A GREAT Cause: Help Smokelong Quarterly Redesign Its Site!

They are nearly halfway to their goal! Please help out if you can! Smokelong Quarterly’s Kickstarter Campaign!

From Senior Editor, Tara Laskowski: In the last 11 years, we have published hundreds of authors and artists, both well-established and emerging, and have hosted the Kathy Fish Fellowship, which has supported five writers-in-residence since 2007. And we have NEVER charged our writers for submitting, NEVER charged contest fees for our contests, and ALWAYS kept our submissions open 24/7, 365 days a year.

The minimum raised for this campaign will help support the initial redesign costs for the web site. If that goal is met and funds exceed our minimum, we will be able to do much more. Below are our goal levels for all the fun stuff we’d like to achieve!

Goal Levels:

$3000 [LOCKED--Minimum]–We will be able to redesign the SLQ web site.

$4000 [LOCKED]–We can even pay something to the wonderful wonderful web developer who is currently working pro bono because he loves us..

$5000 [LOCKED]– We will offer the Kathy Fish Fellowship and writer-in-residence (a $500 reward) to one writer in 2015-16.

$6000 [LOCKED] — We will pay all of the writers we publish in 2015 $25 per story.

Please help us continue to publish the best flash fiction on the planet!

We are a labor of love. All of the funds raised will go directly back to SmokeLong production and promotion, contest prizes, and other initiatives.

And remember: Funds pledged to a Kickstarter project are not deducted until the project is complete. No funds go to the project unless the entire amount is raised, so if you pledge $$ and we don’t hit our goal, you don’t ever pay it out. Kickstarter crowdfunding projects must make 100% of the money needed for a project.

Giveaway: 3 signed copies of TOGETHER WE CAN BURY IT

430239_329813657062269_180459741997662_984752_381805125_nEDIT: Ok, that’s it. I’m sending out FIVE copies, as it happens, because you’re all so quick. Thanks you guys!


Okay, my friends, I have some  nervous energy I need to dispel and also, some copies of my flash/short story collection. So I thought I’d sign and give away three today! I never do stuff like this. It feels vaguely weird, but like I said, nervous energy and can’t think of anything to blog about today. 


First three to comment here will get a signed copy sent to well, anywhere in the U.S.! And if you already have a copy, it’s okay to comment here and get a free book for a friend too. Go!

Flash Fiction: Another Story About Me and Some Guy

Very happy to hear the news that one of my favorite litmags, Night Train, founded in 2002 and edited by Rusty Barnes, is back and looking for submissions here: http://www.nighttrainmagazine.com/. I’ve been lucky enough to publish a few stories in Night Train and this is a good way to introduce my next topic of flash fiction: the one paragraph story/prose poem. I love, love, love this form and use it a lot and lots of writers do it much better than I do. I will post their one paragraph stories here in the coming weeks (and if you have one, please post it in the comments section, I’d love to read it!) What I love about the one paragraph story is the tight encapsulation and breathlessness it achieves which suits a certain type of story to a T. Here is my one paragraph story, originally published in the great Night Train:

frost-378599_640 copyAnother Story About Me and Some Guy


We met because I hate the actor Bruce Willis. I knew he was in the movie, I thought I could manage, but eventually I had to excuse myself to the lobby. That’s when I saw Martin Ripley, blowing out his sinuses into a napkin. I squirted butter on my popcorn and said is there any chance you could do that outside? He gave me a destroyed look that, I confess, broke my heart. He was super tall and slightly malformed in a way that indicated possible chromosome damage. Do you like Bruce Willis? I asked, and he said sure, who doesn’t like Bruce Willis? And I said me, I can’t stand him and Martin Ripley said well… He tossed the napkin and asked if I’d like to go with him. Where, I said and he said anywhere. Jupiter. Cincinnati. He said first he had to take Maalox to his mother and there was the dry cleaning to pick up, a book to return. I thought about the guy, the other guy, I left in the theater, but here was Martin Ripley, smiling and introducing himself and shaking my hand. I looked up into his face, the asymmetry of his jaw like the asymmetry of my chest and I said let’s go. Spring was breathing puffs of steam out of the asphalt and the sun on the melting snow hurt my eyes and Martin Ripley drove as if the two of us were on a long trip, something important and urgent, as if someone far away had died and here we were, speeding to the wake.

