by Aliza Greenblatt


Jeff Switt is a retired advertising agency guy who loves writing flash fiction, some days to curb his angst, other days to fuel it. He lives on 80 acres of rural Texas with three dogs, 5 cats, a coop of fowl, 9 donkeys, 14 goats and his wife of 45 years. His story, Halloween Coming Out, was the top story at Every Day Fiction for October.

Aliza Greenblatt: So, let’s start off with some of my favorite questions: Why did you decide to start writing?

Jeff Switt: It was unintentional. My wife had been writing, privately, for a long time. She had expressed an interest in taking an on-line writing class but couldn’t justify the cost. For our August birthdays in 2012, I signed both of us up for an online Beginning Writers Workshop. It gave us something to do together, and we had a lot of fun with it. By the time the workshop was over, I found I really enjoyed the experience.

AG: From your publication credits, you seem to have a fondness for the very short story form. What drew you to flash fiction?

JS: After the workshop was completed, I looked online for short story sites. I soon got the feeling that short stories were the stepchildren of literature, and I was getting discouraged. Most of what I found were short stories written in traditional fiction style, simple in plot and character, lots of adjectives and adverbs, and not really all that interesting to read.

As I kept searching, I came across some sites which involved something called flash fiction, an unfamiliar term to me. The more I read about flash fiction style, and the more examples of flash fiction I read, the more excited I got.

The writing I did for my workshop was quite similar in style to what I found, although my efforts were amateurish in comparison to what I read online. In a couple of days I knew if I was to continue writing that I had found my calling.

AG: On your blog, you host a flash story competition called A Story in Three Paragraphs (be sure to check out the current contest). Can you tell us a little about that?

JS: As we often say, a story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. And I had the thought, likely not original by any means, why not see if there is any interest in writing a complete flash story in three paragraphs. There are numerous sites which use word counts as the structure limits. I wanted to try something similar, but different.

AG: Has curating a flash competition influenced your own writing at all?

JS: I regret to say that curating is an overstatement. I have done a poor job promoting the blog and the competition. The day my story appeared in EDF the blog registered 130 hits, and one story was submitted. I need to streamline the contents, make it easier to use. Another writer has graciously volunteered to help me. I need to dedicate some time toward that.

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

JS: Often the story is already partly written in my head. In spring and fall I spend a lot of time on a tractor. I can only admire the pastures for so long until my mind starts to wander. Some story ideas come from there, from long highway trips, from grocery stores and parking lots, from checkout lines and distant memories.

When I do finally sit to write, it’s with lights off, TV off, no radio, and likely before my wife wakes or goes to bed. As I write, I tend to get what I call “all Rainman” and become each character in my stories. I have heard the term “method acting” applied to actors when they get in role. They just don’t act like the character, they become the character. That’s what I do.

AG: You mentioned elsewhere that this piece had some very specific inspirations. Can you tell us about them and a bit about how this story came together?

JS: I was at a 12-step organization conference some 12 years ago at an after-hours social. One of the attendees had been shot in the face, similar to my character, but by his wife, not in a hold-up. This was long before I started writing fiction. He was an amicable fellow, and he fit in as well as anyone else in the room. It was I who was uncomfortable. When the conference was over I felt ashamed of myself for not being able to make the effort to meet him, to treat him like anyone else in the room.

My recollection of him and that day surfaced frequently over the years. One very early morning I found myself thinking of that day and I began writing. In about three hours the first draft was written and edited. That was in September of 2013. Over subsequent months I would open the story file and edit this and that. It wasn’t until I began participating at EDF that I knew I had found the place to share the story.

Writing the story was my way of making amends to the man at the conference.

AG: Though this story has only about 800 words, it was jammed packed full of themes like overcoming fears, exterior verse interior personas, and the basic human need to feel accepted. Was it a challenge to balance all the complex emotions and themes in such a limited number of words?

