This year I was an intern for National Flash Fiction Day, which involved receiving, compiling and covertly reading submissions before anyone else saw them. Sure, it was an admin task, the core of which involved building a spreadsheet of all the anthology entries, logging names, email addresses and word counts. But it somehow managed to be super fun. It was great seeing entries arrive in the inbox, some from recognisable names, some from newcomers, and getting to read them first. I didn’t have a say in the judging process, but it was awesome reading the stories before anyone else, trying to guess what might make the cut. The main lesson I took from this was that a story might be great, but that doesn’t mean it’ll fit into any project, necessarily. There was such a volume of entries, it must’ve been tough to choose what made it into the book, and what didn’t. And a part of that has to be which stories create a product, fit together, are cohesive. A story doesn’t always find a home on its first submission. Which is why it’s massively worth re-subbing, over and over again if need be. It was cool to see the breadth of responses too, each about a piece of art, be it book, film, sculpture, each so unique, personal, different, new.
From the spreadsheet I created a mail merge, which built a word document containing all of the submissions, each uniform, all in the same font, anonymous, with title only, so that the judges could read every story without the prejudice of knowing its author. I like that Calum and Holly read all the submissions this way, it makes it so much more fair if the first time they see the work they have no idea who submitted it. Everyone has an equal shot.
Once the selection was made, I compiled a new document with the chosen entries in it, which Calum typeset (and I still can’t believe how quickly he made the book happen, and that we’ll have it in a week).
There are many reasons I love flash. It’s the first form I really enjoyed working in. I just got it and it, me: it’s like the most reliable boyfriend/girlfriend ever. Flash can tell a whole story, a half of it, or a moment only, as it passes. It’s at times impossible to define, maybe called poetry or a prose poem in the mouths of others. It works in sequence or solo, but it’ll never spawn 7 sequels like Die Hard’s going to. It’s so much more efficient than that. Sparse yet filled with possibility which the reader injects like a jam machine in a donut factory. It’s compact, resourceful, won’t waste morsels. It’s the opposite of a Kardashian. And I’m totally, one hundred and ten percent, in love with it.
(Originally published on the National Flash Fiction Day blog, 17th June 2013)