My writer’s group hosted Jot II the other night. We had a great turnout and a lot of fun. The speakers all did a great job. The venue was gorgeous. The attendees were attentive and kind. It was a great night.
My responsibilities for the evening included conducting an author interview with an old college friend, jumping up between presentations to make basic announcement regarding time and bathroom locations, and spouting my mouth off on a panel discussion of writer’s groups. And since I love the sound of my own voice, I loved every minute in front of the microphone. This was no surprise to me.
What was a surprise was the speaking I did after the presentations finished. I had three great conversations afterward with three very different individuals, and flash fiction came up in every one. Now, the reasons that surprised me is because no one spoke on the topic of flash fiction in this round of Jot.
The first conversation was with an attendee who was a long way from home. She was a journalist from Iran who recently moved to Grand Rapids and was curious about the type of people who attend writer’s conferences. She was guessing that our audience would be primarily of a college-age, so she was surprised to see the wide demographic range of Jot attendees. After talking about the conference in general, she asked me about my writing. I told her that I blogged and wrote flash fiction. She told me that blogging was illegal in her country and that she was unfamiliar with flash fiction. I did my best to explain that it pertained more to the length of a work than the genre of the work. Then she stumped me by asking for the name of a famous flash fiction author.
My second conversation was with our youngest attendee. I noticed early in the evening that a girl had come with her mom to Jot. I approached them afterward to thank them for coming out and to find out a little more about them. The mom explained to me that it was her nine-year-old daughter who was the writer and that she was just there to learn as much about the craft as she could. I then asked the girl what she wrote. It turns out that she, like me, is interested in science fiction and fantasy and that she recently wrote a short story.
“It’s not very long,” she said. “It’s only nine and a half pages.”
“Are you kidding me?” I said. “That’s three times longer than most of the fiction things that I write.”
I took the opportunity to share a bit about flash fiction before referring them to my blog where they could find this list of places that publish (and pay) for short-form fiction. I thanked them for attending, and secretly hoped that I could be as good a parent as that mom was.
My final conversation of the evening was with a retired gentleman. He was attending Jot for the same basic reasons as the girl, though their situations could not have been more different. He had just started writing, had finished a short story for children, and didn’t know where to go from there. I told him that I had some experience with short stories and suggested some resources to help him hone his craft.
“I know that short stories are all for kids,” he said. “So I wasn’t sure if I should be doing that or something else.”
“Oh,” said I. “Short stories aren’t just for kids. In fact, almost none of the short stories I read are aimed at children.”
We then went on to talk about some of the features of flash fiction, like the twist. After a few minutes of this, I thanked him for attending and wished him well.
I realized after my three conversations that I am pretty passionate about flash fiction. Now, readers of my blog may not be surprised by this, what with my flash fiction prompts, stories, and the like, but I was. I feel a bit like a man who has found a treasure in a field, but instead of keeping it secret so I can sell my stuff and buy the field for myself, I’m out there telling everyone I know about this amazing treasure that is flash fiction.
Oh well, I guess it’s okay to encourage others to write, even if they might be better than I am. But if you do turn out to be better than I am, if you get a big publishing deal and become famous because I turned you on to flash fiction, be warned. I will be approaching you for help in the industry.
Thanks again to everyone who came out to Jot! If you missed it, you can watch it in its entirety here.