Thursday, April 30, 2009


What's short and sweet and black and white all over? Answer? Robert Swartwood's Hint Fiction Contest. What is it exactly? Here's what Rob says at EDF's Flash Fiction Chronicles:

Me, I want to coin a term, so I’m going to do it here and now: those very, very, very, VERY short stories should be called Hint Fiction. Because that’s all the reader is ever given. Just a hint. Not a scene, or a setting, or even a character sketch. They are given a hint, nothing more, and are asked — nay, forced — to fill in the blanks.

And believe me, there are a lot of blanks. What is the word limit of Hint Fiction? Well, if a drabble is 100 words, and a dribble is 50 words, then how about we say Hint Fiction cannot be anything more than 25 words. One of the biggest hints in Hint Fiction is the title. It’s like the setup to a joke, and the “story” is the punch line. Without the one, the other won’t work.

Check it out the whole article here. Then visit Robert Swartwood’s blog for the HINT FICTION CONTEST, judged by best-selling author Stewart O’Nan. Prizes include a $25 gift certificate to Amazon and a copy of The Best of Every Day Fiction 2008 and who knows what else?

Deadline is midnight April 30th. That's today!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Plugs! London Eye and the Chronic

Edie Montgomery has written a nice review of my story, "The London Eye" at her blog abunchofwordz. This is so cool to me. Like I'm a real writer or something. Made my day. Made my month! Thanks, Edie, for the kind words.

And Bill Ward, writer extraordinaire has done the same for EDF's Flash Fiction Chronicles. Can't tell you how wonderful it is to see writers I admire checking out the blog and writing that we are accomplishing our mission: a discussion of quality flash fiction and how to do it! Here's a list of Bill's stories online.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

What's Wrong With Me and My Comfort Zone

Didn't make the finals of The CWA Debut Dagger 2009 Contest sponsored by The Crime Writers' Association in the UK. Disappointed? Yes I am because the fifty pages of WHAT CAME BEFORE seemed pretty good to me.

Of course, I wrote the dang novel and mine is a typical authorial response. It's either adorations for one's own work-in-progress or clear unadulterated loathing. But I don't hate this novel. I love it and I've been back at work on it. There's no reason I can't get this sucker finished. None. Other than fear of finding out it is, after all, shit.

But I've learned to accept rejection as part of my personal scheme of things. I'm comfortable with rejection. I can deal beautifully with it. So does that mean I'm more comfortable with failure than success? Is it possible that there's a deep groove in my programming that keeps me locked down when the prison gate is wide open? How can that be? Or is it just as simple as FEAR.

Is it the only thing that stands in my way of getting this novel ready for submission? I complain of daily distractions from my REAL life, but there's only one reason I haven't edited it, shaped it, laid in the good thematic, pay-off, symbolic stuff that's in my head. FEAR. I have it in spades.

The question is, is it fear of failure...or success?


  • No one will like it.
  • I can't sustain it.
  • I'll write myself in a corner, fall into an abyss, get lost in the maze, give up.
  • I will offend African-Americans, Hispanics, the Japanese, and whites since it's an LA story and has to be authentic.
  • I will fail at authenticity.
  • I will constantly repeat myself.
  • I will write something so ridiculous that there will be a plethora of holes in walls throughout the world from readers hurtling my tome across the room.
  • I will be embarassed and humiliated.
  • I will be discovered as a phony, poseur, a pretender.
  • People won't read it. (Well, the main reason to date is no one will read it because it's locked up in my computer while I'm busy taking naps and playing Spider Solitaire).
  • I can't write anything longer than 2000 words that will sustain interest.
  • Basically, I suck.

But the novel's not bad. Really. And I have to keep remembering my plan, a small step (or chapter) at a time.

What about FOS?

  • If I succeed with one novel, I'll never be able to write again.
  • Everyone I know will think they're in it.
  • I'll be sued and ridiculed.
  • I won't be able to get anything else done.
  • I'll fail at booksignings and have to replace everyone's books because I've misspelled my own name.
  • I'll offend book sellers and fans because I suffer from foot-in-mouth disease.
  • I'll have to lose weight so I'll look slick and successful and won't get tired on book tours. (Ixnee on the an-pay akes-cay.)
  • I won't be able to wear black because it'll be too hot in Tallahasee.
  • Oh, worse! I'll have to leave my house and be kind to mean people.
  • I'll be permanently out of my comfort zone!

Natalie Goldberg once said that the closer we get to breaking free of our comfort zones, the more deeply-buried fear will fight back. So maybe all this angst is a good thing???

Special NOTE: I may need to keep making these declarations of inadequacy for a few more days. It's obnoxious. I know that. But what's a public forum good for if I can't use it to browbeat myself into action?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009


Visit RobertSwartwood's blog for the Hint Fiction Contest, judged by best-selling author Stewart O’Nan.

Prizes include a $25 gift certificate to Amazon and a copy of The Best of Every Day Fiction 2008.

Read more about Robert's take on HINT FICTION at Flash Fiction Chronicles.

