In my fourth ever post I tried my hand at flash fiction for the first time. This…
Harry dropped his gaze to avoid looking at Sally. No point; she didn’t know he existed. He looked at the dog.
Milton looked back; he scratched his ear before lowering himself into a squat.
“No. Christ. Not here.”
Milton held Harry’s gaze as he shat on the pavement.
“Great” Harry stared at the sticky turd. He patted his pocket. No bags.
Harry glanced up, wondering if he could leave it. To his horror, Sally was a few paces away. She held out her crisp packet. “Here.”
As Harry cleared up, Sally rubbed Milton’s head. “Cute dog.”
99 words, inspired by Charli Mills over at her Carrot Ranch. When I look at it, I’m struck by the following:
- there’s poo
- there’s a certain attempt at humour
- ditto cuteness
- but it’s silly, a morsel
- no substance and it’s overblown
- it could be written in 50 words, if it was stripped back
- it doesn’t ask the reader to do anything
And it’s that last one that, I now think, is the biggest failure. It’s neat, self-contained, easy on the eye and on the mind. It doesn’t ask the audience to think. You can work out Harry is probably a young teen and Sally the object of his affections/fantasies. It’s unrequited. His dog could be a magnet but immediately lets Harry down. In the depth of his embarrassment he is rescued by Sally, proving he’s failed to recognise she is interested in him.
That’s it. No other questions, no unspoken dilemmas alluded to, no crises behind the simple imagery, nothing surging beneath the humdrum.
I’ve now participated in numerous Carrot Ranch prompts; probably getting on for 150. I’ve been inspired, saddened, frustrated, blocked and found, the subject of flash-envy and prompt-epiphanies. And still I’m learning. Sportspeople talk about the perfect match, game, innings, but that is always an elusive goal. They achieve a perfect moment, a spasm of serendipity when the galaxies align but it is momentary, ephemeral, just dust, ungraspable. Flash, for me, epitomises that: it is so short, that surely perfection is achievable? But when I stand back, feeling I might be on the cusp of something special, something that will resonate, inspire and stimulate, I realise the target has moved. I’m left, perhaps, with a choice phrase, a piece of sublime imagery, an enviable tension, a dazzling counterpoint, a sumptuous hint – all of which are tucked away inside the mundane prose of the rest of the piece.
That’s what brings me – us – back, that’s what this flash game is about. Reaching and yet falling short, and reaching again.
My dad and I spent a decade, after he retired tramping along the long distance footpaths of Britain. And on many of those we climbed hills: bare, rock-cropped peaks and slowly inclining woods, river-cracked mountains and man-patchworked fields. And often we would peer ahead, at the tempting crest, hopes raised of some fabulous view, some beguiling vista that awaited us. Sweaty and straining we would pull ourselves up that last slope and lever ourselves over that edge…
And there, in front of us was more hill and another crest to be climbed. And dad would look at me and say:
Just another sodding horizon
And off we’d go. Always hunting the next horizon. At times I thought he was moaning but now, looking back, I recognise how much he treasured that enjoyment postponed. After all…
It’s the journey, stupid
The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1 is one such journey, each page a new horizon in quality, ideas, approaches, hopes raised and realised. As you will see, dear readers…
The Carrot Ranch has a book out. I’ve contributed, albeit my efforts are modest compared to many of the others. Please go and have a look, maybe buy one and review it. The proceeds are all pooled in a good cause, to help writers.
Thirty writers began with 99 words. They went on to tackle a new prompt, extended stories, memoirist essays, and how to build a literary community with flash fiction. This is not your typical anthology.
Charli Mills, Series Editor, Publisher & Lead Buckaroo
Sarah Brentyn, Editor & Contributor
The Congress of the Rough Writers (contributors):
Anthony Amore, Rhode Island, USA; Georgia Bell, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Sacha Black, England, UK; Sarah Brentyn, USA; Norah Colvin, Brisbane, Qld, AU; Pete Fanning, Virginia, USA; C. Jai Ferry, Midwest, USA; Rebecca Glaessner, Melbourne, Vic, AU; Anne Goodwin, England, UK; Luccia Gray, Spain; Urszula Humienik, Poland; Ruchira Khanna, California, USA; Larry LaForge, Clemson, South Carolina, USA; Geoff Le Pard, Dulwich South London, UK; Jeanne Belisle Lombardo, Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Sherri Matthews, Somerset, UK; Allison Mills, Houghton, Michigan, USA; Charli Mills, Hancock, Michigan, USA; Paula Moyer, Lauderdale, Minnesota, USA; JulesPaige, Pennsylvania, USA; Amber Prince, North Texas, USA; Lisa Reiter, UK; Ann Edall-Robson, Airdrie, Alberta, Canada; Christina Rose, Oregon, USA; Roger Shipp, Virginia, USA; Kate Spencer, British Columbia, Canada; Sarah Unsicker, St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Irene Waters, Noosaville, Qld, AU; Sarrah J. Woods, Charleston, West Virginia, USA; Susan Zutautas, Orillia, Ontario, Canada.
Where to purchase
The Congress of the Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1 is available through distrubution in 17 countries world-wide. Buy direct from our Print on Demand distributor at Book Baby.
Preferred Seller: https://store.bookbaby.com/book/The-Congress-of-Rough-Writers
Amazon Global Digital: https://goo.gl/eZXBYu
Amazon Global Print: https://goo.gl/jUz5qC
For US Libraries (Baker & Taylor): https://www.blio.com/web1/actions/searchHandler.do
All profits from digital sales benefit The Congress of Rough Writers through a Travel Scholarship which is available by application to any active Rough Writer who needs help getting to a book or writers event. Profit from print books sustains the publishing and inventory cycle of Carrot Ranch Literary Community. Any excess profit is to be shared among the contributors. Any contributor to Vol. 1 can invest in their own inventory at wholesale cost and keep 100% of their profit.