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- Tommy Tackles Suicide by Mark Trimeloni - FictionDB
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Item s unavailable for purchase. Please review your cart. You can remove the unavailable item s now or we'll automatically remove it at Checkout. Remove FREE. Unavailable for purchase. Continue shopping Checkout Continue shopping. Chi ama i libri sceglie Kobo e inMondadori. View Synopsis. Why's Tommy Naked? Free eBook Add to My Books. In this series View all Book 2. Book 3. Book 4. Book 5. Skip this list. Ratings and Book Reviews 0 0 star ratings 0 reviews. I love this piece. Frances Gapper. This does what many of my favorite pieces do.
Frances is so great at this, she reminds me of a modern and sassier Jane Austen. It kept calling to me.
A little voice said, do your work Leonora and I ignored it—. Marcy Dermansky. Because I love anything by Marcy Dermansky. I read her on a plane trip to Orlando and she completely changed my life. Miranda July. She is another one I used to read at work. I kept her hidden beneath my desk and sometimes she would sneak out and slip me crackers.
Claire Polders. Pat Foran. I love everything he writes. Al Kratz. Because you need to read this. And magic. When you read it you will know. Janice Leagra. As in it feels like it all came out in one big, magical whoosh!!! Josh Denslow. His pieces are great. They make me laugh. And not just in a ha-ha way. In a deep way. Paul Beckman. Cathy Ulrich and her amazing murdered girls. Especially that babysitter. Rebecca Saltzman.
Because cannibals on the Q train. I have an advice column. There is also sometimes occasionally actual practical advice. This happens once every 6 th -dozenth solar flare. I wish I could keep them hidden beneath my desk and ask them writing advice but this would probably not be legal. PPS I know I talked in the beginning here about cutting to the chase. I should probably tweak some of this.
She is the new fiction editor for Pidgeonholes.
In myself, too, to be honest. I would write these 25 and page stories that had interesting moments and interesting characters, but they would just wander all over the place and eventually disassemble all over the page. And so I stopped writing. And then, as I always do in times of stress and sadness, I started reading. And I discovered flash. Well, rediscovered it, really. And I thought maybe if I focused on compact writing, on compressed narrative, it could teach me a few things about writing longform fiction.
I started following journals and reading who they were publishing. So I just read more and more, trying to learn, trying to figure out how to approach this genre that I knew very little about, and then I started tinkering around. When I was writing longform fiction, I would get so stressed and so focused on the end game, on gritting my teeth to just get through, that I often missed honing those critical connections that the reader needs in order to invest in the piece.
But then I discovered that for me reading and writing flash is for me like a single contraction: pure pain, but also pure beauty and joy, and the intensity of it is so powerful but so brief that I can just give myself over to it completely, let my mind and my body steep in every single word. I feel it for that length of time too, the same way my body can still feel the reverberations of those contractions from childbirth when I think about them: I remember what I was drinking when I read a piece, how it tasted, what the light looked light in the room, the sound of my breath as it caught in my throat when something in that piece tore me open or made me laugh.
And while I did learn a valuable lesson about longform from writing flash — which is that, just as with labor, longform is a series of well-synchronized contractions that propel a person along to a moment of impossible revelation — I also discovered that I loved flash not just for what it taught me about longform but for what it was in its own right.
But flash? Flash is where I give myself over to the pain, where the pain brings me joy. Characters always come to me first. When I start thinking about what motivates a character, the story usually springs from those motivations. I would love to be one of those writers for whom a carefully-constructed plot comes easily, but I was not blessed with that particular skill. Both, actually. My Ph. Both have taught me incredible time management skills and discipline.
This is always such a difficult question to answer because there are so many writers I fiercely admire. These are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head, though. So I feel very lucky. If you like their work, share it, and please tell them it meant something to you. The people who have taken the time to do that for me, those are the people who kept me writing. I know because I was them. And more than anything, they need someone to see their work, to love it, and to let them know. They need that recognition and the encouragement that comes with it. I hope more than anything that we can give it to them.
She lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her family. Flash also big-time motivates me with my longer pieces, builds my confidence to know I can find many micro-level ways to bring them to the finish line. If I told you I heard voices in my head, would you have me straight-jacketed? A first line appears generally out of nowhere and I puzzle it in my head until it feels right. Then I start to write and let that voice tell its story. Tommy, this could be a therapy session! Revealed details sometimes make for fabulous story kernels!
