by Aliza Greenblatt

Jessi Cole Jackson

Jessi Cole Jackson lives and works in the prettiest part of New Jersey, though she’s not from there. By day she builds costumes for a Tony Award-winning theatre. By night she writes stories, questionable poetry and lots of abandoned outlines. She’s currently up to her elbows designing costumes for a children’s theatre camp and writing an MG novel. When she’s not working she enjoys cooking, reading, and exploring local farms. You can read more about her sometimes exciting (but mostly just normal) life at Her story, Remnants of a Quilter’s Memory, was EDF’s highest-rated story for June.

Aliza Greenblatt: According to your blog, you are mostly a science fiction/fantasy writer for middle grade readers. What draws you to speculative fiction? When did you first decide to write stories? For you, what is the appeal of flash fiction?

Jessi Cole Jackson: I love the juxtaposition of “other” and “same” in speculative fiction. As a reader, I can experience whole worlds outside of who or where I am (or could ever be). As a writer, I can explore class, religion, nationality, gender, race, illness without getting tied up in contemporary politics. And I can make the exploration fun.

I first started writing in school, but gave it up in college, because I didn’t think it was practical…instead I went into professional theatre—ha! I started writing stories again seriously in the winter of 2013.

Flash fiction gives me a chance to explore. I can try new styles, new techniques, non-traditional narratives without worrying that I’ll “waste” too much time on a draft. And it gives me a chance to practice my craft in small bursts.

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

JCJ: Usually stories come to me as ideas or situations, so the first thing I struggle with is plot—what’s the beginning? What’s the end? What happens in between that isn’t too expected, but still fits the characters and their lives? I outline it all in the broadest of strokes.

Then I often start writing longhand—pen to paper. I like how visceral and visual it is. Plus, it gives me time to think. Writing everything out takes time. Sometimes, I’ll finish the story in my notebook and then edit it while transferring it to Word or Google Drive or Scrivener. Other times, I’ll get frustrated with the slow going of writing, and I’ll switch to the computer to finish the initial draft.

I’m not disciplined about when I write, though thoughts flow easier for me in the early mornings when the world is still not quite awake.

AG: When I first read this, I was smiling because I know in your day job you are a costumer and spend a lot of time working with different fabrics. And I couldn’t help wondering—do you have bits of cloth from costumes lying around? Do you ever re-purpose them?

JCJ: During a show at work there are often bits of costumes everywhere! But those don’t ever come home with me—they get bundled up with the show in case there is a tear or hole that needs repaired.

But I do have lots of fabrics from personal projects through the years. So far, I’ve only slipped them into a few baby quilts for friends—a bit from an old apron, a strip from a favorite shirt. Quilts are the best places for those well-loved fabrics to land. If only they weren’t so time-consuming!

AG: Using remnants from her own life not only helped Louise remember but made sure the people she loved didn’t forget. But as I read, I wondered, did Louise know that her memory was failing her? Did she sew as much for herself as for others, to hold onto those old threads and memories for just a little longer?

JCJ: I think Louise knew something was wrong, but wasn’t entirely sure what it was. I think she was angry. More than that though, I think she was frightened. Especially as she got older and lost both the ability to create and the enjoyment in her art.

As with all artists, I think Louise quilted as much for herself as for her “audience.” Fabric was her medium. The quilts were a tangible way to pass on what was most meaningful to her, since she couldn’t hang onto them herself.

AG: I liked the use of repetition in this story. It emphasized not only what Louise recalled, but what she needed to remember. But the tragedy of the story was she remembered the repetition, but not its meaning. Was it tricky balancing the repetition and suspense in the piece? What were some of the challenges in writing such a short story?

JCJ: Thank you! I think Remnants’ super-short length is necessary for both the suspense and the repetition to work. If it were much longer, the poetry of it would quickly become a formula and it would start to grate on the reader…or at least on me!

