by Jim Harrington

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Jim Harrington began writing fiction in 2007 and has agonized over the form ever since. His stories have appeared in Every Day Fiction, Liquid Imagination, Ink Sweat and Tears, Near to the Knuckle, Flashes in the Dark, and others. He serves as the Managing Editor for Flash Fiction Chronicles. Jim’s Six Questions For . . . blog provides editors and publishers a place to “tell it like it is.” You can read more of his stories at http://jpharrington.blogspot.com.

by Aliza Greenblatt

Tina Wayland

Tina Wayland is a freelance copywriter, part-time fiction writer and full-time mom to a great wee kid. Her story, Red Handed, was the top story for July.

Aliza Greenblatt: I’m always curious about what drives authors to write, so can you tell me a bit about that? Do you typically write horror or do you venture into other genres as well?

Tina Wayland: Good question. I don’t know what drives me to write—the curiosity to see where the story will take me? The challenge to get a good piece of writing down on paper? I’m not a writer who’s driven to write. It takes a lot to get me to sit and put stuff down. But I’m always fascinated by the outcome.

I used to write horror way back when I studied Creative Writing. It’s something I haven’t done in about 20 years. This story was supposed to be about a simple conversation, but it took a wrong turn down a back road somewhere and I just had to follow along.

AG: When you sit down to write a new story, what is your process like?

TW: Haha! Fiddle, fiddle, get a glass of water, check my emails, fold some laundry, check my emails. At some point I focus and start writing, and in those rare moments where the writing stars align I find that perfect groove and I’m lost in the writing. For me it’s more about overcoming the obstacles than following a process. But somehow it works.

AG: The desire to escape was a major theme in the story and the two major characters in the story were desperate for a way out. But it slowly became apparent that the boy would use any means possible to do so. Did the characters’ desperation carry the momentum of the story as you wrote it? Do you think the boy will ever stop running?

TW: I don’t know if I saw them as desperate. I think they both believed they would win—that they’d get what they wanted, in the end. In my mind, the boy never questioned that he’d escape, and the detective never questioned that he’d get his answers. But the boy knew better. I don’t know if he’ll ever stop running. All the story gave me is this small glimpse into his life. Once he was out the door in the wall, he was gone—out of my control. I’d like to believe he’ll keep running, though. I don’t know what else he’d leave in his path.

AG: This piece used language very deliberately, and I loved how almost all of the sentences in the story were short and concise. Did you have a reason for writing in this particular style? Was it a conscious decision?

TW: No matter how I start off, I always end up writing like this. Economical. Deliberate. It’s about the words but it’s also about the rhythm of the words. I love the poetry of it. I can spend a whole lot of time looking for the perfect two-syllable word to balance out a sentence just right.

AG: From your bibliography, this is not your first flash fiction story. For you, what is the appeal of flash? What are some of the challenges you face when writing stories with such a limited word length?

TW: I think my writing style lends itself most easily to flash fiction. I cut and cut and cut until I’ve excavated the right sentence, the right words. By the time I get to my third draft, I’ve lost more than half of what I started with.

For me, the challenge of flash is to get the story right, and quickly. It’s less of a build-up to your characters and more of a quick look into one moment of their lives. There’s no time, and no words, to waste.

AG: What other projects are you currently working on? Are there other stories of yours, either upcoming or published, that you can point readers to?

TW: I have a handful of stories desperate for a second draft. I’ll have to dust one off for my writing workshop soon.

I also have a poem just published in From the Depths. You can read it in here, free.

Plus I have a small collection of published stuff on my work website at http://tinawaylandcopywriter.com/fr/published-fiction.php.

A few of my stories are up on EDF, and it is a great honour to be published alongside so many wonderful authors on such a great writing site. What a thrill that Red Handed touched so many readers! It was unexpected and truly wonderful. Thank you for taking the time to ask me these great questions about writing. It was great fun to think about the answers and pass them along!

AG: Thank you very much for taking the time to chat with us. Best of luck with all your writing endeavors.

