Mini-Interview with Eric Andrew Newman

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

I wish there was some kind of deep, meaningful answer, but really flash is just how I naturally write. When I started writing again about five years ago after a long hiatus, everything that came out happened to be around 1,000 words or under. I didn’t have a name for it at the time, but after reading stories by folks like Roxane Gay, Ben Loory, and Amber Sparks, I learned that what I was writing was called flash fiction.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

It’s definitely not plot. Most of my stories don’t really have much of a discernable plot. So by default it’s character and by character I mean voice. Especially if it’s a first or second-person story. What does this person/narrator sound like? How do they talk? These are usually the first questions I ask myself. Then a first line usually pops into my head.

Writing style: Quick and messy, or slow and precise?

Contradictingly, both. My first drafts are almost always quick and messy. I can usually write the first draft of a piece in one 15–30 minute sitting. Then for successive drafts I’m very slow and precise, going over every word and punctuation mark with a fine-toothed comb. While I can write a first draft in 20 minutes, I can often spend weeks if not months on revisions for one 500-word flash. I like to sit with it for a bit and see how it feels.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

Most of my “real life” is pretty boring, so the things that mostly influence my writing are books, movies, tv shows, music. I’m also lucky enough have very funny friends, so I might pull out some funny lines or stories I’ve heard from them. In addition, I’m an inveterate eavesdropper in coffee shops, restaurants, and stores, so I might sprinkle some of that into my work, as well.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

Aside from the big three mentioned above, the folks that come to mind are Cathy Ulrich, Anna Vangala Jones, Tara Isabel Zambrano, Kim Magowan, Michelle Ross, Michael Alessi, Dan Sanders, Tyler Barton, Meghan Phillips. As someone who edits a flash fiction magazine, Okay Donkey, it’s hard for me to narrow it down. I’d like to mention all of our contributors!

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

A micro I really loved called “Skin Game” was published on Five:2:One’s #sideshow about a year or so ago in January 2019. Unfortunately, soon after publication I was in a bad car accident and couldn’t really promote it as much as I would have liked.

BIO: Eric Andrew Newman lives in Los Angeles with his partner and works as an archivist for a nonprofit foundation. His work has been nominated for the Best Small Fiction and Best Microfiction anthologies, and have appeared in Atlas and Alice, Bending Genres, Five:2:One, Gargoyle, Pithead Chapel, and wigleaf. He is also the Fiction Editor for Okay Donkey.

Mini-Interview with Jen Fawkes

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

Flash provides me with the very thing – closure, satisfaction, the rainbow’s end – that long-form fiction dangles before me like an ever-diminishing carrot. I write both long-form and flash, but I always know instantly when an idea is best suited to flash. It feels compressed and urgent, and is driven by an image rather than an idea. For me, good flash needs be in some way bold. And you shouldn’t be able to read it without feeling at least 2-3 things.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

I’m going to say both in equal measure. I love constructing and following characters, but I really am a sucker for plot. I just like it when things happen. Large movements. Heavy thuds. Shrieks.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Slow and precise. 100%.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

My disappointments, fears, doubts, hang-ups, mistakes, and neuroses. Is there another way to answer this question?

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

Bess Winter, whose flash “Signs” won the ASF Shorter Fiction Prize as well as a Pushcart, and has appeared in many other places, like Wigleaf. Many other flash writers have knocked my socks off recently, including Jan Stinchcomb and Caroline Kim.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

As ironic as this may sound, in a flash interview, my longest short stories. Long short fiction is going the way of the Dodo. The story I still think of as my best is 28 manuscript pages, and it remains unsold after 8-9 years of submitting, and I mean everywhere. People seem to have no more use for long stories. Which is good news for writers of flash! So hooray!

BIO: “Jen Fawkes has been a waitress, a tax preparer, a bartender, a museum interpreter, a cleaning woman, and a college professor. Her debut story collection, MANNEQUIN AND WIFE, is forthcoming in September 2020 from LSU Press. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in One Story, Crazyhorse, The Iowa Review, Barrelhouse, Michigan Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. She is the winner of the 2019 Pinch Award in Fiction and the 2019 John Gardner Memorial Fiction Prize from Harpur Palate; her stories have also won prizes from Salamander, Washington Square, and others. Jen is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee as well as a two-time finalist for the Italo Calvino Prize in Fabulist Fiction. She lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, with her husband and several imaginary friends.”

