by Sarah Crysl Akhtar

Sarah Akhtar

It’s like the pangs of afterbirth. There’s your lovely story, ready to send out, and you can’t for the life of you think what to call it.

Happened to me once. Put a working title on a flash piece so I could at least submit it. Revised the title when I did the rewrite, but knew it was still a dud. The right one finally came to me, literally in the nick of time, shortly before the due date, so to speak. And to my enormous relief, one commenter remarked that the title was perfect for the tale. If she’d known how I sweated that one. . .

I’ve looked in some strange places for titles. I loathe, fear and despise mathematics, but my offspring has a gift for it. Go figure. And it so bothers me, being locked out of that world he inhabits so naturally, that with the bounteous help of Wikipedia, I’ve named a number of my stories for mathematical or scientific concepts. Those titles sounded so elegant, while making me feel closer to my kid. And strangely, they expressed just what I wanted to say.

Without the intuitively perfect title, a story’s luster is a little dimmed. And a bad or mediocre title may keep readers away from a piece they might have truly enjoyed.

If you’re struggling to name your story, take a little break. I once had to leave something alone for a couple of months, until my main character’s voice called to me so clearly that the right title fell naturally into place. It was frustrating not to be able to submit something I believed in and had worked hard on, but part of growing into your craft is recognizing when you haven’t fully achieved your intent, and waiting until you do.

Resist the urge to slap something on your story because you’re facing a deadline or just want to mark it as completed. You don’t want any child you love to go out into the world ill-named.


 Sarah Crysl Akhtar‘s shtetl forebears gifted her with the genes that impel her to make much from little. So of course she writes flash fiction, cultivates orchards on her windowsill and bakes fabulous shortbread. Her son gives her what’s immeasurable–the best of all possible worlds. Less miraculous fruit of her labors has appeared on Every Day Fiction, Flash Fiction Online and Perihelion SF Magazine.


1. ”Map Reading” by Helen Rossiter, winner of Alice Munro Prize 2013, suggested by Rose Gardener.

2. “Drinking in the Loons” by Stephen MacKinnon in Carve Magazine suggested by David James.

3.  “Water Liars” by Barry Hannah in Garden and Gun Magazine suggested by David James.

4.  “Pounds across America” by Meg Pokrass in Wigleaf Magazine suggested by David James.

5. “Turkey” by Andrew F. Sullivan in Hobart suggested by Neil Serven.

6. “The Visitation” by Brad Watson in The New Yorker suggested by David James.…/06/090406fi_fiction_watson

7. “The Sentence is Always Death” by Ken Gerber and Brian Hirt in Daily Science Fiction suggested by Von Rupert.…/the-sentence-is-always

8.  “He Pulled Me From the Sea” by Frank Haberle in Smokelong Quarterly suggested by Jim Harrington.

9. “Grackles” by Barry Basden posted on Fictionaut suggested by David James.

10. “The Prune Eaters”by Alex Pruteanu in Brick Rhetoric suggested by Susan Tepper.

11. “Remembering Awe” by Mira Desai in Pure Slush suggested by Susan Tepper.

12. “Mother in the Trenches” by Robert Olen Butler in Narrative suggested by Susan Tepper.

13. “Blackened Catfish” by Christian Bell in Camroc Press Review suggested by Barry Basden.

14. “Making it Right” by Jane Hammons in Camroc Press Review suggested by Barry Basden.

15. “Why Aren’t There Fireflies” by Doug Bond in Camroc Press Review suggested by Barry Basden.

16. “Husk of Hare” by Christopher Allen  at Referential Magazine suggested by Robert Vaughan.

17. “Speed Date” by Meg Tuite at Wigleaf suggested by Robert Vaughan.

18. “Dead Letters” by Gary Moshimer in Camroc Press Review suggested by Barry Basden.

19. “Heading West” by Martha Williams in Camroc Press Review suggested by Barry Basden.

20. “maybe” by DsD in Camroc Press Review suggested by Barry Basden.

21. “Losers” by Megan Lent at Shabby Doll House suggested by Robert Vaughan.

