Archive for February, 2013

Matthew Salessesby Josh Denslow

Matthew Salesses is a staff/faculty assistant at Harvard Kennedy School of Government working for the Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality & Social Policy and a widely published young author. He also writes a column for the new online magazine The Good Men Project about being a new father. His novel, I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying is divided into small, easily digestible bits of flash fiction. Josh Denslow, staff editor at SmokeLong Quarterly asks him a few questions.

Josh Denslow: This might sound unbelievable (what with me being a writer and all), but after I read through your book a second time, I took an afternoon nap and had a dream that you and I were half-brothers. In the dream, it was very important that I track you down, but instead, I found your roommate who I knew to be having an affair with your other roommate’s father. None of this is even close to your real life, of course. I know you’re married and write a wonderful blog for The Good Men Project about being a new father. But the dream underscores the sneaky way your book burrowed under my skin. Why do you suppose that tension-filled familial relationships can be scarier than the most terrifying horror story?

Matthew Salesses: I’m most scared by the sudden appearances in scary movies—the cheap scare. So I couldn’t say. I’m most scared by dolls and skin disfigurement. I’m most scared by my own personal hang-ups—these things are probably far less frightening to other people than they are to me. Maybe that’s exactly what you’re saying, though, that the terror of the personal is the most lasting terror.

JD: I have a theory that readers will only like unlikable characters if that character dislikes himself. Were you ever worried about having a main character that some readers might find deplorable?

MS: I was just discussing this with a class I teach. Self-awareness seems key for the reader to be able to sympathize with an “unlikable” character. It helps if the character knows he’s imperfect. It’s like the way we want to be in on the joke, not the butt of it. I feel like a reader can feel assaulted by an unlikable character, if there’s no room for us between the character’s actions and his thoughts.

I was worried about having an unlikable narrator. I hope he’s dislikable, but not unlikable, if that makes sense.

I'm Not Saying, I'm Just SayingJD: I love that all of the main characters are labels: The Wifely Woman, The White Girl, The Asian Girl, and most importantly, The Boy. Why did you decide not to give any of these characters names?

MS: The book is so voice-driven, so ego-driven. It’s very much through the eyes of the narrator, and this is the way the narrator sees the other characters. When the relations are given in place of names, those labels are always in the forefront of the reader’s minds, and the relation between the characters is key to understanding the conflicts at play here, wifely instead of wife or girlfriend, or boy instead of son, or racial definition.

JD: Race and perception play a huge role in your book. The Boy is half white. The Asian Girl is the type of Asian that only white guys like. The White Woman is a borderline stalker. The Wifely Woman is the wrong kind of Asian for the main character’s parents to approve. Do you think these kinds of generalizations in our culture make people act in a way that is expected of them?

MS: Sure. Culture is a powerful force. And it’s hard to separate out the effect of culture from the effect of parents, peers, etc., since culture also affects your parents, peers, other people.

It’s probably obvious through a simple Google search that race and perception have had a huge influence on me. And inherent in that is expectations of culture and other outside forces. Those expectations get under your skin. It’s a very long and difficult and painful process to dig those things out of you and acknowledge that they are internalized, not internal.

JD: The novel is divided into small, easily digestible bits of flash fiction. Many of them can stand alone, but they achieve a kind of power when read together. Were these written in chronological order?

MS: They were written in three or four batches, except for the first story. I wrote about twenty in chronological order (to the end of a year). Then I wrote about 20 more, not continuing on from the end of that year, but selectively (and chronologically) filling in gaps. Then I wrote the rest in the same way, in a couple of gos. It’s still the story of that same one year that I started out writing. In revision, I reordered the chapters several times, so the chronology was changed then.

JD:  After reading a few of these pieces on the internet, I wrote you and said: “Each one is like a fleck of skin from a living, breathing animal that never once stops moving as it plows through walls and dining room tables stacked with food and two lovers embracing. Or something like that.” That statement still makes very little sense, even to me, but there is a visceral quality to these stories that make me think things like that. And I stand by it! By focusing on these tiny moments, your book can pack punch after punch after punch. Do you think you could have told this story any other way?

MS: The way the story is told is part of the story, here a huge part. So I guess I would say: hopefully not.

JD:  I’m obviously a huge fan and supporter.  If I had a superpower, it would be to make a copy of your book magically appear in the hands of everyone.  Until I can figure that out, Sundog Lit has a blog of writing inspired by your book. How’s that going?

MS: It’s amazing! I was lucky enough to recruit a great group of writers, and their interpretations of the cover or stories/essays/poems about best or worst pick-up lines is worth an entire other book. And it will be another book! We’re going to give it away to people who buy I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying. Hold onto your receipts.

