496 Words on Writing Flash Prose. (Or, Nimbility: Shouldn’t that be a word?)

“Walking this tightrope of tension—evoking emotional shifts, revealing information—requires a writer’s nimbleness, agility. Nimbility. (Shouldn’t that be a word?)”— from my 496-word Ploughshares blog post on writing, reading, submitting, and working with flash prose, even if you’re trying to write a novel.

The coolest writing space on the Fox River: The Mill—A Place for Writers

atlasmilllAs part of the Fox Cities Book Festival, Chuck Rybak and I judged this year’s writing contest for The Mill: A Place For Writers. Set on the Fox River, the building is a former paper mill constructed out of cream-city brick— part coffee shop, part classroom, part meeting space, and part paper-mill museum. It’s such a cool space of learning and exchange for area writers.

Classes are offered throughout the year— and they’re working, judging by the quality of entries we reviewed for the contest.

gallery19From the back deck of the building, you can watch the Fox River rush along. Rumor has it that bald eagles like to fish here.

Thanks to coordinators Steven Polansky and Karla Huston for inviting us to be a part of this wonderful evening of lively reading and conversation.

We can’t wait to return.

New today: “The Princess Isn’t Frightened”— My interview with @TheCollagist about how, and why, a princess might swallow a glass piano.

What a pleasure to talk about a really fun flash fiction to write– “The Glass Piano,” about a Bavarian princess with a glass delusion– with the editors of The Collagist. So grateful for their time and interest. The interview is here.

“The Glass Piano” is part of my new flash fiction collection, Morbid Curiosities, now available online and in stores.

Scissors? Redaction pens? Hoops and torches? Behold, the WORKSHOP OF FIRE!!!! Today @pshares.

BobBouty6This semester, I’m trying to build a better post-graduate writer– one who can jump through hoops, use daring and discipline, and set words on fire. Can we instill in students (and ourselves) the ability to leap without a ringmaster? Come share your ideas  at my WORKSHOP OF FIRE!!!! post– today at the Ploughshares Blog.

Authors, support your local bookstore, and they will support you. And you will support them. And they will…

The circle of support begins here.

The signing table: my place in the circle of support.

Last night, I gave a reading from my new flash fiction collection, Morbid Curiosities. I love giving readings, and this one was a lot of fun (for me, at least). It was delightful to listen to my audience help (as I’d assigned! I had handouts!) to give these stories voice. The reading was at Green Bay, Wisconsin’s The Reader’s Loft, a gorgeous, spacious, independent bookstore with dark wood shelves and plush velvet chairs and two large kittens merrrowing through the aisles. (In the middle of reading, I heard a crash, and immediately thought, “Yep. Kitten-work.”)

This is not a post about the superiority of independent bookstores over chain bookstores. To be clear, as a writer, I was thrilled when my first story collection, Let’s Do, was selected for Barnes and Noble’s Discover Great New Writers program. That selection allowed me to read and sign books in nearly any city in the U.S. and resulted in a great web review from the program, as well as my family’s thrill in, say, Springfield, Missouri, to snap a picture of my book on the shelf.

One of the polaroids snapped by the event coordinator at a local Barnes & Noble.

A polaroid snapped by the local BN events coordinator for my reading of Let’s Do.

But when it came to giving readings in my area, it was both the chain bookstores as well as the independent Reader’s Loft that welcomed me with the warmest, most open arms. The event coordinator at Barnes and Noble, Grand Chute, filled the front window with my book, draped a table in gold cloth, and made a pyramid of books on top of it. She gave me polaroids of the display. The Green Bay coordinator wrote a glowing review for the B&N internal newsletter and staged a great event as well.

As a writer, I was grateful for their creativity in promoting my work. As a reader, all of these stores earned a loyal customer. Actually, customers, since my husband and daughters and mother love to read—and buy— books.

On the way out of The Reader’s Loft last night, I asked the out-of-print specialist—a man I love to talk books with every time we stop in— if we sold a lot of copies of my book. Yes, he told me. But also: the event sold a good number of other books. I know this for a fact: my mother came home with the gigantic (expensive!) new Doris Kearns Goodwin tome. My colleagues bought Spring Break reads.

I’m kind of slow, so it’s taken me this long to realize that sometimes, it’s not just about what others can do to sell your book. In fact, it feels equally good to participate in bringing others to great bookstores, engrossing reads, and conversations about reading.

Last night, a friend who’d never stepped foot inside Reader’s Loft marveled, “Wow. This is a beautiful bookstore! I’m definitely coming back with my children.”

Yes, she bought a copy of my book. But better yet, I helped make a wholly different kind of sale.


(You can find my books locally on shelves in The Reader’s Loft, and online in these venues.)