KM Zafari loves writing and reading flash fiction! She goes by thebatinthehat because Poe and Seuss are her literary heroes, and she usually writes dark or very silly. She won the Writer’s Digest Shortest Short Story contest in 2012.
100 words ain’t many. How do you fit a story into so few words? I naturally write short. I’ve tried to write novels, but I have yet to succeed in finishing one. I just think in short form. Also, my degree is in screenwriting, and the “economy of words” philosophy has been drilled into my head for several years, now.
Why do you like flash fiction? I love it, love it, love it! I’m always fascinated to see what people come up with. You wind up being able to digest many more stories and experience so many new worlds than you could if you were just reading novels, which feeds my story addiction. It also gives one leeway to play with words and not worry you are going too far with your prose or have that fear of failure. If you don’t like what you’ve written, you can just throw it out and start over again.
Been writing long? I started writing when I was in third grade but never really took it seriously, until recently. I had to go back to it. I was losing my sanity without it.
You write anything else? I love writing screenplays.
Any advice for other flash writers? Don’t stop! It will really get your creative juices flowing, and once the pipeline is open, all of your writing will improve. Keep at it, and don’t be discouraged if you don’t win. I submitted my first Twit fic to an online flash fiction magazine, and it was rejected. I was so crushed, I almost quit writing, altogether. “It’s not even worth a dollar?!” Later, that same piece won the Writer’s Digest Shortest Short Story contest. It’s not even my favorite – far from it. You never know what people are going to like, so don’t worry if one person somewhere doesn’t like something. Don’t give up.
Any interesting writerly projects in the pipeline? I’m putting my second flash fiction anthology together, and I have about a million stories that are half finished. I guess what comes next will be whatever my brain can stick with long enough.
I just finished reading a book. Can you recommend another? I am currently reading Whisper in My Ear (Volume 1) by… my dad! John Henry Hardy. It’s an epic saga that takes place during the Vietnam War and spans three volumes. He’s been working on it for like 10 years (the details are meticulously researched) but would never let anyone read it. I was so relieved that it’s good. lol (And it’s really good!) It’s currently in print but coming out on Kindle very soon.
I’m a sucker for the classics and anything that’s funny. But if I were to choose a contemporary one, I’d say Through A Glass Darkly by Karleen Koen. It’s a historical drama, so a lot of people would be inclined to label it women’s literature. But it was so beautifully written and so very sad. It stayed with me, and I think I cried for about two weeks. I’m not sure if men would like it or not, but the author has an amazing gift with words.
Five years old. Capricious. Mischievous smile. He could still feel her tiny arms wrapped around his neck. “Faster, Grandpa!” she’d shout as he galloped around the house like a pony.
What a softie she turned him into. He, of all people, whose very name inspired fear.
Loving her left him vulnerable; he knew that. But there were unspoken rules, lines that shouldn’t be crossed.
Caskets were not supposed to be that small.
If they thought they’d finally broken him, they were right. Was it time to hang his hat? Perhaps.
But not yet.
He checked his watch. Dinnertime – perfect.
They were about to learn the true meaning of “family”.
I thought the man in the picture had this sort of sad, forlorn look. He’s all alone, and I wondered what he could be thinking about. “Five years old” popped into my mind, and it all just flowed from there.
Stages of Love
Was when we met on the subway. You, in your overcoat and hat. Me, sneaking glances over the paper I was pretending to read.
Was when we found out we weren’t alone in the relationship. You, shaking in the doctor’s office. Me, holding your hand.
Was when I asked you to marry me. You, too sick to walk. Me, standing in the snow with a sign proclaiming my love.
Was both the happiest and saddest time of my life. You, beautiful in your wedding dress. Me, in tears both times I wore that suit.
Beloved Wife. The tombstone bears your new name.
This just kind of came spilling out. I don’t specifically set out to write depressing things, but my work often winds up that way. I was looking up the various definitions of “stage”, and the ideas merged in my head. Reflecting on it now, I’m sure it was also inspired by my cousin, who passed away from cancer 10 years ago (!) at the age of 25. His sweetheart, and mother of his son, granted his dying wish and married him while he was in the advanced stages of his cancer, which was such a lovely thing to do. And I was struck by the photo of this man standing there in the snow. He must feel passionately about whatever is on that sign. And that appealed to my romantic nature.
Word of Dog
Word by word, her fingers trailed along the page. The raised dots were well worn from years of reading, and she caressed them gently, reverently, as the familiar sound of paws scratched across the convent floor.
She reached out in anticipation.
Breath by breath, they found one another in their shared darkness, and he nuzzled into her hands, his downy ears like silk upon her weathered skin.
They left for their evening walk in silence, love filling the void. She followed his sounds down the tree-lined path, both content to share in the rustling of leaves and cool mist. He, alone, understood that there was no such thing as “blind”.
I thought a lot about the great background information given, then the photo prompt. I’m an atheist, but I’m fascinated by the symbolism and ritual involved in religion, by the beauty and purity of true belief. So, I thought of a blind nun and what would it be like to be her.I began with this idea that she was “reading” by a candle, not for warmth or light (obviously) but because she didn’t want to startle the other nuns when they came in. She felt very lonely to me. Old. The world was moving on without her. Even in clergy, I imagine there’s some sort of generational shift. So I pictured her spending her time in devotion.The dog came in because I was toying with the whole “word of God/dog” thing. I initially thought I might try something humorous. But I just felt this lovely sentiment for and from this woman who is coming on the end of her years, and I didn’t want her to be alone. And it occurred to me that she had this companion, and she had her faith. She probably felt like she had a full life. The only “person” who could understand that they weren’t missing out on the joys of life would be someone in a similar situation.Wow, it is incredibly self-indulgent to ramble on with an explanation that is longer than the actual piece. lol But I really liked this woman, and it was hard for me to cut out half of her story.
by KM Zafari
Earth was a myth, nothing more than a fairy tale used to teach children about the horrors of war and the dangers of overconsumption.
And yet, here it was. The blue and white marbling matched the crude picture drawn by his father’s great-grandfather.
But it was not ready; nature had not yet recovered. The air was still noxious, the rivers poisoned. The only remaining creatures fed on the carrion of the Earth, and its bones were nearly clean.
He returned to his ship and set the autopilot for home, the unknowing transport for a legion of hungry stowaways.
Humans, after all, weren’t the only ones looking for a new colony.
The line “Earth was a myth” popped into my head, and I just took it from there. I did most of its writing in the shower. lol The photo prompt was really fascinating to me. I loved the little creatures. I wondered what they were and how they lived and what part they could play in the story.