M.J. Fievre Talks Flash!

Flash NON-Fiction, a creative writing workshop led by the widely published, Miami-based M.J. Fievre, runs eight weeks and starts on Tuesday, September 17, at the Center for Literature and Theater. Visit their website or call 305.237.3023 for more information. Deadline to register is September 6.

What is the average length of flash nonfiction and where is it usually published? What journals or other media? 

The word count for flash pieces (also called short-shorts) varies tremendously from one market to the next. Some magazines, such as Nano Fiction, only publish work that is 300 words or fewer, while others will consider stories as long as 1,300 words. Brevity Magazine (one of my personal favorites) publishes up to 750 words. Smith Magazine publishes 6-word memoirs. How short can a story be, and still be considered a story? Well, consider this story, which is attributed to Ernest Hemingway, all of six words long: “For sale: Baby shoes. Never used.”

Who are the best practitioners of the form? What authors would you suggest prospective students look up and read to prepare?

One that’s worth noting is The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction, edited by Dinty Moore. As pointed out by Mr. Moore, there is “more and more flash nonfiction in the standard, established paper-and-ink journals. Tablet readers like the Nook or iPad will just accelerate this trend […]. Even The New York Times, with the popular “Modern Love” essay each Sunday, is making room for brief memoirs.” Matthew Sharpe, author of the short-story collection Stories from the Tube, posts a new short-short on his blog every week; these pieces are fantastic and located here http://sharpestories.blogspot.com/

Why should someone take a leap into this kind of writing if they are used to long fiction or nonfiction. 

Brevity is a real art. With flash, the old “show, don’t tell” adage is really put into practice. It is challenging because the piece still needs to contain the classic story elements, particularly conflict and change; because of the limited word count, however, these elements often remain unwritten (they are hinted at or implied) and this requires real talent. Writing flash is good practice for all writers since it forces you to focus on what really matters in a story. Superfluous words are deleted, and careful attention is paid to the decisive moment.

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