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Josh Denslow

Josh Denslow’s stories have appeared in Third Coast, Black Clock, Cutbank, Pear Noir!, and Wigleaf among others. He is a staff editor at SmokeLong Quarterly and an Associate Editor editor at Unstuck.  He has written and directed five short films, and he plays the drums in the band Borrisokane. 

 

by Rumjhum Biswas

Randall Brown teaches at Rosemont College’s MFA in Creative Writing Program, where he also directs the course. He is the author of the award-winning collection Mad to Live (now available as a reprinted deluxe edition from PS Books), his essay on (very) short fiction appears in The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction: Tips from Editors, Teachers, and Writers in the Field, and he appears in The Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction. He has been published widely, both online and in print, and blogs regularly at FlashFiction.Net. He is also the founder and managing editor of Matter Press and its Journal of Compressed Creative Arts. In July 2011 Randall’s story Shades was the most read story in Everyday Fiction, and you can read the interview here . If you want to enjoy some of Randall Brown’s favorite compressed works, and catch up on more up to date news about him, go to his website.

Rumjhum K Biswas: Why are you such a tireless advocate of flash fiction? What is it about flash that got you, hook line and sinker?

Randall BrownRandall Brown: I like that flash appears to each flash writer as something different; we all hear a different “siren” in its call. I hear, in flash’s call, a demand for precision, that search for the “one”—the one word for each slot, slot after slot, word after word. For me, it’s about surprising readers with the unfamiliar setting story, modifiers, endings, titles. Like me, my writing can keep people’s attention for only a tiny bit of time. Like me, flash wants things to end as soon as they start. Like me, flash can only tolerate a tiny bit of uncertainty. Like me, flash burns to matter.

RKB: Can I call it an obsession? When did it all start?

RB: It started with taking a writing class with the amazing, terrific Terri Brown-Davidson, who each week gave us 500-word writing exercises to help us with our in-process short stories. I chose to make them standalone pieces, and so I began to write flash before I knew it existed.

RKB: In a day in Randall Brown’s life, when and where does flash fiction wake up and go to sleep?

RB: When I go to sleep, after a night of f**king flash, flash sleeps next to me, and when I wake up, it’s gone, replaced by nothing, not even a note.

RKB: How do Randall the writer and Randall the editor interact?

RB: The writer loves the process, loves the attempt after failed attempt to get it right before turning to something else and turning the story over to the editor, who hates everything.

RKB:  Any memories, special incidents or anecdotes that you’d like to share from your editing days at Smokelong Quarterly?

 RB: Just reading flash after flash after flash and learning from each flash writer’s attempt to burn across the page, and those many moments of “Awww!”

RKB: Which (flash) writers do you particularly enjoy reading?

RB: Oh, I hate naming names. So many.

RKB: What are the worst things a flash writer could do to his /her flash piece in progress?

RB: Send it out.

RKB: From your own repertoire, is there any story that you especially liked? Can you tell us about it? And why you like it?

 RB: I like the very next one I’m going to write. That’s going to be the one.

 RKB: Today flash is almost like a movement, but this was not always so. When did flash fiction become so popular, in your opinion? Where can it go?

 RB: It’s quick to write, quick to read, gives you the chance actually to finish something. I think it became popular because its brevity has a populist, inviting feel to it: anyone can write it. And that’s true. As long as writers challenge themselves to go beyond the goal of just “writing it” to the goal of making it shine with brilliance, I think flash might be here to stay.

RKB:  Which is your favourite compression statement? Or would you like to give us one of your own?

 RB: Again, I’m not a fan of favorites. I just like the idea of thinking of flash as something compressed, all that it might mean to write “compressed fiction.” That it means so many things to so many different writers is the cool thing to me.

RKB: How did Matter Press happen. Can you take us through its early days?

 RB: When I was hired to direct an MFA program near my house, I wanted to have a literary press for the students to work with. Out of that desire came Matter Press. It’s actually quite easy to start one on-line, especially when you have the resources to hire web designers. It’s like flash itself—from the desire to exist to existence in moments.

RKB:  Do the words that make up the tiny patchwork bits of Matter Press’s welcome mat have any special significance? Do you plan to change them sometime in the future? Since mats do get worn out…

RB: What are you implying? Maybe instead of compression statements, we’ll begin to ask writers to replace a word on the mat.

RKB: What does the future hold for Matter Press?

RB: All literary presses have a fragile future. It’s about going for it in this moment, as if it might be the last one.

