LiturgicalCredo is accepting submissions for the Winter 2016 Edition through Dec. 2, 2015. The edition will be released on Dec. 15, 2015.

See the How To Submit page and About page for more details.

Interview With Tara L. Masih

November 17, 2015

The Best Small Fictions 2015I first became familiar with Tara L. Masih’s work when I read The Rose Metal Press Field Guide To Writing Flash Fiction, which she edited and introduced. Each chapter had an essay about the craft of writing flash fiction followed by an exemplary text. During several weeks in 2013, I read the field guide each morning like a devotional.

As I later discovered, Masih also had written two chapbooks of flash fiction (Fragile Skins and Tall Grasses) and had edited The Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prizewinning Essays.

Now Masih is the Series Editor for a new annual collection, the first of which was released just last month: The Best Small Fictions 2015, published by Queen’s Ferry Press.

Guided by Guest Editor and Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler, The Best Small Fictions 2015 holds 55 short-short fictions of 1,000 words or less, drawn from dozens of print and online literary journals.

The collection also includes a brief interview with Phong Nguyen, editor of Pleiades: Literature In Context, and another brief interview with Michael Martone, who has two small fictions in this inaugural edition.

I recently did my own brief interview with Masih via email.

Colin Foote Burch

I’m curious about how you became aware of flash fiction as a genre with its own essence and identity. I realize that awareness could have been an epiphany, or it could have been a process. Do you remember when you realized flash fiction was a unique literary form, perhaps unique from short fiction? When was that realization and how did it come about? Even considering all the elements that can be present within flash fiction, what was the first element or set of elements that struck you as a distinctive mark of the short-short story?

Tara L. Masih

It was more of a process. I began writing vignettes in high school in the early ’80s , under the guidance of writer Kathy Collins, who had been taught by Elizabeth Graves. Collins had us write brief scenes, scenes that had a large impact on us emotionally. Once I left high school, I didn’t personally know anyone else writing in this manner. Few journals took vignettes, and as I was at the beginner’s level, I didn’t see the scattered ones being published in, say, The New Yorker. In the late ’80s, I came across Irving Howe’s anthology of Short Shorts and was given a copy of Shapard and Thomas’s Sudden Fiction. I think those were aha! moments of recognition and excitement. What I was doing had more formal names, and there were quite a few writers out there experimenting with the form. I began to consciously shape smaller stories when I didn’t have enough material for a longer one. And instead of writing just a scene, the vignettes had more shape and structure. So the first element I began to work with was to have some sort of story structure in a small space. As I like to experiment, I can’t say all my flash has these elements. Some remain sketches or prose poems. And I think there is room in the flash world for different elements and styles.

Burch

Among those flash fiction pieces you discovered early on, what are some of the gems that remain your favorites? And what is it about those pieces that you especially like?

Masih

It’s been almost 30 years since I read those books cover to cover, but in looking at the contents, the stories I remember vividly and go back to are all very different. The Howes’ book introduced me to Sherwood Anderson. His “Paper Pills” to me is groundbreaking in its brevity and willingness to discuss sexuality. It’s a perfectly crafted mini story with memorable details and characters. In the Sudden anthology, Lydia Davis’s “The Sock” has become a contemporary classic. I love how this object story conveys in a small space the enormity of a marriage that’s unraveled, and its aftermath. I love her long, seductive, almost run-on sentences and her narrator’s ironic voice. Very different but just as memorable for me is Jayne Anne Phillips’s “Blind Girls.” Jayne’s lyricism is closer to my personal taste in prose, and her use of language and rhythm is unparalleled. It’s a sensual story and captures something special about youth and culture. I love how it circles in on itself, too. What all three have in common is the ability to capture moments with humanistic intensity and all were willing to experiment with the short-short form.

Burch

You have such a keen, holistic sense of these short-short stories; I wonder if you have a general sense of where beginning writers of flash fiction tend to get off track, at least in the context of the form. Maybe this is a better way to put it: Are there some common types of revisions for short-shorts written by beginners? Are there some familiar issues in, for example, a workshop setting? Or maybe familiar issues in an editor’s rejection letter? (And maybe those issues are the same for beginners and experts!)