I tried to vary the list from previous interviews as best I could, which meant omitting so many of my go-to writers sorry! So much of this story is true; it feels like a time capsule of my grade school experience. Michele lives in Tucson and serves as assistant fiction editor at Split Lip Magazine. It depends on the story to some extent, but what keeps me afloat more than any other elements are probably rhythm and theme. I get snagged on ideas and love to mine and mine and mine.
But in putting those ideas onto the page, rhythm is in command. I will rewrite sentences hundreds of times until they sound just right. I will change the meaning of a sentence in service of making the rhythm right. The most painful thing to me as a reader is prose that is inelegant. Reading prose that is clunky and awkward is like driving a heavily potholed road. Precise over messy, almost always. Probably this is related to my above answer. Whether that precision comes quickly or slowly varies from story to story, though. Some stories come together rapidly.
I write the entire draft in a sitting, and all it needs is a little tweaking. But a lot of the time I build my stories slowly over a period of months or years. Even flash fiction. I put stories aside and take them back out again. So many. Science writing, mothering, running. Above all else, however, the experience of being female in a patriarchal world is what influences my writing most. This is difficult to answer because I want to name so many stories and so many writers. I worked on it on and off for several years.
For me, the title and the ending make this story, yet oddly, weeks after it had been accepted for publication, an editor at Gravel asked me to cut the last two lines. I received Black Tickets as a gift from my first undergrad workshop instructor, the fearless and scary smart Lucy Corin, and that generosity — with her notes in margins — affected me deeply.
I came to flash or flash came to me out of necessity. It was I had babies. I was shit. I could barely finish a sentence let alone sustain any lengthy narrative. But could I tell a story in words? Flash demands you get in, get out. On those days when the choices were shower or write, and the writing won out to the chagrin of those who smelled me I found I could crank out something rough but honest enough to whittle down and play around with later. Flash flexed a natural, undiscovered muscle. Universe in a grain of sand, no matter the size of the grain.
Want is the imperative and it is impossible for me to write without it. Even if the character denies, disavows, or remains at psychic odds from their own urges, that pulse is prerequisite for story. Catch it, however, I can. Dissatisfaction persists. Even after publication, my fingers itch. My collection is an embarrassment of ink. It all goes into the pot. Body and mind are as inextricable as real and imaged life.
To be clear: I write fiction. One of the best things about my twitter feed is how it curates a constant, inspiring stream of new work, with links to wonderful stories I can never keep up! Sure, there are pieces that ran in now-defunct journals; longer stories in print that died a swift paper death. I mean, this world. All that demands our energy. I tried to write about this in a Wigleaf postcard once. She teaches creative writing at St. It seems like it would be impossible, or like it sets you up to fail. All flash writers are close cousins of Sisyphus and Charlie Brown.
Character, definitely. I want to know why people do the things they do. I want to worry about them. I want to see them survive. Quick and dirty rough draft, with no judgment or self-editing. Then, ideally, I will keep revisiting the piece over weeks and months in an effort to refine it. Sometimes I find myself overhauling the entire piece, and other times I only need to correct the moments where I falter. My anxiety. I want to believe I have some measure of control somewhere in this world and so I burden my writing with that impossible task.
It rarely works out, of course. Michelle Ross. I admire everything Melissa Goode writes. I love walking around cities with her and watching characters navigate intimate relationships. Sometimes I wonder what those characters are doing now. Currently living in Southern California with her husband and children, she can be found at janstinchcomb. I like understatement, efficiency, playfulness, nuance. These are seemingly contradictory things but together they create tension and intrigue. Flash is an ideal form for me, in that regard.
My favorite novelists started out as poets. You can see it in the stylistic choices they make. There is an economy of language without sacrificing any of the texture that makes a story compelling. I see a lot of the same qualities in the flash fiction writers I admire. The short answer: I have no idea. Most of the stories I write end up short and I trust myself enough as a writer to leave them that way.
