Flash Fiction as an Explosion of Emotion: Insights from Leslie Archibald

Hi Leslie! Nancy and I are so excited that you’ll be joining us in gorgeous Breckenridge in August for our retreat! What has been your writing workshop/retreat experience in the past? How do you find ways to honor your writing in your day to day life?

 I am so excited to meet Nancy and work with you again, Kathy. My workshop experience has always been positive and nurturing. I feel like the most important feedback in critique groups is not the editing issues (there are always a couple editors in the group), but content feedback where a particular aspect of the piece may not be clear to the reader. I appreciate when someone takes the time to really read the piece and says, “I wasn’t sure about this thing” or “maybe this could be clearer.” This feedback gives me the opportunity to go back and think about changing or adding (even one word) to clarify and make it readable. I feel like I have become a better reader through this experience, and I try to give feedback as a reader, not an editor. The best way I can think of to honor my writing is to keep coming back to it. Making time to write and to continue to develop the craft of writing. I take quite a few workshops specifically to make time to write.

I agree so much that the best way to honor one’s writing is to keep coming back to it. And the huge value of peer feedback as well! Please respond to this quote by Martha Graham:

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.” 

I love this quote. I feel like action comes from engaging others. Whether it is literary, visual, or performing, art engages and creates a connection within. Words evoke empathy and emotionally connect a reader to the piece. Empathy inspires action. I just finished the novel Forgotten Country, by Catherine Chung. The depth of her characters was so engaging for me, I became emotionally invested in the family. I think that is why I write Flash. Flash, to me, is like an explosion of emotion that stays with you long after you have experienced that initial moment.

Flash as an “explosion of emotion.” Wow, I love that, Leslie. Thank you! Can you tell us what is your favorite story that you yourself have written (“favorite” doesn’t have to mean “best” or more successful or whatever). And why is it your favorite?

Most of my pieces are based in memory so I have a close connection to each. I have recently tried to focus on complete fiction. I have found that adding a fantasy element into a real situation gives me an opportunity to stretch my mind. I have recently written a piece about a siren who falls in love with a human who dies, of course, and she is left to live alone. I focused on the emotional element of loss and anger but also added the mystical elements of a Siren.

Have you been to Breckenridge before? What are you most looking forward to as a writer retreating to this incedible place? 

I have not been to Breckenridge and am looking forward to the scenery. I hear it is beautiful. Mostly, I am looking forward into immersing myself into writing. Living the life of a writer without the distractions of the day job. Many times I will feel a need to write that is stifled by the day job.

Is there something we don’t know about you that you’re happy to share? 🙂

I love sappy 70s songs (Andy Gibb, The Carpenters) and Murder She Wrote.

Ah, this is great! Thanks so much, Leslie! August can’t get here soon enough!

Leslie Archibald is a graduate of the University of Houston, majoring in English, Creative Writing with a minor in Women’s Studies. She currently works at a full-time office position while continuing to write and edit part time. Leslie is the volunteer coordinator at Writespace, a local Writer’s organization in Houston, Texas and is the winner of the 2017 Spider Road Press’s Spiders Web Flash Fiction Prize for her piece “Sherry Baby.”

NOTE: Our Breckenridge retreat is sold out, but some spaces remain in our upcoming Costa Rica and Italy retreats. Check them out! We’d love for you to join us.


Max Hipp on Writing, Retreating, and “Getting Messy”

Hi Max! You will be joining Nancy & me for Create in Costa Rica in January. Thanks! We’re so excited for this retreat. What, if any, has been your writing workshop/retreat experience in the past? How do you find ways to honor your writing in your day-to-day life?

I did a Barrelhouse Writer Camp last summer in rural PA (Barrelhouse does great work for writing culture—not only do they publish a journal and many books, they also offer a grant for up-and-coming lit journals!). A creek ran through the property and we’d all get together, a few dozen writers and editors, to eat dinner and watch a terrible movie. I was able to get a lot done.

I make time for writing every day, at least a couple of hours. If I can’t do that, if I don’t have time to even sit down, I’ll write things on my phone. Even if it’s just a paragraph or an idea.

Respond to this quote by Brenda Ueland: “So you see, imagination needs moodling – long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering.”

This is from one of the four million books on writing I’ve read that I wish I owned. Of course I agree. Personally I’m trying to spend less time “dawdling and puttering” so more of it has an end result.

What is your favorite story that you yourself have written (“favorite” doesn’t have to mean “best” or more successful or whatever). And why is it your favorite?

The truth is my favorite piece is whatever I’m working on. I’ve got a few new things bouncing around, though, that I think are pretty good. Even though nobody has taken them yet, the rejections from journals have been complimentary and specific rather than boilerplate, so that’s somewhat encouraging.

Tell us something we don’t know about you that you are happy to share. AND/OR What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming retreat in Costa Rica?

I write songs, short stories, flashes, and aborted novels. I used to compartmentalize the forms because I was thinking they should all be made so differently. Now I get messy and let them leak all over each other.

I’m looking forward to a community of writers in a new place. It helps so much to read works in progress with other writers and editors–people who are great readers–and just talk about what you’re making.

I love what you say about allowing different forms to “leak all over each other.” And I agree wholeheartedly about the value of community for writers! Max, thanks for taking the time to chat. Nancy and I look forward to creating in Costa Rica with you!

NOTE: A few spots remain for Create in Costa Rica in January! Join us!

Bio: Max Hipp is a teacher and writer living in Mississippi. His work has appeared in Black Warrior Review, New World Writing, Unbroken Journal, and Five 2 One. Follow him on Twitter: @maximumevil