STAFF


by Aliza Greenblatt

Joanna Bressler

Joanna Bressler was a dancer, therapist, researcher and professor. She has graduate degrees in psychology and epidemiology. Now she writes, edits and babysits her grandkids. Her short fiction and memoir pieces have been published in EDF, Trapeze, Flash Fiction Magazine, Persimmon Tree, AARP Bulletin, New Age Journal. As far as writing goes, she revises too much. She’s insanely grateful to EDF and its readers for giving her work such a boost.

Aliza Greenblatt: From your bio it seems you’ve worn many different types of hats. Do your professional interests often find their way into your fiction? Did your background in psychology influence The Throwback Girl?

Joanna Bressler: Everything finds its way into my fiction. Try as hard as I do to keep certain things out, in they come, often carrying a shotgun.

Epidemiology is a sure fire influence on my writing.

Diseases fascinated me way back in childhood. I had measles the winter I was ten and read Microbe Hunters (diphtheria, ticks, tsetse flies, malaria, rabies, yellow fever, syphilis) by flashlight under the covers while still miserably sick. My parents discovered me at about 3 a.m. After a whole lot of incredulous eye-rolling and head-shaking, they confiscated the flashlight.

In my epidemiology M.P.H. program, which I allowed myself as a reward for the struggle I went through twenty years earlier getting my Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, I learned gorgeous disease words like infectivity, pathogenicity, virulence, sputum cytology, herd immunity, case fatality rate.

Later on these words entered my fiction.

For example, I was having trouble with the male hero of a long story. He was too passive, too awkward, too distant, too defensive. A real wimp. I was at the point of hitting the delete button when I thought to give him a pronounced limp from childhood polio. Two pages on childhood polio flew into the story and in the process my hero became downright lovable. And not just to me, to the heroine of the story as well.

Characters do come alive in my stories when I make them sick.

Psychology, my day job forever and then some, is a big influence too. I try to blame it and not me for everything interminably boring in what I write.

The major influences on my writing, however, are the writing classes, workshops and critique groups I’ve attended during the past two decades. As with all influences, these include the good, the bad, and the ugly. But mainly I’ve been very lucky. Many terrific teachers and generous fellow writers have helped me learn to write.

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

JB: O.K. Here goes.

I came home late one night and my door key got stuck in the lock. Neither I nor a night-owl neighbor could budge it. I had to go sleep over at my daughter and son-in-law’s apartment and be very quiet about it because they had a new baby upstairs.

I was almost asleep on the couch downstairs when, not the new baby but this girl in my brain, woke me with a barrage of complaints about her mother, her father, her sister, her doctors, and how she herself was being forced to climb a horrible trail to some stupid place her mother liked.

She talked on and on and I didn’t know her from Adam but finally I felt honor bound to pry my eyes open, rummage around for paper and pencil, and write down what she was saying. It took everything I had but I got most of it and then about two hours of sleep.

In the morning, once the new baby woke everybody up, I found under the couch seven moderately legible pages in which a story was hiding. The new baby, my younger grandchild, had his 8th birthday the month and year (September, 2014) that EDF in its infinite kindness accepted a much more coherent version of those seven pages.

I really, really, really wish that this was my typical writing process. It is not.

Typically I believe that each new idea will be my last and is not very good anyway. Typically I have to search desperately for viable characters, plots and settings. Typically, to paraphrase Paul Simon, I know fifty ways to leave a laptop.

Often I consult the Rune stones from Scandinavia as part of my creative process. Earlier today, for example, I drew a rune stone from my little blue velvet bag to help me figure out what exactly to say about my writing process other than it being a complete shambles.

The pattern on the stone I drew was a lopsided cross. It stood for, get this, “Constraint,
Necessity, Pain.” I thought, “Uh-oh, this can’t be good. What does it even mean? How could the rune stones do this to me?” Only then did I realize that these three words pretty much nail my typical creative process to the wall.

