Mini-Interview with Michael Prihoda

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

I write flash because it has no rules. Or, at least, it encourages breaking the rules. I think flash embraces chaos and novelty and risk-taking. It can flow into and out of genres at the drop of a sentence. It’s far less about character development or an ongoing excavation and more like bumping your toe in the dark so that you stop and feel about to see what you ran into.

And much like poetry, flash fiction is about discovery, requiring a near-instant invitation to the reader. There’s no time to waste. I hope to not so much have readers experience something during one of my flash pieces as to get to the end of a story and feel they have discovered something about the world that they hadn’t encountered before.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Neither. As a poet first, I often approach writing flash fiction similarly to how I approach poetry, which means starting with an image or a naked idea. Then giving the reader a larger view or else dressing up an idea into a pseudo-story. Ideas and images are king for me in writing flash.

If a novel is a Polaroid whose development is slowed and stretched across hundreds of pages, flash fiction is a finger press on a camera phone. The picture springs instantly to life and the reader is allowed to look at it, and turn it over. The reading experience is meant to be short, but the impact is meant to linger, and I find the challenging of crafting impact from 1000 words or less incredibly inspiring and worth pursuing.

Flash fiction also has natural constraints that, instead of feeling suffocated, let me be expansive and, perhaps, even less to the point than a well-plotted novel or short story might aim to be. In addition, like poetry, it often feels like what goes unsaid or unseen carries, or should carry, as much weight.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Definitely quick and messy. I tend to find my first drafts tumble out in only one or two chunks. I’ll let them breathe for a while on their own and if the piece still excites me when I return, I try to massage it down into a more finished product. But, admittedly, I do very little content editing to most of my flash pieces. If they seem to need more than a little polish, I often cast them out and pursue new ideas instead.

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

I’ll cheat and pick two things: my religion and my political views. I identify as Mennonite and might be too far left at times for even the socialists. My religion and politics are inseparable from how I view the world and from how I believe humans are meant to be in the world. My writing is the avenue through which I hope to combat the systems, policies, and sometimes individuals that try to oppress my fellow humans and to advocate and fight for a better world, one where all humans are treated equitably and are able to prosper and live with dignity.

All that loftiness aside, sometimes a story is just a story, meant for entertainment and fun. Because we need that too. I know I certainly do and I hope readers will find that in my writing at times. Nobody ever said we couldn’t have fun and be wildly imaginative while also working toward a more just and humane existence.

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

I adore Lydia Davis. While she doesn’t write exclusively flash, I am consistently drawn to her shortest pieces. The emotion and depth she can wring from just a few sentences seems otherworldly.

I’ve also always enjoyed Etgar Keret for the way he can make outlandish ideas feel grounded yet thrilling in the space of just a few pages.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

A story I’ve recently published that I feel deeply attached to is “The Last Shia LaBeouf on Earth.” As the title alludes, it plays with the fictional consciousness of Shia LaBeouf undergoing an existential crisis while living through various episodes that may or may not be part of his life. If I had to pick just one piece to show someone who was brand new to my work, that’s the one I’d show them. I also continue to hold out hope that maybe Shia LaBeouf will one day read the piece and appreciate it and write me a letter or something, because he seems old-fashioned in that sort of way.

BIO: Michael Prihoda lives in central Indiana. He is the founding editor of After the Pause, an experimental literary magazine and small press. His work has received nominations for the Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net Anthology and he is the author of nine poetry collections, most recently Out of the Sky (Hester Glock, 2019).

Mini-Interview with Ben Loory

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

A long time ago I decided that I was just going to write my stories the way I’d tell them to someone if we were sitting around talking in a bar or whatever. So that’s what I do. About half the time they end up being under 1,000 words, and the other half a little over. Sometimes they even get up to 2,000 (I think that counts as a novel). But it’s all the same to me; I never know how long they’re going to be until they’re done, and the only thing I care about is that they’re right, that they work and make me smile sentence by sentence and feel like you’ve emotionally broken through to something at the end and don’t make me cringe at any point when I read them aloud. That’s an impossible enough task for me; the idea of aiming for any specific word count really just boggles my mind.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Well, character is the north star; the revelation of it is what you aim for, and the feel and pull of it is how you steer. But plot is how you get there. So 50/50 split.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

I write first drafts very quickly, usually in 20 minutes or less, and then spend months or years editing and expanding and shrinking and throwing everything out and starting over and building it up again from scratch and then going back to the previous version and then the later version and then the initial version and etc etc etc until finally somehow the right version of the story clicks fully into place from beginning to end, and then I iron and iron and polish and polish forever and ever and ever.

