Interview with Flash! Friday founder, Rebekah Postupak

FFO Staffer, Patrick Icasas, had the pleasure of ‘sitting down’ (Who actually does in-person interviews anymore?) with Rebekah over a virtual cup of coffee. Here’s what he learned:

Q. Can you tell us a little about Rebekah Postupak and who she is when she’s not writing?

A. Like all civilized writers, when not writing I am fretting about not writing, and I am spending all available brain cells (which for me is not many) plotting dragon battles and reimagining fairy tales. Growing up TV-free in a little village on an island in Asia meant my best friends were djinn, fauns, and the Rohirrim—well, anybody, really, mad enough to wield a sword on horseback (here’s looking at you, Robin McKinley. I blame you entirely for that morning I rode bareback into the sea because it sounded romantic; you did not warn me riding bareback is not for the inexperienced).

Today, though I have a day job as a personal assistant and I’m the married mommy of two totally mischievous dragonlings, my best (human) friends remain those who understand about what might be. More: what can be, for those who have the eyes to see it.

Q. Your bio says you got kicked out of Westminster Abbey. How’d you manage that?

A. For me the more important question is, How does one not??

Q. Who are the Shenandoah Valley Writers?

A. SVW exploded out of the madness of NaNoWriMo 2012; I was co-Municipal Liaison for the Shenandoah region with brilliant co-conspirator Susan Warren Utley. We had such a blast cooking up writerly schemes during NaNo, we realized the only logical course was to continue scheming together all year long. SVW today consists of many dozens of powerhouse writers, quite a few of whom have earned their dragon crowns at Flash! Friday and play vital roles in that community. Our home base is on Facebook, which means online write-ins are able to (and do!) happen at any time. I can’t imagine a successful writerly life without SVW.

Q. How did Flash! Friday get started?

A. When I stumbled into the world of flash fiction in April 2012, several writers were taking turns hosting free, community judged contests on their blogs. Getting to know these writers and sharpen my writing skills with insanely short and fast contests is addictive, let me tell you, and when for one reason or another the hosts started dropping out, well…. I had to launch my own. Two years later, the Flash! Friday community hasn’t just won a place in my heart; it owns my heart, lock, stock, and dragonly barrel. (Thank God for steampunk, or that analogy would make no sense whatsoever.)

Q. What do you think makes flash fiction so compelling, as both a reader and a writer?

A. The heart of humanity is story. It’s all the rage and violence of who we are set against a backdrop of who we were meant to be. Flash fiction is the micro-iest microcosm of that tension: depth and complexity and longing crammed into a profoundly delicate and precise sort of form. It’s prose’s version of the haiku. The literary version of stuffing twelve clowns in a tiny car. Whether you read or write flash, once you start, you just can’t look away.

Q. What advice can you give authors who want to win a Flash! Friday contest?

A. The key is not to obsess over winning*, and instead focus on crafting a perfect piece of flash. Carve out for it an enticing beginning; sculpt textured, nuanced characters to drive the plot; give it a humdinger of a punch at the end. Find your own voice and write it so magnificently, you dream of someday giving that voice a novel. When you succeed, your readers will feel the same way.

* If you learn how to do this, please contact me via the Flash! Friday site and share your secret.

Thanks, Rebekah!  And good luck to all the entrants!

Flex Your Flash Fiction Muscles for Fun with Flash! Friday

by Patrick Icasas, Flash Fiction Online Staff

 

Some people have drinks on a Friday night. Some go to the movies. Some write flash fiction.

The latter is certainly the case for Rebekah Postupak and her friends in the Shenandoah Valley Writers community. An avid author and connoisseur of flash fiction, Rebekah wanted a regular contest whose format and theme varied each week and cemented the sense of writerly camaraderie in her area, and whoever happened to be wandering around online.

She started the contest on December 7, 2012, regularly challenging writers by asking them to use a photo prompt and a required element, which is anything from a theme (revenge) to a specific thing (an alien). At one point, Rebekah asked writers to use a word count of exactly 50 words.
Stories are judged by a rotating judges panel (although Rebekah still takes her voting rights seriously). Winners get recognition on the Flash! Friday website, a front page feature interview, a badge that they can show off on Facebook, and the satisfaction of having met one of Rebekah’s zany challenges.

Flash! Friday’s second year anniversary is fast approaching, and Rebekah’s got big plans for it. The 2nd anniversary contest format is going to be totally new. The first round of stories will be open to submission today and tomorrow (Friday-Saturday, Dec 5-6), with the results posted Dec 7. Semifinalists will then be offered a second prompt and be given the option to submit a new story, or keep their original submission.

Prizes are secret, and will be announced at the same time the writing prompts are announced, but Rebekah promises they’ll be awesome!