AG: One of the things I enjoyed most about this story is the slow reveal of the narrator’s character – which is not an easy thing to accomplish in flash fiction. Was the pacing something you struggled with in the story? What were some of your favorite parts of the story? What were some of the most challenging?

JB: I’ve never heard that phrase “the slow reveal of the narrator’s character.” Thank you, Aliza, for introducing it to me.

O.K. When I brought the first draft of this story to a critique group, people thought Alicia was not a human being. Well, I did think she was a human being.

Getting her to that place where most readers could agree with me took so many revisions that it’s still embarrassing. Through them, however, I managed to soften Alicia without losing her true voice. The softening appears in the late middle and at the end of the story. I’m thinking perhaps that’s what you mean by “the slow reveal.”

One of my favorite parts was the Wizard of Oz metaphor. I’ve had to watch that movie maybe ten, fifteen, times with this little girl I know, my older grandchild. I felt pure glee when it fit so easily into the story.

The most challenging part was every word after Alicia pushes Mindy into the stream.

AG: The tension between Alicia and her mother is quickly established in the story. She’s constantly giving examples of her mother’s inability to see and accept Alicia for who she is. But by the same metric, do you think Alicia was perhaps also misjudging her own family in the same way?

JB: Mainly I see Alicia as an adolescent. In my opinion, it’s an adolescent’s job to misjudge their family, probably so that they can separate from it without feeling a terrible loss.

AG: Aside from unfinished novels, what else do you like to write? Do you write many flash fiction stories or is this new territory for you?

JB: I’m not a real fan of writing unfinished novels.

And I feel compelled to add that I do have one still in the works. I just can’t seem to advance the plot. I can’t even find the plot. Perhaps I’ll get back to this novel on my death bed. Rear up, wave my arms wildly, scream out, “Aha! ‘Sister Clare leaves the convent and marries the Chief of Homicide.’ Please, somebody, write that down this instant.”

For now, I’ve switched over to fine-tuning several of my short stories (ranging from 100 to 8000 words) for submission. I don’t submit very often so this is proving to be a challenge.

On the subject of flash fiction, a beloved aunt of mine who was an artist once made me two elegant little paintings with her own maxims embedded in them. “Lose Not Thy Marbles” is one; “Hasten Thy Story” is the other. They hang above my desk. Writing flash fiction keeps me true in the moment to both maxims. My aunt would approve.

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?

JB: Post-Mortem Exam was posted in Flash Fiction Magazine on June 26th. Two other stories are in EDF. Some funny tweets are up on Trapeze Magazine. And, as I just hinted, a veritable meteor shower of stories is on its way running.

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

JB: Thank you, Aliza, this was exciting for me. I love your work. It’s wonderful having you give such thoughtful attention to mine.

__________________

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

by Jim Harrington

jimharrington2

Markets Added

Resources Added

ONLINE CLASSES

Thanks to Angela Rydell for providing the initial courses on this list.

Contests

Tethered by Letters’ Fall Literary Contests

We are currently accepting submissions for our short story contest (1,000 to 7,500 words, open genre), flash fiction contest (55, 250, or 500 words), and poetry contest (max of three pages per poem). TBL strives to publish writers with engaging stories, vivid characters, and fresh writing styles. All winners will be published in Tethered by Letters’ Summer 2015 Quarterly Journal. All finalists will receive free professional edits on their submission and be considered for later publication. The prizes are $250 (USDA) for the short story winner, $50 (USDA) for the flash fiction winner, and $100 (USDA) for the poetry winner. Winners will be announced publicly in November. Multiple entries accepted. International submissions welcome. Good luck to all our authors!
Deadline: December 15, 2014
Prize: $250 for Short Story, $50 for Flash Fiction, $100 for Poetry
Entry Fee: $10 per Short Story; $4 per Flash Fiction OR $10 for three Flash Fictions; $5 per poem OR $12 for three poems
URL: http://tetheredbyletters.com/submissions/contest-submission
Contact Info: Joe Reinis, jreinis@tetheredbyletters.com

View the complete markets list here.
View the complete resources page here.