But, setting as character. My stories always begin, at least during the writing process, with a sense of place. For me, the physical geography of a place or moment will inform the larger emotional geography of a story. The desert is as much a character as any person and has as much, if not more, impact on plot than any other element in the story. I tend to think about a story for a long time before I ever write a word. And I edit slow. So, I would say that my writing style is just: slow. Happy and slow. Like a sloth. Being a parent. I definitely see his influence on my writing and the choices I make as an editor.
Also, I have this thing about birds. Thankfully, my husband is a birding guide, so that worked out well. All of the stories we publish at jmww. Shameless promotion!
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I hear less about stories published in print than those published online, and the obvious issue there is accessibility. I feel pretty lucky, though. People who read and share stories are superheroes. Kristin Bonilla is a fiction writer living in Houston, TX.
She is a flash fiction editor at jmww. Follow her kbonilla and read more at www. In high school and college, I was really into writing poetry. I like how poetry and flash convey an intense experience succinctly. I see flash as a well-sharpened knife that can slice to the heart of the matter quickly, or a bolt of lightning that leaves the landscape forever changed in a matter of seconds. I also love how challenging it is to tell a story in such a short space. The first draft is always quick and messy. I spent all my childhood summers in small towns and on our family farms in the Driftless region of Minnesota and Wisconsin, and I notice that setting creeping into my stories again and again.
That, and the things I learn about the history of women; my feminism definitely influences my writing, always. It was so well-promoted when it came out, and it was super exciting. I still go back to it and am tempted to share it again. You can find her at katefinegan. Ever since I first discovered short stories, I fell in love with the form. When I then was introduced to flash, I was amazed at how much could be done in so little space.
The compression, the sense of play, the intensity of the language: all of that draws me into flash in the same way my favorite poems grab ahold of me. But for me, the narrative voice is the entry point into a story. It sets the tone, is like the You Are Here red x on a map; it might even tell me which direction to begin walking.
Quick and messy to start. I quell at the thought of embarking on anything novel-length. I work as an animator, so I find myself fixated on the movement of things. Animation—and visual arts in general—is often about distillation and exaggeration of character. Flash can be like that also. As writers, we often work in miniature, while animators work in 30ths of a second. I must also say that my own experiences as a husband, a father, a denizen of the rural South, of urban Los Angeles, and suburban Maryland have all shaped my writing.
I dread this question. There are so many amazing writers out there. I feel fortunate to be a part of such a warm and inclusive community of flash fiction writers on Twitter. She takes my things. She wears my lipstick, my dresses, my monogrammed sweaters. Find him on Twitter jnjoneswriter. I started out writing long, full short stories, often so long that I had a hard time finding a home for them. But when I look at them I realize that many of them are written as a series of short scenes.
It was a relief, actually—not to have to worry about continuity and filling in the chinks. I could leave out the boring parts. Actually, neither. Often, for me, what sparks a story is an image. Quick and messy initially. Probably childhood and adolescence. Urgh, tough one. And there is so much amazing work coming out right now, and journals that are publishing incredible flash. And yearly anthologies! And podcasts! I love the voice in that story and the strength and attitude of the young girl characters, but I think it was overlooked in the holiday rush.
I write flash because I enjoy the challenge of capturing a pivotal moment for a character in just a few pages. In those pages, I need to show readers why this moment matters. However, when writing short stories, I tend to have more than two characters present, expressing themselves through dialogue. Flash allows me to lock two characters in a room, forcing them into conflict that depends less on dialogue and more on their nonverbal cues.
Silence, what is left unsaid, has always intrigued me. A lot can happen between two people with two different perspectives, in a locked room. I love writing why or how a despicable character becomes despicable. Exploring how they talk or how their movements change based upon their surroundings or their company. My writing style is a bit of both. The thought process is always slow and precise.
I could have several ideas bouncing around in my head but without a precise starting point, the story is just an idea locked away in my mind. Once the story has made its way into my journal, I start editing as I type. Between the page and the computer is where the mess happens. I have the stories my parents tell me, but they only go back so far. I come from an older family. My maternal grandfather was born in and only a few years separate him from my other grandparents.
Also, by the time I could talk to them, both of my grandfathers were already deceased. I was too young to crave the histories of my grandmothers and they were too tired to relive them. So, I cling to the precious memories I do have of them, of what history has taught me, what my parents remember of the shadows of their grandparents, and try to portray those struggles in my stories. This is my way of sharing that they, my ancestors, can never be erased.
