The following conversation between Managing Editor of FFC, Jim Harrington, and Series Editor of The Best Small Fictions, Tara L. Masih, Originally appeared December 16th in Flash Fiction Chronicles:
by Jim Harrington
Queen’s Ferry Press is in the process of collecting stories for an annual anthology to be titled The Best Small Fictions. Fiction and prose poetry from 6 to 1,000 words published during the current year are eligible for inclusion. For the first edition, nominations will be accepted from October 1, 2014 through January 24, 2015. Journal editors and book publishers may submit up to five nominations (print or online) from their journals, chapbooks, broadsides, or story collections.
I interviewed Tara L. Masih, Series Editor, about this project.
Tara L. Masih has won multiple book awards as editor of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction and The Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prizewinning Essays.Where the Dog Star Never Glows: Stories was a National Best Books Award finalist. Her flash has been anthologized inWord of Mouth, Brevity & Echo, BITE, andFlash Fiction Funny; was featured in Fiction Writer’s Review for National Short Story Month; and was a finalist for the Reynolds Price Prize in Fiction. Awards for her work include first place in The Ledge Magazine’s fiction contest and Pushcart Prize, Best New American Voices, and Best of the Web nominations.www.taramasih.com
Jim Harrington: Hi, Tara, and thank you for agreeing to be a part of The Best Small Fictions. What is the purpose/goal of this effort?
Tara Masih: The purpose is to provide a forum for writers who are producing extremely well-wrought small fictions, a forum that recognizes their work at the end of the year. Most of the other genres have this formal recognition, but the short-short story does not. There is of course the venerable Wigleaf Top 50 list, and your own list that appears during short story month, but these lists appear online. We wanted to resuscitate the print series Robert Oberfirst published in 1952–1960, his Anthology of Best Short Short Stories. Enough small fictions were produced at that time to command a yearly volume. Our word count limit is a bit smaller than his, and we have a new title, but Queen’s Ferry Press and I believe enough quality work is being published again to merit an annual anthology. Consider this a contemporary nod to an old era when the short-short thrived.
JH: There have been flash fiction anthologies published before this—the Sudden Fiction series comes to mind. How will this anthology be different?
TM: And the Flash Fiction series. Both groundbreaking anthology series that are highly respected. Each series has its own criteria for inclusion and covers a broader spectrum over a number of years. Ours will be different in that it will be briefer, more inclusive of experimentation and different word lengths, and have the barometer of being the best work within a certain year. I think the confines of the calendar year will lead to a different feel. I’ll be curious to see if any specific topics keep coming up that reflect world headlines. We’re also opening it up internationally, so readers in the States will get a taste of what is being published outside its borders, and vice versa.
JH: The guidelines mention “hybrid fiction” and “experimental form.” Editors and publishers may have different definitions for these terms. Can you tell us a little more about what you’re looking for, as regards hybrid and experimental stories?
TM: I welcome the different definitions of hybrid and experimentation. I’d rather leave it up to the editors to decide what they want to send in. Basically, if it’s small and contains elements of a fictional story, I don’t care what form it comes in. Graphic stories can be submitted, too, as long as there is text.
JH: Do you have an idea of how many stories will be in the final version?
TM: Since this is the first year, I hesitate to give a firm number. We have a goal, and we’ll see if we can reach it. But it will depend on submissions and the quality we receive. We won’t be making compromises to “fill” the book. We’ll only publish what the guest editor feels is the best of the year. We anticipate that it will be a slim, affordable book, densely packed with excellent, eclectic stories.
JH: Robert Olen Butler is selecting the winners from the finalists. How exciting is that?
TM: More than exciting. I can’t tell you what this means to both me and the press. It shows his character, that he’s willing to take time off from writing his latest novel to do this for a small press because he believes in the project and the idea of it. He and I work well together, too, so he was our first choice for guest editor, and we’re honored he accepted. He has a great feel for story and it will be fun for me to see what he eventually chooses as “The Best.”
JH: What else would you like our readers to know about this project?
TM: That this project is for the writers who voluntarily spill their thoughts and feelings on paper, in a small space, then send it out and hope it gets accepted, into a world that doesn’t completely value its worth yet. It’s a tough process and takes its toll. This project I hope will give the writers who are commended the recognition they deserve and a small boost to keep writing, and the editors who publish them the satisfaction that they chose well. Editors often go unnoticed. This gives them some accolades, too. We’ll make sure the publishers of the stories are acknowledged in some way.
JM: Thank you, Tara. This sounds like an exciting project, and I look forward to reading the finished product. You can learn more about The Best Small Fictions on the Queen’s Ferry Press website.
Jim Harrington began writing fiction in 2007 and has agonized over the form ever since. His stories have appeared in Every Day Fiction, Liquid Imagination, Ink Sweat and Tears, Near to the Knuckle, Flashes in the Dark, and others. He serves as the Managing Editor for Flash Fiction Chronicles. Jim’s Six Questions For . . . blog provides editors and publishers a place to “tell it like it is.” You can read more of his stories at http://jpharrington.blogspot.com.