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 Aliza profile-pic-2Aliza T. Greenblatt works in a firmly non-writing field when the sun is up and writes under a desk lamp at night.   Fueled by a sheer love of books and a tyrannical imagination, she writes the stories that appear over her morning coffee and won’t leave her alone until they are put down on paper.   She writes, raves, and blogs at http://atgreenblatt.com. and on Twitter  @AtGreenblatt

 

by Julie Duffy

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Slipstream is one of the newest and most indefinable sub-genres to gain notice in the science fiction universe. According to some literary observers, it has been there since the beginning,

Considering the uneasy reception of Bradbury’s work by purist critics of SF, The Martian Chronicles could be said to exemplify what today is referred to as slipstream…From the moment of its naming SF has always had its slipstream—a steady line of texts that failed to contain themselves within the envisioned borders of the genre. – Paveł Frelik

Flash Fiction Chronicles contacted E. S. Wynn, chief editor of Smashed Cat Magazine, to find out more about this intriguing sub-genre.

Flash Fiction Chronicles: How would you define slipstream as a genre?

2523121E. S. Wynn: When defining slipstream as a genre, it’s important to be vague. As soon as you try to tack down, pigeonhole, or apply rules to set the boundaries of slipstream, you kill all of the potential it has to really soar. Slipstream is anything and everything. It’s Dungeons and Dragons meets Dragnet. It’s angels and cyberpunks. It’s Kafka, Lovecraft, Asimov and Anne McCaffrey all rolled into one story. It’s cosmonauts and argonauts teaming up to battle Huguenots in Captain Nemo’s Nautilus. It has no bounds, it slips between the streams, and the weirder it is, the more your fans will (probably) love it.

FFC: What do readers come to this genre for?

ESW: Slipstream is fresh. It’s new, it’s the final frontier. It’s the place where other writers have never dared to go. That’s what makes it good. That’s what fans of the genre look for. Newness, novelty, voices and perspectives they’ve never heard before.

FFC: Complete this sentence: Slipstream is probably for you if you’re the kind of writer who likes to_____

ESW: Slipsteam is probably for you if you’re the kind of writer who likes to mix otherwise incongruous elements into a fruity cocktail drink as potent as a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster.

FFC: What are the most common pitfalls when writing slipstream?

ESW: One common pitfall is a writer’s inability to really make things weird. Having a skunk for a pet is not weird. Finding out that the young, buff, handsome CEO crush of your story likes to wear lingerie when he’s alone is not weird. People from other countries than yours are not weird. Talking dogs from alternate dimensions that lead people through libraries full of hairy books whose knowledge can only be smelled, not seen– that’s weird. The basic premise can be as mundane as Michener, but the story itself won’t be slipstream unless the imagery and the meat are all outside the conventions of multiple genres.

Also (it doesn’t happen often) but the story can’t be too weird. Stay with me– if a writer puts together a story that isn’t coherent, readers won’t be able to get into it. Plant dragons that breathe methane and fly through space? Cool, but make sure it serves the story. Telling us about your plant dragons and then writing a bit of grandma’s apple pie recipe into the story for “weirdness” isn’t going to fly, most of the time. The weird is important, but it must make sense.

FFC: What difference does it make when the story is 1000 words or fewer?

ESW: All the difference. Writers these days have to compete with the fast pace of television, video games and Youtube. Stories in the 300-500 word range are all that most people think they have time for these days. If you can’t streamline your stories into a box that size, you’ll still find readers, just fewer of them.

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E.S. Wynn is the author of over fifty books in print and the chief editor of seven online fiction journals, including Smashed Cat Magazine.

Julie Duffy is a writer of short fiction and host of the annual creativity challenge StoryADay May.

 

by Christopher Bowen

Christopher Bowen

I was first introduced to the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography’s publishing when I downloaded a free pdf of a book by Chicago local, Ben Tanzer. It was a book based on his thoughts while jogging.

Years later, I found myself part of a reading in Chicago through Curbside Splendor, where I met Ben, had coffee, and discussed CCLaP and Jason Pettus.

 

CCLaP

The design work in CCLaP’s books is phenomenal. And their website boasts multiple free pdfs of titles—something I had tried as a chapbook publisher, but executed here very well just by the sheer numbers in their line. I believe this is not only extremely innovative, but an important note to the literary community.

When I returned to Cleveland, I wrote Jason and requested an ARC pdf of one of their most recent titles, Four Sparks Fall, by T.A. Noonan.

