Contributor Update: Teague Bohlen & Britten Leigh

FlatlandToday we are pleased to announce that past contributor Teague Bohlen and Britten Leigh have an upcoming book from Bronze Man Books titled Flatland. The book includes flash fiction by Teague and black and white photographs by Britten. Stay tuned for Flatland’s release in 2018!

Read three flash fictions by Teague accompanied by Britten’s photography in Issue 10 of Superstition Review here.

Congratulations, Teague and Britten!

Authors Talk: Jonathan Cardew

Today we are pleased to feature author Jonathan Cardew as our Authors Talk series contributor. Jonathan discusses the work experiences that let “The Story of the Elephant” and its characters come to him.

Jonathan speaks intriguingly about what draws him to flash fiction. He notes his love for ellipses and the fact that anything can happen even after the end of such a short story, that the story “could be about anything or nothing.”

If you’d like to develop your own theory, you can read and listen to Jonathan’s story in Superstition Review Issue 19.

#ArtLitPhx: Piper Writers Studio Fall 2017 Courses

Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing

The Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at ASU is proud to offer creative writing classes through the Piper Writers Studio. Classes are taught by acclaimed and award-winning writers from the community, and they cover topics such as memoir writing, the relationship between art and writing, contemporary poetry, the relationship between politics and poetry, the reveal of information, inspiration, writer’s block, intimacy, flash fiction, and fairy tales.

The classes and workshops offered in Fall 2017 are the following:

Classes are open to individuals of all backgrounds, skill levels, and experiences, and are designed to fit around the schedules of working adults (taking place weekday evenings or weekend afternoons). Most classes are held at the Piper Writers House, the historic President’s Cottage on the ASU Tempe Campus. 
Class sizes range between 8 and 12 students in order to ensure an intimate, individualized educational experience, and fees range from $50 to  $250 (with discounts for students and individuals who are members of the Piper Circle of Friends). Classes can also qualify for professional development credit with the Arizona Department of Education. Individuals can register for classes through the Piper Center’s website, where they can also find more information about the courses.

Authors Talk: Lynn Mundell

Lynn Mundell bio photoToday we are featuring Lynn Mundell for our Authors Talk. Lynn speaks about how she came up with the idea for her short story, “Again.”

Lynn got the idea for the story from a photograph. The picture was black and white and had a young man with a golf club in one hand and a baby in the other hand. Lynn saw the baby and wanted to run with the idea of an old soul. Lynn talks much further about her creative process, and the literary magazine she helped to found, 100 Word Stories. 

“Again” can be read here in Issue 17 of Superstition Review. 

 

Authors Talk: Daniel Aristi

Daniel Aristi

Today we are pleased to feature Daniel Aristi as our Authors Talk series contributor. In this podcast, structured as an interview, Daniel reflects on how his nomadic lifestyle has influenced his writing, as well as how different languages (his native Spanish and French, as well as his acquired English) interact during his writing process.

Daniel also comments on the inspiration behind his poems in Issue 18 and discusses his unconscious tendency to gravitate toward father-son relationships and the aging process in his writing. He then reveals that he “believes that anything can trigger a poem at any point in time.” Finally, Daniel touches on his success with flash fiction, his experience with rejection, the poets who inspire him, and his future writing projects.

You can access Daniel’s pieces in Issue 18 of Superstition Review.

Guest Post, Sean Lovelace: To An End

aconfederacyofnachos

Photo by Bradley Werner, courtesy of http://nachosny.com

TO AN END:

…11 minutes later I walk out of the office, shaking the test results like a fistful of musty bills I’d won playing Go Fish off Ignatius J. Reilly (or some such literary hero) in a tight, rightful, terrible wager (terrible in that a loss would have been profound—no new disc golf discs off EBay this month, no new flash anthologies [such as this one!], the dog without chow, the kid’s frog [actually a fire-bellied toad {but what is genre?}] without crickets, even cheaper wine, possible shortages in frozen waffles, other such calamities) and I yelled out, “That’s it! That’s it! I will no longer eat walnuts! No walnuts unshelled or shelled! No toasty! No crunch! No easy, natural, toasty crunch! No walnuts, no walnuts, no walnuts! I’ve had it!”

