Flash Fiction: Difficulties of Talking About

Today was self’s first day teaching at the Foothill Writers Conference. She decided to make her first seminar about “Flash Fiction.” Whew, it turned out to be harder to talk about than self had anticipated! Thank goodness self decided to have the handful of students in her seminar do writing exercises! Which actually turned out to be a pretty good idea! Self was amazed at the pieces the students were able to produce, in the space of just an hour!  For prompts, self used the Lydia Davis one-paragraph story, “The Fish,” (from her collection Break It Down); an excerpt from a David Foster Wallace story in Bestial Noise:  The Tin House Fiction Reader, and a one-paragraph story, “Crash,” from the literary journal Alimentum.

Self enjoyed the readings, all of them. Today, the following faculty read: Alan Cheuse, Jane Ciabattari, Kim Wolterbeek, Justin Chin, Scott Inguito, and Barbara Reyes. Is not that a most stellar line-up, dear blog readers? Self has had a surfeit of pleasures today.

A few phrases from the readings jumped out at self:

  • From Jane Ciabattari — “which is not to say that I didn’t suffer from hunger of the skin when he began giving me the cold shoulder”
  • From Kim Wolterbeek — “power cords the size of garter snakes” and a “lake bottom slimy with duck shit and algae”
  • Scott Inguito — about why he wrote a certain poem: “I just wanted to use Oxnard and cormorant in the same poem.”
  • Barbara Reyes — “A wolf’s spirit has just passed” and “This is how my mother’s womb becomes the sea.”

Self just sat there and drank it all in. She even got to ask two questions after the poets’ reading! Self hadn’t planned it, but found her hand rising almost against her will.

Self heard two announcements that saddened her.  The first was from the Dean, Paul Starer, who informed the gathered workshop participants that this may be the final Foothill Writers Conference, unless it manages to become self-sustaining.  There was real consternation among the audience at this news.

The second announcement was from Alan Cheuse:  James Houston, who self taught with at several Foothill Writers Conferences, and also last year at the Mendocino Coast Conference, “died a few months ago.”  Self remembers James and his wife Janice as the sweetest writers she has ever known, and was saddened by the news.

The conference was directed this year by Kella Svetich, one of Foothill’s most fab teachers, with the able assistance of Isabel Seligo. Directing a writing conference is an exhausting, thankless task. Thank goodness Kella was brave enough to take it on.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

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