Mini-Interview with Jude Higgins

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

I’ve never been a big traveler in the physical world but with flash, I can go anywhere and do anything. I wrote much of a novel some years ago when I did an MA in Creative Writing but I began to plod through it after a while. Which wasn’t fun. Someday soon, I’ll get it out, strip it down and turn into flash. Then it will have something to say.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

I’m in a boat with this question as you have mentioned a life jacket. To follow the metaphor, I would be okay floating around for a bit as long as the currents don’t take me too far off course, but I need those characters. They are there in the boat, arguing, helping, eating all the food or sharing it – basically doing what humans do. I am interested in what humans do first and foremost.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

I am a messy person. I’ve even braved a photo of today’s desk for you to see.  So I’d have to say that I am either quick or messy as a writer too. Or slow and messy as a writer. Either way, you can dwell as long as you want to on the word ‘messy’.

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

It’s all the ins and outs of relationships, current and past. In the picture of my desk and shelves, there’s a young photo of me on the first shelf together with a portrait of an ancestor of mine. I do draw on past events and fictionalise them but I’m interested in the present stuff too. I’d throw in walks down the lanes and looking at the flowers and plants around here in mid-Somerset. Not that nature necessarily appears in my fictions, but it often does, because I was brought up in the country and I have always done this sort of wandering about – what the writer Brenda Ueland calls ‘moodling’.

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

I would recommend all the anthologies produced by Ad Hoc Fiction available at www.bookshop.adhocfiction.com.

I’m proud to have had a hand in selecting these stories as one of the initial readers for the Bath Flash Fiction Award and the Bath Novella in Flash Award. There are some amazingly good micros in the anthologies of single flash – ‘To Carry Her Home’ and ‘The Lobsters Run Free’ and the authors represent around 45 different countries. The collections of novellas, ‘How to Make a Window Snake’ and forthcoming ‘In the Debris Field’ are equally good and represent different styles and takes on the genre.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

There’s a tiny micro I drafted in one of Kathy Fish’s fast flash workshop last year which I am fond of.  The group liked it and I’ve sent it out to various submission opportunities and contests, but nobody seems fond of it like me. I shall keep sending it out though. Just in case.

BIO: Jude Higgins is a writing and writing tutor. Her flash fictions have won or been placed in many contests and are published in the New Flash Fiction Review, Flash Frontier, FlashBack Fiction,The Nottingham Review, Bending Genres, The Word Factory, the Blue Fifth Review and National Flash Fiction Day anthologies, among other places. Her flashfiction chapbook, ‘The Chemist’s House’ was published by V. Press in 2017. She organises the Bath Flash Fiction Award and directs Flash Fiction Festivals UK. judehiggins.com @judehwriter

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Mini-Interview with Madeline Anthes

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

For one, I like feeling accomplished; with flash, you can start and finish a story all in one sitting (sometimes more than one!), and then I feel really great about myself. I give myself a big pat on the back and congratulate myself for being a “writer.”

Also, I’m struggling with writing longer stuff right now. I can’t seem to stay on one story for very long, and my stories don’t seem to need more space right now.

More than that, I really appreciate that flash is just the best moments of the story. It’s the turning point, the crucial emotion that all stories need. Lately, I’ve been more of a no BS type of person; I feel like I have to guard my resources (time, energy, attention) and I don’t have time for things or people that waste these. Flash works this way for me; there are no wasted moments, no wasted words. Every word matters. No BS.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

 I think I’d have to say character because most of the time nothing really happens in my stories.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

I am slow in that I take a lot of time off between stories. But when I do write, it’s usually because I have one line that’s already formed in my head. Then the rest usually all spills out in one sitting. I revise it 2-3 times before submitting, but I’m usually happy with what pours out the first time because that’s the story that wanted to come out.

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

I’m very very inspired by setting and I’m very very nostalgic, so all or most of my stories are inspired by some glimpse or flash of real life. Almost everything I write is set in the Midwest – I grew up in Cleveland and spent every summer in rural Indiana.

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

If you follow me on Twitter you know I fangirl over my favorites.