(I don’t recommend it, but it’s my process.)

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

One night when I was little my dad took my sister and I outside onto the patio and pointed up at the stars and told us all about them, what they were and where and how maybe there were other planets moving around some of them and maybe there were other people, other life forms on those planets, and maybe some of them were standing outside their homes looking up at the stars in the night sky and wondering about us, if we existed and what we were like and what we were up to. That’s the moment I try to live in and hopefully write my stories from.

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

“Lemmings” by Richard Matheson.

“Appointment in Samarra” as retold by Somerset Maugham.

And probably my favorite: the 2-paragraph blanket story from Scott McClanahan’s novel Crapalachia: A Biography of a Place.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

I had a story up at Wigleaf in 2018 called “Mystery (The Third Man)” which is one of my favorite things I’ve ever written. Just really gave me that special feeling.

Ben Loory is the author of the collections TALES OF FALLING AND FLYING
and STORIES FOR NIGHTTIME AND SOME FOR THE DAY. His fables and tales have appeared in The New Yorker, Tin House, The Sewanee Review, and A Public Space, and been heard on This American Life and Selected
Shorts. Find him at benloory.com.

Mini-Interview with Hillary Leftwich

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  

Mini-Interview with Nuala O’Connor

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

I’ve always been obsessed with small things, tiny well-made objects, aswell as prose and poetry in its teeniest forms. I love concision, precision and neatness – I was a fan of Ivor Cutler and Emily Dickinson and other sharp, economical writers in my teens and that love just grew and grew. I write novels, but flash and short stories are my true loves.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Character. I pretty much hate plot, but I also admire plotty work (well, some of it). I’m disinterested in plot as a concept. I like the ‘what-happens’ to grow out of my characters’ personalities and I don’t know what’ll happen until I’m there with them. I really don’t enjoy thinking about plot or having convos about it, it makes me feel a bit sick.

But characters are fascinating, the way people are. I love the fucked-up, glorious madness of people – the weird things that motivate us, our vast differences, the odd/nasty/sweet ways people can be. I want my characters to be flexible the way most of us are, for them not to sound one note, but to be nuanced and unpredictable.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Quick and precise. I’m twenty plus years writing seriously. I can swiftly get done what I need to get done. I edit as I go. I edit more afterwards. But I’m in a perpetual hurry (that’s my nature), so I tend to be very Carveresque in my method: I ‘get in, get out, don’t linger, go on’.

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

My endless self-analysis, my endless dissecting of other people’s personalities. Or if you mean more materially, my obsession with things/objects – I collect a lot of different stuff (e.g. ceramics, vintage jewellery, blue glass, paperweights, seaglass, miniature figures, dolls etc.). Objects tend to be important in my writing – they can be catalysts, or symbolic/sacred to my characters. Also travel and history.

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

Inevitably this means I’ll leave people out and I’m sorry about that. But, off the top of my head, I’m a fan of these innovative and wonderful flash writers: Tania Hershman, Sandra Jensen, Meg Pokrass, Lydia Davis, Robert Olen Butler, Lucia Berlin, Sharon Telfer, Frances Gapper, Ken Elkes, Adam Trodd, Jude Higgins, Fiona Mackintosh, Damhnait Monaghan, Tracey Slaughter.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

What a question! It’s not natural for (Irish) writers to blow their own trumpets, it is, in fact, forbidden. But, as you asked, I’m fond of my flash ‘Yellow’ that appeared first in Cease, Cows, in 2014, for its trans credentials and its look at fertility issues.

