As some of you might know, I have an odd relationship with the short-short prose structure. I love to read those that are stunning, remarkable, odd, moving, magic, entrancing, curious, and and and. (Think: Vanessa Gebbie here. Meg Pokrass. Tania Hershman. Dinty W. Moore. Carrie Etter. Katey Schultz. Stuart Dybek. Tom Hazuka.) I have written a couple of short-short pieces–in fiction and in nonfiction–myself, and am not unhappy with them.
What bothers me, though, is the idea some writers have that flash fiction and its close relatives (prose poem, sudden prose, short-short, flash nonfiction, etc.) is something easily undertaken, harnessed, mastered, and published. I would posit that it is one of the most difficult forms of writing to do consistently very well; its writers have to avoid the trap of the punchline, the narrowly-told anecdote, the cryptic instance with no resonance. How short-short and flash writers avoid these things is another matter altogether (you who succeed with this genre, please do feel free to enlighten us via the comments section of this page!) But a good piece of the short stuff is remarkably satisfying. Perhaps more closely akin to a beautiful piece of visual art than to the long narrative: it gets to you quickly, takes your breath, and then gives you plenty of time and space to look and look again to see what you missed on the first read.
So imagine my absolute thrill when at the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013 I found myself the lucky winner of two short-short-short-short story contests sponsored by Press 53. The 53-Word Contest is a weekly call from Press 53 for writers to submit 53-word (no more, no less–titles not included in the count) pieces based on a proposed theme. The guidelines are tight and loose at the same time, allowing for a whole lot of imaginative play within a solid structure. You should try it.
Thanks to the two judges who chose my pieces: Meg Pokrass selected “Things I Wish You Heard,” and Kevin Morgan Watson picked “The Night I Said I Was Leaving.” You can read them each via the links attached to the titles, and you can read the complete Press 53 blog with its information on other contests, new books, interviews, and many things booky and literary here.
As always, thanks for reading. -PMc