January 1, 1998: Headlines: COS - Chile: Writing - Chile: Editing: UC Davis: Chile RPCV Tom Hazuka edited Flash Fiction, an anthology of extremely short stories

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Chile: Peace Corps Chile : The Peace Corps In Chile: January 1, 1998: Headlines: COS - Chile: Writing - Chile: Editing: UC Davis: Chile RPCV Tom Hazuka edited Flash Fiction, an anthology of extremely short stories

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Chile RPCV Tom Hazuka edited Flash Fiction, an anthology of extremely short stories

Chile RPCV Tom Hazuka edited Flash Fiction, an anthology of extremely short stories

Chile RPCV Tom Hazuka edited Flash Fiction, an anthology of extremely short stories

Flash Fiction: A Thumbnail History

by Tom Hazuka

In 1988, I began work with James and Denis Thomas on an anthology of extremely short stories, a project we expected to finish within a year. We were off by a bit: It took us over three years to collect and critique nearly five thousand stories, and W.W. Norton did not publish Flash Fiction until June of 1992.

Flash Fiction was an outgrowth of our earlier work with Robert Shapard, Jon Maney and others on Sudden Fiction and Sudden Fiction International, two well-received collections of short-short stories that used 1,500 words as a length limit. After many months of immersion in the world of "mini-fiction," we became convinced that a finer distinction would be useful, even necessary: five-page stories and two-page stories are quite different animals.

Flash Fiction was designed as a celebration of the latter type, tours de force of at most 750 words that somehow achieve the effect of a satisfying short story in only a page or two. This is an extremely demanding form, not so much hard to do as hard to do well—which explains why we had to search through so many stories (nearly all of them already published) to cull the 72 pieces that make up Flash Fiction.

Initial response to the book was overwhelmingly positive. A few dismissed it as fiction for the MTV generation, pabulum for dolts whose attention span is challenged by even 750 words, but a simple question usually silenced these critics: Is poetry therefore fodder for idiots? The vast majority of poems fit on a page, or at most two, and no one accuses poets of pandering to the masses. ("In A Station of the Metro"? Good God, what drivel—not enough words!) Obviously, length is not the distinguishing feature of quality.

Flash Fiction is currently in a fifth printing, and has sold over 22,000 copies. Not exactly in the same league as Men Are From Mars, Women Are from Venus, but pretty impressive for a literary anthology. It was featured in both the Book of the Month Club and the Paperback Book Club, and is widely used in college literature and creative writing classes. Robert Redford bought the movie rights for two million bucks. (All right so I made that last one up.) Flash Fiction has even spawned yet another sub-division of the genre: Jerome Stern's Micro Fictions, stories of no more than 250 words.

Flash Fiction has helped to legitimize the extremely short story. Although work of this length has always been around, and occasionally found its way into print, Flash Fiction gave it a name, an identity, and a certain cachet: John Updike's in the book? Joyce Carol Oates? Ray Carver? Mark Strand, Jamaica Kincaid, David Foster Wallace, Stuart Dybek . . . ? If writers this talented are creating flash fiction, maybe it's time to take notice.

To our immense gratification, people have.

Copyright © 1998 by Tom Hazuka. All rights reserved.

When this story was posted in January 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Senator Norm Coleman, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee that oversees the Peace Corps, says in an op-ed, A chance to show the world America at its best: "Even as that worthy agency mobilizes a "Crisis Corps" of former Peace Corps volunteers to assist with tsunami relief, I believe an opportunity exists to rededicate ourselves to the mission of the Peace Corps and its expansion to touch more and more lives."
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Former Director Carol Bellamy, now head of Unicef, says that the appalling conditions endured today by half the world's children speak to a broken promise. Too many governments are doing worse than neglecting children -- they are making deliberate, informed choices that hurt children. Read her op-ed and Unicef's report on the State of the World's Children 2005.
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Story Source: UC Davis

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Chile; Writing - Chile; Editing



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