The Short of It: The Origin Story of Going Short and the Changing Landscape of Flash

Curtis Smith is an amazing interviewer. Here’s a little excerpt from our conversation at JMWW where we talk about origin stories, including the genesis of Going Short, my time co-founding/running Fast Forward Press, and how ultimately most books are smarter than we are.

Read the full interview at JMWW

Nancy Stohlman has been writing, publishing, and teaching flash fiction for more than a decade, and her latest book, Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2020), is her treatise on the form.

Curtis Smith: Congratulations on the publication of Going Short. Can you tell us a bit about the book’s origins—your motivations and how you came to work with Ad Hoc?

Nancy Stohlman: Thank you, Curtis. And I just want to say that the response to Going Short has been so heartwarming and validating in a year that was otherwise challenging. So thank you all for that.

The book has been simmering for a long time, over 10 years. I think sometimes we’re called to write books that are smarter than we are, so it basically took me 10 years to catch up. There were (and still are) very few flash fiction specific books, and I wanted to write a craft book (as opposed to a straight textbook)—I envisioned it like having a long conversation about flash fiction with a fellow writer. Ad Hoc was a natural choice; I first collaborated with them at the Flash Fiction Festival in the UK in 2018, and I have always been impressed by their vision of a flash fiction community—a vision I share. It seemed like (and has been) a natural and perfect fit for this book.

CS: You’ve been writing flash for a long time. Who were your influences? What initially drew you to the form. How has the form (and market) changed?

NS: Running a flash fiction press before flash fiction had really “caught on” was enormously influential in my education and trajectory. In 2007, during graduate school at Naropa’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics (I never get tired of saying that name!), a group of us co-founded Fast Forward Press, and then from 2008-2013 we put out a yearly print flash fiction anthology as well as some early flash novels. So much of my education came from reading and analyzing hundreds of story submissions, both the ones I loved and the ones we rejected. We had many spirited conversations about was is/isn’t flash fiction, what constituted a story. At that time our answers were purely instinctual, but I see now that we were helping to define the genre in those early stages.

The flash fiction landscape has changed quite a bit, even in the last decade, but I think the work we did there laid much groundwork, including acting as a honing signal for other early flash fiction writers. More than a dozen years after our first anthologies, I can flip through the Tables of Contents and see so many flash fiction giants and friends, names like Kim Chinquee, Robert Scotellaro, Meg Tuite, Chris Bowen, Jane Anne Phillips, Tom Hazuka, Sally Reno—and you!

KEEP READING

Find out more about Going Short

Sick Of This Cold and Stir-Crazy? A Friday prompt from Going Short:

Are you stir crazy and sick of being cold?

Are you losing it a little bit? (me!)

Going Short is ready to snuggle and do some writing.

“I can’t get enough of your love, babe.”

Prompt: Bribing the Muse: On Your Mark, Get Set…

A great trick to create urgency in a flash fiction story is by using another constraint: Time.

For almost a decade now, all my college classes have begun with a 10-minute timed writing. Timed writing is nothing new. We know that it helps us transition us into the writing space, like stretching before a workout. We know that it forces us to stay present and dig deeper—writing past where we might have naturally given up. And we know that keeping the pen moving quickly, without crossing things out or rereading, is a great way to evade the internal critic and uncover fresh ideas.

But I discovered something else through years of this practice: 10 minutes of writing without stopping is also the perfect amount of time to draft a flash fiction story idea from start to finish.

It makes sense: Flash fiction is defined by a word constraint, so why not create under a time constraint? Having that clock ticking while you furiously try to reach the end of an idea gives the piece a natural sense of urgency. And writing from the beginning to the end in one sitting also creates a sense of continuity—we see the end coming as we embark on the journey.

You can use timed writing in many ways. For instance, you can:

  • Set the timer while writing to a prompt.
  • Set the timer when you’re feeling stuck and don’t know what to write about.
  • Set the timer and rewrite a “flat” story from scratch while the clock chases you to the finish line (my favorite)

And as a daily practice it’s even better. Besides, you can do anything for 10 mins, right?

Because only you can write your stories.

Happy flashing and stay warm, friends!

Love, Nancy

P.S. Want your own copy?

Order Going Short from Ad Hoc Fiction

Order Going Short Amazon/Kindle on Amazon UK  or Amazon USA 

Or get a signed Going Short from me here

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Flash Fiction is The Cupcake of Literature: a Smokelong Interview

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, I’m resharing this fun interview between me and April Bradley.

Here’s a little excerpt:

Read the whole thing on Smokelong Quarterly.

April Bradley: You help readers understand in Going Short that “flash fictions are stories under 1,000 words and that flash fiction is always telling a story, even if much of that story is implied.” You also talk about constraints—“Embracing the constraint is the true gift of flash fiction.”— and how flash has “created a new sort of genre freedom.” How does the gift of constraint and “narrative contortions” create something unique and yet recognizable as flash? Is there something more to flash than mere word count and a sense of story?

Nancy Stohlman: I love the nuance of this question. And I will defer to metaphor and ask: Why do we love cupcakes? I mean—they have the exact same ingredients as cake; they both have milk, eggs, butter, flour, frosting. Why not just have a slice of cake?

Flash fiction is the cupcake of literature. And it’s a totally different experience than a 3-layer wedding cake. Yes, they both have plot, character, story, poetry. But for me, the gift is in the intention. I love cakes and cupcakes, but I love them differently and for different reasons, and they require different visions and skills. Yes, we could produce gallons of batter and pour it into big sheet pans, and that is glorious. But we can also focus, shrink, and condense a tiny bit of our creative batter into a perfect circle, the delicate precision of a story you can hold in the palm of your hand.

April Bradley: How does microfiction differ?

Well, I guess that would make micro fiction the cake pop. One bite, and one bite only. But wow—what a bite.

READ MORE HERE