Masih

Yes, this is an easy answer. Beginning writers, and as you note some more advanced writers new to flash or short-short stories, think that it’s just about writing short. They’ll take an idea, write in the usual narrative flow of a novel, and then end it abruptly. That’s not what the best brief stories are about. Compression is done in all the story moments. And in the language, characters, setting, plot, and even in the spaces of the plot. I’m not sure I can go into it more heavily here as there are different approaches and styles as those who work in the genre experiment with form and language and continually push the boundaries into hybrid fiction. So, authors are free to play around with the form, but they need to study it. Reading the best authors is a great way to start. Read Michael Martone, Stuart Dybek, Kathy Fish, to name a few contemporary authors, and go back and read Hemingway, Kawabata, and Sherwood Anderson, to name a few classic authors.

Burch

Let’s talk about The Best Small Fictions 2015, the series which is debuting October 6. As Series Editor, you probably have the best gig in flash-fiction publishing. Establishing an annual collection is, in popular understatement, kind of a big deal. With it, we also have the anticipation of a new Guest Editor each year. You could not have found a better debut Guest Editor than Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Olen Butler (who wrote one of my favorite craft essays in another one of your projects, The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction). How did you make the decision to choose Butler as your first guest editor? What did he contribute to the series?

Masih

I do feel like this is a dream job. It combines most of my interests: book production and design, reading, editing, and working with writers. I love having the opportunity to work with our best literary authors, and I also enjoy promoting them, especially their flash work because flash is still not widely respected in the lit community. Butler was our first choice to start the series. A combination of his international name recognition, his astute judgment of what constitutes a small fiction, and the fact that he and I had worked together on the Flash Field Guide. I knew his work ethic and that he is generous toward small presses. He brought a lot to the series in terms of sage advice on beginning one, as well as running one to best meet the needs of future Guest Editors. We are grateful for his support of this project, which he is just quoted as saying is an “extraordinarily important literary event.”

Burch

Thank you for your time and best wishes for the series.

Masih

And thank you for taking time out from your busy schedule to ask me these questions.
 
 
 

INTERVIEWER

Are you still taping storytellers whom you meet in cafés?

BOWLES

There aren’t any more. All that’s completely changed. There’s a big difference just between the sixties and seventies. For instance, in the sixties people still sat in cafés with a sebsi [pipe] and told stories and occasionally plucked an oud or a guimbri. Now practically every café has television. The seats are arranged differently and no one tells any stories. They can’t because the television is going. No one thinks of stories. If the eye is going to be occupied by a flickering image, the brain doesn’t feel a lack. It’s a great cultural loss. It’s done away with both the oral tradition of storytelling and whatever café music there was.

Source: Paris Review – The Art of Fiction No. 67, Paul Bowles

You really must read this:

In this nearly magical room, amid fire-crackle and clink of glass, you can hear them talking. Pipe smoke is in the air, and a certain boisterous chauvinism, and the wet-dog smell of recently rained-on tweed. You can hear the donnish mumbles of J. R. R. Tolkien as the slow coils of The Silmarillion glint and shift in his back-brain. Now he’s reading aloud from an interminable marmalade-stained manuscript, and his fellow academic Hugo Dyson, prone on the couch, is heckling him: “Oh God, not another fucking elf!” You can hear the challenging train-conductor baritone of C. S. Lewis, familiar to millions from his wartime radio broadcasts; hear the unstoppable spiel of the writer/hierophant Charles Williams, with his twitchy limbs and angel-monkey face; hear the silver stream of ideas and argumentation that is the philosopher Owen Barfield. They are intellectually bent upon one another, these men, but flesh-and-blood is the thing: conviviality is, for them, a kind of passion. The chairs are deep; the fire glows gold and extra fiery in the grate. Lewis’s brother, Warnie, rosy with booze and fellow feeling, serves the drinks. And the walls drop away, and the scene extends itself backwards and forward in time …

Philip and Carol Zaleski’s The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings is a mental map, a religious journey, and the biography of a brotherhood. Plenty of distinguished Inklings came and went over the years, padding across the carpets with a Warnie-provided drink in hand, but the Zaleskis zoom in on (and out from) the primary axis of Tolkien, Lewis, Williams, and Barfield, the four among whom the invisible correspondences of thought and affection were strongest. Christians all, these men formed what the Zaleskis call “a perfect compass rose of faith”: Barfield the proto–New Ager, Tolkien the rather prim orthodox Catholic, Lewis the noisy and dogmatically ordinary layman and popular theologian, Williams the ritualistic Anglican with a taste for sorcery.