When I originally submitted this to EDF it was only 300 words. It didn’t quite work at that length—it was more of a vignette than an actual story, which is a common problem for me. But the editors must’ve seen something in it, because they asked for a rewrite. Taking into account their feedback, I added the scenes where Louise, Margreet and Ruthie interact. These gave the quilting sections more of a framework and doubled the length. It’s still not the most traditional narrative, but I think it’s a more cohesive story.

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?

JCJ: I’m currently working on expanding a few flash stories that don’t quite work (that whole plot thing!). I’m also (very patiently) waiting for feedback from beta readers on a draft of a middle grade novel based on my first ever published story, The Rum Cake Runner, available over at Crossed Genres Magazine.

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

JCJ: Thank you.


Aliza Greenblatt

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.




I recently sat down with Michael Fitzgerald of Submittable to talk about the service and business, alongside his personal writing. While it’s been a long path for the company, I believe there are key insights in the interview and Michael’s path to help entrepreneurs and artists alike.


Christopher Bowen: Thanks for giving me some of your time, Michael.  For those not aware of it, could you give a brief history of Submittable over the last five or so years?

Michael Fitzgerald: Thanks, Chris. I appreciate your interest.

History: My partners, Bruce and John, and I were friends through our day jobs as software developers. In 2008, Bruce and I were bored and thought starting a company together would help. (We had previously worked on a film together about people who climb mountains with letters on them.) So we went out to lunch one day and made a list of things that we thought sucked. One of them was the various ways you send out work. We didn’t know exactly how to fix it, but we came up with the name “Submishmash” because we thought it described the crappiness of the existing process, and we started writing code that afternoon.

We went in the wrong direction for about a year.

During this time, our friend John joined us. He’s a musician and an incredible developer. By early 2010, we had the first version of Submittable (then still  Submishmash). It started to get some traction with literary and academic publishers. Then we just kept working and working (we didn’t really pay ourselves until 2012) and added video and audio transcoding, worked to make the UI better and better. We added the ability to share among multiple people and multi-file usage which is great for poetry. We basically just asked the people using it how to make it better and did whatever they told us.

Also, in 2012,  we applied and were accepted into arguably the most elite start-up accelerator, YCombinator. It was an amazing experience. YCombinator helped launch Dropbox, Airbnb, and a few other billion-dollar companies. They really got us to focus and grow up a little as a company. Before that it was all pretty much by the seat of our pants. No one was being paid and the company was always inches away from combustion. We’re on a much more solid foundation now. We have an office and 10 employees.

CB: You’re a writer yourself. How did this concept develop for you and how do you handle or separate your life as an author from that as a ‘techie’ or business owner?

MF: I don’t really separate my life as an author or developer or business owner. In the beginning, I used to try to turn things on and off, but slowly it became apparent all these things are more or less the same process. You’re making things that didn’t exist. You’re trying to get strangers to spend time with your thing and hopefully pay you so you can keep the thing going. You’re living without any kind of safety net. It’s all the same process.

 I remember when I finished my first novel, Radiant Days, I was completely exhilarated for the first few days, but then it began to dawn on me that no one actually asked me to write it. This was a sort of blunt and obvious thing that just wasn’t crystal clear until I had the 400 or so pages in my hand and the words “The End” typed on the last page.

I’ve also since realized that the best business minds are similar to artists. Most truly successful business people are total freaks. Before starting Submittable, I assumed “business” meant playing around in Excel sheets and honing insincere marketing slogans. I assumed I needed an MBA to start a company, but it’s a little known secret in Silicon Valley that MBAs actually suck at starting companies. They’re good at working within large companies, they’re good with asking bullshit questions that make you feel like they know something you don’t, but ultimately they are horrible at making something out of nothing. Starting a company is a weird, personal, and organic process. You’re doing it with no money, no support, no marketing budget. It’s just you and your friends in your basement desperately trying to get a stranger to give you a dollar for this weird thing you may have spent years working on. You have to be constantly resourceful. You have to thrive on rejection. You have to be, not just comfortable, but enthusiastically working in the face of almost certain failure.

