STAFF


by Susan Tepper

Lexi Lerner

Alexis Hope Lerner is a violinist, composer, and biology nerd from New Jersey. A student at the Manhattan School of Music, she has been a prizewinner in multiple national and international competitions. When Lexi is not practicing or composing, she can be found in her high school’s Environmental Science Center (where she hangs out with the turtles) or watching movies with her cat Marie Antoinette. Lexi dreams of becoming a virologist, a film composer, an explorer, or some wonderful combination of all three. Next year, she will be attending Brown University as part of the 8-year Program for Liberal Medical Education.

Foreigner
by Alexis Lerner

Twenty feet from the left entrance of the Port Authority was where the man called home.

Around him was a semicircular buffer zone enclosed in broken bottles, shielding him from Manhattan’s noisy sea of taxis and commuters.

In his coat pocket: a blunt razor, half a comb and 87¢. No cardboard sign. He didn’t want pity.

He was more a grizzly bear than a man. A mother of four walked by–a swan with trailing cygnets. She huddled them into her arms’ nest. -Don’t get too close, children, or he might bite.

Through cataract-riddled eyes, the man saw the smallest break from the group and skip towards him through the snow. A six-year-old princess with Mary Janes and a mink hat. She accidentally kicked over a bottle.

“Excusez-moi. Voulez-vous un ami?”

Is she talking to me?- He grimaced, sinking deeper into himself. Only his bulbous nose and coarse beard showed between his hat and scarf.

She smelled like sugar cookies. Warmth. Safety. Protected by youth, innocence and socioeconomic status.

He hated her.

He heard a zipper; then the mother’s boots quickly clacking against the sidewalk. She snatched her daughter’s hand, hissing in a foreign tongue as they retreated.

The man lifted his gaze. In the child’s open knapsack was a teddy bear just as grizzly as he was–beady eyes yearning, disappointed.

He sighed and looked up past the Port Authority overhang, past the Times Square skyscrapers, and into the endless grey space, hoping to see some ultimate good there.

 ***

Susan Tepper: Your story takes place outside of a somewhat controversial NYC landmark. How do you feel when you enter it, or walk by it?

Alexis Hope Lerner: On Wednesdays, I intern at a recording studio in the city; to get there, I take a bus in from New Jersey to the Port Authority. Usually I have my headphones on and am planning out the long work day ahead as I go down all of the escalators and pass the various shops and cafes on the first floor: Starbucks, Au Bon Pain, Hudson News, etc. The Port Authority entrance is almost completely glass, and what I see – every week, without fail – rocks me from my complacent state. People with untrimmed beards and dirty faces, wrapped up in wooly, musty blankets, create little islands for themselves on the thick sidewalk in front of the building. To me, it is astounding how many commuters – including myself – look past them as if they were part of the urban landscape itself. It is unfortunately too common a sight in the city – especially at the Port Authority – to see the homeless in public places in broad daylight. We become numb to what is around us, and that is what I am most afraid of. The distraction of daily life allows us to look past the hunger and pain that is often right before our eyes.

ST:  In a surreal sense, the homeless, the grifters, the addicts that populate the area around Port Authority are ‘foreigners’ as compared with the lives of the day-to-day people who use the terminal strictly for transit.  Interestingly, you have given real ’foreigners’ entry into this story.  Why not just some average Americans?

AHL: I agree with you in that the homeless are certainly “foreigners” within the Port Authority environment. But the other foreigners there are not the people whom we might expect. The fact that the French family is not native to the area does not necessarily render them “foreign” to the Manhattan sentiment towards the homeless. Actually, the only true outlier in the story – at least to me –  is the little girl, and that is for reasons other than her nationality. The point is that callousness towards the homeless is an international epidemic. Even the people we would expect to be foreigners in this story’s microenvironment – those who live across the world from the Port Authority – fit in all too well.

ST:  All too true. Did you know ahead of time that you would make them French (or other than Americans), or did this just strike you as you moved along the keyboard (or paper) writing?

AHL: I always knew there should be a language barrier between the little girl and the vagrant because I wanted her intentions and character to be clear beyond her words. The idea of making the family French, specifically, struck me as I was writing; it stemmed from the fact that our perception of French culture is often tagged with a romanticized view of its “poshness”. Consider how we view Coco Chanel, Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton… or even how we idealize the concept of being a “starving artist” in a beautiful Parisian flat, eating baguettes and sipping on hot cocoa in cafes and boutiques.