JS: Thank you, but you are giving me far too much credit to think that I know all about such writing techniques. I did my share of writing during my advertising career. That, plus the 8-week online workshop, and a few “How To” writing books is the extent of my writing education. I do read a lot, and perhaps I have benefitted from some osmosis factor from that. I am grateful that you found those elements in my story. I have lots to learn.

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?

JS: A new story, Going Nowhere, about a carjacking gone bad, will be published at Every Day Fiction on November 30. Another story has recently been accepted at Out Of the Gutter OnlineWorking Overtime, a story about a wife taking revenge on her husband’s favorite prostitute. I don’t know the publication date. One story, Gas Stop, appeared a year ago at Shotgun Honey.

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

JS: Thank you for asking. It has been a thrill to have my story accepted so well and to have the opportunity to tell you and my friends at EDF something about myself.


Aliza profile-pic-2

Aliza 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 and on Twitter  @AtGreenblatt

by RK Biswas


My Very End of the Universe
Five Novellas-in-Flash and a Study of the Form
Published by Rose Metal Press
329 Pages

Even to a relatively indifferent practitioner of this particular art like me, it is clear. Exciting things are happening to narrative forms when it comes to the short crisp ones popularly known as flash fiction. The excitement is not about old wine in new and newer bottles. These are genuine experiments that seem to have sprung from collective creative will. Something that Abigail Beckel and Kathleen Rooney of Rose Metal Press realized within a few years of running their chapbook contest for flash fiction manuscripts.

Beckel and Rooney read more and more submissions containing linked flash fictions, with characters and settings spilling over even as each piece retained its stand-alone characteristics. They found manuscripts that read like single narratives, after they’d finished reading and looked back on the whole text. In 2011 their collection, which had five chapbooks chosen from their 2009 and 2010 contests, included two novellas-in-flash. These were Elizabeth J Colen’s Dear Mother Monster, Dear Daughter Mistake and Tim Jones Yelvington’s Evan’s House and Other Boys Who Live There. In the 2011 contest as well, they had a novella-in-flash winner—Betty Superman by Tiff Holland. And in 2012, Rose Metal Press’s guest judge, Randall Brown, chose Aaron Teel’s novella-in-flash Shampoo Horns. Little wonder that the editors of Rose Metal Press were excited by this ‘trend,’ and began to seriously explore ways to showcase the form, resulting in My Very End of the Universe and a Study of the Form, a book that according to Beckel and Rooney would be a “gripping, gratifying read and a tool for teaching and learning.”

With two winning chapbooks already in hand, they sought out three other authors who were working with the novella-in-flash form. They acquired Chris Bower’s The Family Dogs, Margaret Patton Chapman’s Bell and Bargain and Meg Pokrass’s Here Where We Live. All five authors used the novella-in-flash form in their own individual ways, as they explored complicated family relationships and concepts of home and family. The authors also included short essays that explained their ideas of the form and how they had applied them to their stories. The title came from a sentence in the story—Betty Superman—in the book. My Very End of the Universe (and I have to quote the editors because I can’t say it better) “seemed to sum up a magic particular to novellas-in-flash: the ability to focus intensely and specifically—a primary attribute of flash—on a character’s world for a sustained period of time—a key element in a novella.”

The first novella in the collection is Tiff Holland’s Betty Superman, a series of ten linked flash fictions exploring a mother-daughter relationship. In her introduction Holland writes that she finds flash “an art of pure essence—the spark, the quick uptick, the unblurred moment.” Specific to Betty Superman, Holland’s central character demanded this form, as in a novel she would have (according to her creator) grown to uncontrollable gigantic proportions, a “Godzilla.” Later as she delved into the realm of flash, she found herself being pulled in by “Betty” and her life, following her wherever she led. Holland found the individual stories forming a natural arc by themselves that lead to the bigger whole.