(Note: In writing, you should use approximately three exclamation marks your entire life. Rule broken.)

“But you’re supposed to be eating walnuts,” she says, flatly as a credit card. “They said to add walnuts to your diet. Walnuts are the king of nuts.”

(Actually, that’s almondsbut pick your battles, pick your battles…And anyway her blue eyes are like a ceiling fan: stylish, highly effective, often spinning, with some potential ability to maim.)

I go outside, to the shed, grab a small hatchet and thunk the apple tree repeatedly, with no real effect on the apple tree (the gnarled bastard—it produces thousands of apples a year. Is that good? No. I have to deal with thousands of apples a year, hauling them out in a wheelbarrow [yes, it’s red, Carlos Williams], swatting off yellow jackets, listening all evening to the marsh rats slither up from the creek, across my back lawn, below the apple tree, munching on apples under the moon…How does a man sleep!? But I do digress.), but with real effect on my mood, a slight simmering down of the emotions, this thunking. I replace the hatchet on its handy bent nail, calm and reenter the house.

movie.jph

Photo courtesy of http://www.openculture.com

(Note: In writing, it’s best to balance your creative, mental work with a physical activity. Haruki Murakami enjoys a refreshing jog, for example. Lydia Davis dabbles in archery, an activity as precise as her sentences. Tennessee Williams swam every morning. Simone de Beauvoir liked to shoot rifles with her eyes closed, while Jean Paul Sartre looked on, regally, very much in the pose of a douche bag. O. Henry—in-between crafting his many stories—spent time as a shepherd, ranch hand, cook, baby-sitter, bank embezzler, and drunk. So: physical exercise is significant.)

I’m going back to nachos, I tell her.

Hail Ignacio!

Hail Rocha!

Hail Bradley Werner! (A man who makes amazing book covers featuring nachos.)

Hail Howard Cosell!

Hail Prince Fielder!

I tell her. (And when I say, tell, I mean I’m braying like a wildebeest.)

She ignores me, as is her manner.

Photo by Bradley Werner, courtesy of http://nachosny.com/2013/07/nacho-book-covers-hitchhikers-guide-great-gatsby/

Photo by Bradley Werner, courtesy of http://nachosny.com

Feelings bruised, I make a Cuban variation on traditional nachos (dollop of Swiss cheese, one jalapeno per chip, a smattering of black beans). Munch them. Take that last tortilla chip, hold it in the air and light to admire its structural integrity, and scream out, “Let the festivities begin!”

Then I swallow the last nacho chip and place my nacho bowl (carefully, I have a specific rotation of three handmade ceramic bowls of the upmost craftsmanship) in the sink, to rest in its cradle of bubbly bath.

That’s one way to end nachos.

Shall we discuss flash fiction, several finishing moves?

Like with relationships or dinner or spontaneous trips to the casino, some things are easier to begin than to end. Sometimes an idea forms, a flash fiction draft spirals out—click/click/click, your fingers dance like marionettes—and then you realize you’re running out of words, and you need to end. So.

THE CYCLICAL:

As a current Hoosier, I’d like you to recall that Breakfast of Champions opens with Kilgore Trout walking the streets of Midland, and ends with Kilgore Trout walking the streets of Midland. Everything in-between is satirical filler. Let’s examine Four Hard Facts by Damian Dressick, a devastating meditation of grief:

Note how it opens in a bar and ends in a bar. (Also note how appropriate the segmented form [episodic, like memory, like questioning], the use of second person (draws us into the theme), the effective use of objects [steak sauce is powerful here, its banality], the threads [water], but do primarily focus on the ending, cyclical.)

To end, look to the beginning. Check out “How He Felt” by Amelia Gray.

Billboard

Plane/song/sermon

Billboard.

