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Posts tagged Flash Fiction
Interview with Amy Rossi: Flash-Prose Contest Honorable Mention

Amy Rossi, honorable mention for the Flash-Prose Contest, chats with us about her writing process. Read Amy's story online here

William Ruof: Have you worked with flash prose before, and do you find it difficult to build a story in 500 words?

Amy Rossi: I've been writing flash prose for almost four years. I love the challenge of building a story in 500 words, of figuring out what details matter and finding conflict in the smallest moment. I can't say it's easy, but I feel at home in the difficulty.

WR: You chose to put dialogue and thoughts in italics; did you make this choice for this specific story, or is it a stylistic norm for you? How do you feel the choice of italics lent itself to the flash prose genre?

AR: It's both a choice for this story and a stylistic norm for me. I don't always do it with dialogue, but usually something ends up italicized. It's often not something I think too much about until I get to the line where I have to make the call. Because flash prose is so contained and concise, quotation marks somehow end up feeling excessive to me. I also feel like in this particular piece, the italics play into the idea of dialogue as a mask. 

WR: Do you think it’s possible to “be honest about what you want,” get it, and be really happy, or are the narrator’s hopes in vain?

AR: Ha! I'd like to think it's possible! It's difficult because only step 1 is within a person's control. To a certain extent the being happy is too, but it's contingent upon getting what you want---and the getting it, whether that it is a person or not, usually involves someone else. So I suppose, to paraphrase a good friend, that the answer is to let being honest about what you want or need from another person be its own reward, rather than hoping it comes with some kind of prize. But if that were easy, I don't know that I'd have anything to write about.

WR: How important do you think it is for protagonists to have a moment of self-realization, as the narrator in your story does?

AR: This is a bit of a copout, but I do think it depends on the story. Flash is so satisfying because there are so many ways to capture this moment of realization or even the moment before the moment. Honestly, I don't think I usually state it it so baldly and in fact tend to prefer something more subtle. This particular narrator just needed that moment of painful clarity because she spends so much of the story (and probably her life) trying to avoid saying what she means. And even though there is a realization, it doesn't necessarily mean she's going to change anything just yet. 

WR: Which author has influenced you the most throughout your writing career?

AR: It is so hard to answer this with just one, but I'm going to try: Pam Houston. Hers was the first work I picked up an adult and thought: Oh. This is what I want to do. These are the things that need to be said. Through her work, I discovered other authors who stirred (and still stir) those feelings, such as Lorrie Moore and Amy Hempel, so she was a gateway of sorts. I had the chance to take a summer workshop with Pam a couple years ago and found that in addition to being an amazing writer, she is wonderfully generous as a teacher.

Interview with Dinah Cox: Flash-Prose Contest Honorable Mention

Dinah Cox shares her thoughts on flash-prose. Check out her Flash-Contest Honorable Mention story here.

William Ruof:

What exactly about the flash prose genre appeals to you? How do you find that it changes your writing style?

Dinah Cox:

I like the energy and intensity in very short fiction pieces—they’re like the toy surprises at the bottom of the cereal box, though I’d like, one day, to write something more like the entire grocery store. I’ve read on more than one occasion that the blurring of generic boundaries means there’s no difference between the short-short, the flash fiction piece, and the prose poem, but I’ll go out on a limb here and say I’ve written in all three genres (the short-short, the flash-fiction piece, and the prose poem) and each one has its own distinct attributes. The short-short is more like a joke; without a punch line at the end you can forget it. The flash fiction piece has, as a goal, more emotional intensity than the short-short, and the prose poem, where each sentence is at once more compressed and more expansive, is the highest form of the three, the one chance we prose writers have to aspire to something greater.  

WR:

You chose to include a lot of dialogue in your story. Did you find yourself having to cut back on your story to meet the 500-word maximum? 

DC:

I wrote this piece after a fairly long period of not having written anything at all. I don’t remember having to cut anything in particular, but often I remember the writing process as much more effortless than it actually was.

WR:

One of the housemates in your story is from Buffalo. I have to ask, being a Buffalonian myself, do you have any ties to the city, or was it just a random choice? How is setting important to you as a writer?

DC:

In my story, the housemate from Buffalo brings home a pizza but refuses to share it with everyone else. When I was an undergraduate, I had a housemate from Buffalo who was generous to a fault with her pizza and with everything else. She grew up to be a volleyball coach at the college level. This particular short piece is set in a bookstore because I’d just read something dumb about social media as the twenty-first century bookstore; I’d just had an electronic exchange with an old friend, and I started to imagine how much better and more meaningful that exchange might have been had we met in a bookstore instead. Many of my stories are set in Oklahoma, where I’m from.

WR:

If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring writers, what would it be?

DC:

The best advice is the oldest and most oft-repeated advice: read everything. Whenever you’re not reading, write. Whenever you’re not reading or writing, think about the next time you’re going to read or write, and make sure, if you can, that time comes sooner rather than later. Seek advice from more experienced writers; listen to them when they tell you about your shortcomings, even and maybe especially when it’s painful to do so. Overcome your shortcomings. Continue to read and write.

WR:

You use first person really well here. Why did you choose to write this piece in first person instead of second or third?

DC:

At the outset, the narrator felt like a franker version of myself. I was thinking of an old friend—wishing her well—and, though I haven’t seen her in almost twenty years, I wanted to write about what it might feel like to meet her again. The third person felt too distant—I didn’t even consider it. Neither did I consider the second person; I’ve written only a small handful of stories in the second person, and that’s probably enough for the rest of my life. 

