Monday, June 16, 2008

Flash Fiction Online/Stefanie Freele/Linera Lucas/Flash Fiction Review

Nominating Editor: Jake Freivald

Flash Fiction Online is a monthly online flash-only magazine that launched in December 2007. As writers, our staff wanted to create a professional flash fiction market, as defined by groups like the SFWA and our own standards; as readers, we wanted to publish accessible and well-written stories. We care more about plot and character than genre. Flash tends to blur boundaries anyway, and our tastes vary widely enough that we publish a broad selection of genres and styles. We've featured Bruce Holland Rogers, who is now writing a column for us, along with other well-known authors such as Bruce McAllister and Jim Van Pelt, but we've also published several authors' very first stories.

We nominated Stefanie Freele's "James Brown is Alive and Doing Laundry in South Lake Tahoe" for Five Star Literary Stories because it's a super example of how accessible great literary fiction can be. Its plot is light but definite. The characters and situation are ordinary, but the story isn't boring. Its intense point-of-view manipulation isn't a gimmick: the artifice enhances the art. Most importantly, of course, it resonates with almost everyone who reads it. I thank Stefanie very much for allowing us to publish it.

Nominated Flash Fiction: "James Brown is Alive and Doing Laundry in South Lake Tahoe" - Stefanie Freele

Review: by Linera Lucas

Of course the title is catchy, but what grabs me is the strength of the opening two sentences: Stu is driving to South Lake Tahoe to take his post-partum-strained woman to the snow, to take his nine-week-old infant through a storm, to take his neglected dog in a five hour car ride, and to take himself into his woman’s good graces. And he’s hungry.

The pounding of that first long sentence, its four phrases, the repetition of to take… and then the punch of the short second sentence. And he’s hungry. Ah, my reader’s mind is calmed, I know that I’m in good hands with this writer, and I am going to enjoy myself. If the first two sentences don’t grab me and tell me that this is going to be fun, then buddy, I’m out of here. I have a busy life. There are errands I don’t want to run, dishes I don’t want to wash, phone calls and emails I need to avoid.

In the second paragraph I’m surprised by a POV switch from the husband to the wife. Then in the third paragraph to the baby, in the fourth to the dog. All these characters have been introduced in that first clear and lengthy sentence, so I’m prepared to go with each POV shift. I’m right there in the car with this troubled family, wondering what the heck is going to happen to all of us.

Paragraph five is back to the husband, (a quick sneak ahead and I see that the wife is going to be next.) so I’m ready for regular alternation of POV for the whole short piece. Which I’m enjoying. Because I’m there in this car in the snowstorm and I want to know who these folks are, and what they are thinking.

I’m aware that this is a very short piece, so all the time I’m reading I’m wondering how the author is going to end it. Better be good and better be soon, not much print left ahead on the page. I’ve forgotten the title by now, I’m so wrapped up in the drama in the car. Right then the wife sees the man who looks like James Brown. The tiny epiphany that makes the story stop circling and move out on its own.

I believe in this small moment of joy, I do, I do. And as a reader, I’m pleased that the occupants of the car are temporarily happy. I understand that there is more trouble ahead for them, but now I can get out of the car.

The understatement of the last line is very pleasing, and a nice nod to James Joyce’s “The Dead,”: His woman lets her arm out and brings back snowflakes on her sweater to show everyone. The setup was in the first paragraph when the husband watched the snow falling falling falling. Ah, a smart, well-read author, as well as concise and emotionally acute. I’m a happy reader.

Drat. Now I need something else to read, or I’m going to have to take out the garbage and vacuum the carpet. Or I could take the dog for a walk. That’s it. Maybe I’ll see James Brown at the dog park.

Reviewer's Bio:

Linera’s short story “Shamlet” won First Prize in the 2007 Crucible Fiction Competition. Pindeldyboz, Pipes & Timbrels, and VerbSap have published other short stories, and her interview with watercolorist Ruth Armitage appeared in the January 2008 issue of Salem Monthly. She lives near Seattle and writes a blog focused on the literary life of the Pacific Northwest.

Thanks for visiting Five Star Literary Stories and reading about this flash fiction.

1 comment:

Bruce Holland Rogers said...

Stefanie Freele is great. I know she has a manuscript for a story collection, and I hope it finds a publisher soon.