Nancy Stohlman Bath Flash Fiction Award Judge July 2019 – October 2019

Flash Fiction Award: Deadline midnight GMT October 13

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What is flash fiction? Read the full interview with our judge Nancy Stohlman  Runs three times per year, full details in the rules. In summary:

  • 300 word limit.
  • £1000 prize for the winner, £300 second and £100 third. Two commendations £30 each.
  • 50 longlisted entrants offered publication in our end of year print and digital anthology. Those accepting receive a free copy.
  • Flash Award judge, Nancy Stohlman, shortlists to 20 and chooses the winning, second, third, and two commended fictions.
  • This Flash Fiction Award round closes Midnight GMT October 13th 2019.
  • Winners will be announced by 1st November 2019 on our Winners pages.
  • Enter the Flash Fiction Award here online.

Nancy Stohlman Flash Fiction Award Judge July 2019 – October 2019

(Interview Excerpt)

We sent Nancy these questions while she was at the end of her writing sabbatical. And since then we’ve seen her at the Flash Fiction Festival, 28-30 June, in Bristol, teaching and performing her flash. She ran some great workshops on performing work and we got to hear her read and saw her in a special video created by our last judge Christopher Allen and his husband. So much fun!

You have recently been on a writing sabbatical for three weeks. Can you let us know how it went? What was the most worthwhile thing about deciding to take some time out in this way? And has the time resulted in another collection ready to go?

It was amazing (actually I’m in my final days right now). First of all I can’t remember being alone for 3 weeks—maybe ever. Really alone. So I went through a lot of creative levels—excitement, possibility, self-doubt, fear, breakdown, breakthrough, acceptance, and lots and lots of gratitude. I think my biggest discovery is how essential boredom is to creativity. I just wrote a whole essay about Holy Boredom here

But staying in the same place for a long time is different than the usual travel, where we are rushing past things and quickly taking pictures, barely skimming the surface. I recognize the townspeople now, they recognize me. We wave like friends passing on the street. I can spot the new crop of tourists, fleshy and pink and overeager. I’ve been here so long I know who the town crazies are, know that they are harmless. The waiter asks: how is your book, you find inspiration yet? Just today he brought me my coffee exactly how I like it before I even ordered. When I needed a new snorkel the shopkeeper takes it out of the wrapping—you pay me tomorrow he says.
Are you sure?
Did you come here to steal? You pay me tomorrow.
It feels like acceptance.

New manuscript? Let’s hope so…I’m leaving with a nearly completed draft of…something. Time will tell.

  • Can you tell us more about your collection Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities (which was recently a finalist in the literary section of the prestigious Colorado Book Award) and how it came about?

Yes, another crazy impulse that turned into something. As usual I didn’t set out to write a book, I just started writing the pieces as individuals and then collaging them and then realized that indeed I was writing a bigger story. Many of the pieces in Madam Velvet are my shortest ever—tiny stories, micros. And they started to play together and create a cabaret of their own, a variety show with an impulse running from beginning to end. A traveling freak show on the page.

I often use theatrics as a framework for my writing. I wrote another flash novel (published back in 2013) called The Monster Opera, where the story was an opera within an opera. Super weird. I’ve actually performed both Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities and The Monster Opera as full shows with full casts and original music composed by Nick Busheff. You can see clips from both these on the links.

And the Colorado Book Award—yes! I was especially excited because of course there was no flash fiction category so I submitted the book as a short story collection, which isn’t exactly right but close enough. Then I was told that all the short story entries were going to be combined with literary fiction and I thought: Well shit. Now I have no chance! So to have this book, this very strange, out-of-the-box book, be a finalist in literary fiction, was a double and triple win for me and I feel for flash fiction in general.

Continue reading interview here

Enter the flash fiction contest here:

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So You Wrote a Book? Jayne Martin

Kicking off Season 2 of So You Wrote a Book? is the one and only Jayne Martin and her debut flash fiction collection, Tender Cuts!

From my blurb: “Tender Cuts is about seeing and not seeing, what we are blind to and what’s right in front of us. In this debut flash fiction collection Jayne Martin’s writing is compact, dense, often heartbreaking, always illuminating, and woven with a strange nostalgia; she has a way of reconciling the child with the adult, the pain with the beauty of tragedy, the tragedy still seeded with hope.”

