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Some Advice on Flash Fiction
Let's just say that I've spent some time living under a very large slushpile of flash fiction.
If you're not sure what a slushpile is, let me explain.
*Slush - the unsolicited submissions received by a magazine; like the weather, it's a mix of everything: good, bad, amazing, dire, profane, cringeworthy, and ready for publication*
My non-Prose life is spent running a professional, paying flash fiction market. Let's just say I read a LOT of slush. I can't even begin to calculate how many thousands of flash fiction submissions I've read. I'm also the one who sends out the contracts and the paychecks. So yes, I know what sells. In my own author-life, I do write flash fiction and I have sold quite a bit at a professional level.
IT IS HARD AS CRAPOLA TO WRITE FLASH FICTION WELL.
Never let anyone tell you that because flash fiction is short, it is easy. If anything, it is the opposite. Because you have so few words with which to convey your story, every single word has to work towards the intended effect.
I've been cruising around on the Flash Fiction portal and there's some good work over there. So to all of your flashers, well done. Let me clarify one point: I'm not talking about prose poetry or free verse. I'm talking about narrative story--either traditional or experimental (ie email/text/reddit/grocery list, number sequences, alphabets, whatever). Prose poetry is, for me, an entirely different creature and one that I'm not all that qualified in.
However, flash, I know. Usually I can tell within the first paragraph if a story is sellable or not. That sounds brutal but it's true. And if the first paragraph is fabulous, I look at the last paragraph. You have to stick that ending like Simone Biles off a vault. No wobbles. Stick it. Bam.
I promise to write more tidbits and tips about flash fiction. Right now my dog is snoring on the couch beside me and it's a good sign I should call it a night. Feel free to leave questions you'd like answered in the comments section and I'll try to answer them for you in later posts.
Now go write something!
Except me...I'm going to bed.
All my best,
We Swung So High We Touched The Sky and Didn’t Cum Down ’til Morning.
You don't ask my name because names don't matter in a juke-joint where smoke's thicker than sense. Beer drips off the tap in heady froth that begs to be suckled. You lick your lips and I lick mine and I know we're going to get along just fine.
You don't ask my age. In here everyone is any age you want. In the corner booth where shadows darken your eyes into those of a hungry carnivore, I'm fresh prey, naive and sweet. But on the dance floor, in the liquid lights of red and orange and pink, while the juke-pop whines, I'm wise to the world, and my body promises delights yours begs to taste.
We drink cheap tequila. I lick salt from your hand, tasting your skin, and I'm left wanting. You rub lime on my lips, reducing me to a shivering creature whose mouth needs yours. The warmth in my belly is no longer from the alcohol alone. Your hands pull my hips to yours. Who is who in this tangled mass of limbs? Does it matter? Do we care? We are drunk on a stronger stuff than this bar sells.
Tumbling into the alley, I press you against the wall, taking from your body every ounce of comfort and lust and desire I can. Sparks spring between our hips, send fire down our legs so our knees shake, and we cling to keep from falling. Fingers tangle in each other's hair, and I cannot have enough of you, nor you of me.
Your apartment is here, you say. Just a bit farther. The air never smelled so sweet as with your scent, made sharper by the night air, on my shirt. Trust is already forgotten or forged--same difference--and I come with you.
Bourbon, you ask. Whiskey, I say. Both, we laugh. Our skin is electric. The floorboards tip and sway. You hold the bottles. I hold your belt loops. The bed is a life-boat into which we tumble. Our safety from life's storms will be found in one another, we promise.
The water is not safe. Drink, we cry together. The storm swells higher, and we cling tighter than two lovers ever clung. There is no food left. Drink, we say. We shall survive it all.
The bottles empty. With our own juices, we write love letters on the sheets. Once written, we put our letters in bottles and toss them out to sea. Broken glass smashes, christening the walls.
We are lost, you cry.
No, I say, we are found.
Rations gone, we fall on one another. Our hunger is bigger than either of us. We cannibalize one another--tongues lick, mouths taste, eat, eat, eat...until la petite morts cums, drags us drowning to the bottom of the sea...
...morning light blinds my salt-gritted eyes. My dry lips crack when I try to speak, to say, I am lost. Lost-lost. Truly this time.
You were not you. And I was not me.
