The International Flash Fiction Day Competition


Let the mob begin!

Flash Mob CloudFLASH MOB 2013 showcases more than 100 stories from more than 100 participating writers from all over the globe. CLICK ON THE PHOTOS below to find out more about the flash enthusiasts who wrote from or about those places. To read their stories CLICK ON THEIR PHOTOS. 

And see the WINNERS page plus the Top 25 page for the winning stories of the FLASH MOB 2013 Flash Fiction Day Competition. 

ASIA:  Nicolette Wong, Village House on Water

ASIA: Nicolette Wong, Village House on Water

AFRICA:  Shannon Marsh, Addis Ababa, Outside St George's Church

AFRICA: Shannon Marsh, Addis Ababa, Outside St George’s Church


Europe: Cecelia Wyatt, Outing in Bergen

Europe: Cecelia Wyatt, Outing in Bergen

The Americas: Robin Grotke, Okracoke Morning

The Americas: Robin Grotke, Ocracoke Morning


Oceania: Jana Heise, Fiji Sky


Antarctica: web image


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Meet the Judges — Robert Vaughan

n1188721262_310786_9161Robert Vaughan leads writing roundtables at Redbird- Redoak Writing. His writing has appeared in over 400 print and online journals. His short prose, “10,000 Dollar Pyramid” was a finalist in the Micro-Fiction Awards 2012. Also, “Ten Notes to the Guy Studying Jujitsu” was a finalist for the Gertrude Stein Award 2013. He is senior flash fiction editor at JMWW, and Lost in Thought magazines. His book, Flash Fiction Fridays, is at Amazon. His poetry chapbook, Microtones, is from Cervena Barva Press. He has a chapbook forthcoming from Deadly Chaps this summer, and his first full length collection, Addicts and Basements from Civil Coping Mechanisms in February, 2014.


Simoni-Wastila: You have written many flash stories and quite a few poems. What is it that draws you to these concise forms of writing?

Vaughan: The consistent thing that keeps me molding and sculpting shorter pieces would be the difficulty it presents. One tends to read a short piece and often marvels at how easy, on the surface, it appears: the brevity, the complexities, vocabulary, syntax, form. And yet, I find the exact opposite to be true. All of these factors are much more heightened when there is a word limit, or shorter content. Also, I hit a groove a few years ago with this pattern, and my writing has really charted its own course. I try not to let “what genre” comes out of my pen be the determined pre-set. In re-writes or editing, I might let that play into the mix a little more. Often my work is a combination of prose and poetry; prose poetry, or flash fiction. Better yet, it might be indefinable, in a similar context toward Lydia Davis, Tomas Transtromer, James Tate, or Anais Nin. I like playing on the edges of genre definitions, and bending the gray area. I feel as if my writing is becoming more experimental, more surreal, and dare I say, playful as a result.

Simoni-Wastila: I agree that writing short is more difficult than a reader might appreciate. In writing, every word should count, even in longer forms, but this is especially important in short fictions. How much do you struggle with finding the ‘right’ word?

Vaughan: I struggle on certain days more than others. My technique: get the first draft out, with the least amount of censoring possible. Next, I read it aloud. Then if possible, read it to others. Then I look for certain words I know are MINE (over-used!!! We all have them!). Then I usually wait a few days, or week(s), to let the story germinate (this is the most important step). Give yourself some distance from your work before you return to CHOP IT UP! When you are ready, you can apply those ‘final’ touches – the master strokes: what is essential to the story? What words are superfluous? What word(s) did you read recently that you thought you might want to sneak into a piece? Avoid all clichés. Surprise us with the audacity of your language.

Simoni-Wastila: You write provocative stuff, stories which often take a bit of chutzpah or even courage to address. What inspires the content of your stories? And what is your secret to evoking such grace to dark situations?

Vaughan: Thanks for this interpretation of my writing! I like to take on some of the heaviness or darkness of the human condition: our frailties, prejudices, burdens, weaknesses, or avoidances. Ironic that my first full- length book is titled Addicts and Basements, an obvious play on words (I also love this feature of language, the dualities of words and rich, diversified meanings). But also, the obvious assumptions a reader might make from the word “addicts,” and then the implications of the word “basements.”

I’m unsure if I have any secrets to reveal about the attempt to strike some balance between darkness and achieving grace. I think some of it might be the use of “white space,” and really trusting the reader to interpret the material, especially what is left unsaid. The gaps, the holes, the shadows. Sometimes it can be way more powerful to imply, or to suggest. Often, lately, I find much writing to be too heavy- handed. Predictable. I like surprises (infinitely more in writing than in life!)