  1. Amanda Miska – check out her recent flash in wigleaf called “Confession Game” — http://wigleaf.com/201805confession.htm
  2. Meghan Phillips – also in wigleaf (man, wigleaf is amazing), her story “Now That the Circus Has Shut Down, the Human Cannonball Looks for Work” — http://wigleaf.com/201802circus.htm
  3. Monet Thomas – love all her work, and this one’s in Third Point Press called “A Certain Woman” — https://www.thirdpointpress.com/2017/04/a-certain-woman/

A few journals that are wonderful (besides HypertrophicLiterary, cough cough): formercactus, FlashBack Fiction, Cheap Pop, Lost Balloon, Longleaf Review, Smokelong, Cease, Cows, WhiskeyPaper, Third Point Press, wigleaf

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

One of my favorite stories I ever published I actually published with Hypertrophic before I started working with them.

Right before my grandmother passed, my siblings and I wanted to visit her one last time, but when we arrived in Indiana a storm had just coated the whole area in thick ice. It was hard to travel, we could barely walk down the driveway, and it all just felt very eerie, like we were trapped in a snow globe. We all knew this would be the last time with our grandmother, so it added an odd sheen to an already emotional weekend. We visited her in the home where we spent a lot of our childhood, so it was like we were literally frozen in time to be with her.  I funneled all of that into the story “After Storms” that was published in Spring 2016.

BIO: Madeline Anthes is the acquisitions editor for Hypertrophic Literary. Her writing can be found in journals like WhiskeyPaper, Lost Balloon, Cease, Cows, and Third Point Press. You can find her on Twitter at @maddieanthes, and find more of her work at madelineanthes.com.

Mini-Interview with Jennifer Todhunter

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

I love the economy of writing in flash. How stories are whittled down until every word counts. How you can leave someone gobsmacked in such short shrift. There isn’t much to hide behind with flash, you’ve got to get in, get out. It’s like being gut punched in the best way possible. I feel like that sting creates a connection between the writer and the reader and the characters. A connection that lingers a long time.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Character. Man, I love a good character. There is something everlasting about someone you can’t shake loose. Flash is so honest and intense when done well, and that’s why it hits as heavy as it does. What’s going on in the background of a piece of flash is always secondary for me; the way the character is dealing with it is in the forefront. I try to emulate that in my writing. I want to make those connections.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

 I find it difficult to start a story until I have what I consider to be the perfect first line for it. I spend a lot of time agonizing over first lines and I’ve written a lot of first lines that never amount to anything. But once I’ve got a good one, it’s quick and messy from that point forward. Everything sort of spills out once that first line is uncorked.

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

Death and loss and remembrance, and how these things coexist in a seemingly “real life” life. What I mean is, real life is one thing, and a thing that changes depending on decisions and circumstance, but death and loss and remembrance follow you forever, and these are the things I feel most influence my writing. These are the things I can’t shake.

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

There are so many people fighting the good fight when it comes to flash right now, so many different forms and approaches and concepts. It is exciting to see where the genre is going, where people are taking it with their own creativity. I love checking out the short fiction nomination lists every year and catching a subsect of what’s been churned out, and it always floors me.

That said, I am always and forever down with some good old complicated heartache, and stories that have recently slain me include, “All I Have Left” by Dina Relles, “All the Love Songs Are Really About Broken Hearts” by Cathy Ulrich, and “Left Behind” by Kaj Tanaka.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

I’m really proud of “Nualla to the Nth Degree” which Lost Balloon published earlier this year. It’s about blown-glass girls and the never-ending search for perfection. It’s part fairy tale, part mathematics, part weird—it was deeply satisfying to write because these things are sort of my makeup, too.

BIO: Jennifer Todhunter’s stories have appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Necessary Fiction, Jellyfish Review, and elsewhere. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Pidgeonholes. Find her at www.foxbane.ca or @JenTod_.

Mini-Interview with Jonathan Cardew

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

I write flash because it’s fucking brilliant. I love it. I love everything about it. There’s nothing quite like a shot of short-short fiction. I grew up adoring short stories—and I still do—but flash fiction goes beyond and enters a poetic and even psychic realm. Good flash relies on craft like any writing form, but it also relies on intuition and bravery. The courage and/or foolishness to say: ‘that’s enough.’

 What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Probably plot! No, wait, character! A little of each? My life jacket might actually be structure—being able to cut and chop and resize is a skill I think I’ve gotten pretty good at. I feel like anything’s a story as long as it’s packaged right (a student of mine recently wrote an erasure flash/poem out of my syllabus—which is hot-shit in my book!)