Continue reading: How Tolkien and Lewis Revived Modern Myth-Telling | Book and Movie Reviews |Axisoflogic.com

Tara L. Masih

August 15, 2015

Tara L. Masih contributed a work of flash fiction, “How To Fight Dragons In The Modern World,” to the Autumn 2015 edition.

Masih has won multiple book awards in her role as editor of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction and The Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prizewinning Essays. She is also author of Where the Dog Star Never Glows: Stories and Series Editor for The Best Small Fictions annual anthology. Awards for her work include The Ledge Magazine’s Fiction Award, finalist standing for both the Glimmer Train and the Reynolds Price Fiction Prize, Wigleaf Top 50 recognition, and Pushcart Prize, Best New American Voices, and Best of the Web nominations. www.taramasih.com.
 

An article by the late Colin Wilson, published in Philosophy Now:

“What is the trick of transforming ordinary perception into creative vision?

“We can begin by noting that poets do it all the time, so do great painters like Van Gogh. Read Shelley’s ‘Ode to the West Wind’ and you can feel the ‘phenomenological vision’. Or look at a great painting by Van Gogh or Vlaminck or Soutine. When I was working in a tax office in Rugby in my teens, I remember my boss saying with disgust that he thought Van Gogh simply distorted everything he painted. He was missing the point: that Van Gogh was saying: “This is how I see things when I put on my creative spectacles.” Rupert Brooke said that on a spring morning he sometimes walked down a country road feeling almost sick with excitement.

“Brooke realised that he could bring on this feeling by looking at things in a certain way. And what was really happening when he did this was that he had somehow become aware that he could see more, become aware of more, by looking at things as if they possessed hidden depths of meaning. For it is true. He was becoming conscious of the intentional element in perception, that his ‘seeing’ was in itself a creative act….

“The mind can deliberately change the way it sees things. Brooke tells how he can wander about a village wild with exhilaration:

 

‘And it’s not only beauty and beautiful things. In a flicker of sunlight on a blank wall, or a reach of muddy pavement, or smoke from an engine at night, there’s a sudden significance and importance and inspiration that makes the breath stop with a gulp of certainty and happiness. It’s not that the wall or the smoke seem important for anything or suddenly reveal any general statement, or are suddenly seen to be good or beautiful in themselves – only that for you they’re perfect and unique. It’s like being in love with a person… I suppose my occupation is being in love with the universe.’

“We can grasp what Ricoeur meant by ‘the very seeing is discovered as a doing’.”

via Phenomenology as a Mystical Discipline | Issue 56 | Philosophy Now

Read the entire article by Colin Wilson at Phenomenology as a Mystical Discipline | Issue 56 | Philosophy Now.

LiturgicalCredo is going straight for the well-worn phoenix simile. We’re not even going to apologize.

We will publish a new edition this fall, and we’re accepting submissions from July 2 to July 31.

We think we have a really cool “About” page, so please read it.

Then, learn what and how to submit.

We will rise like the phoenix to publish again. You can send us that peculiar griffin from your imagination.

LiturgicalCredo

A griffin in the Vatican Museum, Vatican City, Italy

In this outstanding talk on storytelling, Neil Gaiman expands our understanding of longevity — and why some stories stick around longer than others.
 

Have enough aesthetic and literary knowledge to know what you’re up to. You need not be up to a lot, you just need to know how to do what you’re up to. That way, knowledge and intention can meet, and you will produce a complete compositon. — Colin Foote Burch

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Putting things together...

Let’s not forget that writing is convenient. It requires the simplest tools. A young writer sees that with words and sentences on a piece of paper that costs less than a penny he can place himself more clearly in the world. Words on a page, that’s all it takes to help him separate himself from the forces around him, streets and people and pressures and feelings. He learns to think about these things, to ride his own sentences into new perceptions. How much of this did I feel at the time? Maybe just an inkling, an instinct. Writing was mainly an unnameable urge, an urge partly propelled by the writers I was reading at the time.

via Paris Review – The Art of Fiction No. 135, Don DeLillo.

via Paris Review – The Art of Fiction No. 135, Don DeLillo.