Still writing…?

Here is Dani Shapiro’s answer to a question we writers get a lot and it has inspired the hell out of me this morning:

“I usually nod and smile, then quickly change the subject. But here is what I’d like to put my fork down and say: Yes, yes, I am. I will write until the day I die, or until I am robbed of my capacity to reason. Even if my fingers were to clench and wither, even if I were to grow deaf or blind, even if I were unable to move a muscle in my body save for the blink of one eye, I would still write. Writing saved my life. Writing has been my window–flung wide open to this magnificent, chaotic existence–my way of interpreting everything within my grasp. Writing has extended that grasp by pushing me beyond my comfort, beyond safety, past my self-perceived limits. It has softened my heart and hardened my intellect. It has been a privilege. It has whipped my ass. It has burned into me a valuable clarity. It has made me think about suffering, randomness, good will, luck, memory, responsibility, and kindness, on a daily basis–whether I feel like it or not. It has insisted that I grow up. That I evolve. It has pushed me to get better, to be better. It is my disease and my cure. It has allowed me not only to withstand the losses in my life but to alter those losses–to chip away at my own bewilderment until I find the pattern in it. Once in a great while, I look up at the sky and think that, if my father were alive, maybe he would be proud of me. That if my mother were alive, I might have come up with the words to make her understand. That I am changing what I can. I am reaching a hand out to the dead and to the living and the not yet born. So yes. Yes. Still writing.”~Dani Shapiro, from “Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life”

Chiseling the Marble

All of my focus the last few weeks has been on the non-writing aspects of my life. Health issues, life issues, children issues are in the forefront and must be dealt with. At times like this, I feel it necessary to draw back from daily writing and networking on social media. I draw into myself a little, too. There is so much to think about, do, and simply feel. When things return to something a little closer to normal, I know I’ll resume my habit of settling myself every morning in my writing room. I’ll drink my coffee and look out my window awhile. I’ll take pen in hand and begin again. That is simply the nature of life and living. Beginning again. Over and over.

Still-Writing-by-Dani-ShapiroHowever, even when I’m not writing, I’m reading and thinking about writing. Right now I’m reading “Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life” by Dani Shapiro. It’s marvelous. It reminds me quite a bit of Natalie Goldberg’s gently inspiring “Writing Down the Bones” (I have a story about that book and what it means to me that I’ll blog about someday). There are so many quotable passages in this book, but I’ll share just this one that really resonated with me this morning:

“Don’t think too much. There’ll be time to think later. Analysis won’t help. You’re chiseling now. You’re passing your hands over the wood. Now the page is no longer blank. There’s something there. It isn’t your business yet to know whether it’s going to be prize-worthy someday, or whether it will gather dust in a drawer. Now you’ve carved the tree. You’ve chiseled the marble. You’ve begun.”

So go and chisel something today. For me. I promise I’ll be back to join you soon.

Flash Fiction: Strings



The aunt and uncle’s farm, early spring, the earth smell of unsown fields, and Sunday lunch. My uncle sprawled in the recliner, his work boots raised like an affront. Burning Camel stuck to his lower lip. Snoring. The aunts and my mother drinking coffee, my aunt whispers about strange things coming out of her when she goes to the bathroom. My mother spies us on the floor pretending to play crazy eights. She indicates with her cigarette the back door. All our lives we’ve been following that little point of fire. We are given kites to assemble. Rickety-ass kites. Balsa wood and paper. Balls and balls of string. We tromp down the path between the trees. The field opens up to us like something born. My older brother Bill and his girlfriend shy in the face of their molten horniness. They drop their kites and head for the barn. Bits of colored paper we tear halfway, straddle them on the strings, watch them race like children. My younger brother innovates with headlines he tears from the Press-Citizen: Local Boy Bowls 7-10 Split! Up, up it goes. The rogue German Shepherd is trying to bite everyone. Bit cousin Nancy in the face last month. Couple Wed 75 Years Die Fifteen Minutes Apart. Heavenward. O glorious day! The kites bob and weave, boxed by the wind. The German Shepherd running in circles. Planets Collide! Bill comes hopping out of the barn screaming. His knee wide open, dangling, meat falling off the bone (the way my aunt describes slow cooked pork ribs). The German Shepherd, insane over the blood. They’d been jumping from the hayloft, Bill and the girlfriend, his knee sliced by something under the straw. Some farm implement lying in wait, some menacing blade. Space Aliens Take Over House of Representatives! To the clouds! Bill, howling. Blood just everywhere. His knee inside the German Shepherd’s jaws. Nobody sees Uncle John until he’s there, taking aim. A blast. Bill on the ground alive and bleeding. The German Shepherd, dead. Little brother still tearing up the newspaper. Rickety Kites Survive Nuclear Blast! The kites, untethered, rise further, disappear. Our faces upturned like the best kind of prayer.

