It Was Always June

I’ve heard poet friends say that they never have a moment free in April, because National Poetry Month means ALL the readings and conferences and workshops happen in that one month. June is sort of like that for Flash Fiction writers. There’s the Bath Flash Fiction Festival and National Flash Fiction Day (June 15th, the day before Bloomsday), and it’s also the start of summer writing conference season, so the past month has been a whirlwind of write-o-rama for me. Starting at the end of May, I went to Houston, Texas for the Writefest Conference, sponsored by Writespace, where I taught a weekday flash fiction workshop May 27-30 and took part in two panels at the weekend conference that ran from May 31-June 2. Oh, and I also led two mini-workshops. And there was a reading in there, too!

And before I could even recover from the jet lag, it was on to a Fast Flash Workshop with Kathy Fish, where I got to be a student again and wrote, wrote, wrote for 10 days straight. Lots of new work in the queue!

“Jessie knows the only way to move ahead is to burn your bridges, and she’s got matches to spare.”

Read the rest at New Flash Fiction Review.

I was also thrilled to be invited to contribute a flash triptych to New Flash Fiction Review, a magazine edited by flash writer Meg Pokrass. My story, “Jessie’s Life in Three Surnames,” was inspired by some genealogy research into my great-grandmother and her three husbands.

One of my stories got to swim in the Flash Flood for National Flash Fiction Day, June 15, 2019. A new story was released each hour throughout the day.

Then, a story I read in Houston, “Why I Got Written Up by the Manager at Uncle Earl’s World Famous Bar-B-Q,” was published in 100 Word Story. I love the discipline of writing stories this short (always knowing that you can cheat a little, because the words in the title don’t count)!

Meanwhile, I had agreed to write a craft essay for Superstition Review, which was published on their blog.

“I wrote in first-period algebra, when I compared Frodo’s quest to destroy the One Ring to the search for the square root of a quadratic equation, and the search for the equation didn’t come off too well.”

Read the rest at s [r] blog

All that–and it’s still June!

Spring Updates

Recent Publications

My two most recently published stories have a very different path to publication. “Historic Preservation,” a micro published in the Irish magazine The Cabinet of Heed, grew out of a writing prompt that took an unexpected turn. I submitted it right after writing it–something I almost never do–and it got accepted right away. Isn’t it magical when that happens?

Historic Preservation
It’s the hours after lunch that make you think about cell death. There’s a word for it, you looked it up: apoptosis.

“A Key into the Language of the Dead,” a longer story, took nearly three years from first draft to publication, with many revisions along the way. But it was worth the wait–it found a wonderful home at the Arizona State University journal Superstition Review, where my story “Child Star” was also published.

Events & Workshops

I’m getting ready for Writefest 2019: a flash fiction workshop and a mini workshop on integrating elements of magical realism into fiction. While I’m there, I’m looking forward to meeting some friends from Spider Road Press and getting my first taste of Texas, which I imagine is as different from Rhode Island as it’s possible to be.

Meanwhile, in Rhode Island, I’m leading a Veterans Writing Group along with the wonderful Jane Granatino, reference librarian at the Barrington Public Library. I love seeing the stories–and the personal connections–that are growing out of this workshop!

I was invited back to Wheaton College for a reading and a mini-workshop helping senior creative writing majors get ready for their senior reading, which I also had a chance to attend. I love that this small school does so much to foster the arts!

Along with teaching, I’ve got lots of new writing projects in progress, too. I just finished another Flashathon writing marathon and wrote 8 stories in one day (and one the day after), so I’ll have a lot of revision to keep me busy.

Flashathon Story #1

I took part in a February Flashathon with a group of writers where we were challenged to write a new flash fiction piece every hour, based on different prompts. The need for speed and the challenge of working with random prompts (some visual, some word-based, some thematic) was both freeing and motivating and encouraged me to experiment with different styles and voices.

I’m excited that one of these new stories has just been published in New Flash Fiction Review, and hoping that more Flashathons are in my future!

The first line is posted below; click to read the rest of the story.

Midnight, and Frank is burying spoons again.

Border Crossings

I was happy to have my new story, “Warsaw Circus,” published in a new journal, Milk Candy Review. They also interviewed me about the story.

Here are the Two Questions they asked, and my answers.

And here’s the original story, which was inspired by a vintage circus photo.

New Year, New Stories

3Elements Literary Review

My story “Throbbing, Like Gristle” was published in the Winter 2019 issue of 3Elements Literary Review. Each issue asks writers to create a story or poem based on three elements. This issue’s elements were gristle, bolt, and kitchen table. It’s always fun to see what these seemingly unconnected prompt words can inspire! (You’ll need to download the issue as a free PDF to read the story.)


I’m happy to have a new story in the beautifully designed online journal Pidgeonholes. This story was inspired by a vintage postcard, and it’s part of a new series of postcard stories I’m working on. I’ve always been fascinated by old postcards, and I love using them in writing classes, as some of my students can attest.

Click the postcard to read the story!

