On Tuesday, I was feeling low energy, but somehow pushed myself out the door to attend the monthly YVR Authors Meet-up. Nine months a year, organizer Melody Owen of Nutritious Truth brings in two people to interview. The first half features a live interview with a published author sharing their knowledge - each very different. The second half features a speaker there to talk on a subject of interest - publication, writer's' block, creating online companion courses, audio books and more. Occasionally she offers an industry panel.
That night I found myself on the edge of my seat during the interview with author Karen Schauber. She is a family therapist that, while exploring literary sites, discovered a style of writing called flash fiction. Not only did she become a huge fan of this genre, but a regular contributor of her own work.
This lead her a couple years ago to conceive a really incredible book idea. She loved the paintings of the Group of Seven - a school of Canadian landscape painters founded in 1920 as an organization of self-proclaimed modern artists. 2020 would be their 100th anniversary. She decided to commission 26 talented flash fiction writers to create a story between 250 and 500 words inspired in some way by one of the paintings from this group. The book launched in October 2019. It is titled The Group of Seven Reimagined, and I highly recommend you pick up a copy.
The process took two long years from conception to publication. Steps included - choosing a group of paintings to offer as inspiration, selecting the writers, making sure what was written was appropriate for inclusion and honoured the painting, tracking down the current owner of each painting selected for permission to use the image in the book, paying fees for image usage, and all this was following with the normal journey to secure a publisher, design the book itself and created a marketing plan.
At this point of the meeting, author Karen Schauber read the final story in the book to us. It was incredible. I had been wanting to find a way to explore writing fiction, to stretch my wings as a writer. In fact, it's one of the goals on my 2020 Year of Marilyn Bucket List Challenge. But the idea of a full book was intimidating. Flash fiction, however, would fit right into my life as it is. Flash fiction challenges you to hone your craft to a high level as in a short passage you have to develop, tell and close a complete story arc while including strong imagery. Every single word matters.
Now to try and answer the question posed in the title, "What the hell is flash fiction?" As I have only just become aware of this genre, I want to offer the passages below found on the Vancouver Flash Fiction website (a great place to go to get more information if you, like me, are intrigued and want to give it a try). And a note - I have discovered that it can go by others names: microfiction, drabbles, nanofiction, twitfic and the short-short.
Flash Fiction - "A work of art carved on a grain of rice" - Tara L. Masih
These brief condensed stories are written in under 1000 words, follow a complete story arc, and are often infused with stunning imagery, metaphor, and intentional word craft, taking the reader on unexpected twists and turns towards an aha or ahhh ending packed with emotional resonance.
Flash Fiction is short but not shallow; it's a reduced form used to represent a larger, more complex story; it's pity and cogent, brief and pointed, and like the gist of a recollected conversation, it offers the essential truth, if not all the inessential facts.
- John Dufresne, 'On The Very Contemporary Art of Flash Fiction
Reading a Flash Fiction may take moments. Crafting, sculpting, and polishing a Flash Fiction piece is where the labour of love begins! While Flash Fiction is read in one sitting, readers return again and again to savour it, discovering the depth and magic between its lines.
I am captivated by this idea and can't wait to explore whether it is a format that will help me reach that ultimate goal of writing a piece of fiction. Here's to trying! Who wants to join me?