension: Cheryl Kidder, Give it to Her, in Atticus Review
  • For slow-boiled tension: Tiffany Quay Tyson, The Neighbors Want to Know Our Secret, in The Ilanot Review

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

I’m really fond of a piece of mine, School Lessons, that ran in Noble / Gas Qtrly. It was a runner-up for their 2017 Birdwhistle Prize, but I’m not sure I did my part to promote it. So much of this story is true; it feels like a time capsule of my grade school experience.

BIO: Michele Finn Johnson’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Colorado Review, Mid-American Review, The Adroit Journal, DIAGRAM, Barrelhouse, SmokeLong Quarterly, and elsewhere. Her work has been nominated several times for a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, Best Microfiction, and Best Small Fictions, and won an AWP Intro  Journals Project in nonfiction. Michele lives in Tucson and serves as assistant fiction editor at Split Lip Magazine. Find her online at michelefinnjohnson.com and @m_finn_johnson.

 

 

 

Mini-Interview with Michelle Ross

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Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

Writing flash has made me a better writer because it’s taught me so much about compression and silences, the importance of what is intentionally left unsaid. It’s also an extremely practical form for when I have only small snatches of time to write.

Although I’ve never whittled wood, the metaphor that comes to mind right now is that whereas writing a longer short story is like carving out an animal or some other intricate shape into wood, writing flash is more like whittling that piece of wood into the sharpest point possible.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

It depends on the story to some extent, but what keeps me afloat more than any other elements are probably rhythm and theme. I get snagged on ideas and love to mine and mine and mine. But in putting those ideas onto the page, rhythm is in command. I will rewrite sentences hundreds of times until they sound just right. I will change the meaning of a sentence in service of making the rhythm right. The most painful thing to me as a reader is prose that is inelegant. Reading prose that is clunky and awkward is like driving a heavily potholed road.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Precise over messy, almost always. Probably this is related to my above answer. If I write quick and messy sentences, I’m instantly compelled to revise them. Whether that precision comes quickly or slowly varies from story to story, though. Some stories come together rapidly. I write the entire draft in a sitting, and all it needs is a little tweaking. But a lot of the time I build my stories slowly over a period of months or years. Even flash fiction. I put stories aside and take them back out again. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

 So many. Science writing, mothering, running. Above all else, however, the experience of being female in a patriarchal world is what influences my writing most.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

This is difficult to answer because I want to name so many stories and so many writers. For instance, all the great flash fiction writers I’ve published on Atticus Review. I’m not going to try to list them all here, but let me just say that I’m proud of the great flash fiction we’ve published over the years. Because we publish only one fiction writer a week, we’re highly selective.

A few of my favorite flash fiction stories in recent years outside of Atticus Review include Janey Skinner’s “Carnivores,” Gwen Kirby’s “Shit Cassandra Saw That She Didn’t Tell the Trojans Because At That Point Fuck Them Anyway,” Jennifer Wortman’s “A Matter Between Neighbors,” Kim Magowan’s “Madlib,” Michael Czyzniejewski’s “The Nudist Contemplates Cannibalism,” Sara Lippmann’s “Wolf or Deer,” Christopher Allen’s “Blood Brother,” Sherrie Flick’s “How I Left Ned,” which is included in her great new story collection, Thank Your Lucky Stars.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

One of my favorite flash fictions still is “Prologue,” which was published in Gravel. It was also a finalist for the 2017 Lascaux Prize in Flash Fiction and included in my collection, There’s So Much They Haven’t Told You (Moon City Press 2017). It’s the first flash fiction I ever began, I believe, though not the first piece I completed. I worked on it on and off for several years. For me, the title and the ending make this story, yet oddly, weeks after it had been accepted for publication, an editor at Gravel asked me to cut the last two lines. I’m usually quite receptive to editorial suggestions, but in this case, I refused. And I was a little dismayed to realize that the editor’s vision of what this story is about was so drastically different from mine.

BIO: Michelle Ross is the author of There’s So Much They Haven’t Told You (2017), which won the 2016 Moon City Press Short Fiction Award. Her fiction has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly ReviewColorado ReviewNashville ReviewPidgeonholes, Electric Literature’s Recommended ReadingSmokeLong Quarterly, and other venues. She is fiction editor of Atticus Review and was a consulting editor for the 2018 Best Small Fictions anthology. www.michellenross.com

Mini-Interview with Sara Lippmann

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Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

I received Black Tickets as a gift from my first undergrad workshop instructor, the fearless and scary smart Lucy Corin, and that generosity – with her notes in margins – affected me deeply. (I’ve since hijacked that practice, and give books to my students at every semester’s end.) I was 18 and my god how I needed “Strangers in the Night:”

“Eating, she thought about sex and chewed pears as though they were conscious.”

Jayne Anne Phillips’s collection is largely what drove me down this potholed path although it would be another 20 years before I really began writing with any kind of purposeful compression.

I came to flash (or flash came to me) out of necessity. It was 2009. I had babies. I was shit. I could barely finish a sentence let alone sustain any lengthy narrative. But could I tell a story in 500 words? 1000 words? Flash demands you get in, get out. There’s no room for bullshit – or neurosis – when urgency + time are the dictates. On those days when the choices were shower or write, and the writing won out (to the chagrin of those who smelled me) I found I could crank out something rough but honest enough to whittle down and play around with later. Flash flexed a natural, undiscovered muscle.

Even when I’m not writing, or not writing flash, or losing years to an unruly novel – I find short form fiction to be the most nourishing as a reader, and most exhilarating to study and to teach – all the magic that occurs in miniature must hold true for the success of literature in any form. Universe in a grain of sand, no matter the size of the grain.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

The extent to which character + desire = plot, I’d say desire. Want is the imperative and it is impossible for me to write without it. Even if the character denies, disavows, or remains at psychic odds from their own urges, that pulse is prerequisite for story.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

I’m chasing down that want, so it’s longhand, fast and ugly. Catch it, however, I can. If the energy’s intrinsic, there’s no choice. (On the flipside: I can’t force a hollow.) But then I’m an obsessional editor. Dissatisfaction persists. Until a proof is wrenched from me, I’ll keep slashing for language, rhythm, concision. Editors probably hate me, but there’s always a better, more penetrative, more precise way to say it. Even after publication, my fingers itch. My collection is an embarrassment of ink.

 What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

It all goes into the pot. Body and mind are as inextricable as real and imaged life. To be clear: I write fiction. But if we aren’t drawing from the world, our lives and all that swirls through us: memories and obsessions, curiosities and histories, hopes and worries, public and private humiliations, past and present traumas, the mundane and the extraordinary, the internal, the observed, the overhead, and everything in between, everything we consume, everything that haunts us in the night, the stuff of nightmares and dreams, what are we doing? It’s funny, in a kind of preposterous/maddening way, whenever I meet people who’ve read my work and they’re like: “you’re so nice in real life.” But I guess I keep my freak flag tucked in at the bake sale or whatever.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

 One of the best things about my twitter feed is how it curates a constant, inspiring stream of new work, with links to wonderful stories (I can never keep up!) and journals and incredibly talented writers to treasure and discover. It is such a thrilling time for flash fiction, and I’m blown away by how fresh and transformative the work is that’s coming out right now. I want to shout every name from the treetops, every brilliant name, but I imagine there’s a word limit to this thing, and if you’re on the internet, you know who you are, I’m teaching all of you, and learning so much as you continue to explode the form, stretch it and showcase its infinite possibilities. I know it’s been said, but the word “flash” is a misnomer, as it connotes ephemerality – whereas quality flash will take up root inside us, sprouting leaves and limbs, living on, unshakable.

Anyway, some syllabi steadies:

Wants by Grace Paley

Yours by Mary Robison

Foley’s Pond by Peter Orner

The Bed Moved by Rebecca Schiff

Again and Again and Again by Megan Giddings

Five Sketches of a Story about Death by Leesa Cross-Smith

My Wife in Reverse by Stephen Dixon

Hourly by Scott Garson

Amy Butcher’s Women These Days is a nonfiction flash that wrecks me.

And Kathy Fish’s forthcoming WILD LIFE should be beneath every pillow.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

Sure, there are pieces that ran in now-defunct journals; longer stories in print that died a swift paper death. But it’s less about recognition than resonance. I haven’t been writing much flash lately but I’m so goddamn grateful whenever anyone chooses to read anything I’ve ever written. I mean, this world. All that demands our energy. If someone takes the time, you hope for that echo, that you/me moment, as it is a sort of love, but also know the story once released becomes its own thing. It’s not yours anymore. I tried to write about this in a Wigleaf postcard once.

BIO: Sara Lippmann‘s collection, Doll Palace (Dock Street Press) was long-listed for the 2015 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. She was the recipient of an artist’s fellowship in fiction from NYFA (New York Foundation for the Arts) and her work has appeared in Slice Magazine, Fourth Genre, Diagram, Midnight Breakfast, and elsewhere. She teaches creative writing at St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn. Find her @saralippmann or saralippmann.com

Mini-Interview with Jan Stinchcomb

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Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

I’ve always been delighted by the challenge of flash. It seems like it would be impossible, or like it sets you up to fail. All flash writers are close cousins of Sisyphus and Charlie Brown.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Character, definitely. I want to know why people do the things they do. I want to worry about them. I want to see them survive.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Quick and dirty rough draft, with no judgment or self-editing. Then, ideally, I will keep revisiting the piece over weeks and months in an effort to refine it. Sometimes I find myself overhauling the entire piece, and other times I only need to correct the moments where I falter. Also, it’s fascinating how long it can take to discover the right title or final line.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

My anxiety. I want to believe I have some measure of control somewhere in this world and so I burden my writing with that impossible task. It rarely works out, of course. When I’m being less neurotic, I feel that all art is an attempt to freeze and share moments of beauty.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

Michelle Ross. Her piece in Jellyfish Review, “Hostage or Accomplice,” is a masterpiece of restraint, resulting in exquisite tension.

I admire everything Melissa Goode writes. I love walking around cities with her and watching characters navigate intimate relationships. “Extreme Unction,” which appeared in The Forge, is so satisfying.

Jen Michalski’s “I’m Such a Slut and I Don’t Give a Fuck” (Smokelong Quarterly) is an extraordinary achievement. Each time I read it, I can’t believe she fits a whole life and career into a single flash piece.

I’d also like to mention two flash collections, which are very different from each other: Jacqueline Doyle’s The Missing Girl (Black Lawrence) is pure danger and urgency, while Leanne Radojkovich’s First Fox (The Emma Press) relies on gentle description and understatement.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

I really like a story I wrote in 2016, “Heroine Night,” for Jellyfish Review. Sometimes I wonder what those characters are doing now.

BIO: Jan Stinchcomb is the author of The Blood Trail (forthcoming from Red Bird Chapbooks). Her stories have appeared in Gravel, Gone Lawn, matchbook, Atticus Review and Monkeybicycle, among other places. She is featured in The Best Small Fictions 2018 and is a reader for Paper Darts. Currently living in Southern California with her husband and children, she can be found at janstinchcomb.com or on Twitter @janstinchcomb.

Mini-Interview with Kristin Bonilla

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Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

Is it weird that I’ve never thought about this?

 I like understatement, efficiency, playfulness, nuance. These are seemingly contradictory things but together they create tension and intrigue. Flash is an ideal form for me, in that regard.

My favorite novelists started out as poets. You can see it in the stylistic choices they make. There is an economy of language without sacrificing any of the texture that makes a story compelling. I see a lot of the same qualities in the flash fiction writers I admire.