I’m so excited to welcome Jayne Martin!

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Nancy Stohlman: Describe this book in 6 words:

Jayne Martin: Tiny tales for the time challenged.

NS: This is your first book of flash fiction but not your first book—you also have a book of humor essays, “Suitable for Giving: A Collection of Wit with A Side of Wry.” Talk about how you have changed as a writer from that first book to Tender Cuts.

JM: All that’s changed really is my focus. I still enjoy writing humor, though little of it finds its way into my flash. In the humor essays, I reveal much more of myself, while the stories in “Tender Cuts” are 100% fiction. I’m probably a much better writer, but you do this stuff long enough you can’t help but get better and I’m into my fourth decade now. In “Suitable for Giving,” I could be self-indulgent. Flash has got to be tight. Get in, get out, and keep it moving. I have a keener eye for edits now and much less resistance to “killing my darlings.”

NS: Your stories are accompanied by illustrations by Janice Whitby and Indigo Roth. The style of the illustrations almost seem like doodles, the kind you would find carved into desks or doodled onto notebook paper. What was your vision for including images with your stories?

JM: There are so many collections out there. It’s hard to make yours stand out. I wanted to give the readers another way to experience the story. The drawing for the title story is a heart with a crack and a bandage over it. The heart motif continues throughout to reinforce the theme of cuts or wounds that the characters experience. The “doodle” style was chosen to add a bit of whimsy because many of the stories are quite dark.

NS: Julie Sue is a reoccurring character in this book. She first shows up as a young “pageant princess” and by the end of the book she is a mother with her own daughter. Where did the character of Julie Sue come from?

JM: Julie-Sue originated in your November 2016 Flash Nano from the prompt “winning a prize.” It went on to be published in MoonPark Review’s first issue. When I was assembling the collection, I knew I needed a spine to hold it together, so I wrote the three additional Julie-Sue stories, which have not been seen until now. Once I had those, I had a structure for the book. And I owe it all to you.  😊

NS: Awww, you are too kind, Jayne! I’m thrilled to be part of your process. Now your stories tend to be really short. Always or is short a continuing evolution?

JM: Miniatures appeal to me. Micro has a lot in common with bonsai. Having said that, unless I’m writing for a particular word-count guideline, it’s rarely my intention to write so short. Most of the time the story just ends and I’m as surprised as anyone else. Occasionally, the Cosmos will bless me with a sentence that blows me away. At that point, I say, “Well, it ain’t gonna get better than that.” But mostly, when it’s done it’s done.

NS: You used to write for television (your credits include “Big Spender” for Animal Planet and “A Child Too Many,” “Cradle of Conspiracy” and “Deceived By Trust” for Lifetime.) How has television writing helped you as a flash writer (or not)?

JM: It’s helped enormously. Movies for network television, even more so than big-screen, are regimentally structured to fit a 93-minute time slot. Each has seven acts to accommodate six commercial breaks, and each act has a defined number of scenes. As in flash, the writer must enter the scene late, move the story along and leave before it’s resolved. This is especially true of act breaks where the audience has the power of the remote so you better leave them wanting more.

NS: Love the absurdity in your story “Lobster in a Laundromat”—it’s simple but brings up a deeper truth of how we all want to be desired and “seen”, even by a lobster and even in my blurb I say your book is about the many ways we are seen. Talk about this theme in your writing? Is in intentional or unconscious?

JM: Thank you. “Lobster” came out of a Meg Pokrass workshop on writing the surreal. Most of my stories sway heavily toward realism and I wanted to stretch. As soon as I had the first line, I had the story. It was a fun write. I’d say the theme you mention is more unconscious than intentional, but then I never know what a story is going to be until it’s written. I try not to overthink the process, because my best works have always been happy accidents.

NS: You won the Vera Prize for “When the Bough Breaks,” which appears in Tender Cuts, and you have also won or been nominated for various other prizes. How important do you think contests are for a flash writing career?

JM: Receiving an award or a nomination is a lovely thing. In an industry that most often rejects us, it’s a wonderful validation, a boost of encouragement. As to importance in terms of a career, I don’t really know. It looks nice on my bio, but I don’t think any journal has ever published me just because I won a Vera. Every day is a new blank page. Every day you’re Sisyphus at the bottom of the damn hill and you have to prove yourself all over again. Maybe it matters more when one is looking back over their accomplishments at the end of a career.

