I don’t love flash fiction.
But when Indy literary pal Sarah Layden offered me her ARC of The Story I Tell Myself About Myself to preview, I was all in. She’s such a peach and her debut novel, Trip Through Your Wires, such a tasty treat, I jumped on the opportunity to lose myself in her ability to concoct mood and character in her honey-chipotle way.
Okay, a confession: I didn’t realize Sarah’s latest book, set to release August 30, was a chapbook of flash fiction—not until the third page. Problem was, by the second I was transfixed. And then page 3 crushed me with the realization that I wouldn’t get to spend the remaining pages with story one’s messed up characters all mangled by modern love. Until her second micro-story, with the stranded single mother who broke my heart. She hooked me with her magical skills, then made me feel what her characters feel, over and over again.
The thing that chaps me about flash—and short stories in general, I suppose—is that they’re just so annoyingly in vogue right now. I’ve tried writing them, and even had a couple published, but they’re just not my thing. It’s probably me. I tend to resist the popular. I never saw Titanic in theaters. I never ate, prayed, or loved. I admit this trait may be a flaw.
But another thing about brief fiction—it’s nearly impossible to write well. I feel for the editors of magazines that publish flash, to think of the mounds of mush they must have to plow through from newbie submitters who think, “Flash fiction? I can do that.” Only, they can’t. It takes discipline, skill, practice, and talent to create worlds, populate them with living beings, build and resolve tension—to fulfill the duties of a fiction writer—often in under 500 words.
Only, Sarah Layden can and does, page after page, with enviable mastery.
The Story I Tell Myself About Myself is, to a writer, maddeningly excellent. To a reader, it’s a twisty, turny, delicious way to spend a few hours. Dammit, Sarah Layden!