Tuesday, September 29, 2009

from Steve Himmer

I rarely start writing with a length in mind, so my short and long stories often start the same way: I glean some fact or idea from history or science or folklore, and invent a character for whom that information puts something at stake. Reading about the impact of global warming on potato harvests, for instance, made me wonder how someone whose identity depends on farming might reorder their world in response. As someone told me recently, my stories have research questions behind them, and those questions are often closer to the surface in shorter fiction because I focus more directly on exploring a driving idea – lately, that driving idea has been tall tales. Plus, if there’s anything big publishing houses are more excited about than flash fiction, it’s research questions.

The relationships I’m most interested in writing about aren’t between people (can I say that without being sent off the island?), but between a person and nature or history or technology. So I tend to write one character stories, or create isolated characters without families or friends, and very short fiction lends itself to that because if stories go on long enough a reader will ask, “Hey, where’s this character’s family?” or even, “Is the guy who wrote this story a bearded creep who lives in a cave somewhere?” Really short stories can stay inside a constrained view of the world without giving readers time to worry what’s missing. And even if the story goes right past them without making any impression, at least it won’t take very long. In longer stories, more context might need to be added, maybe explanations of why a character is alone, even if I’m less interested in those details.

When it works, very short fiction can offer a burst of awareness, like a breakthrough moment in meditation or an incredible vista appearing at a bend in the trail. That moment can be a view through the scaffolding of stories we surround ourselves with to survive, like the myth of manifest destiny in “Sanctuary.” And that fleeting clarity is so powerful, when it comes, that the drive to recreate it can lead to more stories. That’s pretty much how I think about fiction in general, of any length, but with very short fiction I think it’s easier to know when it happens, and when it doesn’t. That’s the excitement and risk of the form, an immediacy of success or failure as loud and clear as a song.

Bio: Steve Himmer is the editor of Necessary Fiction, and has just finished a novel about a bearded creep who lives in a cave somewhere.

Read “I Grow Potatoes” in Amoskeag: The Journal of southern New Hampshire University

Read “Sanctuary” at Steve's blog, Tawny Grammer, reprinted from NANO Fiction

Read “The Lion King” at Titular

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

from Tiff Holland

I never intend to write a flash. I never sit down and think: short-short. I just sit down to write. With short fiction as with poetry, the piece is usually there in my head. It's all of one piece. It gushes. I don't think about it. I'm kind of like a private dick. I follow, lurking behind corners trying to catch a glimpse of where we might be going. My favorite pieces are those that lose me at a turn or in the crowd, but then I catch up with the piece later.

Some pieces are just for fun. I work with a group that writes pieces utilizing random words. I always try to use those words in an unusual way. I also have a group of characters and themes that I go back to again and again. My mother (who always wanted me to write about her) is a recurring character as are the buzzards that perch in a tree one hundred yards past my back fence. In other words, my work is all over the place, and I think it's best that way. I get awfully bored when I see a writer's name and know the story or poem will have the same tone or subject as most of the writer's other work. My latest favorite piece? I wrote a flash about mummifying my brother's body. Of course, my brother is still alive, and my mother wasn't too crazy about the flash...

Bio: Tiff Holland writes poetry, fiction and nonfiction. Her work has appeared in dozens of litmags, ezines and anthologies and her poetry chapbook Bone In a Tin Funnel is available directly from Tiff or through Pudding House Press. Her work has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and she has work forthcoming in Night Train (the mummy piece!) and Smokelong Quarterly.

Read "Scrapple" at Smokelong Quarterly

Read "Officer Friendly" at Juked

Read "Betty Superman" at The Denver syntax

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

from Sean Lovelace

Last night I ate dinner with Harvey Pekar, the famous curmudgeon, underground comic author, the movie star.