Also, I am the kind of writer who benefits from, and has come to rely on, feedback and writing groups, and trusting whole-heartedly the editing process. I’m a member of more than one writing group, and this constant exposure, assessing others’ work, and having the scrutiny applied to my own is essential. I also feel like a piece is never truly “finished.” Put to bed? Sure.

Simoni-Wastila: You are an editor as well. When you read another writer’s story, one you might be considering for publication, what makes you go ‘ah-ha’? This one I must publish?

Vaughan: I like a writer who uses a unique style (voice?), and enjoys exploring topics that rarely get focus. Writing allows us to explore themes that most people might never discuss in “real life,” so immediately I am turned off by first boyfriend heartbreaks, mothers’ dying (we can blame Disney films!), make-outs in cars at sunset. I’m being trite, but clearly risk is inherent. Imaginative, bold, unusual writing grabs me. A writer must be willing to “fail” on the page. Of course, this is so highly subjective.

Simoni-Wastila: Your greatest writing weakness?

Vaughan: I am over-scrupulous, and at times can be too critical of my own writing.

Simoni-Wastila: What do you consider your greatest writing strength?

Vaughan: I feel as if I will never stop learning something new about the craft, about the art form of writing. I will always be searching for what it is, experimenting with new forms, words, structures, mentors. In addition, I really love when other artists are successful. Your success=my success.

Simoni-Wastila: You have a book of prose on the bookshelves, and soon a book of poetry. Tells us a little about how these volumes came into being.

Microtones157Vaughan: Let me start by offering that it’s possible you’ll never know where offers for books might come from! My first book, Microtones, originated from a reading I did in Boston in April 2012. Timothy Gager runs a monthly reading series called Dire Literary Series. We’d been trying to make it happen and had to cancel for various reasons a couple of times. When I went, another online writer friend, Gloria Mindock, planned to attend, and read in the open mic section of Timothy’s event. She was nervous, adorably so, because she’s a poet, and planned to read her first flash fiction piece (She was amazing, and the piece was eventually published at Thrice Fiction). Timothy, Gloria, and I went for a bite after the reading. We got to chatting about writing, process, and submitting. I’d just started shopping around a manuscript and had a couple of rejections. Gloria, in her sweet and quiet manner, leaned over and said, “I would publish you, Robert!” I was stunned, to the point where I thought I’d misheard her. But no, Gloria is the publisher at Cervena Barva Press, and the rest, as they say, is history.

My next book is forthcoming from Deadly Chaps, publisher Joseph A.W. Quintela. When I first started submitting to online and print magazines, Joseph was an early champion of my work. He loves experimental pieces (as do I), and one aspect of my work in which he’s always encouraged me is form. How can it appear in an unusual, more unique way? This has also helped me to blur the lines between fiction and poetry, which my work reaches toward. So, Diptychs, Triptychs, Lipsticks & Dipshits will be out this summer, 2013. It’s about 30 pieces, many are previously published.

Simoni-Wastila: What’s up next on your writing horizon?

Vaughan: Recently I was solicited with a new offer: my first full-length poetry book- Addicts and Basements is forthcoming from Civil Coping Mechanisms, in February 2014. I am completely blown away by this, and so am working at these pieces, generating them as they come. Most of the basement portion is constructed, and now the addict pieces are forming. I also have a chapbook length project, working title is “Female Icons.” This was really fun! Joseph Quintela created a project called “Working Definitions” in which a group of writers re-defined words. Assigned them any poetic re-definition. Then, I selected a lyric from some songstress, say Aretha Franklin’s ‘for five long years I thought you were the man.’ I’d post the lyrics into “The Poeticizer” and it would pop out the new poem:

so supportive that even your underwear shrinks in comparison


of billowing tongue


the edge of what you call home


as a room filled with screens

to have walked trembling with desire

a drawbridge, span down


In addition, I have a first/second draft of a novel, Goodwives River, and it begs to be dusted off and brought back out.

Simoni-Wastila: Robert, thank you for a fascinating chat and a peek into your writing life. And thank you for serving as the North American judge for FLASHMOB 2013. Best of luck with your endeavors! Peace, Linda


JOIN THE MOB — The International Flash Fiction Day Blog Carnival and Competition

Submissions Deadline: June 10!

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Meet the Judges — Nuala Ní Chonchúir

20120201nichonchuirNuala Ní Chonchúir was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1970; she lives in East Galway. Her fourth short story collection Mother America was published by New Island in 2012; The Irish Times said of it: ‘Ní Chonchúir’s precisely made but deliciously sensual stories mark her as a carrier of Edna O’Brien’s flame.’ Her début novel You (New Island, 2010) was called ‘a gem’ by The Irish Examiner and ‘a heart-warmer’ by The Irish Times. Her third full poetry collection The Juno Charm was published by Salmon Poetry in 2011. Nuala’s second novel will be published in 2014.