ST:  As in the famous opera La Boheme.  Which didn’t end well either.

AHL:  There is a certain sense of unattainable charm and glamour associated with French culture, which many Americans covet. But when I visited Paris six years ago, I saw firsthand a surprising number of homeless men and women sitting on steps outside of bakeries and museums. Even if Paris is the “city of love”, it is not exempt from the cruelties of reality. That realization affected me deeply and was integral to this story. Although the vagrant views the family as swan-like and elite, the mother’s ugly feathers show when she huddles her children away from him and turns a cold shoulder – a behavior that breaks our romanticized view of foreign culture. Even the most posh and beautiful of us can be ugly on the inside.

____________

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 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.  www.susantepper.com

by Jim Harrington

jimharrington2

Markets Added

NOTE: We are in the process of verifying all the links on this list. If you notice a market missing, it’s because the site no longer exists.

View the complete markets list here. http://www.everydayfiction.com/flashfictionblog/flash-markets-2/

View the complete resources page here. http://www.everydayfiction.com/flashfictionblog/resources/

______________________

 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 Aliza Greenblatt

JC Towler

J.C. Towler, the second place winner in our String-of-10 contest, is in the market for a gently used Time-Turner or Transmorgifier. He has been an editor at Every Day Fiction since 2010, but wears more hats than you could possibly be interested in knowing about.

 

Private Lessons
by John Towler

 Orderlies barged through the entrance of triage, dropping their litter on the table with an unceremonious bump.  The wounded soldier reeked of the battlefield, burnt gunpowder and mud.  Her left arm dangled like a pendulum in decline, blood running down fingers traced chaotic patterns on the once white floor.

I performed a rapid assessment of her injuries, as Costas snipped away uniform remnants.

“You safe now…” He paused over her name tag.  “Private Gomez.  Estás seguro.”

He hooked her to a cardiac monitor then brushed a few strands of hair from of her staring, unresponsive eyes.

Dr. Kerns marched in, razor creases and polished shoes rivaling any rear echelon four-star.  A stateside doctor on voluntary rotation, he’d tried to join every branch of the service but kept getting four-f-ed over because of mole-like eyesight.

“Report.”

“Two thoracic GSW’s, through and through. Bilateral pneumothorax.  BP’s dropping.”

Kerns peered down at chest of the dying soldier through Coke-bottle glasses.  His nose crinkled in disdain.

“Those are exit wounds.”

“Apparently.”

“Running from the fight, no doubt.”  He poked at the injuries.  “She’s done. Save the effort for someone deserving.”

“Sir, this soldier has a rhythm.”

He grabbed her chart began writing.

“Injuries incompatible with life,” he said.

Orderlies returning with another wounded soldier interrupted my possibly career-ending reply.  A platoon sergeant followed behind.

“Gomez in here?” he asked.  I nodded.

“Do your best for her,” he said.  He jerked a thumb at the wounded man.  “She was carrying him.”

***

Aliza Greenblatt: Congratulations on placing in the String-of-Ten Contest! Can you tell us a little about how this story evolved? What were some of the challenges of writing a 250 word story?

JC Towler: My brother, Blake, just retired from a military career (24 years in the Navy and Army).  One of his assignments had him flying medevac choppers on a tour in Iraq 2.0 and he’s a real hero.  So the military was on my mind. I work with several women in my primary job (law enforcement) and while things have come a long way, there are still a few social Neanderthals – like Dr. Kerns in the story – who have some reservations about women in “men’s jobs”. It all coalesced into the theme and plot of Private Lessons.

Flash is a challenge because you’ve got to incorporate all those elements common to any sort of creative writing that make a reader want to spend time with your words. A 250 word story is just four times more challenging to write than a 1000 word story.

AG: You’ve been an editor for EDF for several years as well as a dedicated fiction writer. What do you think is the key to writing an effective flash piece?

JCT: Be interesting. Your title must be interesting.  Your opening sentence must be interesting. Your characters must be interesting.  As long as the reader is interested, they’ll stick with your story short of an unexpected natural disaster in their immediate vicinity. But even if their reading is interrupted by a natural disaster, your story should be so interesting that, as soon as they pull themselves from the rubble or find high ground to escape the rising flood waters, they should get back to turning pages.

AG: What I find interesting about this story is there’s a pivotal moment where several characters’ life courses are going to be decided. One is obviously Private Gomez and the others are the doctor and the narrator whose decisions could be career shattering. Being that you didn’t have a lot of time (in terms of word count) to build the story, was it a challenge to find the correct balance of tension and information to bring that moment to life?