I was a little nervous. I don’t know celebrities. My stomach did the runover snake, the chips of flint sparking or maybe Pringles (the crumblets). On the way over I drove my Subaru and drank a tall, cold can of Budweiser. It was about an hour after sundown. The moon was a Canadian quarter. I thought, “This Budweiser will make me talk OK with Harvey Pekar.”

[Flash tip: When expressing internal emotions, use figurative prose. Sarah isn’t bored. Her eyes glaze over like a dead fish. ]

Harvey Pekar had an odd voice, scratchy and high at the same time, like maybe a metal file rubbed across a unicycle. At first, I couldn’t understand his words. Then I listened closer, I locked into the cadence, the tick and flow. I could now understand. He said, “Killing an animal ain’t ethical.” I said, “Well, it’s all a spectrum.” We talked about whitetail deer and insects and then about whether or not we wear leather shoes and then Harvey Pekar said, “It’s what you said, a spectrum.” Then we ate big-ass greasy onion rings.

[Flash tip: Readers will learn, quickly. So a new voice or style of way or writing flash is perfectly fine. I might represent insomnia as fragments and shards. I might inhabit Elvis as a vignette of cocaine. No worries. The reader will eventually come along. ]

Harvey started talking about jazz and I didn’t understand a fucking word. I drank a jager, a jager, a Stella, a Stella, an IPA. My legs floated around the room and said hi to the ceiling fan and admired the ceiling fan’s whir, the sweet white crystal noise, host of fireflies, there goes the bubbles rising in the glass, glass elevators, and my legs hovering down, settling down, feet into shoes, thighs into pelvis, Jacuzzi soft jeans feel lovely, and I am back again and say to Harvey, “Look man, I don’t know about Jazz. If you are going to talk about jazz all night you’re going have to define terms, OK?”

Harvey defined terms (I clearly remember micro-tonal), then changed the subject. He told me about two pitchers for the Boston Braves, Johnny Sain and Warren Spahn. Harvey said, “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain." I thought this was pretty clever and had a nice ring to it. Then Harvey talked about the Russians and I know a shit-load about the Russians so now we were really talking. A little neighborhood of conversation. A summer breeze and jangle. I said, “I’ve never heard of that guy, Harvey, and I know all the Russians!” We laughed. Harvey drank another cherry Coke and I had a beer big as Kelly Clarkson. We laughed some more.

[Flash tip: Chekhov could teach you anything you need to know. Read every single story. Then read his letters to his brother. Then read the biographies (there are 314 at this time). OK, now write. Write about your job. If you don’t have a job, get a fucking job. Work there. Ok, now write.

Here is my nursing job

Here is my dog washing job

Here is the time a young lady cut out my heart with a ice-cream spoon and served up my soul on a saltine right before leaving me forever and stealing my dachshund.

but I digress…]

Then Harvey said, “My wife can’t stand me to be around the house” and I laughed too loud and I shouted “My wife can’t stand me either man!” and all the people at the table stared at me and so I felt all tree fall/square and got up and walked right out the door to my Subaru and drove directly home. I almost hit my own dog on my own street. That dog isn’t supposed to be running free. But it happens, man. There he goes—blur of white/spark of black—a dark ghost skittering off after the razor’s glow of streetlight…

[Flash tip: end on an image]

[Flash tip: or try the truth]

I am going to drop some 100% truth on you right now. As I was writing this, 9/22/09, after a lunch of diet Coke and pretzels, Harvey Pekar just dropped by my office here at Ball State University. I felt odd having Harvey Pekar standing in my office. He handed me a handwritten note. The writing is terrifically cacographic. I mean brutal. Loopy, crazy blue squiggles and lizard coughs. Jesus. It’s a long note, so I will just end on:

The beginning line of Harvey Pekar’s note: Sean, If you intend to pursue…

A middle line of Harvey Pekar’s note: More daring are Kotekletaev and his…

The Ending Line: Good to meet you Harvey.

