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.
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.