Why Take A Writing Class?

For most of us, writing is a lonely pursuit. We squirrel away time from loved ones and friends in order to spend time with the thoughts in our heads, hoping to transcribe them onto the blank page. This is followed by lots of revision, more time alone with our project, only to hopefully find someone willing to publish this work and share it with the wider world. A hedge against this loneliness is to find the writers among us, to share our passion, our thoughts, our resonance with these projects that we’ve created mostly alone. Writing classes can create a sense of community, a sense of belonging if only for a few hours.

Taking a class is a marker of good faith to yourself that you’re taking your writing seriously, that you believe in the ability to make your writing better, to make yourself better in the elements of craft, in the ability to perceive and see the world around you, to bring meaning, and resonance to your life, and hopefully to the lives of your readers. Writing well is a commitment, and taking a class safeguards the promise of your commitment.

Taking a class often pushes our unconscious thoughts or knowledge about craft elements to our conscious, where we can readily apply them to current or future projects. Writing, unfortunately, isn’t like writing a bicycle. It isn’t often a rote experience where we can rely on muscle memory alone. We must learn and relearn often the separate elements of craft to put the whole thing together to create a story, essay, or poem. What has worked before might not work in quite the same way, and learning from instructors and our peers, can bring fresh ideas to our projects, to our ideas about the use and tactics of each craft element.

Finally, hopefully, it’s fun or engaging or both. An opportunity to step out of the pressures of our busy lives. An opportunity for play and exploration, to get back to our imaginations. To create in a safe and inspiring environment. To do the good and necessary work of creating stories.

Mini-Interview with Eshani Surya

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

I’m a big fan of flash fiction that stays in one scene and digs into that moment deeply. For me, there are these moments in life where I can say: this is pivotal, I want to remember this, because it encapsulates so much of who I am and what my life is about. So what I love about flash fiction is it shows us that a snapshot can be powerful.

I also admire how flash fiction is a paradox. It asks us to look at and focus on small increments of time, but also write about the larger meaning of that moment without destroying the integrity of the smallness. It’s hard. But when it’s done well, I think there is so much tension and so much creativity required of the writer.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

I’d actually say images. Most of my stories come out of an image that interests me, whether it’s a picture from a scene, or the life I’ve lived, or just imaginative what if thinking. And then I’ll start to write around that. I’ll try to create the circumstances that led to that core image, as well as think about the implications and fallout of that image.

I will say, and I’ve talked about this in various settings before, I’m a big proponent of plot being just as important as character. I think in a lot of literary circles we talk about how character leads to emotional resonance. But I also think that characters don’t change and learn when nothing happens. We need plot because it propels characters and crafts them. And it also makes stories enjoyable to read. I think it’s natural for humans to ask, “What happened next?” And if the answer is that the character just sat around in the same situation, I think that can be a downer for a lot of readers. I’ll admit that once I started focusing more on plot in my writing, I found that it became sharper, because I was challenged to write less thoughts and more action, leading to—hopefully—a more balanced story.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

When it comes to flash and short stories, I like to spend weeks, or even months, thinking about a story, letting it become more a reality I can wade through than just a vague idea. Sometimes, I’ll rewrite the beginning paragraph of a story. But after that, I tend to go really quick, and a lot of my first draft does make it into a final draft. I think it’s that reflective period in the early stages that acts like mental drafting.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

I would say that having a chronic illness—ulcerative colitis—has influenced my writing heavily. A lot of my stories have to do with bodies, illness, and caretaking.  Before I was diagnosed with my illness at the age of twenty-one I wasn’t really thinking about these issues. But now that I’m faced with them in my day-to-day life, they naturally show up in my writing a lot. Even the stories that aren’t overtly about illness could work as metaphors for sickness/situations around illness. I think a lot about animals and land and family relationships where there was meant to be caretaking and something went wrong. I think ultimately a huge part of the world is how communities and ecosystems of all sizes function together and rely on each other, and my writing reflects that.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

I absolutely love Krys Malcolm Belc’s work (@krysmalcolmbelc). He is writing fantastic flash creative non-fiction pieces, a genre I think is very hard to pull off due to how essays often really require space to ruminate and process. Many of his pieces think about transness, gender/gender roles, bodies, and family relationships.

