What Matters Most In Flash Fiction
By Michelle Elvy
Just last month, American author Lydia Davis was honored with the Man Booker International Prize. Lydia Davis has been described as an author who defies categorization. And Observer critic William Skidelsky once said her work has “redefine(d) the meaning of brevity".
On the heels of last month’s news, and to honor International Flash Fiction Day on June 22 and various flash fiction events taking place across hemispheres all month long, we talked with several internationally known flash fiction writers, asking them what matters most in flash fiction. We were looking for variety, and we got it. These writers’ observations bring to light the complexities of the extreme sport of very short prose. For each of them, being outside the box is the norm.
James Claffey Suggests...
Polish the words to a high burnish by choosing vocabulary with care. Specific, rather than broad terms: “Calla lily” instead of “flower,” “’58 Edsel” instead of “old car.” As James Joyce said, “He drew forth a phrase from his treasure and spoke it softly to himself: A day of dappled seaborne clouds.” (Joyce from Portrait of the Artist).
James Claffey, author of the forthcoming collection, Blood a Cold Blue, spends his spare time hunting for gophers in the avocado grove.
Tania Hershman Says...
Imagine you are sipping coffee. Not cappucino. None of that froth. No flat whites: flatness is banned. This is espresso. In a teeny cup. All that flavour, darkness, fizz and jolt, smooth notes, a full scale -- no less, no more. Finish your coffee. Put down the teeny cup. Sit and wonder. Sit and feel how you are altered. Stand up. Go on with your day.
Tania Hershman is the author of two collections, My Mother Was An Upright Piano (Tangent Books, 2012), 56 short short fictions, and The White Road and Other Stories (Salt Publishing, 2008). She is not a natural redhead but has recently begun to live like one.
According to Marcus Speh...
Flash is fast, fiercely flexible and a wonderful medium for eccentric experimentation with style, with characters, with genre. As an art form, it promises a paradox: it’s both hard to do anything wrong with it — who cannot string a few hundred words together? — and at the same time it’s difficult to really get right — how can you put an entire world on such a small canvas?
Marcus Speh, via Flash Mob 2013, author of "Thank You For Your Sperm" (MadHat Press, 2013), is an enthusiastic but frustrated player of bi-lingual Scrabble, both German and English.
What I like about flash fiction: Each word is a story particle requiring full attention. Which slows time, and creates space. And is as refreshing as meditation. * See Leanne's video poem in last month's issue HERE and her work in Flash Fiction World Vol. 4 (See above right).
Leanne Radojkovich loves short-short stories and long-long operas.