Mini-Interview with Pat Foran

pf

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

Advertisements

Mini-Interview with Tyrese L. Coleman

headshot

;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

bio

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

IMG_2029

 

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

ingrid2016

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

Santino_Prinzi

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

Desk mess

 

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

Mini-Interview with Madeline Anthes

DSCN3258

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

For one, I like feeling accomplished; with flash, you can start and finish a story all in one sitting (sometimes more than one!), and then I feel really great about myself. I give myself a big pat on the back and congratulate myself for being a “writer.”

Also, I’m struggling with writing longer stuff right now. I can’t seem to stay on one story for very long, and my stories don’t seem to need more space right now.

More than that, I really appreciate that flash is just the best moments of the story. It’s the turning point, the crucial emotion that all stories need. Lately, I’ve been more of a no BS type of person; I feel like I have to guard my resources (time, energy, attention) and I don’t have time for things or people that waste these. Flash works this way for me; there are no wasted moments, no wasted words. Every word matters. No BS.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

 I think I’d have to say character because most of the time nothing really happens in my stories.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

I am slow in that I take a lot of time off between stories. But when I do write, it’s usually because I have one line that’s already formed in my head. Then the rest usually all spills out in one sitting. I revise it 2-3 times before submitting, but I’m usually happy with what pours out the first time because that’s the story that wanted to come out.

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

I’m very very inspired by setting and I’m very very nostalgic, so all or most of my stories are inspired by some glimpse or flash of real life. Almost everything I write is set in the Midwest – I grew up in Cleveland and spent every summer in rural Indiana.

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

If you follow me on Twitter you know I fangirl over my favorites.

  1. Amanda Miska – check out her recent flash in wigleaf called “Confession Game” — http://wigleaf.com/201805confession.htm
  2. Meghan Phillips – also in wigleaf (man, wigleaf is amazing), her story “Now That the Circus Has Shut Down, the Human Cannonball Looks for Work” — http://wigleaf.com/201802circus.htm
  3. Monet Thomas – love all her work, and this one’s in Third Point Press called “A Certain Woman” — https://www.thirdpointpress.com/2017/04/a-certain-woman/

A few journals that are wonderful (besides HypertrophicLiterary, cough cough): formercactus, FlashBack Fiction, Cheap Pop, Lost Balloon, Longleaf Review, Smokelong, Cease, Cows, WhiskeyPaper, Third Point Press, wigleaf

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

One of my favorite stories I ever published I actually published with Hypertrophic before I started working with them.

Right before my grandmother passed, my siblings and I wanted to visit her one last time, but when we arrived in Indiana a storm had just coated the whole area in thick ice. It was hard to travel, we could barely walk down the driveway, and it all just felt very eerie, like we were trapped in a snow globe. We all knew this would be the last time with our grandmother, so it added an odd sheen to an already emotional weekend. We visited her in the home where we spent a lot of our childhood, so it was like we were literally frozen in time to be with her.  I funneled all of that into the story “After Storms” that was published in Spring 2016.

BIO: Madeline Anthes is the acquisitions editor for Hypertrophic Literary. Her writing can be found in journals like WhiskeyPaper, Lost Balloon, Cease, Cows, and Third Point Press. You can find her on Twitter at @maddieanthes, and find more of her work at madelineanthes.com.

Mini-Interview with Jennifer Todhunter

Todhunter - author pic

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

I love the economy of writing in flash. How stories are whittled down until every word counts. How you can leave someone gobsmacked in such short shrift. There isn’t much to hide behind with flash, you’ve got to get in, get out. It’s like being gut punched in the best way possible. I feel like that sting creates a connection between the writer and the reader and the characters. A connection that lingers a long time.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Character. Man, I love a good character. There is something everlasting about someone you can’t shake loose. Flash is so honest and intense when done well, and that’s why it hits as heavy as it does. What’s going on in the background of a piece of flash is always secondary for me; the way the character is dealing with it is in the forefront. I try to emulate that in my writing. I want to make those connections.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

 I find it difficult to start a story until I have what I consider to be the perfect first line for it. I spend a lot of time agonizing over first lines and I’ve written a lot of first lines that never amount to anything. But once I’ve got a good one, it’s quick and messy from that point forward. Everything sort of spills out once that first line is uncorked.

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

Death and loss and remembrance, and how these things coexist in a seemingly “real life” life. What I mean is, real life is one thing, and a thing that changes depending on decisions and circumstance, but death and loss and remembrance follow you forever, and these are the things I feel most influence my writing. These are the things I can’t shake.

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

There are so many people fighting the good fight when it comes to flash right now, so many different forms and approaches and concepts. It is exciting to see where the genre is going, where people are taking it with their own creativity. I love checking out the short fiction nomination lists every year and catching a subsect of what’s been churned out, and it always floors me.

That said, I am always and forever down with some good old complicated heartache, and stories that have recently slain me include, “All I Have Left” by Dina Relles, “All the Love Songs Are Really About Broken Hearts” by Cathy Ulrich, and “Left Behind” by Kaj Tanaka.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

I’m really proud of “Nualla to the Nth Degree” which Lost Balloon published earlier this year. It’s about blown-glass girls and the never-ending search for perfection. It’s part fairy tale, part mathematics, part weird—it was deeply satisfying to write because these things are sort of my makeup, too.

BIO: Jennifer Todhunter’s stories have appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Necessary Fiction, Jellyfish Review, and elsewhere. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Pidgeonholes. Find her at www.foxbane.ca or @JenTod_.

Mini-Interview with Jonathan Cardew

JCardew_Mugshot

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

I write flash because it’s fucking brilliant. I love it. I love everything about it. There’s nothing quite like a shot of short-short fiction. I grew up adoring short stories—and I still do—but flash fiction goes beyond and enters a poetic and even psychic realm. Good flash relies on craft like any writing form, but it also relies on intuition and bravery. The courage and/or foolishness to say: ‘that’s enough.’

 What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Probably plot! No, wait, character! A little of each? My life jacket might actually be structure—being able to cut and chop and resize is a skill I think I’ve gotten pretty good at. I feel like anything’s a story as long as it’s packaged right (a student of mine recently wrote an erasure flash/poem out of my syllabus—which is hot-shit in my book!)

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?
Slow and messy? I’m a really bad crafter of sentences—like really, really bad and I have to go over and over them and polish until they’re good. Like a pebble. Enough water crashes onto a rock, it becomes a smooth and beautiful pebble. That’s my writing style: wave-like, wave-like, wave-like, wave-like.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?
My addictions/ compulsions.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?
Oh my God, I always freeze up when people ask me this, but luckily this is a text-based question and I have time to take a walk and do some deep, steady breaths to compose myself….

There are so many good flash writers out there and my favorites rotate according to the seasons and the stages of the moon, but I’d have to say the writers that hit me every time are: Claire Polders, David Gaffney, Ashley Hutson, David Swann, Nancy Stohlman, Meg Tuite…and more more more!!!

This story “Happy Place” by David Gaffney is one of my happy places: https://www.davidgaffney.org/happy-place.html

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

Robocop Infinity, published at Jellyfish Review.