Incidentally, the most successful artists generally have a bit of business savvy.

Also, after trying both, I’m finding both art and start-ups are horrible ways to make money.

Regarding the “idea”: I knew as a writer (and previously an editor at Cutbank and having started a magazine in college) that the existing process sucked a little and that as electronic communication became ubiquitous, the problem was going to get bigger and bigger. Also, any developer understood that cloud computing was going to make processes like this less and less expensive.

CB: Where do you see Submittable headed to in the future?

MF: With Submittable, we’re going to keep adding new features while desperately trying to keep the UI simple and hopefully beautiful.

But the biggest thing on the horizon is Submishmash… an intergalactic creative content marketplace that will allow creators to sell anything they make.

CB: Where do you see your writing headed?

MF: I’ve continued to publish fiction and non-fiction here and there, but my big project is a non-fiction book called Startdown. It’s mostly about the process of starting a company in the middle of nowhere. (We live in Montana.) The nuts and bolts: how to create a life that lets you work on something for 2-3 years without going bankrupt, how and when to raise capital, how to hire (and fire) people in a small town where everyone knows each other. How and when to get an office. The aim of the book is to show people how to do it outside existing tech and financial hubs like Silicon Valley or New York.

Also, I’ve found a new appreciation for “writing” in the process of building Submittable. Writing well is so undervalued in our world, oddly enough, especially by writers. I think there’s a huge opportunity to infuse art into what we traditionally call the “business world.” “Content marketing” has become kind of a bullshitty buzzword. The vision isn’t to have poets doing marketing as much as to make businesses understand that eclectic and interesting writing has a huge value to them. Businesses can gain so much from demonstrating personality. An example would be to have a poet or novelist on staff at a shoe company, but not to write a blog post about the company’s innovative new lacing system, but about some general and interesting story like the history of the high heel.



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

by Susan Tepper


Pat Pujolas is the author of jimmy lagowski saves the world (Independent Talent Group, 2012). Nominated for a XXXVI Pushcart Prize, Pujolas has also been published in Outsider Writers, Connotation Press, Jumping Blue Gods, and ManArchy magazine. He’s credited with two episodes of MTV’s animated series “3-South.” (from Goodreads)

Susan Tepper: Your book cover immediately captivated me. I thought of those ‘protests’ outside the NY Public Library on Fifth Avenue, years ago, where a dummy with a similar head piece was displayed to bring public attention to human rights issues in third world countries. What is the metaphorical significance of this ‘covered head’ for your book?

Pat Pujolas: The cover of jimmy lagowski saves the world (Goodreads, Amazon) was designed by Steve McKeown, who insisted on reading the entire manuscript before he began creating the art. In his words, “The image of the inhaler represents all of Jimmy’s insecurities/awkwardness/life barriers. It replaces his head because that’s either how Jimmy sees himself or how he feels the world sees him.”

Pukolas_coverAs the author, I chose that particular design (and image) for similar reasons: as you mentioned above, the replacement of the human face and/or head is a powerful metaphor for dehumanization. In this case, Jimmy imagines himself as a monster or an alien who must hide behind a mask. Note too, the placement of Jimmy on the cover; he is quite literally being marginalized (or oppressed) while the book’s title represents “the weight of the world” pressing down on him. I love it.



Two days before he was scheduled for jury duty and/or to commit suicide, Jimmy Lagowski received a postcard in the mail; the handwriting was feminine, in red looping ink, with no return address. All it said was, “Jimmy Lagowski, have you saved the world yet?”

ST: This novel startled and amazed me. It’s quirky-quirky. Characters appear in early chapters, do their thing, disappear, only to reappear as an important part of previous character’s life but at a much later date. It’s most definitely what Malcolm Gladwell has termed “The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” meaning (I think) that if you get enough people-connections, the variables can become practically infinite in terms of who has intersected with who’s life. You pulled it off flawlessly in this book.