Your time window for first-round submissions is 48 hours (from Dec 5, 12:01 AM EST to Dec 6, 11:59 PM EST). Submission period for the second round is from Dec 7, 12:00 NN EST to Dec 9, 11:59 AM EST.

Want to participate? Head on over to Flash! Friday on December 5 to get your first-round writing prompts!

https://flashfriday.wordpress.com/2014/12/05/flashversary-is-here-2/

No More Smarmy Sexist Stories.

I wish it was as simple as a blog post. I really do.

The truth is that this post probably won’t make a difference in the number of sexist, degrading stories that wind up in the FFO slushpile every month.

But I just can’t handle it anymore. So for my own conscience’s sake, I’m stating for the record, as Publisher of this magazine, I WILL NOT BUY SEXIST, DEGRADING CRAP DISGUISED AS STORIES.

Did you get that? Or do I need to say it again?

I WILL NOT BUY SEXIST, DEGRADING CRAP DISGUISED AS STORIES.

Stop sending us stories about the imprisonment, torture, rape, abuse, and degradation of women.

Stop sending us stories about bobble headed women who’s only purpose in the story is to make your main character feel attractive and smart.

Stop sending us stories whose main characters think things about women such as “her place is in the kitchen” or “that (expletive) is better off dead.”

Stop sending us stories about stalkers peering through the blinds or hiding in the back of cars.

Stop sending stories about men who get the girl at the end of the story for no other reason than because they’re a nice guy.

No more women chained in basements.

No more making the female characters a plot point only so you can terrify them and then save them.

No more “pretending” to terrify the female character only to have a twist happen to show that.. haha!..the female wasn’t really in danger..it was all a dream..or a day at the circus!

Equally, no more making your female character so idiotic that if she walked off a cliff, she wouldn’t know…and wait… haha! That’s funny too, right?

No.

No more females so sweetly sweet that I get a cavity from reading. That woman doesn’t exist either.

Guess what? Women are people. Men are people. Write about people. People who are complicated and are more than the pigeonholed tropes we’d like for them to be.

And one more time… for the record.

I WILL NOT BUY SEXIST DEGRADING CRAP DISGUISED AS STORIES.

Don’t even send it. Burn it. Trunk it. Use it for parakeet cage litter. Learn from it. But don’t send it out into the world.

Sigh.

BUT… To all of you who DO send us good, worthwhile stories that make those of us at FFO love what we do, thank you. Your stories make us think. They expand our horizons and teach us to dream.

May we all live up to the standard that you’ve set.

All my best,

Anna

Publisher, Flash Fiction Online

 

 

 

 

Screeds Are Not Stories

Hello there!

My name is Stefan Milićević and I am a slush reader. This is the part where you all stand up and say “Hello, Stefan“ in a reassuring voice. Do it. Seriously. Do it now. I am a gentle soul.

Anyway, a few days ago I joined the Flash Fiction Online team and I slushed some twenty or thirty stories. Anna told me to do so, or I’d get the hose again. While I am a newcomer, I did notice a certain type of story I’d like to talk about. It appears to be a recurring problem so I figured I might as well try to address it. Also writing a blog post makes me feel better about talking to the voices in my head.

Let’s talk about screeds for a second. Screeds are not stories. Oh, sure sometimes they like to pass themselves as such, but it is painfully obvious when they do. If a robot in a trenchcoat asks you to take him to your leader you wouldn’t be fooled. Sure, he got the vocabulary down, but his pronunciation is off, and the antennae poke out under his trilby hat. He’s still a robot… and this analogy is still tortured.

So recently I chanced upon a story that was essentially a screed against Catholics. Punchline? Well, while I may not be a practicing one, I was raised Catholic. My mother is a Catholic and my grandparents are. When this story gently elbowed me in the ribs and tried to get me to chuckle about those whacky Catholics and how they are the very reason why the world is going to hell, I was not amused.

Trust me, this has nothing to do with my personal predilections. The story might have tried to tear Methodists, Muslims or pet store owners a new one and my reaction would have been the same. These days it’s become fashionable to bemoan the dreaded PC police and I imagine some people feel they have to tiptoe around their opinions when writing.

Here’s the thing though: challenging something and being outright hateful and dismissive are two different things. One takes effort, the other does not. Thinly veiled hate speech is not publishable material.

There’s a couple of reasons for this:

People who read this magazine come from all walks of life. Stories that feature dogmatic hobby horse topics paint with the broad brush of generalization and that is unfair.

Screeds tend to ignore plot and characterization. That is just bad writing.

Reading a screed tells me right off the bat that the author ignored the submission guidelines.