JCT: Yes. First draft: 517 words.

The narrator wound up losing the most time in the story, but in some ways the loss became a gain. Less defined (to the point where even the gender is a bit ambiguous) the narrator is more of a shell that the reader fills in with their own personality. It’s like telling a story in the 2nd person without the force-fed “you” point of view. It’d be hard to do with a longer piece, but with flash it worked okay.

AG: There is the theme in this story of the people who seem to have honor and the people who actually do. The doctor should – and appears to have it – but it’s the nameless narrator and the private who make the honorable choices. Do you think the doctor will change from this experience? Will the narrator?

JCT: For the doctor, probably not. There are a certain people in this world whose egos will not allow them to accept personal error or admit to bad judgement and a large percentage of that group are represented by politicians, Fox News Personalities, and surgeons.

I hope the narrator would be more assertive the next time something like this happens, but as a subordinate to the doctor in both military rank and in the operating room hierarchy, it would be tough. Laws protecting whistleblowers are completely inadequate and in reality when somebody is faced with “doing the right thing” the “right thing” takes a back seat to career, family, and reputation.

AG: I’m always curious what drives writers to become writers. Why do you tell stories? What keeps you writing? What type of stories do you prefer to write?

JCT: I’m principally a fantasy and science fiction guy (which is odd in that both times I’ve placed in the String-of-Ten contest, neither piece has been in that genre). Honestly, my writing has taken a back seat to work, family and my second job as a videographer.  I’m very visually and sound-oriented, to the point that when I write I have to remind myself “Don’t forget the other three senses” and video work appeals to me because those are the primary mediums of expression.  (My latest effort is about the rescue and rehabilitation of a hummingbird.  You can watch it here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jTyU_P0n4o)

AG: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us.

JCT: Thanks for the questions.

__________________

 Aliza profile-pic-2Aliza 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 Andreé Robinson-Neal 

Andree Robinson-Neal

Did you open the window? If you hadn’t noticed, it is spring. You’ve probably had your head down, hands to the keys (or pad and pen), writing away for your next submission; now is a great time to pause because you may have missed some great information, interviews, and updates from your fellow writers at Flash Fiction Chronicles.

The month started with Sarah Crysl Akhtar‘s tips to banish writer’s block. She covers everything from mythical beasts to birthing babies; don’t worry–every tip relates to writing. Susan Tepper gave us a glimpse into the head of someone who seems like he never had writer’s block in her UNCOV/rd interview with Stephen V. Ramey, who shared about his new collection, “Glass Animals,” among other tidbits.

If you’ve been locked to your desk for too long you may have missed the announcement for the latest “String-of-10″ contest. You will have another chance to enter the next one, but in the meantime, read about the list of winners and Jim Harrington’s Q&A with Gay Degani, the finalist judge. Gay is a prolific writer herself and in March had one of her collections serialized over at Every Day Novels.

Nancy Stohlman gave us a reminder about that manuscript from November (remember NaNoWriMo, 2013?) in her overview of NaNo’s youngest cousin, Flashnano. If you need to do something with all that flash you’ve written over your winter hibernation, Bonnie ZoBell‘s interview with Mike Young from NOÖ Journal and  Magic Helicopter Press might be just the motivation you need to prepare a submission or two. If you need inspiration from some fellow flash fiction writers, check out a list of “why flash” from the mind of  Randall Brown.

Jim Harrington  offered some serious words to writers about conquering self-doubt (hint: self-reflection is quite an elixir!) as well as great tips on ending well (or at least ending at an appropriate place). Aliza Greenblatt interviewed Audrey Kalman, EDF’s Top Author for February, where you can find great pointers on commitment to writing. The month ended with a reprint of a 2009 FFC article on hint fiction; Robert Smartwood shares his thoughts on meeting your reader halfway along with a number of reasons why being a traditionalist is overrated.

As you see, FFC was busy in March and there is always more to come. Sarah, Susan, and others have already gotten started with April; get those windows open, let some light in, and get reading.

____________

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 Gay Degani

Caroline Hall, Winner of String-of-Ten 6Caroline Hall, this year’s String-of-Ten Six First Place Winner with her story, “Snowman Suicide,” was raised by English majors during the Nintendo generation. Now a teacher-on-hiatus, she has attended ten schools and worked at seven. She is a compulsive hiker and a New Englander who says “wicked awesome” and used the same window fan until it caught fire.  She writes short stories and flash fiction.

