Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?
Flash is like a no-fuss best friend to me—it’s much easier to manage than the more time-consuming, “high maintenance” short stories and essays that I also write. I can usually count on flash to show up when I’ve got limited time to dedicate to writing, to not be too fussy in revealing the truth of what it’s dying to say. Flash also big-time motivates me with my longer pieces, builds my confidence to know I can find many micro-level ways to bring them to the finish line. If I sound like I’m gushing here, it’s because I’m in love with flash!
What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?
If I told you I heard voices in my head, would you have me straight-jacketed? That’s usually what happens. A first line appears generally out of nowhere and I puzzle it in my head until it feels right. Then I start to write and let that voice tell its story. Usually, that voice is a character, but sometimes it’s a question (which I guess is more similar to plot).
Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?
I’m somewhat slow in my head to nail down the opening sentence or two, and then I’m quick onto the page to finish a draft. I first started writing flash in a game-changing Kathy Fish Fast Flash© workshop, and so fast has stuck as my primary first-draft method.
What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?
Tommy, this could be a therapy session! I’m an engineer and, in part, work on environmental cleanups. It’s a terrific, if not an obvious, metaphor for real life that finds its way, either overtly or subtlety, into my work. While nature can be beautiful, I’m trained to see all the ways it’s messed up. That extends to humans too—I’m an extrovert who probably asks more inappropriate questions of people than I should (always couched with humor!). Revealed details sometimes make for fabulous story kernels!
If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?
Here are a few flash writers/example pieces I turn to when I want to be awed and moved and inspired. I tried to vary the list from previous interviews as best I could, which meant omitting so many of my go-to writers (sorry!).
- For how she evokes emotion: Jennifer Wortman, As It So Happens in Vestal Review
- For setting and razor-sharp detail: Jason Shults, Dodge in SmokeLong Quarterly
- For genius structure: Kim Magowan, Madlib, in Okay Donkey
- For killer dialogue and up-front tension: Cheryl Kidder, Give it to Her, in Atticus Review
- For slow-boiled tension: Tiffany Quay Tyson, The Neighbors Want to Know Our Secret, in The Ilanot Review
What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?
I’m really fond of a piece of mine, School Lessons, that ran in Noble / Gas Qtrly. It was a runner-up for their 2017 Birdwhistle Prize, but I’m not sure I did my part to promote it. So much of this story is true; it feels like a time capsule of my grade school experience.
BIO: Michele Finn Johnson’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Colorado Review, Mid-American Review, The Adroit Journal, DIAGRAM, Barrelhouse, SmokeLong Quarterly, and elsewhere. Her work has been nominated several times for a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, Best Microfiction, and Best Small Fictions, and won an AWP Intro Journals Project in nonfiction. Michele lives in Tucson and serves as assistant fiction editor at Split Lip Magazine. Find her online at michelefinnjohnson.com and @m_finn_johnson.