The short answer: I have no idea. Most of the stories I write end up short and I trust myself enough as a writer to leave them that way.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

I’m going to be sneaky and say setting. But, setting as character. My stories always begin, at least during the writing process, with a sense of place. For me, the physical geography of a place or moment will inform the larger emotional geography of a story.

I’m currently working on a novel-in-flash that is set on the U.S./Mexico border. I can’t imagine writing about the border without writing about the desert. The desert is as much a character as any person and has as much, if not more, impact on plot than any other element in the story.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

I tend to think about a story for a long time before I ever write a word. And I edit slow. So, I would say that my writing style is just: slow. Happy and slow. Like a sloth.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

Being a parent. Seeing and re-learning the world through my son’s eyes. I definitely see his influence on my writing and the choices I make as an editor.

Also, I have this thing about birds. There’s usually one or more in my stories. I’m always looking for birds, every day, everywhere I go. I am one of those obnoxious people who will stop listening to you when I see a bird, which I’ve been told is equal parts endearing and annoying. Thankfully, my husband is a birding guide, so that worked out well.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

All of the stories we publish at jmww. Shameless promotion! I can’t help it. We have a great flash fiction team, and I’m really proud of the work we’ve been publishing.

I would also like to recommend Sudden Fiction Latino: Short-Short Stories from The United States and Latin America. It’s a fantastic anthology.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

I hear less about stories published in print than those published online, and the obvious issue there is accessibility. I feel pretty lucky, though. I’m hearing from many of the same readers with each new story and the crowd seems to be growing. People who read and share stories are superheroes.

BIO:

Kristin Bonilla is a fiction writer living in Houston, TX. Her work has appeared in Pithead Chapel, Hobart, Jellyfish Review, Gulf Coast online, Smokelong Quarterly, and elsewhere. She is a flash fiction editor at jmww. Follow her @kbonilla and read more at www.kristinbonilla.com.

 

Mini-Interview with Kate Finegan

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Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

In high school and college, I was really into writing poetry. I like how poetry and flash convey an intense experience succinctly. I see flash as a well-sharpened knife that can slice to the heart of the matter quickly, or a bolt of lightning that leaves the landscape forever changed in a matter of seconds. I also love how challenging it is to tell a story in such a short space. It’s an exercise in choosing the most precise details and chipping away at the draft until it has no jagged edges.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Character, definitely. For years, I was afraid to write fiction because I was afraid of plot.

 

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

The first draft is always quick and messy. If I’m not ready to write something just yet, I will write [describe her living room] or [blah blah blah romantic stuff]. I’m extremely imprecise and careless in my first drafts. I think the real work starts once the raw material is on the page; that’s when I get slow and precise, and I love the process of rewriting and editing.

 

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

I spent all my childhood summers in small towns and on our family farms in the Driftless region of Minnesota and Wisconsin, and I notice that setting creeping into my stories again and again. That, and the things I learn about the history of women; my feminism definitely influences my writing, always.

 

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

Tommy Dean, of course, and Jamaica Kincaid, Kristen Arnett, Gaynor Jones, Chloe N. Clark, Jennifer Fliss, Christopher Allen, Maureen Langloss, Kate Gehan, Barbara McVeigh…oh, this could be a really, really long list. I read a beautiful new flash at least once a day, and they’re like shots to inoculate me against all the crazy in the world.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

I really like the atmosphere and repetition in my story “Her Mother,” published by Midwestern Gothic. It was so well-promoted when it came out, and it was super exciting. I still go back to it and am tempted to share it again.

 

Bio:

Kate Finegan recently published the chapbook The Size of Texas with Penrose Press. Her work has won contests with Thresholds, Phoebe Journal, Midwestern Gothic, and The Fiddlehead, and been runner-up for The Puritan’s Thomas Morton Memorial Prize, shortlisted for the Cambridge Short Story Prize and Synaesthesia Flash Fiction Prize, and longlisted by Room. You can find her at katefinegan.ink and twitter.com/@kehfinegan.

 

Mini-Interview with Josh Jones

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Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

Ever since I first discovered short stories, I fell in love with the form. When I then was introduced to flash, I was amazed at how much could be done in so little space. I read the 1992 anthology Flash Fiction: 72 Very Short Stories with wonder and delight, reading classics from Forché and Dybek and Kincaid. The compression, the sense of play, the intensity of the language: all of that draws me into flash in the same way my favorite poems grab ahold of me. It isn’t an accident that flash and prose poetry are often conflated.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

 I’m going to cheat and say “voice” although character is a close second. But for me, the narrative voice is the entry point into a story. It sets the tone, is like the You Are Here red x on a map; it might even tell me which direction to begin walking.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

 Quick and messy to start. But I’m a meticulous and methodical reviser. When I’m in revising-mode, my pace slows dramatically, which is one reason I have finished very few traditional-length short stories. I quell at the thought of embarking on anything novel-length.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

 I work as an animator, so I find myself fixated on the movement of things. I enjoy observing people and nature with both an eye for kinetic motion but also for those unique quirks of life: speech mannerisms, a way of holding one’s head, a plodding walk cycle. Animation—and visual arts in general—is often about distillation and exaggeration of character. Flash can be like that also. We’re capturing a moment in time, a pose. As writers, we often work in miniature, while animators work in 30ths of a second.

 I must also say that my own experiences as a husband, a father, a denizen of the rural South, of urban Los Angeles, and suburban Maryland have all shaped my writing. While I wrote a variety of fairly bad short stories in college, I didn’t resume writing until almost two decades later when I had more of these life experiences to draw upon.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

I dread this question. There are so many amazing writers out there. It’s hard to begin recommending any without feeling guilty about everyone I forget to mention. So let me go with some of the writers I’ve been reading in the past couple of days: Cathy Ulrich who has two brilliant pieces out in Black Warrior Review and Atticus Review, K.C. Mead-Brewer and Maureen Langloss and Jennifer Harvey (I’ve been reading/re-reading Cheap Pop’s nominees for various awards), Marvin Shackleford’s beautiful piece in Split Lip, and this just scratches the surface. Right now, it seems like we’re in a Golden Age for flash fiction; there are so many gobsmackingly talented writers out there who are getting published in wonderful journals. I couldn’t possibly name them all.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

I feel fortunate to be a part of such a warm and inclusive community of flash fiction writers on Twitter. Most of my stories have been well received and wonderfully promoted—far more than they probably deserve—and I’m very grateful. If I had to choose one piece that might’ve flown under the radar (perhaps because it’s not as easily read online, even though it’s formatted beautifully in .pdf form), I’d choose my flash fiction “Francine Francis.”

 It is a piece that started as a voice, as an opening set of lines: “Francine Francis is not a nice person. She takes my things. She wears my lipstick, my dresses, my monogrammed sweaters.” I had no idea where it would go, but I knew I wanted to see who this Francine Francis was and what made her so unlikable. This first originated in a Kathy Fish workshop (and I’m sure your readers need no introduction of Kathy) and later was published by The Tishman Review in their April 2017 issue.

BIO: Joshua Jones lives in Maryland where he works as an animator. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in matchbook, CRAFT, The Cincinnati Review, Pidgeonholes, Split Lip Magazine, SmokeLong Quarterly, Necessary Fiction, and elsewhere. Find him on Twitter @jnjoneswriter.

Mini-Interview with Kathyrn Kulpa

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Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

I started out writing long, full short stories, often so long that I had a hard time finding a home for them. But when I look at them I realize that many of them are written as a series of short scenes. One of the first flash pieces I wrote was a parting scene between two characters from a novel I’d started writing in college. After I wrote it I realized: okay, it’s all there, I don’t need to go back to those characters. It was a relief, actually—not to have to worry about continuity and filling in the chinks. I could leave out the boring parts.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Actually, neither. Often, for me, what sparks a story is an image. Like the awful crab Rangoon restaurant with the dusty old prizes behind glass in my story “When God Closes a Door.” The characters tend to grow out of that. Who’s eating that crab Rangoon? Plot is the hardest, but if I’m lucky, it grows out of character.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Quick and messy initially. I don’t have much time to write so often my first drafts come out of an exercise in my writing group, and we usually give ourselves a time limit of 20 minutes or even less. But things can simmer under the surface for a long time before I actually write them, and I also have unfinished pieces that might sit in a notebook for years and then I’ll go back to them and think, “I wrote that?”

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

Probably childhood and adolescence. I often think of that Flannery O’Connor quote about how anyone who has survived childhood has enough experience of life to last them the rest of their days.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

Urgh, tough one. I can think of a few stories I often teach, because they do particular things so well: “I Am Holding Your Hand” by Myfanwy Collins; “We Didn’t” by Stuart Dybek; “Lawn of the Year” by Katie Burgess, from Atticus Review; “Hard Time,” by Courtney Watson, from 100 Word Story; and “Wedding Picture” by Jayne Ann Phillips, along with “Snapshot: Harvey Cedars 1948” by Paul Lisicky. And there is so much amazing work coming out right now, and journals that are publishing incredible flash. And yearly anthologies! And podcasts! And I’m definitely seeing more academic recognition. Let’s just say it’s an exciting time for flash.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

Probably “We the Underserved,” which was just before Christmas 2017 in Citron Review. I love the voice in that story and the strength and attitude of the young girl characters, but I think it was overlooked in the holiday rush.

BIO: Kathryn Kulpa was a winner of the Vella Chapbook Contest for her chapbook Girls on Film and is the author of a short story collection, Pleasant Drugs.  Her work has appeared in Jellyfish Review, Monkeybicycle, Smokelong Quarterly, and Evansville Review, and she serves as flash fiction editor for Cleaver magazine.

Mini-Interview with K.B. Carle

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Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

I write flash because I enjoy the challenge of capturing a pivotal moment for a character in just a few pages. In those pages, I need to show readers why this moment matters. However, when writing short stories, I tend to have more than two characters present, expressing themselves through dialogue. Flash allows me to lock two characters in a room, forcing them into conflict that depends less on dialogue and more on their nonverbal cues. Silence, what is left unsaid, has always intrigued me. A lot can happen between two people with two different perspectives, in a locked room. That’s when my characters’ body language (eye contact, uncomfortable tics, and the way they interact with the objects around them) becomes their new form of dialogue.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

I’m all about characters! I always want to know a reader’s favorite character, but when I ask about their favorite part of a flash piece, the scene almost always involves the despicable character. I love writing why or how a despicable character becomes despicable. Exploring how they talk or how their movements change based upon their surroundings or their company. Writing the antagonist doesn’t make me feel safe but hearing readers’ reactions to a racist woman carrying her mixed newborn grandchild into the night while her daughter screams behind her, knowing I could evoke such a strong reaction from that moment, keeps me returning to the page.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

My writing style is a bit of both. The thought process is always slow and precise. If I don’t have the first line, I don’t have the story. I could have several ideas bouncing around in my head but without a precise starting point, the story is just an idea locked away in my mind.

But when that first sentence comes, I’m transported into the world of the story, where my characters know what needs to be done to get from beginning, middle, and end. All I have to do is cross my fingers and hope my pencil doesn’t run out of lead.

I should say another part of the process that slows me down is the fact that I have to write EVERYTHING by hand first, including the answers to this interview. Once the story has made its way into my journal, I start editing as I type. Between the page and the computer is where the mess happens. Those moments when I ask myself, “Why would they do that?” Or I can’t read my handwriting due to a moment I refused to acknowledge my pencil lead did in fact break or an idea transcribed into scribbles. Once the words do find their way onto my computer (and I fight the word count) I’m back to the slow and precise process of searching for the first line of the next story.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

 Family.