I’ve read this one at a few events, but I don’t think it quite goes over. I don’t think people quite get it. I don’t think I quite get it. But it’s Robocop, man! It. Is. Robocop.

https://jellyfishreview.wordpress.com/2017/08/08/robocop-infinity-by-jonathan-cardew/
BIO: Jonathan Cardew’s stories appear or are forthcoming in Wigleaf, cream city review, Passages North, Superstition Review, JMWW, People Holding, and Atticus Review, among others. He is the fiction editor for Connotation Press and MicroViews column editor for Bending Genres. He recently won the Best Small Fictions Micro Fiction Contest. Originally from the UK, he lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Mini-Interview with April Bradley

A Bradley photo

 

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

Flash is what I end up writing most of the time, and flash is what it is called due to word length. I’ve never been one to write long, although a good long read is immensely enjoyable. What flash has done for me, how it has changed my writing reminds me of what I was taught in biblical exegesis and in the rhetorical exercises of Scholasticism: contraction and expansion of narrative and text. That’s somewhat simplistic, but it is apt. How do I convey this story in 500 words, 250, 100, 50? How do I expand it to 2,000? 5,000? 100,000? The structure of novels is something I like to study and apply it to flash. Flash challenges me as much as writing longer stories, but I have more of an affinity for short narratives. I disagree that readers no longer possess the attention span for long forms and this is why flash attracts them. Flash is an art and a sophisticated genre in literature and attracts readers on its own merits.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Character drives plot for me. Different character, different plot, even if the same plot elements occur, it is a different experience, due to character. When a story emerges for me, character emerges first, a distinctive voice that uniquely shapes a story. Without voice, it is not story; it is action, circumstances, description, words.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Both. I have had to form the habit of drafting without self-editing. Otherwise, I will work for days on an opening line, and it does not really show. I give myself fifteen minutes of free writing, then I reward myself with editing. My favorite part of writing is revision. It is an opportunity to do so much with your raw material, take it in so many different directions. This is when I can indulge my desire for deliberation and precision. Revision is creative and generative—it is writing. It is exciting to discover how text changes and evolves during the process.

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

In the past, I would have said something like my spiritual and intellectual experiences, motherhood, my relationships and lovers, my blood clotting disorder, or the serendipitous, weird things that happen to me. But, lately, my real life intrudes upon my writing in uncomfortable, persistent ways. I’m supposed to be a fiction writer and the non-fiction crushes the fictive. Coming up in June, the cycle closes when four close family members died over a series of several months two years ago, including my mother and grandparents.  Some writers write and create through grief. I am not one of those writers. Instead, I’ve been paralyzed. The short answer then is that my writing calls up grief, loss, time and memory, anxiety, and death—and it is emotionally exhausting to write about it through the cracks. And, since I do not want to write about these things directly, I’m not writing very much. What I’ve been doing instead is playing around with structure, which is something I typically don’t do until I have something on the page, allowing form to emerge instead of imposing it. Recently, I have been turning my attention to unusual structures taken from everyday life and expanding how I think about narrative and story in oblique ways: blackout poetry derived from (computer) code, writing narratives using footnotes to an unwritten story or commentary about a story, using my grandmother’s recipe cards and writing stories and memoir about it, writing one-sided love letters and text messages, fictional annotated bibliographies. In this way I’m trying to live in the present using familiar, mundane text while living with the family and life I have lost.

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

What a great question, Tommy. There are so many, of course. One of the first flash writers I came across was Leesa Cross-Smith. Her work continues to inspire me and teach me. The same can be said for Kathy Fish, Christopher Allen, and Gay Degani. It is no accident that these writers remain with and influence SmokeLong Quarterly in one way or another. One author who probably does not consider himself a flash writer but whose work can be read as such is the Italian author Alessandro Baricco. He wrote a short novel in 1996, Seto. A friend gave me a copy of the 1996 English translation Silk by Guido Waldman when it was first published, long before I aspired to write creatively. I still have that book and re-read it every couple of years. It is sublime. It easily can be called a novel in flash or a novella. Regardless of how it is categorized, it is an example of exquisite artistry in brevity. Anne Carson dazzles me (doesn’t she dazzle everyone?). I started reading her work when I was comparing different translations of Aeschylus’ The Oresteia and fell in love. Read anything by her, but for flash writers, Float and Nox would be good places to start.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

It is amazing that what little I have published has received recognition—and I am so grateful!—, especially since the past couple of years have been lost to such devastating entropy where my writing is concerned. My longer fiction doesn’t get much attention, but it is not as recent—and may not be as compelling or interesting—as my more condensed writing. One story I have a soft spot for is part of an ongoing series involving a woman who copes poorly with raising her husband’s child from an affair. “A Conspiracy of Women,” was published in The Southern Women’s Review in 2015 and focuses on the tension between the main character and her husband. Writing longer narratives is a challenge for me and working on the life of this particular character is something that needles at me. I want this family to heal. I am not sure what that looks like for each character, but there is more story to tell.

 

BIO: April Bradley is from Tennessee and lives with her family outside New Haven, Connecticut. Her short fiction has been recently nominated for The Pushcart Prize as well as The Best of Small Fictions. Her writing has appeared in CHEAP POP, Hermeneutic Chaos Literary Journal, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Narratively, NANO Fiction, and Smokelong Quarterly’s “Why Flash Fiction” Series, among others. She has a Master’s in Ethics from Yale Divinity School and is an MFA candidate at the Sewanee School of Letters.

 

 

Mini-Interview with Christopher Allen

FB_IMG_1523874434929

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

Thank you for these questions, Tommy.

The no-nonsense, practical answer: I think I started workshopping flash because my stories were more likely to get a lot of reviews in the online workshop I took part in 10 years ago. My short stories would get four or five reviews when my flash fictions were getting 40 or 50. And this was at a time when not every journal was running a flash fiction contest.

A more personal answer: In graduate school, I was greatly affected by my readings of Virginia Woolf and what she described as “Moments of Being”. This idea of the deeply experienced moment, as opposed to the day-to-day forgettable actions of life, stuck with me and changed the way I wrote. Flash, in my opinion, shucks the mundane away.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

I really have to focus on arc when I write because my lifejacket is definitely character and voice. I write a lot of absurdist narratives in which my characters resist learning, understanding, and progress—which doesn’t mean the reader doesn’t learn or understand something new. It’s difficult to figure out a pleasing structure for a narrative/plot that is in many ways going nowhere.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

I would love to say quick and messy. I admire people who post on social media that they’ve written: “3000 horrible words today!” In real-life workshops, I gawp at other people scribbling madly during a writing exercise and think What the hell are you people writing? By the time I write something down, I’ve thought about it for weeks. I’ve hiked up a mountain with the story in my head. My characters and I have cycled a hundred kilometers together. We’ve cross-country skied. We’ve mown the lawn. Twice.

And then it’s still messy.

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

My crazy real-life schedule makes it difficult for me to write for more than an hour or two at a time. If I write in the mornings, I have to get up at four. I’m a lethargic lump in the middle of the day. If I write in the evenings, I have to sacrifice time with my partner. I sometimes write on the train if I have something I absolutely have to get down on paper. So a shortage of long periods of time to write has influenced my writing.

Being an editor of flash fiction for the last 10 years has also influenced how and what I write. All writing—from awful to awesome—is instructional as long as you’re willing to learn from it. There are so many great writers out there, each with their own style and purpose. I’m lucky to be exposed to a wide variety of writers.

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

To avoid offending anyone, I usually try to answer this question without giving names. But this time I’m going to name some names. In 2017 I was a consulting editor for The Best Small Fictions 2018. I was thrilled to see that so many of my nominations were recognized by the editors of BSF, three of which were chosen to be in the anthology. A few of the writers below were also recognized for stories nominated by other editors/journals as well (indicated below in parentheses). All of these writers deserve more reads:

Kathleen Jones – BSF winner
‘The Exact Coordinates of Eleanor’ at Paper Darts

Ashley Hutson – BSF winner
‘I Will use this Story to Tell Another Story’ at Fanzine

Jules Archers – BSF finalist
‘We Will Set Anything on Fire’ at Maudlin House

Elisabeth Ingram Wallace – BSF semifinalist
‘Ida’ at Atticus Review

(also a finalist for ‘A Chest Full of Spiders,’ The Best Small Fictions Microfictions contest)

Kaj Tanaka – BSF winner
‘In Dugave’ at New South Journal
(also a winner for ‘The Night Is Where It Throws You,’ (b)OINK)

Lori Sambol Brody – BSF finalist
‘I Want to Believe the Truth is Out There’ at Jellyfish Review

(also a winner for ‘The Truth About Alaskan Rivers,’ Forge Literary Magazine)

And of course congratulations and much love to all the writers nominated by the editors of SmokeLong Quarterly. We are thrilled to be able to say that all our nominees were recognized by BSF.

