Mini-Interview with Lori Sambol Brody

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

I started to write what is now called flash in the late 1990s, but didn’t fully embrace it as opposed to short stories until my daughters were born. It was a matter of necessity. Once I’d dreamed a flash into existence (planning it on my commute), I could write a rough draft in a couple of hours. When the kids were young, and with a full time job, I didn’t have much time. Short stories would take me months to write.

I love the variety of flash. More than a short story, flash lends itself to being playful. Playful not only in structure, but also in content. It’s easier to maintain a surreal story in a short form, and, in flash, you can jettison certain aspects of a short story. Exposition and backstory are unnecessary and take too much space. Poetic language is a must and words must work double-time.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Character – or, as a third option, setting. But that’s really another facet of character. Usually, the story will come to me as a character speaking in my mind or interacting with the setting/characters around her. When I’m writing the story, the character will propel the plot or arc/movement of the story.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Quick and messy! I usually know something about the story to begin with – a voice that’s speaking to me at the beginning and the image or phrase for the ending, so I just need to get from point A to point B. I often write a flash in one big gush, so I don’t start questioning myself. So I sit down and type out one huge paragraph, sometimes without punctuation. (This is why sometimes my stories still have comma splices!) If I can finish it in one sitting I know that it’s worth working on further. (If I abandon it mid-session it’s usually because I’m just not feeling the story; sometimes I will return to it.) The editing process, however, will take a long time, and I’ll do multiple drafts, wait months to send it out, and have people critique it.

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

My experiences travelling – at least as to setting. And then being a teenager – like my necklace being stolen in junior high, which formed the basis of “Butterfly.” I also steal from my daughters, but I usually get their permission to use them, like in “Body Like Paper” and “Second Act Girls.” Not to say that any of my stories are true in all details, but there’s some kernel of truth in all of them, whether it’s a line of dialogue, an emotion, or clothes I wore. I like to say that all of my stories are true and all are false.

If you could recommend one flash story or writer, who/what would it be?

That’s not a fair question! There’s so many stories and writers I admire. I’m just going to refer you to Amelia Gray, and her stories “Labyrinth,” “These are the Fables” and “The Swan as Metaphor for Love.”

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

“Train to the Ends of the Earth” from alice blue review.

Bio: Lori Sambol Brody lives in the mountains of Southern California.  Her short fiction has been published in Tin House Flash Fridays, New Orleans Review, The Rumpus, Little Fiction, Necessary Fiction, Sundog Lit, and elsewhere. She can be found on Twitter at @LoriSambolBrody and her website is lorisambolbrody.wordpress.com.

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Mini-Interview with Megan Giddings

Flash Fiction Writer Interviews

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

I write flash because brevity brings clarity for me. I also think my brain responds to rules with more playfulness; when I was bored in high school and undergrad, I would write funny haikus to myself. I loved that you could say so much, could even be funny in 17 syllables. And when I finish a flash and I feel like I’ve been funny or said something meaningful, then, a lot of the time, I feel even more satisfied than if I had done that in six times the space.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot? Neither. It’s time. I think a lot of writers could pay way more attention to the ways they create time in a story. Time doesn’t just influence tense, it influences tone, character, plot, pacing. I think often the difference between a good and great story (or even novel) is the writer is willing to push themselves to innovate and/or be flexible in their portrayals of how time works.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

It really depends on the story. I am a really fast reader and writer, in general. But there are stories that I’ve been working on for six years because they don’t feel “right,” and then there are stories, like the one I recently published in Territory that I wrote during an intensive week and a half. Honestly, the only way I keep writing is by reminding myself not to be rigid about how things are and should be.

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

I love the different ways people tell stories. I’m an eavesdropper, people watcher, flyer, crumpled-up note found on the sidewalk reader. I’m a person who if someone says—even though, oh holy shit has this backfired on me on multiple occasions—can I tell you something weird, has to almost always say yes (unless I know I really don’t like the person speaking and know what they’ll say will just annoy me). The world can be such a weird and wonderful place. The majority of people have yeah, suppressed their weirdness in many ways, but every once in a while you can get a sideways glance at it and it’s so delicious and inspiring.

If you could recommend one flash story or writer, who/what would it be? That’s really hard! I do think a flash story that should have gotten way more attention than it did is Ruth Joffre’s “Softening.” It was the last story I picked at SmokeLong. You could also read all the flash we’ve published at The Offing since I’ve been there.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

It’s not flash, but I published a short story in Pleiades this year called “The Disappointing Earth.” It’s in issue 37.1. (You can also access it if you have Project Muse.) A dog gets abducted by aliens.

