I am indebted to the five writers this month for their time and their craft. You can tell they have been patiently sharpening their writing tools for a long while, and Claire Polders, Ashley Hutson, Jennifer Fliss, Michael Mungiello, and Iris N. Schwartz deliver ten immaculate, and energized, stories for our reading pleasure. You know the hard work’s been done when the words, the sentences, and the scenes do almost intuitive work, as if their placement were preordained. It is almost like they have cracked the code, at least for the length of the story.
I’m delighted also to share stories from four fearless women writers (Michael, you’re holding the fort for us), whose work defy labels and push forward the short form in wonderfully inventive ways. We have a mixed bag of short, flash and micro fiction, with a healthy dose of the surreal. Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree is given a new twist in Ashley Hutson’s “Big Meaning” and Truieuma van Schreeuwmerpigroe is the answer to your woes in Claire Polders’ “The Anxious One.” Shostakovich reanimates as a kind of pet in Mungiello’s “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's Shostakovich’” and Jennifer Fliss’ story “The Potluck” may or may not be about cannibalism. In the final two pieces, “Sense” and Light,” Iris N. Schwartz paints narratives in delicate daubs of light and color.
I invite you to read all of these stories. One after the other.
Featured Writer: Claire Polders
“ The first time I became myself, I sat talking to a man I barely knew. We were side by side on a too low sofa, sinking into one another, falling out of time. There was a party happening somewhere in another world. ” – Claire Polders, ‘Speaking of Ovid’
Perhaps our idiom-drenched familiarity with the English language has made us lazy prose writers. Perhaps Dutch writer, Claire Polders, isn’t lazy like us. In my interview, I ask Claire how Dutch and English differ on the page and how she edits her stories to perfection. In my favorite story, ‘Speaking of Ovid,’ she writes with such emotional and descriptive clarity that you forget that you are actually in a story. These three pieces bear reading multiple times.
Featured Writer: Ashley Hutson
“ I think of how you said we'd get clean one day and how I said that the good times were killing us and how we laughed. And how we were friends. And just today I fried up potatoes and onions and thought of you. Just today I put those slices in my clean mouth, swallowed them into my clean, living body ” – Ashley Hutson, ‘The Last Hurricane’
Ashley Hutson delivers three sublimely surreal flash fictions about loss and losing, all delivered in her devastatingly clinical prose. What I love most about Ashley’s work is her ability to cut through the narrative with a knife—how she can expose truths in just a word or two, without breaking a sweat. “Being born is not a story,” says one of her characters. That’s just deadly.
“ You know that feeling you get when you get up too quickly after a nap and the colors blur and your vision stops? Imagine if that feeling were a sound. Now also imagine when you want to go back to sleep but can't. Imagine if that were a sound. ” – Michael Mungiello, ‘ When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's Shostakovich’
When I stumbled upon this line, “It was experimental but polite, with the embarrassed effortful charm of a boy who knows he has a bad haircut and is overcompensating,” I was hooked on this story, and the rest does not disappoint. Mungiello knows comic timing. He also knows how to correctly title things.
“Old Mr. Hudson hated anything too spicy. Deirdre Hall ate it all, like that guy on T.V., she was game for anything. Indeed she was the daughter of the neighborhood board president. Of course she was game. She would never be considered real game anyway, thanks to her stature in the community. Cree Crabapple seemed only to like Italian dishes. Marinaras and ragus and Bolognese would all be popular at this year’s potluck.” – Jennifer Fliss, ‘The Potluck’
Jennifer Fliss is a writer I have admired for a while. She writes in many different forms (flash, story, essay, article) and her work has appeared in so many great publications. In her story, “The Potluck,” she delves into the underbelly of polite society with an electrically satirical term of phrase, but more importantly—and what she does so well with her short fiction—in the form of a fully realized world, almost filmic, deftly described.
Iris N. Schwartz
“The Lights bestowed more than brightness. The ten-year-old discovered this on her own, last Saturday afternoon. At the spirit, the spark, no─the spur of the moment─she called out to her colors, her blessed Light Show.” – Iris N. Schwartz, ‘Light’
Iris N. Schwartz’s writing is like china, so crisp and polished and charming—then shattering, all of a sudden, with a devilishly placed detail. “Sense” and “Light” are companion pieces, which explore visions in both visual and emotional ways. Sit back and enjoy these two flash pieces with your bifocal lenses on.