Archive for April, 2011

A. S. Andrews won First Place in the String-of-10 THREE Flash Fiction Contest sponsored in February 2011 by Flash Fiction Chronicles. The contest challenge was to use four out of ten prompt words in a 250 or fewer word story.  Those words were: DUST-SUSPECT-VIRGIN-COOL THINGS-CRACKLING-UNWRITTEN-FEEDER-QUARREL-DOGGED-JAM.  An aphorism was provided for inspiration, but not necessarily to be used in the story.  Here is the one for this contest: A man is but the product of his thoughts what he thinks, he becomes.   –Mohandas Gandhi

To find out more about the contest, go to String-of-10 THREE Winners.

A. S. Andrews‘ winning story, “Pretending” will be published at Every Day Fiction on Friday, April 29.  Read her interview below by Michelle Reale; read “Pretending” tomorrow.


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Interview with First Place Winner A. S. Andrews

By Michelle Reale

Flash Fiction Chronicles: Tell us a bit about the evolution of this piece.

Anna S. Andrews: When I looked at the string of words, I made a list of the first things that came to mind.  One of them was the phrase “feeder fish.”  That got me thinking about all the goldfish I had as a kid, and how, at the time, I had

no idea they were sold to be eaten by bigger fish!   Then I thought what if a person ate one?  And the story took off from there.

FFC: How does writing to a prompt differ from generating a story from your own idea?

ASA:  I don’t know that it differs all that much.  A lot of my ideas are prompted by things I see in everyday life, often images that stick for some reason or other.  A prompt provides another source of images, and from the images come the ideas.

FFC: What challenges does the compression in these small pieces create for you, the writer?  For the reader?

ASA: As a writer, the challenge is to create movement and depth, to bring the story to life.  You want to give the characters life and history and texture, all in a tiny space.  As a reader, you have to have an open mind, and be willing to imagine the possibilities, because there is only so much a writer can give you in a small piece!

FFC: All of the winning stories left me wanting more, in part, because all of them had amped-up imagery which kept me engaged.  Take one of the images from your story and tell me how it came about

ASA: Let’s see, how about Darryl as a grizzly bear.  Once I’d decided to have Darryl eat the fish, I wanted to make it realistic. I’d just been to the zoo, and I have young children who love to pretend at snack time, so I thought, why not have them play zoo animals and Darryl takes it too far?  So I made Darryl a grizzly bear, since they’re big and fierce, and also eat fish.

FFC: Tell me about averages per story:

  • average time to write a story
  • average number of words
  • average number of re-writes
  • average number of people you share it with for feedback
  • average number of places you submit one piece at a time

ASA: My average time to write a story varies with the word count.  I write everything from twitter fiction to poetry to novels.  For flash fiction, I generally write the first draft in a day, and my average number of words is 600 – 700, unless I’m writing for something in particular with a shorter length (twitter, for example, or this contest!).

I do a lot of re-writes. 12 on average, but sometimes more.  Not all of these are full-blown re-writes.  Sometimes a sentence or a paragraph or two just doesn’t sound right, so I’ll play with it, set it aside, play with it some more, set it aside, read it again, over and over until I like it.

I don’t usually get feedback on my shorter fiction before I send it out, and so far, I’ve only submitted to one place at a time.

FFC: Which writers inspire you the most?

ASA: I read so many different things it’s hard to choose!  Writers I’ve been reading for years, like Stephen King, John Updike, and Douglas Coupland.  Success stories like J. K. Rowling, and, don’t hate me here, Stephenie Meyers.  But every day, I’m inspired by writers whose stories pull me in and make me feel or make me think.  Also, by writers who keep going.  All the people who sign up for challenges like NaNoWriMo, and keep writing!  The folks doing Write1Sub1 this year.  The folks I’ve met over the years that are slowly but surely getting their work out there and published.

FFC: Which book have you read that you wished you wrote?

ASA: Wrote word for word?  None.  I’ve never quite thought of it that way!  But one of the earliest books I remember reading that really made me stop and say, wow, I want to write a book like that, was “A Wrinkle in Time.”

