Ten answers to ten questions in 20 words or fewer. That’s less time than it takes to burn a match*.
(*Depending on the length of the match and your tolerance for burned fingers, obviously)
Our newest Flash! Friday winner is Chris Milam. Read his winning story here. Note that this is his THIRD THIRD win at Flash! Friday (woot!). Read his previous #SixtySeconds interviews as well as his bio here. Then take another minute or two to get to know him better below. (Note that three-time winners are never held to the word count rule. Chat away, Chris!)
1) What about the prompt inspired your winning piece? Nothing revelatory with the kitchen prompt, to be honest. I instantly saw a mother and son at breakfast. I wrote the first paragraph without having any idea how to include the prisoner picture. As the story unfolded, I knew a tale of hardship steeped in love and tragedy needed a father character of some sort. The story wrote itself after that.
2) You’ve been writing for FF a good while now. How has your approach to the prompts changed since you started? I think I approach the prompts in a less literal way. Not always the case, depends on the prompt, but I always try and do something a bit different. I usually know where a high percentage of writers will go with their stories and I focus on taking a less-traveled route. In a contest, it’s important to write a story that doesn’t mirror the vibe and thoughts of others. Originality is always the goal, and one I fail at often.
3) How has writing flash affected your other writing? Writing flash fiction has certainly helped with poetry. Brevity is the key to both, and the process of condensing and excising unnecessary words applies to poetry as well. On the rare occasion when I write an essay, flash fiction can be found all over the page. Usually it’s a smear of overly-descriptive prose, a bad habit of mine, that reveals itself. Poetry, flash and nonfiction all aim to impact the reader in an emotional way. It’s the duty of words, a plunging of the reader’s mind with a profound precision.
4) In your first interview, you said you were writing a “surreal fairy tale” for your daughter. How’s that going? What are you working on these days? Well, the story for my daughter is currently languishing in my documents. It’s more laborious writing a children’s tale than I ever imagined. Hopefully, I’ll return to that story and create some magic. Time will tell. I’m currently focused on the #FlashDogs anthology. I have the rough draft of one story completed, and I’ve written the first couple of paragraphs of a second story. I’m not pleased with either one. A bit pedestrian. Plenty of time to fix them, though. And I will.
5) Besides FF :), what are your favorite writing sites? I don’t enter the weekly contests as often as I used to but a few I enjoy are: Three Line Thursday, Micro Bookends and Angry Hourglass. Also, I’m always lurking on the sites of various online magazines and journals. Always reading. Always learning.
6) What advice would you give to writers who are new to flash? What might you say to seasoned writers who haven’t won yet? To new writers: just write. That’s all you can do. Take those strange thoughts in your head and spill them across the digital vellum. Don’t be afraid to fail. We all do. But you can’t fail or succeed if you don’t write. Take a chance. Push the envelope. Create. Write. Have fun.
For the seasoned folks who haven’t won FF? It’s all subjective. Keep writing. Keep entering. I know some of the people who haven’t won. I’ve read their stories. I’ve seen their talent. Don’t let not winning yet define you. It shouldn’t. It doesn’t. Believe in your ability to work the word and keep plugging away. A crown isn’t required to be known as a fabulous writer.
7) Tell us something about your writing life. How often do you get to write, and how do you balance writing and responsibilities? I usually have an adequate amount of time to write; balance isn’t a major issue. My problem, at times, is motivation and self-doubt. I can easily slip into a lazy, negative mindset which isn’t conducive to writing. I’ll question my abilities, my reasons for writing and what the whole point of flash fiction is, when I’m in a dark mood. I’m always engaged in a bloody battle with my demons. It’s exhausting. Good times.
8) What’s your writing process like? When I write, it’s all about coffee, solitude and music. And doubt. I tend to take a break from a story and pace the floors like a madman. Back and forth. Yelling at myself. Sometimes out loud. Then more coffee, more words. More pacing. Look at Twitter. Fill a jar with teardrops. More coffee etc.
9) What are your biggest writerly pet peeves? I’m not a big fan of cheeky, goofball humor in a story. It’s an arduous endeavor for even the best of writers. Sometimes, a story that is all inner-monologue can be a pet peeve of sorts. I’m guilty of this one quite often. I prefer movement in a story, not just a writer’s thoughts. The whole “Show don’t tell” applies here. Twist endings can be a turnoff, at times, when not done properly. If the entire story is uprooted by an implausible turn of events at the end, it’s a waste of the reader’s time.
10) Final thoughts? Shout-outs are in order for the folks doing all the heavy lifting for the #FlashDogs anthology: Mark King, David Shakes, Tamara Rogers, and Emily June Street. Not only are they putting this massive project together, but they’re also extremely talented writers and kind human beings. I applaud them.
Quite a few writers have truly inspired me and I’ve learned a great deal from reading their work. Whether I’ve long been a fan or they’ve written something recently that caught my eye, these folks deserve a mention: Grace Black, Jacki Donnellan, Voima Oy, David Borrowdale, Carlos Orozco, Marie McKay, Steph Ellis, Foy Iver, Tamara Shoemaker, Catherine Connolly and Brett Milam. You guys can sling the prose. And to be honest, I could’ve named any #FlashDog here. Every single one of you continues to astound and inspire me.