I had a dry spell for several months, so it felt especially good to have my flash story “A Far Fall” longlisted by Reflex Fiction. I woke up to the lovely surprise of seeing it in print today. You can read it here. (I hope you will!)
Interested in subbing to a free flash fiction contest? Sara Crowley, Managing Editor for The Forge Literary Magazine, posts regularly on writing. Her eloquent rant about writing contests is worth a read. Fair or no, the writer who shells out scads of entry fees is going to get published more than the one who doesn’t. More money = more options. Whenever there’s a free contest, I hustle to take advantage of it.
Click here for information on the FREE flash contest offered by The Forge.
The Forge was one of the first markets to pay me for my work, and I felt deeply valued. Not only that, the editors were interested in the person behind the pen. I remember when Sara asked for an interview. The first time an author is asked for an interview is just…special. If I’m impacted by a work, I appreciate learning about the personality behind it. Sometimes I’m surprised, as in my recent run-in with Chuck Palahniuk, author of The Fight Club. Writers: read the craft book, Consider This. It’s right up there with King, Lamott, and Maass.
Fun fact: Chuck’s work Haunted is so disturbing, it actually makes people faint. No joke. The number of fainters topped a hundred. Need I say more? I AM a fan… Chuck said he was just trying to one-up Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” which earned Jackson tons of hate mail and caused the most canceled subscriptions to The New Yorker, ever.
I want to share Shirley Jackson’s thoughts on the experience of reader-hate. As a horror writer, I am often anxious about how my words will be received. My goal is not just to scare people, but to scare them into deeper thoughts. Lofty, I know. If I only scare and get paid, will I consider myself successful? I don’t know. Would you?
Shirley Jackson (middle schoolers now study her short story “The Lottery”):
One of the most terrifying aspects of publishing stories and books is the realization that they are going to be read, and read by strangers. I had never fully realized this before, although I had of course in my imagination dwelt lovingly upon the thought of the millions and millions of people who were going to be uplifted and enriched and delighted by the stories I wrote. It had simply never occurred to me that these millions and millions of people might be so far from being uplifted that they would sit down and write me letters I was downright scared to open; of the three-hundred-odd letters that I received that summer I can count only thirteen that spoke kindly to me, and they were mostly from friends. Even my mother scolded me: “Dad and I did not care at all for your story in The New Yorker“, she wrote sternly; “it does seem, dear, that this gloomy kind of story is what all you young people think about these days. Why don’t you write something to cheer people up?”
“The Lottery” was published in 1948. I was in high school the first time I read it. I felt sucker-punched. You think you know what’s going on and then—BAM. Broadsided. You had no idea. You were dead wrong. I wonder if the hate wasn’t just about the disturbing nature of the story, but was retaliation against a writer who out-smarted her readers?