Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Evolution of an Idea

In the summer of 2014, I took a flash fiction writing workshop as my final class of grad school. I needed the credits to graduate, and I wanted to go out on a class I would enjoy with an instructor I really liked. At the time, I knew that it would likely be my last class as a student (that has so far remained true), and I thought it would be fun, and certainly not difficult, as I enjoy writing fiction, but I didn't think that the class would impact me to make flash fiction the focus of my creativity for any length of time.

However, here I am, two years later, with multiple short shorts published online and in print, and in the process of putting out not one but two flash fiction chapbooks. The first one is actually out now (see last week's posts) and the second one has yet to be given a specific release date---although, I am shooting for early next year, possibly January. The idea to do these chapbooks actually came during the class when I was putting together my final portfolio. The title of the second, Dispatches from the Information Age, came directly from that project, and quite a few of the stories in it did as well, albeit many of them have been edited and/or rewritten.

Dispatches from the Information Age will not only contain many of the stories from that class, but all of my stories that have been published over the past two years, and many more along those same lines, which I think is my future direction as a writer. Fast-paced, weird, angry, and (hopefully) humorous, it can be described as what would happen if Kurt Vonnegut and Ray Bradbury got together with the members of Monty Python and wrote a flash fiction chapbook. At least, that is the aesthetic I am going for with it.

In order to accurately reflect this aesthetic, I have carefully considered the cover art, and it has evolved over the development of the project. At first, I was going to have my brother design it, but then I started playing around with a few ideas, and came up with a couple of my own.

These were meant to be stand-ins while my brother worked on his idea, but I liked the direction I was going, and decided to continue working on it. After all, I have designed all of my other covers, and while not many writers can really do that effectively (at least according to the advice blogs I read), I think it is something that I have actually turned into a strength.

This week, I finally realized the one that I had been seeing in my mind's eye, but couldn't quite capture, and of all of the ideas I've had, it fits the best with the contents of the collection:

A good friend and confidant described it as "Warhol for the 21st century," and I could easily refer to the set of stories as a form of pop art, so it fits. I am really trying to capture the absurdity of life in our culture today, and I think that anyone who sees this cover will be able to gather that.

This direction, while my natural inclination as a fan of satire, science fiction and dark humor, and my calling as a dissident intellectual and highly educated poor person, it also came in part from the reaction to these stories by my classmates and my professor, who only encouraged me further down this path.

Before that class, I spent my time working on a novel, and several short stories, but nothing has really connected for me in the same way as flash fiction. It just goes to show that you never know the direction you are going to take as an artist, and sometimes, you just have to go where life takes you, and trust your instincts.

While my writing will not exclusively take the form of flash fiction, it is a form that I really enjoy exploring, and I will continue to do for a long time to come. It has all of the elements that I enjoy about writing: it's fun and challenging, I can be poetic and experimental, and people actually sometimes take the time to read what I write. Additionally, as more and more of our culture is absorbed and transformed by the internet, it is a growing and popular form for fiction, as people have much shorter attention spans, and there are more places to publish it and fans for it than ever.

If you are faithful to the process, what you're working on might turn into something great, but hopefully, at the very least, you will have fun with it. That is the most important part.

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