Deadline is midnight April 30th. Enter now.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Saturday LIFE Assessment


The new EDF Flash Fiction Chronicles has been launched with some excellent posts and I'm finally getting into a routine with getting it out there. Still open for submissions, of course, from writers of flash, published or not. The blog will hopefully be an archive of articles on writing from a variety of perspectives. When we have enough posts to warrant the set-up, I plan to add a page to the blog that will be organized by topic rather than by date only. This way if you are struggling to get writing on any particular day, you can click on that index page and go to a list of articles on motivation or process and hopefully, this will be the tilting point to get you typing away at a work-in-progress or a brand new story.

But we're not ready for that yet.


What's that all about? Oh, yeah. The neglected novel. January saw me swearing to the keyboard that I would put in the hours to shape the 400 pages I've produced on that project, yet after I prepared the first fifty pages for a contest or two, I set it aside once again for the sweet pleasure of writing short.

What I have to do is decide, do I finish my opus or ignore it? Decide. Listening to Tony Robbins a few years ago, I was struck by the simplicity of one of his "tenets." Decide, he said and I'm paraphrasing here, is to choose one option and cut off all other possibilities. The root of the word "decide" is to "cut off." I liked that. Could life really be that simple?

Can we really just decide to follow a path and then do it thereby achieving a goal? This must be what determination is, to raise the priority of one activity over others in order to finish it to the best of our abilities. The question is, can I do it for the novel?

Why not? I've kept writing for years despite much floundering, shit product, and little confidence. If I can still be at the computer, writing and talking about writing, then I must have that determination. I just need to decide where my focus is and follow through.

So I'm going to decide. My focus needs to be the novel. I've gotten myself published in the short market which by the way I regard as a wonderful accomplishment. I've met the goal to submit to the new anthology at Sisters in Crime. I'm almost finished with a piece of flash I've promised to one more person. I must stop trolling for motivation to write something short and gear myself for the long journey to Novelland.

I'm going to do it. Starting? Today! And as Tony probably didn't say, no ands, ifs, or buts. Except maybe I should do that index page for the Chronicles because then I'd be searching out the motivation blogs and reading them I'd feel motivated...

Sunday, April 05, 2009

I'm such a TWIT for Flockage

Yes, I've succombed to the lure of vanity--of having my first thoughts broadcast via the net over the face of the globe--by joining Twitter! But I tell myself I've done it for a good cause. Not for me, oh no! But for the general good of Flash Fiction Writers Everywhere! I'm a mere conduit for all that discussion, right?

My secret self wonders, "Sure, Gay, you're doing it for THEM. Like you know what THEY need, but we know your dirty little secret. You want more pages on Google. You want people to flock to you!"

No. Really I don't. (You believe that?)

Most of us want "flockage," though many deny it. It's human nature to desire attention. Flock to EDF's new Flash Fiction Chronicles at TWITTER. And of course visit the new blog itself at Flash Fiction Chronicles.

Start some flockage of your own

Flash Fiction Chronicles would like to post your article on writing. Find out more at Submit a Blog Post.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

An Important thing to remember about writing: Patience

There is nothing new or special about feeling it necessary to apologize when a writer hands a new piece of work to a friend or fellow writer. We all have that impulse initially. What we read "out there" is polished, professional, perfect, and we're NOT. Or at least that's how we think when we are new.

The higher one's standards are the more difficult and treacherous the terrain. There's only one way to deal with the universal problem of being embarrassed and humiliated by our own inability to get something we're proud of in a short period of time.

Patience: Have faith in the process because it is a process. None of us have the gift of words flowing perfectly the first time through the tips of our fingers.

We need to let go of that expectation and tell ourselves: This draft is just fine right now. I'll fix it later. Just get what's coming NOW down now and worry about making it better the next time through. You see, THE NEXT TIME THROUGH, AND THE TIME AFTER THAT, AND THE TIME AFTER THAT, AND THE TIME AFTER THAT, OVER AND OVER again is what makes a piece finally not be embarrassing and humiliating to ourselves.

The willingness to go back and look our "mistakes" up and down and fix them, refine them, reedit them, spell check them, etc. that's the path that leads to writing bliss.

Writing is a Process. The rough draft is about content...making it up.The second draft is about structure...making sense.The third draft is about language...making it clear.The fourth draft is about perfection...making it publishable.And that's just the big drafts, not counting all the little drafts in between.

As Malcolm Gladwell states in his book, Outliers, it takes over 10,000 hours to be come an expert so there's no reason in the world to apologize that you haven't reached perfection yet.

And if that doesn't make the point, then hears what Sean Lovelace put on his blog today after seeing David Sedaris at a reading:

Sedaris read only works-in-progress. In fact, he had just written many of these drafts, and explained that giving readings is how he works and reworks material. He actually stood there with a pencil line-editing the pages as he read aloud. Very cool, and I hope my students noticed the process. I also hope they heard
him say, “My essays need about 12 revisions. I usually give revision #9 to my editor.”

And you asked for nachos, Sean? They're not only for snacks anymore.