 What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

‘Fred’s Massive Sorrow’ is the centerpiece of my flash fiction collection, Other Household Toxins, which just came out in January. The story—originally in Eclectica Magazine and subsequently in Eclectica’s 20th-anniversary speculative anthology—is a kind of short story in flash, much like a novella-in-flash except, well, shorter but still six times too long to be flash. It’s around 6000 words, so I think online readers scroll down and say, “Sheesh. I don’t have time for this.”

At my book launch last month in Norwich, England four very talented readers and I read the story. What a pleasure that was to hear this absurdist romp read aloud.

BIO: Christopher Allen is the author of the flash fiction collection Other Household Toxins (Matter Press).His short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in [PANK], Indiana Review, Eclectica Magazine, Jellyfish Review, Lunch Ticket and lots more. In 2017 Allen was both a finalist (as translator) and a semi-finalist for The Best Small Fictions. He has garnered acclaim from Glimmer Train, Indiana Review, Literal Latte, and more. He is the managing editor of SmokeLong Quarterly and in 2017 a consulting editor for The Best Small Fictions 2018. Allen blogs at www.imustbeoff.com.

Mini-Interview with Randall Brown

23000273_10213473650891250_2611536824443900494_o

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

 I like the urgency of it, that sense that something needs to be expressed before I run out of space and words. I like its “big bang like” compression, a thing on the verge of exploding. I like the dense weight of it.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

 I think it begins with plot, a little inkling of a story. Then as I write, I get to know the character more intimately—and then character takes over, determining what happens next.

 Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

 Quick and messy, before the anxiety and self-doubt can catch up with me.

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

 I’d say being a husband and parent and dog-owner. Being responsible for others. It brings up a lot of issues that get worked out in the writing. For example, one time I noticed that we had no forks left in the silverware drawer. No one knew where they’d gone. I ended up finding them among my son’s and his friends’ take-out containers in the trash. When I asked him about it, he said, “We didn’t do it consciously.” I asked, “But you did throw out forks.” He answered, “Not consciously.” Instead of banging my head against a wall, I banged some fingers against the keyboard, as if that were actually doing something about the problem.

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

 Kathy Fish and Christopher Allen rock and roll. That would be a great start.

 What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

 A story I wrote for Quick Fiction “It Doesn’t” ended up kind of nowheresville after Quick Fiction called it quits. I tried submitting it to a few anthologies, but received polite “no thank yous.” I think it deserves an anthology. But the world seems to think it doesn’t.

BIO: Randall Brown is the author of the award-winning collection Mad to Live, his essay on (very) short fiction appears in The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction, and he appears in the Best Small Fictions 2015 & 2017The Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction, and the forthcoming Norton Anthology of Microfiction. He founded and directs FlashFiction.Net and has been published and anthologized widely, both online and in print. He is also the founder and managing editor of Matter Press and its Journal of Compressed Creative Arts. He teaches in Rosemont College’s MFA in Creative Writing Program and received his MFA from Vermont College.

 

Mini-Interview with Tara Laskowski

 

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

I like being able to “see” the entire story on one or two pages. Longer stuff stresses me out because I don’t feel like I can get my brain wrapped around all of it at once. I also like the economy of flash. It’s great to be able to focus in on the words and really concentrate on what works and what doesn’t, what sounds good, what image would work best, etc. Flash is beautiful in that way.

I also like it because I’m often drawn to dark places, but I don’t want to stay in them for too long. So I can write something really weird or really dark as a flash piece, and then be done with it and move on. But, even if it’s not dark, I just like being able to inhabit different characters, different worlds, for tiny amounts of time without having to do tons of research to make it sound real-ish. You can fake anything for a page or two.

Flash is also full of play. I like how experimental it can be. How weird you can go. There are so many different types of flash out there. It’s just fun to write.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

I think character. I can hang on with a character. I’m drawn to characters and their odd quirks and turns of phrases. It’s the plot that sinks me. But I’m trying to get better at that. I have to get better at that if I’m going to write novels, right?

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Definitely quick and messy. Like a drunk, I throw it all up on the page and then sleep it off and come back the next morning to clean it up.

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

This is an interesting question. I’m honestly not sure of the answer. I tend to find inspiration in little spurts here and there—a conversation I overhear at the airport, a dream I wake from, a weird story a friend tells at the dinner table.

I definitely write more about children now that I have one. Before I had my son, I didn’t think I knew enough about kids to write them well. I probably still don’t know enough about them, but they do crop up in my stuff a lot more these days. The kids tend to be creepy, though. So I’m not sure what that says about me…

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

Some of my most favorite flash writers: Jeff Landon, Randall Brown, Sherrie Flick, Jen Michalski. I’ve never read a story by any of them that’s been less than fantastic.

I’m biased, but I think our Kathy Fish Fellows at SmokeLong are doing some really amazing things. Check out Beth Thomas, Stefanie Freele, Shasta Grant, Allison Pinkerton, Megan Giddings, Adam Peterson, and our 2018 fellow Tochukwu Okafor.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

Well, I’m not saying this story didn’t get any recognition when it came out, because it did. But it’s been a while, and I actually forgot I’d written it until just recently, which is just kind of weird. But I’ve always been fond of “Dendrochronology,” which was published by The Northville Review. TNR isn’t publishing anymore, which is a bummer, but you can still find it online, out there in the ether, and for some reason it’s always been one of my favorite flashes I’ve written.

BIO: Tara Laskowski grew up in Northeastern Pennsylvania and now navigates traffic in the Washington, D.C. suburbs. She is the author of the short story collection Bystanders, which won the Balcones Fiction Prize and was hailed by Jennifer Egan in The Guardian as one of the best books of 2017. She is also the author of Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons, tales of dark etiquette. Her fiction has been published in the Norton anthology Flash Fiction International, Best Small Fictions, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Mid-American Review, and numerous other journals, magazines, and anthologies. She was awarded the Kathy Fish Fellowship from SmokeLong Quarterly in 2009 and won the grand prize for the 2010 Santa Fe Writers Project Literary Awards Series. Since 2010, she has been the editor of SmokeLong Quarterly.

Mini-Interview with Anne Weisgerber

img_7272

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

I like it for a number of reasons, and I think the big one is it has a lot of rules. It’s not a matter of telling a story in under a thousand words, it has, seems to me, what Yeats called the fascination of the difficult. Creative non-fiction writers employ some flash forms too, and those are really exciting essays to read. The Normal School is full of them: counterpoint, episodic, monomyths, prose-poems.  Flash is close to poetry, and I am attracted to poetry. Poetry is like New York City: you can never know enough. Finally, as a writer who has a full-time day job, flash allows time for obsessive completion of a single work. I am trying to get a sabbatical to work on a novel, but until then, flash fits my time dimensions.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

I think at the draft stage a work can be focused on one or the other, but when a writer sits down at the workbench and puts the screws to it, character and plot have to be coerced to high-five.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Drafts: quick and messy, no holds barred, delight in disaster, go there, free-wheeling.

Editing: slow and precise, syntax agony, lean on classics, read aloud and workshop sans merci.

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

My faith and my partner.