FFC: Make a 30 word “story” with the following words:

  • cheese
  • match
  • rag
  • cough drop
  • hair band
  • Dalmatian

ASA: Daisy’s hair band hurts.  She yanks it out, sucks her cough drop, wipes her brow with a rag.  Notices her Dalmation eating cheese. Slams the ball.  “Match point, you bastard!”

FFC: Have the last word:  Give us your thoughts on being one of the winners—and again, congratulations!

ASA: Well, really, it feels great to have won!  Very exciting!  Thank you!  And a big congratulations to all the other winners!

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A. S. Andrews enjoys writing short fiction.  She lives in the Los Angeles foothills, but you can find her online at http://asandrews.com.

Romit Berger placed second in the String-of-10 THREE Flash Fiction Contest sponsored in February 2011 by Flash Fiction Chronicles. The contest challenge was to use four out of ten prompt words in a 250 or fewer word story.  Those words were: DUST-SUSPECT-VIRGIN-COOL THINGS-CRACKLING-UNWRITTEN-FEEDER-QUARREL-DOGGED-JAM.  An aphorism was provided for inspiration, but not necessarily to be used in the story.  Here is the one for this contest: A man is but the product of his thoughts what he thinks, he becomes.   –Mohandas Gandhi

To find out more about the contest, go to String-of-20 THREE Winners.

Now for:


TODAY SHE WILL WRITE COOL THINGS

Fiction by Romit Berger

T

angled orbs of dusty words roll in the desert of her thoughts – her inner Wild West ghost town. She chases elusive unwritten verse, fugitive story schemes. Riding high, her spinning cerebral lariat might ensnare exotic phrases, peacocky opening lines. Riding low, she tries to lure tiny gaunt creatures into her barren mind-cave. They eye her with suspicion and vanish into the dark.

Ghost town. No music. No saloon girls. No drunken laughter.

Most days, the bucket of virgin hope will emerge empty from the bottom of her inspiration well, its rusty chain crackling, its form echoing hollow against the cold stone.

But sometimes, her mind is a feeder – all life thrives on her ranch. Fertile bovines jam her shed’s door, bursting out to luscious meadows. Crops quarrel to ripen in her fields. She is dogged on reaping a bounteous harvest today.

__________________________________

Interview with Romit Berger

Interviewed by Michelle Reale

Flash Fiction Chronicles: Tell us a bit about the evolution of this piece.

RB: I am not a born writer. I always find it difficult to start writing and develop a story.

The morning I wrote my piece I was contemplating what to write for our next writing group session. I was frustrated with not being able to come up with anything and the phrase that formed itself in my mind was: The desert of her thoughts. Then I sat down to read emails and discovered that a friend from our writing group sent me a link for the String-of-10 Flash Fiction Contest.

That day the ten words you listed for the contest were like a gift sent ‘from above’ to enable me to describe precisely how I feel about the difficulty of writing. I could clearly see the images in my mind’s eye and put them down in words.
The piece actually wrote itself…

FFC: How does writing to a prompt differ from generating a story from your own idea?

RB: Most times I need a prompt in order to generate a story because my creativity has always been in visual arts and my writing began as an intellectual activity.

FFC: What challenges does the compression in these small pieces create for you, the writer?  For the reader?

RB: I find it much easier to write compressed writing pieces than writing long stories. Writing this piece and an enlightening comment received from my friend in the writing group made it ultimately clear to me that this should be my writing style – prose poem or flash fiction.  For me, as the writer of such pieces, it is a fascinating creative challenge to find the one exact word that would convey the idea and image I wish to portray, and a wonderful feeling when I do.

It may be more demanding for the reader because every word in the piece bears a heavier load of meaning and imagery.

FFC: All of the winning stories left me wanting more, in part, because all of them had amped-up imagery which kept me engaged. Take one of the images from your story and tell me how it came about.

RB:
“The desert of her thoughts” generated the whole piece – it resulted in the images of a “Wild West ghost town” and

the contrasting ”luscious meadows.”  And again, I must say that all other words and images just fell into their ‘inevitable’ places…

FFC: Tell me about averages per story.  What is the average amount of time to write a story?

RB: 3 hours.

FFC: Average number of words?

