Julie C. Eger works full time at home as a massage therapist. She’s rarely around a lot of people at one time. Sometimes she craves the energy of other writers so she looks online for writing groups with whom she can connect. A writer in one group shared the Call for Submission for Anchala Studios’ Flash Fiction anthology. She’d previously written a story from a writing prompt “to write a story about a horse.” Her story, Reining in the Storm, came to her like a bolt of lightning when she remembered a time when her granddaughter was sitting under a horse and she was afraid the girl would get hurt. Her granddaughter’s answer that the horse told her he wouldn’t hurt her was the basis for this story. She’d never submitted a story to an anthology before, but thought, just maybe, the story would be a good fit. It turned out it was!
Her story centers on the pure innocence of children and how easy it is for them to believe anything is possible. We need more of that in our lives.
Julie’s greatest achievement is learning to use tools to help her become a better writer. She writes, “I’m dyslexic and sometimes I want to give up when the words just become too jumbled. I can type much better than I can write longhand, but I love the flow of cursive writing. Most of the time when I get done writing something longhand it looks more like a piece of art than writing. So being able to type gets the story onto the page. Memorizing where the keys were on a keyboard changed everything for me. Learning to transfer my drafts to my Kindle has been a big time saver, as I can edit while I travel – as long as someone else is driving!”
She’s written two full length novels. EENY MEENY CRIMINY CROW and Girl from Grorgamon. EENY was a tribute to a friend. Girl from Grorgamon was a story her grandchildren created and she put it into book form for them. She’s partial to poetry, loves writing drabbles.
Like several contributors, her greatest challenge is finding time to write. Because of her dyslexia, it takes her a long time to get things straight in her head.
“Interruptions are merciless when it comes to how my brain works. My mind flits from idea to idea so fast it’s like a flock of sparrows taking off. I capture as many of those ideas as quickly as I can before something interrupts me. I write on whatever is handy – envelopes, receipts, my hand, I’ve even written on the sole of my shoe to capture an idea and bring it home!”
If she could say one thing that sums up her life, she says it would be this, “Anything is possible for those who believe anything is possible.” And when things seem to be going wrong she’s say, “What good shall come of this?” Then watch for the good things to come. It’s amazing what shows up!
You can find the rest of her story here: bit.ly/READFLASH.
You can connect with Julie at Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B01BK73VZC
Note: Julie uses the pen name of Copper Rose for her darker stories. She uses the pen name A.J. Lawdring for her most uplifting work.
The inspiration for stories comes from the heart and sometimes writing reveals deeper feelings than a writer first suspected. When Judy Burke completed her writing workshop assignment “to describe a place you love being in,” she chose the red chair in her kitchen, because “I had loved sitting there for so long.”
And then it happened, the revealing of truth when she realized she no longer liked “sitting there at all anymore” and went on to write her flash fiction, Finding Things. For Judy, what occurred in writing her story, “illustrates what I love about writing—if you do it well, you have to tell the truth, and usually the writing and the digging around leads you to a NEW truth, and it can be quite surprising.”
Her second flash fiction, The Balloon, was triggered by a cherished memory. Both pieces deal with loss, a challenge “for all of us as we age, certainly for me.”
Her introduction to flash fiction occurred while attending a North Carolina Writers Conference. She loved that flash was “…like fiction distilled somehow, more like prose poetry.”
Memory loss touches her own life as a caretaker for “her older sister Nancy who was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's 11 years ago…so it made such sense to take a chance and submit something. I'm so proud it turned out this well.”
Judy’s greatest achievement is also her greatest challenge. The act of writing invites her to share “emotional truth through words, so that somebody else can feel it.” She draws upon her background as an actor, “that's all about telling the truth, too.” Her love of books, and good writing, she says, “seems a holy thing, a good book and the way it can make you feel. It's daunting to try. And I need to be more disciplined about the doing of it. But it's such a glorious thing when you get close.”
Her current project is “an essay about my sister and our time together; and a piece about an experience I had when I was nine, that's turning into an essay on the nature of grace; and something I think might be a short story...I love how you find out what it wants to be as you go along. I've come to writing seriously late, but I aim to keep at it.”
Read more of Judy’s story here: bit.ly/READFLASH
Stay in touch with Judy and her writing on Facebook.
