Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?
I started out writing long, full short stories, often so long that I had a hard time finding a home for them. But when I look at them I realize that many of them are written as a series of short scenes. One of the first flash pieces I wrote was a parting scene between two characters from a novel I’d started writing in college. After I wrote it I realized: okay, it’s all there, I don’t need to go back to those characters. It was a relief, actually—not to have to worry about continuity and filling in the chinks. I could leave out the boring parts.
What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?
Actually, neither. Often, for me, what sparks a story is an image. Like the awful crab Rangoon restaurant with the dusty old prizes behind glass in my story “When God Closes a Door.” The characters tend to grow out of that. Who’s eating that crab Rangoon? Plot is the hardest, but if I’m lucky, it grows out of character.
Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?
Quick and messy initially. I don’t have much time to write so often my first drafts come out of an exercise in my writing group, and we usually give ourselves a time limit of 20 minutes or even less. But things can simmer under the surface for a long time before I actually write them, and I also have unfinished pieces that might sit in a notebook for years and then I’ll go back to them and think, “I wrote that?”
What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?
Probably childhood and adolescence. I often think of that Flannery O’Connor quote about how anyone who has survived childhood has enough experience of life to last them the rest of their days.
If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?
Urgh, tough one. I can think of a few stories I often teach, because they do particular things so well: “I Am Holding Your Hand” by Myfanwy Collins; “We Didn’t” by Stuart Dybek; “Lawn of the Year” by Katie Burgess, from Atticus Review; “Hard Time,” by Courtney Watson, from 100 Word Story; and “Wedding Picture” by Jayne Ann Phillips, along with “Snapshot: Harvey Cedars 1948” by Paul Lisicky. And there is so much amazing work coming out right now, and journals that are publishing incredible flash. And yearly anthologies! And podcasts! And I’m definitely seeing more academic recognition. Let’s just say it’s an exciting time for flash.
What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?
Probably “We the Underserved,” which was just before Christmas 2017 in Citron Review. I love the voice in that story and the strength and attitude of the young girl characters, but I think it was overlooked in the holiday rush.
BIO: Kathryn Kulpa was a winner of the Vella Chapbook Contest for her chapbook Girls on Film and is the author of a short story collection, Pleasant Drugs. Her work has appeared in Jellyfish Review, Monkeybicycle, Smokelong Quarterly, and Evansville Review, and she serves as flash fiction editor for Cleaver magazine.