NS: Tender Cuts is published by Vine Leaves Press. Can you talk about your pathway to publication?

JM: I’m a big believer in the power of intent and its ability to bring about the means to achieve a goal once that goal is clearly defined and infused with energy. You can’t just say you want something and then sit on your ass and do nothing. The Universe rewards action. With that in mind, my clear intent was to find a publisher and failing to find one was never a consideration. I’m a Taurus. What can I say?

I started by approaching publishers who had published other collections by writers I admire.  I also utilized Poets & Writers database, combing through site after site. I’d gotten several of my blurbs already and I included those with my query letters. I think all together I submitted to six publishers. Vine Leaves Press used to publish Vine Leaves Journal, which solicited what they called “vignettes” and I call micro-fiction. I got an offer from them in three weeks and I could not have found a more perfect fit for the book. They’re a dream to work with.

NS: Your best advice to someone writing a book?

JM: I didn’t set out to write a book. The 38 stories in “Tender Cuts” were gleaned from a folder of stories going back to 2010. In 2017, I finally saw a through line in terms of a theme and the collection began to take form. In terms of setting out to write a book, I can only draw on my experience writing screenplays. You need a story compelling enough to drag you along because the time commitment is huge. Something you have to write because you can’t shake the damn thing any other way. I can only imagine it’s that way for a book, as well.

NS: Anything else you want to add?

I often hear the flash community express frustration about the lack of attention from the larger publishing world: “When are they going to notice us?”

We flash writers tend to be an insular bunch.  Sometimes it seems like we’re writing more for each other than to entertain an audience. We all submit to and read the same journals and buy each other’s books, but few “civilians,” those non-writing folks who just want to escape into a good story, have heard of any of those journals or any of us.

That brings us back to the aforementioned description of my book in six words: Tiny tales for the time challenged. I’ve heard it said that it’s insulting to the genre to describe it that way. I disagree. Having put the sweat into writing the book, now I’d actually like to sell a few copies, and recognizing that people experience a constant demand for their finite amount of time is part of that effort. So is writing stories that don’t require an MFA to understand.

Getting the attention of the larger publishing world may just be a matter of inviting them into ours.

Jayne Martin lives in Santa Barbara, California, where she rides horses and drinks copious amounts of fine wines, though not at the same time. She is a Pushcart, Best Small Fictions, and Best Microfictions nominee, and a recipient of Vestal Review’s VERA award. Her flash fiction collection, “Tender Cuts,” from Vine Leaves Press, is available now by visiting her website: www.jaynemartin-writer.com.

Preorders are available now from Amazon U.S. & U.K, Barnes & Noble, and Powell’s. Links on Jayne’s spiffy new website!

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Jayne Martin lives in Santa Barbara, California, where she rides horses and drinks copious amounts of fine wines, though not at the same time. She is a Pushcart, Best Small Fictions, and Best Microfictions nominee, and a recipient of Vestal Review’s VERA award. Her flash fiction collection, “Tender Cuts,” from Vine Leaves Press, is available now by visiting her website:

www.jaynemartin-writer.com.

Friday, Oct 4: Fbomb NYC!

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It’s been 3 years since I visited our sister Fbomb in NYC–I’m excited to return on Friday, October 4,  with an all-star crew of flash fiction writers and their new books, including:

Kim Chinquee

Gabino Iglesias

Jonathan Montgomery

Kenning Jean-Paul García

Francine Witte

Leonora Desar

Randall Brown

Beth Gilstrap-Barnes

with musical guest Nick Busheff

and host with the most Paul Beckman!

It’s going to be a great evening of flash fiction! Come be dazzled, get signed books from the performers, and see what all the hype is about. Would love to see you there! xoxo

Friday, October 4

6:30-9:30

KGB Bar and Lit Mag

85 E 4th St

New York, New York 10003

Facebook Event here

Bending Genres Weekend Workshop: “Opening the Back Door: Absurdism as a Way to Truth” August 23-25

*This is a brand new workshop designed for the Bending Genres Weekend Workshop series (and it will also be the last online workshop I will be running until the end of the year). Join us for a wild weekend of writing and absurdity!