Betty Superman is written in the first person, and we view Betty through the eyes of her daughter. The first chapter—Dragon Lady—was written, according to Holland, like a character sketch composed as a narrative poem. At first, it appears to be just a colorful description of an interesting and eccentric character. The nuances become more apparent as one progresses into the novella, and the narrator’s voice opens up more and more about the complex relationship between the two women. The descriptions given in the first chapter also help create a better understanding of “Betty” in action and her relationship with the narrator, who confesses as she recalls her mother’s fist meeting with her future first husband, “I am a hell of a shot. Already it would have occurred to me, I could always shoot her.”As the stories unfold and the bigger story emerges, there is greater acceptance with age and diminishing health of both, though it is still there—”the floors of my childhood covered with the shards of broken knickknacks.” A clearer expression of love between daughter and mother emerges in the end. “She doesn’t rub the lipstick in the way she used to even when I was in my thirties, and I don’t rub it away either.”

The second novella, Here Where We Live is by Meg Pokrass. In her introduction, she compares novella-in-flash with stitching patchwork quilts; taking fragments and pieces to create art that is layered. Both art forms require improvising for both content and structure. As Pokrass puts it, “A novella-in-flash writer and a crazy quilt artist both become familiar in navigating incompletion and juxtaposition.” The idea is, according to her, to delve into “unlikely places” and putting together an “untraditional whole.” The stories can stand alone, and also move the narration forward.

Comprising twenty two chapters, Here Where We Live has been put together by pulling out poems and stories from the last twenty years, “from her metaphorical scrap bag,” some of which were narratives about a teen aged girl and her mother. During her search among her older work, Pokrass rediscovered the characters, the important ones, and found new ideas. She formed what was to become the narrative arc of the novella by imagining what may happen when things go wrong in a young person’s life, exploring the various ways to cope with stress and happiness, and more importantly wisdom. At the same time, her repeat journey/s through the old and apparently familiar landscapes threw up “fresh energy and new meaning”, and an “unexpected new order that ends up feeling just right.” The novella-in-flash according to Meg Pokrass mirrors life. Just as one can never visualize the narrative arc in life as it is being lived, but only after it is over, so with this form the reader goes along with the flow, relating to each piece and then looking back on the journey to understand the path it took.

Here Where We Live is the story of Abby, a sensitive and gifted child, grappling with her father’s death, mother’s cancer and her own growing up issues. Written with a poet’s eye, Pokrass takes us through a seemingly disjointed journey with Abby as she tackles their new life in Santa Barbara with her ailing mother, their grandmother’s run down house in a less prosperous part of the town, her friend Junie who shares nothing in common with her, Junie’s bother Kyle, and her mother’s boyfriend Daniel. There is sorrow, anger and a bleak landscape, because “you can’t stop mold from being itself.” Yet, through Abby’s slow and difficult steps towards gaining control of her life, her agony and deliberations and observations, her heart never loses faith—“there are very good men in the world, but like earth worms, they are not easily visible.” In the end, light shines, as warm as the hand on her breast, as she finds the right person and gets rid of the wrong one from her mother’s life and hers too; when she holds on to what is good for them both, “because they are helium balloons trying to stay down on Earth.”

Aaron Teel’s Shampoo Horns is a nineteen-chapter long novella-in-flash that at first glance gives the (deceptive) impression of a boy’s growing-up-in-the-summer story, but the shampoo horns the protagonist sports in the bathtub, in the title story, are no more innocent than the events that follow.

According to Teel, a novella-in-flash takes the best of flash and marries it with the longer form or novel, providing “space for myriad moments to co-exist, rub up against, and reverberate off one another,” turning a series of snapshots into a slide show. When creating this work, Teel took stories that followed the will of memories, not chronologically, but linked through associations, images, turning Shampoo Horns into a place for his characters to “dwell and roam around in rather than move through in an unbroken line.” To further elucidate the technique Teel uses, I quote him: “when a succession of moments has receded far enough away, the memories that remain are mixed up and weird, disconnected, out of time—they come to me in flashes. To the extent that memory is the hidden conceit in Shampoo Horns, the novella-in-flash is its ideal form.”