*Originally published in New World Writing.

Segmented Flash Fiction: “Abbreviated Glossary” by Gay Degani (with author comments)

Gay II(Readers, in talking about my previous post with my friend, Gay Degani, she linked a segmented flash of her own and it’s…amazing. So I asked if I could reprint the story here and get her to talk a little about the story and its structure. I was hugely moved to learn the origins of the story and I think you will be too. Thanks so much, Gay, for honoring my blog once again!)


I wrote “Abbreviated Glossary” around 2009 or 2010, and I’m trying to remember what prompted me to do it this way. I know I didn’t want the piece to be too complicated–emotional scenes with dialogue–because the inspiration for the story was real. One of those “what if” stories where you take something from your life, something big, and change most of the details to create–well, a story not quite your own.

Honestly almost everything I write comes from my life in one form or another. In this case, it felt like an offering, I suppose. It’s turning my life into something meaningful and it was cleansing. Perhaps this is how I forgive myself. Or perhaps it’s my way of writing memoir. I did lose a child to anencephaly back in 1980, but I didn’t want this piece to be about me.

So segmentation worked. It allowed me to reveal a difficult situation without delving into all the emotion, all the self-blame, all the loss. I can’t find a draft of this story with any other structure so I must have been exploring “form” at the time, read someone else’s piece using this technique, and had an “aha” moment–that’s the way to do this story.

The original version was done as chapters, each segment with its own Roman numeral. I called it “Five Chapters.” At some point, I decided to use words instead. This added another dimension and gave me a more distinctive title. That’s all I can remember about this, other than I work-shopped it twice, both times with male authors facilitating, and interestingly, neither liked it–at all. Thus Melusine seemed to me the perfect place to submit.

(And here is Gay’s gorgeous and delicately wrought segmented flash, originally published in Melusine):

Abbreviated Glossary


I slide my naked leg between his thighs. Dev is trying a case tomorrow; he’s tired. But he owes me his touch, and I know exactly how to use my tongue.


His lips disappear between his teeth when I break the news. He says he’s not ready—no diapers for him—but I know he is. I’ll do the hard part. I promise.


My fingers knead the curve of my belly. Dev slips an arm around my waist and grins at his boss. Proud papa.


Dev can’t keep his hands off me, calls me sexy mama, but when he’s not around, I fret. Eight months along and my bump so small.


Skull bones don’t always fuse together, the doctor tells me. I call Dev, but he’s in court, won’t request a recess, even when I beg. The hard part, I see, will be losing both.

Gay Degani lives in Southern California with her husband in an old Victorian house where parrots congregate at dusk in the oaks and camphors around her neighborhood.

She has published fiction online and in print, including her collection, Pomegranate Stories. She is founder and editor-emeritus of Flash Fiction Chronicles, an editor at Smokelong Quarterly, and blogs at: Words in Place where a complete list of her work can be found as well as her social media links.

Three times nominated for Pushcart consideration and winner of the 11th Annual Glass Woman Prize, Gay has won or been a finalist in contests sponsored by Women On Writing, Glimmer Train, Writer’s Digest’s Short Short Competition, and Bosque (The Magazine). Her novella, The Old Road, has been unfolding in Pure Slush’s 2014-A Year in Stories project. Her suspense novel, What Came Before, is now available at Barnes and Noble online and Amazon.com in hardcover, trade paperback, and ebook formats.