State of Flash in the Classroom: A Flash of the Flash

To study the flash form, the students in my introductory Creative Nonfiction course began by reading excerpts from Brian Oliu’s So You Know It’s Me along with his State of Flash piece, “Flashes of Truth.” A favorite line among students:  “What is felt is still felt and will continue to be felt: what is not being said is just as important as what is being said.”  We also read flash pieces by William Bradley, Brenda Miller, Ander Monson, Sam Shepard, and Brett Wright; excerpts from Dinty Moore’s The Rose Metal Field Guide to Flash Nonfiction; and craft pieces by Judith Kitchen and Peggy Shumaker.  At the close of our study, I walked in to class and said, “I assume one of you has a camera on your phone.”  Then I told them the plan.  First, we created a list of words or phrases that capture the flash form.  Next, I gave each student an index card.  Everyone claimed a word from our list and wrote on it on their card.  Some took two cards.  Next, they arranged the cards into a collage (another form we had already studied) on one of the tables in the classroom.  We were creating a visual essay, a flash in photograph, a craft collage.  While one of the students stood on a chair to get the best angle on the visual flash, other students closed the window blinds and turned off the lights “so we get a flash,” the photographer quipped.   Another student suggested using Instagram, so the photographer sent the photo to another student.  That student edited the photograph and sent it to me on her walk from class back to her dorm.  We had created a visual essay within a matter of minutes, or, you might say, in a flash.

Jill Talbot is the author of Loaded: Women and Addiction (Seal Press, 2007), the co-editor of The Art of Friction: Where (Non) Fictions Come Together (University of Texas, 2008), and the editor of Metawritings: Toward a Theory of Nonfiction, released in 2012 from University of Iowa. Her work has appeared in journals such as Brevity, Notre Dame Review, Under the Sun, Cimarron Review, and Ecotone. Currently, she is a Visiting Assistant Professor at St. Lawrence University.