Shampoo Horns is a remembered past, brought to life into the present just the way the individual memories appeared to the now grown up, lanky and red-haired protagonist—Cherry (or Mathew as he was christened but never named). We know that Cherry is looking back into his past, but we never see his grown-up face. It’s as if he is the video camera, held clumsily by his reader, us, you, me, walking through the trailer park, crossing timelines in same the way one swings a leg across a chain-link fence and crosses over. The initial innocence of shampoo horns dissipates like soap bubbles when Cherry’s half-brother, Clay, enters his life, at once fascinating the twelve year old Cherry, horrifying, and even repelling him. “Clay is rebellious and mean, and I know I will never be as cool as him,” is just the tip of the ice berg. Clay has the devil’s brand in his bones, (except that this is what their dad says to Cherry) and he thinks nothing of giving vent to his anger, resentment and sheer malice upon the small and weak, be it Cherry or his best friend Tater Tot. Clay’s violent disposition can only be matched by a tornado, and one does come, ripping through their homes, turning their whole trailer park neighborhood into a catastrophic pile up of trailer vans and tossed up belongings. Teel begins his story on the eve of this natural disaster, and pulls us into the narrative, piece meal, one emerging memory at a time, and finally brings us back full circle to the beginning. Except, now we cannot but ponder about the now grown up Cherry, the kind of person he may or may not have become.

For Margaret Patton Chapman, author of Bell and Bargain, the novella-in-flash form enabled her to tell a story spanning from birth to adolescence and to flesh out characters in ways that would have proved tough in more traditional story telling forms. The small individual narratives of flash float on white space, signifying there is more to the story. In her own words, “Each of the pieces of this work came out as little bits, glimpses and fragments, each a clue to the story but each mysterious even for me.”

The longest novella-in-flash in the collection Bell and Bargain (spanning 31 chapters) is a fable, not set in mythical times. But during a time in American history when everything is roiling, sooty and grimy, harsh and cruel, reaching towards a future bursting with needs—when railroads were built, and men and women went prospecting for gold, and sharp shooting outlaws ruled and were in turn killed. When Bell is born, her mother, the neighbors and also the reader believes an enchanted child has come into the world. It is both fascinating and frightening, and initially gainful for the fatherless family. Bell’s two older brothers are as different as slate and chalk, but stay loyal to Bell in their own ways. The enchantment soon turns into a curse, especially for Bell. The story of their lives turn as bleak as the ashes left from the fire that razed their home. Yet, in the face of tragedy, when love is an ink sodden pill to swallow, Bell rings in change within her and emerges from her situation into the future. In the end, there is no promise, but hope.

One cannot say more about the story. Not because it will give the plot away, but because this story cannot be described. Bell’s story must be read and felt. Its spaces must be allowed to envelop the reader as well as be experienced as respite between one point in the narrative and the next. Because it is in the spaces that Bell’s and this novella-in-flash’s enchantment and mystery lie. As Chapman says in her introduction about her protagonist, “Bell is very much a character from a fairytale: the wished for daughter, the youngest, the magical child. Her story and character are influenced by two famously voiced and silenced young women from classic fairy tales: the little mermaid and the princess sister from a number of versions of the Swan Brothers’ tale. Both are tragic figures who give away their voices for men. Both also point to the relationship between self and voice and demonstrate how dangerous the world can be for an unvoiced woman; both characters make trades that end in barely redeemed tragedies…Bell’s strangeness does not offer explanation. The lack of it assures us that her world is not the same as ours. Perhaps the novella-in-flash also needs no explanation except that it is what it is: glimpses of secrets, artifacts and clues; a map not to but of treasures; small things pieced together into a whole.” As the novella-in-flash Bell and Bargain illustrates, so poignantly.

Chris Bower’s novella-in-flash, The Family Dogs, nineteen chapters of flash pieces long and unevenly but significantly divided into two parts, starts off with a poem, by way of introduction, which in retrospect reveals a lot more about the narrative, except that by then it is too late because the whole work has already been read! This is the last in the collection, and the most surreal; even the introduction is blurred or rather allowed to leak into the novella. Narrated in the first person, The Family Dogs may appear to be an autobiographical work at a superficial level. The autobiographical element stems from Bower’s own family anecdotes, as revealed in the introduction. If you come from a family of story tellers, where actual events and situations are added to until they “reveal a deeper truth than the truth.”

