Monday, April 27

More flash fiction

Earlier this month I posted four 101-word stories that I had submitted to The Pacific Northwest Inlander, Spokane's own alternative weekly publication, for their flash fiction issue. They liked "That One Guy" enough to print it, and, even better, they liked enough to invite me to compete in a eight-person, single-elimination flash-fiction tournament. I had to write three new stories, one on the theme of ingratitude, another using the phrase "needless to say" and the final including a "red wagon."

Well, I went out in the first round and was only able to read one of my stories. Fortunately, the Inlander recently posted all tournament entries to its website, so anyone can enjoy any of them now. Mine are even listed first to save on scrolling time. For the curious, I read "Car Shopping," and it lost to Holly Doering's "Let Freedom Ring." Favorites on both pages include Holly's "Terminal," Matthew Netzley's "The Heels," Chris Dreyer's "Willie's Farts" and "Petting," Shanti Perez's "Gnomes on Board Ralph's Woodie," and Bob Salsbury's "The Unbearable Lightness of Failing."

Saturday, April 18

"A Cinematic Perspective" on Globalization

The globalization issue of Charter was published last year but only just recently went online. I was kind of frustrated with the delay, but the program they're using to display it now is pretty cool and especially nice for Charter because of its strong graphic element. Anyway, for the interested, my piece is "A Cinematic Perspective," an approach to globalization through the 2006 film Babel. Minorly fascinating history behind this essay. It started out as this blog post and was then adapted into a speech for my Advanced Public Speaking class which in turn provided the foundation for this essay. A long, gradual process of refining the same idea.

Favorites in this volume include Anne Pauw's "The Ethics of International Adoption," David Brandon's "iLife," Sara Turner's "Press One to Transfer Funds, Press Two to Oust your Dictator," Emmett Tribolet's "Global Transport, Economy, and Policy," and Anna-Sophia Zingarelli's "Globalization and the Museum."

Thursday, April 9

That One Guy

Enjoy my published submission here, about two-thirds the way down the page.

To be honest, I was more nervous about submitting this piece than any of the others. It seemed the most personal, the most idiosyncratic. Maybe I am the only one who ever gets uncomfortable passing people I barely know. Maybe everyone else is just that much more friendly and genuine than I am. Apparently I was wrong in that assumption. More than a few of the published stories have the same theme and tone as "That One Guy." They use snippets of dialogue or conversation forms that we are all familiar with in some style to demonstrate how banal our basic interactions with other people can be. Our talk proceeds right along and does not deviate from well-dug trenches of speech conventions. Now that we know these failures, however, I guess the challenge is to break free from them.

Personal favorites on the first page include Maria Pringle's "Pronoun Cycle," Matthew Netzley's "The Falling Man" and Ross Carper's "When I Was Hit By a Car." On the second page, I enjoyed Chris Dreyer's "Beer Run" and "The Napkin" by Matthew Netzley, again. On the third and final page, my favorites were Diane Gordon's "Labor of Love," Ross Carper's "Categorized," and Jessalynn Uchacz's "I Shouldn't Have Said What I Did"

Wednesday, April 8

Miracle by the nanosecond

Serotonin floods the postsynaptic neuron, binding with receptors and depolarizing the cell. An electrochemical signal races along motor neurons into the ventral roots of the spine. It splinters off at the brachial plexus and into the median and ulnar nerves, on through to their superficial and deep branches.

His hand grasps the cup and lifts the tea to his lips.

Chemoreceptors are activated. Sensation erupts along the tongue. Impulses burst into the gustatory area of the cerebral cortex.

It tastes good.

* * * *

Two definite inspirations for this one. The first is Tobias Wolff's short story "Bullet in the Brain." Halfway through his story, he takes a break from this tense hostage situation to describe in complex, precise medical terminology exactly what happens when a bullet enters the brain. That he could use language so unorthodox at such a violent moment and still create one of the best short stories I have ever read impressed me.

