January 2016 Inside • Think big, write small with microfiction • Clara Ray Rusinek Klein on microfiction • Writing prompt: Favorite fairy tale •

Kickstart Your Writing Green

January 2016


• Think big, write small with microfiction
• Clara Ray Rusinek Klein on microfiction
• Writing prompt: Favorite fairy tale
• Want to get published? Focus on what you can control
• Marketing tip: Six Questions For …
• Liar’s League starting in PDX
• Nerdy Words: Farther or further?
• Student showcase: “Exchange Rate” (excerpt) by Kerry McPherson


Think big, write small with microfiction

By Ann Sihler

For something new in 2016, try writing microfiction. This super-short form of storytelling has been around for decades. (Think of “For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn,” which has perhaps incorrectly been attributed to Hemingway.) But microfiction seems to be surging in popularity now. For readers, good microfiction delivers a complete, cohesive story in one satisfying bite. For writers, it can be an enjoyable challenge that hones their skills in telling stories, choosing vivid words, and editing work down to its essence.

How short is microfiction? Everyone has a different answer, but generally microfiction is between 50 and 300 words long. Many markets describe it as less than 100 words. That puts microfiction between flash fiction (which is 200 to 1,000 words) and even shorter forms such as nanofiction, Twitterarture, and six-word stories.

Unlike vignettes and poetry, microfiction is a complete story, with a beginning, middle, and end and traditional story elements such as setting, atmosphere, characterization, plot, and conflict. Yet microfiction also is brief and intimate. Often it plays against reader expectations, leading to a twist or surprise ending. This surprise element makes the microfiction form well-suited to speculative fiction (i.e., fantasy, horror, or science fiction), where the situation may not be what the reader expects—or was led to believe in the first part of the story. Humor, originality, and unusual or surprising situations are valued characteristics in microfiction and often appear in final published pieces.

Microfiction may be quick to read, but don’t expect it to be easy to write. Most pieces require a lot of editing, and it can take a while to get the hang of the form. You may naturally have a flair for it, but if not, find a mentor or microfiction-focused writing group. Traditional advice such as “show, don’t tell” holds for microfiction. It also is helpful to imply, rather than state or summarize. You are seeking to present a select number of vivid words and details that resonate with readers, who can fill in the rest—just like our eyes fill in the missing information and create a complete scene when we drive by a slatted backyard fence. And make sure you have a great hook to draw readers in.

For literary examples of microfiction, read Microfiction Monday Magazine or newcomer A Quiet Courage. Enjoy!

AQC logo

Clara Ray Rusinek Klein on microfiction

Joining us for a Q&A on microfiction is Clara Ray Rusinek Klein, editor of A Quiet Courage, which publishes microfiction and poetry. A Quiet Courage has only been around since April of 2015, but Authors Publish Magazine included in its list of the twelve best literary journals of 2015.

Are you the only person on staff at A Quiet Courage?
Yes. I founded A Quiet Courage totally and completely by myself and I run the journal, manage, edit, and do everything else totally and completely by myself.

Why did you decide to focus on microfiction in A Quiet Courage rather than longer prose forms?
I just really really like microfiction. I really like writing it and reading it, too.

What is it about microfiction that intrigues you?
The packing of the most meaning and the most story into the fewest amount of words possible. Packing a ton of meaning and a ton of story into a tiny little amount of words takes a lot of skill and deftness and dexterity and a lot of command of language and words and how to use them. Using the fewest amount of words possible to convey the most meaning possible. Cutting needless words and leaving only what’s absolutely necessary to tell the story and to convey the meaning and the emotions to the reader.

What does microfiction offer the reader?
Microfiction offers readers a bite-sized story in a few words, a bite-sized emotional wallop that they can read really fast on the go but that can stay in the readers’ minds for a long time afterwards. Bite-sized stories for our Internet-age attention spans, that everybody has time to read. Nobody can say “too long, didn’t read.”

Are other forms of micro writing becoming popular now?
Six-word-stories seem to be pretty popular. Six-word memoirs too. Also haiku.

Where can people read your own writing?

What is A Quiet Courage looking for now? Is it open for submissions?

A Quiet Courage is always looking for new microfiction and new poetry that is 100 words or less in length. Pieces are published on a rolling continuous basis.

Writing Prompt

Writing prompt:

Favorite fairy tale

When you were a child, what was your favorite fairy tale? "Cinderella"? "Jack and the Beanstalk"? "The Ugly Duckling"? Write a modern, micro version of that fairy tale.

Want to get published?

Focus on what you can control

In her recent blog post, author and writing coach Nancy Woods encourages writers to focus on what they have control over: submitting their work to a market.

“As writers, we may not have control over how talented we are, although we can always work on our craft. We may not get to decide what kinds of books are selling or which magazines have gone under. But we do have control over whether we submit our short stories, poems and essays.”

It takes work, but making submissions is like putting a product out on the shelf at the store, for customers to pick up, look at, and possibly buy. They can’t buy if your writing stays on your hard drive or in your desk drawer.

Read more. Then find a market for your work and submit it.

Market tip

Six Questions For …

If you’re searching for markets or want to learn what editors are looking for in submissions, check out “Six Questions For …

In this weekly blog, North Carolina writer/editor Jim Harrington asks an editor half a dozen questions about his or her publication, what the editor is looking for, what might cause a submission to be rejected, and writing in general. Also included are a brief summary of the magazine or journal and a link to its writers guidelines. Posts are searchable by publication name and genre—from absurdist to young adult—to help writers find just the right fit for their work.

Liar’s League starting in PDX

Submissions due February 15

Liar’s League PDX currently is seeking original, unpublished fiction submissions of 800 to 2,500 words on the theme of “Liars and Saints.” Editors will pair selected stories with professional actors who will bring them to life at a live performance April 23, at Literary Arts’s new studio space. This will be Liar’s League’s first show in Portland. It already is running in London, New York, and Hong Kong.

For submission information and a list of themes for later in the year, go to Liar’s League PDX.

Further bus

Nerdy Words: Farther or further?

By Ann Sihler

Dictionaries, editors, and style guides disagree about whether “farther” and “further” can be used interchangeably. If you want to be on the safe side, stick with “farther” for physical distance and use “further” in the sense of more, greater, beyond, or in addition. For example, a car probably would take me farther than my bicycle will, but we would have to discuss that topic further before I would consider owning a car.

Fortunately it’s easy to remember the difference in usage between “farther” and “further” because “farther” has the word “far” in it. Another mnemonic is writer Ken Kesey's bus “Further.” He and his Merry Pranksters covered some physical ground in that bus, to be sure, but they were more interested in expanding their minds. Hence the name “Further."

Where will your writing take you? Farther? Or further?

Student Showcase

“Exchange Rate” (excerpt) by Kerry McPherson

Kerry McPherson writes short, dark fiction that often deals with issues of justice but also has humor sprinkled in. Currently she’s working on a collection of short stories that explores money and how it affects people. Kerry knew she wanted to write starting in third grade but put it off until she was about 30, when she had a dream in which an older version of herself appeared—as a writer! Kerry credits Nancy Woods for keeping her writing, through encouragement and gentle nudging that have helped her grow.

“You’re adorable,” she says as she kisses my lips and squeezes my cheek harder, “but only with short hair.” Her big, brown eyes intensify and she raises her eyebrows in that “Got it?” sort of way while she waits for my response.

I nod. It’s the price I pay.

I used to think she was so mature. A few years ago when I had just turned twenty-one, she bought me my first champagne. Everything was so light and sparkly and new. Her kisses sent me sailing. Now the bubbles have popped and everything is stale.

I need another drink.

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