PP: Thank you. That’s definitely a theme here. And unfortunately, those intersections can result in positive or negative outcomes. The tragedy at the center of this novel is an accident, the result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And so I wanted to create a scenario equally “accidental” where the result is positive, and deeply rooted in what makes us human beings. With 7 billion people in the world, it’s easy to feel insignificant at times. But as Gladwell theorizes, with all those people interacting with one another, paths begin to overlap, and stories begin to emerge. Sometimes, those stories give us that wonderful human invention we call hope.

ST: So would you say that Jimmy Lagowski (or jimmy lagowski as in lower case for your book’s title)— would you say he is the Kevin Bacon of this book? Overall, what makes Jimmy tick?

PP: Jimmy is definitely the Bacon, but so much more! He’s a lightning rod, a catalyst, and he might just be our next prophet. After all, he does speak to the sky (and in Chapter Four, “the sky” speaks to him).

What makes Jimmy tick is a tougher question. He is an anti-hero, and as such, is motivated toward inaction rather than action. I believe his greatest desire is to escape: from his appearance and from reality. If you asked Jimmy though, he would probably tell you that his greatest desire is to find Dagmar again. She represents his life before the accident, before our collective innocence was lost, and therefore she embodies that same escape.

ST: Did you story-board this novel in order to keep the characters in a type of ‘return/comeback’ placement, or did you keep it all in your mind and just let it spill out?   Your characters drift in and out so effortlessly, as if you know them and their situations personally.  It’s impressive.

PP: For longer works I like to create the outline and structure first; this novel was a challenging and complex idea to execute. From the beginning I envisioned the plot structure as a rope with frayed ends and a knot in the middle. The frayed ends represent the different voices/people coming together for the trial (the knot), then going their separate ways— for better or worse. Over the previous few years, I also had amassed a collection of voices in my head; when I looked around that fictional jury box, I imagined a face for each voice, then a character, then a history. The hardest part was deciding which parts NOT to tell.

ST: Which character (s) did you miss most of all when the writing was completed? And why? Because I could see you have so much empathy for all of them, despite their human flaws.

PP: Of course it would be Jimmy Lagowski. For 18 months I had the amazing opportunity to live through him, think his thoughts, feel his pain. I would like to be there to see the look on Jimmy’s face when we tell him that we found Dagmar. That chapter is still un-written; the message here is one of imperfect or fractured hope. And, besides, as Jimmy would tell you, “The best stories are those left unfinished.”



Susan Tepper has authored 5 published books. The latest is a novel in stories called The Merrill Diaries, from Pure Slush Books. She is a named finalist in storySouth Million Writers Award for 2013, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in fiction (2010), and nine times for the Pushcart Prize. Tepper is a staff editor at Flash Fiction Chronicles where she conducts the interview series UNCOV/rd.

by Aliza Greenblatt


A Technical Writer by day and a novelist by night, Mark Noce also finds time to write flash fiction. While his short pieces tend to be contemporary fiction, his novels consist of historical thrillers set in eras ranging from Medieval Wales to Caribbean piracy to the American Civil War, just to name a few. He loves reading, writing, traveling, gardening, sailing, and spending time with his family at home in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Aliza Greenblatt: According to your blog, you write historical novels and contemporary short stories. How do you pick which time period to base your novels in? When you first started writing, did you begin with novels or short stories? What drew you to flash fiction?

Mark Noce: I love writing novels! Needless to say, I have so many ideas for books that I really wonder whether I can get them all written in one lifetime. When it comes to picking a time period or setting for a book, I actually prefer to try and write a single opening line first, and then let that tell me what kind of story I should write. It’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg conundrum, but it works for me. However, novels take a long time to write. In contrast, flash fiction gives me a wonderful release, because I can complete a single story within a day or two. It’s really satisfying to see a 1,000-word piece of fiction come to fruition while the inspiration is still fresh in my mind.

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

MN: It’s funny. There’s what I want to write, and what I actually write. I often think I’ll write a story about a subject I just read in a book or in a movie I saw, and then all of the sudden I’ll come up with an opening line for an entirely different story. I’ve learned not to fight it, and simply go with the flow. The story that comes out effortlessly in that first draft is the one I stick with to the end.

