Mini-Interview with Jacqueline Doyle

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

One of the reasons is probably time. It’s hard to make time for larger projects when I’m teaching. But I’ve always been attracted to the lyric fragment and to small moments in larger works, and I love the compression and resonance of very short writing. While short works has been around for centuries, the genre called flash is relatively new and as far as I can see has no rules at all beyond the necessity that the work be complete in itself. I love the freedom that allows me.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Definitely character and not plot. I struggled with plot when I started writing, and probably gravitated toward flash because it’s possible to dispense with conventional plot (though I’m always pleased when I manage a clear narrative arc). Character sometimes emerges as I play with voice. Voice, imagery, the music of words may be my writerly life jackets. Sometimes a formal device. My flash “Zig Zag” began with a picture in my head of someone zigzagging across a cornfield, seen from above. All I knew when I started to write was that I wanted the narrative line to zig zag. The plot and characters that emerged are very obscure. Of course some people may hate “Zig Zag” for just that reason.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

The quick ones are the most fun. Often they’re based on something concrete like an item in the news (“Noonday Robbery at Booneville Savings and Loan” in FlashFiction.net) or a painting (“Edvard Munch’s ‘Eye in Eye’” in Flash Frontier) or a mysterious image (“A Murder of Crows” in Cheap Pop, “Avian Portent” in Entropy). But usually my writing is slow and laborious, with many edits as I go along (frowned upon in many “how to” handbooks, but that’s the way I write), and then many subsequent drafts. Especially of the flash, it seems. Slow and messy.

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

I taught literature for years before I started to write, and I still teach more lit classes than creative writing classes, so even though it’s literature and not the real world, it’s my “real life” and I have to labor to keep it from influencing my writing too much. I have a weakness for literary allusions, sometimes obscure. Many of my early flash had epigraphs that I deleted later. Some are riffs on literary texts (“Ligeia,” “Lady Lazarus,” “Aubade,” Freud’s case history of “Dora,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” The Haunting of Hill House), even center on teaching literary texts (Citizen), and I worry that they’re too academic. On the plus side, teaching has given me a tremendous appreciation for great writing.

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

Does it have to be one? I have a very long list of extraordinary flash writers whose work I jump to read when I see it announced online. Just in the past month, there are so many great flash stories to choose from. All of your readers have probably read Kathy Fish’s powerful prose poem/flash “Collective Nouns for Humans in the Wild” in Jellyfish Review, but I’ll put it out here in case anyone hasn’t: https://jellyfishreview.wordpress.com/2017/10/13/collective-nouns-for-humans-in-the-wild-by-kathy-fish/

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

I published my first flash in 2009, but I’m not sure I had any readers at all until a few years ago, so all my flash publications went unrecognized, or at least it felt that way! (Such is the life of the emerging writer.) Of my recent flash, it might be “Hula,” which came out in the print journal Quarter After Eight. I love the magazine and that issue in particular, which was filled with excellent flash, but I’m used to zines and never know who reads print. (I’m also thrilled to have flash in The Pinch, and forthcoming in print journals like Post Road and Hotel Amerika, but I’m afraid those flash won’t reach the community of readers I care about most.) “Hula” is included in my new flash chapbook so I hope it’s being read now. Quarter After Eight also posted it online later on a page of “Featured Work”: http://www.quarteraftereight.org/toc.html#hula

BIO: Jacqueline Doyle’s very first publication was a micro in flashquake (may it rest in peace) and her last will probably be a micro too (maybe on her headstone). She has a brand new flash chapbook, The Missing Girl, with Black Lawrence Press. Her flash has recently appeared in Wigleaf, matchbook, Jellyfish Review, threadcount, Cheap Pop, Monkeybicycle, The Pinch, 100 Word Story, and many other magazines she loves. “Zig Zag” won the 2017 flash contest at Midway Journal, judged by Michael Martone. In another life, she also writes creative nonfiction, and has been awarded three Notables in Best American Essays. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and can be found online at www.jacquelinedoyle.com and on twitter @doylejacq.

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