by Jim Harrington

jimharrington2

I began writing fiction in January of 2007. In October of 2008, I created a blog where I posted a quote and then wrote about what the quote meant to me as a writer. Honestly, the daily posts were intended for myself. They were a way to force me to think about each quote and how it might change my writing. If people reading my comments gained from them, so much the better. I’m going to post a few of these as I wrote them—even if feel differently now. Feel free to agree, or disagree, or add your own take on the quote and what I said. Here’s today’s article.

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Writing is Exciting (5/17/2010)

“Candy is dandy and liquor is quicker, but writing is exciting” — Nick Mamatas in “In Praise of the Short Story” [The Writer, June 2010]

I love this, and it’s so true. That moment when a tiny idea finally materializes into a completed story provides quite a high. It takes many revisions to get to the point where I’m satisfied with the results; but when it happens, there’s no better feeling.

A close second is the day I receive the elusive acceptance e-mail. Wait. Shouldn’t the latter be ranked higher? Sometimes. More often, my proudest moment is when I pull my fingers from the keyboard and say to myself, “The end.”

The hard part of writing is remaining inspired while struggling through failed stories and multiple rejections, and second-guessing my decision to attempt writing fiction in the first place. Perhaps these are the times when candy and liquor are appropriate. :)

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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 Jon Sindell

Jon Sindell

Heard this one? A guy who walks into a sushi bar and orders … filet of sole. Then he walks into a tapas bar and orders … steak. Then he writes a flash–fiction “collection” consisting of … a single basic story told in fifty shades of same. The joke’s on him—and on the readers.

One reason I love reading flash, beyond its merits at the story level, is the capacity of a group of flash stories to satisfy our hunger for variety. Unlike novels, which for the most part explore a single world from a single perspective, flash lets us dip into world after world, and to explore those worlds from different angles. A flash–fiction collection’s inherent advantage is breadth: breadth of content, breadth of tone, and breadth of perspective. Regretably, many collections offer little more than one basic story—a first–person victim narrative, frequently—told over and over with minor variations. In such cases, stories that are perfectly worthy as individual stories are, when collected, unworthy of the flash–collection form.

Happily, some collections satisfy our intellectual and emotional hunger for variety. An excellent example is Robert Scotellaro’s Measuring The Distance, sixty–one flash stories that furnish a literary feast akin to a table laden with dozens of distinctive hors d’oeuvres. Scotellaro’s varied feast offers: a loving wife adjusting to her husband’s penchant for wearing tuxedos 24/7 (“Tuxedo Epiphany,” told in third–person); a child unable to apprehend why his betrayed mother arrays the house with a dozen rotting jack o’lanterns (“Twelve Collapsing Faces,” first person); a guilty married father flirting with the young party princess working his little girl’s birthday party (“Mr. Nasty;” first–person); a trash collector speculating about the disappointments of his customers’ lives based on their trash (“Sun–Ripe;” first–person); and on and on, with one unique gem following another. I chose to read this collection in dozens of sittings because each story was so unique that I wanted to savor it fully before covering up its flavor with a new story—just as you would pause to savor one superb appetizer before sampling the next kind.

Paul Beckman’s new collection, Peek, likewise exploits the potential of the flash–collection form. As you pass from the sad first–person account of a confused old man who can’t keep his pills straight (“Green Guy, Whitey and Red”) to a darkly humorous third–person tale of snobbery at the dog park (“Separate But Equal”) to the bitter childhood reminiscences of a man whose mom has just died (“Kosher Soap”) to the pointed account of a pair of adult brothers whose terse exchanges say nothing and everything (“Brother Speak;” first–person), you experience pleasurable anticipation as you move from one distinct story to the next.

The benefits of writing a varied collection enrich the writer as well as the reader. Chefs who cook up true flash collections project themselves into the skin of a range of people and look at the world from their point of view. This exercise furnishes one of the chief benefits of writing—the opportunity to leave one’s own head and enter another’s. It is an exercise which, if done with a clear head and an open heart, can lead to compassion. And it’s a hell of a lot of fun traveling from one world to another.

This is an age that variety rules. Hundreds of channels, thousands of podcasts, millions of blogs … tapas bars, dim­–sum carts, sushi bars, and variety packs of luscious mini­–cupcakes. If cooked up right, flash collections are perfect for the age.