This interview is in two parts. We begin with an informal chat and end with a more in-depth look at the author’s craft.

Allen: Nuala, thank you again for judging Flash Mob 2013, and thank you for taking the time to talk to me. You’ve been publishing short fiction–and longer fiction as well–for more than a decade. I remember reading in an interview once that you started writing short stories when the novel you’d been working on wasn’t coming together. How do you know when an idea is better suited for the short form?

Ní Chonchúir: I get asked this question a lot – it is hard to pin down why one thing becomes a story another a poem or novel. It has to do with thinking in shapes, I think. I see/feel the spark of the thing as a long or short shape; it’s a gut thing, hard to put in words. But the story is deep and sharp and it requires a small space and the material (spark/idea/inspiration) dictates that.

Allen: This description–which I love–reminds me of my own musical training. Is this merely my interpretation here, or do you feel prose musically?

Ní Chonchúir: Very much so. I love musicality in prose and I read everything aloud for sound as I write. If it doesn’t sound right, it gets changed. I like to sing, maybe it comes from that?

Allen: Ah! That makes me feel confirmed (read not crazy). Do you by chance write while listening to music?

Ní Chonchúir: No. I used to study and listen to galloping Irish music at the same time, but I find the older I get, the more quiet I need for working.

Allen: I can’t write to music with someone singing lyrics. Eventually I start writing the lyrics into the story, which almost never turns out well. I have experimented with classical music and instrumental stuff. What is your opinion about experimentation in writing?

Ní Chonchúir: It’s good to experiment, it keeps you fresh. It is fun to play with form and language and try for something new. Who wants to write the same story, in the same way, over and over?

Allen: Agreed. Since we are ankle-deep in a flash fiction blog carnival-slash-competition, what is the briefest story you’ve ever published? And would you consider it flash fiction?

Ní Chonchúir: Oooh, I’d have to think. 100 words or so. Prose poems are so close to flash as to be indistinguishable, and I have published them and shorts of all lengths. Poets will call these short prose pieces prose poems, fiction writers call them flash or short-shorts. I’m not a huge fan of the word ‘flash’ anyway. I prefer ‘short-short story’.The lines get blurrier for me as time goes on. I think we should call our pieces whatever we are comfortable with. Neither the great Lydia Davis nor Pulitzer prize winner Robert Olen Butler likes themother-america-original-cover term ‘flash’ either and, ostensibly, they both write it.

Allen: A lot of writers are moving away from the term “flash”, and I understand this. With so little page space, flash fiction–or sudden fiction, micro fiction, quick fiction or however else one chooses to classify it–often runs the risk of being taken less than seriously. Which writers of the short form do you take seriously, and what are they doing right in your eyes?

Ní Chonchúir: I think ‘flash’ is gaining a reputation. There will always be those who wrongly equate short with ‘unfinished’ or ‘less than’.

Of the well-known people writing short, I love Tania Hershman and Robert Olen-Butler. Lately I read a story in Camera Obscura about a deer and motherhood and anorexia that blew me away.

What these writers have in common is a joy in language mixed with an excitement about what it is possible to write about. They are original thinkers who like to deliver thoughtful prose in exuberant language. I love that.

Allen: I just had to run and get the issue of Camera Obscura I got at AWP to see if the story was in it. I don’t think so. Do you remember the name of the story?

Ní Chonchúir: Apologies, I have been searching in my brain for the author’s name all day. Her name is Thisbe Nissen and the story is called ‘Deer at Rest’. Phew – so glad I remembered that. It’s online.

Allen: Excellent. I’ll get my hands on that story. Let’s talk about your work now. What are you working on right now, and what excites you these days in terms of your characters and themes?

Ní Chonchúir: I am working on a novel set in the 19th century in America and that’s all I’m saying about that. Otherwise, because the novel takes up so much headspace and time (research & writing), I am writing the odd short-short. Recent themes include bullying, egg folklore and magpies.

Allen: Egg folklore? Tell us more!

Ní Chonchúir: The egglore was a result of novel research (there is a lot of cooking in the novel) and I just loved all the extra, weird stuff I found out about eggs e.g that witches make boats from eggshells and sail out to sea in them and brew up storms. Anyway, I wrote a short-short using egglore I had unearthed. It’s called ‘Treedaughter’ and will be in the National Flash Fiction Day anthology in the UK.

Allen: When does that come out?