22.  “Dressing Room Fashion Show From An Ex-Fiancee in Iowa” by Mike Joyce at The Molotov Cocktail suggested by Robert Vaughan

23. “Tuesday Afternoon” by xTx in Camroc Press Review suggested by Barry Basden.

24. “Messes of Men” by Michael J Seidlinger’s (an excerpt) at Atticus Review suggested by Robert Vaughan.

25. “Forging” by Jane Hammons in kill author suggested by Carol Reid.

26.  “Triplets” by Len Kuntz at JMWW, Spring 2013 issue suggested by Robert Vaughan.

27. “Leaving Lena” Jeanann Verlee’ at JMWW Journal suggested by Robert Vaughan.

28. “Last Night in Big Sur” by Sara Lippmann at Flycatcher Magazine suggested by Robert Vaughan.

29.  “Healthy Start” by Etgar Keret in Tin House suggested by Alex Pruteanu.

30. “Funky Little Blaze Orange Pork Pie Hats” by Michael Gillan Maxwell at Metazen suggested by Robert Vaughan.

31. “They Will Tear You Apart” by  Bud Smith at Zygote in my Coffee suggested by Robert Vaughan.

32. “The Embassy of Cambodia” by Zadie Smith in The New Yorker suggested by Christopher James.

33.  “The Naturals”by Sam Lipsyte in The New Yorker suggested by Michael Dwayne Smith.

34. “Safety” Mary Miller  in Tin House suggested by Michael Dwayne Smith.

35. “Is That Rain” by Leesa Cross-Smith in Spartan suggested by Michael Dwayne Smith.

36. “Collision Course” by Stephen V. Ramey in Nib Magazine suggested by Susan Tepper.

37. “The Abridged Biography of an American Sniper” by Linda Simoni-Wastila in Smokelog Quarterly suggested by Susan Tepper.

38. “I Named the Stars for You” by James Claffey in Blue Fifth Review suggested by Nate Tower.

39. “Annette and Florian” by Beate Sigriddaughter in Eclectica suggested by Susan Tepper.

40. “Piglets” by Rae Bryant published at Matter Press suggested by Christopher Allen.

41. “What Rachel Didn’t Know” by Denise Howard Long in Burrow Press Review suggested by Liz Wallace.

42. “The Cartoonist” by Kathy Fish (originally at elimae) suggested by Christopher Allen.

43.  “Heart” by Ethel Rohan at Connotation Press suggested by Christopher Allen. (scroll)

44. “Skirt” by Ethel Rohan at Connotation Press suggested by Christopher Allen.

45. “Dying Juices” by Ethel Rohan at Connotation Press suggested by Christopher Allen. (scroll)

46. “Salvador Dali Eyes” by Douglas Campbell, winner of the Press 53 Flash Fiction Contest, published at SmokeLong Quarterly suggested by Christopher Allen.

47. “Swim” by Owen Vince, winner of the Press 53 Flash Fiction Contest, published at Prime Number Magazine suggested by Christopher Allen.

48. “Lithopedion” by Randall Brown, winner of the Press 53 Flash Fiction Contest, published at Metazen suggested by Christopher Allen.

49. “Puppy Wonderland” by Nadine Darling at Eclectica suggested by Timothy Gager.

50.  “Written in the Bones” by Christopher M. Jones and illustrated by Cary Pietsch at Carey Draws suggested by Jane Hammons.

51.  “Her Hair” by Erica Stern at Metazen suggested by Christopher Allen.

52. “The Girls” by Rachel Sherman at n+1 suggested by Sara Lippmann.

53. “Shadow Play” by Stephen V Ramey at Every Day Fiction suggested by J. Chris Lawrence.

54. “A Glimpse” by Jen Knox at Fiction Southeast suggested by Michelle Elvy.

55.  “A Woman on her Way to Work” by Chris Okum at Fictionaut suggested by Michelle Elvy.

56. “Houseboy” by Sara Lippmann in Bull suggested by Jane Hammons.

57. “Luring” by Jane Hammons at Tupelo Quarterly suggested by Sara Lippman.