Comic Postcard, 1910

The Last of 2018

Yearly Wrap-up:

Stories published in 2018: 11

Stories republished in anthologies: 1

Nominations: 2

  • “Squeeze Box” from 3 Elements Review nominated for Best of the Net
  • “The Girl Dies at the End” from Monkeybicycle nominated for Best Microfiction

Podcasts: 1

Workshops taught: 1

Workshops attended: 1

It was a quiet year. No great triumphs, but I kept plugging away. I had 11 new stories published, almost one for each month of the year, although they aren’t really that evenly distributed. I was happy to have return engagements in some of my favorite journals–my third appearance in Monkeybicycle and Jellyfish Review and second in Smokelong Quarterly–and excited to publish for the first time in 100 Word Story and Longleaf Review.

I was a finalist in the Black River Press chapbook competition, but didn’t win. That was a disappointment, but I was included in a flash fiction anthology published in Argentina. My story “Under the Ceiling,” originally published in KYSO Flash, was included in a collection of translated works, Instantáneas de Ficción, edited by María Cecelia de la Vega. You can also read it online here.

I also had the opportunity to meet one of my online writing friends, Jacqueline Doyle, taught a flash fiction class at the Barrington Public Library, and served as a judge for the 2018 Write Rhode Island contest. This year, I’m looking forward to leading a writing workshop for veterans and having two stories in my new vintage postcard series published in Pidgeonholes and The Sunlight Press.

Writing News – Win, Place, or Show

So I’ve been writing like crazy this summer, even though I’m also doing a million other things, and I have some good writing news to share.

I just found out that my flash collection The Path the Lost Girls Take is a finalist in the Black Lawrence Press Black River Chapbook Competition! The winner has not been announced yet, but I’m honored to be a finalist. Black Lawrence Press is an outstanding small press that has published writers whose work I admire. All fingers and toes crossed!

My story “Squeeze Box,” published in 3Elements Literary Review, was nominated for the Sundress Publications Best of the Net anthology. If you’d like to read it, it’s in Issue 18. More fingers and toes to cross!

In my “early” writings, when I was a kid, I invented a comic character, “Mee-Too” (no relation to the #MeToo movement, but I rather  like the coincidence) whose claim to fame was that he had 10 legs and 10 arms and rolled around like a pinwheel. If I were that character right now, I’d have all 200 digits diligently crossed.

In addition to the wishing-hoping-praying stuff, I’m also excited to have work accepted by Pidgeonholes, Longleaf Review, Fiction Southeast, and 100 Word Story. These stories will be coming out at different times over the next year and into 2019.

And although I haven’t published a ton this summer, I’m happy with these two pieces that came out recently:

“Things You Think About When You’re a Girl” was in the August issue of Bending Genres.

And “When God Closes a Door” is in the September 5 issue of Jellyfish Review. That marks my third appearance in Jellyfishlandia. I’m going to be keeping an eye out for tentacles. And a close and hopeful watch on that email of mine.




Sometimes It Happens in a Flash

Spry Cookbook 1950s

Circa 1950s recipe booklet

Sometimes stories come together almost instantly. I would say “easy as pie,” except I make pies. I know how much time it takes to get them right!

Sometimes stories take a long time to simmer. An idea might get started, put away, re-started, put away again, and then reappear in a different form. And sometimes, even when a piece feels finished, it can take a long time to find it the right home.

Two examples. My erasure poem, “50 Shades of Spry,” and a flash fiction piece, “The Day Before,” were just published in the Evansville Review.

“50 Shades” grew out of an erasure exercise my writing group did, using old texts about “femininity”–cookbooks, recipe pamphlets, advertisements–and subverting the original messages through erasures. My piece was originally accepted for an anthology that didn’t end up being published, but now it’s published, beautifully, in Volume XXVII of The Evansville Review, a print journal.

“The Day Before,” published in the same journal, started out as two different exercises I assigned in a teen writing workshop a few years ago. One was to start a story with the first line of a song, and one was to describe a particular moment in time. The original image of a “girl in a harbor town,” riding the bus just as the sun was setting, remained constant through all the many forms and titles the story took before finding its way to Evansville.

Meanwhile, back in Rhode Island: I’m teaching a summer flash fiction workshop at the Barrington Public Library. We have a dry-erase whiteboard, and I often ask students to throw out prompt words, characters, settings, or situations. In our first class, we wrote 10-sentence stories, starting with a sentence of 10 words and working our way down to a one-word sentence. One of the prompt words (not shown in the photo, sorry) was “wheelbarrow.”

Story brainstorming board

That word took me to the old song about Molly Malone, and I went with it, giving Molly her own voice. And quite the pissed-off voice it was, because who’d want to be stuck wheeling a wheelbarrow of smelly shellfish throughout eternity?

I liked the voice that came through in that 10-sentence story, so I worked on it a bit more, and several drafts later, sent it out to Bending Genres. Two (!) days later, I found out it’s going to be published in their August issue.

Sometimes it takes two days. Sometimes it takes two years, or longer. A few things I’ve learned:

  1. Always be open to inspiration, however odd or random the source.
  2. Never be afraid to start a new story, even if you have multiple unfinished ones going.
  3. If something’s not working right away, put it a drawer for a while and let it ferment. There will always be new ideas (see #1).