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 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

Mini-Interview with Riham Adly

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

 I’ve learned a long time ago that in my culture, the more a woman speaks, the less she’s heard. Economy is key. Through this form I’ve discovered to self-express concisely without resorting to the drama or flourish-y add on other forms have room to entertain. That’s what makes it so special to me.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Character.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

I like to experiment, so you’ll find it all in my stories.

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

The fact that I can’t speak, I can’t express, I can’t even complain about anything! I make up for it in my surreal stories.

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

“Satin Nightwear For Women” by Elizabeth Ingram Wallace winner of Bath Flash Awards.

“You’ve Stopped” by Tommy Dean published in Pithead Chapel

“A Brief History of Time in Our House” by Steven John published by Ad Hoc Fiction.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

 All of them really, but to be honest, I wish my story “The Brief Chronicled History of The Girl as told by the Realist but yet Optimistic African Fortuneteller” received more as I talk about female genital mutilation in Africa, and how it’s still happening up to this day. The story was published in Afreada magazine.

BIO: Riham Adly is an Egyptian writer/blogger/ translator. Her fiction has appeared in over forty online journals such as  Flash Frontier, Flash Back, Ellipsis Zine, Okay Donkey, Bending Genres, Afreada, Connotation Press, Spelk, The Cabinet of Heed, Vestal Review, Five:2:One, Brilliant Flash Fiction, Gingerbread House lit, Writing in a Woman’s voice, and Danse Macabre among others. She has forthcoming stories in The Citron Review and Sunlight Press. In 2018 she was short-listed for the Arab-Lit Translation Prize. Riham lives with her family in Giza, Egypt.

Mini-Interview with Melissa Goodrich

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

It feels like anything is possible in a shape that small.  It’s like striking a match – quick friction, heat, a perfect edgeless flame burning-down close to the fingertips. For me it’s different because it’s quicker. There’s less lingering in your sentences and paragraphs–in flash, the details aren’t decorative. They are their most deliberate.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

 Oof. I think it’s figurative language. Simile and metaphor especially.  They teach me how not to drown.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

 I think I’m quick/messy–and I love it. The messiness is where the magic happens.

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

My anxiety. And how strange it is to be a person.

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

 Lydia Davis. Cathy Ulrich. Meghan Phillips. Dana Diehl.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

I love “Sapphires,” a story about trying to calm down, somewhat fruitlessly, in the middle of the night.

Bio: Melissa Goodrich is the author of the collaborative collection The Classroom, the story collection Daughters of Monsters, and the poetry chapbook IF YOU WHAT. Her work has appeared in  American Short Fiction, The Kenyon Review Online, Passages North, PANK,and others.  Find her at melissa-goodrich.com and tweeting @good_rib.