BIO: Nuala O’Connor lives in Co. Galway, Ireland. In 2019 she won the James Joyce Quarterly competition to write the missing story from Dubliners, ‘Ulysses’. Her fourth novel, Becoming Belle, was recently published to critical acclaim in the US, Ireland and the UK. Her forthcoming novel is about Nora Barnacle, wife and muse to James Joyce. Nuala is editor at flash e-zine Splonkwww.nualaoconnor.com

Mini-Interview with Anna Vangala Jones

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

It is incredible how we can illustrate, evoke, imply an entire life or world in a few pages, in a brief series of moments. Something small that is so much larger and more powerful in scope than it first appears, something that is fit to burst with all that is unsaid and lies beneath those carefully chosen words—I just think that’s a kind of magic that lends itself to being read for new meaning over and over again. I think all writers should play around and experiment with flash as an art form, whether they stick with it or not. Doing so infinitely improves our longform writing.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Between those two, character, but more accurate is probably voice and place. In the best stories, place is a character and voice unforgettable. I’ll let you know if I ever figure out how to write plot. Someday! I have faith. I think.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

I know this will sound counterintuitive since they’re not even paired together as an option, but my style tends to be quick and precise. I might go months, almost a year, writing close to nothing. Then an idea or sentence or voice strikes and I rush to get it down as quickly as possible before it’s gone. When that happens, I can finish an entire draft from start to finish in a short time. I’m unable to embrace the “messy” as much as I probably should, just in order to have more of my words exist on paper with more consistency. I find myself revising all the language as I go, even as I hurriedly compose that early draft. Sometimes that results in a story that is ready to be read by a trusted critique partner, polished, and submitted for publication without a huge gap between first and final draft. Other times, it results in a piece with lovely sentences but something is glaringly wrong and I just can’t see it yet—where the story starts or ends, the overall plot structure, pacing, movement, whatever it may be—and then I’ll spend several years trying to “fix” and “perfect” it. Those words are in quotation marks because they’re not real, of course, at least not as far as writing goes. But you get the idea. I wouldn’t recommend this quick and precise style, but I also can’t seem to help it myself?

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

This one’s easy. Relationships, both present and past. The joy, the pain, the longing, the uncertainty, the obsession with them that flares and fades, the nostalgia, the way they haunt us when they end, just the ebb and flow of them—I will never tire of reflecting upon those deepest human connections in my fiction. Some might be of the romantic kind, sure, but I find friendships just as, if not more, fascinating to mine and explore in my writing.

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

I’d have to say that Donald Barthelme is the writer that drew me to flash fiction. I just fell in love with the form and its potential through my first introduction to all those bizarre and imaginative little stories—they’re strange and out there but packed with honesty and feeling. More recently, I really connected with Leonora Carrington’s book of surreal and wild short fiction. In terms of writers today, it’s impossible not to leave out stories and people I admire with a question like this, but here are several with flashes that have stayed with me long after I read them: Jennifer Todhunter, Melissa Ragsly, Pia Ghosh-Roy, Megan Giddings, Sudha Balogopal, Meg Pillow, Cathy Ulrich, Dina M. Relles, Janelle M. Williams, Allie Marini, Pat Foran, and Danielle Batalion Ola. Many more of course, but there is a depth and beauty to their writing I cannot get enough of, in a way that burrows into my brain and lives under my skin, so I recommend them to everyone. And you know what a big fan I am of your story, “You’ve Stopped”, Tommy!

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

I write very few micros — I find it even more challenging to do than flash! — so I was happy that one of them, “A Day for Watching Birds”, in The Airgonaut seemed to resonate with so many people. But the other that I hope will reach more readers over time is “How Then”, published in Pidgeonholes. It’s an uncomfortable read maybe, but I tried to use a bit of magic to tackle and grapple with a subject I find difficult to write about using realism. I’ve been grateful to those who have reached out to me about that one.

