I am a greedy reader, a pleasure reader, a literary hedonist. I want my coffee strong and my novels long. I want to escape for days on end into story and character. Some of my favorite writers are those such as Kate Atkinson, Ellen Gilchrist or Richard Ford, whose works include recurrent characters whose stories continue over spans of years in short stories or novels. I normally eschew food metaphors but, in this case, devour would be the apt verb to describe my relationship to fiction. I do not want taste a morsel, no matter how exquisitely prepared; I want to ravage.
So at first glance, flash fiction, micros, compressions, suddens, whatever you want to call them, struck me as yet another blow against expansiveness. As a journalist, I would consider myself as having been on the front line of the “short, shorter, shortest” campaign of the last several years. Yes, the power of 140 characters to topple a dictatorship, gather followers or keep everyone updated on your mood is, indeed, impressive. But, you know, some of us still like to read!
I needed a quick and radical adjustment to my attitude during the Intermediate Fiction course I taught at Santa Fe Community College this spring, after Miriam Sagan asked if I would be interested in curating a collection of flash written by my students for the poetry posts on campus. I liked the idea of the project, but didn’t think I could appropriately inspire my students with a tirade against abbreviated thought.
So I plunged in and read a whole lot of flash: the classics, the award-winners and the very, very new.
As a reader, I do not anticipate a huge change in my habits (for instance, when I fly to Europe this summer, I don’t anticipate I’ll bring 80,000 pieces of flash fiction versus a few long books). But as a writer, and a teacher, I have come to see the value of the form and have abandoned my view of it as yet another trendy excuse to shorten my already shortened attention span.
The students in Intermediate Fiction divided into groups and chose various themes for their flash projects: drought, family loss and The Outsider. The extent to which all the pieces adhered to these themes varied from writer to writer, but the resulting group of 20 pieces, which will be on campus June 1-Aug. 26, show, I believe, the amazing versatility offered by the form. The pieces range from writing I might characterize as prose poetry to simply short fiction. They also show the challenge of instilling the various attributes of fiction writing (character, plot, story, for example) into such short works.
Here are the writers for Summer of Flash, and their works. You can find a map of the poetry posts here.
Installation 1, June 1-July 14: Benjamin Lucas Buck, Meg Tuite, Ana Terrazas, Sarah Velez, Alona Bonanno, Lisa Neal, Tina Matthews
Installation 2, July 15-Aug. 26: Meg Tuite, Ree Mobley, Ken McPherson, Pat Barnes, William White
Post by Julia Goldberg