58. “We Three” by Frankie McMillan at Truck suggested by Michelle Elvy.  (scroll down, mid-page)

59. “Heartworm” by Zoe Meager in Penduline suggested by Michelle Elvy.

60. “The Light Eater” by Kirsty Logan at the Scottish Book Trust suggested by Michelle Elvy.

61. “The Hard Years” by Emma Lincoln Pattee in Carve Magazine suggested by Leesa Cross-Smith.

62. “Steaks” by Guy Anthony de Marco at Every Day Fiction suggested by Kathy Kingston.

63. “Birthday Cake” by Rayne Gasper in Word Riot suggested by Leesa Cross-Smith.

64. “The Siege Of Eristavis” by Tara Isabella Burton in the Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review suggested by Virgie Townsend.

65. “See Jane” by Kathy Fish in Together We Can Bury It suggested by Virgie Townsend.

66. “Mornings with Teenage Genius” by Jacob Drud, at Every Day Fiction suggested by Sarah Crysl Akhtar.

67.  “How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps” by A. Merc Rustad in Scigentasy suggested by Alexis A. Hunter.

68. “The Art of Memory” by Annam Manthiram in Camroc Press Review suggested by Barry Basden.

69. “Tenderoni” by Kathy Fish at Smokelong Quarterly suggested by Ellen Parker.

70. “The Meat Sweats” by Michael Czyzniejewski in SmokeLong Quarterly suggested by Matthew Dexter.

71. “Treading Water” by Amanda Miska in Storychord suggested by Leesa Cross-Smith.

72. “Birdman” by Gary Moshimer at Necessary Fiction suggested by Matthew Dexter.

73. “Year of the Queerling” by Joseph Dante at Metazen suggested by Christopher Allen.

74. “A Haunt of Memory” by Tara Masih at Awkword Paper Cut in video-story form suggested by Michelle Elvy.

75. “Providence” by Christopher Allen at Pure Slush suggested by Michelle Elvy.

76. “Dancing with the One-Armed Gal” by Tim Gautreaux in Zoetrope All-Story suggested by David James.

77.”Natural History” by Daniel Enjay Wong at  Metazen suggested by Christopher Allen.

78. “Like a Family” by Meg Pokrass in Juked suggested by Christopher Allen.

79. “Summer of Pinbugs” by Kate Folk at Smokelong Quarterly suggested by Gay Degani.

80. “Lamb to the Slaughter” by Roald Dahl.

81. “Mama Maggie’s Pies” by Leanne Gregg in Contraposition Magazine suggested by Mike Joyce.

82 “The Belt” by Julie Innis in Underground Voices suggested by Jane Hammons.

83. “Projection” by Lisa Mecham from Cheap Pop suggested by Amanda Miska.

84. “Sport” by Carol Reid in Stymie suggested by Jane Hammons.

85. “Desilu, Three Cameras” by Alicia Gifford in FRiGG Magazine suggested by Dave Clapper.

86. “The Woods Behind” by Marek Jones in Literary Orphans suggested by Jane Hammons.

87. “Every Time a Fairy Gets Laid” by Ryan W. Bradley originally in Space Squid suggested by DaveClapper.

88. “Mobility” by Ellen Parker in The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts suggested by Dave Clapper.

89. “The Vegetarian Eats the Vegan: Five Scenarios” by Michael Czyzniejewski in PANK suggested by Dave Clapper.

90. “Aquarium” by Nadine Darling in SmokeLong Quarterly suggested by Dave Clapper. So many lines in it are eminently quotable.

91. “Stray Dogs” by Steven Gullion in Night Train suggested by Dave Clapper.

92 “Waiting for the Grassy Drop” by James Claffey in The Manifest Station suggested by Mike Joyce.

93. “The Sun Eaters” by Alex Pruteanu published in The Monarch Review suggested by Carol Reid.

94.”Storm in a Teacup” by Dan Powell published at Carve Magazine suggested by Christopher Allen.

95. “A Haunted House” by Virginia Woolf in public domain suggested by Christopher Allen.

96. “This Program Contains Actual Surgical Procedures” by Roxane Gay at Twelve Stories suggested by Matthew Dexter.

