Reflections on a decade-long journey to getting a flash fiction story published.

A revised and updated version of this post was published in The Ascent. Please read it there (especially if you are a paying member of Medium) because I get paid a little when my piece is read and clapped for. Thank you. 

Raw Art Review Publishes "Expire"

Read Expire for free in Raw Art Review’s Spring 2019 Collection or buy a hard copy on the publisher’s website.

This story took a long time to place. I don’t think it took so long because it was poorly written. In fact, I’ve had some compliments on it over the years. The editor at 34thParallel (one of the first magazines I ever submitted to) had this to say about it:

Dear R.E.
Let me say I’m impressed by your story; dialect in any form is difficult–damn difficult–for a whole lot of reasons of which I’m sure you’re aware. So I’ll repeat, I’m impressed–damn impressed (if you’ll excuse my language).

Only this April, the editor over at Barren Magazine had this to say about the two dialogue flash fiction stories I had submitted for consideration:

Thank you for sending “Expire” and “Attributes of a Girl” for our review. I really loved the experimentation but (especially “Expire“) we literally couldn’t tell what was happening. I know these responses are annoying but hope it helps a little!

Tahoma Literary Review also found the piece hard to understand. While they apparently made their way through the dialect, they ultimately decided that it didn’t work:

[I]n “Expire,” I found myself working really hard to parse the patois/dialect.

In other words, the form/gimmick outstripped the narrative.

I don’t blame any of these publications for rejecting Expire. It is a short piece and it is purposefully difficult. In fact, that’s the whole point. The form/gimmick is another layer of the theme. In fact, the way the story is presented makes the reading experience mirror the central issue of the story.

If you do figure out what is going on then you realize that the story is about how difficult it is to get a point across when trying to tell a story. The piece is constructed in a way to make it difficult to read. While the narrative revolves around a guy who doesn’t understand a specific word in a story being told about the Titanic, the form of the story itself challenges you, the reader, to understand the story on the page. Expire is printed as a block of text, using only dialogue without any dialogue tags, and one of the speakers in the story uses a black American vernacular. It’s not easy to read.

Expire is hard, and it’s meant to be hard. So I’m not surprised that I’ve received both positive feedback and criticism. Yes, I’m a little surprised it took me a whole decade with at least 33 submission attempts to get Expire published, but published it is at long last by Raw Art Review.

One of the differences with Raw Art Review is their commitment to trying to get a work. And that’s why I think they published this story where others didn’t. Bullet ten of their current submissions guidelines says this:

“Editors assume you are smarter than we are. We will strive to understand your intention ; stay open-minded and try to avoid imposing our presumptions on your work.”

Trace Sheridan, the editor with 34thParallel who was “damn impressed” with the use of dialect in the story, asked to see some more pieces alongside it. She ended up publishing the story Bad Weather instead of Expire. I don’t know exactly why she or her team didn’t publish it, although I think they would have had I had more stories like it—dialogical and dialectical—since she asked to see some more pieces while also asking, “Is this part of a larger set/collection of pieces?” And, at the time, no, it wasn’t a part of anything larger than itself.

Expire did eventually inspire me to spend a year writing dialogues. It was a good year. And I came out of that year with a good collection. Truly, I owe a whole book to Expire that I wouldn’t have otherwise written. Expire not only set the tone and implicit theme of the entire collection, but as a story that took a decade to get published, it reminds me that storytelling is a difficult art, even when you accomplish perfectly what you intended to do, like I did with Expire. It is one of my best pieces. And like many great pieces of storytelling, it says something that not everyone can hear and not everyone will like, but it says what it has to say boldly from the first word to the last little piece of punctuation.

Rusting Sunken Ship

 

 

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BIG – New Publication

BIG - New Publication

My thirteenth dialogue to be released is BIG. Okay, it’s actually a rather short story, but it’s subject is big and is fittingly appearing in the Gypsum Sound Tales anthology COLP: Big. All the stories in this collection are themed big: Big is home to a collection of stories that feature large, enormous or gigantic characters and concepts and, in this situation, it is most definitely a case of bigger is better.

