Excited to be a part of this! A stellar lineup of writers, some I’ve met before and some not. If you’re in the area, please do stop by!
Last night’s reading at the Mercury Cafe went really well! Huge thanks to uber talented Katharyn Grant, who hosted the evening and who also very generously read a couple of my stories and did them more justice than I ever would. Thanks also to Sally Reno, who read a fantastic story of her own before giving the kindest introduction, ever. The F-Bomb series that Nancy Stohlman curates is a fun, interesting, flash fiction only event and I was glad to be a part of it. So thanks also to Nancy for the invitation! I think I read better than usual last night, so maybe with practice I’ll come to really enjoy giving readings. Anything can happen!
I want to talk a little here about the intersect between microfiction and prose poetry. How do we tell them apart? Is it even necessary to distinguish them? For myself, prose poetry is more imagistic, metaphoric, and well, poetic. It doesn’t require the arc that flash fiction does (and some would argue even flash fiction doesn’t require an arc, but I would say, it should at least give the sense of an arc, if that makes any sense). Prose poetry, to me, is pure sound and image and language and rhythm and flow. I like to write it. I like to get out of pure storytelling mode sometimes, though I don’t consider myself a poet at all.
So! I’ve started participating at Fictionaut again and I’m having a lot of fun. Just throwing up whatever strikes me to get new readers to the work and also reading all the fantastic stories and poems on there. Jane Hammons is posting her work again and do go and find her, she’s a genius.
Anyway, here is a link to three prose poems/micros that appear in my Matter Press chapbook, WILD LIFE. They are…strange, be warned:
I’m the featured reader for January in the long-standing monthly event, The F-Bomb Flash Fiction Reading Series, curated by the amazing Nancy Stohlman. The multi-talented Katharyn Grant will hosting (and kindly performing some of my pieces), with introduction and reading by terrific writer Sally Reno. There will be an open mike as well for other readers to participate! Details below:
Wow. Huge thanks to David Abrams (author of the novel, Fobbit), for this beautiful review of my collection for the Riot Round-Up. I’m so happy and honored by this praise from a writer I admire so much:
I’ll keep this short: After reading Together We Can Bury It, I’m convinced there are few living authors who are better at flash fiction than Kathy Fish. She packs an incredible array of life, in all its rich complexities, into each one of the 40 stories in this 2012 collection. Unlike many short-shorts, Fish’s fiction doesn’t lean too heavily on allegory or turn characters into symbols and it rarely (if ever) leaves the reader scratching her head in “WTF?!” befuddlement. These are beautiful slices of life–little gems that, at every turn, left me feeling like I was filled with sunlight. — David Abrams
As usual, my favorite reads were published predominantly by small presses, written by writers unafraid of taking chances with their work:
I bookended the year with collections by the innovative Robert Vaughan: Diptychs + Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits (blurbed, reviewed on Goodreads) and Addicts & Basements, also reviewed on Goodreads.
I also read and blurbed Nancy Stohlman’s book Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories. Nancy is another original who performs her stories live as well as she writes them.
If I Would Leave Myself Behind: Stories by Lauren Becker, which I also talked about here.
Understories by Tim Horvath, which is terrific and I gave five stars to on Goodreads.
I read two Gay Degani books in 2014, her collection, Pomegranate Stories and her novel What Came Before, which I blurbed and reviewed on Goodreads. I also interviewed Gay right here and she has lots of smart things to say about writing in general.
Bald New World by Peter Tieryas, reviewed on Goodreads. This book was recently nominated for the Folio Prize in the UK.
Bones of an Inland Sea by Mary Akers, reviewed on Goodreads.
The Last Days of California by Mary Miller, reviewed on Goodreads.
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay, reviewed on Goodreads.
My Mother Was An Upright Piano by the talented and versatile writer of flash as well as longer works, Tania Hershman, reviewed on Goodreads.
Girl with Ears & Demon with Limp by Edward J. Rathke, reviewed on Goodreads.
Doll Palace by Sara Lippmann, this book was one of my favorite short story collections of 2014 and one of my favorites, ever…reviewed at The Lit Pub.
Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life by Dani Shapiro, a great inspiration in 2014 and mentioned in various posts on this blog.
I reread The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (who incidentally drafted the novel in four weeks according to this article in The Guardian).
Understudies by Ravi Mangla, reviewed on Goodreads.
House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
Don’t Tease the Elephants by Jen Knox. blurbed and reviewed on Goodreads.
Quarry Light by Claudia Smith Chen, reviewed at The Lit Pub.
The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan. A fascinating, harrowing read.
The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life by Twyla Tharp, another inspiring read, also mentioned a time or two on this very blog.
Smokelong Quarterly: The Best of the First Ten Years 2003-2013, a book I contributed to and reviewed on Goodreads.
Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill, reviewed on Goodreads. I loved this book so much I read it twice.
I am caught up in the holidays now, in a very good way, and I am wishing you all peace & joy and all that brings you happiness in the coming New Year. I’m pondering an end-of-year post here. I have so much on my mind. It seems 2014 was a year of realizations, epiphanies, decisions. I have, for the first time in a long time, a clear sense of where I want to go from here. What matters to me and what no longer does. What makes me happy and what doesn’t. It’s strange and exhilarating to have such a sense of clear purpose. Oh, I also want to talk about the people and books that made my life better in 2014. I have so much to be grateful for. More to come…
My friend, Avital Gad-Cykman, has a collection of flash fiction published and available now with Matter Press, entitled Life In, Life Out. She is an award-winning and internationally published writer with a uniquely beautiful style and voice. I cannot recommend her work highly enough. I wanted to talk to Avital about the book, her life and her writing life. I started by asking her to talk a bit about her background. So, without further ado…
When I look back, now that Kathy has asked me to tell about my background, I find it has had an ambiguity about it all along. I grew up in a small town not far from the Negev Desert in Israel, and I remember with longing the small house surrounded by a few others like it, open fields, golden dunes and then the beach. Later, I came to realize that because most of us children who lived there so freely, almost wildly, were the sons and daughters of holocaust survivors, there was a kind of tempting but cruel deep shadow right beside us, between us and our parents and between us and the world. I wrote about it in my story Islands of Salt that appears in Per Contra.
