Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ten Reasons to Try Flash Fiction + One More

In Kay Marie Porterfield’s article, 10 Reasons to Write Flash Fiction she states, “In addition to being fun to write, flash fiction boosts your writing skills.” It’s a good article, with some very fine points regarding the benefits writers garner when they write flash fiction, but . . .

I think the root of the problem of why I receive so many poor submissions in the slush pile of the flash fiction zine I help edit, is the perception that writing flash fiction is fun.

Writers may indeed enjoying writing flash fiction, but they need to be mindful before they submit their creations—mindful that their work has more substance than the mere joy of creation.

Camille Renshaw’s article The Essentials of Micro-Fiction contains one more essential element of writing flash fiction that writers need to address that isn't fully addressed in 10 Reasons to Write Flash Fiction. In The Essentials of Micro-Fiction, Renshaw refers to a key requirement of literary short short fiction: implication. “There’s no room for life stories. Just enough for resonance,” she writes. And she’s right!

I see far too many life stories disguised as flash fiction in my submission files. And what is worse, these life stories or slices-of-life vignettes don’t even display a “resonance” or have any sense of implication—an implied meaning; implicit significance; an indirect indication: something that is suggested . . .

Greater than scene . . . is situation. Greater than situation is implication. Greater than all of these is a single, entire human being, who will never be confined in any frame.—Eudora Welty

When writing flash fiction, it’s fine to have fun, but the end result of enjoying the process has to be the creation of a piece that resonates.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Binnacle: Sixth International Ultra-Short Competition

I entered this contest in 2004 and received an honorable mention. All of the winning stories were published in a unique bookmark/flashcard-like boxed collection, making it one of my favorite “think outside of the box” anthology collections of flash fiction--or as UMM has labeled the form "Ultra-Short".

The Binnacle: Sixth International Ultra-Short Competition

The University of Maine at Machias (UMM) Literary & Arts Magazine, The Binnacle will sponsor its Sixth International Ultra-Short Competition in the 2008-2009 academic year.

No submission fee

Deadline for submissions: February 15, 2009

Accepting submissions of prose work (150 words or less) & poetry (sixteen lines or less)

A minimum of $300 in cash prizes will be awarded, with a minimum prize of $50.

Complete submission guidelines are located at

Monday, January 12, 2009

The 2009 Pikes Peak NLAPW Flash Fiction Contest

As a former (2005) winner of an Honorable Mention in the Carolyn A. Clark Soul Making Literary Competition sponsored by the National League of Pen Women, San Francisco Bay Branch, I would like to share the details of another National League of American Pen Women affiliate contest. . .

The 2009

Pikes Peak Branch National League of American Pen Women

Flash Fiction Contest

Theme: “Everything was perfect.”

Submission guidelines: A complete, short story of 100 words or fewer (all genres welcome)

Deadline: Postmarked by March 2, 2009

Entry fee: $10.00

1st Place Story $75.00
2nd Place Story $40.00
Judge's Merit Award $20.00

In addition to cash awards, all entries will receive a brief critique from members of the Pikes Peak Branch of National League of American Pen Women.

Submitters need not live in Colorado to enter or be a member of Pen Women.


And stay tuned for more of my flash fiction contest leads throughout the year.

Flash Fiction: Not Merely a Literary Experiment

Authors of flash fiction that treat the form purely as a literary experiment are missing a powerful opportunity to develop a solid understanding of how to create dynamic and memorable stories, no matter the forms abbreviated 50 to 1,000 range of words.

True flash fiction stories are far more developed than mere literary experiments or slice-of-life vignettes—the likes of which I have seen far too many of in the submission files in my various roles as a flash fiction editor.

Well-developed flash fiction stories—or as they are also sometimes referred to as short-shorts—must also contain the same basic elements of all well-crafted storytelling: strong characters, a sense of place i.e. setting, a story problem or challenge, resolution etc.

Moreover, there is nothing experimental about creating a flash fiction story that requires authors to be mindful of every single word they use to convey their story within the limited srange of words—it is mandatory.

Last year, in my role as a flash fiction editor for an ezine, I saw far too many “literary experiments” in my submission files, far too many slice-of-life vignettes and pieces that barely rose above the status of character sketches or in some cases read like prologues or summaries of larger stories. In general, I received far too many submissions that seemed to indicate the authors did not understand the form, and missed the opportunity to create a story in which the power of well-chosen words was fully realized.

I suspect the solution to the problem of so many authors misunderstanding the challenges of writing powerful flash fiction is for editors and devoted readers of flash fiction to keep repeating what flash fiction is and isn’t, and to keep suggesting that would-be authors of powerful flash fiction continue to seek out and read powerful flash fiction.

Writing flash fiction is a demanding writing task, not a literary experiment or exercise, and the editors that publish flash fiction are actively seeking the best of the form.

Throughout this New Year, I will begin to build and post a list of these flash fiction markets, as well as offering an array of tips to help authors create well-crafted flash stories, in the hopes that authors will embrace the challenges of the form in lieu of merely experimenting with it.