Five Questions with 2014 NANO Prize Winner Jasmine Sawers
Kirby Johnson: Congratulations on winning the 2014 NANO Prize! What does it feel like to win this contest?
Jasmine Sawers: You know when you’re hoping someone doesn’t notice there’s been a clerical error? It feels like that.
KJ: Is flash fiction something you’re just starting to work with, or have you been writing work of this length for some time?
JS: I took a flash fiction workshop with Jacinda Townsend in 2011, and I found that the necessary distillation of narrative encouraged me to experiment not only with form but with voice and theme and genre in a way that I hadn’t yet seen the possibilities of. I credit my study and practice of condensed writing with allowing me to let go of some of the stringent “rules” of traditional realist fiction that had been hobbling my writing in many ways. Since that class, I have been more prolific with my flash work than I have in any other story length.
KJ: What do you think makes a successful piece of flash? Who are some of your favorite flash fiction writers?
JS: Though the language of flash is often minimalist, it need not be. It’s just that in such short pieces, each word must be absolutely necessary, each word must carry a weight greater than the sum of its letters. There is no room for chaff in flash. Likewise, the pauses must contain multitudes – space for the blossoming of the reader’s imagination, for the lurking underbelly of the story, for implication – not emptiness. Rhythm is as vital to flash fiction as it is to poetry.
Successful flash is rich though it is spare, and its narrative arc feels whole and nourishing no matter if it’s a thousand words or fifty. The experience of reading flash fiction must be as satisfying as the experience of reading a traditional-length short story, or even a novel – a piece must simply get to the payoff faster. Flash should pierce, should haunt.
I am a poor citizen of the literary landscape: I tend not to remember authors’ names. In the past few years, my favorite literary magazines have put out some of the finest flash fiction I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Unstuck, Tin House, Wigleaf and [PANK] are some of the most reliable publishers of flash fiction. Hoot and Flyleaf are two innovative micro/flash projects doing work I find exciting.
KJ: What is a perfect day like for you?
JS: I would wake up well-rested and clear of mind with a submission acceptance in my inbox, my puppy would not mistake the floor for his toilet, and I would get paid to write for the next twelve hours before applying some social interaction to my evening like ointment.
I have yet to have such a day.
KJ: What can we expect next from you? What are you working on now?
JS: I am actually working on a collection of flash now. While not connected in plot, the stories are united in a surrealist atmosphere which straddles our world and that of fairy tales. “The Weight of the Moon” will be featured early in the manuscript. I assume it will be available for consumption by the time I am ninety-five.
Forthcoming in the springtime is my short story, “At the Lung,” which placed second in Sycamore Review’s Wabash Prize for fiction.
I am also the fiction editor for Osedax Press out of Lexington, Kentucky. Our literary journal, Scrimshander Books, has just published its inaugural issue, Death: And Its Problems. In terms of prose, we seek almost exclusively flash work, though we accept pieces of up to 1500 words. We publish quarterly, each theme based on a title from the early 20th century Little Blue Books, and we can be found at osedaxpress.com for individual issues, subscriptions, broadsides, and submission information both for Scrimshander Books and for chapbook project proposals.