I am also a big fan of Melissa Goodrich’s flash fiction (@good_rib). I love how she writes surreal and speculative worlds with a biting, true-to-the-voice-in-your-head style. The contrast feels very much of this time to me, since we’re living in the strangest of times but also have such a specific style of communication through social media and technology.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

Of course, I’m grateful for all the readers I’ve gotten for my stories. I’ve been lucky to build a wonderful literary community, especially through Twitter. But if pressed, I’d say my story, “Impasse,” which was published on Lunch Ticket. It’s about tricky father-daughter dynamics, but takes place in a fictitious Alcatraz. Mostly, it’s the last line that I’ve always loved, and it’s one of my darlings that were never killed.

BIO: Eshani Surya is a writer based in Greenville, SC. Her writing has appeared in [PANK], Catapult, Paper Darts, Joyland, and Literary Hub, among others. Eshani is also a Flash Fiction Reader at Split Lip Magazine. She holds an MFA from the University of Arizona in Tucson. Find her @__eshani or at http://eshani-surya.com

Mini-Interview with Thad DeVassie

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

Until recently, I have always described my writing life as that of a poet who gravitates toward prose poetry. But I’ve always felt like a fish out of water with my writing – not really a formal poet, not quite a fiction writer capable of longer formats. That meant falling into that murky, in-between place until I discovered writers such as Russell Edson, James Tate, Charles Simic, Matthea Harvey, and Matthew Zapruder to name a few. They were writing these paragraphs and bits of dialogue that were surreal and absurd, funny but also touching, and it spoke to me like nothing else I had read before. My writing teeters between prose poetry and flash, and the growth and acceptance of flash has influenced the way I write. It has released me from rigid ideas about form and style, affording me to simply write with conviction and outside of convention. Now the challenge is when it comes time to submit. Is this prose poetry? Flash fiction? A hybrid or something else? I think it just is. That sounds like a cop out, but it’s just this little thing I created. 

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

I’ll say plot, but I think scene might be better word. I think that’s the poet in me trained on the economy of words. My characters are more like navigators. I prefer to parachute readers into these micro stories with the navigator and get to the scene at hand. I want the reader to be swept up in the spectacle, to embrace their role as curious eavesdropper at the bar. Plot ends up being something either highly relatable, so the reader can connect even with a vague character sketch, or something ridiculously absurd, sometimes infusing historical characters who need little by way of introduction, and telling untold stories of peculiar happenings (Evel Knievel, Paul Bunyan, Matthew Brady, Ron Popeil). Either way, the goal is to create a thing that evokes feeling, and for me that’s driven by the experience.   

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Quick and somewhat precise. I sprint toward an end point with an idea, but rarely does it hold up as finished concept. Time away from a piece always makes it stronger, when thoughts on a different day bring new and hopefully better ideas to the table. I’ve recently had a few stories picked up that I’ve reworked after they sat dormant for a decade or more.   

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

That part about eavesdropping at the bar…that! I’m constantly listening for language, sending up an antenna on conversations around me. I also search for quirky twists of phrase or peculiar word choices in things I read. Sometimes a single word, spoken or in type, is enough to hijack the imagination. I’m also working through a series of flash nonfiction pieces about my mother’s illness, which is a challenge. I’m grappling with writing in a way that is much more vulnerable. 

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

In addition to the prose poets above whom I love and highly recommend, even for flash writers, I’d vote for Ben Loory. Couldn’t we all use more Ben Loory stories in our lives?   

Given my recent dabbling with flash nonfiction, I am locking in on stories about memory of family. Recent standouts include Eulogy by Dina Relles (Passages North) and Misty Urban’s My Sister Passes Me on a Bench at the Zoo (River Teeth). I want more of what both of these women are writing right now.    

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition? 

I fly under the radar, so my expectations are well-tempered. But I would say a piece that appeared in FLASH: titled Let’s Call This… was a joy to see in print and speaks to my writing style well. Also, the first FNF piece about my mother that landed in Lunate at the start of the year. I was tremendously grateful for their love and care of that piece. It’s the fuel to keep writing the hard-to-write stuff. 