Another flash technique might be what I’d call THE TWIST. Here, the last line is the core significance, a turn, not so unlike a sonnet volta, or O. Henry back in the day, but always remember this is flash, compression—make your turn hard and quick, a slap, a jab (or a legal summons—but I digress again), walking that keen line voiced so well by Flannery O’Connor, “Endings should be simultaneously surprising and inevitable.”

(She also said, “Everywhere I go, I’m asked if I think the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them. There’s many a best seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.” But that’s another blog post altogether…)

See “Dog” by Kyle Minor. (Note repetition, rhythm, couched within the minimalist.)

thenachosofhuckfinn

Photo by Bradley Werner, courtesy of http://nachosny.com

I once got drunk with Minor at an epic literary cave of a bar in Muncie, IN, and Minor argued for long form literature—Great Expectations and Huckleberry Finn and Pride and Prejudice and whatnot—while I argued for short form, Palm-of-the-Hand Stories and Oh Baby and all those wonderful Latin American microficciones and whatnot and then here I go months later just surfing the hip flash mags for what’s fresh and see Kyle Minor flash fictions popping up the literary web and so I’m assuming mind changed, genre accepted, I’m assuming I won that argument and I so rarely win any argument, you know, I mean you should see my Tuesday mornings, my Sunday evening audio—splish and krunch and hiss and boom!—you should see my, my…what are you saying? What do you mean what am I doing? I’m writing a blog post. You did what? Threw all my books where? On the roof! Why? Are you drunk? Just a minute…Lord, I have to…what!?…Jesus…Yep, my books are on the roof. She threw my books on the roof. My Baudelaire and my Diane Williams, my Ultimate Nachos and my Jayne Anne Phillips [“Good one-page fictions have a spiral construction: the words circle out from a dense, packed core, and the spiral moves through the words, past the boundary of the page,” Phillips says. “Fast, precise, over. The one-page fiction should hang in the air of the mind like an image made of smoke.”], and my, even my sweet and lovely Suttree, even my Douglas Adams…And it’s raining.)

See “Bounty” by Dave Eggers. (Note how one line, the TWIST, transports the piece, from every day to philosophical.)

THE BOUNTY

In her kitchen, she saw many things she would like to eat. On the counter, there was a bunch of new bananas, yellow as a Van Gogh chair, and two apples, pristine. The cabinet was open and she saw a box of crackers, a new box of cereal, a tube of curved chips. She felt overwhelmed, seeing all of the food there, that it was all hers. And there was more in the refrigerator! There were juices, half a melon, a dozen bagels, salmon, a steak, yogurt in a dozen colors. It would take her a week to eat all of this food. She does not deserve this, she thought. It really isn’t fair, she thought. You’re correct, God said, and then struck dead 65,000 Malaysians.

All my favorite techniques, I steal from poets.

(Note: If you seriously want to write flash fictions, seriously steal from poets.)

Example, the FADEOUT, end on the visual, the sensory poem, the image…(I actually took this technique from my childhood in the 1980’s. See there was this channel called MTV and they played something called music videos [I know, I know, this sounds impossible] and these music videos would often end with a FADE OUT, a drifting off image, to fog, to gray, a dissolve, poetry really…)

Swimming naked butterfly

Night’s thick scent of peach blossoms

Dead bees

Photo by Bradley Werner, courtesy of http://nachosny.com

 

And a baseball player, with priorities intact…

(https://youtu.be/7uaMsJztm9I)

Hail Fielder!

Hail nachos!

Hail flash fiction!

Hail stepladders! (Hail stepladders?)

Yes, yes, now please excuse me. As I’ve intimated, things must end, even this blog post. Go eat nachos and please do write something, something flash, all the way to the finish. Me? I need to go get my books.

An Interview with Grant Faulkner

This interview was conducted through email between Jessica Fletcher, Fiction Editor at Superstition Review, and Grant Faulkner, Issue 13 contributor. 

