Linda Johnson’s love of reading began at an early age. When her six-year-old sister was learning to read in school, Linda asked her mom to teach her to do the same. She was four at the time. Later, when Linda entered kindergarten, her teacher would ask her to read to the class whenever she needed a break.
Linda’s love of reading led to her love of writing. The idea for the anthology — extending the reading life for someone with memory loss — combined her two loves.
Her flash fiction, Crossing Guard, centers on a middle-school girl who is embarrassed by her mother’s need to always do the “right” thing instead of the “cool” thing. She admits it is based on “a true event that happened as my mom drove me to school one day.” She updated the story to present day and added a fictional ending which causes her narrator to reevaluate and appreciate her mother. From a brief memory, Linda created a full story with a character who experiences an “ah-ha” moment of personal growth.
Linda’s other recent publications have been in the anthology, Carolina Crimes: 21 Tales of Need, Greed and Dirty Deeds and the Red Clay Review. Another story, Awakenings, will be published in the upcoming Boundless anthology which will launch in mid-April at the Unbound Book Festival in Columbia, Missouri. Her story is about a woman who is dealing with her husband’s decision to transition to a woman, a story inspired by Bruce Jenner transitioning to Caitlyn Jenner and the subsequent national dialogue on this topic.
In addition to her writing life, Linda volunteers as a reading tutor through the Chatham Educational Foundation’s SOAR program. She finds her volunteer hours rewarding and hopes to bring the joy of reading to a little girl who is currently struggling with learning how to read, but like Linda, the girl shares “a positive outlook and drive to learn.” Tutoring is Linda’s way to complete the circle in her reading and writing life.
If you’d like to read more of Linda’s story, check out the book here: bit.ly/READFLASH
If you’d like to keep up with Linda and her writing, visit her website: lindajohnson.us
Gregg’s focused on flash fiction in the last couple years, and when he heard about this amazing, inspired project, he was thrilled to submit stories to be considered for the collection. He loves flash for its memorable ‘nuggets,’ and to use these to entertain a person who is memory impaired, well, it’s just a terrific idea.
Two flash pieces are included in the anthology, the first, Calling, is about two Irish sixteen-year-olds in a telephone box outside St. Mary’s in County Mayo, one calling her beau, the other relishing the closeness to her best friend. The second story, Ojos y Risas (Eyes and Smiles), centers on a mother, father, and son in a food van serving a drunk and bigoted customer. Both stories hope to deliver a message of tolerance, or love of diversity, by appreciating each other and ourselves as we try to express ourselves and make people see from a different perspective.
Both stories were inspired by local writers. The first from a photo prompt handed out during a wonderful (and free) Nancy Peacock’s ‘2nd Saturday’ sessions at Flyleaf Books. Nancy’s been doing this workshop for several years and so many writers appreciate this service to the literary community. She’s currently serving as the 2018 Piedmont Laureate. The other story was inspired by dear Jane Schlensky’s pitch about a food truck outside the prison where a death-row inmate waits execution.
Gregg primary goal as a writer “is to reach people and help people love reading and think, especially outside ourselves.” His proudest accomplishment includes his short fiction collection, My Father Moves Through Time Like a Dirigible published by Livingston Press in 2014 and the long-ago-now twice participation in the 24-hour Novel-Writing Contest, a 7 am-7am marathon, both “exhausting and exhilarating.”
His greatest challenges include plotting — “I’m so much more character-oriented, but as my wife says, something’s gotta happen in a story” — and self-discipline. The phrase more than one writer uses to motivate themselves, ‘butt in chair,’ is “as much a formula as I’ve got, but damn if something doesn’t happen when I follow this rule.”
More recently, Gregg’s been working on flash and longer short stories, especially using historical events affecting contemporary characters, a kind of historical fiction. He’s putting together another collection. He also has a novel, Watching Johnny Guitar, partly based on the 1954 western starring Joan Crawford and Sterling Hayden and partly about a son’s quest to understand his father, a distant alcoholic who worked on the film. He’s trying to tackle the issue of “securing the right to use lines and describe scenes from the movie itself.”