Caren Stuart is profoundly grateful that her parents never discouraged her desire to be a writer. Her mother had wanted to be a writer, but was successfully discouraged from that pursuit by her parents. Caren says, “My mother would have enjoyed this anthology before and during her Alzheimer’s and I feel like I’m honoring her memory by having a story in this collection.”
After her mother had lost the ability to read and communicate verbally due to Alzheimer’s, Caren says that during their visits, “I’d tell her about my day or week or about things that had happened a long time ago and when I’d run out of stories, I’d read poems to her and talk about what the poems made me think of. She’d smile or laugh, nod her head, pat my arm, enjoying the connection of the sharing of stories.”
Caren’s flash fiction, At the Crossroads, presents both a literal and figurative crossroads, describing an incident outside a diner at the crossroads of Loop Road and Old NC 29, and the direction strangers choose to take upon meeting.
Although she began writing the story from a photo prompt given to her during a workshop, she abandoned much of what she’d written except for the character—this man, she could not forget. Caren says, “that character magically percolated somewhere and with it, his story percolated too. Months later, I woke up with a vivid character in my head, telling me his story. I wrote down his story and polished it up just a bit.”
She believed he’d told her his entire story, but when encouraged to reconsider the ending of her story, she was “delighted to awaken the next morning with Umberto, now the main character, again in my head. I asked him if there was anything more to his story, and he shared that there was.” The story expanded based on this fictional character taking Caren into his confidence.
Caren finds her greatest challenge as a creator to be balance. She explains, “I’m a poet/wordsmith/artist/maker who’s been writing poetry and prose and making art and altered art since I was five years old! I’m constantly trying to not only balance my creating time between writing poetry, writing prose, making art, and making my jewelry and altered art ‘convoluted notions’ creations but also trying to balance my ‘creating’ time with my ‘tweaking’ time and my ‘sharing’ time.”
Her current energies are focused on putting together a poetry collection, a short story collection, and creating a portfolio of her artwork.
Caren is a woman who is passionate about the arts in all of its forms and the connections art allows us to make with ourselves and with each other. She’s currently hosting and serving as the Master of Ceremony for the monthly First Thursdays Take Five Poetry and Prose Open Mic events at Karma Boutique and Coffee Shop in Sanford, NC. Her literary citizenship also extends to compiling and distributing a free monthly newsletter, Items of Writerly Interest, which details upcoming poetry and prose-related events and opportunities of interest in the Central NC area.
To read more of Caren’s story, check out bit.ly/READFLASH
To stay up to date on Caren’s writing and artwork, visit her at https://www.etsy.com/shop/ConvolutedNotions
Stephen James Moore began exploring themes of memory and its loss in his writing and photography after he’d learned of his grandmother’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s disease. Her love of music inspired him to write a poem in her honor, after she confided that Bolero, composed by Maurice Ravel, was her favorite piece of music. At the time he submitted his photograph called Brighthelmston Eye, he was working on a performance during the Mental Health Awareness Week in October 2017 which culminated in a multimedia evening at Bristol Mental Hospital, Glenside Hospital Museum, a former mental health institute.
He says of his black and white photograph, Brighthelmston Eye, of a slow moving ferris wheel on the beach of Brighton, UK, that it “was the name originally used for Brighton, United Kingdom from the 14th to the 18th century. Brighton has had a turbulent history with regards mental health problems within its population. During the 1930’s it was nicknamed ‘Queen of Slaughtering Places’ due to homicides connected to the Trunk Murders.” His photograph was intended to capture an image of “the sacred within the profane."
His greatest challenge is working solo as both a photographer and a writer. Each profession is “a lone sport.” He’s been inspired by his work within “the mental health/learning difficulties care sector, and more specifically, draws upon the “mental health attitudes across the UK.”
Like other contributors, Stephen continues to keep “moving forward, not staying still,” and has been working on several projects.
This includes a poetry and prose collection entitled, “Carniville/Meat Town,” which concerns the use of people with chromosome abnormalities in the American entertainment industry. He hopes to highlight changes in attitude to physical and mental differences in the population.
To view more photographs within the anthology, check it out here: bit.ly/READFLASH.
Further works may be found at Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/stephen_james_moore/
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.