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.