Family is very important to me, especially since there’s still a lot I don’t know about my ancestors. I have the stories my parents tell me, but they only go back so far. It’s also why the Ancestry DNA commercials irritate me because, as an African American, my ancestors were erased from history. I come from an older family. My maternal grandfather was born in 1910 and only a few years separate him from my other grandparents. I didn’t get the stories I wanted from my grandparents, their history too painful to talk about or forgotten. Also, by the time I could talk to them, both of my grandfathers were already deceased. I was too young to crave the histories of my grandmothers and they were too tired to relive them. So, I cling to the precious memories I do have of them, of what history has taught me, what my parents remember of the shadows of their grandparents, and try to portray those struggles in my stories. This is my way of sharing that they, my ancestors, can never be erased.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

 Amina Harper—Five WivesPaper Darts

Amy Slack—The BathtubFlashBack Fiction

Monet Thomas—A Certain WomanThird Point Press

Annie Frazier—All of Us AnimalsLongleaf Review

Cathy Ulrich—Ghost Among GhostsJellyfish Review

Anita Goveas—Let’s Sing All the Swear Words We KnowLost Balloon

Tara Isabel Zambrano—A Thousand EyesPANK Magazine

Jennifer Todhunter—This is all We NeedAtticus Review

Noa Sivan—Seven Words for SandMonkeybicycle

Dina L. Relles—Where We Landmatchbook

Megan Giddings—The Eleventh Floor GhostSmokelong Quarterly

Meghan Phillips—Abstinence OnlyPassages North

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

 The story I wish received more recognition would have to be, “The Widow’s Crow,” in Meow Meow Pow Pow. The artwork paired with the piece is incredible and I had so much fun writing a story about a woman who’s best friends is a crow. I love the dark fairytale elements of this story and all the little details I managed to squeeze into such a short piece.

Bio: K.B. Carle lives outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and earned her MFA from Spalding University’s Low-Residency program in Kentucky. When she is not exploring the realms of speculative, jazz, and historical fiction, K.B. avidly pursues misspelled words, botched plot lines, and rudimentary characters. Her flash has appeared in FlashBack FictionThe Molotov CocktailPidgeonholesLost Balloon, and elsewhere. She can be found online at http://kbcarle.wordpress.com/ or on Twitter @kbcarle.

Mini-Interview with Kim Magowan

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Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

The first flash I ever wrote, before I knew there was this genre called flash, is a story called “Palimpsest,” back in 2010. My writing group at the time said, “We like this beginning a lot, where’s it going?” and I said, “No, that’s the whole thing.” I had an intuitive sense it was done. Really, I became interested in flash as a practical necessity: I’m a professor, and flash is the one mode of writing I can reliably do when the semester’s on. That said, I’ve become addicted to the form. I love its precision. It forces me to choose every word, to trim all the fat, to identify the core of a story and eliminate all fluff. I’ve become a better writer (more disciplined, more particular) because of flash. Reading and writing flash requires attention. Currently, as a fiction editor, I often find long stories flabby: parts seem brilliant, but parts drag. Flash eliminates all the boring stuff.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Definitely character! Plot is a struggle. A friend, not intending to be mean, once said after reading a draft of my novel, “This is great, but there’s no plot.” Which is kind of a huge thing to go missing in a novel! Whoops, forgot to include a plot! Though the English professor in me could point out a dozen novels that don’t have a plot to speak of (The Sound and the Fury, Mrs. Dalloway, most high modernism). I gravitate toward character. The reason I write is the same reason I read, and why in another life I think I would have made a decent psychotherapist: I like to figure people out. People are endlessly interesting to me, so my favorite novels (Emma, Middlemarch, The Remains of the Day, Lolita, The Good Soldier) are character studies.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

I veer towards quick and messy. My modus operandi with flash is to bang out the first draft in a sitting. I want the shape of the story splashed out. My revision process is all about chiseling. Even as a college student, I used to feel a dorky gratification when a draft of a paper was too long and needed cutting down. I enjoy removing flab, making stories trim and muscular. When I get a story into more or less presentable condition, I send it to my first reader, Michelle Ross, and she gives me edits. The ones I take graciously are the cuts. Whenever Michelle wants me to add or develop something, I grumble. I tend to write polished drafts, but I am a baby about doing comprehensive revisions. Any chore, no matter how onerous, seems preferable.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

Becoming a parent fundamentally changed both the way I write and the way I read. Certain books are simply not the same for me now: Beloved, always heartbreaking, kills me now—I cry every time I reread it (which is often, because I teach it). With Frankenstein, I always thought Victor Frankenstein was a self-centered jerk, but now I judge much more harshly Victor’s repudiation of the creature. A number of my characters are flawed parents. Others are struggling adolescents. Writing is a way for me to process some of my worst fears: what would it mean to lose a child, or to let down a child catastrophically? To have one’s own defects and failings damage someone else? One of the fascinating things about having children is the way it makes one confront wrapped-up parts of oneself. Kids hold up mirrors. You can’t hide from yourself anymore.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

There are so many flash writers I love! This isn’t original, but I am nuts about Lydia Davis—any writer interested in flash fiction should read (and reread) her collected stories. I’ve loved Borges since I was a teenager, when his micro “Borges and I” exploded my brain. Kathy Fish is fantastic: her flash “Collective Nouns About Humans in the Wild” destroyed me. I’m obsessed with Joy Williams’ Ninety-Nine Stories of God. I teach and reteach Jamaica Kincaid’s wonderful mother-daughter story “Girl.” Sherrie Flick’s stories are whiskey shots, they burn going down. George Saunders’s “Sticks” from his Tenth of December collection is a barbed thorn of a story. Michelle Ross, Kim Chinquee, Amelia Gray, and Cathy Ulrich are among my current favorites, writers whose new work I always seek out. I love the micro of yours Pithead Chapel is publishing, “You’ve Stopped”: that was one of my favorite flashes I’ve read all year. That final line about the slowing heartbeat is devastating.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

I’m proud of “Eleanor of Aquitaine.” It’s the first of the linked stories in my collection, and I suspect it gets overlooked next to other stories about Laurel that cast bigger shadows (“Warmer, Colder,” “On Air”). It isn’t as tough, repellent, or disturbing as those two. But I think it’s a strong story, and a sad one, about how a war between estranged spouses is hurting their daughter. Actually, I like the fourth of the Laurel stories a lot, too: “Pop Goes the Weasel.” That story almost didn’t make it into my collection. I worried it was too shapeless. It morphed on me. Initially, I thought I was writing a nasty stepmother story, but almost without my volition, Nina became a lot warmer and messier than my original picture of her. So, I want people to pay attention to the two understated Laurel stories! The two middle ones shout them down. “Eleanor” and “Pop Goes the Weasel” are like the quiet kids in the back of the classroom who won’t raise their hands, but should be called on anyway.

BIO: Kim Magowan lives in San Francisco and teaches in the Department of Literatures and Languages at Mills College. Her short story collection Undoing won the 2017 Moon City Press Fiction Award and was published in March 2018. Her novel The Light Source is forthcoming from 7.13 Books in 2019. Her fiction has been published in Atticus Review, Bird’s Thumb, Cleaver, The Gettysburg Review, Hobart, New World Writing, Sixfold, and many other journals. She is Fiction Editor of Pithead Chapel. www.kimmagowan.com

Mini-Interview with Sarah Freligh

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Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

Flash combines the lyric precision of poetry with the narrative urgency of fiction. It’s the perfect storm.

That’s my academic answer. The real reason is because I dole out my life in coffee spoons. I write in grabbed time and flash lends itself nicely to small dollops.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Character, with a splash of plot, most likely because I am a terrible plotter. If conflict is fuel, flash can run on a buck’s worth, long enough to arrive at a story (not so for a novel, which I’m discovering to my great chagrin). At some point in the writing, I get hold of a tail of something – a metaphor, an action – and hitch a ride on that for a while. I eventually arrive at a story or even better, a hint of a story.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Ideally, quick and messy on first swipe after which I abandon the mess for a while to forget what I both love and hate about it. At some point, I start to revise. I might see a potential structure and how that might work to underscore theme. How fooling around with language can create opportunities for metaphor that expand and deepen understanding and meaning. A mentor once said to me that there are no true synonyms in the English language, and I agree. I’m eternally after the right word.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

I’d wish I could say that I bit into a madeleine and saw my life whole, but the truth is far more pedestrian. My cats, dead and alive. Swimming, definitely. It’s so boring that after 1,000 yards, you develop a rich imagination or go starkers. I have a bank of stored-up images that need homes, and usually I find them in my poems or prose.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

Jayne Anne Phillips’ book Black Tickets, especially “Wedding Picture” and “Blind Girls.” Gary Gildner’s “Fingers” and Paul Lisicky’s “Snapshot, Harvey Cedars, 1948,” both from the iconic Flash Fiction anthology. Anne Panning’s “Candy Cigarettes,” a flash nonfiction. I’ve used them as prompts in so many classes; they never fail.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

Hard question! Probably “We Smoke,” because that might mean that people are reading New Micro, the terrific new anthology edited by James Thomas and Robert Scotellero, or reading my poetry book Sad Math, published by Moon City Press in 2015.

 

BIO: Sarah Freligh is the author of Sad Math, winner of the 2014 Moon City Press Poetry Prize and the 2015 Whirling Prize from the University of Indianapolis. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Sun Magazine, Hotel Amerika, BOAAT Journal, diode, SmokeLong Quarterly, and in the anthology New Microfiction: Exceptionally Short Stories (W.W. Norton, 2018). Among her awards are a 2009 poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and a grant from the Constance Saltonstall Foundation in 2006.

Mini-Interview with Lynn Mundell

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Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

I think it fits in with the amount of time I have to write—which is not that much these days since I have a lot going on, including a full-time job, family, my buddies, co-editing 100 Word Story, swimming, reading, and just living. But it’s more than convenience. Writing flash also harkens back to my writing origins as a poet, where I worked within different structures, with imagery and themes, and with an attention to language. What I am still learning now that I write fiction is dialogue, something that is new to me as a writer and pretty difficult.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

May I say both? If I don’t have a plot, I am lost. I am just writing to write. But I need a narrator and others I can believe in to tell the story. More and more I am holding off on writing until I have a better sense in my head of what I am writing and who is going to do the work for me in my story. I have been making notes, too, and sometimes asking myself how I could make my idea more interesting or unusual.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

I am slow and precise. I write some, back up, rewrite and add a bit more, back up, rewrite, add a bit more, until the story is done. Then I might go in and add sections or re-work it. It can be a laborious process, with pen and paper. I think I have probably not entirely transitioned from writing poetry to fiction.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

I seem to write a lot about moving, being lost, homes, and travel. I suspect this is because I moved a lot as a kid. These days I have written more from the news since I find it very troubling, and about aging and mortality. Pretty much whatever is going on in my life and around me may make it into a story, from the pedestrian to the significant.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

There are so many talented writers out there right now that it is pretty impossible to pick. One of my favorite journals to read is Jellyfish Review. I think Christopher James has pretty impeccable taste, and I like how he will publish brand-new writers or established one, and across genres. I would be hard pressed to call out specific writers, but I will say that I have never read a Meg Pokrass or a Molly Giles story I didn’t like.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

 One of the first ones I wrote when I discovered flash fiction, “Travels through Time and Space with Zora,” which was published in Eclectica in 2014. I really put a lot of myself into that one, and I still like it when I read it over again these days.

