Fiction in a Flash

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So…a year later and the NaNoWriMo novel is being read by my beta readers and has gone through much revision. To keep my writing heart fresh during this birthing process, I’m also pursuing another writing form I thought you might find interesting.

As a fan of flash fiction, I’ve wondered for awhile if I could write it well. How expertly could I tell a tale in less than one thousand words?  For some literary journals, the tale must crystallize and entertain in less than five hundred words! Did I have what it took to pare down my stories to fit the format?

After a few attempts on my own (read: rejection emails), I decided to gain some expertise via online flash fiction workshops. Having now completed two, taught by a pair of remarkable writers, I’m pursuing this form full speed ahead.

The first course, 30 Stories in 30 Days, instructed by the clever and talented Christopher DeWan, taught me that I can, indeed, complete an entire (first draft) of a story in a day. If you’ve never taken a course through the Eckleburg Workshops, consider this my recommendation. They’re affordable, well-structured and easy to access.

The second course has been remarkable, as well. Kathy Fish, legendary Queen of Flash Fiction, offers her Fast Flash two-week workshop several times each year. She creates a generous, supportive environment for writers to experiment with flash fiction and I would encourage anyone interested in writing flash to get their name on her course waiting list.

I’ve quite a collection of stories now, thanks to the writing prompts these classes offered, and I’ll be submitting them for publication (fingers crossed!) I’m also mulling over self-publication possibilities, perhaps collections of flash stories based on theme.

What about your feelings on flash fiction? Do you find it a valid form? Is it compelling or just annoying to you? If you haven’t tested the waters, here are a few flash fiction sites for you to sample:, dedicated to the art of telling a tale in three hundred words of less.

FlashFictionOnline, featuring compelling stories of 500 to 1000 words in their monthly online publication.

SmokeLong Quarterly, lovely bits of fiction readable in the time it takes to smoke a cigarette.

 And, just to round things out, here’s one sample of my own flash fiction attempts. Looking forward to your comments!

The Story Eater

From the moment he woke, he knew today would be the day. Through the window of the farmhouse, the sounds were the same, cattle bawling to be fed, guinea hens scratching in the grass, the branches of the oak tree Daddy needed to trim rubbing the shingles off the roof.

He was eager to begin his task, but the air around his head was whispering and crackling with a story and he lay real quiet, trying to capture it. There, he ate it all in a gulp, before it could follow the breeze out the window. It began to simmer and grow inside his gut, crowded up against all the others he had gobbled from the air throughout the school year. Today was the first day of summer and it was time to write them down.

He jumped from his narrow bed and grabbed the box that held old scraps of butcher paper, utility bills with the backs unwritten, blue-lined paper barely used by classmates. And pens, he could not write with pencil and feel the same energy he felt using black Bic pens, ten for two dollars from the grocery store.

With the pressure growing by the minute, he flew through his chores, kissed his mother on the cheek when she offered toast and ran to the creek before the tales burst from his mouth in disjointed babble. For hours, propped against the trunk of an elm in striped tee shirt and too-short, end of school year jeans, he wrote the stories he’d been digesting all these months. They flooded out onto the backs of propane bills, wedding invitation envelopes and notebook paper rescued from the waste bin after school.

He spat them onto the pages, discarding an empty Bic without breaking rhythm, writing down the margins when he had to. The older tales came first, fully-formed from months of incubation, leaving his gut free for new ones requiring more digestion. He did not hear his mother calling him for lunch. Did not respond to the quaking of a belly empty of all but his masterpieces.

Fingers cramped around another Bic, lost in the fruit of his story eating, he did not see his friend until the shout came inches from his ear. “Willy.”

Pens flew, tales scattered in the summer grass around him. He felt a phantom twinge of guilt for his neglect. He could not stop for fishing, for running through the corn in search of foxes, for engaging in an epic dirt clod battle. His friend shuffled away down the river trail, vowed to find another summer companion.

For he was lost again, leaned back against the ancient elm, eyes shut and mouth wide open. In time, he snapped it shut, swallowed, swallowed again and began to smile. Grabbed his Bic and a crumpled sheet of paper. “This one is going to be good.”

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