AG: This piece, to me, was a retelling of the Sir Gawain and the Green Knight legend. It was also a lot more interesting because instead of being themed around chivalry, it was about facing your fears. Was that your intention? Why did you decide to make the two main protagonists kids?

MN: Meet Me at the Waterfront is definitely inspired by Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which in turn is inspired by the Celtic Irish legends of Cu Chulainn (which predate it by at least a thousand years). So when approaching such an old and revered tale, I had to put my own modern twist on it. I’m fascinated by myth, and I think childhood stories show myth in a revealing way. As children, our schoolyard encounters seem like epic events that we often forget or dismiss as we get older, but I believe such moments in our lives hold a power and a wisdom about who we really are underneath. The protagonists in this story needed to be children, because as kids we’re much more willing to accept the inexplicable elements of life that we often try to rationalize or ignore as we turn into adults.

AG: The main conflict of the story was about the appearance of bravery versus being afraid, but accepting the consequences anyway. Why did the narrator decide to stand his ground even though he was certain he was going to die?

MN: That’s hard to answer in a few words. I could write an entire essay on the hero’s motivations, but that’s why I like stories. In fewer words, I can give you the whole gist even though it may not be as direct as a series of longwinded statements. Why do we do anything? It’s simply in our natures, it’s who we are, and what we want. I don’t think the protagonist himself knew he would stand his ground until he actually did it. As the saying goes, it’s in the abyss that we find ourselves.

AG: What were some of the challenges of writing this story? What, if anything, did the flash format simplify? Do you have any favorite parts?

MN: Writing flash fiction has definitely sharpened all of my writing in general. In order to get under the 1,000-word limit, I have to slash anything unnecessary and still maintain the core of the story. As a novelist, it’s a truly invigorating experience, testing my abilities and helping me to get to the heart of the story with an immediacy that all good stories should have.

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?

MN: Oh, yes! My next flash fiction piece, Chronicles of the SFPD, comes out on June 21st at Every Day Fiction. In addition, I’m revising my next historical thriller entitled Between Two Fires, which you can learn more about here. If you like what you’ve seen of my work so far, please check them out. Thanks!

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


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 Susan Tepper


Doug Holder is the founder of the Ibbetson Street Press of Somerville, Mass. . He teaches writing at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston and Endicott College in Beverly, Mass. Click here to learn more about Doug.

Susan Tepper: If I were to choose a painter analogous to your poetry, and your writing sensibilities, it would be Edward Hopper.

Doug Holder: Hopper would be a good choice. It seems a lot of his characters are “Eating Grief” and often experience that sweaty dark night of the soul.  I have also admired the work of Lucien Freud and his unsettling nudes. Many of my poems deal with a sense of alienation, and my characters aren’t ones that wrestle with suburban angst—or whether they will able to convert that farmhouse in Connecticut into their dream home. They ain’t pretty, they ain’t in vogue, they ain’t hip, they usually are not young… The poet Philip Larkin is another hero of mine—as I feel I bring the same down-at-the-heels sensibility to my work.  I loved his poem (“They fuck you up, your mum and dad”) and so many others.

 product_thumbnail.phpST: Cutting right to the chase—”Eating Grief at Bickford’s” (which you aptly dedicate to Allen Ginsberg) is a place I recognize, too, like the old Horn and Hardart eateries that populated NYC, back in the days. This poem is all part of a lost dream, isn’t it?

