Saturday, April 28, 2018

Flash Fiction

Recently, I have been interested in writing Flash Fiction, often referred to a short, short fiction. It usually is less than 1,000 words. Because of the limited number of words allowed in this type of writing, it is important to begin at a moment of conflict or a major turning point that plunges the reader immediately into the story.
Characters are often shown in one brief moment of time, perhaps in the midst of some physical activity or making a decision. 

This concise type of writing allows for no excess words. Writers must cut everything that isn’t essential to the story. However it is still important to have good flow and rhythm, as well as smooth, logical transitions.
Flash fiction still tells a story with a beginning, middle and end. There is usually a sense of story arc, even if only implied. Flash fiction is written in all genres. Often it ends with a twist or surprise. Endings should have a strong impact, then stop, no tying up loose ends.

Because lengths can vary, it is important to check guidelines before writing and submitting to publications or contests. Writers may enjoy the challenge of squeezing a lot of meaning in a small number of words.
Barbara Westwood Diehl, founder and Senior Editor of The Baltimore Review, defined flash fiction as “Intensity jammed into a small space.”

She mentioned the above suggestions and many more at a recent meeting of the Carroll County Chapter of the Maryland Writer’s Association, (MWA). The Chapter is sponsoring a Flash Fiction Contest for residents of Carroll County, offering a $100 prize and a year’s membership In MWA for the best entry this year.
For more details, contact Chapter President at or respond to this blog.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Children and Poetry

I just finished reading The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shovan. Although I started it last month, it seems appropriate that I finished it during National Poetry Month.
A children’s novel published by Random House Children’s Books in 2016, it will be interesting to anyone who enjoys poetry.

I loved the variety of subjects and styles she used in this book, as she has 18 children express their feeling about their school scheduled for demolition. Some form a “Save Our School” committee. Their teacher, who plans to retire along with the school, has the students write poems. These records of their fifth grade will be included in a time capsule.
The book is divided into the four quarters of the school year. The students write about how things used to be and how everything is changing. Their lives are different and their poems are different.

They tell stories about changes in family and friendships and issues with discrimination, divorce and death. Using many poetic forms, she gives each student a voice. Small illustrations throughout the book add to the sense of the child talking through poetry.

The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, was a NCTE 2017 Notable Verse Novel, a Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book of the year, and won a Cybils Award for poetry, as well a Nerdy Book Club award.

Shovan wrote the Harriss Poetry Prize-winning chapbook, Mountain, Log, Salt, and Stone. She is a previous editor of the Little Patuxent Review and editor of two poetry anthologies. She taught high school, worked as a freelance journalist, an educational consultant for teens with learning differences and as a longtime poet-in-the-schools for the Maryland Arts Council. Another children's novel, Take Down is about a travel wrestling team.

Laura's author website and blog are at Find her on Twitter
I've loved poetry since I was a child and read poems from my father's copy of Best Loved Poems of the American People (1939 edition.  Although I only dabble in writing poetry when the muse strikes, I admire those who write it regularly and can earn a living writing.

National Poetry Month was started by the Academy of American Poets in 1996 and has become the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets celebrating poetry’s place in our culture. Learn more at