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A novella of a coming-of-age story between two teenage twin girls, Four Sparks Fall will catch you off-guard. As one of the sisters reconciles her friendship with her twin while preparing to leave for an acclaimed prep school, the story is told from the two perspectives of one leaving, of one behind. It’s difficult at first to decipher their individual voices this way (as one’s thoughts are in italics, the other’s grounded in unitalicized paragraphs) but as twins doesn’t this make sense?

The story goes and the pages turn, you see these two distinct young women for who they are, who they were to each other, and for what they may become from “the biggest small town in the world,” Baton Rouge.

T.A. introduces us to a slew of mutual friends: the boy who comes between the twin sisters, the parting gifts these two girls leave for each other  in reconciliation, hope for the future, a new diary.

What I found really entrancing about this novella was its seriousness about adult issues given to teenagers. They ‘inherit’ the problems of their Baton Rouge adults and parents. How do we escape our past? How do we reconcile for the future, even with the things we are born into? Part dark, young adult literature, part smart, literary process, Four Sparks Fall is just that. It’s about sparks that have fallen, the lost optimism and innocence of youth, and the story of twins, Geminis, meant for distant, distinct places in our universe.

If you get the chance, I would definitely meander over to the CCLaP website and browse their catalog. Find this book, download it (it’s free) and enjoy. Chicago has a lot to offer the literary world.

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Christopher Bowen is an Ohio author and culinary chef. His recently-released personal fiction chapbook, We Were Giants, is available from the publisher, Sunnyoutside Press. He blogs at burningriver.info.

by Jim Harrington

NSLF Organizing Committee

2014 NSLF Organizing Committee

I learned about the National Schools Literature Festival a few months ago and contacted them for further information. Below Sharon Quek, the media and communications contact for the group, provides responses. Pictures from the event can be viewed on their Facebook page. More information can be found on the NSLF website.

FFC: What is the National Schools Literature Festival? Where did the idea come from? What is its purpose? When did it begin?

Sharon Quek: The National Schools Literature Festival is a ground-up initiative developed by Literature teachers in Singapore who want to encourage the study of Literature as an essential subject in the national curriculum. It started in 2004 when a group of Singapore Literature teachers came together to organise competitions at the national level, in which students could participate to sharpen their skills in critical reading, debate and dramatisation. The festival allows teachers and students to network with their peers, jointly build their understanding and interpretations of the Literature texts they are studying, and deepen their understanding of and love for Literature.

FFC: There are six sessions listed in the programme. Do students participate in each one, or do they get to choose?

SQ: Students can participate in any of the six events (Debates on Unseen Texts, Set Text Debates, Poetry Slam, Book Trailer, Book Parade and Flash Fiction). To allow more schools to have the opportunity of participating in the festival, the organising committee has requested each school to send a maximum of two teams (one each for lower secondary and upper secondary) per event.

FFC: The list of participants includes 80 schools. How many children from each school participate? How are they chosen?

SQ: An average of about 20 students from each of the 76 schools participated in the festival this year. The selection of student participants is left to the schools. In the last seven years, the number of student participants has been in the range of 1,000 to 1,500.

FFC: One section is for flash fiction. Why flash?

SQ: Flash Fiction is a new event organised to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the National Schools Literature Festival this year. The event seeks to encourage students to write in a succinct and original manner that will engage the interest of readers.

FFC: Stories must be exactly 200 words. Why 200?

SQ: 200 words is an appropriate length for students to include sufficient details in a story while sustaining the attention of any reader. The organisers hope that the word limit will also challenge students to think carefully about their choice of words.

FFC: What else should we know about the festival?

SQ: Ten winning flash fiction stories were selected by a review committee. These were subsequently published in notebooks that were given to every participant at the festival.

Currently, the festival caters to secondary school students in Singapore. We hope to expand the festival to include primary school students in the future to promote a love of reading and Literature among the younger students too.

FFC: Thank you, Sharon, for responding to my questions, and thanks to all the teachers who organize and participate in this wonderful effort to bring literature to their students.

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Jim Harrington began writing fiction in 2007 and has agonized over the form ever since. His stories have appeared in Every Day Fiction, Liquid Imagination, Ink Sweat and Tears, Near to the Knuckle, Flashes in the Dark, and others. He serves as the Managing Editor for Flash Fiction Chronicles. Jim’s Six Questions For . . . blog provides editors and publishers a place to “tell it like it is.” You can read more of his stories at http://jpharrington.blogspot.com.

 

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