BIO: Thad DeVassie’s prose poems and flash fiction pieces have found their way into numerous publications including New York Quarterly, North American Review, West Branch, NANO Fiction, PANK, Unbroken, and Poetry East, among others. His chapbook, THIS SIDE OF UTOPIA, is forthcoming from Cervena Barva Press, as is his work in Flash Nonfiction Food – an anthology from Woodhall Press, arriving in Spring 2020. A lifelong Ohioan, he is the founder of a brand messaging and storytelling studio in Columbus, and is the co-founder of JOY VENTURE, a podcast and platform for sharing stories of unlikely and risk-taking entrepreneurs. You can find him on Twitter @ratchetstrategy. 

Mini-Interview with Marcelle Heath

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

I was working at a bookstore in the 80s when I discovered Sudden Fiction. I remember looking for other books like it, and not finding anything, until Sudden Fiction International was released. Then, in the 90s I found Micro Fiction. Amy Hempel’s “Hostess” and “Housewife,” Padgett Powell’s “Gentleman’s C,” and Beauvais McCaddon’s “At the Point” blew me away. “At the Point,” about an alcoholic couple trying to turn it around, is one of my all-time favorites. This was when very short stories were called “short shorts” or “very short stories,” before Flash. I started writing flash in the early aughts. I’ve always loved brevity, formalism, and compression, and how flash lends itself to experimentation and humor.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Plot. Moving the action forward, even if I don’t succeed and the story falters (which it does more often than not). I don’t need sympathetic narrators or characters I fall in love. I like mystery and opposition. I don’t care about motive.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Slow and precise. I admire the quick and messy approach, especially because at least you have something to show for it at the end of the day. However, it’s not in my nature. I jot down notes. I write two sentences a day sometimes. A paragraph or two is a stellar writing day for me.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

Moving around a lot growing up – my family hopped from coast to coast for the large part of my childhood. What I remember of the homes I lived in and the places I’ve lived often comes into play. As does music. I played the piano as a kid and I have genetic hearing loss, and desire to hear what I couldn’t or what and how I hear, especially since I had an “ear” for music, really influences my relationship to sound, writing, people. My collection IS THAT ALL THERE IS? is named after the Peggy Lee song, and there’s a lot of music in it.

Also, my mother.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

Cathy Ulrich’s work. I love her collection GHOSTS OF YOU. I love the poet and essayist Anne Boyer, whose vignettes I think of as flash. Renee Gladman’s CALAMITIES. Any and all that Wave Books publishes. I know I’m biased as former series editor of Wigleaf Top 50, but I love Scott Garson’s work. Kara Vernor’s BECAUSE I WANTED TO WRITE A POP SONG.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

I am really proud of my short story “Nine times Gretchen King is mistaken on July 12, 1980.” I worked with Katharine Weber, Kenyon Review Editor-at-Large. She was an incredible editor, and helped me transform this story. It went through some intense revisions, and I learned so much. Katharine took it on because she saw potential in it, and I’m so grateful to her.

Bio: Marcelle Heath’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Joyland, Little Fiction, matchbook, Nat. Brut, Split Lip Magazine, Wigleaf, and other journals. Her short story collection, IS THAT ALL THERE IS?, is forthcoming by Awst Press in 2022. Marcelle curates Apparel for Authors, an interview series on writers, fashion, and the public sphere.

Mini-Interview with Neil Clark

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

First, I would like to thank you for interviewing me, Tommy. This series is so great. I feel like I just walked into a party I have no business being at. I did bring beer, though!

When I started writing in my early twenties, I dived straight into the novel. Big mistake from me and my short attention span. Once I got to 50,000 words or so, it became clear I was writing a collection of tidbits, not a novel. The only thing tying it all together was the fact that they all featured a man called Gordon. I was bored of Gordon. I wanted to write tidbits about aliens as well, or ghosts, or the secret lovechild of a vending machine and a toaster. I wanted the freedom to explore a new world every time I sat down to write. So I started doing that, without knowing it was called flash fiction. These days, I rarely write anything over 500 words, and I usually have two or three different ideas on the go at any one time.

That’s what makes flash different and special for me. The brevity means you can experiment and take risks at will. If an idea leads to a dead end (as many of mine do) it’s no big deal. But if it does come off, the pay-off is unlike any other form for me. Most of the biggest literary gut-punches I’ve had have come from reading flash fiction pieces.

Last year, I attended the Flash Fiction Festival in Bristol. On the first night, I was sat there thinking ‘Yep. I’ve found my niche.’

