Mini-Interview with Shasta Grant

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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.

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Mini-Interview with Claire Polders

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

 

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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

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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

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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 Robert Vaughan

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

I’m mostly a person who can’t get from Point A to Point Z easily. Typically, I barely arrive. I’m easily distracted, I like brevity in all shapes and forms. And I’ll always like the idea of beautiful, miniscule gems wrapped in outlandish packages. There is also the visceral gut-punch, or “I didn’t see THAT coming!!!” that accompanies terrific flash.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Definitely character. I love to people watch and eavesdrop. I’m fascinated by the machinations of wo/man, our faulty life maneuvers, or over-indulgent egos. photo I like to place two unlikely people in uncomfortable situations (life raft, elevator, hot-air balloon) and figure them out. Especially in a first draft, having a concrete beginning, middle and end rarely manifest. That always comes later, if ever.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Quick, super fast, messy as an oil slick, sometimes gooey, or over-indulgent, like eating an entire box of your favorite chocolates, despite knowing how sick you’ll feel afterward. I like to throw up on the page, blurt, get out of “my own way,” or the editorial brain. Keep the pen moving, beyond margins, outside lines. Then here is the caveat: DO NOT SUBMIT THIS DRAFT!!! Let it sit and marinate. Read aloud. And then…re-write about ten more times.

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

As I’ve been a full-time writer the past ten or so years, probably my friendships with other like-minded people: writers and artists. Then also the structure, the order of my day. It’s vital for me to rise early, caffeinate,  write every morning, and every day. My life is not the same if I don’t.

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

  1. My Sister Didn’t Die by Len Kuntz at Wigleaf: http://wigleaf.com
  2. The Girl in Glass by Aimee Parkison at Monkeybicycle: http://monkeybicycle.net/girl-in-glass/
  3. Once Upon an Echo by Meg Tuite at Spelk: https://spelkfiction.com/2017/12/15/once-upon-an-echo/
  4. Safe by David Lerner Schwartz at Smokelong Quarterly: http://www.smokelong.com/safe/

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

Too Much Oxygen which first published at Literary Orphans: http://www.literaryorphans.org/playdb/much-oxygen-robert-vaughan/ And then was included in RIFT, my compilation book with Kathy Fish.

 

 

Mini-Interview with Jennifer Fliss

Jennifer-Fliss (2)

 

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

Flash can be so many things. It can be used to tell a traditional story or it can be conceptual. It’s a painting or a sculpture, a Rube Goldberg contraption, something you can hold in your hand (or at once in your brain) and look at it from different angles. It doesn’t follow as many rules as many other forms tend to “require.”

As a reader, I am a big fan of when I figure something out or make a connection that may not be obvious; that the writer didn’t state outright. It makes a story more interactive with the reader. So as a writer, this is what I like to write. (Write what you want to read, don’t they say?) In flash, you don’t have the space to include everything, so a lot is said in omissions. Words take on double meanings, something at the end might connect to something said, or pointed out in the beginning that you didn’t initially think mattered to the story. Metaphors are big.

While this occurs in longer works, I think it’s more prominent (and critical) in flash: you have some information upfront and a whole lot happening behind the curtain.

Some of these “secrets” or “Easter eggs” may become clear as you read further into the piece, some may require a second or third or a very close reading. One reader may catch some of those connections while another reader may catch others. And, hopefully, a reader doesn’t have to “catch” everything for it to still be a successful read. It feels like I’m a puzzle-maker when I write flash and it’s so fun!

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Character: I’m a New Yorker, and riding the subway or the bus or walking along Broadway, I’d find so much inspiration in people. What are they wearing? What are they saying? What book are they reading? Who are they talking to? Who are they staring at? That city has so many contradictions going on at any given moment on any given block. It’s fascinating and inspires so much of my writing. When I moved to Seattle, I was faced with nature. Majestic, beautiful nature. I appreciate that, but it doesn’t inspire me to write. Give me a subway car full of people and I’ll write a thousand flashes.

I am drawn to how people/characters navigate through the quotidian. One day we are washing the dishes and we are jubilant because our daughter announced she is pregnant. The next day we are washing the dishes and our childhood best friend has died. The next day, we wash the dishes but there’s a wildfire outside and we see ourselves in the window’s reflection being licked by the fire. The next time we wash the dishes there are burns on our hands. We are washing the dishes and our partner comes up behind us and draws us to the floor for sex. In all of these, we are the same character in one way and an entirely different character in another. It is character that would make each of these instances an entirely different and unique story.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Quick and messy for sure. I like what I write, but I think I could produce even better work if I had an ounce of the discipline that some other writers have. I dislike revision and if something I write needs too much of it, the whole thing gets aborted.

A lot of my pieces start out as a quick idea with a bunch of random thoughts or sentences. Then it gets put into a document. Sometimes I will write it all right when the inspiration hits, but more likely, it sits in that file until I’m scrolling through my zillions of documents and get hit with inspiration, then it comes out with speed. I tend to get overexcited, and really should put the piece aside and revisit a substantial amount of time later. I do this sometimes, but not as much as I should.

 

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

I had an incredibly traumatic childhood. Try as I might, I can’t get away from stories that include abuse outright or the inequality of the male/female relationship. I began to write as a way to process my own experiences. In my twenties, after my father died, I felt free to open up about my experiences with him as my abuser, but my voice wouldn’t come.  So instead I’d write snippets here and there in the middle of the night, never to be shown to anyone. Then I wrote a short story loosely based on my own experiences. I could never outright claim them to be my own; I wasn’t ready. That story then prompted more stories and then more stories. I had a cache of short stories, but I didn’t really share them until a few years ago. Somehow, my daughter’s birth encouraged me to start submitting and in 2014/2015, I began to get published . . . which is still something I am so grateful for and humbled by.

 In addition to fiction, I’ve also begun to share my experiences in essays and creative nonfiction pieces. I have fortunately received messages of gratitude from people who’ve read my work –be it in reaction to reading my essay about growing up with guns, a fictional flash about miscarriage, or a fiction/nonfiction hybrid on surviving abuse. This is hands down the best reason to publish. And I won’t apologize for writing on topics that some may deem “over” or “too much.” This is why I write.

 

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

There are many, really. I’ve been fortunate to have started online partying with some great writers and journals. As a result, I read so many flash pieces a week and I am inspired by so many of them on so many different levels: lush settings, weird plots, quirky language, beautiful language. But if I had to choose one writer who writes flash (as well as longer works too), I’d recommend Aimee Bender.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

For the Dachshund Enthusiast. It won the inaugural Hell’s Belle’s Prize at Fiction Southeast, but I don’t think it got a big audience. It’s basically a love story to my city, and it’s the first time I kind of fell in love with one of my characters.

http://fictionsoutheast.org/for-the-dachshund-enthusiast/

BIO:

Jennifer Fliss is a Seattle-based fiction and essay writer. Her work has appeared in PANK, Hobart, The Rumpus, Necessary Fiction, and elsewhere. She can be found on Twitter at @writesforlife or via her website, www.jenniferflisscreative.com.