If you’d like to read more of Gregg’s story, check out the book here: bit.ly/READFLASH
If you’d like to stay in touch with Gregg’s writing, well, he hopes to have his website, greggcusick.com back up soon, (he mumbles something about the Russians,) but you can always reach him at email@example.com and he even admitted that he'd enjoy hearing from you.
A weird quirk of fate inspired Zachariah Claypole White’s flash fiction, Books from Keida. In the summer of 2017, a local man passed away. He was an avid collector of poetry. On his deathbed, he asked his wife to give his collection to someone who would appreciate it. As a poet, Zach’s name came to her through a mutual friend. She called and offered him the collection, which he thought was the equivalent of several boxes of books. It turned out to be fourteen boxes guarded by a dog who wasn’t eager to see him take possession of his master’s property! He spent the summer sorting through the boxes, and in doing so, discovered these beautiful letters from a woman who was clearly a close friend of the man, although the two hadn’t seen each other in many years. He imagined their relationship, and his story was born.
When he heard about the project, he’d already completed a rough first draft of his piece. However, he’d put it aside to focus on other projects, because he wasn’t sure how the story wanted to progress. Hearing about the anthology reignited his interest in his characters—Keida and Alexander—and he realized they were older than he had originally thought. Once he figured that out, they began to speak to him.
In recent years, he’s also watched two of his grandparents struggle with memory loss. He wanted to write something that would not only be accessible to them but might pay homage—in some small way—to the support they have given him.
Using grief as a prism, Books from Keida explores how two people, who only met once, built a life-long relationship through the exchange of letters and literature. His story also suggests how love of the written word can connect two individuals in a unique way. It’s a story about grief, but it centers on how someone manages the physical reminders of loss—in this case, a massive collection of letters and books. There is also an element of what-if in the story. Those haunting questions: What could we have been? What if we lived near each other? Keida and Alexander met only once but formed a deep connection that transcended distance. They never developed a romantic love, they never met again in person, and yet they cultivated something powerful that sustained them over the years.
One of Zach’s most meaningful accomplishments happened recently when Scalawag published his poem, ‘Dogwood Holy’. It was his first piece to be accepted after college, and he got paid! Realizing that one of his favorite journals valued his writing enough to pay him was incredibly empowering. Another contender would be from high school, when he won a national medal in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and attended the recognition ceremony at Carnegie Hall. The Empire State Building was light silver and gold in honor of the winners. The whole trip was surreal.
More recently, Zach’s been editing his first book of poetry entitled Roads I Know, which examines the politics of home. After four years away, he re-encountered North Carolina and its history of violence. Roads I Know is his attempt to make peace with a series of questions: What does it mean to call North Carolina home? How do we define a place? How do we locate ourselves within a landscape saturated with racialized hatred and violence?
Following in the footsteps of C.D. Wright’s One with Others and Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, he decided that such questions demanded more than lyric poetry; they demanded research and interpretation. A beta reader of the manuscript coined a term for his poem calling it ‘a docu-poem.’ Combining interviews, archival investigations, and autobiographical reflections, it explores local history, contemporary politics, the 2016 election, the aftermath of Hurricane Fran in 1996, and the 1898 Wilmington insurrection—the only coup in U.S. history. Roads I Know is Zach’s attempt to reconcile the love of his home with the violence that permeates not only the language of the state, but its very geography.
Zach also shared that he has fought OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) and GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) for most of his life. He also deals with depression. His struggles with mental illness—the victories and the defeats—have shaped who he is as a person and as a writer. Writing, he says, has literally saved his life: the simple act of telling his story, whether through the lens of fiction or poetry, is how he processes his world. Furthermore, as national dialogues focus on mental illness, it is more important than ever that those who are able to talk about their personal experiences publicly do so. The stigma of mental illness must end, and that will only happen if passionate, informed voices are added to the debate. So many people live with mental illness in silence and isolation. He hopes his writing speaks to them and reminds them that no one should be ashamed of who they are, the illnesses they carry, or the struggles they face.
