Tara Campbell

A Flash of Difference at AWP 2019

by Tara Campbell

photo courtesy of Maureen Langloss

photo courtesy of Maureen Langloss


Flash fiction is having a moment, but how diverse is the field? What is the state of flash in terms of race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual identity/orientation, and disability? I had the honor of moderating a panel on this very topic at AWP last month, and came away with a burgeoning new reading list.

For those who weren’t able to attend, or who were there but couldn’t quite keep up with all the info being dropped, here are some of the resources that were shared:

Panelist Marlena Chertock provided perspective as a disabled, bisexual, Jewish woman writer, with recommendations including:

  • Paper Darts, whose editors, she notes, “are all women and many queer-identified, make a point to publish women writers. Many of their stories have LGBTQ themes or underlying political messages.”

  • Monstering, “disabled women and nonbinary people celebrat[e] monsterhood”

  • The Deaf Poets Society, “an online journal of deaf and disabled literature & art”

  • Wordgathering, “A Journal of Disability Poetry and Literature”

Christopher Gonzalez spoke to Latinx (Puerto Rican) as well as Queer/Bisexual identities and how difficult it was to find other flash writers from these exact communities. He recommended the following writers whose work he turned to:

Megan Giddings, flash queen and editor of Forward: 21st Century Flash Fiction, an anthology of flash fiction and craft essays by writers of color, made the additional recommendations:

  • Kathleen Founds’ When Mystical Creatures Attack, Iowa Short Fiction Award winner, a novel in stories, in the form of a high school English class’ take on—well, mystical creatures

  • Celebrated writer and activist Desiree Cooper (thanks to Maureen Langloss for that catch—my pen wasn’t always able to keep up!)

  • Both Megan and Erinrose Mager (see next panelist) recommended Sawako Nakayasu’s The Ants, a “study not of, but through, ants. In a dashing sequence of prose pieces, Sawako Nakayasu takes the human to the level of the ant, and the ant to the level of the human.”

Born in South Korea and raised in Pennsylvania, Erinrose Mager spoke to navigating identity and expectations as an Asian American writer. In addition to Nakayasu, she also recommended we check out Steven Dunn, novelist and writer of powerful flash fiction, and tantalized us with a tip about a collaboration she’s currently working on between scientists and writers of color who are imagining the future together.

Additional publications and authors to watch:

  • Jellyfish Review A Long Time Coming edition, focusing on writers of color

  • Ellipsis Zine Love | Pride zine, a celebration of LBGTQ writers and writing

  • Smokelong Quarterly Global Flash Series: currently accepting French and German, but they also have editors for Spanish and Kiswahili among others

  • Author of the PEN Open Book Award-nominated collection “How to Sit” Tyrese Coleman

  • Twice-listed in Wigleaf’s Top 50, and winner of the PEN/Bingham Award for Debut Fiction, Rion Amilcar Scott

  • Prolific and award-winning author Amina Gautier

Microfiction Reading

In the spirit of amplifying flash fiction written from diverse perspectives, we ended the session with a reading of microfiction selected by each of the panelists:

DiverseFlash List: Creating and Growing Resources

In preparation for this panel, we developed this resource (http://bit.ly/DiverseFlash) for readers, writers, and teachers of flash fiction who want to diversify their reading lists and syllabi. The areas of diversity we sought to amplify include race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual identity/orientation, and disability, as well as other marginalized voices. Writers from these backgrounds were asked to identify their communities/identities in their own words and to provide links to five specific flash fiction stories.

Even better, this list is a growing document. If you’re a writer from one of these perspectives and would like to be included in this list, please fill out the survey (http://bit.ly/DiverseFlashSurvey), and include up to five links of flash stories you'd like to feature. Please keep the link to update your answers over time. Please note, this information will be publicly available.

And lastly, a THANK YOU

to poet and fabulous human Tameca Coleman, who started the whole discussion last spring that prompted the formation of this panel!


Panelist Bios

Tara Campbell (moderator) is a fiction editor at Barrelhouse, a Kimbilio Fellow, and an MFA candidate at American University. She is the author of TreeVolution (novel), Circe’s Bicycle (fiction and poetry collection), and Midnight at the Organporium (story collection). She teaches fiction at American University, the Writer’s Center and the National Gallery of Art.

Marlena Chertock has two books of poetry: Crumb-sized and On that one-way trip to Mars. She uses her skeletal dysplasia as a bridge to scientific poetry. Marlena lives in Washington, DC and is on the planning committee for OutWrite, an LGBTQ literary festival in DC. She has also served as Communications Coordinator for the LGBTQ Writers Caucus.

Christopher Gonzalez serves as a fiction editor at Barrelhouse. His fiction has appeared in Split Lip, Pithead Chapel, The Acentos Review, JMWW Journal, Spelk, and elsewhere. He currently works in book publishing and lives in New York.

Erinrose Mager’s work appears in The Collagist, Passages North, DIAGRAM, The Adroit Journal, New South, Hyphen, BOMB, and elsewhere. She is a Creative Writing/Literature PhD student at the University of Denver. She received her MFA from Washington University in St. Louis.

Megan Giddings is a fiction editor at The Offing and a contributing editor at Boulevard. Her work has been in Black Warrior Review, Gulf Coast, and The Iowa Review among other places. Her debut novel, Lakewood, is forthcoming.

MY BIG LITTLE BREAK: TARA CAMPBELL ON HER FIRST PUBLICATION

MY BIG LITTLE BREAK: TARA CAMPBELL ON HER FIRST PUBLICATION

AN INTERVIEW WITH TARA CAMPBELL
In My Big Little Break, we ask authors to talk about the first piece they ever had published, how it felt to finally break through, and what they’ve learned since then. This week, writer Tara Campbell, author of the novel Treevolution and Barrelhouse Assistant Editor (yay for the  home team!) shares her answers. 

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