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?
Slow and messy? I’m a really bad crafter of sentences—like really, really bad and I have to go over and over them and polish until they’re good. Like a pebble. Enough water crashes onto a rock, it becomes a smooth and beautiful pebble. That’s my writing style: wave-like, wave-like, wave-like, wave-like.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?
My addictions/ compulsions.

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?
Oh my God, I always freeze up when people ask me this, but luckily this is a text-based question and I have time to take a walk and do some deep, steady breaths to compose myself….

There are so many good flash writers out there and my favorites rotate according to the seasons and the stages of the moon, but I’d have to say the writers that hit me every time are: Claire Polders, David Gaffney, Ashley Hutson, David Swann, Nancy Stohlman, Meg Tuite…and more more more!!!

This story “Happy Place” by David Gaffney is one of my happy places: https://www.davidgaffney.org/happy-place.html

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

Robocop Infinity, published at Jellyfish Review.

I’ve read this one at a few events, but I don’t think it quite goes over. I don’t think people quite get it. I don’t think I quite get it. But it’s Robocop, man! It. Is. Robocop.

https://jellyfishreview.wordpress.com/2017/08/08/robocop-infinity-by-jonathan-cardew/
BIO: Jonathan Cardew’s stories appear or are forthcoming in Wigleaf, cream city review, Passages North, Superstition Review, JMWW, People Holding, and Atticus Review, among others. He is the fiction editor for Connotation Press and MicroViews column editor for Bending Genres. He recently won the Best Small Fictions Micro Fiction Contest. Originally from the UK, he lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Mini-Interview with April Bradley

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

Flash is what I end up writing most of the time, and flash is what it is called due to word length. I’ve never been one to write long, although a good long read is immensely enjoyable. What flash has done for me, how it has changed my writing reminds me of what I was taught in biblical exegesis and in the rhetorical exercises of Scholasticism: contraction and expansion of narrative and text. That’s somewhat simplistic, but it is apt. How do I convey this story in 500 words, 250, 100, 50? How do I expand it to 2,000? 5,000? 100,000? The structure of novels is something I like to study and apply it to flash. Flash challenges me as much as writing longer stories, but I have more of an affinity for short narratives. I disagree that readers no longer possess the attention span for long forms and this is why flash attracts them. Flash is an art and a sophisticated genre in literature and attracts readers on its own merits.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Character drives plot for me. Different character, different plot, even if the same plot elements occur, it is a different experience, due to character. When a story emerges for me, character emerges first, a distinctive voice that uniquely shapes a story. Without voice, it is not story; it is action, circumstances, description, words.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Both. I have had to form the habit of drafting without self-editing. Otherwise, I will work for days on an opening line, and it does not really show. I give myself fifteen minutes of free writing, then I reward myself with editing. My favorite part of writing is revision. It is an opportunity to do so much with your raw material, take it in so many different directions. This is when I can indulge my desire for deliberation and precision. Revision is creative and generative—it is writing. It is exciting to discover how text changes and evolves during the process.

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

In the past, I would have said something like my spiritual and intellectual experiences, motherhood, my relationships and lovers, my blood clotting disorder, or the serendipitous, weird things that happen to me. But, lately, my real life intrudes upon my writing in uncomfortable, persistent ways. I’m supposed to be a fiction writer and the non-fiction crushes the fictive. Coming up in June, the cycle closes when four close family members died over a series of several months two years ago, including my mother and grandparents.  Some writers write and create through grief. I am not one of those writers. Instead, I’ve been paralyzed. The short answer then is that my writing calls up grief, loss, time and memory, anxiety, and death—and it is emotionally exhausting to write about it through the cracks. And, since I do not want to write about these things directly, I’m not writing very much. What I’ve been doing instead is playing around with structure, which is something I typically don’t do until I have something on the page, allowing form to emerge instead of imposing it. Recently, I have been turning my attention to unusual structures taken from everyday life and expanding how I think about narrative and story in oblique ways: blackout poetry derived from (computer) code, writing narratives using footnotes to an unwritten story or commentary about a story, using my grandmother’s recipe cards and writing stories and memoir about it, writing one-sided love letters and text messages, fictional annotated bibliographies. In this way I’m trying to live in the present using familiar, mundane text while living with the family and life I have lost.