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Jon Sindell is the author of the flash–fiction collection The Roadkill Collection (Big Table Publishing, 2014), the story collection Family Happiness (coming in 2015), and over seventy published short stories. Jon is a fulltime personal humanities tutor and a writing coach for business professionals. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and near fledglings, curates the San Francisco reading series Rolling Writers, and ends his bios with a thud.

by Jessi Cole Jackson

Profile

Olivia Berrier is often clueless and always shoeless. She left behind many footprints at Hollins University in Virginia, where she studied Creative Writing and Mathematics. After college, her bare feet have carried her through many experiences, but her life remains anchored by writing. Olivia writes fantasy fiction, sometimes with a mathematical inclination, and has been dropping stories like breadcrumbs across the Internet since 2007. 

Jessi Cole Jackson: On your blog you talk a little bit about the inspiration behind The World As Seen By Angels. Could you tell FFC readers a bit about where your story began?

Olivia Berrier: Absolutely! This story began with a bracelet I received from my aunt a while ago. I’m not sure why, but I love playing with this bracelet while I’m thinking (it just has a nice weight to it, I think) so I decided I wanted to write a story involving both angels and beaded bracelets. A few false starts later, I had the ‘seeing in metaphors’ idea, and the rest of the story took root from there.

Bracelet

JCJ: Would you tell me a little about your writing process?

OB: I do most of my best writing in the early morning, from about 4:30 – 6:30 before I go to work. My morning sessions involve tea, three writing candles, soft music, and if I’m lucky I have a kitty cat named Dickens on my lap. It’s deliciously distraction-free, and since I just woke up, my mind is still in ‘dream’ mode, which is very similar to writing mode.

 

JCJ: I loved how the story’s clear details clashed with our inability to understand what beads and knots represented for the men and women. Yet the Angel specifically understood the young man’s struggle in real world terms. Why focus on depression, out of all of life’s struggles?

OB: I have some personal experience with the challenges of depression, and it took me many years to understand that the time I spent fighting for my mental health isn’t wasted time as I once believed. I think the turning point for me came when I stopped trying to carve this problem out of my world and started learning to live with it. I know there has been a lot of movement in recent years towards ending the stigma and bringing these topics out to really talk about them, and I saw an opportunity with this story to be part of that movement.

JCJ: You mention in your author profile on Amazon that you studied mathematics and you memorize the decimals of Pi for fun. Does your love for math and telling stories intersect at all? Also, how many decimals are you up to?

OB: At the moment, about 60 decimals. My goal was to crack 100 by the end of the year, so I should probably get moving on that… But, yes! I do have some math-writing crossovers. The only one currently published is my short story featured in the No More Heroes Anthology, which has a mathematician main character who specializes in Julia Sets. In the recesses of my computer, I have others in the works as well. They haven’t yet found publishers, but I’m hopeful. One of my goals as a writer is to help bring math to people who might not have enjoyed it otherwise.

JCJ: What are you reading? Who are some of your favorite authors?

OB: At the moment, I’m reading a lot of Dean Koontz. I find that his incredibly concise writing style helps me improve my own. Some of my literary heroes include J.R.R. Tolkien, Tamora Pierce, Jonathan Stroud, and Brian Jacques.

JCJ: What projects are you currently working on? Can you point readers to some of your other stories, either forthcoming or published?

OB: Why, yes I certainly can! I have a list of all of my published fiction here on my blog. I’ve been published by Every Day Fiction four times, as well as other online and print venues. However, the thing I am most excited about is a fantasy web serial which I am posting on my blog every Wednesday. The story focuses on a world where magic is created by dancing, and both have been outlawed due to a mysterious 300-year-old tragedy, but my main character hopes to unravel that mystery and bring dancing and magic back. We’re only a few segments in, so if anyone wants to hop on board the story I’d be thrilled to have you! (https://oliviaberrier.wordpress.com/web-serial-dancing-and-magic/)

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Jessi_Cole_Jackson-150x150

Jessi Cole Jackson lives and works in 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. 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  jessicolejackson.com.

 

by Lori Sambol Brody

Lori

Your cell phone chirps to alert you of an incoming email.  Will it be an Evite from a friend, a notification from Netflix, or a response from a literary journal you’ve submitted to?  Upon checking your inbox, you see an e-mail “Lit Journal X re: [Lit Journal X] My Fabulous Story.”  Your heart beats double-time, your stomach feels like it’s full of fluttering birds. 