To read more of Zach’s story, check out the anthology here: bit.ly/READFLASH
To stay in touch with Zach and his artistic life like his Facebook page.
Note: This spotlight was written by Zachariah.
Photograph © Ron Puchala.
.Judy Guenther’s photographs, What’s Out There?, and Her Eyes, featured in the anthology’s centerfold collage, evoke longing, seeking, needing, and questioning.
She photographed the young Chinese girl in What’s Out There? in a region where homes were lit and heated with charcoal. By her observation, Judy concluded that there “didn’t appear to be much in the way of comfort or play things.”
In her second photograph, Her Eyes, taken in Istanbul, the young woman accompanied her younger brother to buy bread at a local kiosk. She was aware of Judy photographing her from a distance, yet “her look was inquisitive, as much about me as I was inquisitive about her world inside a black burqa with only her eyes showing.”
Judy’s attraction to this project stemmed from appreciating the natural pairing of writing with visual arts. “While the human imagination can conjure a wealth of mental images from stories, having a visual image to illustrate a story brings a type of focus that strengthens the full impact of the writing.” Fourteen of her photos were featured in the Autumn-themed issue of Vignette Review, an online periodical from Chicago. She’s an artist who has tries to “capture more than just a travel picture” striving for the unusual and hoping to include “an element or elements that make the viewer linger on the image.” Her desire is that her images evoke feelings in the viewer.
Because travel has become commonplace, Judy’s greatest challenge as a photographer is to capture iconic locations, like the Tah Mahal, “in a different light and without scores of other tourists in the way. That sometimes means going early or late to a location, finding a corner of a complex before others arrive or truly seeking a different view from a small plane or helicopter.”
Nine years ago, Judy retired from “a stressful job with the government.” Three years later, with the encouragement of her photographer husband, who inspired her to learn the technology of capturing good images, she “picked up photography.”
Judy’s other interests include being a life-long cellist and singer. She’s someone who has “always enjoyed creating art through music.”
To see her photos in the anthology, check out bit.ly/READFLASH.
To view her images online, go to her website: www.judyguentherphotography.com
Credit for Judy's photograph above goes to Alison Shaw Workshops.
Joy Ross Davis’ flash fiction, Silver Sequins, gives “a glimpse into the life of Jeanie Martin, a woman controlled entirely by her husband. And then one day she sees a sequined sweater in the window of a luxury store. Her desire for the sweater brings about dramatic changes in her life.” She hopes to inspire readers in similar toxic relationships to get out and restore their lives. It’s her greatest accomplishment, she says, having her writing “inspire and move people.”
Her memoir, Mother, Can You Hear Me?, set to be re-released on April 18th, offers that kind of inspiration to the caregivers of loved ones experiencing memory loss. She wrote these heartwarming vignettes during the three years she took care of her own mother.
After a twenty-five-year career as a college English professor, she traveled to Ireland and worked as a writer and photographer, publishing travel articles and photos for an Irish travel agency. She has been a contributing feature writer for a local newspaper and has published articles in Southern literary magazines.
As a writer, Joy considers her greatest challenge to be “letting go of a finished draft.” She edits relentlessly, and “even goes back long after publication.” Her readers appreciate her releasing her books which include The Devereaux Jewel, Countenance, Emalyn’s Treasure, The Transformation of Bitty Brown, and The Beggar’s Miracle. They eagerly await the release of her most recent novel, The Witch of Blacklion, set in the early 1900s in Blacklion, Ireland about a woman who is shunned and feared by the people in her town and unjustly accused of witchcraft.
Want to read more of Joy’s flash fiction, check here: bit.ly/READFLASH
Stay in touch with Joy by joining her Angel Pack.
Or visit her Amazon Author's page.
