Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
I’m on a binge lately. Not on Netflix gruel. Not even competitive drinking, though who could blame someone for indulging these days?
No, what I’m bingeing on is writing flash fiction. See, I finished my baseball novel a while back and have been working my way through a revision, but I saw a notice for a flash fiction contest and thought, heck, why not take a break and put something together? This contest was perfect for me too: the Gulf Coast Barthelme Prize for Short Prose.
I’m taking it to be named for Donald Barthelme, the paragon of ironic, absurdist short stories, and not his son Frederick (who’s also very good though). I loved Donald’s stuff when I was coming of age as a writer in the ’80s. My journals from the period say I even went to see him read, but I don’t recall it. I was probably too much in awe to retain the scene.
I whipped out three stories to submit to the contest, taking ideas I had jotted down years ago and running with them. And what I love about flash fiction is that you can take an improvisational approach and just see what happens. Then you tinker and polish until it feels right and nails that one ideal effect you’re going for. It can be a catharsis, a punch line, a lingering emotion, or a realization for the reader to latch onto. Or it can peter out and land as more of an abstract prose-poem.
So now I’ve written a few more of these things, and I’m getting addicted. I’ve even submitted a couple to online magazines to see if I can’t get some writing satisfaction that way, even if the real pleasure is putting the final touches on one of these and saying, Perfect!
More and more, in my role as editor of The Disappointed Housewife, I’m finding that the shorter pieces I get are more coherent and effective than the long ones. I’m even considering reducing the word limit to 1000 from 1500, and not just to make it easier for me to read them. I really think, because of who we are as readers at this point in the 21st century, that less is more and the effects of language and narrative are often more powerful in smaller packages.
What about you–as writers and readers? Are you appreciating flash more than you used to? And if you submit flash pieces, which publications do you recommend?