by Sarah Crysl Akhtar

Sarah Akhtar

It’s like the pangs of afterbirth. There’s your lovely story, ready to send out, and you can’t for the life of you think what to call it.

Happened to me once. Put a working title on a flash piece so I could at least submit it. Revised the title when I did the rewrite, but knew it was still a dud. The right one finally came to me, literally in the nick of time, shortly before the due date, so to speak. And to my enormous relief, one commenter remarked that the title was perfect for the tale. If she’d known how I sweated that one. . .

I’ve looked in some strange places for titles. I loathe, fear and despise mathematics, but my offspring has a gift for it. Go figure. And it so bothers me, being locked out of that world he inhabits so naturally, that with the bounteous help of Wikipedia, I’ve named a number of my stories for mathematical or scientific concepts. Those titles sounded so elegant, while making me feel closer to my kid. And strangely, they expressed just what I wanted to say.

Without the intuitively perfect title, a story’s luster is a little dimmed. And a bad or mediocre title may keep readers away from a piece they might have truly enjoyed.

If you’re struggling to name your story, take a little break. I once had to leave something alone for a couple of months, until my main character’s voice called to me so clearly that the right title fell naturally into place. It was frustrating not to be able to submit something I believed in and had worked hard on, but part of growing into your craft is recognizing when you haven’t fully achieved your intent, and waiting until you do.

Resist the urge to slap something on your story because you’re facing a deadline or just want to mark it as completed. You don’t want any child you love to go out into the world ill-named.


 Sarah Crysl Akhtar‘s shtetl forebears gifted her with the genes that impel her to make much from little. So of course she writes flash fiction, cultivates orchards on her windowsill and bakes fabulous shortbread. Her son gives her what’s immeasurable–the best of all possible worlds. Less miraculous fruit of her labors has appeared on Every Day Fiction, Flash Fiction Online and Perihelion SF Magazine.


1. ”Map Reading” by Helen Rossiter, winner of Alice Munro Prize 2013, suggested by Rose Gardener.

2. “Drinking in the Loons” by Stephen MacKinnon in Carve Magazine suggested by David James.

3.  “Water Liars” by Barry Hannah in Garden and Gun Magazine suggested by David James.

4.  “Pounds across America” by Meg Pokrass in Wigleaf Magazine suggested by David James.

5. “Turkey” by Andrew F. Sullivan in Hobart suggested by Neil Serven.

6. “The Visitation” by Brad Watson in The New Yorker suggested by David James.…/06/090406fi_fiction_watson

7. “The Sentence is Always Death” by Ken Gerber and Brian Hirt in Daily Science Fiction suggested by Von Rupert.…/the-sentence-is-always

8.  “He Pulled Me From the Sea” by Frank Haberle in Smokelong Quarterly suggested by Jim Harrington.

9. “Grackles” by Barry Basden posted on Fictionaut suggested by David James.

10. “The Prune Eaters”by Alex Pruteanu in Brick Rhetoric suggested by Susan Tepper.

11. “Remembering Awe” by Mira Desai in Pure Slush suggested by Susan Tepper.

12. “Mother in the Trenches” by Robert Olen Butler in Narrative suggested by Susan Tepper.

13. “Blackened Catfish” by Christian Bell in Camroc Press Review suggested by Barry Basden.

14. “Making it Right” by Jane Hammons in Camroc Press Review suggested by Barry Basden.

15. “Why Aren’t There Fireflies” by Doug Bond in Camroc Press Review suggested by Barry Basden.

16. “Husk of Hare” by Christopher Allen  at Referential Magazine suggested by Robert Vaughan.

17. “Speed Date” by Meg Tuite at Wigleaf suggested by Robert Vaughan.

18. “Dead Letters” by Gary Moshimer in Camroc Press Review suggested by Barry Basden.

19. “Heading West” by Martha Williams in Camroc Press Review suggested by Barry Basden.

20. “maybe” by DsD in Camroc Press Review suggested by Barry Basden.

21. “Losers” by Megan Lent at Shabby Doll House suggested by Robert Vaughan.

22.  “Dressing Room Fashion Show From An Ex-Fiancee in Iowa” by Mike Joyce at The Molotov Cocktail suggested by Robert Vaughan

23. “Tuesday Afternoon” by xTx in Camroc Press Review suggested by Barry Basden.

