Flash Perspectives with Sian Griffiths
What are your favorite things to write about? Those topics or items you can’t stop thinking about!
Hmmm. Tough question. Animals, musicians, and skaters tend to show up pretty often. I suspect all three get at some kind of expression that’s external to words and rooted in bodies. It’s funny though—there are the things you know you’re obsessed with and there are things that are surprising. I realized the other day that I write a lot about wallpaper, and while I do love old houses with funky décor, it never would have occurred to me that wallpaper was one of my things. I’ve never hung a strip of wallpaper in my life, and I’ve removed and/or painted over plenty. The subconscious has its own obsessions.
What’s your favorite point of view? Why are you drawn to this particular voice/perspective?
I don’t know that I have one. I’ve written in first (singular and plural), second, and third person. Honestly, I think the story has to determine its point of view. Each opens some possibilities and closes off others, and I really enjoy exploring those limits.
What’s your favorite craft element to focus on when writing flash? Is there an element you wish you could avoid?
I feel like flash, like poetry, relies on imagery and language. The fiction needs to have a kind of movement to it, but that movement isn’t always related to plot in a traditional sense. It can be a little more subtle—but, at the same time, I don’t want to avoid the idea of plot. I think it’s important to keep those traditional fictional elements in mind, even as the writers bend and play with those elements towards this genre.
How you know when a story is done or at least ready to test the submission waters?
I once heard Caitlin Horrocks say that a story is finished when the writer had given to it all she had to give and taken from it all it had to teach. She was quoting someone, but I have forgotten whom. That answer feels deeply right to me. I think too that I tend to feel excited about a story when it’s done and ready to share it with others. If I can have a few people read it before I send it out, that invariably helps. I take the feedback of trusted readers very seriously, even if I don’t always follow the advice they give. (At the end of the day, we’re still the writers and have to trust our instincts.)
When looking for places to submit your flash, what are your priorities for finding a good home for your work?
I try to read a lot of journals so that I have a sense of what they do. This helps me make sure that I send pieces to places that work in that vein. And I only send to journals I love. I would rather let a piece remain unpublished than have it in a journal I don’t respect. The good news is that there are now a ton of fantastic flash venues now.
What do you know now about writing flash or other forms that you wished you had known from the beginning?
Pam Houston visited our campus a few years back, and she said that, in flash, the conflict need not resolve but the image must resolve. It immediately struck me as true even though I had no idea when it meant, and so I started looking for the resolution of the image. I realized that in the flash I’d written that had been successful, the central image came to mean more or mean differently than it had when it was first introduced. Something about it had shifted in a way that made the story feel whole, in spite of its brevity.
What resource (a book, essay, story, person, literary journal) has helped you develop your flash fiction writing?
My first introduction to flash was in graduate school twenty years ago. Judith Cofer, my mentor, was a huge proponent, and she had us read Jerome Stern’s Microfiction: An Anthology of Really Short Stories. I still turn back to that book, but reading more contemporary work is also really important. There’s so much amazing work online now, and I love seeing writers experimenting with the form and trying different things. It’s a very pliable form, and even with its rigid word limits.
What’s your favorite way to interact with the writing community? Do you have any advice for writers trying to add to their own writing communities?
My very favorite is Writer Camp because there’s nothing better than talking with writers around a campfire, especially if you’re talking about anything and everything besides writing. But since Writer Camp is only a now and again treat for me, Twitter really helps me stay in touch with people and have that social space to joke around and play and encourage. I find a lot of new, cool work to read by following recommendations my friend’s post, and I’ve made so many friendships there that mean a lot to me. Oddly, I think the key to making Twitter work is not trying to make it work. If an account feels like marketing, I think a lot of people stay away. If it feels like a genuine person who is interested in other actual people, then Twitter can be really warm and welcoming.
BIO: Siân Griffiths lives in Ogden, Utah, where she teaches creative writing at Weber State University. Her work has appeared in The Georgia Review, Prairie Schooner, Cincinnati Review, and Booth among other publications. She is the author of the novels Borrowed Horses and Scrapple and the short fiction chapbook The Heart Keeps Faulty Time. Currently, she reads fiction as part of the editorial teams at Barrelhouse and American Short Fiction. For more information, please visit sbgriffiths.com
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