Author Bio:

Anna Vangala Jones is an Editorial Assistant on the fiction team at Split Lip Magazine and served as Fiction Editor at Lunch Ticket. Her stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best Small Fictions, and Best of the Net anthologies, and selected for Longform Fiction’s Best of 2018 collection. Her writing has appeared in Catapult, Jellyfish Review, Little Fiction, Okay Donkey Mag, Hobart, and Necessary Fiction, among others. Find her online at annavangalajones.wordpress.com and on Twitter @anniejo_17.

Mini-Interview with Sarah Arantza Amador

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

I fell in love with flash twenty years ago when I read Augusto Monterroso’s “The Dinosaur” for the first time. It is a perfect diamond of a story – a single sentence long and it contains a whole world! I was so impressed by that. That’s why I write flash: I love the challenge of writing stories with traction and trouble and mystery, all in a single sentence, paragraph, or page.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Character forever! But also make it setting and place. Sometimes I think of setting and place as the original characters I’m writing for/towards.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Quick and messy at first and then slow and precise (and this can, no joke, take years).

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

I love to travel and read and watch movies and go to museums – the world is incredible, and I’m consistently amazed and inspired by all of the things that I learn moving through it. Little tidbits and factoids I come across find their way into my stories all the time – for example, I visited Donner Memorial State Park (located in the California Sierra Nevada and named after the doomed Donner Party) and in the visitor center learned that one of the Donner women, upon her rescue by men who had climbed through the snow pack from the Sierra foothills to get them out of their camp, in a delirium asked: “Are you men from California or angels sent from Heaven?” I was so enchanted by this question that an abbreviated version of it found its way into my story “In Dead Waters” a couple of years later.

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

This is an impossible question, so I’m not going to over-think it. Very quickly: Barbara McVeigh’s story “Giants” takes my breath away. All of her work is so smart and clever, but this one’s my absolute favorite. Kate Finegan, my beloved Longleaf Review editrix-in-chief, writes lush and beautiful flash and one of my favorites of her historical pieces is “Botanical Nomenclature.” I read Ottessa Moshfegh’s novella-in-flash McGlue all in one sitting about a year ago and I just thought “damn!” I have deep respect for that book. I recently finished Megan Martin’s Nevers and loved it, it’s so razor sharp. “And What Is Wrong with Spells?” really captured my imagination – also, how great are her story titles?

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

One of the very first stories I published was a tiny weird thing I titled “Sojourner, along the outer orbits of empire” that made me laugh and was rejected by literary journals many times, sometimes with unhelpful reading notes like: “This is not a story.” I love that story very much. A big thank you to Sheldon Lee Compton for giving it a perfect home in The Airgonaut!

BIO: Residing in the Santa Cruz Mountains of Northern California with her dog Roscoe and person Richard, Sarah Arantza Amador writes about longing, ghost-making, and the endearment of monsters. Her work is featured in Best Microfiction 2019 and has been nominated for Best Small Fictions and the Pushcart Prize. She tweets @ArantzaSarah and sometimes blogs from www.saraharantzaamador.com.

Mini Interview with Fiona J. Mackintosh

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

I have always had a tendency to write long, sometimes too long. So flash was a revelation to me. I’ve had to learn how to convey back story in hints and whispers and to pare my language down to the essence. It’s made me a much more disciplined writer. There’s also the fun of being able to finish something fairly quickly and move on. And I like playing with the different lengths within the form – from tiny stories to up to 1,000 words – as well exploring different POVs and tenses. It’s a constant technical challenge, which I love.    

Right now, I’m messing about with ideas for two different novellas-in-flash, a form that presents a ton of those technical challenges. I’m not sure I can rise to the occasion, but I’m giving it the old college try.   

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Character because character is almost always what drives plot, certainly in realist fiction which is what I usually write. How individuals respond to the events that happen to them creates the story of their lives. In fiction as in life.

Character is certainly at the heart of the mammoth novel I’m currently writing, Albion’s Millennium. In conception, it’s a five-novel saga of Britain throughout the 20th century in the vein of Galsworthy’s Forsythe Saga and the narrative sections of John Dos Passos’s USA Trilogy. Nothing like biting off more than you can chew, right? The first volume, The Virgins of Salem, will be going out to my generous beta readers within weeks, and I’m fervently hoping the book will be ready to be sent out on submission by early next year.  

