Posts in "Really Good Reads" Category

Bay to Ocean Writers Conference: Flash Fiction Resources

Yesterday I had the pleasure of presenting “Tiny but Mighty: How to Write Amazing Flash Fiction” at the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills, Maryland. As I promised attendees, I’m posting my handout here of some resources for flash fiction writers, some of which was adapted from an earlier handout for a novella-in-flash panel created for the Conversations and Connections Conference in Virginia.

In addition, here are the stories I read aloud or mentioned during the presentation: Soap by Katrina Denza, Nightstands by Cole Meyer, and Gravity, Reduced by Kara Oakleaf.

Tips, Prompts, and a Reading List from Tiny but Mighty: How to Write Amazing Flash Fiction

A Bay to Ocean Writing Conference 2017 panel by Tara Laskowski

 

Tips for Writing Flash:

  • Start at the flashpoint—by definition, flash begins at the moment of conflict, when all the action is nearly complete.
  • Focus on the powerful image(s)—Find one or more powerful images to focus your story on.
  • Hit them where it hurts—go for an ending that offers an emotional impact. Play against expectations with a sense of narrative mystery or devastating twist, a poignant implication or declarative last sentence that leaves the reader breathless, and going back for more. Not an “aha” moment or a punchline. An ending more nuanced than that.
  • Strive for the concrete. Eliminate the word “thing” or “something,” for example. Replace that word with an actual concept, image, noun, etc, that explicitly participates in the image you are portraying.
  • Write the whole story, then eliminate useless words.
  • Stay away from punchline endings or “joke” flash fiction.

Some Flash Prompts:

Fictionalize a true moment: Start a flash piece with a specific memory of your own grounded in the five senses (touch, smell, feel, seeing, hearing) – For example: the feel of an aunt scratching your scalp or the smell of your child’s bedroom. This memory should be specific enough to work into a moment. Find the story from there.

Use pictures, paintings, or music to inspire a flashpoint.

Tell the story backward or play with the idea of memory and nonlinear time in a story.

Think of writing a flash piece as a scene when working on something longer, say a longer short story or as a novel chapter.  Flash is inherently raw with emotion. When wanting to draft a pivotal moment, take the time to draft a flash piece – with a beginning, middle and end — to represent that moment between your characters.  Break down the action to its bare essentials for more impact.

Write a story only using dialogue. Use no dialogue tags.

Find a dictionary. Open it to a random page, close your eyes, and point to a spot on the page to select a word. Do that several times to generate a list of random words, then write a flash that includes all of those words.

For Further Reading

Flash Guides

The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction edited by Tara L. Masih

The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction edited by Dinty W. Moore

A Pocket Guide to Flash Fiction edited by Randall Brown

Brevity: A Flash Fiction Handbook edited by David Galef

What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers edited by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter

Flash Fiction Collections

Mad to Live by Randall Brown

Severance by Robert Olen Butler

A Kind of Flying by Ron Carlson

The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis by Lydia Davis

The Coast of Chicago: Stories by Stuart Dybeck

Whiskey, Etc. by Sherrie Flick

Wild Life by Kathy Fish

Maybe Mermaids and Robots Are Lonely by Matthew Fogarty

Surrounded by Water by Stefanie Freele

Truck Dance by Jeff Landon

Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons by Tara Laskowski

Lust by Susan Minot

May We Shed These Human Bodies by Amber Sparks

 

Journals That Feature Flash

Smokelong Quarterly

Brevity

Every Day Fiction (open to genre)

Gamut Magazine (paying market, genre)

matchbook

Monkeybicycle

Nanofiction

Necessary Fiction

District Lit

The Collagist

The Short Form

The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts (paying market)

Wigleaf

Whiskey Paper

Shotgun Honey (crime fiction)

Gay Flash Fiction (LBGTQ)

Shimmer (diversity)

Abyss & Apex (speculative fiction)

Cease, Cows

Aphelion (science fiction and fantasy)

Daily Science Fiction

Narratives-in-Flash

Matt Bell, Cataclysm Baby

Chris Bower, Margaret Patton Chapman, Tiff Holland, Meg Pokrass, and Aaron Teel, My Very End of the Universe: Five Novellas-in-Flash and a Study of the Form