24. “Messes of Men” by Michael J Seidlinger’s (an excerpt) at Atticus Review suggested by Robert Vaughan.

25. “Forging” by Jane Hammons in kill author suggested by Carol Reid.

26.  “Triplets” by Len Kuntz at JMWW, Spring 2013 issue suggested by Robert Vaughan.

27. “Leaving Lena” Jeanann Verlee’ at JMWW Journal suggested by Robert Vaughan.

28. “Last Night in Big Sur” by Sara Lippmann at Flycatcher Magazine suggested by Robert Vaughan.

29.  “Healthy Start” by Etgar Keret in Tin House suggested by Alex Pruteanu.

30. “Funky Little Blaze Orange Pork Pie Hats” by Michael Gillan Maxwell at Metazen suggested by Robert Vaughan.

31. “They Will Tear You Apart” by  Bud Smith at Zygote in my Coffee suggested by Robert Vaughan.

32. “The Embassy of Cambodia” by Zadie Smith in The New Yorker suggested by Christopher James.

33.  “The Naturals”by Sam Lipsyte in The New Yorker suggested by Michael Dwayne Smith.

34. “Safety” Mary Miller  in Tin House suggested by Michael Dwayne Smith.

35. “Is That Rain” by Leesa Cross-Smith in Spartan suggested by Michael Dwayne Smith.

36. “Collision Course” by Stephen V. Ramey in Nib Magazine suggested by Susan Tepper.

37. “The Abridged Biography of an American Sniper” by Linda Simoni-Wastila in Smokelog Quarterly suggested by Susan Tepper.

38. “I Named the Stars for You” by James Claffey in Blue Fifth Review suggested by Nate Tower.

39. “Annette and Florian” by Beate Sigriddaughter in Eclectica suggested by Susan Tepper.

40. “Piglets” by Rae Bryant published at Matter Press suggested by Christopher Allen.

41. “What Rachel Didn’t Know” by Denise Howard Long in Burrow Press Review suggested by Liz Wallace.

42. “The Cartoonist” by Kathy Fish (originally at elimae) suggested by Christopher Allen.

43.  “Heart” by Ethel Rohan at Connotation Press suggested by Christopher Allen. (scroll)

44. “Skirt” by Ethel Rohan at Connotation Press suggested by Christopher Allen.

45. “Dying Juices” by Ethel Rohan at Connotation Press suggested by Christopher Allen. (scroll)

46. “Salvador Dali Eyes” by Douglas Campbell, winner of the Press 53 Flash Fiction Contest, published at SmokeLong Quarterly suggested by Christopher Allen.

47. “Swim” by Owen Vince, winner of the Press 53 Flash Fiction Contest, published at Prime Number Magazine suggested by Christopher Allen.

48. “Lithopedion” by Randall Brown, winner of the Press 53 Flash Fiction Contest, published at Metazen suggested by Christopher Allen.

49. “Puppy Wonderland” by Nadine Darling at Eclectica suggested by Timothy Gager.

50.  “Written in the Bones” by Christopher M. Jones and illustrated by Cary Pietsch at Carey Draws suggested by Jane Hammons.

51.  “Her Hair” by Erica Stern at Metazen suggested by Christopher Allen.

52. “The Girls” by Rachel Sherman at n+1 suggested by Sara Lippmann.

53. “Shadow Play” by Stephen V Ramey at Every Day Fiction suggested by J. Chris Lawrence.

54. “A Glimpse” by Jen Knox at Fiction Southeast suggested by Michelle Elvy.

55.  “A Woman on her Way to Work” by Chris Okum at Fictionaut suggested by Michelle Elvy.

56. “Houseboy” by Sara Lippmann in Bull suggested by Jane Hammons.

57. “Luring” by Jane Hammons at Tupelo Quarterly suggested by Sara Lippman.

58. “We Three” by Frankie McMillan at Truck suggested by Michelle Elvy.  (scroll down, mid-page)

59. “Heartworm” by Zoe Meager in Penduline suggested by Michelle Elvy.

60. “The Light Eater” by Kirsty Logan at the Scottish Book Trust suggested by Michelle Elvy.