My head pounds. I cannot bear for you to see my nakedness. You twine in a stained sheet, tight as a shroud. My belongings are scattered on the floor, studded with broken glass.
I start to say something awkward and awful, but you shake your head.
I turn and go.
Ten Ways to Rid Myself of You
1. Suggest you leave of your own free will.
When your shoes stay comfortably in the hall and your favorite beer still stocks the fridge, I retreat to the bedroom, close the door, and pretend my face isn't wet, my chest isn't tight, and you're not here.
2. Tell you to leave...or else.
When you act puzzled, ask what you've done, I let the fragile clotting of old, unhealed wounds break, and I list off your sins. You listen, defend, now attack. Accuse. I retreat. Sitting on the floor of the closet, my head between my knees to quell the aching panic in my heart, I wonder if there is anything more than this:
3. Beg you to leave.
We circle one another in the kitchen like two half-feral cats spitting and hissing, readying for the battle that might start now.
...or maybe now.
Exhausted, I squeeze my back into the tiniest space between the counter and the wall, sliding to the floor in a boneless I-give-up, and I beg. But I should have known better. This is your favorite version of me--wounded me, easy to pick up and carry off to bed me, unresisting me.
4. Leave myself.
Your naked skin sticks to mine, and I bite my tongue to hold the shudder behind my teeth so you won't hear it. The bile rises in my throat. The pounding of your thrusts almost shoves the hot sourness out of my mouth but I swallow it back.
Like my pride, my self-respect, my worth,
I swallow it all back.
Listening to the heavy rasp of your breath tells me you're asleep. I'm safe to hunch over the toilet, dabbing away blood I'll never tell you about, and I plan how and when and where I will be free. Cash from the grocery store. Clothes left with a friend. A spare set of keys made at the hardware store. A lockbox in the town a few miles away.
My hands shake while I pack the car. My attorney says I have a good case. But your anger will be beyond anything my friends or neighbors can imagine. I've given up trying to explain you to them. All they see is the charming smile and the guy-next-door ala Americana. I drive away so fast I forget to close the garage door, but it no longer matters.
7. Stay strong.
When you follow me at night, I pretend I don't see you, but there's mace in my purse now. When you send me hand-written love letters professing your undying love, I light the bone-colored stationery aflame with the gas burner and hold my ears until the fire alarms turn off. My walls are strong. You made me this way.
8. Find stillness.
My friends, my therapist, even Oprah, say I must find the peace inside myself in order for happiness to find me again. I meditate, run, do yoga, drink cheap wine, and sleep too much. But eventually, I stand at a bar and when a stranger offers to buy me a drink, I accept.
9. Try again.
When you are no longer the stranger I met at the bar but a person in my life, I hold your hand and we walk in the park. We feed peanuts to fat gray squirrels chattering at our feet. Autumn winds aren't as cold when there's a sheltering arm to hide behind. I stand on tiptoes and kiss your stubbled cheek and whisper, I love you...
You burn so brightly, it would be easy to lose myself in us.
...am I lost before I've begun?
Who am I?
10. Suggest you leave of your own free will...
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Alice chews a gilded swan feather. "It's more cloying than one might think."
"The secret is in not thinking." Dipping his tail in his teacup, the Dormouse makes the fat droplets fall plop-plop onto his pink tongue. "I don't."
"Don't be rude," Alice says. When she frowns her smile goes turvy bonkers.
From atop a chartreuse velvet footstool, the Cat chimes in. "He's not the one with a quill in his teeth."
"Yes, well, neither am I," says Alice.
"Of course. You're not cloying at all." When the Cat smiles, his smiles goes burvy tonkers and even the Dormouse stops licking tea from his tail to laugh. "You're merely a frosted girl cake waiting to be thrown in the pond."
Alice leaps to her feet, feather tight in her fist. "Now you're being rude. You can't go throwing girls in ponds." She stomps her foot.
The Cat tuts under his whiskered breath. "Then it's a good thing you're a cloying cake and not a rude girl, isn't it?"
The Dormouse's tail falls forgotten in the teapot as a pond no bigger than a pond is found under Alice.
A gilded swan feather floats to the lawn.
"Tea?" asks the Cat.
How to Rebel in Three Easy Words:
A Portrait of You and Me in Liquid Form
Sticky lemonade on my fingers
Whiskey boils in my blood
Poaching desires in a summertime syrup