Q (Katrina Gray): Hi, Dan Tricarico. Nice to see you here. Let’s talk about Flash Party in both its incarnations-the group and the mag. What gave you the idea to start another mag/group in addition to LitSnack? Did you have too much time on your hands?
A (Dan Tricarico): Over at 52-250 – A Year of Flash, they were doing some awesome work and I got in there a handful of times, but I arrived late in the year and, true to their name, they were winding down their year and I was sorry to see it go. What I really loved about 52-250 was the two-tiered approach. First, there was a great network of some amazing flash writers and poets — names Fictionaut readers will recognize, like Susan Tepper, Robert Vaughn, Len Kuntz, and many others — who shared and commented on each other’s work. It was a great place to learn and grow and, really, just be entertained by great work. They did it every week, though. I knew I couldn’t keep up that pace, so I just went with once a month.
Secondly, the editors then created a quarterly from the best pieces posted in the previous period. So basically, I shamelessly stole that structure and that became the skeleton for Flash Party. The core, though, is that I loved the idea of everyone getting to see the slush pile. I’d never seen that happen before and I think it can be so instructive to writers. Also, I liked that if people read the Come To The Party section, they could latch on to a favorite writer and follow their pieces their favs each month, which is what I did, too. Katie McGuire, for example, always surprised and entertained me, and she is both a new and young writer, and I was thrilled to give her a forum. And as far as the Come To The Party section goes, I’ve published every single piece I’ve ever been sent. No rejection. And that was exciting.
250 words or less? Really? Now, we both know a story can be written–and written well–in such a short space (judging by the work posted in the group), but how did you arrive at that word count restriction?
Again, the people at 52-250 were doing that and I was seeing amazing work. I also felt it was a good companion to Litsnack, whose maximum, while still brief, was nearly five times as long. So it was kind of challenge. I was saying, “So you think 1,000 words is short, let’s see what you can do in 250!” In my experience, writers love challenges and structures (they’ll deny that, of course, being the spontaneous and free-spirited people they are).
You’re an English teacher. And you’re into flash fiction. Now, we both know that Dickens didn’t exactly write any 250-word zingers. Do you find ways to teach students about super-short fiction and all the excellent online literary journals they can read for free, or do you hang your editor hat a couple pegs away from your teacher hat?
I love to find ways to introduce my students to super-short fiction and have even done entire units on flash fiction because it’s so close to my heart. But it’s also become something of a necessity. In this world of Twitter, Facebook status updates, and texting, I hand my students a two-page article and they say, “We have to read all that?” So when I hand them To Kill a Mockingbird at 281 pages, they stop breathing. And yet, it’s for a completely different reason than I stopped breathing when I read it. Let’s start with this: I actually read it. So many of my students, sadly, come up to me and whisper, “I’m sorry I didn’t do well on the test, but I didn’t read the book.” Tragic, really. But that makes flash fiction incredibly important in my classroom. They still need to learn the seven elements of fiction — character, setting, theme, plot, style, point-of-view, and literary devices — but I’ve learned that they can learn them just as easily in 250 words as they can in 250 pages. By the way, I could never get through anything by Dickens. He was paid by the word, if that tells you anything. He’d never be published today. I can see his Tweets, though: @CDick: best of times, worst of times.
In exactly 250 words, tell me as many of your favorite things as you can. Music, directors, books, authors, movies, sushi rolls, Spice Girls….
My wife and two daughters, Bob Dylan, Lolita, rolled tacos with guacamole from a taco stand any time after midnight, David Mamet’s essays, Hannah and Her Sisters, melted cheese, Simon and Garfunkel, M*A*S*H, gorgeous sunsets, Creedence Clearwater Revival, loafing, great Hazelnut coffee, cheesecake, This is Spinal Tap, The Band, Pablo Neruda, “Father and Son” by Cat Stevens, my mother’s homemade tacos, The Godfather, The Beat Farmers, Al Pacino, bleu cheese dressing, 1996, Flannery O’Connor, stand-up comedy, Eric Clapton, Of Mice and Men, Sam Shepard, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Boz Scaggs, purple, early Law and Order, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Wild Cherry Pepsi, Leonard Cohen, homemade popcorn, Spring, independent coffeehouses, The Great Gatsby, The Partridge Family, silence, “Tupelo Honey” by Van Morrision, strawberry shortcake (dessert, not doll), Bernadette Peters, Taxi, California Brittle from See’s Candy, Shakespeare, wasting time at Barnes and Noble, The Shawshank Redemption, Joe Cocker’s version of “Bird on a Wire” from Mad Dogs and Englishmen, In-N-Out Burger, the pictures my daughters draw me, Splash, Valerie Bertinelli, Dustin Hoffman, The Monkees, spaghetti and meatballs, Cheryl Ladd’s “nightie” poster from 1978, Take the Money and Run, Richard Brautigan, sourdough toast, Neil Young’s version of “Four Strong Winds,” my wife’s penne with sundried tomatoes and broccoli, Seaport Village in San Diego, Barry Manilow (shut up), the moon, “Tonight” by Elton John, Lenny and Squiggy, “Maggie May,” by Rod Stewart, reading, iPods, 1979, “Thunder Road” by Springsteen, Balboa Park in San Diego, romance, live theater, and Lucky Charms because “they’re magically delicious.”
Flash Party’s motto is, “WRITE LIKE A COMET…SHOW UP, LEAVE A MARK, BE GONE.” Both Flash Party and LitSnack have certainly left a mark on the Fictionaut community. (My first unsolicited story acceptance came from you, and I will be forever grateful for that boost of encouragement.) Do you see future-Dan coming back in some other incarnation someday, blazing through unexplored literary galaxies?
First, thank you for saying that my efforts have left any kind of mark at all. Secondly, Katrina, you are a gifted writer and would have been published regardless. Unfortunately, though, developments in my personal life have made it necessary for me to close submissions for both magazines. In the world of literary journals, we all know it’s the unpaid labors of love that often have to go when time gets tight. I’m not sure at this point when or if they will be reopened. I loved the idea of Flash Party so much that I probably didn’t think through the time commitment (although I was extremely proud of the initial issue of the actual magazine and wanted to honor the writers who submitted to the group section) and Litsnack has always been close to my heart. I have a journalism background and have always wanted to edit a literary journal. The internet has only made it easier for anyone to realize this dream, so I suspect I’ll either reopen either Litsnack or Flash Party at some point or, when things settle down, come back with something else. When I do, will you send me something? Please?
Dang, Dan. How can I say no to guy who gives such sweet compliments and digs Barry Manilow?
Katrina Gray checks in with Fictionaut groups every Friday. She lives in Nashville with the writer John Minichillo and their lovechild. She is the editor-in-chief of Atticus Review, and she blogs about mostly non-literary things at www.katrinagray.com.