______________________

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

 

by Sarah Crysl Akhtar

Sarah AkhtarI’ve nothing against the gangrenous undead or a serious bloodsucker (as opposed to those vampires who appear to have gotten lost on their way to a Calvin Klein photo shoot). But when I want something to really scare me off to dreamland–the kind of story that’ll force me out of my warm cozy bed to check the doors and windows one more time–I’ll take the shredded wallpaper and that nice etching. Or a sandbar on the Danube.

The really terrifying stuff is what you don’t see. The greatest horror writers don’t hit you over the head with a bloody bucket of chum. They unlock doors to primal human emotions and let you have the fun of trying to wrestle them shut again.

Stories I think essential to every horror lover’s collection include Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, M. R. James’s The Mezzotint and Casting the Runes, and Algernon Blackwood’s The Willows. They’re oldies, all right–but they haven’t lost any of their vigor.

All four tales are masterworks of psychological terror; only in  Casting the Runes is actual blood spilled. But not in front of us.

Over the years, The Yellow Wallpaper has been a darling of feminist scholars. Gilman, who had her own unpleasant run-ins with analytical types, doesn’t require interpretation and is best enjoyed straight-up. Her heroine speaks for herself just fine.

Too much contemporary horror writing seems like sadistic versions of the shaggy dog story. A little mayhem is fine. But when authors keeps tossing bodies in various stages of dismemberment at me, my blood stops curdling.

One of my favorite stories on Every Day Fiction does involve a horde of the undead closing in on two hapless victims. Check out Willow Road by Lindsey R. Loucks. You’ll see why I couldn’t get it out of my head.

____________

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 FictionFlash Fiction Online, 365tomorrows and Perihelion SF Magazine.

 

by Andreé Robinson-Neal

Andree-New

It’s time to dust off your holiday hats, scary masks, leaf project centerpieces, turkey decorations, and sleigh bells as Flash Fiction Chronicles moves into the last quarter of 2014! And what better way to start off our September in Review than with a holiday. Gay Degani began the month by sharing Kiwi Flash Fiction Day and an interview with its founder, Michelle Elvy. Michelle offers a poignant reminder for all of us: “Because life is short. And so is some of the best fiction.” What a great sentiment!

And in case you needed another reason to celebrate, Susan Tepper brought our own Gay Degani right back for UNCOV/rd. Be sure to read the interview, which will encourage you at those times when your story isn’t going according to plan. Gay also reminds us of the possibilities in our writing; one way to reflect on the possibilities is to “remember what came before” and we do that well here at FFC. Sarah Crysl Akhtar takes us back to check out some dazzling pieces from the EDF Archives. This month’s find was The Non-Opening Window by Simon Barker. The story was a tasty treat and a perfect comedic appetizer for the rest of the month.

September is not often identified as a month of holidays but before we had reached the midway point, we found ourselves knee-deep with a second: New Zealand National Flash Fiction Day Contest and its winners, Sarah Dunn, Tricia Hanifin, and Sue Kingham. They offer invaluable tips for those who plan to submit to writing contests and gave us a peek into their process for crafting a submission.

Speaking of submissions, Julie Duffy continued her exploration of genre and reminded us that romance matters (and sells, to the tune of $1bn!). For those who may try their hand at crafting a romantic tale, Julie offers tips from the Romance Writers of America, including a detailed description on sub-genres and audience.

If you don’t have time to write the next million-word prize-winning passion play, Christopher Allen shared why flash fiction writing is a perfect solution for time-strapped scribes. However, if you are time-strapped because of distraction, take a hint from Rohini Gupta, who reminded us of the things that can take our focus off the goal and what we can do to get back to work.