Sean Lovelace blogs at Sean Blog: It All Relates 2 Writing

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

from Ethel Rohan

The Tremendous In The Tiny

In many ways I’ve changed three-hundred-and-sixty degrees as a writer. I’ve gone from writing two novel manuscripts, three partial novel manuscripts, some thirty-plus short stories over the course of a decade, to now favoring Flash and Micro Fiction. In the past twelve months I’ve written well over a hundred Flashes, publishing close to eighty to date, and still feel like I’m only warming-up.

Early in my writing career, my stories came from an image or character I’d observed or remembered, or that somehow popped into my mind, taking seed. I wrote slowly, liking to “perfect” each line before I moved onto the next. I didn’t use prompts or exercises, but pulled from my memory and imagination. I liked to know where I was “going” in the work, and took my sweet time getting there. That’s also all changed.

Today my Flash stories are still triggered by the observed, imagined, or remembered image or character. However, now for my first drafts, I also use prompt words gleaned from whatever poem, Flash, story, novel, or song lyrics inspires me and write as fast as I can, free of that inner critic, tapping into my sub-conscious, and letting everything spill uncensored onto the page.

I write the Flash in one sitting, put it aside for at least a day, and return to it with fresh eyes, finding its heart, its conflict and resolution. My goal is to revise the Flash to the point where every word counts, where there’s trouble and strangeness, where every expectation is twisted, where there’s a satisfying end, where the work is, hopefully, electrifying.

You can read some of what I believe to be my more successful published Flashes to date here:

Under Water,” Monkeybicycle

Babies On The Shore,” PANK

Rocket Into A Pocket,” (So New) Necessary Fiction

Myfawny Collins and Kathy Fish, to name just two of the best contemporary Flash writers in our midst, both had enormous influence on my growth as a Flash writer. Go read their work. Study how they do what they do. You’ll learn far more from their Flash stories than you ever will from reading this essay. Good Luck!

BIO: Raised in Ireland, Ethel Rohan now lives in San Francisco. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from elimae; PANK; Wigleaf; Storyglossia; Monkeybicycle; Word Riot; mud luscious; Staccato Fiction; (So New) Necessary Fiction, and many others. She blogs at www.straightfromtheheartinmyhip.blogspot.com.

from Tara Laskowski

My random thoughts about flash fiction:

Writing flash is no easier or harder than writing a regular short story. You can just write more of them, so your chances of getting a good one among the pile are higher.

Don’t try to be too profound. I suppose this is a personal preference, but my favorite stories are the quiet ones. I would prefer to read a 200-word story about a couple who, while washing dishes, realize their differences might doom them, rather than a 200-word story that tries to incorporate a car chase, zombies and a moralistic ending about human nature. (Actually, if someone could do that, it would probably be pretty cool.) Not to say you should be boring or mundane, though. However, bringing out the extraordinary in what otherwise might be boring or mundane is what really gets me.

You’ve got the opportunity to drop into people’s lives at just the right moment. No set-up, no history, no getting-to-know-you first dates—jump right to it. You can sneak up on your characters at that very moment the change is happening, the verdict is in, the sex is bad, the relationship is doomed, the gun is fired, the vampire is bitten, etc. And then leap out again, leaving the reader with just enough information to get all that’s come before and all that’s to come in the future and why all of it matters deeply.

Flash takes up less space in print journals, so editors are happier to see your work than the 29-page short story you slaved over for months that would take up 1/3 of their real estate.

There are tons of amazing web-based journals out there that publish flash, and they have quicker turn-around times. So you get rejected (or sometimes accepted) quicker!

There are tons of amazing web-based journals out there that publish flash. So if you do get published, you can send the link of your story to aunts, cousins, friends, enemies, pets, and they can actually read it. And like it. (Except for your pets, who, unless they are really really interesting, will probably just sniff the computer screen and walk away to pee.)

Flash is like poetry. The words matter. Every one. And don’t be afraid to cut them.