BIO: Megan Giddings is a fiction editor at The Offing and a contributing editor at Boulevard. She has two chapbooks, Arcade Seventeen (TAR: The Atlas Review’s Chapbook series) and The Most Dangerous Game (The Lettered Streets Press). Her short stories are forthcoming or have been recently published in Arts & Letters, CRAFT, Pleiades, and Territory. More about her can be found at www.megangiddings.com

Mini-Interview with Chloe Clark

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

I think I got into writing flash because it was quick. It was something I could do while working on longer writing projects without committing myself to huge amounts of time (I like to be working on several things at once). What I discovered, though, was how much I loved the craft of flash which is similar to poetry in that every single word has to be maximized for full effect, but also it’s a story in that plot and characters are almost even more important than they are in longer stories (because you have to convey so much so quickly). I try to write at least one flash a week to keep myself constantly thinking about how to be more effective at pacing and at building character in quick, unique ways.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

I actually have very strong opinions that these are completely entwined. If a plot is working it’s usually because the characters are carrying the weight of that plot if characters are working then there better be a plot around them to keep pushing them in the story. I’m really not a fan, no matter how beautiful the writing, of reading a story where all the character does is ponder something. If change is the motivator of story, then by necessity there is plot.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Writing is quick, though not messy (I’m methodical). Editing is painstakingly slow and precise. *shudders*

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

Eesh. It’s hard to say, it’s probably a tossup between my work (I’m lucky to be a teacher) which regulates the time I can spend writing while also engaging me with thinking about the writing process constantly and the way I grew up (very rural, poor, surrounded by nature, steeped in folklore).

If you could recommend one flash story or writer, who/what would it be?

Oh, shoot, this is a phenomenally hard question to answer because there are so many wonderful flash writers out right now. You can just scroll through Twitter for an hour and find ten amazing flash pieces! But, I’ll take the easy (and completely biased as he’s my roommate and dear friend) route and say, Brontë Wieland. He is such a gifted writer that it irritates me that he doesn’t put more work out. I routinely teach this story by him, in composition and creative writing classes, because it does so much so quickly and uses language in this delightfully surprising way: http://flashfictiononline.com/main/article/i-found-solace-in-a-great-moving-shadow/

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

I honestly think I’m incredibly lucky to have people who read my work and seem to genuinely enjoy it. So I’m not sure if I’d wish any of them got more recognition as I feel grateful to have any recognition for my work (what a gift that is!). That being said, I had a great editorial experience with this story (shout out to Meghan Phillips, who is the best) and it’s a story I’m also deeply fond of because of the way I wrote it (I imposed a lot of rules on myself for this piece and I feel it really helped my writing grow): https://www.thirdpointpress.com/2017/04/a-reunion-of-waves/

BIO: Chloe N. Clark is a teacher, writer, and baker. Her work appears in Apex, Flash Fiction Online, Gamut, Third Point Press, and more. She writes for Nerds of a Feather and Ploughshares and can be found online @PintsNCupcakes or chloenclark.com

Saying Thank You

Since joining Twitter two years ago, I’ve found a wonderful community of writers, writers I didn’t even know that existed, who I’m sure didn’t know anything about me either. Twitter opened up this entire world of people who cared about writing, who loved to read and write short stories and flash fiction, who were all living the writer’s life. I was living in a writing/literature desert, but here was an oasis.

I enrolled in an MFA program largely to fast track my writing skills, to give my self a chance to concentrate on writing in an inclusion, supportive environment. I didn’t start writing creatively until my sophomore year of undergrad, so when I graduated I didn’t know how to continue writing without the deadlines and the feedback. I hadn’t experienced the life enough to know how to continue on my own. The MFA helped further my own writing independence. But after graduating, I faced the same divide. No more deadlines. No more readers. No more comments on my work. The cohort I had established shriveled. There wasn’t even a chance to talk about our favorite stories or novels, because everyone fled.

Before Twitter, I’d publish a story, and I’d never know if anyone had read it outside my family, and it became obvious that my stories largely, weren’t their favorite kind of stories. Though they were usually supportive, they weren’t my ideal readers. So who, if anyone was reading any of these flash stories? Well, probably not many people, just those coming to read their favorite known writers in their favorite lit journals, giving me a chance. And I’m grateful anytime someone gives my work a chance. I assume that my name doesn’t mean much yet, so I’m thankful any time someone gives up some of their time to read some of my work. This is the chance we take with each publication. Writing, for ourselves, sure, but hoping someone will read and enjoy our stories.

Which brings me to the real reason for this post: over the last two years, because of Twitter, and I hope my own growth as a writer, and because of my own desire to support other writers and their work, I’ve seen an upshot in the reading and comment on my writing. I’m so appreciative of this development, but I feel that saying thank you isn’t enough, that these words just don’t convey my sense of gratitude. For my family, to show them love, I often buy them little gifts or complete tasks or chores. That’s a hard thing to do for the people, the writers, who have been so supportive, who have motivated me to keep striving in an often silent world. So this thank you, though it may be meager, is for all of my new online friends, the readers of my work, the writers living the life, refusing to let others feel so silent, so lonely. Even a quick world, a quote, a retweet is a bang on the door letting me know that you’re out there, that we’re in this together.

