Tell us about a favorite writing exercise.
When I was reading submissions for a lit magazine, I noticed that a lot of stories refused to start with conflict, especially those stories trying for a unique voice. I truly believe that stories are about characters facing problems. Flash requires that we get at least a glimmer of the occasion, conflict, problem as soon as possible. We’ve got to see characters struggling, fighting, gnashing their teeth, or politely refusing to lift their pinkies while drinking tea with the Queen. Find a story you’ve been working on that just hasn’t come together. Try to zero in on what the main conflict is, and get at least a glimmer of that conflict into the first couple of lines of the story. Really look at the exposition: is it needed to understand the character, plot, structure? If not, cut it. Should the exposition come much later in the story? How can you cut this exposition down to one line, one specific detail? What are your characters willing to fight for or over? What are their red lines? What are they willing to do to survive? What do they have to do to survive? You’ve created this character, what is the one moment in their lives that will speak for who they are, who they were, who they will be? You only get this one moment, how can you make it brief, startling, apt, poignant, and satisfying all at once?
What are you working on now? Where do you hope to be in your writing life at this same time next year?
I’m constantly working on writing more flash and micro. I have one of my best ideas yet for a novel, but the immediacy of flash keeps calling me back. I really hope that my writing is getting stronger, that I’m willing to take more risks, that my tolerance to live in/with failure will improve, that I’m willing to be satisfied with writing most days, of doing what Richard Bausch calls, “Putting in the day’s work.” And like most of us, I want to write the best novel, story collection, flash, micro, sentence, image I can, and find as many readers for this work that I can. I want to continue to do interviews, be in communion with writers, grow my writing community and be a good steward of my opportunities!