Grant FaulkerGrant Faulkner is the executive director of National Novel Writing Month and the co-founder of 100 Word Story (100wordstory.org). His stories and essays have appeared in dozens of publications, including The New York Times, Poets & Writers, Writer’s Digest, The Southwest Review, PANK, and Puerto del Sol. He’s recently published a collection of one hundred 100-word stories, Fissures, and is at work on a novel.

Jessica Fletcher: In your opening to 100-word story collection, Fissures, and in your article, “Going Long. Going Short,” in The New York Times, you discuss how flash fiction and these 100-word stories “speak to the singularity of stray moments by calling attention to the spectral blank spaces around them; it can perfectly capture the disconnections that existentially define us.” Could you elaborate on how this form has informed how you process different events, memories, and ideas in your own life?

Grant Faulkner: I think our memories work in snapshots. We collect tiny moments, images that loop through our minds. Some might be attached to larger narratives by varying degrees, but many exist independently in a strange disjointed way. When I think of my interior life, I think of it as a collage of such snapshots, with my mind shuffling through images and weird little moments again and again.

I’m always searching for a way to shape narrative to experience, so the 100-word story form really spoke to me as a way to capture this shuffle of snapshots. When I first decided to become a writer, in my early 20s, I read Nathalie Sarraute’s Tropisms. She describes tropisms as the “interior movements that precede and prepare our words and actions, at the limits of our consciousness.” Those tiny, almost imperceptible dramas are so important in our lives, yet longer forms sometimes don’t give them the focus they deserve.

We live in the fissures, the interstices of life.

JF: Given the 100-word limit of your stories in Fissures, many of the stories read very similar to prose poetry. In fact, some stories, like “Dulcet” and “Dear X,” mimic this even more so. Did you approach this project with a poetic mind or did you see full stories and then cut the excess?

GF: The more 100-word stories I wrote, the more and more I learned how they veered toward prose poetry. I like to joke that the form allowed me to nurture my “inner failed poet.” Sometimes prose writers don’t get to truly express their poetic side.

I’ve always liked forms that blur. To say that a piece of writing is a prose poem versus a story is just a matter of an author’s intention, an author’s definition. I don’t write with such definitions now. I’d someday like to write a novel that’s a prose poem, or a prose poem that’s a novel

JF: I noticed in Fissures that you spent a lot of time coming back to the characters of Celeste and Gerald. Was there a significance to their reoccurring stories? Did you find yourself pulled to particular themes and human moments?

GF: The Gerard and Celeste stories are the rare stories in the collection that are part of a narrative with a larger arc. I’ve written maybe 50 of them now, and I’d like to someday shape them into a flash novella. The stories are about a tragic and forbidden love affair, which by definition is about disconnected moments, the way presence and absence mingle, the way memory works to put the pieces together.

I included twenty or so of them in Fissures because I liked the idea of creating some throughlines through all of the individual pieces. I viewed the motifs in the Gerard and Celeste stories as providing a guiding trajectory for the collection.

JF: How do you approach the differing objectives of longer forms that usually require comprehension and shorter forms that do not require comprehensiveness?

GF: I no longer believe in any notion of comprehensiveness. It’s just not a feeling, a sensibility, that’s really possible in life. We change day by day, moment by moment, and everything around us changes, including our memories, which are based as much or more in a story we tell than any factuality. We rewrite our memories each time we remember them.

I used to try to write my longer stories or novels with a sense of comprehensiveness, but I think that did the story a disservice in the end. It’s better to write toward the questions of a story than the answers, and those questions don’t have to be answered.  Instead of comprehensiveness, it’s more a matter of the scale of a story, the size it needs to be.

JF: In your article, “Going Long. Going Short,” you discussed how workshop professors and students always commented/critiqued with a call for more, “more characterization, more back story, more details — more of everything.” What do you think is lost, if anything, from having too much “more?” Or too little?

GF: I think writers are generally taught to write more rather than less—from the first time a teacher tells a student in elementary school to add detail to a sentence, to include more supporting evidence, etc. That’s good to begin with, but at a certain point, a writer needs to realize how writing less, whether leaving things out or writing more succinctly, serves a story. A writer needs to learn how a story moves best through the whorls of mystery and suspense created by the gaps of a story.