Dina L. Relles— Where We Land — matchbook. I love the dark fairytale elements of this story and all the little details I managed to squeeze into such a short piece. When she is not exploring the realms of speculative, jazz, and historical fiction, K. I love its precision. It forces me to choose every word, to trim all the fat, to identify the core of a story and eliminate all fluff.
Reading and writing flash requires attention. Currently, as a fiction editor, I often find long stories flabby: parts seem brilliant, but parts drag. Flash eliminates all the boring stuff. Definitely character! Plot is a struggle. Whoops, forgot to include a plot! Dalloway , most high modernism. I gravitate toward character.
The reason I write is the same reason I read, and why in another life I think I would have made a decent psychotherapist: I like to figure people out. I veer towards quick and messy. My modus operandi with flash is to bang out the first draft in a sitting. I want the shape of the story splashed out. My revision process is all about chiseling. Even as a college student, I used to feel a dorky gratification when a draft of a paper was too long and needed cutting down. I enjoy removing flab, making stories trim and muscular.
When I get a story into more or less presentable condition, I send it to my first reader, Michelle Ross, and she gives me edits. The ones I take graciously are the cuts. Whenever Michelle wants me to add or develop something, I grumble. I tend to write polished drafts, but I am a baby about doing comprehensive revisions. Any chore, no matter how onerous, seems preferable. Becoming a parent fundamentally changed both the way I write and the way I read.
Certain books are simply not the same for me now: Beloved , always heartbreaking, kills me now—I cry every time I reread it which is often, because I teach it. A number of my characters are flawed parents. Others are struggling adolescents. Writing is a way for me to process some of my worst fears: what would it mean to lose a child, or to let down a child catastrophically? One of the fascinating things about having children is the way it makes one confront wrapped-up parts of oneself. Kids hold up mirrors. There are so many flash writers I love! That final line about the slowing heartbeat is devastating.
I worried it was too shapeless. It morphed on me. Initially, I thought I was writing a nasty stepmother story, but almost without my volition, Nina became a lot warmer and messier than my original picture of her. So, I want people to pay attention to the two understated Laurel stories! The two middle ones shout them down.
Her novel The Light Source is forthcoming from 7. She is Fiction Editor of Pithead Chapel. Flash combines the lyric precision of poetry with the narrative urgency of fiction. The real reason is because I dole out my life in coffee spoons. I write in grabbed time and flash lends itself nicely to small dollops.
Character, with a splash of plot, most likely because I am a terrible plotter. At some point in the writing, I get hold of a tail of something — a metaphor, an action — and hitch a ride on that for a while. I eventually arrive at a story or even better, a hint of a story. Ideally, quick and messy on first swipe after which I abandon the mess for a while to forget what I both love and hate about it.
At some point, I start to revise. I might see a potential structure and how that might work to underscore theme. How fooling around with language can create opportunities for metaphor that expand and deepen understanding and meaning. A mentor once said to me that there are no true synonyms in the English language, and I agree. My cats, dead and alive. Swimming, definitely. I have a bank of stored-up images that need homes, and usually I find them in my poems or prose. Hard question! Norton, Among her awards are a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and a grant from the Constance Saltonstall Foundation in I think it fits in with the amount of time I have to write—which is not that much these days since I have a lot going on, including a full-time job, family, my buddies, co-editing Word Story, swimming, reading, and just living.
Writing flash also harkens back to my writing origins as a poet, where I worked within different structures, with imagery and themes, and with an attention to language. What I am still learning now that I write fiction is dialogue, something that is new to me as a writer and pretty difficult.
May I say both? I am just writing to write. But I need a narrator and others I can believe in to tell the story. More and more I am holding off on writing until I have a better sense in my head of what I am writing and who is going to do the work for me in my story.
I have been making notes, too, and sometimes asking myself how I could make my idea more interesting or unusual. I am slow and precise. I write some, back up, rewrite and add a bit more, back up, rewrite, add a bit more, until the story is done. Then I might go in and add sections or re-work it.