61. “The Hard Years” by Emma Lincoln Pattee in Carve Magazine suggested by Leesa Cross-Smith.

62. “Steaks” by Guy Anthony de Marco at Every Day Fiction suggested by Kathy Kingston.

63. “Birthday Cake” by Rayne Gasper in Word Riot suggested by Leesa Cross-Smith.

64. “The Siege Of Eristavis” by Tara Isabella Burton in the Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review suggested by Virgie Townsend.

65. “See Jane” by Kathy Fish in Together We Can Bury It suggested by Virgie Townsend.

66. “Mornings with Teenage Genius” by Jacob Drud, at Every Day Fiction suggested by Sarah Crysl Akhtar.

67.  “How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps” by A. Merc Rustad in Scigentasy suggested by Alexis A. Hunter.

68. “The Art of Memory” by Annam Manthiram in Camroc Press Review suggested by Barry Basden.

69. “Tenderoni” by Kathy Fish at Smokelong Quarterly suggested by Ellen Parker.

70. “The Meat Sweats” by Michael Czyzniejewski in SmokeLong Quarterly suggested by Matthew Dexter.

71. “Treading Water” by Amanda Miska in Storychord suggested by Leesa Cross-Smith.

72. “Birdman” by Gary Moshimer at Necessary Fiction suggested by Matthew Dexter.

73. “Year of the Queerling” by Joseph Dante at Metazen suggested by Christopher Allen.

74. “A Haunt of Memory” by Tara Masih at Awkword Paper Cut in video-story form suggested by Michelle Elvy.

75. “Providence” by Christopher Allen at Pure Slush suggested by Michelle Elvy.

76. “Dancing with the One-Armed Gal” by Tim Gautreaux in Zoetrope All-Story suggested by David James.

77.”Natural History” by Daniel Enjay Wong at  Metazen suggested by Christopher Allen.

78. “Like a Family” by Meg Pokrass in Juked suggested by Christopher Allen.

79. “Summer of Pinbugs” by Kate Folk at Smokelong Quarterly suggested by Gay Degani.

80. “Lamb to the Slaughter” by Roald Dahl.

81. “Mama Maggie’s Pies” by Leanne Gregg in Contraposition Magazine suggested by Mike Joyce.

82 “The Belt” by Julie Innis in Underground Voices suggested by Jane Hammons.

83. “Projection” by Lisa Mecham from Cheap Pop suggested by Amanda Miska.

84. “Sport” by Carol Reid in Stymie suggested by Jane Hammons.

85. “Desilu, Three Cameras” by Alicia Gifford in FRiGG Magazine suggested by Dave Clapper.

86. “The Woods Behind” by Marek Jones in Literary Orphans suggested by Jane Hammons.

87. “Every Time a Fairy Gets Laid” by Ryan W. Bradley originally in Space Squid suggested by DaveClapper.

88. “Mobility” by Ellen Parker in The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts suggested by Dave Clapper.

89. “The Vegetarian Eats the Vegan: Five Scenarios” by Michael Czyzniejewski in PANK suggested by Dave Clapper.

90. “Aquarium” by Nadine Darling in SmokeLong Quarterly suggested by Dave Clapper. So many lines in it are eminently quotable.

91. “Stray Dogs” by Steven Gullion in Night Train suggested by Dave Clapper.

92 “Waiting for the Grassy Drop” by James Claffey in The Manifest Station suggested by Mike Joyce.

93. “The Sun Eaters” by Alex Pruteanu published in The Monarch Review suggested by Carol Reid.

94.”Storm in a Teacup” by Dan Powell published at Carve Magazine suggested by Christopher Allen.

95. “A Haunted House” by Virginia Woolf in public domain suggested by Christopher Allen.

96. “This Program Contains Actual Surgical Procedures” by Roxane Gay at Twelve Stories suggested by Matthew Dexter.

97. “Ditch” by Eric Beetner at Thug Lit suggested by Matthew Dexter.

98. . “One Trip Abroad” by F. Scott Fitzgerald suggested by Matthew Dexter.

99. “Show-and-Tell” by George Singleton in Atlantic Monthly suggested by David James.

100. “The Guy” by Isaac Boone Davis at Two Hawks Quarterly suggested by Virgie Townsend.

101. “The Good Book” by Cynthia Larsen at Hobart Pulp suggested by Meg Pokrass.