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Slow and messy. Slow, slow, slow, and ever slower. One reason for this is I always have a million different projects on the go and tend to flit among them randomly until a specific deadline presents itself, whereupon I become laser focused and can actually be downright speedy. I used to be a journalist, and these days I’m a freelance editor so deadlines are everything in my working life as well.

I still struggle with the messy part. As we writers know, you have to be prepared to allow the crap to hit the page to keep your momentum going. My trick is to highlight the bits I hate – the clichés, the uninspired descriptions – to be come back to later instead of getting snagged on trying to improve them on the spot. But even so, I’m definitely the tortoise, not the hare, and can only hope the fable is correct about that particular race.  

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

The stories I heard from my grandmothers about their childhoods. The Virgins of Salem is peppered with incidents from their lives. They were young in the early 20th century when technology was changing the world as fast as it is changing it now in the early 21st century. The advent of the telephone, the car, the airplane, modern plumbing – it was all happening, and they lived through it. Also, women’s roles were changing, especially after World War I, and their working and personal lives reflected this.   

Otherwise, pretty much everything I’ve ever experienced is grist to the mill. Everything. Smells, sights, sounds, my memories, other people’s memories, things I’ve read. My real life these days is very hermit-like, but I have many years of experiences to draw on plus the wonderful window on the world that is the internet so I’m never short of ideas.    

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

I’ll be glad to give you half a dozen examples off the top of my head to give you a sense of what I like and what resonates with me. However, I could cover pages and pages with equally tremendous flashes as there are many other writers whom I admire and many stories that have blown me away.    

Eileen Merriman This is How They Drown

Sharon Telfer’s Terra Incognita

Dina L. Relles And Sometimes We Meet

Helen Rye One and Twenty-Three

Ken Elkes Extremities

Meg Pokrass The Bug Man

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

Thank you for asking this question. A couple of years ago, I wrote a flash written from the perspective of Ophelia in Hamlet, in an attemptto subvert Shakespeare’s take on women as mad and powerless. While I was writing it, I had in mind Virginia Woolf’s discussion of Shakespeare’s imaginary sister in A Room of One’s Own – about what masterpieces could she have written too if she’d been sent to school and hadn’t been told to “mend the stockings and mind the stew and not moon about with books and papers.”

Woolf also wrote: “When… one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even of a remarkable man who had a mother, then I think we are on the track of a lost novelist, a suppressed poet, of some mute and inglorious Jane Austen, some Emily Bronte who dashed her brains out on the moor or mopped and mowed about the highways crazed with the torture that her gift had put her to.”  With this torture in mind – the repression of creativity and selfhood – I imagined a different fate for Ophelia.

The resulting flash – The Yet Unknowing World – was published by the wonderful Café Aphra in February 2018. It can be found here if anyone cares to give it a whirl.  

http://cafeaphrapilot.blogspot.com/2018/02/the-yet-unknowing-world-by-fiona-j.html

BIO: Fiona J. Mackintosh is a Scottish-American writer living near Washington D.C. In 2018, she won the Fish Flash Fiction Prize, the Bath Flash Fiction Award, and the Reflex Fiction Prize. Two of her pieces were selected for Best Microfiction 2019 and the 2018-19 BIFFY 50 and one for Best Small Fictions 2019. Her short stories have been listed for the Bristol, Galley Beggar, and Exeter Short Story Prizes, and she is writing a five-novel series about 20th century Britain entitled Albion’s Millennium

Mini-Interview with Damon Garn

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

Well, to be honest, my answer isn’t very glamorous. At this point in my life flash fiction is what have time and energy for. I am working on a couple of novels but the reality is that those projects are going to take years to finish. I write for fun, so I don’t feel much pressure. I can create a flash piece relatively quickly, edit it, get it read, and start submitting it on a timeline that fits my life right now.