It can be a laborious process, with pen and paper. I think I have probably not entirely transitioned from writing poetry to fiction. I seem to write a lot about moving, being lost, homes, and travel. I suspect this is because I moved a lot as a kid. These days I have written more from the news since I find it very troubling, and about aging and mortality. Pretty much whatever is going on in my life and around me may make it into a story, from the pedestrian to the significant. There are so many talented writers out there right now that it is pretty impossible to pick.
One of my favorite journals to read is Jellyfish Review. I think Christopher James has pretty impeccable taste, and I like how he will publish brand-new writers or established one, and across genres. I really put a lot of myself into that one, and I still like it when I read it over again these days. I challenged myself to write something short, to tell a complete and harrowing story in as few words as possible.
Now, I love the compression and the gut-punch of a successful piece of flash, that sense of illumination like a firework ripping through a dark sky. I explore the role of silence a lot in my fiction, whether real or perceived, and I find that flash is a way of breaking silence.
My instinct is to say character because my finished work tends to be character-driven rather than plot-intensive. Quick and messy in the first draft or, actually, slow and super-messy. And then slow and precise in the subsequent revisions. So various interests maneuver themselves into the work, but the single most consistent part of my life that slips in is food. I love to cook, I love to eat, I love interesting cocktails, and most of all I love to get my characters eating or cooking or drinking. The bonus is that, of course, what and how we eat and drink is extremely revealing of character, so I get to indulge myself while also helping the fiction along.
Amy Hempel is a master, of course. But I worked on it for more than a year and most of the time I had no idea what I was doing or even if I could do what I wanted to do, which was to write a continuous story told in the form of a craft lecture about point of view; each of the 10 sections is told with a different point of view choice, i. Anyway, I thought I was done several times before I really was done, and the whole writing experience nearly did me in, so I selfishly and secretly wish this story was required reading for everyone in America!
She lives in Alexandria, Virginia. For more information: www. That one sharp story. Maybe I like it so much because of music. Broke them down and thought about how they worked. An album is basically a flash fiction chapbook. I will say it is way more than word count. It is scope and voice. I need to get better at both. I need to get a lifejacket. Quick and messy when an idea forces itself out. Always slow and precise on rewriting. A lot of my flash is semi-autobiographical bordering on autofiction. Sister Suite by Christine Stroud is a beautifully poetic book. Al Kratz lives in Indianola, Iowa with his wife and their three old dogs.
This is great for flash but proving to be a real problem as I try and get my short story collection off the ground! Oh, definitely plot. My stories tend to hinge on the odd thing that is happening rather than the people in them. I can tell pretty quickly if a piece is going to be good or not, something about the ease with which the original idea gets onto the paper. These days I often go from idea to submission within a few hours. However, for anything other than flash e.
I mean to be fair, maybe my flash would be better if I treated it that way too! Maybe I should slow down and try it…. You have quips with everyone from the bus driver to the milkman to your teachers and of course with your family so you learn quickly to think of a good comeback.
I would like to start a funny flash mag when I have the time. When Stranded on an Iceberg by Tino Prinzi. So dark and intriguing with a touch of the magical. I hope people enjoy it! She organises the Story For Daniel Flash Fiction Competition to raise awareness of blood stem cell donation and childhood cancer support.
She is currently working on her debut short story collection and will release her first book of flash fiction, Business As Usual, in January Thank you so much for asking me to do this. It has really made me think. For me, everything about flash fiction is more immediate than other forms of literature.
They do take time to write, but still, they are not as time consuming as short stories or indeed novels. The submission and feedback process from magazines and competitions is also relatively quick. What makes flash fiction different, is its precision. Short stories and novels do share this quality, at times, but flash fiction is all about precision. For me, a great flash piece is like a ray of light shining on one tiny, yet universal truth. This is a naughty question. But I like it. The conclusion I have reached, is that fundamentally, people want to read about people or animals — but even these tend to be anthropomorphised, and so end up being about people too.
Plot is what happens to characters, so this of course is important too. But ultimately, all good fiction says something about what it feels like to be human. And when a writer hits on something the reader recognises to be a shared human experience… well here lies its magic. This made me see how important it is to be both quick and slow at different times. Then the slow part of your brain has to sift for that nugget of gold in amongst all the other stuff your brain is playing with.
