“Catch These Little Gifts”: Flash Interviews with Dan Nielsen, Robert Scotellaro, and Nancy Stohlman
by Jonathan Cardew
Like a shot of whiskey, or a plunge into cold water, or a breeze on a hot summer’s day, good flash recalibrates the senses. It does it swiftly. It knows what it’s doing.
Dan Nielsen, Robert Scotellaro, and Nancy Stohlman know what they’re doing.
I asked these fantastic flash writers a straightforward, possibly infuriating, and definitely several-barreled question: Describe, elaborate on, or riff about a recent flash story you have had published. Keep your response to around 150-ish words. Give us a link to the work.
Luckily, they said, “Ok, Jonathan, fine.”
I figured if they could write flash so well, they’d be able to get to the point.
Dan Nielsen is no stranger to keeping things simple. A Wisconsin native, his flash stories and poetry can be found in many fabulous venues. His pared prose style lulls and then startles you with its honesty and strange humor. You’ll be glad when you’ve read a Nielson story.
Dan on “Monster Truck” at Bird’s Thumb:
“I write differently from what I speak, I speak differently from what I think, I think differently from the way I ought to think, and so it all proceeds into deepest darkness.” ―Franz Kafka
That Kafka quote is funny because it’s true.
(in my opinion)
Stories need named characters who move about and say things aloud.
A writer is omniscient, but doesn’t brag about it.
Second person present is best left to hypnotists. “You are a chicken.”
“Monster Truck” takes place in my house so that imagined Dave can look out a real window and see an imagined panel truck pull up to a real curb. There is imagined snow on my real sidewalk. When imagined Preston says, “They say eight to twelve tonight, the worst toward morning,” imagined Dave really hears it and feels comforted that imagined Preston is a real person. The basement and dryer are real and the dryer was broken and repaired, but that was at least ten years ago and I remember nothing about it except that the real repair guy mentioned a Monster Truck.
I just reread the story. It’s real funny. I hope you agree.
Robert Scotellaro needs no introduction. What comes out of the Scotellaro Compression Machine is pure gold, finely pressed and polished, with an extra buff for good measure. “Fun House” is masterful work, filled with smoke and mirrors and “wobbly globes.”
Robert on “Fun House” at New Flash Fiction Review and reprinted in Flash Fiction International (W.W. Norton):
Writing this story, I inhabited a place both familiar and unexpectedly surreal. Our daughter had not so long before left for college (the familiar). “Fun house mirrors” was something I’d jotted in a notebook years earlier. Just those words. I extrapolated, framing the idea of two “empty-nesters” cutting loose in a spare bedroom covered, wall to ceiling, with fun house mirrors acquired at an auction. And discovered I was exploring a bizarre, yet fundamental kind of safe infidelity, where my characters were having sex in a room filled with the strange strangers they became—(the unexpectedly surreal). Their experience (its oddness notwithstanding) allowed them a certain kind of adventurism in contrast to their prior, buttoned-down, predictable lives.
It was great fun writing this piece, seeing where it might lead me, how far they/I would take it. I am ever drawn to the little surprises that rise up from that deeper (sometimes darker) mind we all carry.
Nancy Stohlman is many things: performer, singer, writer, shark-petter. Her stories bound across the page in whatever outfit she chooses. She hosts a number of flash fiction events in the Denver-area, sings in the lounge metal group Kinky Mink, and dreams up stories like this one…
Nancy on “The Morning After” at nancystohlman.com and forthcoming at Woven Tales Press:
There are few scenarios more frightening than waking up next to Donald Trump. In my case I panicked, rolled over, grabbed a pen and wrote this story down almost fully formed in the notebook by my bed. Over the years I’ve probably gotten at least half my ideas from dreaming—I always tell people that the dream world is like an all-night diner of free inspiration. Sometimes I only get a wisp or an image or a setting, but sometimes the whole story just rises out of the dream ether in one piece, usually in that transition time between asleep and awake when the muse is still whispering in my ear but I’m not awake enough to sabotage her yet. I think dream material only works if you learn to speak its language and approach it on its own territory. The key is to be vigilant, to catch these little gifts and write them down before they’re gone, and don’t ask yourself “is this idea crazy?” because it probably is.
READ IT HERE: “The Morning After,” by Nancy Stohlman, March 2016
Dan Nielsen drinks bourbon and plays Ping-Pong. Old credits include Random House and University of Iowa Press anthologies. Recent work in: Jellyfish Review, Bird’s Thumb, Minor Literature[s], Storm Cellar, Random Sample, and Pidgeonholes. Dan has a website: Preponderous and you can follow him @DanNielsenFIVES
Robert Scotellaro has been published widely in national and international books, journals, and anthologies including: W.W. Norton’s Flash Fiction International, NANO Fiction, Gargoyle, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, The Best Small Fictions 2016 (forthcoming), and others. He is the author of seven literary chapbooks, several books for children, and two full-length flash and micro fiction collections by Blue Light Press: Measuring the Distance and What We Know So Far. The latter was the winner of The 2015 Blue Light Book Award. Bad Motel, a collection of his 100-word stories, is due out by Big Table Publishing later this year. Robert currently lives with his wife and daughter in San Francisco. Visit him at www.rsflashfiction.com
Nancy Stohlman’s books include Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities (forthcoming), The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories (2014), The Monster Opera (2013), Searching for Suzi: a flash novel (2009), and four anthologies including Fast Forward: The Mix Tape, a finalist for a 2011 Colorado Book Award. She is the creator and curator of the Fbomb Flash Fiction Reading Series in Denver, and her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Find out more about her at www.nancystohlman.com
Jonathan Cardew’s short [and very short] stories appear in Atticus Review, Blink Ink Quarterly, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Flash Frontier, KYSO Flash, Segue, and Spelk, among others. He was a finalist in The Best Small Fictions 2016. He lives in Milwaukee. https://jonathancardew.wordpress.com/
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