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

Oh boy. I read a lot of flash, I workshop regularly with a gifted crew of flash writers, on top of reading for the Wigleaf Top 50. I think there are some artists that I really enjoy deconstructing to understand. I’ll recommend one writer and one fashion designer.  Brian Evenson writes longer fiction, but he’s a short form genius, too.  Check out his story “Smear” in Best American Science Fiction Fantasy (editor Charles Yu). It was originally published in the Conjunctions “Other Aliens” issue. It’s short and episodic, but also follows a clear narrative arc: exposition, escalation, climax, denouement. Amazing. He also has a story in Best Horror of the Year Vol 9 (ed. Ellen Datlow) called “No Matter Which Way We Turned.” It was an ekphrastic originally written for People Holding. It, too, follows a clear narrative arc. Both of those stories are 10s in my book. A fashion designer whom I find to be a good metaphor for flash is the late Alexander McQueen.  Look at this video called “The Bridegroom Stripped Bare: Transformer.” All the Arts spring from universal forms. All the Arts have straws stuck in the same wellspring and flash shares out refreshing sips.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

That’s easy: each of the fifteen currently “in progress” at Submittable! That aside, I believe work selected by editor Sheldon Lee Compton at his small, remarkable journal called The Airgonaut is some of my strongest. “Puppah Fish,” “Mothers + Sons,” “White Plastic Chair,” and “How to Meet Marc Chagall” are in The Airgonaut’s archives. They are a multiple choice story, a counterpoint, a monomyth, and an episodic, respectively. I am a huge fan of Mr. Compton’s writing, too.

BIO:

A.E. Weisgerber is Poetry Out Loud’s 2017 Frost Place Scholar, and a 2014 Kent State University Reynolds Fellow. Her writing appears in SmokeLong Quarterly, DIAGRAM, Heavy Feather Review, Structo UK, and the Zoetrope Cafe Story Machine. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and sons. [anneweisgerber.com] [@aeweisgerber]

Mini-Interview with Meg Tuite

me 4_2016

 

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

I’m drawn to the tightly wrapped. The truth-tellers. I find as time goes on I have less patience for filler-crap. The in-between conflict moments that allow a reader to breathe. In the midst of a psychotic episode or an altercation with a stranger, how much time do we want to spend trudging through the flora and fauna.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Character. If plot had anything to do with the space I occupy, I’d live on a shelf in a cupboard.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Slow and messy. I do edit while I’m working a story, but it’s got to saturate for a while no matter how quickly or slowly it drops.

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

Domestic horror and internal degradation.

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

Fernando Pessoa, Clarice Lispector, Djuna Barnes, Janet Frame, Bruno Schulz

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

I’m thankful for any readers. Not many are going online to read as much, so it’s a gift to have someone make a comment about a story you’ve written. Truly!

BIO: Meg Tuite is the author of two story collections, Bound By Blue and Domestic Apparition, and five chapbooks. She won the Twin Antlers Poetry award for her poetry collection, Bare Bulbs Swinging. She teaches at Santa Fe Community College, senior editor at Connotation Press, associate editor at Narrative Magazine and fiction editor at Bending Genres.  http://megtuite.com

Mini-Interview with Kathy Fish

author photo 1

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

I love flash for its immediacy. I can write directly from an emotion or impression. I feel it’s like poetry that way. Flash can go deep into a moment or feeling or image, but can also give a sense of story, of an existence or resonance beyond the page.
What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Character, character, character. And from character and setting, story emerges. I don’t think I’ve ever once begun a flash with a plot in mind.
Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

I’d say 75% of the time I am a slow, plodding, precise writer. The other 25% I write very quickly, but it’s not messy. It’s often very close its published form. I think the “messiness” is all happening in my subconscious over weeks, months, years. So when something finally clicks, it all comes out in a rush, but very deliberately if that makes any sense.
What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

Art, music, meditation, yoga, nature. Love. Painful memories and good ones. Poetry. All the things that bring me deeper into myself are what influence what goes on the page.
If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

I can’t possibly go there. Every time I try, I realize I’ve left out someone extraordinary and I feel terrible. I’ll just say there is a band of ridiculously talented writers working in the flash world right now, who seem to publish works of genius on a weekly basis. Scan the lit journals, you know who I’m talking about. I’m in awe. Okay, I’ll mention one person specifically and that’s Melissa Goode. Her stories clobber me in the best way. One of the most elegant, fierce, compassionate writers working today.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

Oh, my stories get plenty of recognition, Tommy. Almost embarrassingly so. I don’t hunger for more. But if I’m honest, I’ll say I really wish my collection, Together We Can Bury It had made more of an impact than it did. There were numerous hiccups and delays getting it out into the world which made it nearly impossible to promote. That collection means a lot to me. It represents my best early work and I’m proud of it. I’m absolutely overjoyed whenever someone says they actually got a hold of a copy and read it.

BIO: 

Kathy Fish teaches fiction for the Mile High MFA program at Regis University. She also teaches her own intensive Fast Flash workshops online. She has published four collections of short fiction: a chapbook in the Rose Metal Press collective, A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness: Four Chapbooks of Short Short Fiction by Four Women (2008); Wild Life (Matter Press, 2011); Together We Can Bury It (The Lit Pub, 2012); and Rift, co-authored with Robert Vaughan (Unknown Press, 2015). Her story, “Strong Tongue,” was recently chosen by Amy Hempel for Best Small Fictions 2017 (Braddock Avenue Books).

Mini-Interview with Shasta Grant

Version 2

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

I love the puzzle aspect of flash – of making a story work within the parameters of a word count. It’s often more fun than working on a longer story and lends itself to experimenting more.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Probably plot. If I’m struggling with a story, making my characters do something else usually gets things going. I think it’s harder to create believable characters than it is to develop plot.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

A bit of both. The first draft is usually quick and then comes the slow process of revision. I usually need to set a story aside for a while before I attempt revision although there are those rare occasions where a story comes out nearly perfectly formed on the first attempt. I wish that would happen more often!

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

My adolescence and my hometown. For some reason, I’m obsessed with writing about teenagers and people who live in small towns like the one I grew up in. I live in Singapore now, which is quite literally about as far as away as you can get from where I grew up in New Hampshire, so I’m fascinated with writing about characters who stay in their hometown. I guess it’s that question of “what if?” that lingers in my mind.

If you could recommend one flash story or writer, who/what would it be?

This is such a hard question! Lucia Berlin was a genius; I can’t believe I only discovered her work last year. Recently I read Myfanwy Collin’s story “I Am Holding Your Hand” and I think it’s one of the best stories I’ve ever read. I keep rereading it and I also used it in a workshop I taught recently. I’m in awe of how perfect that story is. If I was going to recommend one flash story, it would be that one.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

I feel lucky if anyone notices my work so it’s never something I expect or take for granted. But if pressed to pick one story that I wish got a little more recognition, I’d say “We’re All Sinners” in Wigleaf.

BIO:

Shasta Grant is the author of the chapbook Gather Us Up and Bring Us Home (Split Lip Press, 2017). She won the 2015 Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest and the 2016 SmokeLong Quarterly Kathy Fish Fellowship. She has received residencies from Hedgebrook and The Kerouac Project and her work has appeared in cream city review, Epiphany, Hobart, MonkeyBicycle, and elsewhere. She has an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and divides her time between Singapore and Indianapolis.

Mini-Interview with Claire Polders

headshot_polders_BW_300 (2)

 

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

Discovering flash fiction as a reader opened my mind as a writer. Finally, I had found a genre in which I could truly experiment without the risk of wasting months on a story I wouldn’t be able to finish. Once I started writing flash fiction, I learned how to limit my word count and be a better self-editor. It’s a great way to practice my craft. But I mostly write flash for fun. It’s really one of my favorite activities.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

My stories often begin with a question, a first sentence, or a character. The plot usually comes afterward. In a novel, I cannot even conceive of what will happen without knowing to whom it will be happening. The plot in my flash fiction is frequently a consequence of the voice I’ve chosen. Only after finishing the first draft do I know what the story is about, and then I rewrite it to tell that story better.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Both. When I follow voice, it’s quick and messy, leading to weird stories or failures. When I follow an idea, I often labor over individual sentences that don’t seem to connect, until I put them in the right sequence and the story starts to make sense to me.