Sharon Bader’s flash fiction, On An Angel Falling to Earth, features an elderly beekeeper helping a angel when she is struck by lightning and falls to Earth. Her story was inspired by Alan Gurganus’ story, It Had Wings, which she loved immensely and decided to write her own version of such an event.
Sharon started out as an elementary school teacher interested in Montessori methods but only taught at that level for two years. By the time her youngest was ready for preschool, she was ready for something very different and returned to school, picked up an engineering sequence in geology and completed a Master of Science in Geological Oceanography. She taught college for a while, worked briefly for the US Geological Survey, and then worked as an instructional designer developing computer-based training for high tech companies in Silicon Valley.
In her younger days, Sharon was a poet, and quite certain that she “would never write fiction” given that she was a mother who “couldn’t even make up a good bedtime story for my kids.” But, her life’s experience taught her the art of making things up and she is “loving every verb and noun” she uses “to fashion a good story.”
Somewhere in life’s journey, Sharon must have instilled the love of storytelling into her children and grandchildren. Unbeknownst to the anthology’s editors, one of contributors turns out to be Sharon’s granddaughter. Memory loss is not new to their family. Last year, Sharon moved her mother from Florida into her Chapel Hill home to care for her as her mother’s condition worsened and she was no longer able to live on her own. Here is a multi-generational family who knows the stresses and concerns of aging with a debilitating condition.
Sharon’s greatest challenge as an author is “putting aside my inhibitions in order to write with power and universality.” She credits Cheryl Strayed with “the most important writing advice” taken to heart: writers should lay aside the old dictum to write what they know and instead write who they are.
Her latest writing project is a collection of short stories about connections between people across time, place, family, and/or culture. The working title is Connections.
To read more of Sharon’s story, check out the book: bit.ly/READFLASH
To stay in touch with Sharon, friend her on Facebook.
In 1988 Chuck Taylor split his time between living in a tent in the woods and in the back of his station wagon. His flash fiction, Re-Creation, draws from his experiences from that year.
Chuck says his is “a tale of marital conflict” and “a flight story.” He considers the decision to leave a marriage as something “positive and negative” but leaves the conclusion up in the air, because “in flight you are up in the air.” (And yes, his double meaning is intended.)
Fast forward thirty years and he’s a retired Texas A & M University professor who taught creative writing. He filled his days in between the past and the present performing as a magician and balloon clown “at magic shows and children’s birthday parties, churches, and schools.” He also worked as a bookstore clerk, survey taker, janitor, soft water salesman, maintenance man, and animal lab assistant. He served as a poet-in-residence for the City of Salt Lake, was a part-owner of Paperback Plus in Austin, and operated Slough Press for forty-one years.
His photography takes up a good chunk of time, although “good cameras and lenses are expensive” and the cost remains a challenge. He loves to travel and owned a recreational vehicle which also fueled his story.
As a writer, Chuck struggles with “finishing things. It’s hard to let go.” Despite his reluctance, he has let go of several books, even won the Austin Book Award for his work, What Do You Want, Blood? Given all his published books, he contends he has no favorites, says he “loves them all,” although his readers appear to prefer his poetry book, Like Li-Po Laughing at the Lonely Moon.
He’s currently working on two writing projects. One is a prose book called The Book of Indefinite Conclusions. The other is a prose book called Tales of Beat Glory, about “being poor and about beatitudes or spirituality.” He’s closely allied to the beat movement in American and world literature.
If you’d like to read more of Chuck’s story, it’s available on Amazon.
If you’d like to keep up with Chuck’s writing, check out his Amazon writer’s page.
If you’d like to wander his photos, take a look here.
A subreddit focused on the topic of crazy Mothers-In-Law inspired Alyssa Vaughn’s flash fiction, Reactions, although she contends her own is not crazy. She leans toward shorter fiction like flash to temper her predilection for too much detail in her stories. “The low word count really makes me cut to the chase and focus on the action.”