Aaron Burch, How to Predict the Weather

Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street

Evan S. Connell, Mrs. Bridge

Matthew Salesses, I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying

Lex Williford, Superman on the Roof

Presses that Publish Flash Collections

Curbside Splendor

Jellyfish Highway

Matter Press

Rose Metal Press

Press 53

Stillhouse Press

Flash Stories

The Heiress by Tara Laskowski: matterpress.com/journal/2015/03/02/the-heiress/

The Cage in the Woods by Joe Lucido: wigleaf.com/201509cage.htm

Cravat by Roseanne Scott: www.smokelong.com/cravat/

Conjugation by Jen Michalski: www.smokelong.com/conjugation/

Bartleby Snopes contest (2000 words or less): http://www.bartlebysnopes.com/bartleby-snopes-issue-14.pdf

Transplanting by Lisa Smithies: http://www.smokelong.com/transplanting/

Dive by Dawn West: http://www.smokelong.com/dive/

Marriage by Anna Lea Jancewicz : http://www.matchbooklitmag.com/jancewicz.html

Flash Fiction Prompts and Readings–Handout from Conversations and Connections DC 2016

I had a lovely time presenting at this year’s DC Conversations and Connections conference with Tyrese Coleman, editor of District Lit, and Abigail Beckel, publisher at Rose Metal Press. Our panel, The Long from the Short: Turning Flash Fiction Pieces into a Series or Novel, was so well-attended that we ran out of handouts! As promised, I’m posting our tips, prompts, and further reading list here.

Also, here are some relevant links:

District Lit

Rose Metal Press

SmokeLong Quarterly

Also, thank you to the folks who asked about Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons. I should’ve mentioned the book is currently out of print, although it is being re-released in early 2017 by Santa Fe Writers Project. You can still find it on Kindle right now if you’d like to check it out.

Cheers!

Tips for Writing Flash:

Start at the flashpoint—by definition Flash begins at the moment of conflict, when all the action is nearly complete.

Focus on the powerful image(s)—Find one or more powerful images to focus your story on.

Hit them where it hurts—Go for an ending that offers an emotional impact. Play against expectations with a sense of narrative mystery or devastating twist, a poignant implication or declarative last sentence that leaves the reader breathless, and going back for more. Not an “aha” moment or a punchline. An ending more nuanced than that.

Strive for the concrete.  Eliminate the word “thing” or “something,” for example.  Replace that word with an actual concept, image, noun, etc, that explicitly participates in the image you are portraying.

Write the whole story, then eliminate useless words.

Stay away from punchline endings or “joke” flash fiction.

 

Some Flash Prompts:

Fictionalizing a true moment: Start a flash piece with a specific memory of your own grounded in the five senses (touch, smell, feel, seeing, hearing) – For example: the feel of an aunt scratching your scalp or the smell of your child’s bedroom. This memory should be specific enough to work into a moment. Find the story from there.

Use pictures, paintings, or music to inspire a flashpoint.

Tell the story backward or play with the idea of memory and nonlinear time in a story.

Think of writing a flash piece as a scene when working on something longer, say a longer short story or as a novel chapter.  Flash is inherently raw with emotion. When wanting to draft a pivotal moment, take the time to draft a flash piece – with a beginning, middle and end — to represent that moment between your characters.  Break down the action to its bare essentials for more impact.

 

For Further Reading:

Narratives-in-Flash

Matt Bell, Cataclysm Baby

Chris Bower, Margaret Patton Chapman, Tiff Holland, Meg Pokrass, and Aaron Teel, My Very End of the Universe: Five Novellas-in-Flash and a Study of the Form

Gwendolyn Brooks, Maud Martha

Aaron Burch, How to Predict the Weather

Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street

Evan S. Connell, Mrs. Bridge

Lily Hoang, Changing

Tina May Hall, All the Day’s Sad Stories

Lance Olsen, Anxious Pleasures

Lance Olsen, Architectures of Possibility

Kelcey Parker, Liliane’s Balcony

Mary Robison, Why Did I Ever

Matthew Salesses, I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying

Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, Madeleine Is Sleeping

Jean Toomer, Cane

Lex Williford, Superman on the Roof (forthcoming Aug. 2016)

 

Flash Guides

The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction edited by Tara L. Masih

The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction edited by Dinty W. Moore

A Pocket Guide to Flash Fiction edited by Randall Brown

 

Journals That Feature Flash

Smokelong Quarterly

Brevity

matchbook

Monkeybicycle

Nanofiction

Necessary Fiction

District Lit

The Collagist

The Short Form

The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts

Wigleaf

Whiskey Paper

Links to flash stories/examples of flash forms:

