Tuesday, June 11, 2013

An Interview with Dan Mueller on Image & Flash Fiction

 The TSWC asked Dan a few questions about his exciting weekend workshop that he'll be offering this summer. Check it out, there are only a few spots left!

Q: Define flash fiction.

Flash fiction is fiction composed of fewer words than most conventional short stories, though all the elements associated with short fiction are present, at least by implication. While a flash fiction may be experienced in a flash, it may or may not have been written in one. In the workshop I’ll lead at the Taos Summer Writers’ Conference, writers will leave with four newly minted flash fiction drafts and a strong sense of the approaches to revision available to them.

Q: What makes for successful flash fiction?

What makes a flash fiction successful lies in the impression it leaves on the reader. In much successful flash fiction, a single compelling action is inextricably bound to a central visual image. When this happens, the image is, in a way, tattooed onto the reader’s mind as an objective correlative and emblem of the story as a whole. Successful flash fiction is never slight; instead, it evokes its complexity and depth through precision and compression. Writers of successful flash fiction have an understanding, intrinsic or learned, of the power effected through the marriage of narrative and lyric strategies.

Q: What benefits might a flash fiction workshop offer those interested in writing longer pieces?

Flash fiction, whether published or in draft form, is all about potential, subtext, what’s left unsaid. For this reason, a piece of flash fiction may stay a flash fiction or germinate into a short story or even a novel. My flash fiction workshop is generative. We’ll discuss what flash fiction is, what it shares with longer forms of narration as well as how it differs from them. More than in other fiction workshops, we’ll concern ourselves with the well-rendered moment, which will be as helpful to writers of long fiction as it will to those of short and short-short.

Q: What is the fundamental difference between flash fiction and prose poetry?

Prose poetry may or may not tell a story. Flash fiction always does.

Q: What are some of your favorite flash fiction pieces?

My favorite flash fictions of all time are those contained in Italo Calvino’s highly lyric novel Invisible Cities. Classic flash fictions we’ll likely read in the workshop I’ll lead in July are Russell Edson’s “Ape,” Alice Walker’s “The Flowers,” Elizabeth Tallent’s “No One’s a Mystery,” Fred Chappell’s “Children of Strikers,” Pamela Painter’s “The Bridge,” David Foster Wallace’s “Everything is Green,” Michael Delp’s “Draft Horse,” Gregory Burnham’s “Subtotals,” and T. Coraghessan Boyle’s “The Hit Man.” We’ll also examine some very recent examples of the form from a current issue of Nano Fiction.

Q: You’ve received some rave reviews from participants of your past workshops at the conference. What is your favorite element of the Taos Summer Writers’ Conference and why?

How accepting the conference is of everyone, regardless of experience, taste, and artistic orientation, and how serious it is about helping writers achieve their goals. Unlike other writers’ conferences, the Taos Summer Writers’ Conference is free of hierarchies. We’re all writers there, and in helping one another we help ourselves. Thanks to Sharon Oard Warner and her extraordinary leadership as executive director, the atmosphere at the Taos Summer Writers’ Conference is as conducive to productivity as it is to growth, and I’m honored to have served on the faculty for as many conferences as I have. In short, it’s a blast.

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