BIO: Lynn Mundell’s writing has appeared this year in SmokeLong Quarterly, Monkeybicyle, Thread, Booth, Gone Lawn, apt, Bird’s Thumb, Fanzine, and elsewhere. Her story “The Old Days,” originally published in Five Points, is included in the W.W. Norton anthology New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction. Lynn’s work has been recognized on the Wigleaf “Top 50 Very Short Fictions” long lists of 2017 and 2018. She is co-editor of 100 Word Story and its anthology Nothing Short Of: Selected Tales from 100 Word Story (Outpost19). Learn more about her at http://lynnmundell.com/

Mini-Interview with Leslie Pietrzyk

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Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

I don’t think of myself as a natural flash writer; I generally write novels and long short stories. I couldn’t write a poem if my life depended on it. But six-ish years ago, I started thinking about flash when I was working on THIS ANGEL ON MY CHEST, a book of stories that plays around with form. I challenged myself to write something short, to tell a complete and harrowing story in as few words as possible. (Here’s the result.) Now, I love the compression and the gut-punch of a successful piece of flash, that sense of illumination like a firework ripping through a dark sky. I like the power of what’s missing, of the ripples of what is suggested and implied and hidden. I explore the role of silence a lot in my fiction, whether real or perceived, and I find that flash is a way of breaking silence. I’m still challenged by the form; most of my pieces are in the 750-1000 word range, which is kind of long-ish flash. But I accept the form’s difficulty: feeling off-balance and unsure is good for me as a writer.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

My instinct is to say character because my finished work tends to be character-driven rather than plot-intensive. Yet when I really think about what a life jacket does—which is it saves your ass when you’re flailing around in wide open water after being dumped from a boat—I think about plot: my writing depends less on lyrical phrasing and poetics, and more on interesting things happening or secrets being peeled away. So, thank you, true and steady Plot, for coming to my rescue, every single time, even as I start out telling myself that I don’t need you!

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Yes! Quick and messy in the first draft (or, actually, slow and super-messy). And then slow and precise in the subsequent revisions. By slow, I do mean slow: it’s amazing how much time I can spend worrying over one word.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

One of the things I love most about being a writer is being able to throw bits and pieces of my real life into my stories, like keeping a secret scrapbook of memories (“here’s the story I wrote when I first discovered hockey!”). So various interests maneuver themselves into the work, but the single most consistent part of my life that slips in is food. I love to cook, I love to eat, I love interesting cocktails, and most of all I love to get my characters eating or cooking or drinking. In fact, it’s a rare story of mine where no one gets fed or enjoys a cocktail. The bonus is that, of course, what and how we eat and drink is extremely revealing of character, so I get to indulge myself while also helping the fiction along.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

I loved Sherrie Flick’s book, Whiskey, Etc, and I’m looking forward to reading her new collection, Thank Your Lucky Stars. Another book I recommend is I Will Love You for the Rest of My Life by Michael Czyzniejewski. Amy Hempel is a master, of course. Two individual stories I love are “The Sweet Life” found in Kyle Minor’s Praying Drunk and “Sleepover,” in Mothers, Tell Your Daughters, by Bonnie Jo Campbell.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

Ha—I know we’re talking about flash and so it’s probably cheating to choose a 40-pager, the longest story I’ve written: “One True Thing.” It’s included in THIS ANGEL ON MY CHEST, my collection of unconventionally-linked short stories (and was also published online, in The Collagist), so I shouldn’t complain that the story is unrecognized. But I worked on it for more than a year and most of the time I had no idea what I was doing or even if I could do what I wanted to do, which was to write a continuous story told in the form of a craft lecture about point of view; each of the 10 sections is told with a different point of view choice, i.e. collective first person, third person, second person, omniscient (see how insane this undertaking was?). Anyway, I thought I was done several times before I really was done, and the whole writing experience nearly did me in, so I selfishly and secretly wish this story was required reading for everyone in America!

LINK TO THE 40-PAGE STORY: http://thecollagist.com/the-collagist/2015/2/6/one-true-thing.html

LINK TO THE FLASH PIECE ALLUDED TO IN THE FIRST QUESTION: https://shenandoahliterary.org/622/acquiescence/

BIO: 

Leslie Pietrzyk is the author of Silver Girl, released in February 2018 by Unnamed Press, and called “profound, mesmerizing, and disturbing” in a Publishers Weekly starred review. Her collection of unconventionally linked short stories, This Angel on My Chest, won the 2015 Drue Heinz Literature Prize and was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Her previous novels are Pears on a Willow Tree and A Year and a Day. Short fiction and essays have appeared/are forthcoming in Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Southern Review, Ploughshares, Gettysburg Review, Hudson Review, The Sun, Shenandoah, Arts & Letters, River Styx, Iowa Review, Washingtonian, The Collagist, and Cincinnati Review. Pietrzyk is a member of the core fiction faculty at the Converse low-residency MFA program and teaches often in the Johns Hopkins MA in Writing program. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia. For more information: www.lesliepietrzyk.com

Mini-Interview with Al Kratz

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Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

I wrote poetry growing up and then random snippets in journals because it’s all the time I gave to it. So there’s a natural draw to it. That one sharp story. Maybe I like it so much because of music. We didn’t just listen to albums, we lived them. Broke them down and thought about how they worked. An album is basically a flash fiction chapbook. I don’t know how different flash is. I will say it is way more than word count. It is scope and voice. I’ve seen others talk about this, but flash changes the way we read novels too. I don’t hate it, but I definitely notice when things aren’t as compressed as flash.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

That’s a thing we can have? I probably would choose character of those two, although I’d have to admit I depend on voice over those two. Maybe that’s just character though? I need to get better at both. I need to get a lifejacket.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Quick and messy when an idea forces itself out. Slow and painful when I’m trying to pull an idea out. Always slow and precise on rewriting. When I’ve got an active idea, lots of phone notes and I keep a mini-legal pad in the car so I don’t lose ideas.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

I think I’ve always had the mentality that experience should be thought about. Maybe this came from being a preacher’s kid. I’ve never been bored. A lot of my flash is semi-autobiographical bordering on autofiction.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

I’ve been trying to keep up with the flash world for like six years now. It’s crazy how many talented flash writers there are. I recently finished Nicole Rivas’ chapbook from Rose Metal Press and it’s one of the best there is. Sister Suite by Christine Stroud is a beautifully poetic book. I’m amazed by how the story of grief can still be told in new ways. I’m loving everything Scott McClanahan writes. He doesn’t really write flash, but it’s pretty darn compressed.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

Ah, recognition. Maybe this one?

http://www.literaryorphans.org/playdb/lamb-god-al-kratz/

Bio:

Al Kratz lives in Indianola, Iowa with his wife and their three old dogs. He writes fiction reviews for Alternating Current and is a Fiction Editor for New Flash Fiction Review. He is @silverbackedG on twitter and pubs are listed at http://alkratz.blogspot.com/

Mini-Interview with Gaynor Jones

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Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

 I’ve been writing it for so long, it’s hard to remember why I started but I write it now because it’s so addictive. There’s always a publication call out or a competition with an interesting theme (I’m a sucker for themes). The flash community is brilliant too if I stopped writing flash I’d feel like an outsider looking in. That’s happened a little bit recently as I’ve stepped back to work on different projects so I keep a few flashes going all the time, to keep my hand in.

I wouldn’t say I enjoy the challenge of a smaller word count, with me it’s often that my work naturally ends at a few hundred words anyway. This is great for flash but proving to be a real problem as I try and get my short story collection off the ground!

 What’s your writerly life jacket: character or plot?

 Oh, definitely plot. I never think in terms of character when I’m starting a story or even when I’m really into writing it. I feel that’s a big no-no for writers but I think it suits my style. My stories tend to hinge on the odd thing that is happening rather than the people in them. I think that’s what makes my work different from other flash writers, but also what makes it sometimes less popular or less successful? I can’t really do deep and meaningful characters and beautiful, lyrical writing, but I’m okay with that. There’s space for every type of writing.

 Writing style: quick and messy or slow and precise?

 For flash, quick and messy, but that’s only because I have been writing flash for eons. I can tell pretty quickly if a piece is going to be good or not, something about the ease with which the original idea gets onto the paper. These days I often go from idea to submission within a few hours. Again that’s a big no-no, isn’t it? But I’m a rebel! My Comma Press course tutor, Lara Williams, told us ‘write until it’s reflex’ and that’s what has happened with me and flash. I wouldn’t recommend that method to someone just starting out.

However, for anything other than flash (e.g. short stories) it is slow and precise with tons of research, planning and editing. I mean to be fair, maybe my flash would be better if I treated it that way too! Maybe I should slow down and try it…

 What element or part of your ‘real life’ do you think most influences your writing?

 The fact that I’m funny, ha. There is a lot of humour in my work, sometimes it’s dark, often it’s wry but it’s nearly always there. I grew up in Merseyside, where you have to be funny, it’s like a requirement for living there. You have quips with everyone from the bus driver to the milkman to your teachers and of course with your family so you learn quickly to think of a good comeback. One of my proudest writing moments was when a tutor told me I’m ‘often funny’ so now whenever I make my husband (a Southerner) laugh I raise an eyebrow and say ‘Well, I am often funny.’

I wish there was more acceptance of humour in fiction but there’s a bit of snobbishness around it I think. I would like to start a funny flash mag when I have the time. But also, this humour works for me because then when I write something serious or painful, which I occasionally do, it seems to blow people away a lot more as they weren’t expecting it.

 If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who / what would it be?

 

Handily I have a folder for just such an occasion as this!

Final Girl Slumber Party by Meghan Phillips is always top of my list. I don’t know her, but I feel we must have had a similar upbringing in terms of cultural references as whenever I read one of her flashes I find myself saying ‘Yes! That’s exactly what it’s like!’ Also, she writes about themes that really interest me, adolescence, sex, girls, pop culture, feminism.

When Stranded on an Iceberg by Tino Prinzi. This maybe strays into prose poetry rather than flash but it’s simple and beautiful and powerful.

I Can’t Explain Anything Anymore by Mary Lynn Reed because I love diner set stories and it has such a strong voice.

Magenta by Molly Gutman because it’s like nothing else I’ve ever read. So dark and intriguing with a touch of the magical.

The Amazing Sleepless Boy by Lynn Mundell is brilliant and brutal.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

Well, my story Girls Who Got Taken was well received when it was published by Former Cactus but I wasn’t as known in the flash scene then so I’m not sure a lot of people read it. I developed this as a longer short story on my Comma Press course with a very different ending but the feedback wasn’t great (she turned into snow at the end – I loved it, but it’s not for everyone!) so I slashed it to 1000 words and actually I think it works a lot better like this as it’s such a tight, claustrophobic story. It’s quite a different type of story from my usual and it’s one of my favourites. I hope people enjoy it!

BIO: Gaynor Jones is a freelance writer based in Manchester, U.K. She specialise in short fiction and was the recipient of the Mairtín Crawford Short Story Award 2018. She organises the Story For Daniel Flash Fiction Competition to raise awareness of blood stem cell donation and childhood cancer support. She is currently working on her debut short story collection and will release her first book of flash fiction, Business As Usual, in January 2019.

 

 

Mini-Interview with Adam Lock

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Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

Thank you so much for asking me to do this. It has really made me think.