 

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

Death, and how it gives meaning to life. I have never looked away from death, not even as a child. And the people I’ve lost are always with me in my mind.

 

If you could recommend one flash story or writer, who/what would it be?

Forced to choose only one, I will have to name the author who inspired me to write my first flash stories, and that is Lydia Davis. Not an original choice, I know, but it’s her stories that lured me to the genre.

 

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition? 

I never think about it that way. The stories are out there, and I’m already happy they can be read. I’ve been very fortunate with the attention they have received. The stories that sometimes fall into a void are the ones I place in print mags. Readers rarely contact me online about what they have read in print. So I learned: if I crave more direct responses, I should favor online journals.

headshot_polders_BW_300headshot_polders_BW_300

BIO
Claire Polders is the author of four novels with a debut in English forthcoming in 2018: “A Whale in Paris” (Atheneum / Simon & Schuster). Her flash fiction has been published most recently in Mid-American Review, Flash Frontier, and Iron Horse. You can find her online at www.clairepolders.com

Mini-Interview with Dina Relles

Dina L. Relles

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

I sort of fell into flash—I was writing these brief bits of prose and then trying to string them together into braided essays or some longer work until I realized they could stand alone. That this was a thing, a form in its own right. Flash? Prose poetry? Micro-memoir? Whatever we call it, it has my heart. I love the challenge to say something resonant in so few words, to craft a sentiment that transcends its small space. I love precise language and lyricism, shifts (however slight), endings that leave you breathless, unsteady, wanting.

I love how flash demands something of the reader—to fill in the white space, to make their own meaning. To carry on where it leaves off. I feel closer to a flash writer/reader because it’s like we’re sharing the story. We’re in this together.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Between those two, character, for sure. Plot terrifies me. In most of my stories, nothing actually happens. There’s infinitesimal movement, if at all. But I love people-watching, people-writing. (Over)thinking human interaction and intention.

Often I feel like there’s something else at work entirely—for better or worse, most of my flashes begin with a memory or an idea. An amorphous concept. I want to say something about how there are as many perspectives in the world as there are people. Or: I want to write about how once you love someone, you never let them go. And then I have to figure out how to get there.

So perhaps, even more than character or plot, my mainstays are: memory and idea.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Can I say both? At first, it’s quick and messy. I HAVE TO GET IT DOWN. But then I obsess over every word, tinker and tweak. That aftermath—the chiseling, the attentiveness, the poring over each line—is my favorite part. It feels like a love affair.

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

Past love. No doubt. I should confess: I don’t really write flash fiction. Or rarely. Nearly all my writing is nonfiction. I envy those who can weave stories out of whole cloth. I lack imagination and ooze nostalgia. Sometimes I’ll get crazy and change a minivan to a truck and think, by golly, I’ve done it! I’ve written fiction! But most of the time, it’s just true stories of people and places I’ve loved and lost.

If you could recommend one flash story or writer, who/what would it be?

That’s HARD. There are so many stunning writers out there gifting us beautiful, worthy work. I feel lucky every. day. to know them and read their words. But if I had to point to one flash piece that’s had the greatest effect on me, the one I keep coming back to, it would be Minuet by Rumaan Alam. And thanks to Meghan McClure, I just discovered “Distance,” a short essay by Judith Kitchen, and now I can’t stop reading it.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

The writing of mine I love most is sitting in the submission queue at the moment, waiting for the right home. I hope to be able to share it someday.

Mini-Interview with

Clio Velentza (4)

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

It gives me the chance to create many new worlds. Ideally, I want each flash fiction to be a unique experience for the reader, and to feel like a place, or a memory of a place. Like momentarily stumbling into someone else’s dream, and then shaking off the vertigo and wondering if it really happened. Every piece must have its own earth and sky.

It allows me to be layered. Flash is supposed to linger in you, and I would like the reader to discover something new every time they revisit it. I believe the experience of reading flash has something inherently open and cyclical. Because I like reading this way, many pieces I’ve written are meant to be reread, and hopefully to give a little more, to raise new questions, to help connect a different dot every time.

Writing flash makes me feel like a student, happily lost in a great dusty library. Every word has to be chosen and placed with surgical precision. They have to be a perfect fit in meaning and sound. Maybe it’s because English isn’t my first language, but most times I look up even the simplest, most familiar words, and always discover something new in them. No other type of writing has offered me this chance.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Character always comes before plot for me. I’ve learned the hard way that forcing characters to fit in a very specific plot is like trying to herd cats. You have to let them evolve, collide and react in their own true ways. With that, plot will organically happen. These surprises are the best part. I believe that plot is crucial to a story, but it’s not a starting point. It’s not even a finishing point – I see endings not as a result of plot, but of each character’s separate emotional makeup. We can throw in as many plot twists as we like when writing, but as the story grows it becomes clear that each character carries something inevitable in them, and they will bring this out if the writer is open to it and attentive. It’s not a fate, but their innate necessity.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Quick and messy start, a slowing down around the middle and an arduous arrival at the finish line. Very slow and precise editing with a visually messy result, full of arrows and symbols. By the time I’m done it looks like a math pop quiz that’s been corrected to death. When it’s time to type it in, the sober cleanliness of a word document seems eerie.

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

There are the most immediate elements, like reading, observing people and consuming art that takes me out of my comfort zone. But these work on a superficial level, where they are meant to give form and light: these are your ideas, your inspirations, your analytical epiphanies and your shapes of thought.

What is hidden deeper are the elements that I work on as themes, and they most influence my writing: the scary part of me, or the scary part of us. Using the academic as a language for the visceral. How much am I learning, growing up, about my/our relationship with the self, with violence, with death, with sexuality, with that in us which exists but is irrational, unexplained or untapped? These are very real, urgent things to me. I’ve always tried to make it a conscious journey. And whatever I find along the way is what I’m eager to write about.

If you could recommend one flash story or writer, who/what would it be?

A very tough question! I’ve had the luck to read so many excellent writers in the past few years, and I couldn’t pick one. And all those amazing stories! One of my many favorites is “If There’s Any Truth In A Northbound Train” by Ryan Werner, in SmokeLong Quarterly.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

The Duke’s Dioxide Sunset” in Obra / Artifact last July, was one I was very fond of and really enjoyed writing, but slipped through the cracks at the time.

Bio: 

Clio Velentza lives in Athens, Greece. She is a winner of “Best Small Fictions 2016” and a Pushcart nominee. Her work has appeared in several literary journals such as “Wigleaf”, “Lost Balloon”, “Hypertrophic Literary”, “Noble/Gas Qtrly”, “The Letters Page”, “Jellyfish Review” and “People Holding…”, along with some anthologies in both English and Greek. She is currently working on a novel. Find her on twitter at @clio_v.

Mini-Interview with Jennifer Harvey

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

I will admit I enjoy the immediate buzz you get from completing a flash story. With longer pieces, I need to be in a very different place, psychologically, if I am going to be able to concentrate long enough to complete it. So, there is an element of addiction to writing flash, for me, because I can write it quickly. I enjoy that little hit you get from simply writing something and seeing where it takes you and then, at the end of the day, having a complete story there on the page. It’s very satisfying.