Ní Chonchúir: As far as I am aware in June (before NFFD which is, of course, the 22nd June).

Allen: It has been such a pleasure chatting to you, Nuala. Thank you again for taking the time.

Ní Chonchúir: Thank you, Christopher, I hope we meet in the real world anon 🙂

Allen: Same here, Nuala!


We turn now to a more detailed look at Ní Chonchúir’s craft. In this interview with Flash Mob Organizer Michelle Elvy, Ní Chonchúir and Elvy discuss particular stories in-depth at Flash Frontier, a flash fiction journal out of New Zealand.

On language and form

FF: You were first published as a poet but you’ve diversified into short story and novel writing, and in all these forms, your writing stands out for its intensity, strength and passion which is handled with a delicate appreciation of language. Do you think this balance comes from being a poet first? Does poetry influence the way you go about writing short stories or even novels?

NNC: Certainly as someone who writes poetry I value concision in language and beauty. I was also brought up bilingual – English at home, Irish (Gaelic) at school – so I have always been steeped in language and asking questions of it. Language is hugely important to me as a writer and as a reader – I love those who take risks with language, I love stylists like John Banville and Annie Proulx. Kevin Barry is doing great things with Hiberno-English.

For my own writing, I like to use interesting language because, I feel, it adds richness. Having said that, plain language – like Hemingway’s – can be equally rich. I guess I value writers who take great care with words.



Meet the Judges — Marcus Speh

Marcus_speh_pic_zweiMarcus Speh is a German writer. He began to write prose in English seriously in 2008. Since 2009, his work has been published widely both online and in print. He’s been nominated for various prizes, shortlisted and longlisted for others, including The Paris Literary Prize. His debut collection of short fiction, Thank You for Your Sperm, has been published by MadHat Press. A mosaic novel is forthcoming from Folded Word Press in 2014.


Allen: Marcus, first of all, thank you for being a judge for Flash Mob 2013. Over the last three years you’ve written hundreds of shorts, many of which are in your collection–which has just been published– Thank You for Your Sperm (MadHat Press). What drew you to the short form?

Speh: Thank you for having me—I’m looking forward to it: if only to get a creative break from the ego trip of bringing out my first book! When I look at my collection, I’m reminded of my original reasons for writing flash: it’s fast, fiercely flexible and a wonderful medium for eccentric experimentation with style, with characters, with genre. As an art form, it promises a paradox: it’s both hard to do anything wrong with it — who cannot string a few hundred words together? — and at the same time it’s difficult to really get right — how can you put an entire world on such a small canvas?

Allen: Does a story come to mind off the top of your head by someone who gets it right in your opinion?

Speh: Many of the pieces in Charles Simic’s 1989 Pulitzer-prize winning collection The World Doesn’t End strike me so. Here’s one of my favorites from that book: «The hundred-year-old china doll’s head the sea washes up on its green beach. One would like to know the story. One would like to make it up, make up many stories. It’s been so long in the sea, the eyes and nose have been erased, its faint smile is even fainter. With the night coming, one would like to see oneself walking the empty beach and bending down to it.» — One might call this a prose poem rather than flash fiction. In their brevity and condensed beauty, Simic’s pieces resemble tiny, untitled abstract paintings.

Allen: I’m glad you said that. I wanted to ask if this incredibly compact form requires the writer to think more like a poet or a painter. I think I’ve made similar comments about your work, but I think it was a comment that related your prose to sculpture.

Speh: I’ve got an inferiority complex (or perhaps it’s just a mental limp) when it comes to poetry. You must ask a poet! I think you’re absolutely right though — and it’s one of my few remaining discomforts with flash. I feel that getting it right takes a higher toll when writing micro than when writing longer pieces. The lyrical “flash mode” as it were can be hard to stay with for many pages. I experience that with more lyrical writers (Faulkner comes to mind). I didn’t say this very well. I told you I get paralysed around poetry.

Allen: I understand perfectly what you mean about Faulkner. . So intense. What is your opinion about experimentation in prose? In a recent blog post at marcusspeh.com, you said you write to surprise yourself. I like that, and I hope I’m getting that close to what you wrote.

Speh: Regretfully, I continually surprise myself by disagreeing with my own views…regarding prose, I’m hugely fond of experimenting with meaning and with pushing the boundaries of what can be said while maintaining a rather conservative grip on form. I don’t think certain values of writing ought to be sacrificed, such as clarity of expression, narrative arc, and humanity of meaning. Within that, very much is possible, take such different authors as Lydia Davis, Charles Baudelaire or Robert Walser as examples (to name but three of my flash fiction heroes).

tyfys2flat copyAllen: Could you tell us a bit more about what you mean by ‘humanity of meaning’? Maybe use one of your own stories from Thank You For Your Sperm to show us?

