When is a potluck more than a potluck? When the participants bring flash fiction along with the food.
I love writing parties. This past weekend I attended my first Intentional Ducati event, hosted by Joanna Rose and Stevan Allred of the Pinewood Table. Here’s a detailed description of the idea, but basically participants are given prompts to incorporate in a 1,000-word flash fiction piece. The theme this time was “firsts” in love, like a first breakup, first kiss, etc.
We gathered last Saturday night to share food and to read our stories, which were supposed to include a reference to Romeo and Juliet, a type of clothing not commonly seen in public, internal rhymes in three adjacent sentences and one or more objects from a list of six nouns. Some were easy to spot–like the Shakespeare references and the “boy wearing extremely baggy pants.” Others, like the internal rhymes, were so subtle that I kept getting swept up in the writing and forgetting to listen for them.
Until preparing for the party, I hadn’t written a short story since 2006, when I put together a Ducati piece. (That time, though, I didn’t attend the event due to giving myself a concussion in the kitchen of my new rental house.) Moreover, until last week’s experiment with flash fiction, I hadn’t finished a piece of fiction in more than two years. (That was my novel, BODY COPY.) It felt so great to work on something short, framed by the boundaries of content and word count. And it felt even better to finish it. And then read it out loud to an audience of writers who had written their own pieces using the same prompts.
Writing that 1,000-word piece reminded me how much I love revision. How it feels to lift out the excess. To see, and then strengthen, connections that weren’t there at first. And I do love working within specific boundaries. Sometimes I feel like such boundaries allow me more creative flexibility. In college writing courses, I always took more risks when working on a specific assignment. The grand sweep of a novel, especially an epic one, can be daunting in scope and possibility, compared to a measured, limited exercise.
Do you write flash fiction? If so, for fun or as a break from your novel? Do you work from prompts or just start writing? How many words do you aim for (or what’s the maximum)? I’m interested in writing some more short pieces and could use your advice!