RKB: Would you like to tell us about your current project? What are you writing now?

RB: I’m writing as much flash as I can. It takes maybe ten flashes to get one that works, so the more flash I write, the better my chances get that I’ll get a half-way decent one. And I’m working on a novel that isn’t a novel-in-flashes or anything flash-like. By the way, novels are very hard to write.

________________________________________Rumjhum Biswas

Rumjhum K Biswas has been published all over the world and has won prizes for her poery and fiction, including first prize in the 2012 Anam Cara Short Story Contest. Lifi Publications India is publishing her novel Culling Mynahs and Crows and also her book of short fiction The Vanishing Man and Other Imperfect Men this year.

Gay DeganiSee call for applicants to join the FFC staff below*

by Gay Degani

Retiring

On Saturday, I clicked on the very first article we posted at Flash Fiction Chronicles.  It was by beloved Every Day Fiction writer, Sarah Hilary, entitled : “Historical Flash – (Re)Living the Moment” on Sunday, March 22, 2009.  Since then we have published 663 posts including this one almost four years later.

It has been a wonderful adventure for me as founder and editor of this off-shoot from Every Day Publishing.  However, the time has come for me to retire from FFC.  With my husband retired and our children on their own, we are busier than ever and the day-to-day duties of keeping up a blogzine moving along have begun to erode my precious time to write.  I know you writers out there get this.

I’m sticking around for March and April to follow through on all the articles we have in our queue including the results of the String-of 10 5 Flash Fiction Contest in mid-March and for the interviews of the winners in April. I will continue indefinitely the FFC ‘s”Daily Prompts” at Facebook and to contribute the occasional article or interview.  I can’t give this up completely.

You can keep up with me and my writing at Words in Place or Facebook or FB Gay Degani-Author.

 

 Interim Managing Editor

jimharrington2FFC’s “Interim” Managing Editor is Jim Harrington. Jim has worked at FFC as Markets editor since April 2011. His first FCC post, “Finding Story Ideas,”  appeared in 2010. He’s taught a Flash Fiction course for Muse Online Writers Conference and Savvy Authors.  He published his first flash story in 2007. His stories have appeared in Liquid Imagination, Ink Sweat and Tears,  Near to the Knuckle, Flashes in the Dark, and others. “Redlining” was chosen for inclusion in Pulp Ink, a collection of crime stories. “Ralph’s Ruse” appeared in the Valentine collection, Love Hurts, published by Eric’s Hysterics editor, Eric M. Bosarge. 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 Jim’s Fiction.

 

Permanent Staff

Aliza Greenblatt will also be taking on more editorial responsibilities.  She is currently a “roving” reporter responsible for EDF’s Top Story Author interview.  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 The Domain of A. T. Greenblatt and on Twitter @AtGreenblatt.aliza smallest

 

*Call for Applicants:

FFC would like to add two more editors to the regular staff.  If you are interested in becoming a part of this successful enterprise, or have questions about these positions, please email Jim Harrington at jpharrin@gmail.com. Include FFC in the subject line.

Specifically, Jim is looking for a technical editor to maintain the editorial calendar and to perform the final editing and formatting of posts. The fourth editor, title to be determined, will be responsible for taking ideas we’d like to see addressed and researching them further.

Bonnie ZoBellPart 8 of Flash Fiction Chronicles’ ongoing series, “Creating and Publishing a Flash Chapbook” by Bonnie ZoBell.”  Click HERE to find links to the entire series which includes articles and interviews by Bonnie ZoBell and Marko Fong.

by Bonnie ZoBell 

The following is an interview of Tammy Lynne Stoner, Fiction Editor and Vice President of the Board of Directors for Gertrude Press, who tells us about the fiction chapbooks they have available and what might increase your chances for interesting her in your own. Tammy comes from a background in publishing at the Advocate and OUT magazines and Alyson Books, where she was the Book Production Manager and an editor. Currently, she teaches college and as the Fiction Editor for Gertrude Press, looks for unusual writing with a strong voice. As a writer and artist, her work has appeared on bathroom walls, as tattoos, and in print. In 2012, she was nominated for a Million Writers Award for her story “Because There Is a Story to Tell” in Unshod Quills. In addition, she was offered a Summer Literary Seminar Fellowship to Kenya, and created the cover art for an issue of the New England Review.

Bonnie ZoBell:  Hi, Tammy. Thanks so much for helping us to find out more about your press.

Tammy Lynne StonerTammy Lynne Stoner:  Thanks for the interest!

BZ:  Does Gertrude Press have a philosophy?

