Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?
Flash is where I go when I am writing about a sequence of events that happen over a period of time (which I think is the foundation of narrative) but want to use the logic of a poem. It’s like the Shark Tunnel at my local aquarium: I have to start at the beginning and reach the end, but what I see in between is always new, always outside the rules and boundaries of my (or my narrator’s) existence. Flash is where I go to observe what I cannot touch.
What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?
I’m not sure how I want to answer this—for me, plot is the stuff that happens based on the character’s desire. Joey wants a hamburger so he goes to the local fast food joint but on the way a whale falls out of the sky, blocking the entrance to McDonald’s. People are inside the whale’s mouth, arguing over a map, one of them asks Joey for directions to Second Babylon, but Joey is really hungry and McDonald’s is closing soon. How am I supposed to choose character or plot here? My sympathies lie with the whale, I think.
Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?
I’m quick and messy with first drafts—I have to be! It’s a race against distraction all the time. I jot most of my ideas down either right before I fall asleep, or on the bus/subway, or on those scarce moments I’m at work and have a beat. Editing is where things slow down, and I will go word by word, sentence by sentence, weighing each against the other, shrinking the content until it’s distilled into just enough to say what I want to say. Sometimes quick and messy is quick and done too! Bust most of the time I need days, weeks, sometimes years to finish a piece. If I don’t get a first draft down quickly though—if I start and then I stop—I have no idea when I will finish it. I currently have three flash pieces arrested in their first halves because I couldn’t crank out an ending ASAP.
What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?
I’m a writer specializing in academic affairs content for a teaching hospital, handling the appointment, reappointment, and promotion materials for our hundreds of faculty, as well as official letters and website content for our department, so I think being able to work with words all day really strengthens my sense of what “works” and what can go in my writing. There’s no opportunity for ambiguity in my work-related writing, which I think really helps me maintain lucid narratives in my creative writing. That being said, I also think being a dad has really motivated me to write and create. I messed around with writing novels for a few years after my MFA (Sarah Lawrence College, 2008), but for some reason as soon as I became a father I started writing poetry and flash again. That was only a few years ago, which feels pretty wild to me since so much has happened related to my writing since then!
If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?
I think Kathy Fish, Cathy Ulrich, and Kathryn McMahon are some of the best flash fiction writers who have ever lived and I am so thankful they’re alive and writing today!
What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?
All of them! I love my flash pieces. I identify myself primarily as a poet, so whenever I end up writing flash fiction I’m just so happy because it’s like rediscovering I can still surprise myself. If I had to pick just one though, I’d say my piece “The Hand” in Lost Balloon. It started off as a lyrical, multi-sectioned poem, but it was like trying to dress a bowling ball in chiffon. When I finally adapted it to flash, it suddenly had enough room to make sense, and what came out was a little quotidian horror story about grief and what it means to move on.
BIO: Todd Dillard’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous publications, including The Boiler Journal, Superstition Review, Nimrod, Longleaf Review, and Crab Creek Review. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and daughter.