I want to share a piece of flash fiction that recently won “Challenge 80” at The Iron Writer, an online writing community centered around friendly competition.

The criteria for “challenges” include a flash-fiction writing prompt of 4 elements, exactly 500 words without the title, and 5 days to complete the work. Four writers compete.

The 4 elements for “Challenge 80” were: Furby, Peel Trident (car), a lost emperor, and Dr. Pepper.

Here’s my flash fiction for the challenge:

 

Booze Cream

By Colin Burch

Monkey always had these gifts coming in from the endorsements, so sometimes our parties were based upon whatever we could do with a garage full of whatever product.

At the end of last summer, Monkey had an entire slot of his four-car garage full of Dr. Pepper in 12-packs.

I was responsible for figuring out what to do with the Dr. Pepper. A website suggested the “Flamin Fro” – a quarter ounce of Southern Comfort, a quarter ounce of Bacardi 151, and a half ounce of Dr. Pepper. Pour it all into a shot glass. Light it up for 7 seconds and shoot it.

Perfect.

So Monkey invited 80 girls to his house for this party, plus me and Spidey and Strongarm.

“If I’d really wanted you three to get lucky at this shindig,” Monkey said, “I’d have invited three hundred girls. Because you all are 1-percenters.”

I ordered a dozen cases of Southern Comfort and a dozen cases of Bacardi 151. Spidey arranged for the buffet and finger food.

At party time, not one girl showed up.

We started shooting Flamin Fro concoctions in Monkey’s big, open kitchen.

“Hey, guess what showed up today?” Monkey asked. “A case of Emperor’s Irish Cream Liqueur. And it’s heaven on ice cream.”

He ran the circuit from the garage freezer back to the kitchen before we realized the next shot of Flamin Fro had quit flaming.

The Emperor’s Irish Cream on Breyers Vanilla ice cream pushed all the booze and sugar deeper into us. We got thickened up with a gorgeous feeling.

“You know who you are man?” Spidey said. “You’re the Emperor of Booze Cream!”

We laughed until Strongarm spilled a Flamin Fro across the countertop, blue fire spreading for a moment, and then it burned out so we laughed some more.

Monkey went through a guest room to relieve himself in the adjoining bathroom. When he hadn’t come back in a while, I stuck my head in the darkened guest room.

I heard snoring. I went back, sat in the kitchen.

“The Emperor of Booze Cream has already passed out?” Strongarm asked. “Not happening.”

Strongarm got up and lurched to guest bedroom and flicked the light switch.

“It’s a Furby,” he said.

Spidey and I had no clue.

“One of his Furbys is snoring,” Strongarm said.

The room had a bookshelf full of Furbys. In the guest room.

Monkey wasn’t in the garage, either, but the doors were open. A collectable car was missing, too.

“The Peel Trident,” Strongarm said.

We looked up the long driveway. Before a turn, we could see the Peel Trident in front of a tree.

We got there and saw the Peel Trident had not been parked but had smashed into the dogwood.

No Monkey. No blood. No crack on the bubble-like windshield. Nothing like tracks in the night’s dewy grass.

Monkey just vanished. Spidey, Strongarm and I have been here for three days. The cops have crawled everywhere. The Emperor of Booze Cream is gone.

Ω

LiturgicalCredo.com has a new editorial mission: contemporary mythopoeia, parables, fables, and fairy tales of 300-500 words in the forms of flash fiction, poems, and brief nonfiction.

New myths, parables, fables, and fairy tales allow storytellers to work with archetypal characters as well as fantastical settings. As enduring genres, they give writers economical modes of re-imagining contemporary conflicts, relationships, habits, assumptions, and beliefs.

In these modes, perceptive storytellers force us to find new grips on reality by showing us situations more true to our lifelong inner experiences than our moment-to-moment workaday lives. The best handle on life, we realize, is not quite where we thought it was.

Please see our About and Submit pages for more information about our mission and guidelines.

 

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