Speh: I tried to express it in the 170-word story “The Sodomized Dictator” (first published in PANK) which was prompted by the killing of dictator Ghaddafi (widely, and graphically publicized)—to paint grief and brutality without preaching, as I said in the accompanying interview.

Allen: The image/metaphor of the volcano opening under the characters’ feet is quite strong. It characterizes so well the feeling of the sea change in that region.

Speh: Image is everything don’t you think? Especially in flash, a scene is often no longer than a single image. Which brings us back to “getting it right”. A wrong, or a blurred image can fully destroy a flash piece.

Allen: Very true. What are you reading these days? Are you enjoying it? What kind of prose excites you?

Speh: This is my year of Henry James. I’m reading all of his great novels in the New York edition, which means that I live in a very different universe from most people some of the time. I’m enjoying it on many levels, not the least one being his craft. There’s nobody quite like James to observe the art of scene building, of point-of-view changes, and how a change of consciousness transforms everything. He’s making me very, very jealous! Taking lessons from a master is exciting! I seem to be stuck in the early 20th century—for non-fiction, I re-read Freud and Friedell to calm my own discontents with contemporary culture.

Allen: Ah, yes. I actually knew you were going through James right now. Definitely the opposite of flash fiction if there ever was an opposite. When I was going through my own year of James, I was awestruck by his ability to weave in and out of his characters’ consciousnesses. The levels of discourse in his late phase became a major theme in my Master’s thesis.

Speh: I’d like to read that thesis! I don’t think I would ever have finished a thesis on James—I’d have got lost in the bushes looking for bunnies. You’re right about opposites there. It’s a necessity, I think. Broadening your skill horizon and all that.

Allen: I often stayed up all night looking for bunnies. I see James’s prose as an opportunity to read the language at its most intricate, at its technical peak? Like when a painter studies the technique of the masters…but eventually ends up a cubist.

Speh: I like the simile! — James wasn’t a stranger to experimentation with the short form either: you once told me the short story “The Figure in the Carpet” was one of your favorites. I wonder if he’d be dabbling (or excelling) in flash if he lived today.

Allen: It’s interesting that James’s “short” stories would be considered quite long today. “The Figure in the Carpet” is itself around 4o pages. I think James would probably pooh-pooh flash as the work of frustrated poets. Flash fiction has been on a journey away from the gimmicky plot-twist-oriented ending that characterized it years ago. And this is a great thing. Your own prose often defies classification. Where do you think “flash” fiction is headed? Some of your work is a sort of flash non-fiction, or would you resist this label?

Speh: I don’t think I care too much about labels — I’m aware that most of my fiction is fed by the lives I’ve lived. in which the Internet, or the Web rather, has played an enormous role.

Since plot is not my strength I wouldn’t dare twisting it…The recent success of Lydia Davis at the International Booker could cause pressure to turn it into something fixed according to the public’s idea of flash. But what if flash fiction is more like the fruit fly and undergoes evolutionary changes more quickly than any other literary form? In that case there’s no way to say where it’s going. I’d like that because, as you know, I like to be surprised! If it develops, as it seems to have developed for the past decade or so, alongside the Internet, it might become one of the fastest developing and changing forms of writing we’ve ever seen—and few people would try to predict where the Internet is going.

Allen: What influence do you think the internet has had on the condensing of literature in general? What do you think of Twitter fiction, for example?

Speh: I participated in a Twitter fiction experiment a couple of years ago—a Tweetathon of Joyces Ulysses. It was fun and yet a tad tiring. I hear that social media, Twitter and Facebook at the helm, are slowly winding down. I don’t think anything as short-lived as software can really change the course of literature, which gets its strength from the darkest depths and the brightest light that’s available to man. The Internet is but an infrastructure, a road to connect, while literature is a cause to connect, more like love and less like lino. I believe with John Gardner that art moves and shapes society, not the other way around: perhaps the global need for short fiction created the Internet just like the 19th-century novel helped create the Victorian age.

Allen: I’m jotting down “The internet is but an infrastructure, a road to connect, while literature is a cause to connect, more like love and less like lino.” so that I can co-opt it later. Thank you so much for this interview, Marcus! And in real time at that. It’s always great talking to you.

Speh: Thank you — your amazing questions always set me up for deep unconscious journeys. It’s been fun! I’m looking forward to this Flash Mob: our conversation seems to suggest that there’s a lot more to flash than meets the eye, and a lot more to discover.


JOIN THE MOB — Deadline for submissions June 10.