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

What a great question, Tommy. There are so many, of course. One of the first flash writers I came across was Leesa Cross-Smith. Her work continues to inspire me and teach me. The same can be said for Kathy Fish, Christopher Allen, and Gay Degani. It is no accident that these writers remain with and influence SmokeLong Quarterly in one way or another. One author who probably does not consider himself a flash writer but whose work can be read as such is the Italian author Alessandro Baricco. He wrote a short novel in 1996, Seto. A friend gave me a copy of the 1996 English translation Silk by Guido Waldman when it was first published, long before I aspired to write creatively. I still have that book and re-read it every couple of years. It is sublime. It easily can be called a novel in flash or a novella. Regardless of how it is categorized, it is an example of exquisite artistry in brevity. Anne Carson dazzles me (doesn’t she dazzle everyone?). I started reading her work when I was comparing different translations of Aeschylus’ The Oresteia and fell in love. Read anything by her, but for flash writers, Float and Nox would be good places to start.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

It is amazing that what little I have published has received recognition—and I am so grateful!—, especially since the past couple of years have been lost to such devastating entropy where my writing is concerned. My longer fiction doesn’t get much attention, but it is not as recent—and may not be as compelling or interesting—as my more condensed writing. One story I have a soft spot for is part of an ongoing series involving a woman who copes poorly with raising her husband’s child from an affair. “A Conspiracy of Women,” was published in The Southern Women’s Review in 2015 and focuses on the tension between the main character and her husband. Writing longer narratives is a challenge for me and working on the life of this particular character is something that needles at me. I want this family to heal. I am not sure what that looks like for each character, but there is more story to tell.

 

BIO: April Bradley is from Tennessee and lives with her family outside New Haven, Connecticut. Her short fiction has been recently nominated for The Pushcart Prize as well as The Best of Small Fictions. Her writing has appeared in CHEAP POP, Hermeneutic Chaos Literary Journal, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Narratively, NANO Fiction, and Smokelong Quarterly’s “Why Flash Fiction” Series, among others. She has a Master’s in Ethics from Yale Divinity School and is an MFA candidate at the Sewanee School of Letters.

 

 

Mini-Interview with Christopher Allen

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

Thank you for these questions, Tommy.

The no-nonsense, practical answer: I think I started workshopping flash because my stories were more likely to get a lot of reviews in the online workshop I took part in 10 years ago. My short stories would get four or five reviews when my flash fictions were getting 40 or 50. And this was at a time when not every journal was running a flash fiction contest.

A more personal answer: In graduate school, I was greatly affected by my readings of Virginia Woolf and what she described as “Moments of Being”. This idea of the deeply experienced moment, as opposed to the day-to-day forgettable actions of life, stuck with me and changed the way I wrote. Flash, in my opinion, shucks the mundane away.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

I really have to focus on arc when I write because my lifejacket is definitely character and voice. I write a lot of absurdist narratives in which my characters resist learning, understanding, and progress—which doesn’t mean the reader doesn’t learn or understand something new. It’s difficult to figure out a pleasing structure for a narrative/plot that is in many ways going nowhere.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

I would love to say quick and messy. I admire people who post on social media that they’ve written: “3000 horrible words today!” In real-life workshops, I gawp at other people scribbling madly during a writing exercise and think What the hell are you people writing? By the time I write something down, I’ve thought about it for weeks. I’ve hiked up a mountain with the story in my head. My characters and I have cycled a hundred kilometers together. We’ve cross-country skied. We’ve mown the lawn. Twice.

And then it’s still messy.

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

My crazy real-life schedule makes it difficult for me to write for more than an hour or two at a time. If I write in the mornings, I have to get up at four. I’m a lethargic lump in the middle of the day. If I write in the evenings, I have to sacrifice time with my partner. I sometimes write on the train if I have something I absolutely have to get down on paper. So a shortage of long periods of time to write has influenced my writing.

Being an editor of flash fiction for the last 10 years has also influenced how and what I write. All writing—from awful to awesome—is instructional as long as you’re willing to learn from it. There are so many great writers out there, each with their own style and purpose. I’m lucky to be exposed to a wide variety of writers.