RB: 200

FFC: Average number of re-writes?

RB: 3

FFC: Average number of people you share it with for feedback?

RB: 4

FFC: Average number of places you submit one piece at a time?

RB: 1

FFC: Which writers inspire you the most?

RB: Ian McEwan, Jhumpa Lahiri, Jeffrey Eugenides, Kurt Vonnegut, Boris
Akunin

FFC: Which book have you read that you wished you wrote?

RB: Jhumpa Lahiri’s “The Namesake.”

FFC: Make a 30 word “story” with the following words:

·        cheese

·        match

·        rag

·        cough drop

·        hair band

·      Dalmation

RB: Say “May I?”

Ginger fireworks in a hair band, her bikini sprayed with cough-drop-size spots matching the Dalmatian’s coat.  Sun-struck waves caressing.

She stops.

“Say cheese,” he rags.

FFC: Have the last word:  Give us your thoughts on being one of the winners—and again, congratulations!

Delightful surprise, a sense of accomplishment, an immediate desire to write more—and thanks!

__________________________

Romit Berger is a graphic designer and artist, living in Prague for the past ten years. In 2008 she joined a writing group – “Morning” is the first piece she ever wrote. English is not her native language but she graduated from an international school, so it has been a part of her life ever since.


She  feels that the dual process of finding words to describe mind images and illustrating written words, opens a new exciting dimension of creativity for her.  Her work can be seen on www.romitcom.com

by Jim Harrington

Additions
Weave Magazine (1,500)
Feathertale
 (1,500)
Journal of Microliterature (1,000)
Shotgun Honey
 (700)
Thunderclapp Press
 (700)
The Short Humour Site
 (500)
Monkeybicycle
 (1,500, one sentence)
Short, Fast and Deadly (420 characters)

Deletions–ceased publication
Glossolalia
Every Day Weirdness

Editor interviews added
Weave Magazine

______________________

Jim Harrington discovered flash fiction in 2007, and he’s read, written, studied, and agonized over the form since. His Six Questions For. . . blog provides editors and publishers a place to “tell it like it is.” He’s also the Markets Editor for Flash Fiction Chronicles’ Flash Markets Page. He can be contacted at jpharrin [at] gmail [dot] com.

Karolyn J. Reddy placed third in the String-of-10 THREE Flash Fiction Contest sponsored in February 2011 by Flash Fiction Chronicles. The contest challenge was to use four out of ten prompt words in a 250 or fewer word story.  Those words were: DUST-SUSPECT-VIRGIN-COOL THINGS-CRACKLING-UNWRITTEN-FEEDER-QUARREL-DOGGED-JAM.  An aphorism was provided for inspiration, but not necessarily to be used in the story.  Here is the one for this contest: A man is but the product of his thoughts what he thinks, he becomes.   –Mohandas Gandhi

To find out more about the contest, go to String-of-20 THREE Winners.

Now for:


WINGLESS

Fiction by Karolyn J. Reddy

No matter how much dirty sex we have, I’ll always be virgin to your whore. In the unwritten history that crackles between our bodies I remain untouched, whole, waiting for someone whom you refuse to be. All of my delicious embarrassments – the reality of fluid and sweat and bruises and bite-marks–don’t exist in your vision of me, where I am only a pale set of wings lifting me above our bed, the car, the couch, my office, the tent, the earth. I doggedly contort my limbs into the shapes I think you want, but those shapes are out of reach, impossible for a terrestrial being let alone for me, the resistant angel. My muscles won’t conform, my joints fail me. Even my tongue won’t cooperate. My mind can’t think its way out of a celestial box that doesn’t belong to me, and so I become what you think I am. Virgin to your whore.

Not until years later will I understand that you are the one waiting, waiting for a return to a self you gave up on long ago, a self who believes as much in dirty sex as she believes in the raw purity of love. Then you will finally become an earthly being, equal parts virgin and whore, whole and broken, wingless and winged.

#####

Interview with Karolyn J. Reddy

Interviewed by Michelle Reale

Flash Fiction Chronicles: Tell us a bit about the evolution of this piece.