How to Sit by Tyrese Coleman: pankmagazine.com/piece/sit/

If the Woodcutter Were a Junkie by Tyrese Coleman: queenmobs.com/2015/11/if-the-woodcutter-were-a-junkie/

Liner Notes for the Debut Album From the Band We Never Formed by Amorak Huey: brevitymag.com/nonfiction/liner-notes/

The Heiress by Tara Laskowski: matterpress.com/journal/2015/03/02/the-heiress/

The Cage in the Woods by Joe Lucido: wigleaf.com/201509cage.htm

Narrative Flash:

Cravat by Roseanne Scott: www.smokelong.com/cravat/

Conjugation by Jen Michalski: www.smokelong.com/conjugation/

Dialogue-only flash:

Bartleby Snopes contest (2000 words or less): http://www.bartlebysnopes.com/bartleby-snopes-issue-14.pdf

Flash with long time span:

Transplanting by Lisa Smithies: http://www.smokelong.com/transplanting/

Present-tense flash with amazing drive:

Dive by Dawn West: http://www.smokelong.com/dive/

Good microfiction:

Marriage by Anna Lea Jancewicz : http://www.matchbooklitmag.com/jancewicz.html

Book festivals and sand castles and other stuff going around

The Washington Independent Review of Books column I wrote last month was about the types of people you’ll find at book festivals. You know, anything from the creepy fans to the writer whose work you fall in love with. I now have one to add to my list, thanks to my own poor judgment: the person who thinks it’s ok to bring their toddler to a reading and watches in horror while he proceeds to do snow angels on the floor while a poet is expressing grief in a series of sonnets on stage. Oops.

Fall for the Book always puts me in a weird mood. I find myself excited about all these writers in one place, but it also inevitably makes me feel inadequate about my own writing and writing career and where things are going. I seem to have to recharge myself after a book festival or writing conference. I wonder if this happens to a lot of writers. We’re always comparing ourselves to other people even if the successes that happen to other people really have no bearing on what we are doing and how our work is received.

Writer Matthew Burnside recently posted a status on Facebook that I found comforting: “Sometimes you feel like you’re not being nearly productive enough as a writer and then remember this shit isn’t a race it’s a tedious shaping of sandcastles on the beach and all that matters is the integrity of the mold before the tide comes crashing in.” Truth!

Some other stuff going on right now this minute:

For a sneak peek at the novel I’m working on, you can check out the short section of it that Wigleaf published recently. Fingers crossed I can pull this off.

I also read a lovely set of novellas by Michael Ruhlman, In Short Measures, and reviewed it at Washington Independent Review of Books.

Love this super creepy story I read recently at matchbook.

And Art Taylor won an Anthony Award this past weekend at the Boucheron mystery convention. (And I found Sherlock.)

Word.

“Lonesome Tonight” published in Revolution John

I’ve got a little story over at Revolution John today called “Lonesome Tonight.” It’s about pretending. And an Elvis impersonator. I wrote this piece many years ago because of a prompt in one of the writing groups on Zoetrope and I’m happy that’s it’s emerged from the depths of my hard drive to find a (perfect) home at RJ. Sheldon Lee Compton does a fantastic job over there if you’ve got some time to browse. Check out the book reviews–(I particularly love this one and cannot wait to read Andrea Kneeland’s book now!). They’re pretty cool. I like the mix and the style, and of course I always appreciate the tireless, thankless work of journal editors.

Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons is now available for preorder!

You can order a copy of my book Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons at Matter Press right now. Be sure to check out their other titles as well from Kathy Fish, Jeff Landon, Carol Guess and Karen Dietrich.

OR, you can snag a copy of the book at my book launch at One More Page Books in Arlington, Va., on October 27 at 5 p.m. (happy hour time, people). The first 50 people to buy a book at the book launch will receive a limited edition “The Etiquette of the Happy Hour” story, which I have yet to write! But I will! I promise! And even if not, there will be cake and alcohol. And a reading!

In other news, here’s a random list of really great stuff I’ve read/seen recently (linked where possible):

Like An Original Response” by Randall Brown, in American Short Fiction

The Stand by Stephen King

Headless” by Casey Hannan, in matchbook

The Eye” by Mike Meginnis, in The Nashville Review

The Forty-Four Stories about Our Forty-Four Presidents series edited by Amber Sparks, of which I have the John Tyler contribution. Especially check out Ben Loory’s story on James K. Polk.

And last but not least, Eddie Money’s Geico commercial.