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

To avoid offending anyone, I usually try to answer this question without giving names. But this time I’m going to name some names. In 2017 I was a consulting editor for The Best Small Fictions 2018. I was thrilled to see that so many of my nominations were recognized by the editors of BSF, three of which were chosen to be in the anthology. A few of the writers below were also recognized for stories nominated by other editors/journals as well (indicated below in parentheses). All of these writers deserve more reads:

Kathleen Jones – BSF winner
‘The Exact Coordinates of Eleanor’ at Paper Darts

Ashley Hutson – BSF winner
‘I Will use this Story to Tell Another Story’ at Fanzine

Jules Archers – BSF finalist
‘We Will Set Anything on Fire’ at Maudlin House

Elisabeth Ingram Wallace – BSF semifinalist
‘Ida’ at Atticus Review

(also a finalist for ‘A Chest Full of Spiders,’ The Best Small Fictions Microfictions contest)

Kaj Tanaka – BSF winner
‘In Dugave’ at New South Journal
(also a winner for ‘The Night Is Where It Throws You,’ (b)OINK)

Lori Sambol Brody – BSF finalist
‘I Want to Believe the Truth is Out There’ at Jellyfish Review

(also a winner for ‘The Truth About Alaskan Rivers,’ Forge Literary Magazine)

And of course congratulations and much love to all the writers nominated by the editors of SmokeLong Quarterly. We are thrilled to be able to say that all our nominees were recognized by BSF.

 What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

‘Fred’s Massive Sorrow’ is the centerpiece of my flash fiction collection, Other Household Toxins, which just came out in January. The story—originally in Eclectica Magazine and subsequently in Eclectica’s 20th-anniversary speculative anthology—is a kind of short story in flash, much like a novella-in-flash except, well, shorter but still six times too long to be flash. It’s around 6000 words, so I think online readers scroll down and say, “Sheesh. I don’t have time for this.”

At my book launch last month in Norwich, England four very talented readers and I read the story. What a pleasure that was to hear this absurdist romp read aloud.

BIO: Christopher Allen is the author of the flash fiction collection Other Household Toxins (Matter Press).His short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in [PANK], Indiana Review, Eclectica Magazine, Jellyfish Review, Lunch Ticket and lots more. In 2017 Allen was both a finalist (as translator) and a semi-finalist for The Best Small Fictions. He has garnered acclaim from Glimmer Train, Indiana Review, Literal Latte, and more. He is the managing editor of SmokeLong Quarterly and in 2017 a consulting editor for The Best Small Fictions 2018. Allen blogs at www.imustbeoff.com.

Mini-Interview with Randall Brown

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

 I like the urgency of it, that sense that something needs to be expressed before I run out of space and words. I like its “big bang like” compression, a thing on the verge of exploding. I like the dense weight of it.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

 I think it begins with plot, a little inkling of a story. Then as I write, I get to know the character more intimately—and then character takes over, determining what happens next.

 Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

 Quick and messy, before the anxiety and self-doubt can catch up with me.

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

 I’d say being a husband and parent and dog-owner. Being responsible for others. It brings up a lot of issues that get worked out in the writing. For example, one time I noticed that we had no forks left in the silverware drawer. No one knew where they’d gone. I ended up finding them among my son’s and his friends’ take-out containers in the trash. When I asked him about it, he said, “We didn’t do it consciously.” I asked, “But you did throw out forks.” He answered, “Not consciously.” Instead of banging my head against a wall, I banged some fingers against the keyboard, as if that were actually doing something about the problem.

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

 Kathy Fish and Christopher Allen rock and roll. That would be a great start.

 What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

 A story I wrote for Quick Fiction “It Doesn’t” ended up kind of nowheresville after Quick Fiction called it quits. I tried submitting it to a few anthologies, but received polite “no thank yous.” I think it deserves an anthology. But the world seems to think it doesn’t.

BIO: Randall Brown is the author of the award-winning collection Mad to Live, his essay on (very) short fiction appears in The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction, and he appears in the Best Small Fictions 2015 & 2017The Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction, and the forthcoming Norton Anthology of Microfiction. He founded and directs FlashFiction.Net and has been published and anthologized widely, both online and in print. He is also the founder and managing editor of Matter Press and its Journal of Compressed Creative Arts. He teaches in Rosemont College’s MFA in Creative Writing Program and received his MFA from Vermont College.