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.