97. “Ditch” by Eric Beetner at Thug Lit suggested by Matthew Dexter.

98. . “One Trip Abroad” by F. Scott Fitzgerald suggested by Matthew Dexter.

99. “Show-and-Tell” by George Singleton in Atlantic Monthly suggested by David James.

100. “The Guy” by Isaac Boone Davis at Two Hawks Quarterly suggested by Virgie Townsend.

101. “The Good Book” by Cynthia Larsen at Hobart Pulp suggested by Meg Pokrass.

102. “While You Were Away” by Tara Laskowski in matchbook suggested by Gay Degani.

103. “A Few Bedbugs” by Susan Tepper in Cape Fear Review suggested by Bonnie ZoBell.


by Andreé Robinson-Neal

Andree Robinson-Neal

Is it me, or is it hot in here? The FFC thermometer is about to pop, thanks to all the great content we had in June. Sarah Crysl Akhtar started us off with a bang as she hammers home some issues about the best of times, the worst of times, and originality. Susan Tepper‘s UNCOV/rd shed light on Doug Holder and his poetic views on city living. Kathy Fish lit a fuse as she told us about the beautiful flashes of life. We had a moment to recover from that, and then Julie Duffy hit us again with her detailed lesson on genre; Julie’s piece this month was a bright introduction that offered five great points on developing and maintaining our voice within the confines of what publishers want.

Gay Degani upped the ante by having a heated discussion with a few writers on the importance of reading to develop a writer’s voice. Speaking of voice, Sarah Crysl Akhtar took us back into the archives for a  look at a tasty bit of flash. But voice is not enough: Samuel Snoek-Brown turned up the heat with his piece on the importance of place.

Christopher Bowen settled us down and turned our focus to a topic that should burn our professional coals: contracts. His enlightening interview with Tyler Crumrine at Play Inverse Press offered some insight on what we might want to look for before we sign on the dotted or digital line.

But then Sarah Crysl Akhtar turned it up again by fanning the flames with her trip back into the archives to revisit The Horses to remind us how horror should make us feel.

We were able to put away our oven mitts as the month ended, but the last notes were anything but cool. Alyssa Ast reminded us that as authors we are responsible for promoting our published works and pointed out a few easy ways to optimize our author websites. And in case you were busy burning up the pages or keyboard during the month, Jim Harrington gave us a thorough list of flash fiction market updates.

Summer is just beginning so pull out your parasol, mix up a big batch of fresh lemonade, and set a spell; FFC will bring you a fresh serving of heat as we celebrate July.


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 She writes under the name AR Neal, who will hopefully one day be identified as a famous NaNoWriMo participant.

by Andreé Robinson-Neal

christinefandersonChristine F. Anderson is the force behind CFA Publishing and Media; of her many talents, she is a skilled marketer. After shopping her own manuscript, she gained deep insight into the process of bringing a book from idea to manuscript to bookshelf/ebook seller. She took some time away from her work to share insights on the value of marketing with FFC.

What is your relationship with writing?  How long have you been writing? What have you had published?

I have been writing since my earliest memory, including writing haiku in the third grade. I was alway one to journal, write letters, and keep meticulous notes in school. I wrote and self-published my memoir, Forever Different, in 2013.

What was your experience like getting published?

I had several contracts from various publishers, all who required an astronomical retainer for marketing services. With more investigation I realized that what they wanted was for me to do a lot of the work before submission, so I decided that since I didn’t have the type of money they were requiring I would try self-publishing.

What made you start your own publishing company?

I started Christine F. Anderson Publishing & Media in order to give authors who have a story to tell fair representation when it came to publishing and publicity and marketing.

Talk a bit about your marketing background; how did you decide to focus that experience toward the world of publishing?

I obtained my MBA (Masters, Business Administration) in Marketing from New York University’s Stern School Of Business in 1991 and felt that in order for a book to be well-represented it had to have a considerable amount of marketing.

Let’s face it: this is a saturated market, particularly since the advent of self-publishing opportunities. I utilize various methods, including  social media outlets, and have developed a plan that works for my authors.