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Narrative movement is important for me. I stop reading if nothing is happening. But I’m going to say character. I’m reminded of a local writers’ group I used to go to. There was a guy who would write these long passages of ‘this happened, then this happened, then this happened…’ without spending any time on his characters’ reactions or emotions. Then he’d lash out when it wasn’t well received. He’d wave his glass of pinot noir around and be like, “My passage had several thousand deaths, a military coup and group sex between seventeen different species of alien!” and we’d all be thinking, ‘Yeah that’s wonderful mate, but somehow we were still bored.’ That was an important lesson for me. You can have all the alien army orgies in the universe, but if the story doesn’t have a beating heart, nobody is going to care.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

The first, followed by the second. Initially, I use the shoveling sand approach. Chuck whatever is in my head into a document or my phone as quickly as possible, then worry about shaping it into something that makes sense after. That’s one of the great things about creative writing – nobody needs to see anything until it’s ready to be seen. After I’ve shoveled the sand, writing is re-writing. That part is slow and precise, or, more accurately, repetitive and precise. I keep going over it until I’m putting commas in, taking them out, then putting them in again. At that point, I deem it good to go.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

My mother comes from Guyana and is of Chinese ethnicity, so I looked different to everyone else at my school apart from my sister. Most of the time it was fine, but often enough, something would happen or get said that would make me feel like a complete outsider. Nothing like an unhealthy dose of feeling like an outsider to bring out the writer in someone!

Also, in terms of “real life” on a grander scale, I love space and the cosmos. As humans, we have this capacity for kindness and cruelty. We have empathy. We have a need for community and sometimes solitude. All these things and more. But when we think about it rationally, we are utterly insignificant in the grand scheme of the universe and time. That juxtaposition fascinates me. I was thinking about it when I was out for a real life walk earlier, so I thought I’d mention it here.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

I’m opening another beer, because this is some question. One that is going to be such a pleasure to answer.

The Tenth of December by George Saunders is a sublime book. The story ‘Sticks’ is only a page long and was probably my first glimpse into what flash fiction can do. You can read that story online here – http://www.unm.edu/~gmartin/535/Sticks.htm

The shorter pieces in Miranda July’s collection ‘No One Belongs Here More Than You’ had a similar effect on me.

This Pat Foran story is one of the saddest, most beautiful things I’ve read recently – https://moonparkreview.com/issue-ten-winter-2019-2020/how-cold-the-morning-how-heavy-the-waltz/

As is this by Anita Goveas – https://intothevoidmagazine.com/article/how-to-obey-gravity/

How does Cathy Ulrich produce so many beautiful pieces so consistently? Is there an army of Cathy Ulrichs? Joking. There’s only one Cathy Ulrich. This is a fantastic story by her about haunted carwashes – https://heavyfeatherreview.org/2019/08/29/ulrich/

This is a fun alien stepfather story by Chris Miliam –

Oh, and this is another Chris Miliam belter (I love this guy!) about a monster made of processed food –

https://themolotovcocktail.com/about/archive-vols-1-3/vol-8/flash-monster-2017/goop/

Here’s something a bit different. If you don’t mind a bit of profanity, I’d highly recommend watching this video of my fellow Scot, Chris McQueer, reading the hilarious ‘Korma Police’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRFFhsDXDKs

Since I started writing micro fiction, I’ve really looked up to Noa Sivan. What she can do with so few words is truly special. This collection in Monkey Bicycle illustrates this perfectly – http://monkeybicycle.net/microfictions/

You know who else is amazing at micro fiction, who I’ve discovered recently? Katherine Kulpa. Here’s is a collection of apocalyptic ones – http://x-r-a-y.com/in-the-time-of-climate-change/fiction/

I’m going to go and reread all of these myself in a bit, with another beer!

