Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?
I write flash because I’m not a traditional writer, and I like being able to write a piece without having the constraints of the short story form. What makes it different for me is being able to take a character or a scene and focus solely on that one moment or person and then abandon the reader. Flash fiction is a one-night stand. Short stories are a long-term relationship. Novels are a marriage. Sometimes you don’t want the commitment. That’s why flash is so attractive.
What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?
Great question. I’ll take character over plot any day. But I’ve always been intuitively drawn to people more than events my entire life. Both are important to writing. But character, character for me is where it’s at.
Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?
If we think of this question in terms of a murder, for me, it’s slow and precise. I have to make sure I don’t rush and make a mistake. That’s when you when you leave evidence behind, or in the case of writing, miss something vital.
What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?
Wonderful question, Tommy! As writers, we observe, we soak in everything around us, almost without thinking about it. Writers write about their experiences in one form or another. That’s what makes us different, right? For me, every aspect of my life has been an influence on my writing. I write about all the different jobs I’ve had, the trauma I’ve been through, my son and his epilepsy, our escape from domestic violence, the ghosts that follow us, my relationship with the dead and their communication with me, hell, even the death of my beloved cat.
If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?
Let’s get a little dark here, shall we? There’s a story that’s always stayed with me over the years that never goes away. It’s called “The Dead Mother” by Vincent Poturica. You can find it at The Vestal Review. It’s something I don’t admit to that often, but it’s a story I find myself understanding in ways I don’t want to face. I use it as an example when teaching classes. Trigger warning, please take care.
Aside from the heavy hitters like Kathy Fish, Nancy Stohlman, Tara Campbell, and Len Kuntz, Desiree Cooper is a name that isn’t mentioned as much as it should be in the world of flash fiction. Her collection of flash fiction, “Know the Mother,” is writing I connect with both as a mother, absolutely, but it’s more than that. It speaks of the secrets of a mother’s heart, the ones we don’t dare share with anyone. But she does, and she does it beautifully. There’s honest darkness to her writing that I connect with that I don’t find too often. Please do read it.
What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?
I’m big on class and the blue-collar workers, the invisible people. If you’ve read anything by me, interviews or reviews or writing, you’ll see that. It’s important to me. So, I try to use my voice to give this a spotlight. But it seems the pieces I write about the trans community and my experiences with my trans mentor in one of my pieces at the Super Eight Motel, or the ones focusing on non-binary characters get glossed over. It shines the ultra-ugly light on the bigger concern of the importance of these voices along with writers of color and women writers overall in the publishing world being ignored or shoved in a corner. It’s a much larger issue with a longstanding history, and as a result, is going to take time to take down, which can only be done by reading more works, buying more books, and publishing more authors.
BIO: Hillary Leftwich is the author of Ghosts Are Just Strangers Who Know How to Knock (CCM Press/The Accomplices 2019), which is featured in Entropy’s Best Fiction list of 2019. She is the poetry and prose editor for Heavy Feather Review and runs At the Inkwell Denver, a monthly reading series. Currently, she freelances as a writer, editor, and writing workshop instructor focusing on trauma writing. Her writing can be found or is forthcoming in print and online in The Rumpus, Entropy, The Missouri Review, Hobart, Smokelong Quarterly, and others. She will be attending The Kenyon Review’s Writers Workshop for nonfiction and will be a featured visiting writer at Western Illinois University in 2020. She lives in Colorado with her partner, her son, and their cat, Larry. Find more of her writing at http://www.hillaryleftwich.com