And then you open the email.

You reread it.

Congratulations!  Lit Journal X wants to publish your story!

After celebrating with chocolate, champagne, or 50 year old whiskey, what do you do next?  I’ve put together a checklist to ensure I thank Lit Journal X, notify other publications to which I’ve submitted my story, and, upon publication, market the story.

Before the Story Is Published

  • Send a thank you note to Lit Journal X, addressing it to the editor who sent the acceptance, expressing how excited you are about seeing “My Fabulous Story” in that journal.  Because of course you are.  You wouldn’t have sent it to that journal if you wouldn’t be excited.  Sometimes the editor will need you to confirm that your piece is still available, that you agree with the intellectual property rights you are giving them, and provide a biography.  Timely provide that information to the editor.
  • Immediately withdraw “My Fabulous Story” from consideration from all other literary journals, following the instructions on Submittable or on the journal’s website if the journal accepts e-mail or snail mail submissions or has their own submission manager.  Since you keep track of all your submissions on a list or spreadsheet, it should be easy for you to do.  Tell the journals that the piece has been accepted elsewhere, thank them for their consideration of the story, and let them know that you’re looking forward to their next issue.  Most of the editors for literary journals don’t get paid for their work, and it’s nice to let them know how much we appreciate their dedication to publishing our stories.
  • Lit Journal X may send you suggested edits, questions, or proofs.  Make sure you timely follow up with them.

On Publication Day

  • When you see your piece published, send an e-mail to the editors you have been working with thanking them again for including your piece in the new issue of Lit Journal X.  You should read the issue – or at least a portion of it – and mention to the editors something you liked, another story or poem or the look of the journal.  This is not only about supporting the writing and publishing community – of which you are a part – but also recognizing the hard work of the editors who usually dedicate their time as a labor of love.
  • Market “My Fabulous Story.”  You should modify your endeavors to fit your specific circumstances.  For example:
  • Post one notification each on Facebook and Twitter (you don’t want to annoy anyone by constant promotions).
  • Send e-mails to friends who are (amazingly enough) not on social media or do not regularly check their Facebook pages.
  • Post an entry on your blog regarding the publication of “My Fabulous Story” and update your blog’s publication list.
  • Submit news of your publication to Pamelyn Castro’s Flash Fiction Flash Newsletter (to subscribe send an email to FlashFictionFlash-Subscribe@yahoogroups.com).
  • Send a “yahoo” email to the Internet Writing Workshop list serv, which posts publishing successes once a week on its blog (http://internetwritingworkshop.blogspot.com/; to join see http://www.internetwritingworkshop.org/ ).
  • If you are involved in a community author’s group, notify the group of your publication.  (Our local library has a local author’s group with a Facebook page.)
  • Thank anyone who responds positively to your story.  Contrary advice exists on re-Tweeting positive Tweets concerning your story.  Most of the writers I follow do it, although I have read articles that re-Tweeting these comments is a breach of etiquette or bragging.  Re-Tweet if you are comfortable doing so.  I usually do since it appears to be socially acceptable in my Twitter-sphere.
  • If you receive negative feedback to your story, you can either ignore or respond briefly with a note thanking them for reading and giving you constructive criticism.  Do not engage a dialogue with your critiquers or belittle them.

And what if Lit Journal X has rejected your piece?  I have a list for that as well.  After drowning your sorrows with chocolate, champagne, or 50 year old whiskey:

  • Send a quick note to Lit Journal X thanking the editor for considering your piece.  Most journals put considerable time into reading your piece and “Your Fabulous Story” has gone through multiple readers.  Where the editor has given you encouragement or feedback – one journal, in rejecting my story, sent me reader’s notations – mention this in your email.  Editors are writers too and don’t like rejecting work: they know you have sweated (metaphorical) blood over your story.
  • Note on your submission spreadsheet that your story was rejected.  Specifically note if you received any encouragement, feedback, or if the journal asked you to send more work.  While the latter may seem like a form rejection, that request is sincere.  In the future, when you have a piece perfect for that journal, you can note in your cover letter, “Thank you for your encouragement on my piece ‘My Fabulous Story’” or “Thank you for your feedback on ‘My Fabulous Story.’  I made revisions pursuant to your suggestions and it was accepted elsewhere.”
  • Take a look at “My Fabulous Story.”  Was any of the feedback helpful?  Do you feel like it needs another revision?  If so, revise it or set it aside for revision.
  • If your story doesn’t need revisions, send it to two other journals in the same “tier” as Lit Journal X.