The writing process really does feel wonderfully spooky sometimes. Has to be the things other people say and do. People do and say unbelievably wonderful things without even realising sometimes. This is tough because there are so many writers, and now friends, who I follow and whose work I think is wonderful.
The Elephant in the Room: One Fat Man's Quest to Get Smaller in a Growing America
Melissa Goode writes stories on a theme I come back to time and again myself: relationships. She has such a light touch, and this ability to gesture to different moments in time that connect and spark off one another. Christopher M Drew writes stories that integrates the natural world and science beautifully. I have been lucky enough to share drafts of stories with Chris, and have received his invaluable advice.
She writes with freedom and bravery, generating a feeling of hope and joy. When I read one of her flash pieces I see the word in a slightly different way. A wonderful writer. Peter Jordan is a terrific writer. His stories uncover universal truths that are presented in a clear and visceral way. I wrote this at a time I was learning about white space and leaving room for the reader.
I think there are stories in which you recognise an improvement in your craft. Thank you again for this opportunity. You can find links to his stories on his website: adamlock. Thanks for having me, Tommy. I started writing flash before I knew its name. To my delight, I won first prize in a local competition for a word story, based on a really creepy portrait of a girl in a party dress.
It gave me such a boost and encouraged me to write more. Playing with words has always been something of an obsession for me. As a history teacher, I told stories day in, day out. When I began to write creatively, I had to unlearn my teacherly ways: my love of clarity and purpose, my desire to educate. By letting go a little and allowing the reader to conspire with me in the story, my stories began to breathe.
The more I have written and read, the more I have come to understand the special nature of the form. Not quite prose, not quite poem, it occupies the gaps between. Flash is story at its most pure, the literary equivalent of a fine malt whiskey. The finished piece may be short — consumed in a single sitting — but it can deliver a powerful, lingering taste, and there is so much craft behind each tiny piece, so much discarded along the way in the interests of distilling the story to its essence.
The most satisfying flashes leave a physical impression on the reader, the way whiskey stings, then warms, the throat. What happens is intrinsically wrapped up in the person or people I write about. Plot comes out of character and character comes out of place. Setting or mood are what I tend to begin with: so, I might start with an idea to write about a specific emotion, then I create a scene and the characters kind of stroll in of their own accord and start doing stuff.
I like for there to be an arc of sorts — a satisfying sense of shift — but I try not to force plot in a way that feels contrived. I have Kathy Fish to thank for teaching me the importance of staying true to the emotional core of a story. My memory works like a series of films. I tend to write in that way, like a person orientating themselves in a place — exploring my surroundings using the senses, honing in on the earthy paper smell of a library book, or the crunch of dry grass during a hot summer, or the erratic movement of a beetle across a patio.
I am so bad at these binary choices! I suppose I start messy, with paper and pen. Being a terribly slow typist, I prefer to explore the beginnings of an idea on paper. As soon as I can no longer bear the crossings out, I move onto my laptop, where I start to shape the piece. I keep my old notebooks and find it interesting to see those early scribblings.
Because rhythm is important to me — my best tip for editing is to read your words aloud, paying attention to the awkward bits — I often lift whole sentences in their original form. What a great question! Going back to my time as a history student and teacher, I suppose I have always been fascinated by the unsaid — the story that goes on in the white space between words. I love to explore those hidden places, teasing out truths that have gone unnoticed and the characters whose stories might have been overlooked.
I am also a massive over thinker, forever poring over past conversations, wondering if I read them correctly, worrying I may have got the wrong end of the stick and caused massive offense. I find flash in those moments of awkwardness, those sudden, uncomfortable realisations. Trying to narrow this down to just a few is so tough — the list of writers I admire, each for their particular style or tone, is way too long to share.
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I was struck by how these stories poke around fearlessly in the darkest of corners. Each flash explores the world of the missing from different perspectives, from victim to onlooker to perpetrator. Nola , originally published in Monkey Bicycle , was a stand-out story for me. I keep going back to this story. Carle — Tyn FlashBack Fiction.
I loved this Reflex-winning piece before I even read it. That title is a story in of itself. His longer work is worth seeking out, and if you ever get a chance to hear him read — jump at it. I feel lucky to have landed my stories with some great publications. More recently, I was pleased as punch to have The Word Swallower up at Ellipsis ; this story was one of those rare ones that come out in one sitting, totally going against my whiskey metaphor.
