No, you aren’t imagining things: Karl A. Russell has won TWO WEEKS IN A ROW, this latest one making his sixth win (which is a record both for him and for the FF community). Read his bio and stories, and find links to his previous interviews at his winner’s page here. To celebrate his sixth win, he’s spending this #SixtySeconds interview by giving us Six for Six. What does that mean? Here’s Karl to explain:
- The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative
- The quality of being inspired
- A person or thing that inspires
- A sudden brilliant or timely idea
- The drawing in of breath; inhalation
Inspiration comes in the strangest ways. My story this week came about because I’m reading Chris Riddell’s Goth Girl and the Wuthering Fright to my six year old daughter at bedtime. The plot is building up towards the Literary Dog Show, with Homily Dickinson, Plain Austin, Georgie Elliot and chums all ready to display their prized pooches for judges Pippi Shortstocking and Hands Christmas Anderson, but Charles Cabbage’s attempts to construct a steam powered brain are threatening to derail things. While Ada Lovelace doesn’t actually appear in the book, she popped into my thoughts just the same and proved to be a very popular choice for my story.
But what else inspires me? I could list my faves as usual – comic books, cider, music, cider, movies, cider – but I’m sure you’re all as bored with that as I am. So instead, in honour of my sixth win, here are the six flash writers who consistently inspire me to put the time in, to experiment, to push myself and to try harder.
Chris is the master of atmosphere, swathing his tales in a fog of cigarette smoke, coffee steam and alcohol that most writers would struggle to cut through. Luckily, his words are more than sharp enough. His characters tend towards the downtrodden, the broken and the helpless, hanging on for one more drink, one more misguided assignation, and it’s a wonder that any of them make it past the final paragraph alive, but like Timothy in his recent tale for Bartleby Snopes, they just keep on going.
If you want a story that pins you like a butterfly on a board and hits you like a hammer, Chris is your man.
My personal favourite: House Arrest
2) Way over on the other side of that coin is Casey Rose Frank (@CaseyRoseFrank).
Although her only winner at Flash Friday is a heartbreaker, I normally associate Casey with a kind of upbeat positivity that she seems to embody in everything she does. (I like to imagine that if one of Casey’s tales met one of Chris’s, it would be like a collision of matter and anti-matter – I feel like I’m taking a huge risk just putting them next to each other here).
If you need a smile, a sweet natured tale with a sprinkling of magical mischief, go Casey.
My personal favourite: Communing With Nature
3) Voima Oy. Voima Oy. Voima Oy. Even that name is poetry, a mystery to conjure with as much as anything this wonderful writer has invented.
Voima’s hallmarks are weather, SF concepts and the strange poetry they create when she welds them together. Her tales make you feel the wind between the stars, the light rain of a Martian Spring and the melancholic loss of Autumn’s turning. Even her tweets are more poetic than anything I could aspire to.
Voima is your go-to writer if you want a tale which will linger in your heart long after it melts from your mind.
My personal favourite: Same Time, Next Year
4) Next up is the only writer on this list that I’ve met in person, and someone whose world building skills are on a par with the Magratheans, Catherine Connolly (@fallintofiction).
Despite being one of my nearest flash colleagues geographically, Catherine’s work transports me further than most. Her speciality is a darkly fantastic tale set in a world so real that you have to wonder if it actually exists somewhere, just waiting to be discovered. Revelling in ritual, peppering her stories with strange names and telling observations, Cath weaves tiny tales that seem like fragments of a much larger, fully realized epic.
Read Cath’s work if you want to be plunged headlong into an alien culture, with a breathless rush to learn the rules before it’s too late.
My personal favourite: In Loving Memory
5.) One of the joys of flash fiction is the opportunity it affords for experimentation. I’ve played around with acrostics, palindromic stories and utterly garbled language a few times myself, but my fifth writer takes it 411 7H3 W4Y. Step forward Josh Bertetta (@jbertetta).
Josh has very quickly established himself as a writer of great range and depth. While his “straight” fiction is polished, professional and affecting, it’s his startlingly quirky experiments with the form that really stand out for me. At first glance they can appear undecipherable, but if you take a moment to let your brain reset itself to his new language, you will find that they are not only readable but perfectly suited to the story they tell.
Read Josh to see how style and content can work together to produce something utterly new.
My personal favourite: 7R4NSP051710N
6) My final choice is a bit of a left fielder as she is far less prolific than I would like. She’s the most dedicated flash fanatic around and has fearsome writing skills, but has never ever received that coveted Flash! Friday trophy, and almost certainly never will.
I’m talking, of course, about our own dear dragonness, Rebekah Postupak (@postupak).
For three years now, come hail, rain or shine, through all the ups and downs of life, Rebekah has ensured that we always have a warm, welcoming space to come and practise our craft. Even when events have conspired to make it an odds-on certainty that the contest will have to skip a week, there she is, dead on the stroke of midnight, posting a prompt and forcing us all on to ever greater heights.
I actually did a double take when she recently tweeted about work; be honest now, how many of you thought, as I did, that she ran this place full time? Between the contest, the results, the winners interviews and the general maintenance, that has to be a full time job, right? And the Ring of Fire Badges? And the Spotlight features? Warmup Wednesday? Flashpoints?
‘Fess up Rebekah – When exactly did you perfect cloning, and just how many of you are there?
And if all that wasn’t inspiring enough, our host has those aforementioned skills. As you’d expect from her introductions, Rebekah has a wicked sense of humour (and yes, a tendency towards dragons) but her playful prose works in any setting, as I found when I blind judged Micro Bookends recently.
Read Rebekah. Just because you must.
My personal favourite: In Memoriam
⇔ And there you are: my Six for Six. These are the people I measure myself against when it comes to language and impact, feeling and verisimilitude and out and out commitment. I’ve never read a clunker from any of them, and I don’t expect to, and with every new story I read from them, I feel the need to up my game, again and again and again. They cover every definition of inspiration, right up to that sharp intake of breath.
Note: The hardest part wasn’t choosing the six, just not carrying to sixteen, or sixty. I could have included Stella’s coldly twisted revenge tales, Shakes’ eye for an arresting image, Bart’s laugh-out-loud wit, Tamara’s endless inventiveness (and ability to somehow have a story written before the prompt has finished posting!) – the list of awesome Flash! Friday writers goes on and on and on. Here’s hoping that the contest does too!