Karolyn J. Reddy: “Wingless” evolved quickly. I hadn’t done any non-academic writing in a long while, so when a friend posted about the contest I decided to use it as a motivator. Perhaps it worked out that I’d written nothing by the deadline because I had no time for the usual self-doubt or internal criticism; I simply had to write in the moment. Since I’d recently argued about the speciousness of the virgin/whore binary I took virgin from the list of words and ran with it. The basic elements of the story emerged in a flurry and I uploaded it after a few hours of fine-tuning. Of course I later did more tuning so it’ll be strange to see the original again!

FFC: How does writing to a prompt differ from generating a story from your own idea?

KJR: I find prompts liberating, in part because I see them as inroads into my own ideas rather than as something separate. They help me open up to the stories I want to tell by redirecting some of the pressure – instead of feeling lost in the immensity of my desires and dreams as a writer, I can work within the boundedness of specific guidelines. Plus if what I write to a prompt doesn’t turn out well, I can move on from it more easily because I have less invested in the source than when I start with my ideas alone.

FFC:  What challenges does the compression in these small pieces create for you, the writer?  For the reader?

KJR: I always struggle with perfectionism, but especially when working on short pieces. Physically seeing the whole story on one page challenges my capacity to let go and to remember that I’ll always have more and better things to say, whether in two hundred words or in two hundred pages. In terms of reading, I think small pieces challenge us to slow down and spend time with nuance. Flash fiction works superficially well with a rush-rush-rush pace, but (as with many things that move fast) we miss so much if we fail to pause and take in all that the work offers. And for both writers and readers, I love that small pieces encourage us to experience the richness of the miniscule.

FFC: All of the winning stories left me wanting more, in part, because all of them had amped-up imagery which kept me engaged.  Take one of the images from your story and tell me how it came about

KJR: Hmm. Well, one of the first images in the story came directly from the prompt, with unwritten and crackling – “the unwritten history that crackles between our bodies.” I wrote the piece soon after enduring an unexpected and painful change, a change that underscored for me how the histories and identities we imagine for ourselves exert as much power as do our lived realities. If that particular image succeeds in leaving readers wanting more I’ll be thrilled because it honestly bears with it multiple unwritten histories.

FFC:  Tell me about averages per story:

·      average time to write a story

KJR: Anywhere from a few hours to a few years. Depends on the story, I guess!

·      average number of words

KJR: Around five or six thousand for stories, but usually no more than a few hundred for poems.

·      average number of re-writes

KJR: Innumerable tiny revisions – obssessions over this word or that word – but probably three or four larger re-writes.

·      average number of people you share it with for feedback

KJR : My three sisters are my first readers, so at least that many. Ideally, I like to workshop pieces with a handful of writers.

·      average number of places you submit one piece at a time – Ask me in a year – “Wingless” was my first submission to anything beyond my college literary magazine, and I graduated more than a decade ago.

FFC: Which writers inspire you the most?

KJR
: Wow – such an impossible question to answer! Today, the first who comes to mind is Gloria Anzaldúa. I’m teaching her in my class this week and I never cease to learn something new from her work. The same goes for bell hooks, Toni Morrison, Eduardo Galeano, Meena Alexander, and Mary Oliver. I return most often to Rilke and Austen, and Rachel Guido deVries was one of my first mentors and she inspires me to this day. Really, the world surrounds me with beautiful writers and beautiful writing of every sort.

FFC
:  Which book have you read that you wished you wrote?

KJR
: Ruth Ozeki’s My Year of Meats. It weaves together so many of the things I care about in writing and in life, and even though I haven’t read it in a few years it stays with me in the best way.

FFC
: Make a 30 word “story” with the following words:

·      cheese

·      match

·      rag

·      cough drop

·      hair band

·      Dalmation

No match for my nerves nor never-to-come government cheese, I wrap a Dalmation-dyed rag of a hair band round my wrist, bite into my cough drop, keep waiting.

Keep waiting.

FFC
:  Have the last word:  Give us your thoughts on being one of the winners—and again, congratulations!

KJR: Thanks for the congratulations and for your work on the contest! The unanticipated delight of placing third couldn’t have come at a better time – just the experience of sending something out into the world meant so much, let alone sending it out into a world of generous readers. And it’s kept me connected with FFC, a reward in and of itself.

