Featuring work submitted to Flash Fiction Magazine, an online literary magazine

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Disclosure – I am a volunteer reader at Flash Fiction Magazine.

In the study of alchemy, there’s a process of purification called calcination by which substances are heated in a crucible until it’s impurities are reduced to ash, leaving the desired element in its most indestructible, pure form.

In some ways, anthologies in general represent a kind of calcination or distillation of works from a composite of writings down to the most elemental. This is true also of Flash Fiction Magazine, volumes 1-3. The stories featured in this collection are a distillation to the most representative writings from flashfictionmagazine.com. This is not to say they are the best – I’ve read enough anthologies to know that, outside of a handful of works that represent something most of us can only aspire to achieve to, best is a relative term. But the selected stories do a good job of representing a very specific type of flash fiction.

If you are a reader who enjoys experimental flash, monologues or ekphrastic works, you’ll find few of these works here. The favored story type in these anthologies is the snapshot story or the individual scene. As such, the exemplars which work best in this particular collection are those which have a firm grasp of story structure and elements of fiction. In contrast, stories which fail to resonate – and there are a handful – are generally a result of the mishandling of a particular story element, because these stories must depend on a skillful handling of such things as plot, pacing, characterization, and conflict.

As I read through these three volumes, one thing I admired was the editor’s willingness to take a chance on untested authors. Many of the featured writers are starting their publishing career, especially in the first volume. As the collections progress, the story selections change, become stronger, and the voice of each author becomes more confident. By the third volume, more stories are reaching their aspiration than missing them. This is a testament to the increasing popularity of this website as a place to publish but also to the editors willingness to take chances while demanding more from their writers.

It also speaks to a generous mindset that sees past the insecurities of new and aspiring writers to glimpse the greatness of each story. There are few perfect stories, but what you get in exchange for perfection is the surprise of an unexpected experience – a story that is most likely to be told among friends, without pretext and full of trust – the proverbial fireside stories that we share in the spirit of friendship and camaraderie. In this way, these three volumes represent something democratic, accepting and welcoming.

If you are interesting in a primer on traditional flash fiction, Flash Fiction Magazine’s three issues are a great place to begin. Reading as a writer, I read through each volume, categorizing the stories on the basis of resonance, skill and uniqueness. One thing a writer can do as she looks for opportunities to improve her craft is to take a story that just misses the mark and revise it in her writing journal to bring the story to its best place. Or the stories can serve as prompts from which to build other stories, utilizing the same characters, settings or moods and therefore offer new and interesting opportunities for practice.

Regardless of whether you indulge in reading the collections for pleasure or use them to discover opportunities for improving your writing, these stories are worth the investment of time. I know I found a few new story favorites between their covers.

Outstanding stories:

Volume I:

“From Roger With Love” by Anthony Merklinger

“What We Call Love” by William T. Vandegrift, Jr.

“Operator” by Karin Terebessy

Volume II:

“Lullaby” by Bee Lewis

“I Wonder What the Poor People Are Doing” by Christopher Dehon

“The Balance of Water” by Sharon Elizabeth Wood

“Dissecting the Melon” by Gene Farmer

Volume III:

“Susie” by Natalie Cawthorne

“The Sound of Summer Changing” by Sarah Karr

“Borrowed Dress” by Lisa Heidle

“The King-Sized Mattress” by Carla Lancken