My story is called The WaveIf you’re so inclined to read some short stories about big things, you can purchase a paper copy or you’re free to grab a Kindle copy on Amazon.

COLP: Big

 

How To Piss On Your Therapist

How to Piss On Your Therapist

 

Public House Magazine has republished a story of mine, this time it’s available to read online for free. The original story appeared as Pissing Therapy in their print magazine, themed and designed as a tabloid. The reprint is now titled How To Piss On Your Therapist, cataloged online under their “How To” section.

Click here to read the story.

Art by Agni Dasein, Austria. Via Saatchiart

Art by Agni Dasein, Austria. Via Saatchiart

 

Iowa’s Emerging Writers

Iowa's Emerging Writers

My story-in-dialogue, Everything in Its Right Place, has been published in an anthology: Iowa’s Emerging Writers. This is my fifth dialogue to be showcased by a publisher, and the first one available in a print book. You can pick up a copy of Iowa’s Emerging Writers or find your own state’s showcased authors by following this link.

Thanks to anyone who buys a copy, as it helps me out just an a bit.

Take it easy, bookworms.

Iowa's Emerging Writers Anthology

LIVE, LAUGH, LOVE

LIVE, LAUGH, LOVE

I dashed off a quick dialogue this week and even decided to already submit it. I hope it comes off as ironic as the phrase “live, laugh, love” comes off kitschy (kitschy to the point of being meaningless).

While I am devoted to cultivating a fulfilling life, I find “live, laugh, love” to be the condensed expression of all that is opposite to what I mean by “fulfilling life.”

According to my medium series (where I’m actually keeping count during this writing challenge) this is my 26th dialogue. So this marks the halfway point in my challenge! Thanks for cheering me on, Bookworms!

Squid Life

Wine Drunk Together Again

Wine Drunk Together Again

Yesterday my latest short story in dialogue was featured for my series. Wine Drunk Together Again is a story about old friends meeting up overseas to relive their post-highschool trip to Spain. The story is divided into three parts, each named after the wine grapes used to create the current bottle on their table.

You can read all my available dialogues in my online fiction web series, Dialogues: a Collection of Creative Conversations. If you have any troubles accessing the series, let me know.

Click here to find the series and links, or just see the publications tab.

Wine and Wine Grapes

Insults Two by Two

Insults Two by Two

This story comes from two places: a childhood that had it’s fair share of insults slung at me and from the feelings of intense anger that have awoken in me since November 2016.

You can see the first place reflected in some of the lesser, totally repeatable insults (e.g., poopy pants). Other, more hurtful insults, may have been directed at friends or myself. Some possibly (and shamefully) may have been said by me (e.g., inbred hick).

You can see that these characters’ insults (if the insults have relation to the election) reflect a perceived entitlement to forgo politeness or political correctness some hateful homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic, misogynistic, and racist individuals have displayed in their words and actions since a conman conned our nation.

These insults—from name-calling to blatant attacks on our environment and education—have made me angry. Stressed. Tribal at times.

But this story also has two characters who have something different to say than a comeback. Or maybe they say the most effective comebacks of all. I am too angry at times to feel such a non-confrontational reaction is the right reaction. After all, I’m hurt. Friends are hurt. Good people I won’t ever meet in person are hurt. And I feel dismayed and angry. And I want to do something about it. I want, in fact, to lash out.

Yet, I know that I want to stop feeling this way — angry and without control — every single time another insult comes along from this administration or its base. Instead, I want to learn to to feel a different way. Hurt, yes. I’ll always hurt, and I flee from temptations of apathy and lassitude. I want to learn to be in control, to not feel enraged. I want my reaction to be modeled on something better than the forces that are tearing at the fragile seams of our democracy. I want to find a way toward peace — if not outside myself then inside, where it must start, where it most counts.

Content Warning:
When you get a chance to see this story, just note it does use explicit and abusive language. 

When it comes out in the future, I suggest you just skip Insults Two by Two if you feel the trigger warning pertains to you.

Read featured dialogues and links to available dialogues on Randal’s Medium series.

insulting girl flipping the bird with both hands