Still, I have fond memories from that town and then another by the beach, until the time my father passed away and everything changed. Someone told me that the coincidence of that loss with my then age of twelve is unfortunate, because my feeling that everything about me shuttered and yet hardened then is typical to many people who led uneventful life at that age but feel they left Paradise and entered (an adolescent) Hell just then.
Anyway, I had written poems and tiny plays since I learned to write, and after losing my father I moved to writing down poems full of my quarrel with God, when I wasn’t busy thinking about boys. Then, from the age of sixteen I lived on my own. My mother, too, became sick and passed away. It’s almost ironic that my parents’ constant worry for me turned around and was realized in their own absence from my life.
I couldn’t speak about it, not much, but since I had to express the fierce pain somehow, along with the passions and longings, and the absurd of the co-existence of pleasure and loss, I wrote diaries, and when they did not satisfy me, I tried this and that until I turned away from facts to imagination and wrote one short story–a flash as it’s called today–when I was already living in Brazil with my own family, and a friend from Canada and another from Australia, people I met in my early living through the Internet, both told me I should write more of it, and I did and became deeply involved with fiction.
Kathy: What went into some of the choices you made for the book, i.e. why that title, why structured in two parts, why the titles for the two parts? To me, it feels like the first half of the book has more magic realism elements, the second half more straight realism. But I feel like more went into the chosen structure, so if you could talk a little about that…
Avital: It took me a while to come up with the title because the collection deals with war, strife, resistance, parenthood, childhood, passion and longing. While some flashes go into the psyche, others have their feet set well on the ground. I finally realized that they light a certain life, or a moment in life, and move on to another and another. So there came Life In. Life out.
The first part is more surrealistic. It’s titled Sudden Changes after one of the more dramatic flashes, because many flashes speak about that confrontation with the uncomfortable, unexpected and even bizarre. The second part, Minute Life Length, is more realistic, though there are moments in two or three flashes that are borrowed from the mind rather than from an earthy existence. I included in this part the flashes that played into one another in a slightly chronological way of a lifetime, which feels like a brief one.
Kathy: Who are your literary heroes or influences? In terms of flash, who are your favorite flash writers?
Avital: I love so many writers that if I imagine them as my heroes what comes to mine is a whole army of literary guardians, my superpower…From the times before I became a writer and still used to reread books I fondly remember David Grossman, whose Hebrew prose is magnificent, Mikail Bulgakov whose irony and passion create unique semi-existing worlds, Jean Genet whose provocative, sensuous writing questions everything, and Gabriel Garcie Marquez whose stories are worlds of their own. I am painfully aware of the fact that I didn’t have any female author whose books I followed, collected and devoured. I did read and reread Doris Lessing’s Golden Notebooks, but not her other works. Anyway, I have since became an avid reader of women authors, among them the insightful, sharp and varied Margaret Atwood, the intimate, psyche researcher Elena Ferrante, and the genius short story teller Alice Munro. There are so many other authors I love I simply can’t list them all. I should add rapidly a few from the younger generation: Amir Gutfreund who writes beautifully about my childhood and my Israel, or so it seems, Aleksandar Hemon who writes with humor and pain about exile among other things, and Jhumpa Lahiri whose short stories astound me with their exquisite storytelling. I am also blessed with friends: writers whose writing I adore and admire, but they are many and I’m afraid to start counting.
I can’t say I seek flashes over other forms of writing, but I love it. Many of the authors I’ve already mentioned write it beautifully. A master of it, however, is Julio Cortazar with his surreal worlds that may just be the world in which we live.
Kathy: I definitely see the influence of Marquez and Lahiri in your work, Avital. What are the themes you find yourself returning to in your writing? Over and over in your stories, mentions of war and peace, past wars, current fears, the idea of invasion and these I know are drawn from life, family, history and culture.
Avital: It is hard for me to determine my themes, because it seems to me that I write about whatever sparks my attention, an intense moment, emotion or situation, an intriguing idea, humorous or dream-like or words that encapsulate a story in them. However, when I read my flashes for a conversation about them and about the female body in literature written by women in general, I suddenly realized how lovers, pregnant women, mothers and others had a visceral sense of the world through their bodies. Then I read it to edit it, and I was struck by the thread of war that goes through them, along with emotions of resistance and dread. So, I guess that it depends on the readers (including me) and on their state of mind to find the persisting issues.
BIO: Avital Gad-Cykman is the winner of Margaret Atwood Society Magazine Prize and The Hawthorne Citation Contest. She is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee and a finalist for Iowa Fiction Award for story collections.
Her stories have appeared in magazines such as The Literary Review, Glimmer Train, McSweeney’s, Prism International, CALYX Journal, and Michigan Quarterly Review. Her work has also been featured in anthologies such as Sex for America, Politically Inspired Fiction, Stumbling and Raging, Politically Inspired Fiction, and W.W. Norton’s International Flash Anthology. She was born and raised in Israel and now she lives in Brazil. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org