Our most recent winner is Steven O. Young Jr. Check out his blog here and go read his MB1.47–winning story again. Steven has very kindly agreed to judge this week’s contest so pay attention as he tells us a little about himself and his writing:
Steven holds no titles outside of the familial inherited without his initial efforts (brother, son, uncle), but tends to point toward his BA and MA in English as a superficial and inefficient indication of who he might have been, currently is, and may become.
He also wants to apologize for the photo. He doesn’t belong on either side of a camera, and consequently settled for evidence of the grief that is being left-handed, preferring pencil, and inexplicably writing lines on top of one another, over and over again.
So, great story. How did you get there from the prompt and bookends? The image prompt first led to ideas about a character lacking in its mental capacities, but an effective breaking down of the brain seemed a tad impossible in this space, especially without knowing enough about it. A turn toward investigating who might have caused such an injury made for a more interesting direction anyway.
As for the bookends, I scrolled through a dictionary looking for a unique starting point with the flexibility provided this week. After failing to find one I wanted to use, referring to something without an established name in our language seemed necessary. The closing bookend lent itself well to using a cigarette as a symbol of chronic repetition and a general measurement of time, which aided in determining the pace.
100 words ain’t many. How do you fit a story into so few words? Relying on implied relationships and actions seems most effective for me. I tend to get allusive when trying to develop settings, but that’s perilous as readers rarely share reading experiences.
Oh, and editing helps. A lot. I try to edit each sentence and paragraph before moving on, then continue editing several times over once the story’s “complete.” I’m already meticulous when it comes to grammar (not necessarily for what is “proper,” but for glaring errors), but it’s most beneficial towards coaxing out concise, yet rhythmic, language.
Why do you like flash fiction? I have an utter lack of interest in most novels. Or at least popular novelists. Flash fiction can make for equally rich readings analytically (a symptom that plagues my reading) with greater attention to each word and punctuation.
Been writing long? Not publicly, but I’ve scribbled my share of poetry — mostly bad, though a few moderately decent pieces found their way out — throughout college that, for the most part, never offended others’ eyes. Drabbles, by some now-unknown happenstance, became a private practice somewhere during that time as well. At any rate, I’ve only recently begun to submit pieces with any frequency whatsoever.
You write anything else? Job applications and cover letters for the time being, but it hasn’t been a year since I graduated (yet), so it’s too early to lament that too much.
Otherwise, poetry is my primary interest, though it seems to evade my pen of late.
Any advice for other flash writers? Examining how others write certainly helps develop effective stylings, but there’s virtually no point in writing if the author is only a mimic. Study and experiment to develop your own comfort zone, but resist settling into any one style.
Any interesting writerly projects in the pipeline? Not particularly, though I’ve recently taken to experimenting with haiku, fracturing the previously standardized 5/7/5 form to encourage multiple (divided?) readings. Strange? Absolutely, but it’s an intriguing challenge to make them work.
I just finished reading a book. Can you recommend another? The only novel I ever recommend is Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. As for poetry, Li-Young Lee’s Rose is my absolute favorite collection, particularly “Persimmons” and “The Weepers.”