These are the steps I follow and can be modified for your purposes.  What do you do?

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Lori Sambol Brody lives in the mountains of Southern California.  Her short fiction has been published in Tin House Flash Fridays, New Orleans Review, WhiskeyPaper, alice blue review, Atticus Review, and elsewhere.  Her first piece of non-fiction is forthcoming in Pithead Chapel and she will be participating in the chose-your-own-adventure at Lockjaw Magazine.  She can be found on Twitter at @LoriSambolBrody.

 

by Andreé Robinson-Neal

If it were possible to have your eyes closed as you read, it might also be possible to feel, smell, and hear the story. You might be saying to yourself, “I can hear the story if I buy an audio book,” but that is not what is meant here.

Anjali’s fingers were hard despite the softness of the cream she was kneeding into Reena’s face. They were a worker’s hands, the hands of a woman who washed clothes, did the dishes and cooked the meals for the family along with her work as a beautician.

Abha Iyengar’s Many Fish to Fry is filled with touchable, smellable, hearable moments on each page. She takes us to Paharganj, a neighborhood in Delhi, to meet a variety of memorable characters, including Reena Vardharajan (which was shortened to “Rajan” because “Vardharajan” is so long, isn’t it?) and her family; Parvati, Reena’s part-time maid (who is a barely tolerable and weak replacement for Murali, the former full-time servant); Anirban Dasgupta and his wife Proteeksha, the Punjab/Bengali couple who live next door in Flat No. 69; jewelry maker Sanjay Singh and Neeru his wife; and the ever-effervescent private detective Harinmoy Banerjee. There is also the matter of fish, interwoven intricately throughout.

Thanks to her beautician, Reena’s love for jewelry making has been rekindled. She meets Sanjay as she embarks on her new career as a part-time business woman. Making jewelry provides her an outlet, something her traditional mother, traveling businessman husband, and busy children struggle to understand. She takes over the dining room table to craft her designs and spends afternoons visiting Sanjay and other merchants in the roadside shops to the dismay of her husband.

When [Reena’s] seriousness with her work began to interfere with her attention to the little details around [her husband Anand], thing she had taken care of earlier because she had nothing else on her mind, he expressed his disapproval.

“You are getting too involved. Why do you need to do all this running around at your age? … I miss the hot rotis you make for me. you have no time to talk to me … and the dhobi just can’t iron shirts like you do … did.” …

She had expected him to be highly supportive.

But when a Hilsa fish shows up unexpectedly on her doorstep, followed closely by an unexpected meeting with Harinmoy Banerjee, a colorful private investigator and self-labeled Super Sleuth who rings Reena’s door looking for Proteeksha, the next door neighbor from Flat No. 69, Reena embarks on an adventure filled with intrigue, laughter, tears, and gossip. And of course, fish.

Iyengar skillfully mixes language and cultures into a delicious stew that will suit any taste. She intermingles traditional Hindi and Bengali words and phrases (there is a glossary of terms in the back for the less initiated) with Western terms familiar to any English speaker of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Her words come off the page to tickle the palate. The sound of the traditional words and phrases, when read aloud, are lyrical to the ear: phrases such as Na rehega bans, na bajegi bansuri (“If there is no bamboo, there will be no flute,” meaning “If the source of the trouble is removed, then the trouble won’t occur,” according to the glossary) and Daane daane pe likha hai khane wale ka naam (“On each morsel is written the name of the person destined to eat it”) are just two examples.

As Chris Galvin Nguyen, the writer of the book’s forward indicates, Many Fish to Fry examines Indian social issues and suggests what it is like to move beyond tradition through the use of “real-life trends of language and culture in India.” For weeks after reading it, you will be challenged not to end every sentence with Harinmoy’s classic Is it not, dear?

This is not Iyengar’s first book, but it is her first with Pure Slush. She has a number of other published works worth checking out and can be found at www.abhaiyengar.com and www.abhaencounter.blogspot.in.

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Andree-New

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.

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