Celebrating Flash Fiction

I’m so honored to join Wigleaf’s Top 50 Very Short Fiction 2017 Long List. Flash fiction’s popularity has soared in the last few years, with hundred’s of literary journals either popping up over night or realizing the poignant value of such short stories. This is largely good news for both reader and writer, but it does make it difficult to read everything and to promote work that stands out. I’m thankful for the work that went into creating both the top fifty list and the long list. I can’t imagine how many stories were read and vetted to make these lists. And true some worthy stories might not have gotten recognition this time around, but these lists give the reader and writer a window into the menagerie of what flash is and is becoming. I’m excited to dig into both lists and read old favorites and discover stories that I missed the first time around.

The original link to my story published by Split Lip magazine can be found at God’s Eye

Climbing the Slide

I’ve been thinking a lot about my 22 month old son and how he sees and interacts with the world. It’s not hard to compare him to my five year old daughter’s way of taking on the world at that age. Knowing that my memory is surely imperfect, and that I’ve either enlarged or shrunk her accomplishments and failures. (There is an almost minute by minute fluctuation in these two states when you’re a toddler.) So I’m not sure that being a boy makes him braver, but rather being a second child has lead to more modeling from the five year, challenging him to keep up. I, too, then have become a different parent while supervising his play than I was watching my daughter. I’m learning to embrace his bravado, his willingness to live life outside the normal physical boundaries of the under-two set. Nothing remarkable, really, no genius talents yet, but a sheer desire to explore the limits of his own strength, persistence, and imagination.

Because child only see or learn the boundary we establish for them. A toddler doesn’t question the possibility of falling off of a slide, doesn’t consider time and space, and doesn’t understand, no matter how many times we will tell them to be careful what that actually means or how they could act to ensure this careful nature.

And through it’s frightening for parents, it’s also kind of thrilling, too. When was the last time you did something not out of self-destruction, but out of true doe-eyed naiveté for the sure pleasure of trying something new? No, adults, though they make mistakes, often can calculate the risks involved, have a general good sense of time and space, and can act accordingly, especially when considering physical acts such as running, jumping, or going down a slide.

Some risks, are, rightly so, not worth taking, so this is the point where I refer to writing. That’s the place where calculation comes often at a higher cost than risk, where I’d love to find the remnants of my own toddler brain, too forget about falling off the slide, and just climb, word after word, happy for the adventure, knowing I can always try again.

Writing Life: The Persistence of a Child

I’m trying to re-frame my writing mindset to match my parenting mindset. In that I’m trying to have more patience, trying to allow both my children and my writing some room to explore their own worlds while my arms are ready to catch either if they fall.

I have a son who is a little over one year old and who is three and half years younger than his sister. Comparing the two was always inevitable and it does provide some conversation between my wife and I that is far safer than discussing the world’s other 4.5 and 1 year olds. My son has been slow to pick up most milestone aspects, except those involving motor skills. in this category he far outpaced my daughter. He can do some things that she still struggles with. But in the area of language, he reluctantly has picked up a few words, while my daughter was saying her own name by this point as well as some variations of the characters on Sesame Street. My son likes to say “dog” and “ball”, but in the last couple of months he has made great strides in learning how to communicate his wants and needs, employing a lot of pointing, a few pieces of sign language and saying something close to “this” and “that.” It’s amazing how persistent he is even though he can’t fully state what he wants. It’s this persistence and patience that i want to apply to my own writing.

One year olds both gratefully and frustratingly, don’t understand the concept of time. They want everything right this instance, but they also don’t understand the concept of falling behind, of not hitting each milestone precisely or early. I, on the other hand, have an anxious sense of time, thinking that I’ve missed my milestone for writing a novel, for having a writing career, for becoming better well known as a writer. My MFA director, informed my upon graduating that I had 3 years to write a novel or I’d be off track. It’s been 6 years since I’ve graduated and still the several “novels” I’ve started languish on my computer’s hard drive.  Just thinking about some of the time I’ve wasted makes my stomach clinch up, wondering might have been. None of this anxiety or thoughts help to shape a healthy mindset toward writing and are detrimental any time I look at the blank page.

So how can I be more like my son? Try, persist, ask for help, try again. Nothing put on a journal page or a word processor is permanent. No milestone has a true time table. What can I do in this instance to communicate? Because with this mindset, like that of 1 year old. I will move forward. I will make progress. If you find yourself stuck in any project, take the time to watch a child, marvel at their perseverance, their trust that their is always another opportunity. Be stubborn. Have joy. Make mistakes.