Q and A with Kathy Fish, about her and Robert Vaughan's flash fiction collection RIFT
1. Tell us a little about RIFT.
This is the publisher’s description of our book:
“A stunning collaboration from Robert Vaughan and Kathy Fish, two masters of flash fiction, who’ve blended their work together in a vibrant explosion that is all of these things: evocative, heart wrenching, rare in the wild. The stories in RIFT explore the gamut of human connection and conflict, where emotions run deep beneath the surface. Divided into four sections: Fault, Breach, Tremor, and Cataclysm, writers Fish and Vaughan thread together their tales of strange encounters, mishaps, accidents, and disrepair. The world of RIFT is riven, tumultuous, and haunting. In here, danger lurks and the fallible human heart lay exposed and vulnerable. Fish and Vaughan leave their readers spellbound, mystified, and eager for the next story.”
2. How did this collaborative book with Robert Vaughan come about?
Bud Smith runs the great small press, Unknown Press. He invited Robert and me to put a book of our flash fiction together in a two-author collection. Creatively, everything else was left up to us!
3. Whose idea was it to organize RIFT in sections that have to do with seismic events (e.g. Fault, Tremor, Breach, and Cataclysm)?
That was my idea. In the end we had 72 stories for the book and we both felt like all that material needed some organizing principle. Looking at the work, we noticed differing levels of intensity around the theme of, yes, seismic events as metaphor for brokenness and upheaval, so I suggested organizing along those lines, building to the most intense, cataclysmic stories in the final section. It was Robert’s idea to “pair” our stories in the book according to shared elements and I really like how that turned out.
4. Your writing is at times so lyrical that I was seeing some of your stories as prose poems; there's also a compression to your language and narrative that reminded me of poetry. Do you sometimes think of them in this way?
Oh thank you! Yes, I do think a lot of the pieces in the collection, including some of Robert’s, are closer to prose poetry than flash fiction. It’s a very fine distinction that often gets blurred. I’ve not yet seen a concrete definition of prose poetry, but I would distinguish the two by saying that flash fiction, in contrast to prose poetry, must convey a sense of story. The narrative can be non-traditional and experimental, but there must be a story at its heart. Prose poetry focuses on language and image and sound. If there’s a story at work, it’s secondary to the language. I love writing pieces like this. My collection, Wild Life (which I talk more about below), includes a good deal of prose poetry/flash fiction hybrids.
5. I know that you teach online writing courses - please share some information about them here.
Gladly! I teach a course of my own design, called “Fast Flash.” It’s an intensive, generative workshop of 12 writers over the course of two weeks. There are daily craft discussions and prompts. It’s all done on a private website and the idea is to keep the pen moving and create lots of new material. There are no critiques, but everyone is encouraged to read and comment on each other’s work. The groups tend to really bond with each other! A couple have gone on to form their own groups post-workshop. There’s more information on my website: http://www.kathy-fish.com/?page_id=1425
I also teach weekend writing intensives with Word Tango. I really enjoy these workshops as well and Word Tango is committed to creating a wonderful writing community, with lots of great resources for writers. You can find more information about them and about the workshop I feel for them here: http://www.wordtango.com/
6. What are you working on now, if you don't mind telling us?
Thanks so much. I don’t mind at all. Right now, I’m working on a new edition of my collection, Wild Life, which was published by Matter Press in 2011. This second edition will include lots of new stories, but will stay true to the original aesthetic. I’m also working on a flash fiction guide/workbook based on my Fast Flash workshop. I’m very interested in writing longer stories now as well. I’m a huge fan of your stories, Christine! I also have a novel in the works I’m really excited about.