Know your strengths. I think every writer is different. Some have a better grasp on the moment, some drift towards more complex, longer stories that would do better in novel form. While I think everyone has the capacity to write all different lengths, it’s important to know what attracts you and what you think you do best. And go with it.

The most important thing, and sometimes the hardest thing, is to have fun. The stories that I think are my best are the ones that I had fun writing.

Bio: Tara Laskowski is the 2009 Kathy Fish Fellow and writer-in-residence at SmokeLong Quarterly. She earned an MFA from George Mason University and continues to fight traffic living just outside of Washington, D.C.

Read “Ode to the Double-Crossed Lackey in ‘Thunderball’” in Barrelhouse

Read “Only a Number” in decomP

Read “The Hamster” in Smokelong Quarterly

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

from Scott Garson

[note from the sheriff of this here town: this is a re-post of a blog entry written by SG for my junior level fiction writing class--maybe a year or two ago?]

Dear English 398
Your professor and I go way back. Let me tell you about your professor. One time she and I were at this bar and –

Sorry. Forgetting myself here. On to business.

I'm tempted just now to use a fancy term to describe the writing of 'flash,' as people call it. Like all such terms, it loses in exactitude whatever it might gain in sex appeal, but I'll go ahead and use it: the art of the dive.

Whatever could I mean by this? Let's see.

For readers, the full-length short story might offer immersion, twenty minutes, half an hour's worth. This accords w/ that dictum of Poe's that you've all probably read at some point or at least heard about: the short story has to be readable in one sitting. What this doesn't accord with, at least in most cases, is the experience of writing a full-length story. It takes time. It takes some people (wince) a lot longer than it does others, but it takes time, and because of that many of the writers I know are liable to think of full-length stories as an investment, one that is made hopefully but that entails (sorry for the unpleasant terminology) risk.

I'm just about to arrive at some kind of point here. Hang on!

If you're a writer, and you're going to invest time in something you know from the outset might fail, there's going to be a temptation: work more carefully! Keep your eyes open! Catch mistakes before they kill you! But here's the problem. The part of your brain you stimulate when you urge yourself to take care is not the part of your brain that writes good fiction. (This might be one explanation for what people call 'writer's block'….)

So. A dilemma. For me at least, the very short story is one way out. It's a dive. An escape from the daylight of my brain, from my plans and ambitions, etc. Swoosh, I'm in the water. And I know that I'll be back up soon – so the investment-risk thing doesn't apply.

Yes, the analogy is cloying…. We'll leave it behind.

I'll say this: I think some of my own best stuff is very short stuff. In that category one of my personal favorites is a story that I wrote on a day when I was busy and not technically 'writing.' I was busy, as I say, but when I had a second at one point I read a short by Lydia Davis. I'm embarrassed not to recall the title just now, but I loved it. I wasn't sure why I loved it. I didn't immediately see what made it a story. But I loved it as fiction, and when I set it down my blood was fizzing. I wanted to write something, you know. And so I did. What I wrote hadn't been an 'idea' in advance -- or an image, a 'kernel,' any of that. It had been nothing.

Of course this is all simplified. I'm not suggesting, for example, that with shorts there's no rewrites (stuff in the first paragraph of the one I just mentioned ended up in the last paragraph of the final version). I'm not suggesting…..

Oh enough of this. You see what I'm suggesting, right?

Happy writes, all. Bedevil her for me,


Bio: Scott Garson is the editor of Wigleaf. His chapbook, AMERICAN GYMNOPÉDIES is forthcoming from Willows Wept Press. Scott blogs at Patterns of Silver Light and So Forth

Read "Eight Micros" at FRiGG

Read "American Gothic" at Smokelong Quarterly

Read "Ode to a Bad Album" at Hobart

from me

In very short fiction I write lazy to critique action.

Bio: I'm running this blog for the moment. I also blog here.