102. “While You Were Away” by Tara Laskowski in matchbook suggested by Gay Degani.

103. “A Few Bedbugs” by Susan Tepper in Cape Fear Review suggested by Bonnie ZoBell.


By Rohini Gupta

A previous version of this post appeared on Rohini’s blog.

Rohini Gupta

A friend asked a question: Why do you write?

I thought about it and I had no answer. Why do I write?  I have been writing all my life—but why?

It’s rarely easy. Writing itself is an effort of will, usually a balancing act, caught in the cracks between work and family commitments. You must take whatever moments you can, steal time to write, cutting out other pleasures in a desperate and sometimes secret attempt to squeeze a little more writing time from an almost empty tube.

You might drift into many professions because it just happened that the opportunity presented itself but not this one. Writing is a treadmill—if you are not running desperately in place to keep up you will get thrown right off it.

Money is not the reason either. It is not a profession which leads quickly to an obese bank account. Sometimes, as in poetry, it leads to no bank account at all. Poetry is notorious for it—poetry and money just don’t live in the same town.

Does that ever stop poets from writing? Of course not.

So what is it? Success?

Very few writers achieve success. In the days of traditional publishing, many writers never got published. In today’s age of self-publishing you can self-publish and then just disappear in the flood of other books.

A handful achieve fame and fortune. But that has never stopped anyone from writing.

So what is it? What keeps you going, year after year, alone, doubting yourself, struggling with the knives and daggers of rejection, wounded over and over and yet picking yourself up from the gutter again and again, reinventing yourself when all doors seem to be shut, losing yourself in another story while the old ones moulder unread.

It’s a minor miracle that anyone lasts in this field—but some do.

You grow two skins. One is tender, soft and sweet, with the poet’s fingertip sensitivity and the openness to the flow of words.

The other is tougher than rhinoceros hide—you need that when the rejections begin. Make no mistake, you will always need the rhinoceros hide—even success cannot insulate you.

So why go through all that and write?


You do not write for the externals, for the gains. It is something internal. The act of writing itself.

You don’t write for readers. Your readers are usually your writing friends and writing group members. Will you have millions of fans one day? You can hope but you cannot be sure. Even successful writers are not sure.

All books are not equal, even by the same writer. Writers say that a book from which they expected great success flopped and another, written in a spare thoughtless moment, somehow caught the reader’s imagination. Readers may love you or ignore you, but will that stop you writing?

So why do you write?

You write to write.

Something magical happens when you write and especially when you write poetry or fiction. You connect to the creative part of you, what you might call the Muse.

It opens a universe. It takes you out of yourself. It fills you with magic quite unknown in this prosaic, unimaginative world. For that magnificence what will you not do?  Everything else is dwarfed by those starry moments.

So perhaps, that is the answer to why you write.

You write for companionship—your own.

You write to meet yourself at the deepest and most profound level. The ancients called it ‘yoga’—union with yourself.

You write because without words to express it, the world is brittle and prickly and almost unlivable.

You write to survive and you write to become.

Most of all, you write because it gives you wings.


Rohini Gupta is a writer living by the sea in Mumbai with a houseful of dogs and cats while working on short stories, poetry and a book.


by Len Kuntz

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Even though a plethora of flash fiction exists today, I’ll admit to not having heard of the term until four years ago.

I was a little stunned by the discovery of this new-found form, the way you might be to all of a sudden learn that there’s an extra room in your house, a room filled with delicious treasures.

Browsing internet sites around 2010, I saw that talents such as Kim Chinquee, xTx, Kathy Fish and Meg Pokrass were turning out tight pieces of writing as short as 300 words—writing that was not poetry, though it often had a similar lyrical quality. Some of the pieces were even fully formed, containing a narrative arc and plot, while others sizzled instead, like Molotov cocktails left tossed in the air, leaving the reader to decipher whatever decimation might occur.

The sudden rise of flash fiction’s popularity is, in a way, akin to that of Twitter—both of them seemingly rising up out of the blue while quickly securing a place in our consciousness, should we choose to take an interest.

And much like Twitter—or Flash Chat for that matter—flash fiction is about brevity; about the ability to say something noteworthy or meaningful in a very confined space.

