First of all, thanks so much for subscribing to my monthly newsletter! My aim is to provide a free monthly craft piece on flash fiction, along with a writing prompt. Expect this to land in your in-boxes every 15th of the month.
It occurred to me that not all of you may know who I am, so just briefly (feel free to skip this part!):
I have been writing, editing, publishing, and teaching flash fiction for over twenty years. My stories have been widely published and reprinted, most recently in The Norton Reader, Best American Nonrequired Reading, Best Small Fictions (2016, ’17, ’18, ’20), Advanced Creative Nonfiction (Bloomsbury) and various other journals, textbooks, and anthologies. My fifth collection, Wild Life: Collected Works from 2003-2018, is now in its 2nd print run with Matter Press. I am a recipient of the Copper Nickel Editor’s Prize and a 2020 Ragdale Foundation Fellowship. My highly sought after Fast Flash workshops, begun in 2014, have resulted in numerous publications and awards for the hundreds of writers who have taken part. Currently, I am at work on a flash fiction guidebook.
Okay. I had another craft piece cued up for this debut newsletter, but it felt a little tone deaf after all we’ve been through. I feel like, first, we could all use a moment to catch our breath, to check in with ourselves. Maybe you are among the lucky ones who’ve been able to charge through the events of the past year and continue to focus and apply yourselves to your creative work. That’s fantastic! Maybe you’ve even published a great deal of that work. Better yet!
But maybe like me, you’ve found your brain has utterly shut down creatively. Maybe all you have been able to do is follow the latest political developments, keep yourselves safe from Covid, attend to loved ones, attempt to homeschool your kids while working from home. Writing? Who has time, energy, and headspace for that?
Jacked up on adrenaline and cortisol, our brains have been in a chronic state of fight or flight. When we need it most, we shut ourselves off from the very things that nurture and heal: good sleep, nutritious food, fresh air, and every bit as importantly, making art.
So here and now, let’s reconnect with our writing and let’s keep the stakes low.
Today, I want you to reconnect with the joy of simply moving your pen across the page (or tapping sentences on a keyboard). Let’s write very concretely and from our senses. It may be tempting, in harrowing times, to write an Important Piece that speaks to the moment. But today, let’s set our high standards aside and just play.
Prompt: “This Is a Story About…”
Begin with this simple declarative (or some variation) as your TITLE. This primes your brain from the get-go. You are about to tell a story about something tangible and specific.
Look around and find any nearby object to complete the title. If you need help, here are some suggestions:
…the cluster of used tissues on my nightstand
…a mitten, frozen in the snow
…a broken shoelace
…my kid’s half-eaten chicken nugget
…the squirrel in my backyard
This is low stakes writing. But let your imagination run wild! Let the writing go where it wants. Do not concern yourself for now with Making Great Art.
On the other hand…
This writing may actually surprise you! Once when I was really stuck and feeling fed up and frustrated that so many of my stories were feeling the same, I jokingly wrote: “Another Story About Me and Some Guy” at the top of the page and just… went with it. It turned out to be one of my favorite flashes.
Some inspiration from. Mary Ruefle:
Short Lecture on Your Own Happiness
You know how to write poetry, it is all you need to be happy, but you will not be happy, you will be miserable, thinking you need so many other things, and in years and years of misery you have only one thing, as poets, to look forward to, the day you will not want what you haven’t got, the thing you have got is poetry, let nothing cheat, steal, or deflect you from it, even poetry itself. Why are you sitting there? You should have fled before I finished the first sentence.
Next month, I’ll have something rather more substantive to offer. In the months ahead, expect articles about achieving concision without sacrificing depth, flash fiction forms, hybridity, prose poetry, revision, and more.
P.S. I will soon be announcing my online workshops for the coming months and taking registrations. If you’re interested and not already on my workshop mailing list, you may sign up to receive that information HERE.