Read "Render, or to transmit to another" at elimae

Read "Felly Stories" at Storyglossia

Monday, September 14, 2009

from Ryan W. Bradley

On Panties, I Mean, Details

It's in the cut of the panties, not the color. That is, writing flash fiction is about the details, but the right ones. If a character is wearing granny panties or a thong, you will be telling more about her personality than if she's wearing green or blue ones. The same goes for a man's underwear. With so much less space, every detail's importance gets heightened, as does every sentence, every word. Flash fiction will, at the very least, teach a writer about the economy of words. Ultimately, these skills that develop inherently from the process of writing a very short story, will begin to translate to everything you write.

As I began writing this miniature essay I wanted to catch myself in a contradiction, so I looked back on my story, "Accidentally Ahmed," knowing full well it wasn't packed with meaningful details. Read it here at Gander Press Review. I thought if I could show an example that went against the argument I'd set up in the first paragraph, it would provide a better opportunity to learn. What I realized, though, is that despite the ambiguity of the story (let's be honest, it deals in vagueness), it is entirely set up by a detail, not one necessarily integral to the reading of the story, but certainly important to my character. And that happens in the first line: "The license says my name is Ahmed, but really it's Rick." Sure, it's no whopper of a line, but in a story that revolves around a taxi and mistaken identity, the most important detail would be the license posted on the back of the seat. And like many good writers, I can't claim to have made that choice on purpose, it was ingrained in the idea itself, and I was lucky enough to tag along.

In this circuitous fashion there may be no better proof of how important the right details are. I could have written a different opening to "Accidentally Ahmed," but without the detail about the license the only thing that would have stood out about the story would have been its vagueness. That single detail forgives the lack of other details, because every bit of the story hinges on the mistaken identity factor.

The tricky part, or maybe if we're being honest, the crappy part, is that the right detail is always going to be different, and sometimes may not be the right one at all. But that's the wonderful thing about revision, that with each time going through a story we see each detail in a new way. We can alter those panties, make them a different cut, a different size. We can make them belong to the husband instead of the wife until, like some demented Rubik's cube, everything clicks into place.

Bio: Ryan W. Bradley writes very short fiction accidentally, often thinking he's written thousands of words, only to check the word count and find it's only ninety-six. Then he revises and it's down to sixty-four. Some such recent examples have been published or are forthcoming from Gargoyle, Third Wednesday, Space Squid, and Tulip. You can find him raving like a mad man at his blog, Ryan W. Bradley

from Joseph Young

Resist Interpretation

I belong to an art critique group, the only writer amongst 5 to 10 visual artists on any given critique night. It’s a critique group like any writing group; people display their art work, people talk about it, suggest ways to improve, etc. We had a critique last night, and of course, true to form, I started an argument. I have many problems with workshops, the experience of them rubs me the wrong way in lots of ways, but chief among my problems is that I’m incessantly the devil’s advocate. It’s an itch, I can’t stop its rising, and when I scratch it, I make arguments.

One of the things that came up last night has come up many times in writing workshops. We were critiquing one painter’s work—a woman, Kathy, who uses stencil and silkscreen in addition to paint in her work—and another woman, Maggie, another painter, an extremely accomplished artist and art college lecturer, told Kathy that she needed to give us more, that her work was very good but it always left her, Maggie, feeling that she didn’t know her intentions, that Kathy’s work always approached understanding but always stopped short of giving us, her audience, what we needed to get inside the work, what we needed to really get the work.

Now, let me stop a moment and tell you, if you’re going to write very short fiction, and I’ll go ahead and say it now, if you’re going to write good very short fiction, this is going to happen to you. People are going to read your work and they are going to scratch their heads and they are going to say, Hmm, this is really nice, but I feel like I need more. I feel like it approaches me getting inside this world, but it stops short, I want more.