But before I do that, speaking of micro fiction, I must mention the Twitter very short story community. If I started listing all the amazing individuals, we’d be here all day. But I’d definitely recommend checking out the #vss365 (Very Short Story, 365 days a year) hashtag on there. Loads of great tweet-length stories posted every day. I’d urge anyone to take part, too. I’ve been doing it for years now and it’s become my favourite way to get the creative beers flowing. Creative juices, sorry! Meant to say juices.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

I’ll give a plug to one of my micro fictions called ‘Memoir’. It was part of the UK National Flash Fiction Day ‘Flash Flood’, which is exactly what the name suggests – a flood of flash fiction. So people might have missed my contribution, which I’m really fond of – https://flashfloodjournal.blogspot.com/2019/06/memoir-by-neil-clark.html

BIO: Neil Clark is a writer from Edinburgh. His debut print collection – ‘Time. Wow.’ – is scheduled for release on Back Patio Press in 2020. His work is published or forthcoming in a number of journals such as Wigleaf, Okay Donkey, Spelk, CHEAP POP and The Molotov Cocktail. You can follow him on Twitter @NeilRClark or visit neilclarkwrites.wordpress.com for a full list of publications.

Mini-Interview with Kevin Richard White

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

I write more flash now than I did in the past for a couple of reasons. One is that I’m getting exhausted with longer stories, both writing and reading them. This is not out of laziness or anything, it’s said in that I feel a story should be short, sweet, and to the point. A story does not need to be 25 pages and 8,000 words. Why write 8,000 when you can write 1,000 and get the job done quicker? A lot of stories usually take four to five pages to really start going, because the author feels to give unnecessary backstory, and with flash, you don’t need that. You get right to the heart of it. Sometimes, I don’t need to know everything.

The second reason is that I can be quirky and experimental and get away with it. Look, I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. It could be all over for me. I’m going to write short, read short, and in most cases, these short pieces of flash convey more emotion, blood and pain than a longer story ever could. Nine times out of ten, the flash story is the greatest gut punch there is, and I love it. This isn’t to say that I’m abandoning longer pieces completely, but chances are, if I see a writer on Twitter I admire post a story, and it’s a flash, I will definitely gravitate towards that more.

In short, flash for me is the best way you can hone your craft as a writer, because you have a limit. Say it fast, say it quick, say it right. Don’t ramble if you don’t have to.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Character, always. I never care about plot and I’ll tell you why. I could come up with the most elaborate plot in the world, full of intrigue and love and danger and excitement, and it wouldn’t mean shit if it had bland, boring characters. Humans are messy, obnoxious, dumb creatures, and I could spend a whole life time trying to understand them, make sense of them, tear them apart and put them back together. Most of my stories go right for a sense of realism – I write about drunks, liars, cheats, reprobates, young angry yuppies, anxious as hell, broke as fuck people who have to claw their way out of whatever situation they’re stuck in, literally or figuratively. I don’t think you need a plot – you just need a person who makes a terrible mistake. And we do that quite often.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Quick and messy. I never write drafts, ever. I edit as I go and when the story is done, I never touch it again. I would rather write a good draft once. I’ve been that way my entire life and I don’t suppose it’s ever going to change. I tried to be slow when I first started writing – I had written a few novels that are definitely not very good. I’ll be the first to admit it. If you ever stumble across one of them, you’ll definitely see it. They suck. And I think that’s because I thought about it too much. I’d rather write it out once, at its purest emotion, because that’s when you see the blood, the grit. If you edit too much, you lose your passion in the story. I believe that. The more you touch it and go back, the more meaning it loses.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

I tend to hit the bottle more than I should, so a lot of my stories involve drinking and some form of self-deprecation. And that isn’t so much a reflection of me in that I feel negative about myself, but I’ve been to some depths in my life, so I just pull from that. So much easier to do so. I think there’s a lot of power you can give to yourself as a writer by focusing on the negative elements, as you can really go anywhere you want with it, and be as creative as you want. Writing happy only gets you so far and it tends to border on the maudlin at times. By writing about this stuff – the bad drunk days, the bitter parts of relationships, the feeling that you’re never going to get away from the banality of life, you know, all that stuff that Camus talks about in The Stranger – you could write forever.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

I would say first and foremost, if you haven’t read Gutshot by Amelia Gray, you absolutely have to. No questions asked. Probably without doubt the greatest book of flash I have read and it is one I go back to a lot. Specifically the stories “The Lark” and “These Are The Fables”. Both are readily available via Google and they’ll knock your socks off, as the kids say.

