We’ve got one more sample of the hot content (hot is all we’ve got) from PRISM international’s upcoming Fall issue. Sophie Rosenblum is the Web Editor for NANO Fiction. Her work has been published in The Iowa Review, American Short Fiction, Smokelong Quarterly, New Letters, and Wigleaf. You can visit her at SophieRosenblum.com or follow her on Twitter: @sophierosenblum.
Sophie graces the pages of PRISM international 54.1 with not one, but two gorgeous flash fiction pieces. Read the exclusive “Strawberry Festival” and a Q&A with PRISM Prose Editor, Christopher Evans, below.
When you hear about the Strawberry Festival, you say, “It’s something I’d like to go to,” and I’m trying to listen more these days, so I say, “Yes, I hear you,” and I think of places in the fridge where the strawberries can sit, but when we get there, it’s a fair, janky as any I’ve seen, with kids spinning on rusted metal, the smell of fried sugar encasing our heads. I’m eating caramel corn out the back of a truck as we watch firework smoke tent the rides. Animals from across the globe are sealed in cages, unable to run from the gun-blast-pop of the show, and here come two teens holding hands, and another set leaning like stand-up spoons against the side of the zeppole truck, and underneath this same sky, you’re still searching for berries, and I wish I could defog the scene and find you some.
One of the things I enjoy about “Strawberry Festival” is that it’s both rambly—with an almost stream-of-conscious feel—yet still super tight. There’s really no fat left to cut. Do you write long and then trim, or start small and build out?
I mostly start small and then build out. Sometimes I overbuild, and then I have to cut more. The cutting is my favorite part. I’m a picker, a tweezer. I dream of editors saying, “Less, less.” I find that the stream-of-consciousness pieces are usually the ones that take me the longest to write. The more rambly they sound, the more thought I put into each beat.
After reading “Chung Hee” (upcoming in PRISM 54.1), one of our editors remarked that it had more in common with poetry than with fiction. Do you think that’s true? Other than length, do poetry and flash fiction have a shared bond?
I do! Over at NANO Fiction, we ask that people send us work without line breaks. That’s the only distinction we make between prose and poetry. Although I’ve never set out to write poetry, I’ve published pieces that I felt were fiction that people have referred to as poems.
I used to make more of a distinction between long prose and short prose, and between flash fiction and poetry. At this point, all I ask is that the writing awakens an emotional response. If it does that, I’m not sure I care what anyone calls it.
Are there other writers of flash fiction whose work you particularly admire? Is there any one story you think is the best example of economic writing, so we can finally put Hemingway’s “Baby Shoes” to rest?
Yes! There are so many flash writers whose work I admire. A few who come to mind are Meg Pokrass, Matthew Salesses, Sherrie Flick, Miguel Morales, Pamela Painter, Katie Cortese, Scott Garson, Dan Townsend, Leesa Cross-Smith, Tom Hazuka, Edward Mullany…I could go on…
Although I think economic writing is impressive, as I mentioned in the above answer, as a reader, I care more about the emotional response the piece draws out of me. I don’t mind if I finish it grinning like a madwoman or bursting into tears, but I need to feel something. I need to react. Sure, the economy is key, and that’s what makes Hemingway’s piece so impressive, but it’s only part of the magic. Probably the best example of economic writing that also absolutely destroys me each time I read it is Grace Paley’s “Wants.”
Not only do you write flash fiction, but, as an Editor for NANO Fiction, you also read piles of it. What’s the biggest mistake new writers of flash fiction make?
Something that often misses the mark is when writers try to take all of the elements of a longer story and force them into a flash piece. For me, flash fiction is not about getting everything into a story—characters, plot, setting, etc.—it’s more about making sure that the piece is able to satisfy the reader while leaving so much out. I recently read an interview with a writer I admire, and she said something like, “How far lost can you get in a couple of pages?” My answer is, with the right details, the right gestures, I’d say you can get pretty far lost. Readers don’t need to be told every detail of a relationship to understand it; the best flash writers choose well. In the end, great flash fiction should be like truffles or a sharp bleu cheese—something that makes you woozy. So often a taste of the right thing, the right flavor, can be just as satisfying as an entire meal.