____________________________

Karolyn Reddy has a day job involving writing of a different sort: she teaches introduction to composition and studies literature, critical theory, rhetoric and composition at the University of California, Davis. Before entering graduate school she worked in social justice and community organizing, and she sees her recent return to writing fiction and poetry as a way of uniting all of these interests.

Look for the String-of-10 Three 2nd place winner this coming Monday.

by A. T. Greenblatt

The beauty of flash fiction stories is that you can read one from beginning to end in the time it takes to eat your breakfast. And though they only take one sitting to get through, they can still deliver all the emotional impact and satisfaction of a novel.  Which is what makes flash fiction so addictive.

But even though these stories are only 1000 words, flash fiction is not easy to write.

In the last six months of slush reading for Every Day Fiction, I’ve noticed several traits that make some flash pieces more effective than others.  Being the compulsive writer I am, I started experimenting with this story type; trying to apply what I learned and testing my theories.  This is an ongoing study, but according to my results so far, here are a few reliable rules to follow:

  1. Make it simple enough to do the story justice.  First, consider what 1,000 words are: Four pages double spaced.  Next, imagine a bleary eyed reader who has either just battled the morning commute or will shortly.  Now, consider your story.  How involved is your plot?  How much time do you devote to descriptions?  How wordy are your words?  Flash fiction is not the form for complicated story arcs, long scene set ups, or endless run-on sentences.  Make it bite-size and digestible, with a strong beginning, middle, and end.
  2. Make it complex enough so that the story stays with the reader for the rest of day.  To do this, it’s good to apply the same philosophy that’s used for micro-fiction, which is to hint at the larger story which the piece is a part of before and after the writing begins and ends.  This is difficult, at best, and hair ripping, curse hurling, painfully frustrating at worst.  But it’s important.  For me, it’s what makes flash fiction such an effective art form.
  3. Make the opening grab the reader by the collars of their ironed shirts.  With flash fiction writing, you don’t have time to ease your reader into the story.  The opening sentence should bring the reader in right away.  This doesn’t mean you need to have a train wreck or a gunfight to kick off your story with a bang.  All you need is one good sentence to get the reader curious enough to fall haplessly into your story.
  4. Make the writing seamless, so that the reader forgets that they are, in fact, reading.  It helps to read your piece out loud to yourself so that you can catch all those hidden word snags.  If you do this step right, your readers’ first reactions should be “Damn, the story’s finished.” and then “Damn, my coffee’s finished.”  If you can craft a story that so smooth and compelling it makes breakfast secondary, you have succeeded as a storyteller.
  5. Make your characters living, breathing people, to snare the reader’s empathy.  Skimp with the butter on your toast, but not on your character development.  It doesn’t matter that you only have 1000 words to tell your story.  That’s no excuse.  Your characters need to have feelings, regrets, personalities, and flaws.  And a good way to connect to the reader quickly is to make your characters relatable or sympathetic.  For example, most people have had to deal with an annoying sibling or friend at some point in their lives.  So they’ll understand when your main character evens the score by pulling a sly but humorous prank on that irritating brother or best friend.
  6. Don’t overcrowd your story. Just like it’s not good to have too much buttered toast in one sitting, it’s not beneficial to have too many characters in a single flash piece.  This makes the story too crowded and confusing.  I would recommend four characters maximum in a flash piece.

The thing is, most of my favorite flash fictions conform to the characteristics above and I’ve had great success when I’ve applied them to my own stories.  Are there exceptions?  Certainly.  But as a general rules, they seem to work well.

When it comes down to it though, the only way to write a story worthy enough to have a place next to your coffee and scones is to experiment.  Then get some honest feedback it.  I’ve found the best way to get feedback is to email your story to your test subjects first thing in the morning and promise them a cup of coffee for their efforts.

Works every time.

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A. 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.  Her work has been featured in flashquake (scroll to page 57), The Absent Willow Review, Thrillers Killers n’ Chillers, Girls With Insurance, as well as a variety of micro-fiction and twitter fiction magazines.  She writes, raves, and blogs at http://atgreenblatt.com.