I don’t know if flash fiction’s appeal is, as many have said, a result of our shortening attention spans, but whatever the reasons, I’m happy to see how vital the form has become.

The allure of flash, for me, is that it mirrors many of the writing adages I’d been taught years ago:

  • start in the middle of the action;
  • make every word count;
  • hit the reader between the eyes;
  • murder your darlings;
  • deliver a unique, singular voice.

Along with these challenges, I love the notion of getting in and getting out, the idea of swiftly painting a picture that is clear enough to let a reader know what’s happening, yet one that also allows readers to fill in the blanks vis-à-vis their own imagination.

I’m far from an expert on the art form, yet I do think the best flash writing gives readers pause after they’ve finished a piece: it stops them from going onto the next because something shocking or wholly unexpected has just happened, or perhaps the writing was simply so taut and sonically rendered that there’s no other choice than to let it simmer, almost soul-like inside you.

Of course there are all types of flash fiction and just as many kinds of motivation for writing it.

I most like being able to take scraps of memory or biography, or maybe just a lovely-sounding line, wrap it in fraud, and then pepper gunpowder throughout the piece. The title of Kevin Samsell’s flash and story collection, “Creamy Bullets,” is a good description of the type of writing I hope to create: creamy bullets. Bullets that bite, while also having the tendency to simultaneously soothe.

While reading novels, we live with the characters for weeks and years, getting to know their idiosyncrasies and foibles. Novels transport us and often occur over great time spans. Reading a novel requires an investment. It demands patience and diligence.

Flash fiction is usually the opposite of all these things. Flash is a shotgun blast, or even a single piece of shotgun shrapnel plucked from within the greater blast. It’s immediate and jarring. The investment necessary is simply a few minutes.

We are lucky today, to see the proliferation of both styles of writing; having our cake and eating it, too.

To the novelists, I say, Bravo! Keep at it. We need you.

To the flash writers, I say, Keep dropping those bombs. Write on. We need you more than you might know.


Len Kuntz is the author of The Dark Sunshine available from Connotation Press and at editor at the online literary magazine Metazen. You can also find him at


by Andreé Robinson-Neal

Andree Robinson-Neal

Is it me, or is it hot in here? The FFC thermometer is about to pop, thanks to all the great content we had in June. Sarah Crysl Akhtar started us off with a bang as she hammers home some issues about the best of times, the worst of times, and originality. Susan Tepper‘s UNCOV/rd shed light on Doug Holder and his poetic views on city living. Kathy Fish lit a fuse as she told us about the beautiful flashes of life. We had a moment to recover from that, and then Julie Duffy hit us again with her detailed lesson on genre; Julie’s piece this month was a bright introduction that offered five great points on developing and maintaining our voice within the confines of what publishers want.

Gay Degani upped the ante by having a heated discussion with a few writers on the importance of reading to develop a writer’s voice. Speaking of voice, Sarah Crysl Akhtar took us back into the archives for a  look at a tasty bit of flash. But voice is not enough: Samuel Snoek-Brown turned up the heat with his piece on the importance of place.

Christopher Bowen settled us down and turned our focus to a topic that should burn our professional coals: contracts. His enlightening interview with Tyler Crumrine at Play Inverse Press offered some insight on what we might want to look for before we sign on the dotted or digital line.

But then Sarah Crysl Akhtar turned it up again by fanning the flames with her trip back into the archives to revisit The Horses to remind us how horror should make us feel.

We were able to put away our oven mitts as the month ended, but the last notes were anything but cool. Alyssa Ast reminded us that as authors we are responsible for promoting our published works and pointed out a few easy ways to optimize our author websites. And in case you were busy burning up the pages or keyboard during the month, Jim Harrington gave us a thorough list of flash fiction market updates.

Summer is just beginning so pull out your parasol, mix up a big batch of fresh lemonade, and set a spell; FFC will bring you a fresh serving of heat as we celebrate July.


Andreé Robinson-Neal got bit by the writing bug back in the late 1970s while watching Rod Serling and reading Ray Bradbury–both of whom are everyday inspirations; although she has worked in education for more than a quarter-century, she has never been cured of her penchant for speculative fiction. Find some of her flash fiction at She writes under the name AR Neal, who will hopefully one day be identified as a famous NaNoWriMo participant.

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