Tag Archives: short stories

Writing workouts (with a reading list)

It’s no secret that flash fiction is my first love. I stumbled on crafting short stories as a child and then later in college in two separate short story seminars, but it was always just a flirtation. It wasn’t until I was in my early 20’s and living alone in Boston (working two jobs and perpetually broke) that I took a class in flash fiction at a local night school. The instructor once had her flash pieces framed and shown in a local tea shop in Harvard Square (still one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen as a writer) and challenged us to crate a new story each week which we would then workshop. After that course, life got in the way of writing. I started a new job. I moved to a new apartment. My boyfriend became my fiancé and then my husband. I moved cross country. I started writing novels.

But short stories continued to haunt me. Collections of short stories are my (reading) drug of choice. Elizabeth Crane, Lorie Moore, Simon Rich, and Aimee Bender all inspired me to find my voice and to take risks and try writing my own.

Since I completed NaNoWriMo for the first time in 2009, I’ve completed eight novels (most of them trash) and published one. I’ve also written close to 30 short stories in that time frame. Recently, I’ve invested more time and energy to flash fiction, creating a new story  each month. It’s paid off (literally) as I’ve had four pieces published since last summer.

If writing a novel is my marathon (and finishing it is completing 26.2 miles), I look at writing flash fiction as my speed-training workouts before the big race. Some of these short pieces will never see the light of day, but each time I write one, my writing improves.

You’re probably thinking, but you just said some will never see the light of day. Writing flash fiction makes you a concise storyteller. You can’t afford to waste words. The more you write within a limited scope, the more is caries on in your other work (or at least it does in mine).

Writing short stories is hard. It’s just as hard as writing a novel, only your murky middle only lasts a few pages or a few hundred words. You still have to come up with an idea and follow it through. Personally, I love writing prompts. Give me three random suggestions (shampoo, a seminary, and historical fiction) and I’ll create a story about a female pastor in the 70’s looking to find a husband before she is ordained. I love writing contests that challenge me to write within certain parameters. For example, last year Seattle Public Library held a short fiction contest and challenged writers to craft a sci-fi story in the style of Octavia Butler. Sci-fi isn’t really in my wheelhouse, but I gave it a shot. My end result was the opposite of what they were looking for, but I walked away from that contest with a genderqueer sci-fi rom-com that was snatched up by The Dime Show Review. I’d never have tried my hand at sci-fi (or realize that it could be in my wheelhouse) had I not entered the contest. Writing outside of my comfort zone was the workout I needed.

There’s no shortage of contests or places to find prompts. These days I rarely throw my money at paid contests. That said, I do love the two different contests that New York City Midnight offers each year. The flash fiction contest I entered last year gave me three marketable stories, and I’m currently in the second round of the short story contest.

A simple Google search could yield you lists of contests and prompts, but I like the list updated at Aerogramme Writers’ Studio. Curious to try out a contest for free? Paperdarts has a 200-word micro-fiction contest on cleanliness with an April 17th deadline that’s worth a shot.

And if you’re looking to start reading short stories and flash fiction, I recommend:

Self-Help by Loorie Moore

When the Messenger is Hot by Elizabeth Crane

Monica Never Shuts Up by A.S. King

Spoiled Brats by Simon Rich

One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak

American Housewife by Helen Ellis

Leave a comment

Filed under recommendations, short stories, writing, writing prompt

End of the year recap

2016 wasn’t a total dumpster fire on a floating garbage barge. As the year comes to a close I’m ignoring the shitshow and focusing on the goodness that 2016 brought me like:

  1. Keeping and exceeding my New Year’s Writing Resolutions to a) write 1 short story a month and b) submit at least one short story a week. I new end the year with 12 new shorts. I submitted my stories to over 150 contests/ literary magazines/ journals over the last 52 weeks and as a result:
  2. Publishing two flash fiction pieces in August. “Graylight” appeared in The Dime Show Review and “Agenda” appeared in 200 cc’s. I also placed “Self-Check” in Cleaver, but that won’t appear until March 2017.
  3. Writing nonfiction. My essay “Going the Distance” about running the 2008 Boston Marathon appeared on the November issue of The Creative Truth Journal.
  4. Contributing to the Hand2Hold Organization’s official blog Preemie Babies 101.
  5.  Pitching and selling my first freelance piece in eight years to Mom.me. You can read my micro-preemie piece here. This also led me to recording my first podcast.img_3100
  6. Self-publishing my f/f ya romantic comedy Secret Heart in October. The tragic events of last June hit close to home and inspired me to bring something frothy and fun into the world sooner. Secret Heart has sold more copies than I imagined and the feedback I’m getting from teen readers cemented how happy I am with my choice to self-publish. I even visited my first local GSA meeting in December at Shorecrest High School.
  7. My poem “Postpartum” was a finalist in the PNWA poetry contest and four of my short stories were finalists in various contests.
  8. Finding my voice again and starting two new projects: a middle grade novel and a new YA novel.

I’m really proud of what I accomplished this year. I hope to continue to be as prolific in 2017 as I was in 2016. My goals are much the same as they were, although I’d like to finish both of these projects and get them out into the world.

I have two gifts for you. The first: I’m giving away a total of 10 Kindle copies of Secret Heart via Amazon. The first contest ends tomorrow night (January 1st) so enter quick. The second contest ends Wednesday, January 4th. Yes you can enter and win both.

The second gift is this new song by Regina Spektor.

*waves goodbye to 2016*

Leave a comment

Filed under giveaways, secret heart, short stories, writing

(Late) Breaking News: I’ve Published Another Short Story

I recently returned from my South American vacation to news that one of my short stories, “Second Honeymoon” was being published in the May 2014 issue of DRIFTLESS REVIEW and was a finalist for thier flash fiction contest. I may not have won the cash money, but you can read all 750 words of “Second Honeymoon” here.

“Second Honeymoon” was inspired by a trip to a nude beach in Croatia that I took with my husband last May and a conversation we had about baring souls while baring bodies. Pro Tip: The best time to visit a nude beach is after drinking and in between downpours. Then you don’t have to worry about anyone seeing you and you can scratch “nude beach” off of your bucket list.

As it turns out, most of my short fiction is inspired by our travels and the weird-ass people we encounter. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Breaking News: This is No Longer the Expensive Hobby I Feared It Was

So I have a bit of good news to share. I’ve been sitting on it for quite a few weeks months, yet telling everyone I know about it.

I can no longer consider writing to be an expensive hobby that was draining both my soul and my bank account, because  as of this week, someone has paid me to publish a little short story of mine.

Hurrah!

This is not my first paid writing piece, just my first paid YA fiction piece. Once upon a time, or a million years ago I had a short-lived career as a travel writer.  Years before that I had an adult flash fiction story, “Stalking Mr. Right,” published in Fiction Fixbut that was for glory, not for cash.

But I digress.

Back in August my young adult short story “The End of Them” was accepted to be published in the University of Washington literary journal, Stratus. Well, it’s finally been published.

I don’t expect anyone to buy it, but you can read it free here. My story is on page 25. The rest of work in the journal is pretty awesome too.

Leave a comment

Filed under short stories, writing