Flash Fiction: for writers, readers, editors, publishers, & fans

Monday

Flash Interview: Kathy Fish

Fish.jpgKathy Fish’s sto­ries have been widely pub­lished both in print and online. She guest edited Dzanc Books’ 2010 Best of the Web. She has pub­lished three col­lec­tions of short fic­tion: a chap­book in the chap­book col­lec­tive A Pecu­liar Feel­ing of Rest­less­ness (Rose Metal Press, 2008), Wild Life (Mat­ter Press 2011) and her newest col­lec­tion of short fic­tion, Together We Can Bury It, now in its sec­ond print­ing from The Lit Pub.

 

I am focus­ing on clichés in flash recently and would like to know how you avoid clichés?
 

The best way I know for a writer to even become aware of clichés is to read slush for awhile. It’s amaz­ing the sorts of sto­ries and sit­u­a­tions, even char­ac­ters and images that are extremely over­played. But you don’t know, really, until you see it over and over again. And there is always a way to bring a fresh approach of course. But that helps you see what edi­tors see too much of and tend to reject.
 

Always try to bring some­thing new or unex­pected to the story. That takes dig­ging. Be pre­pared to dig a lit­tle.
 

Your pieces have such strong images, and some of them are very short like “Dal­ma­tian” and “War­rior.” I would love you know your thoughts on what makes them flash fic­tion as opposed to prose poetry? 
 

I actu­ally think those pieces are closer to prose poetry than flash. Flash requires an arc, even if it’s only a very sub­tle arc. “Dal­ma­tian” and “War­rior” are dri­ven by lan­guage and image, voice and tone, whereas story is very, very sec­ondary. I guess my answer is that flash fic­tion purists would say those pieces are not flash. A whole lot of what I write is a hybrid of flash and prose poetry.
 

 

How do you approach a story? Do you start with an image, char­ac­ter, sit­u­a­tion etc.?
 

Usu­ally it’s an image. When I wrote “Ten­deroni,” I was work­ing with some prompt words. I can’t remem­ber what they were now. Oh, except ten­deroni was one of the words. Maybe rain was another because I began with this image in my head of two teenagers rid­ing bikes in a del­uge, wear­ing bright orange rain pon­chos. I just saw that and began writ­ing. The char­ac­ters and the con­flict grew from there.
 

The few times I have started with a sit­u­a­tion or a plot, the story has fal­len flat. I think it’s that I feel too beholden to the “idea” then and too restricted.
 

 

Your images are often strange, excit­ing, and extremely orig­i­nal such as in “Sweep” when you liken clouds to rolling in “like indi­ges­tion.” What process do you go through in order to come up with such unique lan­guage?
 

Oh thank you! I think it is mostly that I have a strange mind in the first place, ha. Well, a strange way of look­ing at things any­way. And if the writ­ing is going well there is no exter­nal process in which I for­mu­late images, they just hap­pen. This is prob­a­bly true of most writ­ers. I do love strange, uncom­mon words and when I’m read­ing I file them away in my head and on a good day, when I’ve had enough sleep and the dog isn’t pes­ter­ing me, they come back to me unbid­den just when I need them. I love it when that hap­pens. Also, I write for sound, a lot. I just love the way “roil­ing like indi­ges­tion” sounds.
 

 

I have been strug­gling with end­ings while writ­ing my flash pieces. Do you have any advice on how to wrap up a piece with­out sound­ing abrupt to the reader?
 

It’s so hard to stick an end­ing. I still strug­gle with that. I think the answer may lie in your ques­tion here. To “wrap up” a story is to tie up all loose ends, to con­clude, neatly. That may feel too con­trived and well, neat end­ings almost never hap­pen in life. Yet you want the reader to feel sat­is­fied.
 

Speak­ing only from my own aes­thetic here, I would say to always leave your reader with the emo­tion you intend for them to feel when they come to the end of your story. And hope­fully, you’ve done the job of build­ing toward that emo­tional shift or change. Ask your­self, what is that one sin­gle emo­tional note you want to end on? And don’t give it to the reader, actu­ally make her feel it. So, think: strong image or ges­ture. Some­thing odd or res­o­nant or mov­ing. Think of it as your part­ing gift to your reader. Make it live past the story. Make it lift off the page.
 

 

FF.Net Author’s Note

Stewart.jpgMaranda Stew­art holds a Bach­e­lors of Arts in Eng­lish Lit­er­a­ture from Kutz­town Uni­ver­sity. She is cur­rently attend­ing Rose­mont Col­lege for her MFA in Cre­ative writ­ing with a con­cen­tra­tion in poetry. She has won the Ray­mond Ford Award for poetry and is enjoy­ing explor­ing the flash fic­tion genre. She agrees with William Car­los Williams who said, “It is dif­fi­cult to get the news from poems, yet men die mis­er­ably every day for lack of what is found there,” and believes that the same can be said about flash.

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