Why is the marketing aspect so important for new authors? How does it differ in the small press or self-publishing market as compared to the larger market?

Since we are on content overload when it comes to the publication of books, it is important for new writers and those who are looking to work with a small press or to self-publish to develop their own unique brand. I encourage all my authors to be different. Dare to be different!

What marketing skill or advice do you believe is most important to new writers?

The most important marketing skill I can suggest to a new author is to start by doing the research: who is the audience of your book? Start by knowing that and the rest of the marketing process tends to go smoothly.

What have you seen as one of the biggest obstacles for new writers wishing to get their work to market? How do you see yourself helping them overcome this obstacle?

I think the biggest obstacle facing writers is the lack of guidance; the key is to publish good work and I feel that accepting mentoring and guidance is vital to success. I would like to think that my authors can learn from my experiences since I am a writer, I self-published, and already made all the mistakes!

In your experience, in what areas do traditional marketing strategies fall short for new and existing authors?

I think the old adage of “build it and they will come” is nonexistent in the pro-publish market; taking an ad out and waiting for sales just won’t cut it. In this era, communication and contact are key and if you are not accessible and don’t stay in tune to current demand, you are dead in the water. Thank the good Lord for the dawn of social media, because it gives us access to that market demand in ways we never had in the past. It has helped answer a lot of the prayers of marketing executives.

What one piece of advice would you give to writers looking to publish?

I would tell them to write from the heart and to tell their story with the intention to inspire others!


Christine F. Anderson obtained her MBA in Marketing from New York University’s Stern School of Business in 1991. She has a long successful corporate career working for such companies as Citicorp and MGM Grand, Inc. She became an independent author in 2013 and while working on self-publishing her memoir, Forever Different, discovered a void in affordable book publishing and couldn’t find a publisher that provided a pro-active and  aggressive publicity and marketing strategy, so she decided to launch Christine F. Anderson Publishing & Media. It is Christine’s desire to give a voice to fellow authors’ works and guide them through the difficult world of publishing and promotion and assist them in achieving the greatest level of success with a fair business model. Her motto is “Tell your story to inspire others.”


by Sarah Crysl Akhtar

Sarah AkhtarSometimes another author’s story brings out our inner Rumpelstiltskin–that primitive urge to tear ourselves asunder in frustration. I found Dani Ripley’s Jellyfish (9/2/12) so breathtakingly astonishing that I could neither comment on it nor leave a vote when it first appeared. I felt myself out-written in the sci-fi genre for life.

I’ve accepted that now, and can say without pain that Jellyfish is a perfect sci-fi story, capturing the grandeur, mystery and terror of space with unmatched elegance and grace. Even the spelling of the protagonist’s name–Kapteyn–struck me as a way of making the mundane memorable.

“Kapteyn is dead. No, that’s not right. He’s thinking, therefore not dead. His body is lost. He floats, smaller than an atom. No. That’s not right either. He’s confused. The sensation isn’t entirely unpleasant. He processes.”

From this crystalline-pure opening, Jellyfish sustains an exquisite melding of intellect and feeling.

I was baffled that after 31 total votes cast, Ripley’s story achieved only a 3.4 rating. Eight of the nine commenters used words like “captivating” and “intriguing;” found Jellyfish thought-provoking; its prose was called “exquisite” and “authentic.” But many of them felt unsatisfied, felt a certain flatness or incompleteness.

I profoundly disagree. I’m stingy with stars; I don’t like to dilute the value of a five-star rating by sprinkling it around too freely. You’ve got to touch me with some irresistible force to pry my hand open. But I’ve made things right now, and gone back and given this story what I knew it deserved from the first read. Take a look at Jellyfish, and see why.


Sarah Crysl Akhtar‘s shtetl forebears gifted her with the genes that impel her to make much from little. So of course she writes flash fiction, cultivates orchards on her windowsill and bakes fabulous shortbread. Her son gives her what’s immeasurable–the best of all possible worlds. Less miraculous fruit of her labors has appeared on Every Day Fiction, Flash Fiction Online and Perihelion SF Magazine.

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