Bower says in his introduction: “In our lives we are sometimes allowed only glimpses into other people’s lives, singular moments with characters we will never deeply know. How we twist and turn what we have seen or heard or felt has always been fascinating to me. I have always loved fragments, because they give me permission to fill in the blanks, to imagine the rest, and I think the novella-in-flash was the next logical step, to take these tiny pieces, each with a stand-alone agenda and glue them into a larger story.”

So Al, the main protagonist of The Family Dogs, lives in his own world, of bits and pieces of imaginings and family stories through which we are given a picture of what his family is like, what his life among them is like. It’s a collage, pretty much complete, but with an area that is left to hang a bit outside the frame—the story told from the point of view of Matt, Al’s brother.

Bower begins the narrative with his birth, an outrageous situation that sets the tone of the rest of the flashes that follow; lays down, for the reader, the benchmark by which to judge the narrative. Some of the pieces are indeed tiny, mere paragraphs floating in an absence of words that manage to convey more. One gets the impression that Al is perhaps running down a lane, peeping into homes that house his memories, sometimes lingering sometimes as if he has snuck in through the basement window. Each home is in its own fenced in place, but all of them face the lane. There is a breathless quality, almost as if Al is impatient, even when he needs to remember his mother’s death, and will not wait to stop and see if his reader’s with him. Yet, when Matt takes over the telling, the very last piece, the pace is slower, more in control, as if he has thought it all out carefully, like he wants to make sure there is no mistake. Perhaps because he needs to share a vital piece of information about his brother Al, and the stories he needed to tell. And, like a good short story which keeps its punch line until the very end, a sentence that is not trying to create a clever ending, but is, in this case asking the reader to rethink, take his/her own personal narrative leap.

The book ends. But the stories are far from over.

Each writer in this collection has taken his/her individual idea and method of writing novella-in-flash and fleshed it out, while adhering to the theme of family and relationships. Not like the blind men who discovered the elephant, a specific part and never the whole. But as diamond cutters, each perfecting the chosen preference—round, baguette, marquis, radiant, princess, and so on—until it shines with a brilliance al its own.

I have deliberately refrained from getting into too many details about the five novellas in this collection, or at least tried to. And, instead have focused on leaving behind a scent for the reader to follow. I felt it would defeat the purpose of the review, because flash, as its name suggests is supposed to pulsate with light and not carry a long and steady beam. That is the whole charm and mystery of this form, taken to another level as novellas.

By bringing out this collection, what Rose Metal Press has, in reality, done is bring out a tome of a book for aficionados and practitioners of the form. For at more than 300 pages, the length of a good sized novel, My End of the Universe is indeed a tome as far as flash fiction goes, and will be treasured by serious as well as casual readers.


Rumjhum Biswas

RK Biswas’s novel Culling Mynahs and Crows was published by Lifi Publications, India in January 2014. A short story collection—Breasts and Other Afflictions of Women—is forthcoming in mid 2014 from Authorspress, India. Another story collection from Lifi Publications, New Delhi in mid 2015. Biswas’s short fiction and poetry have been published in journals and anthologies, both in print and online, all over the world. Her poem Cleavage was long listed in the Bridport Poetry Prize in 2006 and also was a finalist in the Aesthetica Contest in 2010. In 2007, her story Ahalya’s Valhalla was among Story South’s notable stories of the net. Her poem Bones was a Pushcart Nominee from Cha: An Asian Literary Journal in 2010. In 2012 she won first prize in the Anam Cara Writer’s Retreat Short Story Contest. She blogs at


by Mark Budman

Mark Budman

In a quote often misattributed to Mark Twain, the 17th-century French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal said, “I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had time to make it shorter.” As applied to flash fiction writers, the masters of compressed work, that probably means we have too much time on our hands. Our letters/stories are short (but not necessarily sweet) and to the point. We don’t mince words. We are looking for redundancies, imperfections and dead waste that get in the way, and cut them off like a surgeon or a sculptor.