I do have to say, however, that I enjoy the challenge of fitting a complete story into 1000 words. It is a fun format to write and I suspect that even if my professional life didn’t get in the way of my creative life that I would still write a great deal of flash.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

I think it’s character. I try to infuse my characters with personality. When I stop and think about books or stories that have touched my heart, it’s really the characters that mattered to me more than the plot progression. Sure, I appreciate that Bilbo helped kill Smaug and completed his own hero’s journey, but that fact remains that I like Bilbo more than the journey he was on.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Quick and messy. I don’t tend to do a lot of rewriting, however. That may or may not be good – I wonder if my “quick and messy” style doesn’t hurt me sometimes. When I go back to reread I find many mistakes that were made in haste. Hopefully I catch them all!

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

I read an immense amount of fantasy (and a lot of sci-fi), so those stories probably influence me the most.  I don’t tend to write stories that touch on my career (Information Technology) or my personal experiences. I only have one story that was really ever informed by my own experiences (My Favorite Color – Riggwelter #9 – https://riggwelterpress.wordpress.com/2018/05/01/issue-nine/ ). A novel that I have worked on for several years does take place in a post-apocalyptic winter setting. Some of the environmental descriptions are from my own winter snowshoeing and climbing experiences in the Rocky Mountains. I deliberately write away from my “real life.”

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

I know it is sacrilege, but I don’t tend to read much flash. This question makes me realize that I really need to correct that. I tend to prefer multi-book series that follow characters through a much longer journey than a novel can support. I have found some authors this year whose works I’ve really enjoyed, so I’ll give them a shout out. The first is AM Scott and her Lightwave series. I’m a big fan of Lindsay Buroker as well. I really enjoyed AC Cobble’s Benjamin Ashwood series, too. The Chronicles of a Cutpurse by Carrie Summers was a fun read. Finally, I’ll mention Glynn Stewart’s Starship’s Mage series.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

This is a difficult question – as an amateur writer I’m pretty happy when my stories receive any attention! There are several stories that I thought deserved more attention than they received from potential publishers. I would have to say that I’d like to see “The Tigershark Jacket” at A Million and One Magazine get more recognition (https://amillionandonemagazine.com/?p=919).

BIO: Damon Garn has had stories published in The Cabinet of Heed, Riggwelter Press, A Million and One Magazine, The Evening Theatre and others. He lives in Colorado, where he hikes with his family, plays guitar, and writes when he can. Follow him on Twitter: dmgwrites or at http://dmgwrites.wordpress.com

Mini-Interview with Diane Simmons

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

I used to write short stories, but intrigued by flash, I took a flash course with Fish Publishing in 2011. I enjoyed it, but declared that I didn’t think flash was my thing. However, I had quite a few stories I’d written on the course and sent them out into the world. They did quite well, so encouraged, I started writing more. I now only ever write flash, finding it more fun to write than longer stories. I also enjoy writing flash fiction novellas and have one forthcoming from V Press in 2020.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

I think both really. But with flash, I suppose I tend to go more for plot. My longer stories used to be character led but I often didn’t know what the story was about. Writing flash has helped me improve my plotting skills and to write strong endings.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

I used to be a line a day kind of person, but now, after writing two collections, I’ve learnt to work faster.  Sometimes stories pour out of me and they are obviously the ones I like best, but often it can take days to even get a basic first draft. I usually work on my stories for weeks or months before I send them out anywhere, revisiting them several times a day.

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

I very much draw on my own life, taking real experiences and playing ‘what if’ with them. I started writing my collection Finding a Way (Ad Hoc Fiction) after the death of my daughter, Laura, in 2015. The stories in the book are fictional, but many are inspired by events that happened to me or to friends or family. My flash novella, An Inheritance was inspired by finding out that my great-grandfather was a pawnbroker.

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

I am a co-director of National Flash Fiction Day and read a great deal of flash, so it would be difficult to pick out individual stories or writers. Instead, I’m going to mention two collections that I’ve particularly enjoyed recently: The Neverlands by Damhnait Monaghan (V. Press) and The Crazed Wind by Nod Gosh (Truth Serum Press).