Another one that truly opened up my eyes was Scorch Atlas by Blake Butler. Not all of that book is flash, but the parts that are, truly magnificent.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

I wrote a piece called “It’s All About The Breathing” that was picked up by Hypertext back in the beginning of 2018. It’s just a hair over being flash length (about 1,100 words), but I wish this was the one that caught on more. It’s a piece about a woman going through some difficult feelings about her pregnancy and tends to take some drastic actions as the story goes on in order to cope with the concept of creating life. It was important to me that I wrote a story involving this as I have had many friends who have gone through it, and I was stunned on how many times they admitted to me that it was, frankly speaking, all kind of bullshit. How there were so many negative feelings attached to this, how even though the end result would be a child and it would be so wonderful, but how miserable they were and couldn’t admit it to anyone. It was important to me to write a strong voice and I love how it turned out. It did not get as much recognition that I was hoping for, but perhaps maybe someday it will resonate for someone and they can get something out of it. I’m attaching the link in case someone does want to read it after this interview: https://www.hypertextmag.com/tag/its-all-about-the-breathing/

BIO: Kevin Richard White’s fiction appears in Grub Street, The Hunger, Lunch Ticket, The Molotov Cocktail, The Helix, Hypertext, decomP, X-R-A-Y and Ghost Parachute among others. He is a Flash Fiction Contributing Editor for Barren Magazine and also reads fiction for Quarterly West and The Common. He lives in Philadelphia.

Mini-Interview with Laura Besley

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

In May 2012 I set myself a challenge to write a piece of flash fiction every day for a year. The reason I did this was because I had ideas, but never got past the first couple of paragraphs (I still have more ideas than finished pieces), and I liked the idea of writing a ‘complete’ piece in around 500 words. Some days I was happy with the results, other days I wasn’t, but every day I wrote something and continued even after the year ended. I’d completely fallen in love with flash. The challenge of writing an entire story in so few (carefully chosen) words became addictive. In fact, the longer I’ve been writing, the shorter my pieces have become.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?


Character. Every time. To be honest I don’t think any of my stories have “a plot”, for me it’s about emotions and relationships, and the shifts in these that provide the movement in my stories.  

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Definitely quick and messy. I write all first drafts by hand (including the first draft to a novel that’s sitting in a bottom drawer somewhere). To me the connection of pen to paper is ingrained.

An advantage of writing by hand is that you can’t hit ‘delete’. You can cross something out, but when you go back to edit it later, it’s still there; and sometimes those words you wrote first, but discarded, are the better ones.

Editing, for me, is painfully slow; picking over every word, every sentence, every paragraph. Reading, re-reading, re-reading, etc. For this reason, I used to hate it (lack of patience being one of my vices). However, more recently I’ve learned to work with it more, seeing editing for its worth: it allows me to polish a piece until it (hopefully) shines.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

Conversations with people, whether they be members of my family, friends, other parents I chat to at the school gates, the woman who served me at the checkout, the old man who tells me snippets of his life because he, I imagine, has no one else to talk to. I have a terrible memory for certain things (dentist appointments, remembering to phone the plumber, etc.), but conversations with people stick with me for years and will often find their way into my stories in one way or another.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

There are so many fantastic flash fiction writers that I’ve been privileged to read, and interact with, online; too many to name. I would like to mention two writers who are fairly new to me and I’ve been genuinely excited to read their work recently.

Dettra Rose’s ‘Relationship Maths’ (Reflex, March 2020) absolutely blew me away. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since reading it.   

Remi Skytterstad’s ‘Soul Theft’ (Flashback Fiction, February 2020) packs so much into such a short piece, the feeling of discomfort lingering long after you’ve finished reading. 

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

That’s a hard question to answer; I love all of my published pieces. However, I feel that Santa’s Favourite, published on 50 Word Stories on Christmas Day, 2019, fell a little under the radar because people were, obviously, busy celebrating Christmas and not online (which is a good thing!). I’d read an article outlining that children can feel that Santa favours one child over another if gifts from Santa vary in size and/or cost. The thought that some children might feel that, made my heart ache.

Bio: Laura Besley writes short (and very short) fiction in the precious moments that her children are asleep. Her fiction has appeared online (Fictive Dream, Spelk, EllipsisZine) as well as in print (Flash: The International Short Story Magazine) and in various anthologies (Adverbally Challenged, Another Hong Kong, Story Cities). Her debut flash fiction collection, The Almost Mothers, will be published in March 2020 by Dahlia Books. She tweets @laurabesley