I didn’t know that when I started to write flash. I foolishly thought that a shorter fiction requires less time. Don’t you need to hit fewer keys on the keyboard to write short? And most people are always short on time.

It was too late when I realized my mistake. I already fell in love with the genre. I loved it so much that I just had to start my own magazine of flash fiction, Vestal Review. We didn’t have an overabundance of magazines specializing in flash at the time. In fact, to my knowledge, we had none back in 2000.

It seems to me that a cliché is the number one enemy of a writer. We must say something that hasn’t been said before, and do it in a new way. While conventional writers can afford to go on and on, we, the flash fiction writers, have to know that we must stop before any of our colleagues do.

Dorothy Parker once said: “Katharine Hepburn delivered a striking performance that ran the gamut of emotions, from A to B.” While limited in the number of words, we still can’t be like Katharine Hepburn in Dorothy’s Parker interpretation. We still should strive for our gamut of emotions to run at least from A to Y. Let the writers of the longer works work on their Zees.

Actually, to me, limitations are enhancing creativity rather than constraining it. The mind finds ingenious solutions that the writers of longer fiction might overlook. Flash writers are the enemies of fat. While fat could taste delicious to some, lean muscles are more effective.

To me, flash fiction is both a stepping stone to great longer works and an exciting genre on its own.

Read this story for the example of consecutive halving of the number of words in each part. The plot stays the same, but the effect changes dramatically.

This is a great illustration of what flash fiction is about. Word and sentence compression is a lean, muscular and energetic writing device. That’s why I write this way.


Mark Budman was born in the former Soviet Union. His fiction and non-fiction have appeared in such magazines as Mississippi Review, Virginia Quarterly, The London Magazine (UK), McSweeney’s, Sonora Review, Another Chicago, Sou’wester, Turnrow, Southeast Review, Mid-American Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, the W.W. Norton anthology Flash Fiction Forward, Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure, Short Fiction(UK), and elsewhere. He is the publisher of a flash fiction magazine Vestal Review. His novel, My Life at First Try. was published by Counterpoint Press to wide critical acclaim. He co-edited flash fiction anthologies from Ooligan Press and Persea Books/Norton. He is at work on his novel about Lenin running for the president of the United States. Read more at his website

by Sarah Crysl Akhtar

 Sarah AkhtarThere’s a lot of disdain these days for traditional publishing. Unknown writers look at the odds, and then at the alternatives, and are increasingly tempted to self-publish.

There are plenty of springy-looking platforms to leap off of. Anyone willing to invest a little money and a lot of time can start marketing their own work.

Should you bite that apple?

What’s so great about brick and mortar publishers, anyway?

Web-based publishers have cut overhead to the bone and many of them are marvelous. They’ve created a reader’s paradise. Even the cheapest paperbacks are largely unaffordable to people on limited budgets. But an e-book can be less expensive than a cup of coffee from the corner deli.

And web-based writers’ groups help fledgling authors build supportive audiences and markets for their work. You can be in the midst of a thriving artistic community no matter where you live.

But one of the fruits of a healthy community is a sort of self-censorship. It’s not dishonesty, but rather the desire not to wound. If we all said everything we thought, with absolute truth, all the time, life would become unbearable.

And writers’ circles or critique groups tend to form around people of similar levels of achievement. Everyone’s growing together. And everyone hopes for success, for themselves and their colleagues. There’s a powerful fellowship of encouragement.

This Eden needs a serpent.

I have never joyfully welcomed the email saying “there’s a slight problem with your story.” Seriously. Would I have sent it in if I thought it wasn’t ready?

It took me well over a year to skip the mental hyper-ventilating and get straight to revising, whenever a rewrite request arrived. I can still feel my head lowering mutinously as I read any criticism of my work.

But most of the editors I’ve worked with have helped me strengthen my own voice. Sometimes I don’t accede to every single suggestion, but I have never declined to revise a story, when requested.