Opening the Back Door: Absurdism as a Way to Truth

August 23-25, 2019

Register at Bending Genres Monthly Workshops

absurdism

While realism in fiction has its place, some truths can be clumsy when faced head-on. When you cannot take the front door into your material because it’s too raw, painful, blunt or overdone—then you must find the back door. Absurdism (and the surreal) is that back door, a less obvious way into the material where The Big Truth can be revealed. Deceptively silly, absurdism can create faster pathways to emotional resonance by keeping the audience off guard, unprepared, and more receptive. Sometimes the old ways just don’t work. Sometimes we must speak in new tongues. In this workshop, we will examine how, by going into the absurd, we can and often do arrive at an unexpectedly more poignant truth(s).

Find out more and register on Bending Genres website!

I’d love to work with you!

The Writer as Student: Why You Need a Reading Syllabus

First, a confession: I’m a slow reader. It’s a curse because I know I’ll never finish all the amazing books out there (I even wrote a story, “What Happened in the Library”, where the narrator hired a reading clone). I’ve had to accept that I can only finish 1 or 2 books a month while other friends (you know who you are!) get through a book or two every week.

Seeing this as a weakness, my life was changed forever when I read and photocopied for posterity an article titled “The Intentional Reader” by Bob Hostetler in Poets and Writers back in 2000. The original is no longer available but here are two excerpts that together capture the essence of what I read back then: The Intentional Reader and Do You Plan Your Reading?

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Marilyn Monroe reading James Joyce’s Ulysses

In the article, Hostetler encourages writers to intentionally read out of our comfort zones. This “intentional reading” is a potent way of keeping ourselves “schooled” and challenging our minds…and that will ultimately improve us as writers (and human beings). Too often we habitually reach for a certain style of book (because we like it!) or we read what was recommended/loaned by a friend (and if you are like me books by friends–woohoo!). While there is nothing wrong with reading spontaneously, it can keep us from challenging ourselves as readers because those books are never at the top of our list/bedside pile. And sadly, without a clear action plan to purposely challenge ourselves as readers and approach different/more intimidating texts…it usually doesn’t happen. Not because we don’t have good intentions to read this or that book or author or more about that topic…but because time and reading have a way of slipping away from us.
Marilyn Monroe reading James Joyce’s Ulysses

So… the Intentional Reading Syllabus is an action plan, a way to take charge of our own continuing education.

For many years I created my reading syllabus as part of my New Year’s Resolution (and that works great!), but it works equally as well at the start of a new school cycle. As teachers and professors are putting together their syllabuses and outcomes for their students, it’s a natural time for writers to do the same, setting clear reading goals for yourself so you always know what to read next as well as why you are reading it.

Inspired by Hostetler’s original list, and refined over the last 20 years, here’s my modified Reading Syllabus Template (feel free to steal it!)

·         3 books by authors I’ve never read before

·         2 classics

·         2 rereads

·         1 new book by a favorite author

·         2 books on writing

·         2 nonfiction books on topics I know nothing about

·         1 book of poetry

·         1 memoir

·         1 biography

·         1 children/YA book

·         1 play

·         1 book in translation

·         1 mule choker (Hostetler’s term: i.e. a book over 700 pages)

That’s 18 books. Add to that various other books that come up during the year and that’s about all I can handle.

What I’ve found after doing this practice for almost two decades is that even if I don’t get to everything on my list, having the list at all keeps me focused, consciously choosing to read away from what is familiar or comfortable and into what is not.

So, as the new school year approaches, consider making your own Reading Syllabus for the year. Then print it out and hang it above your desk or work area.

Because, if you’re like me, you get crazy satisfaction from checking things off a list.

Happy Reading!
xoxo

Write a Flash Novel: July 29-Aug 9

Flash Flood: Write a Flash Novel (second section)

*Sold Out

July 29-Aug 9, 2019

7ce163b50c8d11cda50c0af6d803e41cDo you have a large, book-length idea that you’ve been wanting to bring to fruition? Do you love the intensity of FlashNano or NaNoWriMo? Then get ready: In 10 days we will create a literal “flash flood” and you will leave the workshop with the bones (at least) of a flash novel.

What’s a flash novel? With the scope and complexity of a novel, and the size and ingenuity of flash fiction, the flash novel is a new type of book, a breakout genre that can deliver a sophisticated reading experience in a compact space. In this workshop will envision, draft, collage and create the momentum for that large-scale idea you have been wanting to tackle.

Find out more and register here