Tommy Tackles Suicide by Mark Trimeloni - FictionDB
But there you go — flash is ever surprising! Her stories have been published in various magazines and anthologies, most recently in Ellipsis and Ripening the National Flash Fiction Day Anthology. Emily is on the editorial team for historical flash fiction magazine FlashBack Fiction. She tweets DevaneEmily. To me, flash has some kindred connection to poetry. From a craft perspective, they both require special attention to the individual words—the weight of a single one can tip a shortie or poem toward ruin or raise it up high—but they also rely on negative space to function at the highest level.
You have to allow the reader to fill in the gaps. So you end up with these glorious ghost words and spectral sentences, where the reader is plugging holes with his or her own expectations and experiences. I love the idea of that sort of collaborative storytelling. Which I think takes place in all writing, but is especially relevant and necessary with flash. This dichotomy of meticulous precision and faith in the reader is so exciting to me. Every piece is an experiment in conjecture. In terms of practical use, due to its length, flash is a smaller mountain to climb on trying days.
I may not be able to complete a chapter or write a full short, but I can craft a flash. I think all great stories have both. Compelling people doing compelling things. When it comes down to it, plot is cleverness disguised as action, and, as twisting and branching as any plot can be, every road reaches its end. We all run out of cleverness eventually. But all writers have had that moment when a character becomes fully autonomous, when she starts acting of her own accord, begins to discover her own plots, her own courses of action.
It becomes more fun than work. Like watching a movie in my mind. I make a lot of silly, stupid mistakes. They were wrong, thankfully, but that introduction to my own mortality at such a young age has—in retrospect—had a profound influence on my writing. I find hope in dark places and companionship in the idea that all things must have an end, that I am not alone in my guaranteed expiration. As frightening as it may be to some, I find such comfort in the idea that we are all on this sinking ship together, that we get to experience so many breathtaking moments together before this thing goes down.
Being seriously ill is a constant balancing act between gratitude and alienation. Beyond functioning as art or entertainment, I believe that reading and writing, the inherent communication between two minds often separated by distance and time, is the most effective balm for loneliness. I think I owe that desire to childhood summers spent in hospital beds, staring up at the ceiling, trying to prop up the weight of the world with the spine of a book.
The right story can save someone from being crushed. I want to write that story. For others. For myself. I think no conversation about flash is complete without mention of the incomparable Kathy Fish, who is not only a brilliant writer in her own right but who seems to be able to pull magic out of others at will. Noa Sivan is the writer who inspired me to write flash in the first place.
I have to try that. Her creativity is simply off the charts. I love absolutely everything Cathy Ulrich has ever written. Find her damn diary. Everything she does lights me up. More than terrific. Leesa Cross-Smith. Tara Laskowski. Melissa Goodrich. I mean, have you read Melissa Goodrich? Are you kidding? Build worlds, not walls. Flash fiction is a lightning strike — a whole story in less than words that begins in the moment right before the bolt hits.
It requires three things: character, plot, and immediacy. I like writing flash because I get to drop the reader into the story moments before the crisis. I can put a character in an open field with a metal rod in their hand right before the storm breaks out. The sky is dark and weird. The hair on their arms stands on edge. I love flash fiction because it is like practicing therapeutic mindfulness through my characters. The only thing that matters is the moment they are in. Never plot. I almost never know what is happening until its written which is why I struggle with long-form writing.
Often, I focus on character but can I break the rules a little here? I tend to orient my writing, even if it is not obvious on the page, in place. Drawing connections between theme and carefully selected physical details save my ass every time. In the above example of the person standing in the open field, imagine it is Spring and the air is thick with the smell of ozone. The long grass sways in the breeze. But, the wind is picking up and the sky is at odds with such a hopeful field. My character has created tension with their world by bringing a metal rod — such a stupid thing to do.
The metal rod acts to alienate my character from the landscape. There will be a price to pay for that. That penalty — and how the reader can relate — is the story. I moved around a lot as a kid. I never lived in the same place for more than two years until I was an adult. The theme I see repeating itself organically throughout my writing is the sense of place I talked about before. They are the source of each other and create each other.