We rounded the corner into the last part of the month with RK Biswas, who took us on an imaginative tour of William Todd Seabrook’s The Imagination of Lewis Carroll. Like falling through the rabbit hole, this review will capture your imagination just as the chapbook captured the reviewer’s.

Sarah Crysl Akhtar provided a talisman that we each should tuck away when the dark clouds of doubt rear their ominous heads. In her discussion about believing in our own gifts, she reminds us to surprise ourselves, trust our instincts, and not be afraid of the eraser or backspace button. And when our instincts do not lead us to publication success, Jim Harrington gave us reasons to appreciate and learn from those rejection blues.

In case you have been held back by the rejection blues, or distraction, or doubt, there were some great flash fiction markets and resources to help you get back to the hard work and joy of writing. Aliza Greenblatt closed out the month with August’s EDF Top Author, Marisa Mangione, who reminded us to look for the golden egg, even in the mundane.

October is off to a great rustling start, so be sure to visit FFC for the latest interviews, markets, and tips.

 ____________

Andreé Robinson-Neal got bit by the writing bug back in the late 1970s while watching Rod Serling and reading Ray Bradbury—both of whom are everyday inspirations; although she has worked in education for more than a quarter-century, she has never been cured of her penchant for speculative fiction. Find some of her flash fiction at starvingartist.com. She writes under the name AR Neal, who will hopefully one day be identified as a famous NaNoWriMo participant.

 

by Susan Tepper

Bonnie ZoBell

Bonnie ZoBell’s new linked collection from Press 53, What Happened Here: a novella and stories, was released on May 3, 2014. Her fiction chapbook The Whack-Job Girls was published in March 2013. She has received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in fiction, the Capricorn Novel Award, and a PEN Syndicated Fiction Award. She has held resident fellowships at MacDowell, Yaddo, VCCA, and Dorland, received an MFA from Columbia University on fellowship, and currently teaches at San Diego Mesa College. Visit her at www.bonniezobell.com.

Susan Tepper: What Happened Here is a captivating book title because it’s so beckoning. It is also the title of your first piece (a novella) in this collection, which encompasses so much life and death simultaneously.

What-happened-HereBonnie ZoBell: Lord knows I appreciate that, Susan. I went through so many titles over the years before arriving at this one. Briefly I liked Block Party, but then it seemed too ghoulish since the party in the book is commemorating a real-life plane crash in which 144 people died. Vessels was a little too. . .literary? Trying too hard? Before that it was This Time of Night, after one of the stories, and then Why Are You Here.

Finally, Steve Almond, who was a wonderful mentor and reader for me for this book, pointed out that often when I talked to him about the novella, I started sentences with, “What happened here was . . . ” Finally I had a title.

ST: I’ve had some personal experience with a plane crash, but nothing near what goes on in this novella you wrote, Bonnie. What makes your novella so masterful is the way you interweave past and present, allowing the current inhabitants of the neighborhood to lean into the ghosts of those who fell from the sky. At the same time respecting them, while trying to exorcise them. It’s tricky business.

BZ: Part of the reason I wrote about this crash is because I live only feet away from where it occurred thirty-five years ago.

ST: I had no idea!

BZ: Debris fell on my cottage, though it didn’t get demolished like twenty-two nearby houses did. Next door a body fell through the roof and landed on the then-owner’s home. Refrigerated trucks were a regular feature on our streets for some weeks because of the number of body parts found and the need to identify who they belonged to. I lived in this neighborhood, but on the other side of it—some miles away. I remember that morning distinctly.

ST: It isn’t the sort of thing you’d ever forget, right?

BZ: Right. But as for melding past and present together—I was writing the novella about a man who is bipolar and sinking fast, and I was living in this cottage where the crash had occurred, and they sort of melded in my mind—the trajectory of both.

ST: That’s a perfect example of the creative mind putting together seemingly diverse incidents to form a work of art. You set the story in the present time to integrate the character of the bipolar man.