For me, everything about flash fiction is more immediate than other forms of literature. They do take time to write, but still, they are not as time consuming as short stories or indeed novels. The submission and feedback process from magazines and competitions is also relatively quick. And if a piece isn’t working, you can work on it and submit again. I think I’m a writer who needs the constant process of submission and response; flash fiction fulfills this need.

What makes flash fiction different, is its precision. Short stories and novels do share this quality, at times, but flash fiction is all about precision. I love identifying what truth a flash piece is searching for and then cutting everything that doesn’t help convey this truth. For me, a great flash piece is like a ray of light shining on one tiny, yet universal truth.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

This is a naughty question. But I like it. I’ve been thinking about this more and more recently. The conclusion I have reached, is that fundamentally, people want to read about people (or animals – but even these tend to be anthropomorphised, and so end up being about people too). It’s a simple as that. Plot is what happens to characters, so this of course is important too. But ultimately, all good fiction says something about what it feels like to be human. And when a writer hits on something the reader recognises to be a shared human experience… well here lies its magic.
Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

I find it difficult to shut off the editor in my head sometimes, so I tend to be more ‘slow and precise.’ I think it would be ideal to be both — to begin ‘quick and messy,’ and then slow down and be more ‘slow and precise.’

There is a fantastic book on writing called, ‘From Where You Dream,’ by Robert Olen Butler, who writes about how to reach a ‘dreamspace,’ and create a sense of ‘yearning,’ in your writing. This made me see how important it is to be both quick and slow at different times. Being quick and messy can trick your brain into revealing something of which you’re not consciously aware. This stuff is the gold you’re after. Then the slow part of your brain has to sift for that nugget of gold in amongst all the other stuff your brain is playing with.

There is a collection of Norman Mailer’s thoughts on writing called, ‘The Spooky Art.’ I write in the early mornings, and sometimes when I read back what I’ve written, I don’t remember writing it. The writing process really does feel wonderfully spooky sometimes.

In short, I want to be both, but I am definitely more ‘slow and precise.’
What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

Has to be the things other people say and do. I think I’ve always watched and listened, but being a writer makes you really watch and listen. People do and say unbelievably wonderful things without even realising sometimes. I use the Notes app on my phone to write these things down – otherwise I’d forget most of it (and don’t think you won’t – you will). Then, when I’m struggling to think of something to write, I look in my notes and I have a first line or prompt to start me off. Sometimes I don’t even use the original idea, but it’s a place to start.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

This is tough because there are so many writers, and now friends, who I follow and whose work I think is wonderful.

Melissa Goode writes stories on a theme I come back to time and again myself: relationships. She has such a light touch, and this ability to gesture to different moments in time that connect and spark off one another. I’m in awe of the poise and delicacy in her writing. This is her story, ‘Guernica’: https://jmwwblog.wordpress.com/2018/03/23/fiction-guernica-by-melissa-goode/

Christopher M Drew writes stories that integrates the natural world and science beautifully. I have been lucky enough to share drafts of stories with Chris, and have received his invaluable advice. I don’t think there is a flash fiction writer who plays with white space better than Chris.

‘The Shape of Us,’ is a great story: https://www.reflexfiction.com/the-shape-of-us-flash-fiction-by-christopher-m-drew/

Leonora Desar’s stories are instantly recognisable. She writes with freedom and bravery, generating a feeling of hope and joy. When I read one of her flash pieces I see the word in a slightly different way. A wonderful writer.

This is, ‘Fire, Ocean.’ https://www.theshortstory.co.uk/flash-fiction-fire-ocean-by-leonora-desar/

Peter Jordan is a terrific writer. I’ve been lucky enough to receive his advice and help with my own writing. His stories uncover universal truths that are presented in a clear and visceral way.   

This is, ‘At the Bottom of the Glass’: http://www.ellipsiszine.com/at-the-bottom-of-the-glass-by-peter-jordan/

More great writers, collections and stories:

Christopher Allen’s collection: ‘Other Household Toxins’

Stephanie Hutton’s NiF: ‘Three Sisters of Stone’

Meg Porkrass’ collection: ‘Alligators at Night’

Gaynor Jones: ‘The Thing Between Your Legs’ http://jonzeywriter.com/the-thing-between-your-legs

Damhnait Monaghan: ‘The Neverlands’ https://jellyfishreview.wordpress.com/2018/04/20/the-neverlands-by-damhnait-monaghan/

Jason Jackson: ‘As Beautiful as Blackberry Picking’ https://fictivedream.com/2018/06/29/as-beautiful-as-blackberry-picking/

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

That’s another tough one. Commenting on your own writing always feels a little icky doesn’t it? I’ll choose a story I wrote when I first started writing flash fiction. I wrote this at a time I was learning about white space and leaving room for the reader. I think there are stories in which you recognise an improvement in your craft. I think this story, ‘Step on a Crack,’ is one such story for me.

https://flashfictionmagazine.com/blog/2017/07/07/step-on-a-crack/

Thank you again for this opportunity. I’ve really enjoyed it.
Bio: Adam Lock writes in the Midlands, UK. He recently won the TSS Summer Quarterly Flash Competition 2018 and the STORGY Flash Competition 2018. He was placed third in the Cambridge Short Story Prize 2017, and has been shortlisted twice for the Bath Flash Fiction Award 2018. He’s had, or soon will have, stories appear in publications such as Lost Balloon, Former Cactus, MoonPark Review, Fictive Dream, Spelk, Reflex, Retreat West, Fiction Pool, Ellipsis Zine, Ghost Parachute, and many others. You can find links to his stories on his website: adamlock.net. He’s also active on Twitter at: @dazedcharacter.


 

Mini-Interview with Emily Devane

Emily Colour

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

Thanks for having me, Tommy. I’ve loved reading your mini interviews series. I started writing flash before I knew its name. To my delight, I won first prize in a local competition for a 200-word story, based on a really creepy portrait of a girl in a party dress. It gave me such a boost and encouraged me to write more. Playing with words has always been something of an obsession for me. As a history teacher, I told stories day in, day out. When I began to write creatively, I had to unlearn my teacherly ways: my love of clarity and purpose, my desire to educate. By letting go a little and allowing the reader to conspire with me in the story, my stories began to breathe.

The more I have written and read, the more I have come to understand the special nature of the form. Not quite prose, not quite poem, it occupies the gaps between. Flash is story at its most pure, the literary equivalent of a fine malt whiskey. The finished piece may be short – consumed in a single sitting – but it can deliver a powerful, lingering taste, and there is so much craft behind each tiny piece, so much discarded along the way in the interests of distilling the story to its essence. There’s a special alchemy at work: the ingredients of the story – in this case, the writer, with his or her particular way of looking at the world – combined with a series of editing processes (akin to the malting, the mashing, the fermentation, the distillation), to create a finished piece. The most satisfying flashes leave a physical impression on the reader, the way whiskey stings, then warms, the throat.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

I know it’s cheating but I can’t separate the two. What happens is intrinsically wrapped up in the person or people I write about. Plot comes out of character and character comes out of place. Setting or mood are what I tend to begin with: so, I might start with an idea to write about a specific emotion, then I create a scene and the characters kind of stroll in of their own accord and start doing stuff. I like for there to be an arc of sorts – a satisfying sense of shift – but I try not to force plot in a way that feels contrived. I have Kathy Fish to thank for teaching me the importance of staying true to the emotional core of a story. My memory works like a series of films. I tend to write in that way, like a person orientating themselves in a place – exploring my surroundings using the senses, honing in on the earthy paper smell of a library book, or the crunch of dry grass during a hot summer, or the erratic movement of a beetle across a patio.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

I am so bad at these binary choices! I suppose I start messy, with paper and pen. Being a terribly slow typist, I prefer to explore the beginnings of an idea on paper. As soon as I can no longer bear the crossings out, I move onto my laptop, where I start to shape the piece. I keep my old notebooks and find it interesting to see those early scribblings. Because rhythm is important to me – my best tip for editing is to read your words aloud, paying attention to the awkward bits – I often lift whole sentences in their original form. If the rhythm is working, I don’t like to edit the life out of it.

 

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

What a great question! Going back to my time as a history student and teacher, I suppose I have always been fascinated by the unsaid – the story that goes on in the white space between words. I love to explore those hidden places, teasing out truths that have gone unnoticed and the characters whose stories might have been overlooked. I am also a massive over thinker, forever poring over past conversations, wondering if I read them correctly, worrying I may have got the wrong end of the stick and caused massive offense. I think – I hope – we’re all a bit like this. I find flash in those moments of awkwardness, those sudden, uncomfortable realisations. Obviously, I don’t write exclusively about awkward people doing awkward things – but that’s where my eye tends to fall.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

Trying to narrow this down to just a few is so tough – the list of writers I admire, each for their particular style or tone, is way too long to share. But here are a few stories that have stuck with me and won’t let me go:

Jacqueline Doyle – The Missing Girl (Black Lawrence Press). I read this chapbook recently and I’m still reeling. I was struck by how these stories poke around fearlessly in the darkest of corners. Each flash explores the world of the missing from different perspectives, from victim to onlooker to perpetrator. Nola, originally published in Monkey Bicycle, was a stand-out story for me.

Christopher Allen – The Microbiology of Laiq (Jellyfish Review). I keep going back to this story. It’s so cleverly written, starting with a character whose obsession with microbiology borders on the eccentric, building to a devastating penultimate paragraph and a final line that has me in tatters every time.

K.B.Carle – Tyn (FlashBack Fiction). It’s a bit of a cheat to mention a piece of work published at FlashBack, where I’m a reader – and I’m fiercely proud of every piece we publish – but it was love at first sight with this painfully beautiful story, which appeals to my love of rhythmic prose.  The audio is just incredible, like music – it’s a masterclass in what flash can do.

Sharon Telfer – My Father Comforts Me in the Form of Birds (Reflex). I loved this Reflex-winning piece before I even read it. That title is a story in of itself. It’s a wonderful example of fragmented flash fiction, told in tiny, perfect nuggets, revealing something much bigger about the power of nature and the nature of grief: a quiet beauty.

Kevin Barry – The Apparitions (about an apparition of Samuel Beckett appearing on a gable wall in Dublin) published at The Forge and monologue for cabman (told in one, never-ending sentence, this one’s all about voice), published at The Stinging Fly. I’ve chosen two because Kevin Barry is ludicrously good at words. He writes funny, dark, brilliant stories and his dialogue is so alive, it’s as if the character is shouting in your ear. His longer work is worth seeking out, and if you ever get a chance to hear him read – jump at it.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

I feel lucky to have landed my stories with some great publications. I’m still fond of Back When The Sky Was Different, published in The Nottingham Review, because it reflects my preoccupation with the odd. More recently, I was pleased as punch to have The Word Swallower up at Ellipsis; this story was one of those rare ones that come out in one sitting, totally going against my whiskey metaphor. But there you go – flash is ever surprising!

BIO: Emily Devane lives and writes in Ilkley, West Yorkshire. Her stories have been published in various magazines and anthologies, most recently in Ellipsis and Ripening (the National Flash Fiction Day Anthology). Emily’s Bath Flash Fiction winning story ‘The Hand That Wields The Priest’ was a 2018 Best Small Fictions Finalist. A former Word Factory Apprentice, she also won a Northern Writers’ Award for her short story collection, which is almost ready for sending out into the world. She recently came second in the TSS 400 Competition with ‘Maria Belfiore’s Shoes’. Emily is on the editorial team for historical flash fiction magazine FlashBack Fiction. She tweets @DevaneEmily.