Kathy’s painting, in my opinion, does not need to give us more, which is the argument I got into with Maggie. It’s okay that it stops short of giving Maggie, and the rest of us, what we need, everything we need, to feel comfortable in its world. It’s okay if we can’t entirely orient ourselves to Kathy’s subject, her use of paint, her composition. This discomfort we feel is part of what makes Kathy’s work work, what gives it tension and mystery and interest. Resist interpretation, I told Kathy, and Maggie, and the rest.

Good very short fiction, especially when it gets really short, resists interpretation. It has to, by its very nature. There aren’t enough words in very short fiction to give us the whole world. As writers of vsf, we can only give our readers so much, so much texture, so much character, so much backstory. The form demands that we leave things out, lots of things.

This leaving out is going to frustrate some readers, it is going to make them uncomfortable. Some readers—intelligent, creative folks—will insist you give them what they need to feel oriented, to feel satisfied that they understand what you, the writer, are up to, what your intentions are. The pressure will get intense, at times. Whole rooms full of people may say the same thing: give us more. People don’t like to be left wanting, left in discomfort.

Of course, there are different kinds of leaving out. Of course. Some leaving out may be bad for your story, some leaving out might be the result of you not having control of your words, your characters. But! Leaving out is going to happen—if you write vsf. It has to. It must, by its very nature. And, in my opinion, the best vsf leaves much out. The best vsf, in my opinion, leaves the reader in a state of discomfort, a state of wanting more. The best vsf does not try to replicate what short stories do, giving us vivid settings and deep understandings of character. It can't, it's too short. The best vsf resists interpretation. Resist interpretation.

Bio: Joseph lives and writes in Baltimore, MD. His book of microfiction, Easter Rabbit, will be released from Publishing Genius Press in December 2009.

Read "12 Micros" at FRiGG

Read "3 Micros" at Lamination Colony

Read "5 Micros" at Grey Sparrow Journal

from Roxane Gay

Rules Are Meant To Be Broken

Rule 1
There are no rules. And yet there are. And my rules will be different from his rules will be different from her rules will be different from your rules.

Rule 2
Cliff Notes (or Spark Notes) are awesome. They distill complex texts into something more manageable, highlighting the most relevant information for the discerning reader who has failed to adequately prepare for class (stop looking at me like that!) or would like a better understanding of, say, Foucault’s Archaeology of Knowledge, without having to read the entire text, not that I’m speaking from experience. As you start to think about writing in the short short form, it is useful to consider Cliff Notes.

Rule 3
Forget Rule 2.

Rule 4
Short short fiction can convey a complete story. Or it can describe a moment. Or it can capture a series of moments. Or D: None of the above. Writers will often pontificate about the project of flash fiction. In the end, you should write what you want to write until that thing no longer needs to be written. Sometimes you will reach that place in 300 words. Other times, 750 words but as a general rule of thumb flash fiction, or my preferred term, short short fiction is fewer than 1,000 words. Listen to what your writing tells you about where to go and when to end. The shortest story I’ve ever written is 61 words long.

Rule 5
Sometimes, I am a purist. I believe in a beginning, a middle, and an end. I believe a short short story can and should contain these elements until it can’t and shouldn’t. Walk before you run.

Rule 6
I edit a literary magazine. The most common critique I offer is, “I want to be surprised. I want to fall in love.” There are no new stories or so it goes but really to say that is tired, tired, tired. There is no need to beat that poor horse’s carcass. I don’t mind old stories. There is a reason they keep being told. They’re good. Your challenge is to make that often told, good story great by imbuing it with your voice. By being original. Or charming. Or different in some way but not so different that your writing is incomprehensible nonsense. The second most common critique I offer writers is, “Experiment with purpose.”

Rule 7
My father is a frugal man. Waste not, want not. The same holds true for writing short short fiction. It is not that less is more. Some words matter more than others. Write with words that matter.

Rule 8
There is wisdom in clichés. The best writers are the best readers. Your prescription: Read, and not just the stuff you like. Read poetry, plays, prose, prose poetry, experimental work, cross-genre writing, nonfiction, whatever. A well-rounded literary diet can only improve your writing and help you find the discipline necessary to tell a story economically.

