Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?
I don’t have a lot of time. Right now, I’m working four different jobs (all part-time, it’s not as crazy as it sounds) and my wife and I have a newborn. When I make time to write, it is really satisfying to be able to complete something. Then, I can make a pass at editing in a different sitting, and then another, and so on. I heard some excellent advice to always finish the scene. I need that momentum to help carry me through and discover what it is I am really writing about. Once I discover that bit, my interest wanes, and if I’m not interested you know the reader won’t be.
What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?
Neither? That’s not a fair answer, I know, but what really brings me into the story is something weird. Sometimes it’s a character trait, sometimes it’s a strange event, but that is what tends to get me going. That said, once I’m in there, it is all about character. I’ve tried the other way and it always falls apart or feels forced, like I’ve gotten ahead of myself. I think that I need to be able to experience whatever strangeness is going on with the character and let the story grow from there.
Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?
Definitely quick and messy. I carry a notebook in my back pocket and will text myself little tidbits or ideas. I let all of that build until there is something that I can’t get beyond, like an image that I have to reckon with. Then I’ll take a run at it. Most of the time I get somewhere and then can go back and edit the pieces together and bolster the themes that I see appearing. That is a fun part for me because I know that I’m getting close.
What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?
Relationships, particularly family relationships, have always trickled their way into my writing, often when I don’t even intend them to. Now that we have little one, I am so curious how that will influence my work. I probably won’t know or be able to point to another moment that feels so crucial to how I interact with the world, even if I can’t see how it is playing out quite yet.
If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?
I love Lydia Davis, Kathy Fish, Meg Pokrass, Cathy Ulrich. I read a piece by Christopher Allen in Longleaf Review a while back that I can’t stop thinking about. We, by we I mean F(r)iction, recently published a piece by Kim Chinquee that is so short and so perfect. Ludmilla Petrushevskaya’s collections are probably my favorite books I own, and Calvino’s Invisible Cities changed how I thought about writing. Joy Williams’s 99 Stories of God should be required reading. There’s more, but if you are looking to get into reading or writing flash any and all of these writers will amaze you.
What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?
I had a story come out with Fictive Dream a while back that I really loved. It has a structure that I was experimenting with that I think gave the ending a lot of force. It’s about a girl who is being chased by horses that only she can see.
BIO: Evan James Sheldon’s work has appeared most recently in Foliate Oak,Gone Lawn, New Plains Review, and Queen Mob’s Tea House. He is a Senior Editor for F(r)iction and the Editorial Coordinator for Brink Literacy Project. You can find him online at evanjamessheldon.com.