Reactions is her first attempt “at anything like a mystery, and dishes out a nice, hearty helping of family drama.” She delivers a strong message to her readers to never assume that the “people around you have the same moral boundaries you do.”
Alyssa attributes her love of mysteries to her grandfather who hooked her on Agatha Christie from a very young age. Her ghost story, The Tape Recorder, is out in the new anthology from So Say We All, Black Candies: The Eighties! The story is loosely based on “an annoying habit my sister had of unearthing embarrassing artifacts from our childhood whenever I came home from college.” More than one reader will identify with such sibling antics.
Life’s distractions interfere with finishing her stories and submitting them for publication. She works hard to not let things get in the way of her commitment to “making writing a life goal and not a hobby.” Still, as a young mother, she also pays attention to “when to say playing dinosaurs with my one-year-old is more important."
Oh, and one final note — Alyssa’s heart holds a secret desire that “someday, someone would look at my Twitter and appreciate how hilarious I am.” Make her dreams come true. twitter.com/msalyssaenvy (She really is quite funny!)
In the meantime, if you’d like to read more of her story, check it out here: bit.ly/READFLASH
Stay close to Alyssa’s writing and publications, on her author’s Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/alyssaenvywrites.
photo credit © Gerardo Cuenca (thank you!)
In Charles Leipart’s flash fiction, “The Sleep of the Righteous,” his character, Meg, awakens from a recurring dream with an epiphany of purpose. She needs to share this vision with husband Sam, so that they both might achieve a blessed sleep. Charles contends he frequently wakes from similar “strange dreams” which visit “powerful visions that can provide a revelation of a much needed resolution to an internal conflict.”
Charles is a native of Chicago, a graduate of Northwestern University, and a member of the National New Play Network’s New Play Exchange. He lives and writes in New York City and is a member of The Dramatist's Guild and The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers.
When reading his piece, Charles’ extensive playwright background becomes apparent. He sets the scene quickly and precisely by engaging the reader with simple (and yet not so simple) dialogue.
Charles hopes “to continue discovering new things--hopeful things—in spite of a world increasing confusing and angry.” His greatest challenge lies in keeping his writing “truthful and surprising. Revealing the truths we know in our hearts but don’t take the time to examine.” Perhaps he’ll uncover these hidden truths during the night.
To read more of his story, check out: bit.ly/READFLASH
To keep up with his writing and stage productions of his plays, visit his website here: http://www.charlesleipart.com/
Christine Rodriguez’s mother inspired her flash fiction, Up in Smoke, about two sisters “discussing the lifelong tendencies of their mother and how these habits contributed to her success.” It’s a familiar conversation two grown women (or men) might have about a parent which grounds the reader quickly into her story. Her mother, a “hard worker,” used her creative skills and talents to build a successful business. No slouch herself, Christine’s writing, what she calls her ‘hobby scribblings,’ have been published in numerous publications. She feels fortunate about her own success since “many people don’t heed the call or have the opportunity.”
Christine faces several challenges as a writer. Her energy level ebbs and flows which sometimes limits her writing output. Her curiosity and interest in too many things also gets in her way – she gets bored easily and enjoys a range of eclectic subjects. She’s “dabbled in poetry, children's literature and a variety of genres.” Her writing also leans toward dark fiction which “many people are reluctant to delve into, already having enough darkness in their lives these days.” Her latest completed story is a 50’s-style sci-fi called Doom Buggies.
Her advice to would-be writers/artists would be “to join groups of like-minded people. The stimulation from other people's work and conversation creates more ideas and inspiration than you can use in a lifetime. Share your talents with anyone and everyone that will look or listen. It's satisfying to you and uplifting for them.”
To read more of her flash fiction, bit.ly/READFLASH
To stay in touch with her writing, go to her author's website at On the Brink which lists all her published and accepted work coming soon to a book or publication.
Anchala Studios, LLC is a micro press based in Chapel Hill, NC which selects projects appealing to broad audiences and which enrich the community. The Collection: Flash Fiction for Flash Memory is its first publication.