Mini-Interview with Barlow Adams

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Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

To me, flash has some kindred connection to poetry. From a craft perspective, they both require special attention to the individual words–the weight of a single one can tip a shortie or poem toward ruin or raise it up high–but they also rely on negative space to function at the highest level. You don’t have the room to tell a story in its entirety. You have to allow the reader to fill in the gaps. So you end up with these glorious ghost words and spectral sentences, where the reader is plugging holes with his or her own expectations and experiences. I love the idea of that sort of collaborative storytelling. Which I think takes place in all writing, but is especially relevant and necessary with flash. This dichotomy of meticulous precision and faith in the reader is so exciting to me. Every piece is an experiment in conjecture.

In terms of practical use, due to its length, flash is a smaller mountain to climb on trying days. I may not be able to complete a chapter or write a full short, but I can craft a flash. It’s a small prayer to the writing gods, and it’s those little offerings that sometimes keep me going, keep me connected to the creative source when I might otherwise drift away.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

I think all great stories have both. Compelling people doing compelling things. But if I have to choose, I’ll go with character.

When it comes down to it, plot is cleverness disguised as action, and, as twisting and branching as any plot can be, every road reaches its end. We all run out of cleverness eventually. But all writers have had that moment when a character becomes fully autonomous, when she starts acting of her own accord, begins to discover her own plots, her own courses of action. That’s the sweet spot of writing for me when it all starts to get a little easier. At that point, I’m more of a stenographer than an architect. I’m telling a story as I witness it rather than designing it consciously. It becomes more fun than work. Like watching a movie in my mind. I’m lazy. I’ll take that every time.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

I’m a poor typist for a writer. I make a lot of silly, stupid mistakes. From a technical standpoint, I’m very messy. But I’m deliberate with my storytelling from the beginning of the process. I have stories that are effectively first drafts that I’ve been fairly pleased with at the end once the mechanical aspects were corrected.

I write using what I think of as “floodgates,” where I will linger for entirely too long on a single sentence trying to get it exactly right. Once that is finished to my satisfaction I’ll pour on for paragraphs or pages until I hit another sluice in the story. I’m a bit stop-and-go in that way, but these keystone sentences really seem to unlock the story for me. Some days I’ve got the skeleton key and all the world’s an open hall. Others, I’m scratching at the front door like a dog begging to be let in.

Worst of both worlds, maybe?

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

I fell seriously ill as a child and was told by doctors that I likely wouldn’t live to adulthood. They were wrong, thankfully, but that introduction to my own mortality at such a young age has–in retrospect–had a profound influence on my writing. Death and disease linger around my stories and poems like storm clouds, even when they don’t make a direct appearance. My sense of what is a happy story and what is a sad story is frequently a little off. I find hope in dark places and companionship in the idea that all things must have an end, that I am not alone in my guaranteed expiration. As frightening as it may be to some, I find such comfort in the idea that we are all on this sinking ship together, that we get to experience so many breathtaking moments together before this thing goes down.

Being seriously ill is a constant balancing act between gratitude and alienation. If you let it, sickness will take your humanity from you in chunks, until it’s just you–and everything that is terribly, horribly wrong with you–alone in a world of shiny, happy, healthy people. Beyond functioning as art or entertainment, I believe that reading and writing, the inherent communication between two minds often separated by distance and time, is the most effective balm for loneliness. It’s the closest we get to experiencing life on different terms. It’s magic. It’s skinwalking. It’s being human in real time. Whenever I pick up a book or sit at my keyboard that’s what I’m really after. I think I owe that desire to childhood summers spent in hospital beds, staring up at the ceiling, trying to prop up the weight of the world with the spine of a book. The right story can save someone from being crushed. I want to write that story. For others. For myself.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

Wow. So many. I hate you a little for this question

George Saunders, who I desperately wish would adopt me.

Amelia Gray. Absolute ace writer.

I think no conversation about flash is complete without mention of the incomparable Kathy Fish, who is not only a brilliant writer in her own right but who seems to be able to pull magic out of others at will.

Noa Sivan is the writer who inspired me to write flash in the first place. It was like watching someone on the trapeze at the circus and thinking, “Look at her fly. I have to try that.” I am consistently amazed by the workings of her quirky, awe-inspiring mind. Her creativity is simply off the charts.

I love absolutely everything Cathy Ulrich has ever written. I want to track down this woman’s high school essays so I can read them. Find her damn diary. Her Japan stories, her “Murdered Ladies” series. Everything she does lights me up.

Stephanie Hutton has a new flash book out called “Three Sisters of Stone.” She’s terrific. More than terrific.

Leesa Cross-Smith. Tara Laskowski. Melissa Goodrich. I mean, have you read Melissa Goodrich? She’s like some invasive species of alien wordsmith that only came to earth to make my own ideas seem pedestrian in comparison.

You can’t just ask questions like these, Tommy!

I recently discovered Tara Isabel Zambrano and regret every day of my life before that moment.

Ryan Werner.

Sofia Samatar.

I have to stop. I feel like I’m possessed. I could go on.

Neil Clark. My favorite spaceman.

Chloe N. Clark! Love her!

Enough.

Amy Hempel.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

Are you kidding? I’m being interviewed by Tommy Dean. I’ve already surpassed expectation.

I suppose that as someone who writes both genre and literary fiction, I’d love to see more crossover in my readership, as all my babies are equal in my eyes. But, honestly, I’m just glad people care enough to read some of my work. But I’d like to see more support on both sides of the aisle in the literary community. Build worlds, not walls.

BIO:

*Barlow Adams is a former journalist, the author of two novellas and an upcoming novel. His most recent publications include pieces in or upcoming at formercactus, Pine Mountain Sand and Gravel, The Disappointed Housewife, The Molotov Cocktail, Ghost Parachute, Riggwelter Press, Delphinium, Five on the Fifth, and Finishing Line Press. He’s not sure why he’s wearing a weird hat in every author photo.

 

Mini-Interview with Brianne Kohl

Bri

 

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

Flash fiction is a lightning strike – a whole story in less than 1000 words that begins in the moment right before the bolt hits. It requires three things: character, plot, and immediacy. I like writing flash because I get to drop the reader into the story moments before the crisis. I can put a character in an open field with a metal rod in their hand right before the storm breaks out. The sky is dark and weird. The hair on their arms stands on edge. I don’t have to tell the reader what led them to the open field if I don’t want to.

I love flash fiction because it is like practicing therapeutic mindfulness through my characters. The only thing that matters is the moment they are in. I don’t have to resolve the crisis, I just have to create it and let them exist within it.

  1. What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Never plot. I almost never know what is happening until its written which is why I struggle with long-form writing. Often, I focus on character but can I break the rules a little here? If I’m considering my writerly lifejacket to be that thing that floats me to the top of the water when my writing becomes difficult or choppy, it is almost always location. I tend to orient my writing, even if it is not obvious on the page, in place. It’s how I access my way into writing and if I feel bogged down, it’s how I get back to where I need to be. Drawing connections between theme and carefully selected physical details save my ass every time.

In the above example of the person standing in the open field, imagine it is Spring and the air is thick with the smell of ozone. The long grass sways in the breeze. But, the wind is picking up and the sky is at odds with such a hopeful field. My character has created tension with their world by bringing a metal rod – such a stupid thing to do. The metal rod acts to alienate my character from the landscape. There will be a price to pay for that. That penalty – and how the reader can relate – is the story.

  1. Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Slow and messy like wiping mud off a pane of glass using a wet paper towel.

  1. What elements or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

I moved around a lot as a kid. I never lived in the same place for more than two years until I was an adult. The theme I see repeating itself organically throughout my writing is the sense of place I talked about before. Meridel Le Sueur wrote “The body repeats the landscape. They are the source of each other and create each other.” My guess, without the help of a really good therapist, is that through my writing, I’m trying to figure out my physical space in the world.

In college, I read an ethnography by Keith Basso called, “Wisdom Sits In Places” which set my scalp on fire. I’m oversimplifying but it explores the relationship between people, culture, and place as told by four Western Apache storytellers. The book is both academic and passionate about the idea that our physical world holds human wisdom. For a writer, that kind of notion is seductive.

When I write, I’m always trying to recreate that feeling I got when I read that book. Consider this passage, “Wisdom sits in places. It’s like water that never dries up. You need to drink water, don’t you? Well, you also need to drink from places. You must remember everything about them. You must learn their names. You must remember what happened at them long ago. You must think about it and keep thinking about it. Then your mind will become smoother and smoother. Then you will see danger before it happens. You will walk a long way and live a long time. You will be wise. People will respect you.”

Doesn’t that passage feel like a lightning strike?

  1. If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

Or, just read anything in the following literary journals:

  1. What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

Emergency Escape Plan, published at Bending Genres earlier this year, is one I’m really proud of but it was published at the same time that some important Lit Journal changes were unfolding. I am relieved and excited to see the literary community – writers and editors alike – having important conversations about the MeToo movement. I support any organization that holds accountable those people who betray their authority and privilege by behaving inappropriately and abusively. In the case of this publication, the remaining editors moved quickly and pulled the rug out from under the offending party. Which was good and cool and right. But, in doing so, this story was pulled in to the wake. It was disappointing for me personally but globally gratifying to see happen. I think a lot of readers were lost in response to that situation but ultimately, it was a good change that occurred so I support it.

BIO: Brianne M. Kohl’s work has appeared in various literary journals including Catapult, The Masters Review and Bending Genres. She was awarded the 2018 Wigleaf Mythic Picnic Prize for Fiction. She has a novel in perpetual progress but keeps getting distracted by flash fiction. Please visit her at www.briannekohl.com or say hi at twitter.com/BrianneKohl where she is probably tweeting about cheese. 

Mini-Interview with Pat Foran

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Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

I like how flash can be a story, a glimpse into one, a hint of one. Or something else. How it can sneak up on you in that anything-but-mannered way it has and say, “here’s this thing I don’t know if it’s flash or a prose poem or a story or what but it’s pretty short and maybe you’d be interested in reading it?” How with flash you can snuggle within a moment, unravel it, wiggle within it or sling-shot out of it and not necessarily finish what you started. Or sort of started. I like how freeing flash (or whatever) can be as a result.

I also like how present flash feels. The now of it. I love the music in it, or the music it can have in it. How flash begs you to play — with language, with structure, with expectations, with everything. How it pushes you to let (coax? force?) readers feel the space between the tones. And to fill in the blanks as they see fit.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

It’s usually voice. Almost never and maybe never plot. The voice or character can take me somewhere, possibly toward a plot or a semblance of one. But not necessarily.
Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Usually quick and messy. Sometimes quick and precise. Almost never slow — if something feels like it’s dragging or going to be a drag, I’ll punt. For me, flash can be just as much the experience of writing the thing as it is the thing I end up writing. It’s a moment or a feeling that might represent something MORE, and if I don’t get the whole thing down or at least the melody line relatively quickly, I’ll lose it. Or so I tend to think.
What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

The uncertainty of everyday life and a belief in possibility. For me, they’re linked. Listening to people not listening to people — what that sounds and looks like and feels like — definitely influences my writing. So does love. Love and its lack. Kids who matter-of-factly ask questions (“Why do I have to understand what you’re saying?” … “Why are you always like this in March? … “Is this boring?”), Ho Hos flavored lip balm and the Stax recording “I’ll Run Your Hurt Away” by Ruby Johnson influence it, too.
If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

Cathy Ulrich. Melissa Goode. Kathy Fish. Leesa Cross-Smith. I could wax about their work at length and certainly have in short, Twitter strokes — to their chagrin, I imagine. What they see. The moments they choose to snuggle inside of. What they say and don’t say. What they stir. How they stir. What they’re always always always able to evoke. They’re writing things only they could write, and there’s magic in that. Their work also does something more to me — to my heart, I think. But there are a lot of writers of flash (or whatever) whose work I’d recommend. There are so many who knock me out.

