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.
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!