Bun in the Oven: Flash-Prose Contest Honorable Mention

We are so excited to share our "500 for 500" Flash-Prose Contest honorable mention winner, Dinah Cox. This piece is moving and surprising; we know you'll enjoy it!

Bun in the Oven

Dinah Cox

My old friend Eleanor was getting a divorce. A long time ago, before they were married, I lived with Eleanor and Stan and a bunch of other people in a four-bedroom house owned by the college Eleanor and I attended. Stan was much older, old enough to be considered scandalous, and we kept it under wraps he was living there at all. But he was gentle, the kind of man who played the acoustic guitar and volunteered to cook. These days, they lived in the mountains with their two sons, in a cabin heated only by a wood burning stove. I was dying to know what had precipitated their divorce.

“What happened to Stan?” I said. We were in a bookstore, in the weirdo section, the two of us keeping company with healing aromas and and Dr. Weil and crystals and mushrooms and shit. Eleanor was always a big believer in this or that. I was a doubter. The clash between her made-up mysticism and my unwelcome mockery was, in my mind, one of the most enjoyable parts of our friendship.

“Stan suffers from multiple addictions,” she said. I thought multiple must have meant more than two. Probably he drank a lot and smoked pot and looked at pornography most of the time when he wasn’t at work. Gambling seemed out of character, not to mention strangely anachronistic as addictions went. Maybe he wanted to have too much sex or did something extra-weird like buy too many bongo drums or drink too much cough medicine or make out with strangers in bathroom stalls. Or maybe he took pills. But I’ll admit to disliking the language of addiction and 12-step programs; it seemed a bit pedestrian for someone as adventurous as Eleanor. I wanted to know what he’d done to her.

“When did you know?” I said. “Describe the exact moment.”

“We were working in the garden,” she said, “And he fell asleep under a tree.”

“Yeah,” I said. I could imagine the scene: a row of seedlings waiting to be planted, the boys off catching frogs in the creek, Eleanor up to her elbows in loose tree roots and dirt. His indifference, her loneliness, the boys being boys.

“You ought to buy this,” I said, pointing to a display copy of Stuff Your Pillows with Human Hair. “Just kidding.”

“I couldn’t take it anymore,” she said, and, in a flash, I remembered something that had happened years ago, when we all lived together in the college-owned house. One of our housemates, a six-foot-something woman from Buffalo, brought home a pizza and didn’t share it with the rest of us. “You’re a big eater,” Stan had said to her. “Bun in the oven?” And at that moment, I’d watched as Eleanor looked at him and said silently I do not love you I cannot love you I will not love you. She had the same look now, only brighter, and more full of ease.


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Dinah Cox's first book, Remarkable: Stories won the fourth annual BOA Short Fiction Prize and is forthcoming from BOA Editions in 2016. Her stories appear in StoryQuarterly, Prairie Schooner, Salt Hill, Zone 3, Beloit Fiction Journal, J Journal, and elsewhere. She teaches in the English Department at Oklahoma State University where she's also an associate editor at Cimarron Review.

If You Need Me, I Will Be Over Here Listening to “Slide It In” on Repeat: Flash-Prose Contest Honorable Mention

Here at HFR, we were so pleased when judge Catherine Dent selected Amy Rossi as an honorable mention for our "500 for 500" Flash-Prose Contest. Amy's story is heartbreaking and surprising in its honesty. Enjoy!

Also, we are only a month away from our launch of Hayden's Ferry Review: Issue 55. It's looking awesome, and we're excited for you to see it.
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If You Need Me, I Will Be Over Here Listening to “Slide It In” on Repeat
Amy Rossi
The overhead lights are on – it’s that kind of party. The liquor gets better but the wattage gets higher, and already I’m thinking about what we can get away with in the corners of the kitchen, hallway, foyer. I blame the five semesters I spent as a drama major for my exhibitionist streak, though anyone who knew me before would confirm it began much earlier.
The problem with me is that I spent my malleable teenage years listening to cock rock and so I never learned the fine art of subtlety, because who needs a double entendre when a single entendre will do. I understand the uncertainty of the chase is supposed to be thrilling but there’s also something to be said for knowing where the next lay is coming from.
And so when we’re the only ones in the kitchen, I ask if you’re coming home with me. You say, well, actually, and your voice trails off, but it’s not the kind of sentence that needs to be finished. I ask if she’s here. The brightness in my voice isn’t fooling anyone. You say you’re meeting up with her later. Your eyes say I’m sorry, and I take a breath and make mine say, For what?
When I say, I hope it goes well for you two, I mean, I have underwear you haven’t even seen yet, and possibly, it’s so new it’s still that gray area, right, so we could probably fuck tonight and you could explain later that you were just so in love with her it scared you; we are used to that shit.
When you say thanks, you mean thanks. I hear, you will never see me naked again.
I excuse myself to the bathroom but when you turn to the freezer to forage for ice, I duck outside, pulling the door tight behind me. It’s not even worth it to ask why not me. I know why not. This is the result of living one night at a time. The cock rock is good for such living, for the wanting and excitement, and good for when it goes bad, but no one ever laid down a sweaty guitar riff for a song about figuring out how to be honest about what you want and getting it and being really happy. David Coverdale gave no fucks there.
But I wasn’t born at the right time or with the right parts or hair or talent to be David Coverdale, and I want to swear that next time, I’m going to be the one pursued, the one who gets to say well, actually, the one who knows the other person is waiting, but I know I won’t be able to hold out because what if I am holding out forever.
When I say I want to be liked, what I mean is loved and by that I mean consumed and possibly swallowed.


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Amy Rossi is an MFA candidate in fiction at Louisiana State University, and her work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in Hobart Web, Ninth Letter Online, and Barrelhouse.