TLS: Our philosophy is to continue to be a place where the queer voices of new and established writers and artists can be heard and supported.

 BZ:  What would you say the press is looking for in the way of fiction chapbook submissions?

TLS: The writers don’t have to be queer, but the aesthetic does – bent and from the undercurrents. I look for unique, strong voices that show me a new world or a new way to look at this one.

 BZ:  What mistakes do you see writers making who submit to Gertrude Press?

 TLS:  Oftentimes you can read when someone is writing for ego (fame, attention, to be fancy!) or writing for art – at Gertrude, we’re looking for art.

BZ:  What’s your idea of a perfect submission?

TLS:  Rule-abiding – double-spaced, no name on the content pages, etc. – with those lovely “holy shit!” moments. The perfect submission is one that has probably been workshopped or edited at least five times before being submitted – but it reads and feels easy.

 BZ:  Name a few fiction writers Gertrude Press has published and tell us a few words about their chapbooks.

TLS:  Last year we published Schlomo Steel’s fiction collection If I Go Now, which is a trippy, lyrical, street-wise, daring collection about people in motion and people unable to move. This was our first chapbook to have a four-color cover – and it couldn’t have happened for a more vibrant collection!

This year’s winner is Loren Arthur Moreno, who has a fascinating connection to Gertrude. He was chosen as a runner up in last year’s chapbook contest and was also published by the editor before me for inclusion in our journal. Then this year, in our blind contest, he was chosen by both me and our chapbook slush reader. Unlike Steel, who writes short, manic, cerebral tales, Moreno’s work is subtle and emotional. His chapbook, Aaron & Keoni, has this controlled, understated beauty to it that I love! It will be out in the next few months.

BZ:  If you could put a fold-out in one of your chapbooks, who or what would it be of?

TLS: Hmmm… maybe patches with quotes from the work in Gertrude stitched on them? Or iron-ons that could be ironed to clothing.

BZ: Talk a little about the production of Gertrude Press fiction chapbooks. What size are they? How are they made? Perfect bound, stapled, or? How much color do you use? What is the page range of most of them?

TLS:  Our chapbooks typically range from 22-32 pages with 4-color covers, stapled.

 BZ:  Do you accept manuscripts all year round, or only during certain times of the year?

 TLS:  The chapbook contest is open between September 15 and May 15.

 BZ: Is Gertrude Press interested in fiction chapbooks from new writers who haven’t had books or chapbooks published before?

 TLS:  We are interested in compelling, solid writing – whether the writer is new or has a laundry list of publications.

 BZ:  How many stories in the chapbooks submitted to you do you like to see already published?

TLS:  For us, it’s about the quality. It doesn’t matter whether the pieces have been published before although sometimes, honestly, it does make them carry a bit more weight.

 BZ:  Would you like to add any other advice or tips to writers trying to get their fiction chapbooks published?

TLS:  Make sure your collection has a cohesive component to it – we’ve gotten in some stellar submissions that don’t work as a UNIT. And for the love of all that is holy, check for typos.

 BZ:  We really appreciate all this information on flash chapbooks, Tammy. Thanks for your time.

 TLS: Thanks – and have a lovely day!

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 Bonnie ZoBell’s fiction chapbook THE WHACK-JOB GIRLS is forthcoming with Monkey Puzzle Press in March 2013 and her short story collection WHAT HAPPENED HERE is forthcoming with Press 53 in spring 2014. She’s received an NEA, the Capricorn Novel Award, a PEN Syndicated Fiction Award, and a spot on Wigleaf’s Top 50. Her work has appeared in Night Train, The Greensboro Review, New Plains Review, PANK, Connotation Press, and elsewhereShe received an MFA from Columbia, currently teaches at San Diego Mesa College, and is Associate Editor of The Northville Review. More of her work can be found at www.bonniezobell.com.

 

by Aliza T. Greenblatt

Flash Fiction Chronicles interviewed Kevin McNeil about Every Day Fiction’s Top Story for January, “The Merry Jester”  a story about a family heirloom and the power of faith.

Aliza T. GreenblattFrom your short bio it seems like you have been active in the writing community; attending two intense workshops, reading for Lightspeed and Nightmare, as well as conducting a few author interviews yourself.  From doing a quick search (and correct me if I’m wrong), “The Merry Jester” appears to be your first published story.  Congratulations!  How does it feel to be a published writer?

Kevin McNeil

Kevin McNeilThank you!  And you’re right. “The Merry Jester” is my first published story.  I began writing fiction in 2010, and attended Kij Johnson’s novel writing workshop in 2011, which was my first chance to learn some of the fundamentals.  So I’m still pretty new to all of this, and up until now, I’d pretty much kept everything I’d written to myself.  Putting things out there is scary, but it feels great to see it on-line at Every Day Fiction.

