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?


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 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 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.


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.


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,


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.


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,


Flash Fiction Online



Why I Won’t Buy a Story Off Your Blog

I’ve been puttering around over on the Flash Fiction Online side of things (not really… I’ve been busting arse getting tomorrow’s issue loaded but that’s beside the point..) and I’ve noticed quite the trend. Over on the Submissions page, I’m getting a lot, and I mean bucket loads, of questions about digital publication rights, specifically first digital publication rights.

Some of you are asking what are digital publication rights? They’re the copyrights to the online version of a story.

First digital publication rights means that I, the publisher, gets to be the first person to ever (and I mean EVER…ever, ever, ever, as in never before seen the light of a laptop screen.. but more on that in a second..) publish a story online.  Because Flash Fiction Online only buys FIRST digital rights.  Not second, third, or fourth…which are known as reprints. Some magazines do. And that’s spiffy dandy. Heck, it’s better than that. It’s fantasmic because that means authors make more money, and as an author myself, I’m all for that.


If you have ever typed out your story and posted it in any of the following ways:

  1. Twitter
  2. A blog post
  3. Facebook
  4. Tumblr
  5. Reddit
  6. Pinterest
  7. A non-password protected web forum
  8. Self published
  9. As part of a longer work that fits any of these categories
  10. Anywhere else on the internet where people can read it without you sending it privately to them via email or protecting the contents with a password
  11. Anywhere else that I can’t think of including but not limited to glowing lunar landers with scrolling data bars or automatons resembling Jimmy Kimmel with Android screens in place of their eyesockets.


Even if you have now deleted said piece from its online home, those rights have still been lost. If you posted it, you published it. And by publishing it, you used your first digital publication rights.  Which means, we can’t buy them… because you already used them.

First digital rights are like a uber cool, special literary smoothie. And once you drink that uber-cool smoothie, it’s gone. Some publications like second round smoothies. But here at FFO, we only buy uber-cool special smoothies.

Now, you may think you’re sly. That you’re Twitter feed was sooooo last year and that we here at FFO will never know that your story appeared on it.  That we’ll buy your story and publish you and you’ll go onto great things and you can pass off your second-hand smoothie in place of uber cool special smoothie.

And you might.

But….. the publishing world is not as big as you might think. And you know how you hear that the one person you don’t want to make angry is your editor? Well, the other person you don’t want to make mad is your publisher because we write the paychecks. Trust me. If we find out that you’ve sent us a second hand smoothie and I’ve paid you for an uber-cool smoothie, not only are you in violation of contract but your name becomes quite recognizable among a very small group of people who you’d probably like to sell stories to again in the future.

And there’s this beautiful thing called Google.  It’s amazing what you can find.

So do not, whatever you do, I repeat, DO NOT send stories that have seen the light of the internet to FFO. And before you send them anywhere else, I highly advise you to check the submission guidelines and label re-prints accordingly.

My best advice: go write a brand new, uber-cool smoothie and submit it!

Publisher,  Flash Fiction Online


If you enjoy Flash Fiction Online, consider subscribing or purchasing a downloadable copy. Your donations go a long way to paying our authors the professional rates they deserve. For only $0.99/issue that’s cheaper than a cup of coffee. Or subscribe for $9.99/year.

Micro Fiction – The Art of the Short Short

Flash Fiction Online obviously celebrates the art of writing stories within the constraints of a maximum of 1,00o words. I think most of us, if not all, can agree that flash fiction pieces that are written well, manage to follow a momentous tale from beginning to end seamlessly, in which a character shows growth/change.

This poses the question, what about stories that are less than 1,000 words, let’s say a few sentences at most, can they have an entire movement too?

I read this great list on BuzzFeed about 17 stories you can read now. Micro fiction, short shorts, wonderful tiny stories! I thought it would be a neat to get some thoughts from people here at FFO on why some of these stories work. Here are what some of your fellow behind the scenes editors and staff had to say:

“I think these really short flash stories work because they find a way to tap into universal emotions using some kind of short cut; through a common image, behavior, experience, or language with which most people are familiar. The words chosen are simple, but precise, and a great deal is left to the reader’s imagination through their own experiences. So, the story is grounded in the familiarity, the emotions that tend to accompany that, and then the author twists the story away from our expectations with some new idea or emotion.

Some twists are bigger than others, like #1 and #5. With Hemingway’s flash story, we start with nostalgia about childhood and family, and end with a tragedy. A similar thing with Merilee Faber’s “Love is Forever,” it starts with young romance but ends unexpectedly with tragedy. With the last one, “Widow’s First Year” by Joyce Carol Oates, there’s a much smaller twist. We expect grief from the title, but we also get perseverance and survival.” -Denise Ganley

“I’ve dabbled very briefly in stories this short. Okay, once. Some of these are more complete as stories than others, which begs the question, ‘ What exactly is a story?’ To me a story consists of a plot with a resolution. In some of these, plot and resolution are non-existent. So are they still stories? Is something of 10,000 words without plot or resolution a story?

Of these given examples, the ones that work, for me at least, are the ones in which plot and resolution are there, though deeply implied. They have to be. There is no room for overt setting or situational or character development. However, the story can’t be SO deeply implied that the story has no meaning.

So some of these stories work for me as stories. Others fall into the category of vignette, which can be a joy to read, as satisfying as great poetry or masterworks of the visual arts, but, arguably, aren’t really stories.

Hemingway’s classic ‘baby shoes’ is a perfect example of the micro-story that works. It cuts straight to the heart and accomplishes by implication a massive and multi-layered story of heartbreak and love, of a lifetime lived with struggle and triumph, loss and acceptance. For me, no matter the length of the story, that’s what matters–that a story makes me feel deeply. Whether with a single word or a hundred thousand.

I applaud authors who take up the challenge of doing that in as few words as possible. No author can understand how much of a challenge that is or the depth to which it can improve his writing in general unless he’s given it a try.

For the record, my story was, ‘All I said was, ‘Nice sweater.” -Suzanne Vincent (Editor-In-Chief)

As for me, I think that these stories work because they convey emotions vividly. In flash pieces this short, the urgency to be punchy is heightened and what better way to make something resonate then by making you feel? These stories also leave you with questions, so many questions that the mystery alone about what the possible answers can be, fill in the empty space that the lack of words may leave behind. The empty white space is a tempting creature that allows room for interpretation and in these short shorts, it’s a beautiful thing.

How do you feel about micro fiction? Have any of your own you’d like to share?


Mahjabeen Syed


Mahjabeen Syed graduated with her BA in Fiction Writing from Columbia College Chicago and is attempting to make it into the big leagues of writing. She resides in Chicago; the city of beauty and homicide but refuses to acknowledge it as, “Chi-raq.” She runs a blog titled, The Magic of Writing for ChicagoNow, primarily giving writing tips from professionals while other times ranting about why it’s so awkward for women to eat a banana while driving. She enjoys reading with her cat (singular) and insists that she is not a crazy cat lady because she has only one which makes her just plain old crazy.

If you enjoy Flash Fiction Online, consider subscribing or purchasing a downloadable copy. Your donations go a long way to paying our authors the professional rates they deserve. For only $0.99/issue that’s cheaper than a cup of coffee. Or subscribe for $9.99/year.