BZ: Yes, most of the story is set in the present, and it was hard not to spend too much time in the past. The crash and the ghosts left behind from it inform the present story, but I didn’t want to bog the story down with too much. I took a lot of the parts about the crash out. It was tricky.

ST: I can imagine. Because such a thing is so emotionally charged. So inconceivable really. Planes are supposed to stay in the sky, not crash down onto neighborhoods. Similar to when the World Trade Center came down, people cannot let go of that, and those living in that area will never let go, I suspect.

Your character inhabitants, though it’s many decades later, have identified with the crash and can’t seem to shake it off, though some were probably not even born when it happened. Why do you suppose it has its grips in them?

BZ: It’s part of our history. And there are very physical elements still here that mark where it happened. The neighborhood is full of Craftsman-style homes and Spanish Revivalist cottages built in the ’20s and ’30s. Twenty-two homes were demolished in the crash and others were damaged, and these homes were replaced in the late ’70s and early ’80s. As you can imagine from the unfortunate architecture of those later dates, these places look entirely different than the rest of the neighborhood.

We’re reminded, perhaps more than other neighborhoods, that fate can step in and change everything in an instant. It would be like if there was a home in your neighborhood where someone was murdered. Afterward, the home will always be remembered in that way. Often-times it’s even hard to sell a house like that. This is on a much larger scale. Besides which, we have the spirits of all those poor souls still here. We have to respect them.

ST: At the conclusion of the novella, you have added ten stories to this book. How did ‘Uncle Rempt’ find his way into the storyline?

BZ: “Uncle Rempt” was written from a prompt on Zoetrope Virtual Studio. I like him—he’s an oddball of a guy, which the narrator of the story, Susan, really needs. He’s some bit of light-heartedness, needed after the novella, which did have some dark humor in it, but was a much more serious story. Since Uncle Rempt was already off to some idyllic sort of spot, I just made that be North Park, where the rest of the book is set.

Susan herself is imprisoned at the beginning, as many of the characters in the collection are, and manages to find her way out to a better life as even the macaws in the neighborhood have. She comes of age and no longer has to be beholden to her archly conservative and overly-religious father. With her foot already halfway out the door and into the dorm her father only recently let her move into at a Catholic university, it’s easier. He becomes enraged when he finds out that Susan has taken a liking to his free-spirited brother Rempt. When Susan’s father summons her back to the house, she instead takes off cross-country with her uncle to a great place in Cali called North Park. There they sell air, and Susan lets her hair fall into dreadlocks. A whole new life!

ST: Uncle Rempt being attached to North Park, where the novella is set, breathes new life onto North Park in an abstract sort of way that’s really interesting.

Your final story in this collection is titled “Lucinda’s Song” and involves an elderly woman. A kind of circling around and coming to rest. But, gently. You wrote:

But mostly North Park brought Lucinda peace.

BZ:  Glad to hear you feel “Uncle Rempt” is a nice change after the opening novella. I mean to show how eclectic the neighborhood is by placing stories with dissimilar characters close to each other. Lucinda in “Lucinda’s Song” may be an octogenarian and her story might be at the end of this collection, but she’s no shrinking violet, as she’d be the first to tell you. The story starts in her voice:

“The night Ramόn Fernández first turned up at Sunday bingo hosted by the Sisters of the Precious Blood, Lucinda Sánchez couldn’t have cared less. He and all those old hussies in attendance could kiss her eighty-year-old ass. And, frankly, it wasn’t such a bad ass. They might be surprised. “

Lucinda is finally free in this tale. Like the macaws and other stories in this linked collection, she has found a way to leave her unhappy past behind and has fallen in love and into a torrid love affair with Ramόn, so much so that when they make love, one or the other always seems to throw his or her back or hip out when they do it against the dishwasher or refrigerator.

ST: I can think of worse ways of getting injured!

_______________________

 

Susan-Tepper200w

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 2014, 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. www.susantepper.com

 

Next Page »