Richard Brautigan, Donald Barthelme, Lydia Davis and a flutter in my brain brought me to this short, sudden, segmented, “otherwise unclassifiable” land. Cathy, Melissa, Kathy, Leesa and others whose work I love make me want to hang around if only to see where and how they push things.
What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

I’m grateful if people read any of them.

BIO: Pat Foran is a writer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His stories have appeared in WhiskeyPaper, Gravel, Bending Genres, The Disappointed Housewife, formercactus, FIVE:2:ONE #thesideshow and elsewhere. Find him on Twitter at @pdforan

Mini-Interview with Tyrese L. Coleman

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;0Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

I’m drawn to the immediacy, voice, and freedom of the flash form. I think people underestimate flash and what you learn from writing it. It is not easy to draft a complete narrative in under 1000 words. Something about knowing that I am already doing incredibly challenging work is freeing to me. I am then more willing to try anything and see where things go in the piece.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Character! If I knew how to write a better plot, I would be a millionaire right now.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Slow and precise. I tend to edit as I go so that a first draft is as close to finished as I can get it. That means that one draft could take me years, but I am constantly going back to the beginning and perfecting and then editing again and again. I generally do not change my stories much after that first draft is done because I’ve already gone through the process of building and scaffolding.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

Many of the pieces in my upcoming collection, How to Sit, are based on my childhood. Right now, however, I am trying to focus more on writing that reflects my current life — being an adult, kids, work, marriage. I am interested in examining what it feels like to be me as I am right now and writing for other women who are like me.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

Jennifer Fliss is my girl and consistently creates beautiful work. Meghan Giddings is also a favorite. Sequoia Nagamatsu blows my effen mind!

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

One of my very first pieces that I published was in Queen’s Mob Teahouse called If the Woodcutter Were a Junkie. I worked so hard on that story and always loved it. It started off as over 8000 words. I chipped away at it over the years and got it under 1000. Flash is amazing.

Bio: Tyrese L. Coleman is a writer, wife, mother, attorney, and writing instructor. She is also an associate editor at SmokeLong Quarterly, an online journal dedicated to flash fiction. An essayist and fiction writer, her prose has appeared in several publications, including Amazon’s Day One, Catapult, Buzzfeed, Literary Hub, The Rumpus, and the Kenyon Review. An alumnus of the Writing Program at Johns Hopkins University, the Tin House, and Virginia Quarterly Review writer’s workshops, and a Kimbilio Fiction Fellow, her chapbook, How To Sit will be published in 2018 with Mason Jar Press. She can be reached at tyresecoleman.com or on twitter @tylachelleco.

Mini-Interview with Kaj Tanaka

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Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

I like to be able to complete a story or two in a single writing session, so because of that, my stories almost always end up being very short. It’s my big limitation as a writer, and it’s a preference that has really shaped me. I like that we have a name for it now. Back when I started writing these types of stories, we hadn’t quite agreed on what to call them, even—I still remember not knowing whether to call my stories “quick” fiction or “sudden” fiction or “micro” fiction. There were so many names at one point. Love that flash has become a thing. It has been really cool to see the form take off in the last 10 or so years.

 

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Character. When I’m writing around a particular plot, my stories end up reading like shitty Madlibs. Though I think finding a voice or a tone is even more important than finding a character. For me, the voice of the story needs to be fully realized in the first sentence. If it’s not there in the opening line, the story is doomed.

 

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

I’m quick. I try to write 1000-1500 words a day when I’m working on a project—when I do flash stories, for example, it’s always in connection to a larger project. I don’t write every day though. I’m not a day-in-day-out, ride or die kind of writer. That used to bother me about myself—it felt almost like a moral failing—but writing every day is exhausting, at least the way I work. I just get fatigued. I work every day for a month or two and then take a month or two off to read what I’ve written and try to figure out what it means. That’s my process right now, at least.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

This is something I try not to think about, lest I end up using my stories as some kind of cheap therapy. I certainly don’t try to bring in elements of my life, but of course, I do. Everyone does. I have no idea how successfully I bury the true elements of my stories, and I’m too embarrassed to ask my friends and family. The idea of someone recognizing a shared, real life experience in a piece of my fiction fills me with shame. It feels like a failing of craft.

 

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

My favorite flash story is “Crossing the River Zbrucz” by Isaac Babel. My second favorite is “The Cats in the Prison Recreation Hall” by Lydia Davis and my third is any page of Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan. Honorable mention: “A Gentleman’s C” by Padgett Powell.

But here’s the thing…a giant caveat here. I love these first three stories mainly because they are a part of larger works that I love. I think this is something people get wrong about flash. To me, at least, one flash story isn’t much taken on its own. Even a perfect flash story like “A Gentleman’s C” won’t stick with me unless I really study it. In general, I think flash stories are too slight to have much impact by themselves. The real power of flash is the power of a snowball rolling down a mountain. It comes in the aggregate of many flash stories read as a single project. For example, in that giant orange brick of Lydia Davis stories, there are good stories and great stories and some not so good stories, but all of them together present a portrait of a powerful and restless mind at work. For me, that’s what flash can do best. I love reading collections of flash for that reason. I think more than in novels or collections of longer stories, a body of flash work can provide a portrait of a living human mind moving through the world.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

I think my stories get what they deserve. I’m not too precious about them. If I find myself getting annoyed about how my stories are received, I go write something new. You can’t really control reception or likes or shares or awards, but you can keep writing. That’s always the consolation.

 

BIO: Kaj Tanaka is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Houston. His stories have been selected for Best Small Fictions and nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He is the fiction editor at Gulf Coast. You can read more of his work at kajtanaka.com and tweet to him @kajtanaka

Mini-Interview with Kara Vernor

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Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

Flash was just what came out, probably due in part to my natural impatience. Flash also felt most akin to my favorite songs, and music, maybe more than reading, led me to writing. I’ve kept at it because the length is a great frame for experimentation. In longer works, fewer readers tolerate being challenged with less familiar structures, syntax, content, etc. Can you imagine reading a novel by, say, Gary Lutz (in the style of his shorts)? It’s rare that a style so experimental finds an audience for a novel; lucky for us we have flash.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Plot? What’s plot? I generally walk all the way out to the end of the diving board before I look to see if there’s any water below. I’d say character sometimes, though id would maybe be more accurate. It often feels like I conjure more than I write.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Unfortunately, mine’s both messy and slow, and then at some point, after I have enough of a slow, messy mess, I steamroll it with whatever precision I can muster.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

For a while, I was writing sex ed inspired flash (I sometimes teach sex ed), but then I started writing a novel with a teenage protagonist and I think I over-teenaged. I’ve recently come back to flash after the novel, and I’m writing stranger, more violent pieces. This probably has something to do with having gotten a restraining order against our next-door neighbor, who is a Trump supporter with severe PTSD. I could go on about the creepy stuff he’s done, but suffice it to say, he is *affixed-spikes-along-his-fence-to-impale-our-cats* loony. I’ve gotten clear that having a mental illness doesn’t mean you’re not also an asshole. Living this way, in Trump’s America with a mini version next door, has me writing some angry shit when I’m writing at all. I’m also finding I used to care more about entertaining people, but in this current climate, I care much more about being true.

 

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

I feel like I’ve shouted my standby faves in one way or another many times, so I’ll mention a few I’ve either never shouted or have been particularly appreciating lately. Kevin Sampsell has been on fire. Check out his recent stories in Paper Darts and X-R-A-Y. I just finished Deb Olin Unferth’s Wait Till You See Me Dance, and it’s as brilliant as you’d anticipate. The flash in Peter Orner’s Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge is full of virtuosic grace.

I consider Etgar Keret to be my flash father—at least I want him to be. I love how frank and creative and funny and real and deceptively plainspoken he is. He’s a defender of complexity, and in this age of social media, that’s sorely needed. Plus, I’ve learned more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through reading his interviews than I have from the (very biased) news. He and a Palestinian writer, Samir El-Youssef, took the revolutionary step of publishing a book together called Gaza Blues. El-Youssef’s novella and Keret’s stories are incredible alone but published together, they’re even more affecting.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

With the phenomenon that is Twitter, that’s hard to say. The writing community is tirelessly supportive, and maybe I have a low bar, but I’m always honored when anyone takes the time to read something I’ve written. This question makes me think of stories that generally don’t get the love they deserve, and I’d have to go with happy ones. Similar to how comedies almost never win the Oscar for best picture, happy stories don’t seem to get their due respect, especially given that they’re more difficult to write, in my opinion. “The Recommendation” is a happy story of mine, so I’ll mention it here. It’s about two nerds negotiating a 69.

 

Bio: Kara Vernor’s fiction has appeared in The Los Angeles Review, Green Mountains Review, Fanzine, No Tokens, and elsewhere, and her fiction chapbook, Because I Wanted to Write You a Pop Song, is available from Split Lip Press. She is the recipient of an Elizabeth George Foundation scholarship, and her stories have been included in Wigleaf’s Top 50 Very Short Fictions, the Best Small Fictions finalists, and Outpost 19’s Golden State 2017 anthology.

Mini-Interview with Ingrid Jendrzejewski

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Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

I love the way flash provides the opportunity to explore many different ideas and forms without the commitment a longer work requires.  The stakes are low.  If you try something and it’s a disaster, you’ve only spent hours or days on something that will never see the light of day – not months, years or even decades of your life.  However, if you try something that works, you can have it drafted, edited, polished and sent out within a reasonably short timeframe.

I also love the way flash lends itself to experiment and play.  It’s an exuberant form.  You can dally with ideas and techniques that might become tiresome, stale or tedious to read if incorporated into a longer piece.  Flash readers tend to be generous.  They’re often happy to follow a flash down some pretty crazy rabbit holes.

All this makes me feel brave and free when writing flash.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

May I be vexing and choose structure instead?  If I’m at sea and don’t know what to do with something I’m writing, I often seek out some sort of structure, constraint, or organisational principle to cling on to until I can get my bearings.

This especially true when I’m facing a blank page.  I’m more likely to think, “Hmm, I’d like to write a something in the form of a calculus syllabus today” or “what kind of story could I weave into a framework of proverbs about the weather?” than I am to have any sort of idea about what plot or characters I want to write about.

Even when writing more traditional pieces, I’m often guided by a prompt, constraint or personal challenge that I’ve set myself.  I’ve always liked puzzles and games and maths, so I suppose I take an element of all that into my writing.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Depending on my mood and what I’m writing, I oscillate between both extremes.  In general, I’m more likely to be quick and messy with the first draft or three, then gradually slow down to a methodical plod as I rewrite.  Unfortunately, however, I end up writing slow and messy more often than I’d like…

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

Lack of time.  Before I became a mother, I had much more control over my sleep schedule and free time, and I hardly got anything accomplished.  Oh sure, I wrote stuff – mostly slow, bloated drafts of boring novels – but I published nothing.

Once my daughter was born, the long-form writing went out the window.  I couldn’t keep whole novels in my head and there wasn’t an infinite amount of time to sit around dawdling over things.