Rule 9
Short short fiction is not the easy way out. It is not a panacea for the modern age conveyed 140 characters at a time. Lazy writers think they can write short short fiction because it is easier and it doesn’t take as long. No one remembers lazy writers.

Rule 10
Think about cadence, about the natural rhythm of your words. Read your short short fiction aloud. It should flow effortlessly. It should sound pretty. If it doesn’t, ask yourself why.

Rule 11
Break rules 1-10.

Bio: Roxane Gay’s writing appears or is forthcoming in DIAGRAM, Annalemma, Gargoyle, Keyhole, Monkeybicycle, Storyglossia and others. She is the associate editor of Pank and can be found online at I Have Become Accustomed to Rejection.

Read "What You Say, What Is Done to You" at LITnIMAGEe

Read "Tender Mercies" at elimae

Read "What Long Legs Mean" at dogzplot

Read "Motherfuckers" at decomP

Sunday, September 13, 2009

from Erin Fitzgerald

Pegasus and Ralph

There's a chapter in the Beverly Cleary book "Beezus and Ramona" where the two sisters are in an art class, under directive to paint a picture of an imaginary animal. After endless rumination (and self pity over not being inherently creative), ten year old Beezus decides to try for a carefully rendered Pegasus.

Meanwhile, four year old Ramona doesn't stop to think. She paints a blue stripe across the top of the page for the sky -- lots of little kids do this, actually. She tufts footprints across the page, which are meant to represent Ralph, the imaginary lizard who follows Ramona everywhere. After about five minutes of painting, Ramona steals the lollipop of the boy sitting next to her. Chaos ensues, she goes out to the playground, and her painting is never completed.

Beezus is frustrated by her Mobil Gas-like Pegasus -- she's only finished the sky, and an outline. She has a moment of inspiration: Why not paint a picture of Ralph as if he were visible? After all, since Ralph isn't real or visible, she's free to do what she likes! Beezus sets aside Pegasus, and gets another piece of paper. As she paints Ralph, she makes him breathe cotton candy and adds lollipops to his spine. Why? Because it just seems right.

For the first time ever, other people admire her work. Her teacher tells her that her picture will be hung in the center spot of the bulletin board. Much more important? For the first time, Beezus truly enjoys painting. And she no longer worries about whether she is creative.

It's hard to set aside Pegasus. It's hard to believe that Ralph can truly matter. But sometimes, at the end of art class? It's so obvious that you could kick yourself for not having seen it sooner.

Bio: Erin Fitzgerald got an MFA in writing a long time ago, and wrote a lot of short stories and novellas before she wrote any flash fiction. She lives in Connecticut, and is editor of The Northville Review.

Read "Four Sieges" at Hobart

Read "Early Decision," "Riposte," and "Waiting Room" at PANK

from Gabriel Orgrease

From This World to That Which Is To Come

I live on Long Island halfway to Montauk on the south shore near to the Atlantic. On occasion for business in Manhattan I take the train. It used to be that I drove to an office in Brooklyn, alone on average 5 hours a day for twelve years. If you spend two hours driving without the radio playing it gets to a point that you are stuck with yourself, and it also gets to a point that it is worthwhile for a writer to make up very short stories... ones that we can remember long enough to get to the end of the drive and then write them down.

But this particular story was composed while I was riding on the train and had recently acquired a smart phone that seamlessly works with my word processor. The entire story was composed on my phone. There was something about the tool of the composition that lent itself to the brevity and compactness of the piece, in particular that my fingers and thumbs are too large for the keyboard. Read "Tree Reader" at elimae.

After this story was published in elimae I was contacted by an editor of school textbooks and asked if I would mind to have it published in an anthology of American short stories for HS students. They sent me a check. I am very happy that it goes from phone on train to online to print and that it will appear at the back of a book that starts with Washington Irving and Nathaniel Hawthorne and moves forward. It being likely one of the shortest stories in the anthology I anticipate that it will be read, and thus, leave a bit to the world of writers that is to come.