That said, I also like the distillation required for flash. Thinking about the right word or focusing on a single element, the intricacy of a description, say, or the precision in the tone/voice. Flash might be quick to write, but it still requires an intense form of concentration.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

I need to have the voice for a piece in my head before I can put a single word on the page. If I can’t ‘hear’ it, I can’t write it. So, this means I probably lean more towards character, than plot. I think that’s the beauty of flash, it can be very self-contained, without there necessarily being an obvious plot. I remember reading a quote by Kathy Fish about this, and she put it very well: that there needs to be ‘movement’ and ‘flow’ in a flash piece as opposed to what you would classically define as ‘plot’, and I have yet to find a better way of explaining it.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Mostly quick and messy. Some pieces come out fully formed. Others I go back to (sometimes over years) and edit and refine – usually as a result of feedback from rejections. But the bones of a piece are always there pretty much immediately. I write often for Visual Verse and they ask you to write from a prompt and take no longer than an hour and I am always surprised at how much you can write in an hour, and also, how useful visual prompts can be to kick-start the creative process. I can definitely recommend it as an exercise.

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

I walk a lot and I think this is a very important element of writing, for me. The steady pace, the rhythm of putting one foot in front of another and allowing that pace to dictate your thoughts. It’s so therapeutic and it works for me. It’s a very simple thing, but I really think slowing down at some point in the day is extremely useful in terms of gathering your thoughts together.

If you could recommend one flash story or writer, who/what would it be?

At the moment I think pretty much everything Cathy Ulrich writes is wonderful. She has a beautiful style and I love the way she manages to weave intricate ideas with subtle psychological observations. She is a master of the form and everyone should read her.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

Oh gosh, that’s a very difficult question. So much of what gets published these days have such an ephemeral existence, it’s online one day and forgotten the next in the constant stream of the new, so it’s hard to tell what is getting attention and what isn’t. One flash story I am fond of is ‘Laika’ which was published by Visual Verse. This is probably because it is about a dog. I am very fond of dogs.

https://visualverse.org/submissions/laika/

Bio:

Jennifer Harvey is a Scottish writer now living in Amsterdam. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in various magazines in the USA and the UK, including: Folio, Carve, Fjords Review, Cheap Pop, Bare Fiction and The Lonely Crowd. She has been shortlisted for the Bristol Prize and the Bridport Prize, and in 2013 she was the Editor’s Choice winner in the Raymond Carver short story competition. She is a resident Reader for Carve magazine and loves discovering new stories. When not reading or writing, she can be found wandering the Amsterdam Canals dreaming up new stories.

Mini-Interview with Lori Sambol Brody

Lori (2)

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

I started to write what is now called flash in the late 1990s, but didn’t fully embrace it as opposed to short stories until my daughters were born. It was a matter of necessity. Once I’d dreamed a flash into existence (planning it on my commute), I could write a rough draft in a couple of hours. When the kids were young, and with a full time job, I didn’t have much time. Short stories would take me months to write.

I love the variety of flash. More than a short story, flash lends itself to being playful. Playful not only in structure, but also in content. It’s easier to maintain a surreal story in a short form, and, in flash, you can jettison certain aspects of a short story. Exposition and backstory are unnecessary and take too much space. Poetic language is a must and words must work double-time.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Character – or, as a third option, setting. But that’s really another facet of character. Usually, the story will come to me as a character speaking in my mind or interacting with the setting/characters around her. When I’m writing the story, the character will propel the plot or arc/movement of the story.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Quick and messy! I usually know something about the story to begin with – a voice that’s speaking to me at the beginning and the image or phrase for the ending, so I just need to get from point A to point B. I often write a flash in one big gush, so I don’t start questioning myself. So I sit down and type out one huge paragraph, sometimes without punctuation. (This is why sometimes my stories still have comma splices!) If I can finish it in one sitting I know that it’s worth working on further. (If I abandon it mid-session it’s usually because I’m just not feeling the story; sometimes I will return to it.) The editing process, however, will take a long time, and I’ll do multiple drafts, wait months to send it out, and have people critique it.

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

My experiences travelling – at least as to setting. And then being a teenager – like my necklace being stolen in junior high, which formed the basis of “Butterfly.” I also steal from my daughters, but I usually get their permission to use them, like in “Body Like Paper” and “Second Act Girls.” Not to say that any of my stories are true in all details, but there’s some kernel of truth in all of them, whether it’s a line of dialogue, an emotion, or clothes I wore. I like to say that all of my stories are true and all are false.

If you could recommend one flash story or writer, who/what would it be?

That’s not a fair question! There’s so many stories and writers I admire. I’m just going to refer you to Amelia Gray, and her stories “Labyrinth,” “These are the Fables” and “The Swan as Metaphor for Love.”

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

“Train to the Ends of the Earth” from alice blue review.

Bio: Lori Sambol Brody lives in the mountains of Southern California.  Her short fiction has been published in Tin House Flash Fridays, New Orleans Review, The Rumpus, Little Fiction, Necessary Fiction, Sundog Lit, and elsewhere. She can be found on Twitter at @LoriSambolBrody and her website is lorisambolbrody.wordpress.com.

Mini-Interview with Stephanie Hutton

bio4 (2)

 

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

The accessibility of flash is a real selling point for me. Both writing and reading flash can fit into small slivers of time between other commitments. There is satisfaction in getting an entire first draft onto the page in one short sitting. What started as a practical decision is now a love affair! Every word is there because it needs to be.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

I think that depends on the story. Child-based characters have been strong and in charge of the storyline. Other pieces came from an unusual scenario idea, then building characters into it.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Quick, quick, quick! I love to spill my words. There seem to be two settings for me: nothing at all (95% of ‘writing’ time) or an entire flash in ten minutes flat (magical remaining 5%).

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

I think being a clinical psychologist has a significant impact on my writing. My work is filled with the painful stories of amazing people. When writing flash, I usually work out a character’s backstory including their early attachment experiences and trauma in order to make their reactions and actions as true as possible. Only hints of their history appear in the story, but it shows itself through actions and skewed first-hand perceptions.

If you could recommend one flash story or writer, who/what would it be?

I have so many flash friends that it feels as impossible as choosing between my children! However, I am going to say the wonderful Ingrid Jendrzejewski. She has not only been a writing inspiration to me, but is also utterly lovely and supportive within the flash community.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

I have one flash that is close to my heart and has had kind personal rejections from two great lit mags. My heart hurts a little that it has not yet been accepted, but I have faith in it, so will keep trying.

Bio: Stephanie Hutton is a writer and clinical psychologist in the UK. She came to writing later in life and considers it therapeutic. In 2017, she received Pushcart and Best of the Net nominations. She is somewhat addicted to writing and submitting flash fiction.

Mini-Interview with Tara Isabel Zambrano

 

IMG_3865.jpg

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

I think flash is an opportunity to capture a moment and make it bigger than life. As a writer that’s what makes it so interesting and complex to write. I started writing flash when I first joined Fictionaut and a lot of writers admired my work. I haven’t stopped since then and don’t intend to.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

I think both. It’s always a situation that jumpstarts the story. From that point on, the two are inseparable. I have tried to write character pieces or plot-oriented pieces and have failed miserably.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Slow and precise. I keep correcting sentence structures, typos as I write. And it’s irritating to keep doing that because until then I have no idea where my story is going. Often, I end up with a completely different story than what I wanted to write. It’s frustrating and rewarding.

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

All of it, my day to day work as an electrical engineer in a startup company, my hobby of flying, my role as a mother of two grown-up kids and a wife to a wonderful man who doesn’t want to read my stories because he says, “they’re a bit dark, they need to lighten up.”

If you could recommend one flash story or writer, who/what would it be?

In the past year, I’ve read some amazing stuff from Megan Giddings. I remember an excerpt of her flash piece at Black Warrior Review and I was blown away. There are several other writers that inspire me, but she’s at the top of the list.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

Oh, I have been very fortunate. So far, all my work is admired. I did have a favorite piece called No longer alive or angry, for the longest time because it got rejected at least by sixty journals. Finally, it found home in Visceral Brooklyn:

http://visceralbrooklyn.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/vbissue3.pdf

BIO:  Tara Isabel Zambrano is an electrical engineer by profession. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Minnesota Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, Vestal Review, Gargoyle, and others. She lives in Texas and likes to read three books at the same time.