[NOTE: The story appears today at Every Day Fiction.]

Gay Degani: I’d love to know what your first reaction was to the list of words: LITTER-ENTRANCE-SAFE-SPIRITUAL -SPOTLIGHT-BOOKMARK-CATASTROPHE-RAZOR-FAULTY-ULTIMATE and the aphorism: “I prefer the errors of enthusiasm to the indifference of wisdom,” from Anatole France.  How did you approach the prompt?

Caroline Hall: My immediate response was that a number of the words on the list–razor, faulty, ultimate, and catastrophe—seemed to cluster together naturally.  To my mind, they grew organically from the concepts of depression and suicide.  I also knew I wanted to use the word “spiritual” because I love it!

When I looked at the list, the word “razor” practically glowed. A few years ago, I had surgery for a bizarre and not-so-threatening cancer.  After I was declared “fine,” I got strangely depressed.  I spent a lot of time in doctors’ and therapists’ waiting rooms that year.  I wrote a poem about waiting rooms and the endless string of medical appointments.  In the poem, I described patients with eyes like pills and mouths like razor blades.  Forty or fifty drafts later, the poem still didn’t work.  But when I saw the word “razor” on the list of words for the String-of-10 competition, I knew the setting and mood of “Snowman Suicide” instantly.  I was glad to get the chance to resuscitate the image and pleased that the story was much better than the original poem.

For me, writing “Snowman Suicide” was about balancing passive and active.  As a patient, you spend a great deal of time passively waiting, and I wanted to capture that feeling.  But I’ve also met a lot of people who fight back against their illnesses and circumstances with spunk and humor.  I wanted to make sure that some of their creativity, intelligence, and strength appeared in the story.

GD: You mentioned your goals for this story included balancing passive and active, so what other elements do you keep in mind when you are working on a piece of writing?  Characters you’ve touched on, what about structure and theme?  What do you handle these?

CH: My successful stories usually begin with an object—in this case, a snowman.  Characters start out being me and evolve as they interact with the object.  They develop slowly, which makes for some embarrassing drafts.  But getting to know and—sometimes— slowly fall in love with my characters is a joy.  Sometimes, it surprises me which characters I fall in love with and how big an impact they have on my life. Workshops and readers are helpful for clarifying the conflict in stories, for finding spots that don’t make sense or feel true.

I studied English and am a closet Classics geek, and my tendency was—and still is—to write Latinate or Victorian-style prose.  My first stories were designed to be analyzed rather than read. Finally, I realized that I could have a vital message, but that didn’t matter if readers needed a pot of coffee to survive the first paragraph.

As a result, I work hard at paring stories down to their cores.  I started writing flash fiction by accident; flash fit the funny clumps of time I squirreled away for writing better than longer stories did.   It was a happy accident.  Forcing myself to adhere to strict word limits has made my sentences stronger and leaner.

GD: You mention “paring down.”  I’m wondering what you look for when you edit your work.  What are your go-to moves?

CH: I spent a few years writing terrible poetry, so my main rule is “if it sounds the way your poetry sounded, it needs to go!” I love alliteration and repetition, but I have to make sure they don’t hijack the story or become distracting.  I’ll turn clauses into phrases.  In early drafts, I tend to stack adjectives and details.  I’ll have three or four when I need one.  In the first paragraph, my snowman initially went through five different diagnoses; three was enough.

GD: As I said in my interview with Jim Harrington, what drew me to this story, was a lot of things: “The title, the first line, the humor, the surprise, its clarity. ‘Snowman Suicide,’ who wouldn’t want to read that story?”  All this makes me want to read more of your work.  Can you tell me where to find other stories of yours and what you are working on now?

CH: “Snowman Suicide” is my first published work.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Earlier, I mentioned that my friends from the mental health community—if you can call it that—inspire me constantly with their intelligence, wit, candor, and kindness.  I am proud, grateful, and honored to know them and to have a chance to represent them in this story.  I hope I’ve done them justice.

 

gay 2Gay Degani has published fiction on-line and in print including her short collection, Pomegranate Stories. She is founder of EDF’s Flash Fiction Chronicles, a staff editor at Smokelong Quarterly, and blogs at Words in Place. She’s had three stories nominated for Pushcart consideration and won the 11th Annual Glass Woman Prize. Her linked-story novella is part of Pure Slush’s 2014- A Year in Stories anthology and her her serialized novel, What Came Before, is currently online at Every Day Novels.

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