I decided I’d just write some little exercise pieces so that when I did get time to go back to novel writing, I’d be primed and ready.  I wrote character sketches, scenes, fragments, unclassifiables.  The more I wrote, the more I loved writing in those short, intense bursts, and I loved what could happen on the page when the compression of poetry combined with the narrative heft of prose.  My daughter didn’t sleep much in those days, and once I figured out that I could type one-handed on the iPad whilst breastfeeding through the night, I became rather prolific.  Once I discovered that there were markets for what I thought of at the time as ‘short shorts’, I was off and running.

As my daughter gets older, my average word-counts are getting longer.  I’m still writing flash (and have no plans to stop anytime soon), but I’ve also been working on some long-form projects as well – only now my writing is much, much tighter and I am much, much more disciplined about how I use my time.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

Oh, gracious, there are legions of writers that I would love to acknowledge!  It feels terrible leaving people out, so I’m just going to tweak this into recommended flash stories or writers that I’ve read in the past couple days.

Leesa Cross-Smith’s ‘Knock Out the Heart Lights So We Can Glow’

I pretty much joined Twitter so I could follow Leesa Cross-Smith’s work.  I believe this was one of the first pieces of hers that I read, and I recently revisited it to see if it was the piece that used the phrase “baptism-wet” in a perfect way.  (It was.)

Lynda Sexson’s “Pigs with Wings”.

Although most of what I’ve read of Sexson’s work are short stories, some of them slip into flash-like territory.  “Pigs with Wings” appears in her collection Hamlet’s Planets: Parables and is a beautiful example.  How can one resist a piece that begins, “A hardrock man came into this town of butter and cheese people.”

This Line is Not For Turning, edited by Jane Monson

Although this collection is billed as a collection of British prose poetry, many of these pieces could moonlight as flash.  I highly recommend the whole collection.

Sei Shōnagon’s The Pillow Book

I’ve just started reading Meredith Mckinney’s translation of The Pillow Book, a collection of lists, poems, descriptions, and things we might now call prose poems, flash or lyric essays, that was written over 1000 years ago during the Heian Period in Japan.   I particularly like the lists.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

This is such an interesting question!  For me, writing is a pretty solitary act…I do it, then put it out there.  I get really excited when something is accepted for publication, and then I move on to the next thing.  I rarely revisit work unless I have a chance to edit it, because as soon as I reread something, I have the urge to rip it apart and rebuild.

I suppose there are a few pieces in print that I sometimes wish were easier to share digitally.  One of them is ‘We Were Curious About Boys’ which appeared in the Bath Short Story Anthology in 2016.  I’ll be reading it at Rattle Tales as part of the Brighton Fringe on the 16th of May.

Details are available here: https://www.brightonfringe.org/whats-on/rattle-tales-124844/

As for something online, here’s a quiet little story that was published at Flash Flood in 2016.   I still have a soft spot for it.  What can I say?  I like bookcases.

http://flashfloodjournal.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/measurements-by-ingrid-jendrzejewski.html

BIO:  Ingrid Jendrzejewski studied creative writing at the University of Evansville, then physics at the University of Cambridge.  Her work has been published in places like Passages North, The Los Angeles Review, The Conium Review, Jellyfish Review, and Flash Frontier, and nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Vestal Review’s VERA Award, and multiple times for Best Small Fictions.  She serves as editor in chief of FlashBack Fiction and a flash editor at JMWW.  Links to Ingrid’s work can be found at http://www.ingridj.com and she tweets @LunchOnTuesday.

Mini-Interview with Santino Prinzi

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Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

There are many reasons why I like writing flash, and they’re likely similar to other flash writers. I love the brevity of flash, but also how nothing is sacrificed to achieve this brevity. There are flashes that are easily more powerful and have had a greater impact on me than novels I’ve read. I love what is unsaid, and I love that readers of flash sometimes need to see the unseen in order to really see what’s going on.

What I also enjoy about flash is how well it lends itself to reading aloud. You can go to a flash reading as a reader or a listener and read aloud or listen to many fully-formed, complete stories in a single evening. There’s nothing I enjoy more than reading some of my funnier flashes to a room full of people and making them laugh and smile (though I make sure they’ve had a drink or two first…).

Also, I have the strange inability to write anything much longer. I’d love to write a novel, but every time I’ve had an idea I’ve (accidentally!) turned it into a flash fiction.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

I think both are important.

As an editor for National Flash Fiction Day and New Flash Fiction Review, I read a lot of stories and I always ask myself the same question: “Do I care about this character and their situation?” This may sound harsher than I intend, but every reader wants to care about what they’re reading, right? If nothing happens, or the character is flat and stereotypical, then it’s difficult for me to keep reading, even if the story is a few hundred words, because I’m not invested in this character or their fate.

Writing-wise, the core of my stories often come to me either as a character or as a situation. Perhaps the plot comes to me first more often than the character. I really love it when an odd situation comes to mind and I can explore this absurd and surreal world, but I also love it when a distinctive character comes along and demands that I listen to what they have to say. Whichever it is, that usually drives the writing of the first draft for me, and I have to be conscious of not neglecting the other while redrafting. I think I’m better at spotting this in other peoples’ writing than in my own, but that’s why I love reading submissions because you learn so much doing so.

What is great about flash is we don’t need to read it and be able to list off a number of traits a character has or be able to plot out the entire narrative arc. So much of this detail can be implied, but it still needs to be there for the reader, and I think the best flash achieves this balance.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Write fast, edit slow. Sometimes. It all depends. Sometimes an idea comes along and I need to get it down right away, whereas other times I will keep it in my head and let it grow. I wouldn’t say I write in my head, but certain sentences or images or dialogue may formulate as a part of the initial spark (that character or that situation/plot) and then I can get to it.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

I’m fascinated by different perceptions. My first collection of flashes was called Dots and other flashes of perception purely because I felt these flashes explored a lot of different perspectives. I find it intriguing how other people think, how they view the world, and how our perception of reality may not always match up to what really is. How many times have we misinterpreted a situation and then realised we were completely wrong or thought we’d misinterpreted a situation but ended up being completely right? It’s a part of what makes us all human, this relationship each individual has with the world, and I believe this makes for interesting stories. It’s something I think occupies all of my writing, especially in my forthcoming V-Press flash pamphlet, There’s Something Macrocosmic About All of This.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

There are so many fantastic writers who consistently publish such stellar writing that any attempt at a list on my part is going to omit incredible work by incredible human beings.

There are also many brilliant flash magazines that publish a stunning flash fiction. Again, making a list would immediately mean accidentally overlooking some, but I think you can’t go wrong by reading everything SmokeLong Quarterly, Wigleaf, matchbook, and Jellyfish Review publish. I’d also add New Flash Fiction Review, but I’m slightly biased (that said, I do objectively believe we publish killer flashes).

I will say that having just finished reading submissions for the next National Flash Fiction Day annual anthology, there are some really amazing flashes in response to the theme of food. ‘Thirteen’ by Jen Harvey moved me to tears when I first read it. Last year’s title story by Helen Rye in Sleep is a Beautiful Colour: 2017 National Flash Fiction Day Anthology is both hilarious and heart-stirring.

Charmaine Wilkerson’s flash novella, How to Make a Window Snake, is also essential reading. I’m currently looking forward to reading New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction edited by James Thomas and Robert Scotellaro (due in August), as well as Christopher Allen’s Other Household Toxins, which is out now.

Kathy Fish, Tania Hershman, Ingrid Jendrzrjewski… I could go on and on and on…

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

This feels like a weird question to answer. I’m happy for any recognition for any of my work, but what I wish my stories do most is connect with a reader in some way.

If I had to choose one, I think I would choose my story called ‘Plastic,’ which is about a father whose wife gives birth to a living, alcoholic baby-doll, who changes as she grows based on love.

I had so much fun writing this story, but what means the most to me is that this story was published in a fantastic anthology called Stories for Homes Volume 2, where all profits from the sale of the anthology are donated to Shelter, a UK homelessness charity. You can find out more by visiting their website: https://storiesforhomes.wordpress.com

BIO: Santino Prinzi is the Co-Director of National Flash Fiction Day in the UK and the Senior Editor for New Flash Fiction Review. His debut flash fiction collection, Dots and other flashes of perception, was published by The Nottingham Review Press, and his flash pamphlet, There’s Something Macrocosmic About All of This, is forthcoming from V-Press. His short stories, flash fiction, and prose poetry have been published or are forthcoming in various magazines and anthologies, such as Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Jellyfish Review, Litro Online, (b)OINK! zine, Bath Flash Fiction Award Vol.2, Stories for Homes Anthology Vol.2, Ink Sweat & Tears, and The Airgonaut. To find out more follow him on Twitter (@tinoprinzi) or visit his website: https://tinoprinzi.wordpress.com

Mini-Interview with Jude Higgins

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Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

I’ve never been a big traveler in the physical world but with flash, I can go anywhere and do anything. I wrote much of a novel some years ago when I did an MA in Creative Writing but I began to plod through it after a while. Which wasn’t fun. Someday soon, I’ll get it out, strip it down and turn into flash. Then it will have something to say.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

I’m in a boat with this question as you have mentioned a life jacket. To follow the metaphor, I would be okay floating around for a bit as long as the currents don’t take me too far off course, but I need those characters. They are there in the boat, arguing, helping, eating all the food or sharing it – basically doing what humans do. I am interested in what humans do first and foremost.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

I am a messy person. I’ve even braved a photo of today’s desk for you to see.  So I’d have to say that I am either quick or messy as a writer too. Or slow and messy as a writer. Either way, you can dwell as long as you want to on the word ‘messy’.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

It’s all the ins and outs of relationships, current and past. In the picture of my desk and shelves, there’s a young photo of me on the first shelf together with a portrait of an ancestor of mine. I do draw on past events and fictionalise them but I’m interested in the present stuff too. I’d throw in walks down the lanes and looking at the flowers and plants around here in mid-Somerset. Not that nature necessarily appears in my fictions, but it often does, because I was brought up in the country and I have always done this sort of wandering about – what the writer Brenda Ueland calls ‘moodling’.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

I would recommend all the anthologies produced by Ad Hoc Fiction available at www.bookshop.adhocfiction.com.

I’m proud to have had a hand in selecting these stories as one of the initial readers for the Bath Flash Fiction Award and the Bath Novella in Flash Award. There are some amazingly good micros in the anthologies of single flash – ‘To Carry Her Home’ and ‘The Lobsters Run Free’ and the authors represent around 45 different countries. The collections of novellas, ‘How to Make a Window Snake’ and forthcoming ‘In the Debris Field’ are equally good and represent different styles and takes on the genre.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

There’s a tiny micro I drafted in one of Kathy Fish’s fast flash workshop last year which I am fond of.  The group liked it and I’ve sent it out to various submission opportunities and contests, but nobody seems fond of it like me. I shall keep sending it out though. Just in case.

BIO: Jude Higgins is a writing and writing tutor. Her flash fictions have won or been placed in many contests and are published in the New Flash Fiction Review, Flash Frontier, FlashBack Fiction,The Nottingham Review, Bending Genres, The Word Factory, the Blue Fifth Review and National Flash Fiction Day anthologies, among other places. Her flashfiction chapbook, ‘The Chemist’s House’ was published by V. Press in 2017. She organises the Bath Flash Fiction Award and directs Flash Fiction Festivals UK. judehiggins.com @judehwriter