 

Mini-Interview with K.C. Mead-Brewer

Katie Author Photo (3)

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

First, let me say that I personally don’t tend to make genre distinctions between flash, prose poetry, or micro fiction. For me, these all fall into the same bubbling pot. I wanted to clarify this because I fell in love with this form through Russell Edson’s work, a writer many have called the father of prose poetry. His story, “father father, what have you done?”, is included in Philip Stevick’s Anti-Story anthology under the category of “the minimal story” and, at forty-three words, it is certainly that. As soon as I read this story, something opened up for me. A door. A deluge. I started seeing flash fiction everywhere and was really drawn in by the unique challenge of telling stories in this fashion. Some people think artistic freedom is the key to creativity. But necessity is the mother of invention. In other words, restriction is often the key to truly wild, innovative turns. This makes flash fiction a particularly exciting genre, I think, both as a writer and a reader. You can get away with things in flash that simply aren’t sustainable in longer forms.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

 Plot. It’s rare for me to begin with a character and find a story through them. For me, I almost always begin new writing projects by exploring some question or problem, some what if scenario. Stephen King has said that some of his stories were born of things he found funny, and I feel close to this method as well. Jokes often make wonderful roads into stories. Some absurd premise, a bunch of weirdos walk into a bar, and only two of those weirdos walk out. The rest are riding tortoises. Nick Cave talks about just this sort of story-building method in his 20,000 Days on Earth documentary. You start by introducing tension, and if that doesn’t do it, you add more tension, then more, and if that still doesn’t do it for you, kill half the characters. Edson’s method of starting with a truly wild line—but a line that tastes right—and seeing what comes from there, also works well for me. Kelly Link has also shared about this first-line method, about beginning with an obsession, an immediate point of tension. But all these practices always loop back to plot for me: we start with an immediate problem, and the rest is all about facing that problem.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

 Quick and messy! I write my rough drafts either long-hand or with my typewriter to keep myself from editing (and thereby slowing way down) as I write. My computer is an editorial and submission tool. My notebooks and my typewriter are where all the spaghetti gets thrown against the wall.

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

 Definitely my husband and our decision to remain childless. Pregnancy horror is big for me. I love writing and reading about it. As for my love, I take parts of our relationship and I warp them, I look for the ugliest possibility and doodle around with that, I take everything that annoys me and dial it up to fury, I take everything that worries me and massage it into terror, I take everything that grosses me out and try to make it a love song. Immediate tension. Hard details. This is where it’s at.

If you could recommend one flash story or writer, who/what would it be?

 This is such a tricky question! Honestly, it would really depend on who I was making the recommendation for, there are so many approaches to this nutty genre. For readers who are more into realist fiction, I’d recommend Amy Hempel. For readers interested in where flash is at right now as a genre, I’d recommend Kathy Fish or Lydia Copeland Gwyn. For readers who want something off-the-wall, I’d recommend Edson. For readers who want grit and intensity, I’d recommend xTx. How’s that for dodging a question?

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

None. I’m able to write much more honestly and freely if I pretend no one actually reads anything I write.

BIO: K.C. Mead-Brewer lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Her writing appears in Carve Magazine, Hobart, Fiction Southeast, and elsewhere. As a reader, she loves everything weird—surrealism, sci-fi, horror, all the good stuff that shows change is not only possible, but inevitable. She’s currently at work on her debut short story collection Chameleons. For more information, visit kcmeadbrewer.com and follow her @meadwriter.

Mini-Interview with Jayne Martin

001 (1)

 

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

It could have something to do with my insatiable need for immediate gratification, or my deeply-challenged attention span. But I think I fall into the genre naturally from years of writing television scripts where most of the scenes are pretty short. You get in, get out, and leave the audience wanting more so they don’t reach for the remote. I write primarily micro. Most of my stories are between 100 and 200 words. If I can do it in less than that, I’m all that much happier. Crafting them is much like the art of bonsai. Never met a story I didn’t want to prune.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Character. Character. Character. I would argue that plot is always a function of character and rarely the other way around with the exception of mysteries. Or Tom Cruise movies.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

First draft messy. Just get something down on paper and hope for the appearance of that golden first sentence that launches me off and running. Each November, Nancy Stohlman hosts “Flash Nano-30 Stories in 30 Days” on Facebook with a new prompt each day. Last year I made the commitment to myself to write something every damn day without judgment as to its merit. I wrote some real stinkers, but I also wrote several stories that, with some later revision, got published. My latest piece in MoonPark Review, “Tender Cuts,” originated from that challenge.  https://moonparkreview.com/issue-one-fall-2017/tender-cuts/

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

Definitely reading. Some of the best writing advice I’ve seen came from Jennifer Egan: “Read at the level that you want to write.” This is especially true for me because I learn primarily through osmosis. Whatever I’m exposed to through reading I absorb pretty much unconsciously and I will quickly see elements of it turning up in my work. So I have to be careful about what I choose to read and I make an effort to pick authors who are “above my grade level.”

If you could recommend one flash story or writer, who/what would it be?

This is a hard one. There is so much extraordinary flash being written today. But I would have to say the work of Len Kuntz never fails to send me to the floor. Every piece of his takes the reader on an emotional journey. He never resorts to being clever. There’s truth in each meticulously chosen word.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

“Best Laid Plans,” published this past August by Degenerate Lit. It was pretty experimental for me. Originally, I wrote it in all dialogue with no tags. Then I went back and added just snippets of exposition. I’m not sure why it didn’t resonate more with readers but, unlike my friend Len Kuntz, I don’t always knock everything out of the park.

http://degenerateliterature.weebly.com/flash-fiction-jayne-martin.html

Bio: Jayne Martin is the 2016 winner of Vestal Review’s VERA award for flash fiction. Her work has appeared in Boston Literary Magazine, Literary Orphans, Five-2-One, Midwestern Gothic, Shotgun Honey, MoonPark Review, Blink-Ink, Spelk, Cleaver, Connotation Press and Hippocampus among others. She is the author of “Suitable for Giving: A Collection of Wit with a Side of Wry,” and lives in Santa Barbara, California. Find her on Twitter @Jayne_Martin.

Jayne Martin Author Page – http://injaynesworld.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html

Writing and Basketball

I’ve been thinking a lot about the differences between writing and basketball. Not the vocation or career differences but rather the way I think about the practice of either discipline. Both, like many other hobbies or avocations are certainly disciplines that take hours of dedicated attention in the pursuit of getting better. Like a lot of kids, I  grew up wanting to be a professional sports player, starting with baseball, and ending with basketball. I fell in love with sports well before I’d ever tried to write a story. I was attracted instead to the thrill of bat and ball connecting or the crossover dribble that led to a wide open lay-up. This was the 1990s after all, where Michael Jordan and Ken Griffey Jr. were kings. They made it all look so easy. When you’re young, anything seems possible. You take up your bat or basketball and you practice.

Hundreds of shots, quickly become a thousand. I started off at my neighborhood park, a skinny, but tall for my age 9 year old, playing alone, running down my own rebounds for the countless shots I missed, moving closer and closer to the basket until they started going in. Countless hours watching the older kids, teenagers who smoked and cussed, play lazy pick-up games while other kids my age were still playing on slides and making up imaginative games involving the various pieces of playground equipment. So I waited my turn, dribbling on the side of the court, trying to keep a handle on the ball, so it didn’t interrupt the game I hadn’t been invited to, losing the the ball occasionally, trying not to wilt under the cusses directed at my mistake.