ATGCan you tell me a little about your writing process for this story?

KM:  My approach to this story was very different from how I normally work.  I blame Jeanne Cavelos, who is the director of the Odyssey Writing Workshop, which I attended in 2012.  One of the requirements of the workshop is the Odyssey Slam, where everyone in the class reads a flash story at a Barnes and Nobles.  I hadn’t written any flash stories, so I worked this up in order to have something to read

I’ll be honest — my only goal was to write something I could read without embarrassing myself.  I deliberately excluded dialogue in order to make the reading easier.  I’m still at a stage where most of what I write is an experiment to improve some aspect of my writing.  In this case, I wanted to write something very focused, with a consistent tone, that would get me back into my seat before anyone realized I didn’t know what I was doing.  And in the end, the Odyssey Slam turned out to be a great time.

ATG: Your bio says you work as a physical therapist and that you are a coach for the Special Olympics.  Has working with people who are combating personal challenges influenced this piece at all?  Or was it inspired by something else altogether?

KM:  I’m sure the work I do with people overcoming injuries and dealing with personal challenges influences most things in my life.  I love getting people back on their feet, and coaching kids I consider to be the greatest athletes in the world is incredibly rewarding.  In the case of this story, if my background was an influence at all, it was unconscious.

The inspiration for this story was a wooden marionette (like the one I described) my wife and I purchased while we were traveling in Prague a few years ago.  I usually like to take my time and plot out my story ideas, but with this one I just thought about the marionette and wrote to see what I’d come up with.  At first, it seemed to be straight horror, where the jester wasn’t such a good thing to have around your house.  Eventually, the story ended up in another direction, exploring the idea of faith, which is why there are some hints to religion in the word choices.

ATG:Part of what I found so interesting about this story is the idea of value and how it changes as a person changes, though the object remains the same.  The jester becomes more valuable when Matthew has more in life to lose.  Do you think the jester is created to protect its family or is it Matthew’s belief in it that gives it power?

KM:  I suppose this could be interpreted however the reader wants, but for me it’s Matthew’s belief that gives the jester power.  Belief is powerful.  There’s a Henry Ford quote I like: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”  In my experience, what you focus on, what you believe, is what you get.  We’re able to give a lot of things power in this way.  And if we believe we’re right (politics, religion, whatever), it’s difficult to convince us we might be wrong.

ATG: By the end of the story, Matthew suffers from a form of survivor’s guilt.  He comes to both love and fear the jester and will never let any harm come to it.  But it makes me wonder, what sort of stories will Matthew tell his daughter about the puppet, knowing that she will one day have to face its painted smile?  How will he handle his own guilt?

KM:  This is a tough question.  I left Matthew in a confused place where he needs the jester, but is also beginning to question it in some ways.  But I think Matthew is committed.  He’ll deal with his guilt, thinking it’s what he has to do to protect his family.  He believes what he’s been told about the jester, and he’s seen enough to confirm these things for himself.  I think Matthew will pass the information on to his daughter as it was told to him, so that she and her future family will also be able to live a healthy life.  But I don’t know if the faith of the next generation is ever as strong as the previous one.  What I wonder is whether the daughter will truly value the jester, or if she’ll end up putting it in a box in a closet.

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

KM:  Right now I’m completely focused on short stories – working on my own ideas, and also reading stories for Lightspeed and Nightmare.  I have a sports mentality, and a lot to learn, so I feel like I’m still in training, putting in my practice time, trying new techniques, and challenging myself.  I’m just beginning to submit stories to magazines.  Even “The Merry Jester” took some arm-twisting from a friend to finally submit to Every Day Fiction.  I’m enjoying the work right now, and hopefully I’ll have some more out there for people to read soon – as much as that scares me.

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

KM:  Thanks for the great questions, Aliza.  Every Day Fiction had some really great stories in January.  So thanks to everyone who enjoyed “The Merry Jester.”

 

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Kevin McNeil reads slush at Lightspeed Magazine and is an editorial assistant at Nightmare Magazine. He is a physical therapist, sports fanatic, and volunteer coach for the Special Olympics. He graduated from the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2012 and The Center for the Study of Science Fiction’s Intensive Novel Workshop, led by Kij Johnson, in 2011. Kevin is a New Englander currently living in California. Find him on Twitter @kevinmcneil.

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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 http://atgreenblatt.com. and on Twitter @AtGreenblatt