My other story here has to do with transportation as well. It dates back to when I had my office in Brooklyn and was weary of so much lonely commuting, but also a bit mystified at how long stretches of time seem to vanish from our memory and that in our lives our times of travel in retrospect seem very fleeting, almost instant. Read "The celestial teletransportation conduit" at insolent rudder.

In an authorial tradition it is a contemporary recasting of Hawthorne’s "The Celestial Rail-road" which in itself was an antebellum recasting of Bunyan’s "Pilgrims Progress". I very much enjoy allegory as writerly phenomena and the problems of comprehension and understanding that it introduces into a modern text. I enjoy the tradition of recasting, and I enjoy a whole lot reading Hawthorne, and not solely The Scarlet Letter. I feel an element that is missing in a great deal of contemporary short fiction, much of it written in a very hurried and untutored manner then nearly instantly cast onto the Internet, is a measured sense of the past of a well ploughed literary tradition. You may notice that Hawthorne's story is shorter than Bunyan's, and that my story is shorter still. A lean toward miniaturization and tight brevity of expression I consider a traditional literary movement.

My occasional musings can be found at my blog, Orgrease Crankbait. You will also find a list of a whole lot of blogs of authors and online zines. Not only is it of value as a writer to read old work of long dead authors, but to read and support the work of our immediate contemporaries as well.


from David Erlewine

I’ve heard Van Gogh’s first painting was of peasants’ faces. I assume that’s true, as Gil on “The Office” said so while looking at Pam’s motel art. I think of that each weekday morning at 5:52 (sometimes 5:53) as I board the MARC train into DC. I study the faces of other bureaucrats, some sleeping, some glaring, some chatting, some laughing, some crying. I write my little stories as a way to say fuck off, to say I won’t be defined by my wrinkled shirt, great vacation leave, and sketchy work ethic.

There are two regular train riders, both older guys, who just look bitter. Sometimes, if I’m staring at a blank page (yeah, I’m an old schmo who writes in a notepad rather than a laptop or crackberry or iPhone), I look at them to find my inner crank. Other times, I board the train, already vaguely aware of what I’m going to write about. An example would be the day I got on the train, almost trembly, knowing I was "finally" going to write a story about a kid sitting in a school nurse’s office, with a big STUTT marked on his forehead, an ER marked on one cheek, and an ER on the other one. I’d been seeing that image for a few weeks, at random times, and had been sort of working through it in my head. The morning I finally wrote about it, the story sort of spilled out. It’s here: "Still" at Tulip.

A few months ago, I hopped on the train, not needing to look at those bitter guys. I was bitter myself, thinking about how the afternoon/evening before my next-door neighbors had been hanging out in their pool, chilling with neighbors and their kids, without inviting us. My bitterness was laughable. I don’t really know my next door neighbors and have made little, if any, effort to. I’m way too paranoid to let my son in their pool without me standing around the whole time. I'm a lawyer. Why would they want me over in their pool, probably planning a lawsuit! I didn't care about any of that. By the time I arrived at Union Station, I had a story written about a father who glances next door and sees a boy floating in the pool. It’s here:  "No More Carl" at Everyday Genius.

Bio: David Erlewine lives and lawyers near Annapolis. His beautiful blog is Whizbyfiction. He plans to keep writing flash fiction until he can retire in June 2032. Then he will tackle a novel.

from Robert Swartwood

Hint Fiction: An Exercise In Brevity

A story 25 words or less that suggests a larger, more complex story.
Complete but not self-sustained (beginning, middle, end). Be
imaginative and have fun.

Bio: Robert Swartwood is the editor of Hint Fiction (W.W. Norton, 2010).

Read "Corrections & Clarifications" in elimae
Read "Lea & Perrins"in Lamination Colony