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

My flash collection Finding a Way was published by Ad Hoc Fiction in February 2019 and went on to be shortlisted in the best short story collection category of The Saboteur Awards a couple of months later. For a collection from an indie press, it’s sold well and I’ve received some really lovely reviews in magazines such as Storygy and New Zealand’s takahē magazine. I’ve also had emails from readers saying how the book has helped them deal with their own grief, or to better understand what grieving people are going through. I would love if the book could reach a wider readership, for grief to be talked about more and for it to be better understood. But it’s difficult for books from indie publishers to get any press coverage which might help them reach a wider readership. 

BIO: DIANE SIMMONS studied creative writing with The Open University. She is a co-director of National Flash Fiction Day and a director of the UK Flash Fiction Festival. She has been a reader for the Bath Short Story Award, an editor for Flash Flood and has judged several flash competitions, including Flash 500 and NFFD Micro. Widely published and anthologised, she has been placed in numerous short story and flash competitions. Finding a Way, her flash collection on the theme of grief, was published by Ad Hoc Fiction in February 2019 and was shortlisted in the 2019 Saboteur Awards. Her flash fiction novella, An Inheritance, is forthcoming from V. Press.

Mini-Interview with David Cook

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

When I started writing regularly about five years ago, I didn’t even know the sort of stories I was creating had a name. All I knew was that I preferred writing lots of very small stories to fewer, larger ones. Then I started using Twitter properly and discovered lots of people were doing the same thing, and it was called flash fiction!

What makes flash different is the power that can be packed into such a small space. Flash is excellent for a really close examination of a moment in time, but equally there are epics spanning dozens of years. There’s room for experimentation in form, too, in ways that would prove cumbersome over thousands of words, but really make an impact in a couple of hundred.

Oh, and a practical advantage of flash: so much of my short fiction reading is done on my phone these days and it’s much easier to read a few hundred words on a small screen than a few thousand.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Plot, generally, comes first, with characters to fit coming afterwards. That’s not always the case, though, and sometimes it’s dribs and drabs of both coming together at once.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

When I started writing, it was always quick and messy. Now, somehow, I’ve become rather slower than I’m comfortable with. There’s a lot to be said for being quick and messy, then tidying up afterwards. I’d like to get back to that.

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

Gosh. I don’t know, to tell you the truth. I write a lot of stories about people who had or are having terrible childhoods. But I had a perfectly nice childhood. I also seem to have a lot of stories about people being horrible to animals. But I love animals. So I guess I like to use my stories to trash things that have been perfectly lovely in my real life. I don’t know what that says about me.

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

Apologies to everyone I’ve missed out, but if I put down all the authors and writers I’d like to here, this would be a hell of a long list.

Gaynor Jones’ Bath Flash Award-winning Cleft shows just how you can take one small detail and spin a story spanning a lifetime from it.

Jeremy’s Wish by Christopher Stanley is horrifying in all the best ways, but might ruin Christmas for you forever.

Caleb Echterling writes funny, inspired nonsense, such as A Happy Day At The Poet Pound.

Rebecca Field’s The Pickle Jar is the best tale about a pickle-loving good-for-nothing husband you’ll ever read.

Santino Prinzi’s These Are The Rules Of Our Canopy Shyness And Life is like nothing you’ve ever read, with sadness, sweetness and humour in perfect balance.

Joely Dutton’s Stronger Than Stitches, Stronger Than Glue is weird and touching and funny and weird again.

And Damhnait Monaghan and Stephanie Hutton’s novellas-in-flash The Neverlands and Three Sisters of Stone are both tiny works of beauty.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

Jennifer and the Scientist didn’t get much recognition, probably because I couldn’t think of a decent title for it – and still haven’t – but I really like it and had a brilliant time writing it. Everyone loves a revenge story, right? Especially one with dogs and robots in it.

Bio

David Cook lives in Bridgend, Wales, with his wife and daughter. He’s had work published in the National Flash Fiction Anthology, Spelk, the Sunlight Press, Barren and plenty more. He’s a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee. Say hi on Twitter @davidcook100 and visit his blog at www.davewritesfiction.wordpress.com