That was a mistake in only one instance, but I knew at the time I was going for publication rather than the purity of my artistic vision, so to speak. So I take full responsibility for that.

Your mastery of craft is constantly growing. I’m pretty confident in my own gifts, now, but even so, it startles me to see how a beginning story from a couple of months ago, say, will seem awfully lacking today. I’ll need to rework those first few paragraphs before I can go any further.

When you self-publish, you have few brakes on that giddy road towards becoming a fine author. There’s an enticing tidbit that people like to munch on—the lists of successful authors showing how many times clueless agents and publishers turned them down, before they signed their first book contract.

Yes, it is true that genius is not always recognized in a timely way by the minions born to serve it. It’s true that very fine writers are rejected every day, and that self-publishing can be a midwife to works that truly deserve to see the light of day.

It can also make a name for you that you might wish you could escape, later. Maybe you’ve got great potential now but you’re not quite there yet. Maybe in a year or two or five, undaunted by rejection, you’ll have found that remarkable voice you always knew was inside.

Or maybe you published before you should have, and you had a brief exciting moment of seeing your stuff offered on Amazon, with wonderful reviews by everyone you know, and you never got any better than you were at that moment.

Don’t just believe the people who like you, and care about you, and want you to succeed. Think about why some of those people who’d love to have discovered the next new great talent are saying you’re not ready yet.


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, 365tomorrows and Perihelion SF Magazine.

 by Cameron Filas


If you’re like many writers, revision can be an enjoyable yet tedious process. The worst part is that sometimes even after countless revisions, nail biting, and hair pulling, your finished product gets rejected.

This often isn’t something you can control. Maybe it wasn’t a good fit for that publication. Perhaps the editor was just in a bad mood after spilling their coffee in their lap. Or, maybe you overlooked some things in the revision process that cost you the acceptance.

Many editors are usually forgiving if your work has a few grammar or spelling mistakes. We’re human after all. There are more damning things however, which are in your control to correct before submitting your writing.

So what is the solution? It’s simple, and probably something you’ve got on your desk right now: sticky notes!

How can a thin, probably colorful piece of paper with some adhesive on one end help you? Use it to become your own critic and workshop buddy.

Here’s what you do: take a pad of sticky notes and grab a pen; then, taking care to write legibly, jot down some bullet point questions for yourself. These should be things that perhaps you’ve received feedback about in rejection letters, or know are vital to any good piece. Here are some examples:

  • All five senses?
  • Good dialogue?
  • Main character growth/development?
  • Clear beginning, middle, end?
  • Holes in story?
  • Is there a twist?
  • Does it flow?
  • Did I read it aloud?

These questions should be geared specifically towards you. Be honest about your weaknesses and flaws as a writer, we all have some. Some other great reminders include: “Wait a day!”—if you’re one of those people that doesn’t give yourself a breather before revising a new piece—and, of course, the pivotal “So what? Who cares?”—which most editors will ask themselves after having read your work.

Does your story matter? Is it a linear plot with cut-and-paste characters that don’t serve a purpose? By writing the tough questions down for yourself now, you have a much better chance at making sure your work is as complete and satisfactory for potential readers as possible.

Once you have made your personalized sticky note (or several if you have big handwriting or lots of questions), slap that sucker somewhere you will see it every time you write and revise. You can tape it flat against your desk, so you’re forced to look at it as you type, or you can stick it to your desk lamp and use it as needed.

You don’t even have to use sticky notes if you don’t want to! Feel free to type yourself a note on the computer, tattoo it onto your arm, or frame and hang it over your printer. The important thing here is that you are honest about which reminders you need to improve your writing. Revision isn’t always fun, but you can make the process much more rewarding by challenging yourself with the hard questions that editors will ask of your work.


Cameron Filas is an avid reader and novice author of short fiction and other various work. Though he has enjoyed writing from a very young age, he has only recently begun a serious pursuit of the craft. Cameron lives in Mesa, AZ, with his girlfriend, a dog, and a demon cat who he is pretty sure is plotting to kill him. You can visit his corner of the web at


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