This venue is inclusive in the sense that it allows any genre and multiple submissions. The list of things that the staff considers a hard sell is short. I consider that a great courtesy of the magazine (and don’t forget the professional rates). Following submission guidelines is a way to repay that courtesy.

Hardcore cynicism tends to be a hard sell as well. These are screeds as well and they condemn not any particular race, religion or political ideology – no, no, no. These stories condemn the human race. It’s all hubris, cruelty and decay; cats and dogs living together.

Sure, TV, movies and video games have become quite dark as of late, but that’s neither here nor there.

The important question to ask oneself when writing a story where everyone is despicable and humans are the source of all evil is this:

“Do I really believe that?“

Have we humans done terrifying things? Of course we did. We are not strangers to kindness, generosity and love either.

Here’s a good rule of thumb when it comes to writing, and I do believe it applies to life in general:

“Nothing is absolutely so.“

What are you saying? That’s Sturgeon’s law? Damn it, here I thought I was being original. I feel so sheepish I might as well start to bleat.

There you go! I hope this post has been helpful. Happy writing folks. I can’t wait to read your story!

Stefan Milićević is a writer from Bosnia and Herzegovina. He has been published in venues such as Mirror Dance and Golden Visions. He is fluent in five languages and has traveled through most of Europe (much to the dismay of all Europeans). In 2011 he attended Cat Rambo’s editing classes and in 2012 he graduated from the University of Banja Luka. When he is not reading or writing, he is playing Go or Magic the Gathering. He is mostly harmless.

 

I Need Your Help… aka Save Me From Snorting

I need your help.

No, I haven’t fallen down a well. Or been possessed by a disembodied phantom (though that would make for a fabulous story).

But I need you. Yes, you. Right there. Not someone else. Not the person you could share this post with. Or their Aunt Mabel.

You.

Because you’re my reader. And that means you have a vested interest in Flash Fiction Online and the FlashBlog.

You see, Flash Fiction Online and the FlashBlog are free. As in, you don’t have to put a credit card number in the tiny box and push pay. You don’t have to insert quarters into the DVD drive of your laptop (PS. It doesn’t work. My three year old tried it. Took him $1.25 and the Geek Squad to learn that it doesn’t make change. And they thought *I* put the quarters in. Seriously. Because grown women looove to put quarters in DVD drives.. Sorry. Rant over.)

Yes. The magazine you know and love is free.  And our authors are paid professional rates. Most of our staff are writers. We know firsthand how little writers are actually paid. And writing takes work. And time…oodles of time. Staring at the screen. Plotting. Planning. Writing. Re-writing. Critiquing. Throwing it all out and starting again… You get the idea.

We believe we should actually PAY writers for what they do. They’ve honed their craft enough to produce the beautiful stories we bring you every month. They deserve every penny I pay them and then some.  Many magazines only pay a fraction of what we do. Or nothing at all. Some places even ask writers to pay them to be published (Yes, really. Don’t do that. But that’s another post.)

So how do you take a free magazine and shake enough coins out of its pockets to pay for three professional stories a month? Plus custom illustrations and web hosting fees and all the other little dribs and drabs that add up?

Well, that’s where I’m hoping you come in.

Flash Fiction Online has teamed up with Patreon, an amazing crowd-funding site that pairs donors with creators. We’re looking for donors willing to pledge a certain amount for every new issue that we produce. And you set that amount based on your own budget (and the luminous generosity of your sweet, sweet spirit… overkill? Yes? Sorry. I’m trying here.)

Better yet, there are individual rewards and incentives for the magazine as a whole. If Flash Fiction Online reaches a donor level of $300/month the heavens will open and a winged pegasus will… Nah.  Actually we’ll add a fourth story twice a year for you. Way better and far less smelly.

On an individual level, for $2/month, you get an ongoing e-subscription for Flash Fiction Online delivered directly to your inbox in either epub, PDF, or mobi format.

Or… drum roll…  my favorite and something we have requests for on a regular basis… starting at $10/month, you can send in your own manuscript and have it critiqued by FFO’s senior staff (including She Who Wields Great Editorial Power aka Suzanne Vincent herself).

So. Moment of truth.

To donate: Click here.

Please don’t reduce me to grovelling. It’s not pretty. The mascara begins to look like a raccoon and I get the worst crying face ever. And I snort. Yes, I confess. I’m a snorting, sniffling beggar. Don’t make me do it.

If you can’t help us out, don’t worry. I won’t snort at you. I still love you just because you love us enough to have read this far. But I will ask a favor. Share this link on your favorite form of social media for me. (Let the whole world know about my little sniffling problem. Great…)

Help us get the word out. Donate if you can. But most of all, keep reading!

All my best,
Anna Yeatts,

Publisher

Flash Fiction Online