Four Questions with 2012 NANO Prize Judge: Ryan Call

Kirby Johnson: What makes a good flash piece? Which is to say, what do you value, as a reader, in a piece of flash fiction? And what do you value as a writer?

Ryan Call: I love most when I read flash to be surprised, either by a sudden turn in the language of the piece or by an odd juxtaposition of images or actions. When I’ve tried to write flash, I’ve found that my few favorites came out of my cutting and cutting and cutting until I’d discovered how nicely two previously distant sentences felt next to each other.

KJ: Do you feel there are common mistakes people make with the form?

RC:  I’m not quite sure, really, about common mistakes. Perhaps a misuse of the form is a mistake? My least favorite flash pieces attempt to tell a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end. I’m less interested in reading a full story in a flash piece.

KJ: How did you approach this year’s submissions? Did you have a particular style in mind when choosing the winner? What made “Hand over Hand” stand out to you?

RC: I reread this batch of finalists three or four times over the course of four days. There were quite a few intriguing stories, such as “Night #17,” “Joel Had a Wedding,” and “We Need to Accept that the Fluid is Young”; however, none left me with such a pleasant sense of wonder as “Hand Over Hand.” I thought about this story often.

KJ: Who is writing great flash these days?

RC: My favorite writers of flash are Diane Williams, Lydia Davis, and Kim Chinquee. Kim Chinquee’s “Cape” is one of my favorite tiny stories.

Ryan Call is the author of The Weather Stations (Caketrain). His stories appear in Mid-American Review, New York Tyrant, Conjunctions, Annalemma, and elsewhere. He teaches English and coaches cross country at a high school in Houston, TX.