The second inspiration is this idea, I don't know whether it's a quote or what, that if we were to really pay attention to life and the world and stop taking them for granted, we would be absolutely floored by their beauty and intricacy. I'm not just talking about a sunset or coral reef or smoking hot woman but the most basic and fundamental biological processes. That taste and digestion and basic muscle coordination work at all should leave us open-mouthed astounded. Then again, this human ability to ignore the miraculousness of the common may not be such a terrible thing. If we spent all of our time celebrating the mundane, we wouldn't get very far in our other endeavors.

Tuesday, April 7


He smacked the baby blue pack of American Spirits against his palm twice before pulling out a cigarette. By habit he began to roll it across his hand, filter over paper, between each finger and then under the palm to continue the cycle.

She had always hated that. She never stopped him, but she did tell him he did it just to draw attention to the fact he was smoking.

"You don't need to make a production out of it,” she would say.

But she wasn't here anymore, was she?

He cupped his hand to protect the lighter's flame.

* * * *

"Her" was the most conventional of my submissions, a pretty simple limited third-person narrative without any particularly unusual techniques. I like the ambiguity of the ending and the lack of certainty regarding her. What was her relationship with him? Family? Friends? Lovers? Did they have a falling out? Is she dead? At the same time, I like the defiance present in the final line, a nice piece of characterization for such a short story.

"Her" has a special place in my heart both as the first flash fiction I thought of and wrote. Also, when I wrote the rough draft, which received very little revision since only so much is possible with so few words, it came out to exactly 101 words. I thought then that this story was going places.

Monday, April 6

101-Word Fiction Contest & Jump

This coming Thursday will mark the first time in years that any fiction of mine will be published in something that is not funded by Gonzaga University. The Inlander, Spokane's weekly alternative newspaper, sponsored a 101-word flash fiction contest earlier this year and liked one of my submissions enough to print it in the upcoming issue. That's the good news. The great news is that they liked my pieces enough to invite me to compete in an eight-person, single-elimination flash fiction tournament as part of Spokane's Get Lit! Literary Festival. I'm not exactly sure what all that entails, though I assume it involves reading stories and advancing based on applause, or what the prizes are, but I am very excited about this. Incredibly excited, really. I literally jumped out of my seat when I read the email. To celebrate, all this week I will post my contest submissions to Spice of Life along with a little commentary on the thought process behind them. Without further ado, I offer...


The sun is setting. The shadows are long. They make it hard to see the gravel path, to find the soft spots which will twist and bend the bike's wheel, but I don't need to see them or the jump at the end. I've studied them all day, preparing for this moment. There isn't time for another run. This will be the last. No backing down again.

Deep breath. Both feet on the pedals. Don't wait. Go. Now. Too slow, push harder, lean forward, griptight, fasterbalancealmostthere


Keep the wheel straight, be firm, bend elbows and knees. Steady and brake.


* * * *

Content-wise, "Jump" is based on my own experiences trying to take a dirt jump with my bike two years ago. It took a few false starts, but when the shadows grew long, I finally knuckled down and hit it. It wasn't a terribly large jump, but the rush from that brief time in the air was incredible. With this story I was trying to capture my thoughts at that moment, how rationality took a well-earned break and was replaced by pure reaction.

Stylistically, I was influenced by David Foster Wallace's stories in his collection Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. You won't find anything like "Jump" in there, but his willingness to do different things with language and make the words themselves and not just their meanings integral to the story was an inspiration for me here. That, actually, was one of my joys in writing for this contest. It allowed me to be more experimental in my style. With such a strict word limit, I felt free to try some new things with my writing and was not confined to the limited third-person perspective that I am most comfortable with.

In the email which informed me of my upcoming publication, "Jump" was the only one of the four to not receive any compliments. So, if you didn't enjoy it, remember that the best is yet to come according to the contest judges.