“There Are No Rules”—An Interview With Guest Reader Al Kratz

by Shasta Grant See all Guest Readers

What themes do you find yourself frequently writing about?

“Finding yourself writing about” is a fitting way to ask the question. I think most of my writing is about people trying to get back up after life has knocked them down. Usually the way they get knocked down is absurd and it affects the ways they choose to get back up. I think life is ridiculous but also beautiful.

What do you think is essential to good flash fiction?

I think everyone should write what they love, what is a special part of them, and what demands to come out rather than what is asked to come out. Technique wise, I think it is essential for the piece to immediately justify/clarify/rule the existence of the story. It has to be done so quick and often without words, but somehow “the dream” has to be instantiated. The reader can’t spend any time doing anything other than experiencing the dream. There are so many examples of this in the SmokeLong archive, but on a recent re-read through of them, Justin Daugherty’s “The Dead Are Not Hungry” and Leesa Cross-Smith’s “Sometimes We Both Fight in Wars” stood out to me as almost perfect. Another one I appreciated lately was in Cheap Pop by April Bradley called “Little Wake.” This one captured the moments in life that really are like a flash. They are rare, brief, and bright—you have to keep your eyes open or you can miss seeing them.

What is something that might make you stop reading a story?

That’s the challenge of the new attention span. When I’m reading flash online at all the different sites, I think it’s not knowing what’s going on, not knowing some key foundational reference. I might read another couple sentences, and then if it’s still missing, I’m likely to click on. Look at Leesa’s first sentence in the story I mentioned above: “He lives on an orange houseboat when he’s home and sometimes he fights in wars.”   That has it all, doesn’t it?  Authority. Setting. Attitude. Iceberg. Poetry.

What kind of story would you love to see in the queue this week?

Lately, I’ve been more into the flash pieces near 1000 words that have the traditional structure as opposed to the vignette or collaged 300-500 word pieces. But there are no rules are there? I would love to see pieces that make me wish I had written them. That make me want to read them over and over again. That make me want to share them.

About the Reader:

Al Kratz lives in Indianola, Iowa. He won the 2013 SJI Holliday/ British Fantasy Society Flash Fiction Competition, was a finalist in the 2015 Wyvern Lit Flash contest, and was runner up in the Spring 2016 Bath Flash Fiction award.  In December 2016, Jellyfish Review nominated one of his stories for the Best Small Fictions 2017.  Al also writes fiction reviews for Alternating Current.  He is currently working on a novel and is always reading and writing flash fiction.

About the Interviewer:

Shasta Grant is the author of the chapbook Gather Us Up and Bring Us Home (Split Lip Press, 2017). She was the 2016 SmokeLong Quarterly Kathy Fish Fellow and she won the 2015 Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest. Her stories have appeared in Hobart, matchbook, MonkeyBicyclewigleaf, and elsewhere.