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Ryan Stone on the Magic of Flash Fiction: A Perfect Five-Minute Escape From the World

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I’ve been working virtually with Australian Ryan Stone for several years, so I was thrilled to learn that he has decided to take the plunge and fly halfway around the world to join Kathy Fish and I in Grand Lake, Colorado this August!
Nancy Stohlman: The biggest challenge most writers have is finding the time to write. How do you “retreat” in your day-to-day life in order to honor your creativity?
Ryan Stone: I still haven’t figured that one out! My writing is a series of staccato bursts, squeezed in around everything else. A common story, I guess. Nearly all of my writing starts while I’m running with my dog through the rainforest beside my house. He’s developed his very own ‘here we go again’ face that he pulls each time a run pauses so I can tap out a note or two on my phone.
I’m lucky enough to have my own room with a view, filled with my electric guitars, books, and music. On the rare occasions when I find myself in a quiet house with nothing else demanding my time, my favourite thing to do is to tuck myself away, put some vinyl onto my record player, and start revising all the drafts I’ve jotted down over the last few weeks. I find Metallica, Pink Floyd, Concrete Blonde, and The Doors work best when I’m writing.
Nancy: Ha! I can’t imagine revising to Metallica! Tell us about your relationship with flash fiction?
Ryan: I think I’ve always been a flash fiction writer, I just didn’t know it until recently. I’ve spent the last few years writing poetry. I’ve always had a particular fondness for haiku, senryu, and 5-7-5 as I love working within those tight constraints where I’m forced to focus on every single word. I’ve written a few short stories, and some longer ones, but I always feel like I’m padding in places. Since I stumbled across flash, I’ve pretty much written it exclusively. To my mind it’s the perfect middle ground between a poem and a short story. I love reading it too – such a magic form to provide a complete escape from the world for 5 minutes.
Nancy: YES! I can’t agree more. Now what is the best piece of writing advice you ever received?
Ryan: I can’t remember the exact phrasing, but my interpretation is, a draft is a beginning— revision is what makes good writing great. As silly as it sounds, for a long time I viewed my first drafts as almost-finished pieces. It wasn’t until I read that that I was able to view my drafts as a way of getting ideas out onto the page, and the revision process as the real honing and shaping that turns an idea into something more. I’m about as sharp as a bowling ball most days!
Nancy: What piece of your own writing are you most proud of?  Where can we read it (if it’s available)?
Ryan: In the fairly short time that I’ve been writing short stories and flash, I’ve been fortunate enough to win a few competitions and get some of my writing published. The piece I think sums up my writing style the best, and one I enjoy re-reading myself, is called Catching Tigers. It was a winner of the 2018 Scintillating Starts Contest at WriterAdvice.com, and has also appeared in a few of other places in different guises. The WriterAdvice version is my favourite:
Nancy: I’m so excited for you–congratulations! Have you ever been to Grand Lake before? What are you most looking forward to?
Ryan: No! Attending this retreat in Grand Lake combines two of the things on the top of my “must do” list. I live in Melbourne, Australia, and have always held a deep fascination and love for America. I’ve completed a couple of online courses with Nancy but have been dying to attend one in person, as well as travel to America. A perfect combination! I’ve been on a couple of surfing trips to Hawaii, but this will be my first visit to Colorado.
There are so many things I’m looking forward to on this trip that it’s hard to narrow it down to a single one. I love the outdoors, hiking and trail running, so one of the top things on my agenda is to get up early and explore a new trail or two while the world wakes up.
Nancy: Colorado is so beautiful–you have picked a perfect American spot to land, I promise! Speaking of travel then, react to this quote:  “We travel because we need to, because distance and difference are the secret tonic of creativity. When we get home, home is still the same. But something in our mind has been changed, and that changes everything.”
–Jonah Lehrer, “Why We Travel,” Panorama Magazine (Deccember 2009)
Ryan: Wow! That sums up my thoughts in a far more articulate way than I’ve ever managed. After finishing a 3 year stint in the army, I surfed my way around Australia for 18 months. I discovered the truth in that quote for myself when I returned home. I wish I’d written it.
Nancy: Ha! Me too. Okay, last thing: Tell us something we don’t know about you?
Ryan: I have a good friend coming to this retreat whom I’ve never met.
Nancy: So exciting! And I look forward to meeting YOU in person as well! xoxo
My short fiction and poetry have appeared in publications including Eunoia Review, The Drabble, Algebra of Owls and Silver Birch Press, and won prizes in a number of competitions at venues including Grindstone, Writer Advice, Goodreads, Writers’ Forum Magazine and Poetry Nook. I’m a 2018 Pushcart Prize nominee and live in Melbourne, Australia.

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