 “There are no places anymore / Where I can sit at a threadbare table / Pick at the crumbs on my plate / And wipe / The white dust / From my pitch / Black shirt. /… “

DH: Yes the Automat—I used to go there with my grandmother as a little boy—loved the little windows that you opened for your pot of baked beans or chicken pot pie. Places like these were also havens for down at the heels poets and writers—Both H and H and Bickford’s were mentioned often in Beat Poetry circles because you could nurse a cup of coffee, write, talk or kibitz for hours on end and oh of course it was cheap. I used to see many characters in places like these that I was fascinated by… The muttering, pea-soup stained, ketchup sandwich denizens who lived on the fringes.  This was all grist for my mill. And the dream to a great deal is lost. I have been interviewing folks from the Chelsea Hotel in NYC, and this famed bohemian flophouse—that housed such folks as Patti Smith, Gregory Corso, Thomas Wolfe, to name a few—has been gutted of its artwork and the remaining tenants are being slowly weeded out. So the old Bohemian NYC seems to be a vanishing distant dream.

ST: I’ve known you for nearly a decade and I know some things about your life, your cat, have met some of your family, etc.  So when I read your funny and satirical poem titled “You know it is tough being a writer”, well, all about you kind of got summed up.  The poem begins:

“Even when I was born / My father called / Me a treasure / And tried to / Bury me. /…”

DH: Well you know life can be nasty, brutish and short. And this is very much so for the writer. Most of us don’t make a living at it, reviews are hard to come by and when we do get them at best there is faint praise—we do it because we love it. So the poem, with a Henny Youngman flourish of corny jokes maps out the life of a struggling writer. The cheap flats, the rejection of the mandarins (oranges), and so on and so on. Because life is tragic and comic…and yes wonderful too!

ST: Agreed. Tragic and comic and wonderful. I love how you find the humor in the pit, it’s the only way to get through. You happen to have a great sense of humor. On average, do you think poets tend to wallow in the muck more than, say, fiction writers?

DH: I read somewhere that of all writers poets have the shortest lifespan. I mean look at Plath and Sexton—they used to discuss who would commit suicide first. And when Plath beat Sexton to the punch—Sexton wrote a poem about being pissed off at this and how she was jealous of Plath. The old joke is: a man meets a poet at a cocktail party. The man asks the poet what he does for a living. ” I am a poet and I am going to commit suicide.”

Hell I don’t know if we are more morose—I mean there is no shortage of fiction writers who wallow in the muck. As a whole I think we think a lot—ruminate—look at our navels.. and stare into the abyss—this can make you morose.

ST: I write fiction and poetry, about 50/50. I find that I have to be in a certain emotional mindset for the poems to come out. Poet Simon Perchik always says to me: writers are working things out. By that he means personal things, troubling things. Yet he has a great sense of humor, as do you, Doug. Here is a poem of yours that exemplifies your way of looking at life through a glass not-so-darkly. You titled it “Father Knows Best–Mother Does The Rest (from the TV show)”. And it begins:

The bland tyranny / of the cardigan sweater. / His smile / creased in brutal condescension. / Mother corseted in apron strings. / …”

It’s droll, it mirrors that TV mode of the fifties time period, and it’s funny. Personally, I have never been a fan of men’s cardigan sweaters. Kind of creepy.

DH: Yes… there was something mesmerizing about the show. Robert Young’s tight-smiled patriarch—the doting mother—the dancing dog—Bud’s greaser’s look—the only totem of rebellion around. But you could feel the tension just below the broad lawns and narrow minds of the suburbs. I grew up in the suburbs of Long Island, NY, and I found it stifling. It was a very materialistic culture, competitive and conformist. I was a fish out of water there. I was like a Collyer Brothers hermit—reading the stacks of newspapers in my bedroom—like some old man. I was drawn to the city, it’s variety and its anonymity.

ST: Well I’m glad you didn’t stack to the ceiling zillions of newspapers and periodicals like the Collyer brothers. Or, did you?

Also check out:

Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene
Ibbetson Street Press
Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer 
Ibbetson Street Online Bookstore


 Susan-Tepper200wSusan Tepper has authored 5 published books. The latest is a novel in stories called The Merrill Diaries, from Pure Slush Books. She is a named finalist in storySouth Million Writers Award for 2013, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in fiction (2010), and nine times for the Pushcart Prize. Tepper is a staff editor at Flash Fiction Chronicles where she conducts the interview series UNCOV/rd.


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