Some days, I never got in the game. They had enough players or the game abruptly ended as soon as someone got tired, the boys jumping in their cars and rattling away from the park, leaving me alone with my ball and an empty court, where I’d go back to hoisting up shots until it got dark and I had to go home. Eventually I got older, I got better, the practice paying off until the older kids either couldn’t ignore me or they finally needed another player. In my memory, I made the most of these early opportunities, making a great pass, grabbing a rebound, or scoring a point or two. I know there were a lot of stumbles, a lot of mistakes, more cussing, a few shoves to the ground. But I’d made finally into the game. I was accepted, though grudgingly.

There were still a lot of loneliness on the court. I lived in a town of 500 people, so there were only so many kids that wanted to play basketball, most who were not as obsessed as I was. Shot after shot, my skinny arms growing stronger, my footwork more precise, my hand-eye coordination blooming. I spent hours everyday after school and even more on weekends playing basketball, not walking off the court until I was thoroughly exhausted.  An obsessed 12 year old can put up a lot of shots in just a few hours; the mechanics becoming automatic. Dribble, dribble, shoot. Rebound, dribble, dribble, shoot. The point here is that this activity takes little brainpower, once the rudimentary skills are established. There is a graceful rhythm, where the body just reacts, a muscle memory that I assume is established and then maintained in so many other disciplines, all except writing. I’m not referring to the knowledge of grammar or punctuation, which can be taught, and scripted, it’s own unique muscle memory. No, I’m talking about the struggle against the blank page, the fight against the anxiety of creating something lasting and worthwhile.

Putting down words that lead to sentences, that lead to paragraphs, which hopefully turn into stories has the air of permanence. The jump shot or free throw creates no anxiety, no fear of releasing the ball, because make or miss, it can always be tracked down, rebounded and hoisted up again. There is only the loss of physical energy and the player knows that this kind of energy will return after a set amount of time, because it has always been this way.

The writer though feels the waning ebb of energy with every release of a sentence, the battle of mind over fear, wondering about each word, wondering if it is truly the best the writer can come up with. Sure, the writer should be able to change any word just like throwing up another shot. Nothing physically stops my fingers, but there is the mind, the system of doubt, that constantly outweighs the physical act of writing.

There, at some point, is just nothing to prove with the practice of basketball, no one waiting or expecting the player to become anything more than an amateur. Even the shooter himself, eventually, and quickly in the scheme of growing up transitions to understanding that basketball is not a realistic career path, but something done for enjoyment. Family members do not ask about the the player’s latest workout at the gym, whether they put up good stats in a pickup game. And maybe now at thirty-three, I’m making the same mistake, counting each writing sessions as leading to something larger, some kind of career. So maybe this is the larger scenario that leads to so much anxiety, so much cosmic doubt. I’ve attached serious weight to each story’s possibility for success, where it might lead me. Basketball now leads no where except it’s own enjoyment.

Writing is a war of attrition against time. Whether self-imposed or a figment of the writer’s mind, time feels fixed and fleeting. There are expectations both real and imagined, put together by the writer herself or by outside forces such as family or peers. There is a constant competition against time and self, against the limits of creativity and the willingness to revise. I’ve created this battle, one that in this current musings doesn’t take account of the joy found in creating characters and worlds, the contentment that can come from having a good writing day. A feeling that now is surely sweeter than any round of shooting around, that’s more permanent than even the rare good showing at a pickup game.

The point here, and I’ll put it so plainly, because it’s an understanding I need to come to for myself, because truly it’s a metaphor that might only work for me, is that writing, especially when drafting, could and probably should take on the appearance of playing basketball. My hope is to let my words and sentences come as freely, as mindlessly as any jump shot, to learn the muscle memory rhythm of just shooting around. That time isn’t a barrier. That there is always the rebound, the dribble, and the shot.

Mini-Interview with Noa Sivian

_V3A3454-small

 

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

First of all, thank you for having me here. Your mini-interviews are always enriching thanks to the insightful writers you pick. It’s a huge compliment.

The main reason I found myself in the flash pond was the language barrier. I started writing in English in 2016, and even though I spoke English well enough, I never read or wrote anything but emails and text messages. The flash genre made it possible for me to write about topics I couldn’t explore in Hebrew—too close to home.

In many ways, this difficulty had shaped my style. I try not to complicate things. The most important aspect for me is delivering an image to the reader’s mind before the words even hit.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Ideally, both. I rarely think of just a character or just a plot. They activate each other. I like to match ordinary characters with unusual circumstances, and vice versa.

I admire writers who can build their story like an impressionist painting; showing us only a dot—the character’s—then gradually making us take a step back, revealing a spectacular landscape. I don’t know how to do that, yet.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

I’m a head writer. I try to sort the story out before I’m actually writing it. Of course, it never works. Once I start, words are in control. They have the power to change my character or plot or structure or all of the above. So, I guess you can say—messy.

Editing is where everything changes again. On average, I end up with 2-3 drafts per micro, and 10-15 per flash.

I like editing better than writing. It teaches me to let go of my ego.

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

I moved a lot as a kid and as an adult, so I’ve always felt like an outsider. This state of not belonging is constant. It made me curious and observant out of social survival.

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

That’s the hardest question possible, Tommy. I assume that’s why it’s in your mini-interviews. You’re relentless.

My first flash read was one of Cathy Ulrich’s Japanese stories—“Where the Drowned Ride,” published at Wigleaf. It was a revelation. Everything she writes is a no less than a little miracle.

Lori Sambol Brody knows all the secrets of the human psyche. Just read the masterpiece “The Sky Is Just Another Neighborhood,” published at SmokeLong.

Christopher James is a busy editor at Jellyfish Review (full disclosure: he’s the first to publish and encourage me to keep writing), but when he has a story out, I’m the happiest person around. “Siobhan Vs. Her Baby Brother”, published at Atticus, is pure joy.

Yael van der Wouden—I can’t crack her writing enigma, and I hope I never will. “I Don’t Know What to Tell You,” published at Cheap Pop, and all her other stories, have that spell on me.

Melissa Goode writes brutal emotions with such lightness it makes your jaw drop. “I Will Not Show My Love In Turquoise,” published on FRiGG, is one of her many beautiful stories.

Kathy Fish, the Reina of flash and micro, just had five tiny micros published at Pidgeonholes. The pieces are layered with different degrees of pain and humanity. If anyone wants to know what microfiction is all about, they should start there.

I have the privilege of reading Etgar Keret in his mother tongue. He’s an innovative writer who opened up the old-fashioned Hebrew lit world to new styles. His translated piece in the New York Times “To The Moon And Back” is unforgettable. I tried.

K.C. Mead-Brewer is a phenomenal writer. She made me laugh in despair in her Paper Darts piece “Late at Night, After He’s Fallen Asleep.” That story never left my mind.

Tara Isabel Zambrano writes colors, smells, and intimacies like no other. I’m overjoyed when I see there’s a new story of hers.

Jad Josey teaches me about boyhood, brotherhood, manhood—hell, all the hood’s—with great sensitivity and meticulous writing.

Jennifer Fliss is one of a kind. She’s more than a writer: she’s a deep tissue massage to where it hurts the most.

Jacqueline Doyle crushes me in less than a 100 words. She’s an absolute ace.

M. Stone is a poet, not a prose writer per se, but I hope she will be soon. She’s out of this world. Her poems are a hug, slap and kick to the gut, all wrapped in delicious wording.

There are many other writers and stories that I love with all my heart. It was almost impossible choosing just these people and their work.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

The Chinese Box, published at Jellyfish Review. It’s a love story starring a flaccid dildo.

BIO: 

Noa Sivan was born and raised in Israel and is currently living in Granada, Spain. She’s a graphic designer, writer and assistant editor for Cheap Pop. You can find her small fiction on Monkeybicycle, Jellyfish Review, Wigleaf, Lost Balloon, FRiGG and more.

Twitter handle: @migdalorr.

Website: www.noasivan.com