Writers naturally try to prove themselves through their words, through florid descriptions, curlicues of syntax. Our words can sometimes resemble a body builder’s muscles, which cover up the true person inside, so a writer has to find the balance of words and the textures that serve the story.

My stories move with fewer and fewer words, but I still love big, reaching novels like Moby Dick or Ulysses or The Adventures of Augie March. I love the way William Faulkner’s words spill and gush and swirl as he tries to bring past and present together. Every story needs different doses of “more” or “less” to create the necessary texture.

JF: As executive director of National Novel Writing Month, do you also work to produce roughly 1,667 words a day during November? How does this continuous writing strategy affect your flash fiction?

GF: I do write 1,667 words each day every November. I’ve primarily written novels in my life, which requires a different creative process than writing 100-word stories. I like to dive into a new novel each November and write a complete draft. To write faster, and to try to push the boundaries of my word count each day, inspires a different kind of creativity—it’s improvisational and free. It’s also an efficient way to get out a novel in a busy life.

This process doesn’t influence my flash fiction so much—other than training my mind to shut off my internal editor, to be open to new ideas. My flash seems to influence my novels more, especially when it comes to editing them.

I like to write in different ways, in different forms. One form feeds another. It’s good to write in many different ways to be agile and nimble.

JF: I found your characters in Fissures to be kooky, interesting, and distressed. The short form makes the weird and dark descriptions even bolder. How did these characters and their stories come to you?

GF: I never know how to answer this question. Stories and characters just always come to me. I’ve never had writer’s block. Sometimes I’ll see someone on the street or in a café. Sometimes I’ll just daydream about an episode in the past.

My characters are only loosely based on real people, though. I’m drawn to my stories primarily by their moods, their situations. The characters come in the writing.

JF: You mentioned Flaubert’s “mot juste” in your introduction to Fissures. How did you go about this process of finding the precise wording and cutting down to 100 words?

GF: Endless tinkering. I don’t know how else to describe it. The first draft of a piece might be 125 words or 75. Trying to get the word count to exactly 100 words requires an intense focus on each sentence, each word, in a way that other forms don’t. So I just shave and shape like a sculptor, adding words or cutting them in order to find the right contours of the story.

Interestingly enough, the story is always much better by the time I get it to exactly 100 words.

JF: In “Going Long. Going Short,” you mentioned how Twitter and Facebook are becoming new forums for short, succinct writing. In what ways, do you think social media has shaped the literary world and flash fiction?

GF: Since people read online more and more—and grow up reading online now—they’re essentially trained to read in shorter spans. When you scroll down your Facebook stream, you’re reading a series of tiny stories, each disconnected from a larger story or the others around it. You’re reading a version of flash fiction.

My guess is that people’s attention spans are changing as a result, that they’ll increasingly prefer to read shorter and shorter stories. We started 100 Word Story (http://www.100wordstory.org/) with this in mind. We thought a 100-word story was the perfect length to read online.

JF: Recently, the “white space” in writing has been given attention. Those empty spots are now given weight as if they are a “something.” How does this change the way a writer approaches all the unwritten and unsaid moments in a story?

GF: “White spaces” are a something. To loop back to your previous questions about “comprehensiveness” and “more,” I think using white spaces is just as important as text—that a story actually can move and escalate because of the white spaces, not in spite of them. A reader fills in the gaps, and what’s left out adds to the essential mystery of a story and the mimetic urgings of a literary narrative.

If you read Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation, a novel constructed around fragments of text that are around 100 words, you see how the white spaces create a texture of disjointedness to mirror the main character’s thoughts while also paradoxically tying things together and building the story.

Hemingway’s famous dictum instructed a writer to only show the top 10 percent of a story and to leave the other 90 percent under the water, like an iceberg. A 100-word story might only show the top 1 percent. Yet the 99 percent that isn’t there is still there, like a ghost.

You can view Grant Faulkner’s featured 100-word story in Superstition Review Issue 13