Online Lit Mag Showcases 100-Word Gems
The word Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, for some unexplained reason, came to mind moments after a two-hour thorough read of 100 word story. This publication is an online literary mag with the premise of asking writers to use only 100 words...literally. The site states the following under its Submission Guidelines: "100 words … no more or no less. Tell a story, write a prose poem, pen a slice of your memoir, or try your hand at an essay."
Simple, straightforward guidelines, and as a writer, this alone thrilled me. Well...until I attempted the task. Crafting an encompassing story within the micro-fiction form is not easy. At all. It requires knowing what words need to stay and which ones need the boot. So the material I read through impressed me significantly, but we will touch on that in a bit.
It would be easy say this magazine is one that focuses solely on micro-fiction (it has been also referred to as flash fiction) and it does, primarily, but it's that and so much more. The site offers photo prompts, interviews, essays, fiction, non-fiction and a host of other fun extras which is why I think the word Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious came to my mind so readily.
And in case you were wondering, the word and song, written by the Sherman Brothers for the movie adaptation of Disney's Mary Poppins, is described as a word used "as something to say when you can’t think of anything to say" but no worries, when it comes to 100 word story I have plenty.
100 word story is not your average literary find on the web. It challenges both the reader and the potential writer to choose carefully images and words brought forth while reading and creating. The reader has the challenge of taking the 100 word limit to mindfully fill in the spaces of the story using their own experiences and imagination to take from the story what will best fill them with a complete picture. The writer also faces this challenge by working in a backward manner to extract parts of the story that do not move it to conclusion in an effort to meet the 100 word count. Fascinating task to say the least.
Here is the breakdown of this refreshing and well thought out site that not only captivated me for two hours but also inspired me to do some creative writing of my own. I will use the word Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious to help.
Super - Meaning above and beyond one's expectations. The ABOUT section (which is always my first stop) gives a great explanation of the site:
"The 100-word format forces the writer to question each word, to reckon with Flaubert’s mot juste in a way that even most flash fiction doesn’t. At the same time the brevity of the form allows the writer “to keep a story free from explanation,” as Walter Benjamin wrote."
No guessing for the potential writer or casual reader, both are encouraged to literally read between the lines and create their own imagery within the story. I chose to read several of the stories more than once and found a new hidden gem I missed the first time. Some of them brought about memories and others left me curious. The magazine does publish on a rolling basis and since first going to the site, I have been back over a dozen times and found new little surprising stories to inspire as well as challenge the writer in me. So super definitely fits for me so far.
Cali - While only a few online dictionaries choose to define this as an actual word, the ones that do, all agree that Cali means beautiful and anyone that has been to California will probably agree. 100 word story's website is definitely visually beautiful but it is also skillfully laid out with a clean look that is both colorful and user friendly. It is a two-columned WordPress site which allows for ease of following either by email or an RSS feed. They are also on Twitter and Facebook and the buttons are just a click away.
Fragilistic - From this part of the word I took fragile. This best describes the magazine's Photo Story section which delicately juxtaposes 100 words and a single photo. Take, for example, the photo story of Arleane Ralph. This well-written nugget was one of my favorites in this category. The photo is of a postcard, written on, post-stamped and slightly worn. The author masterfully describes in only a 100 words where this letter was, where it has been and then where it goes all during the process of a kitchen remodel. It's a brilliantly executed piece of fiction that left me with a complete story. Ms. Ralph literally gave the postcard a life, a personality and a reason.
Expiali - This word means atone and if used as a verb it can be described as "making up for errors or deficiencies." Therefore this word fits perfectly in my review because the writer has the definite challenge of making up for the deficiencies of a story when a word limit is set in place. Let's look at an example from the site.
"That Girl" by Heather Beecher Hawk was a true photograph of words for me. The piece, about a girl meeting the family of her boyfriend, who she knows she will never see again and their reaction to her and the scene before her as she visits. It is a 100-word snapshot without a picture. Clear, candid, emotional, fluid and precise in her telling of that one day in her life. Imagery in words is a powerful thing and what makes flash fiction so challenging. Ms. Hawk succeeded in "making up or atoning" for the deficiency in her story by carefully choosing words that not only impacted the story itself, but put us within the story listening to Bad Company in a silver Trans Am. I could practically feel my hair blowing.
Docious - My luck that this word is last. Here is the Urban Dictionary's meaning: "an adjective used to describe a person, thing, place that is ultra-hip and cool. Derived from the infamous 'supercalifragilisticexpialidocious'."
Used in a sentence, one might say, "I love your new car, it's docious" or "Wow, 100 word story is docious, be sure to check it out" and that is the advice I give to you, oh and also bookmark it, you will want to go back often for that quick fix. It is absolutely "docious" and why I am going to give it five stars. One star for each of the five parts of supercalifragilisticexpialidocious I broke down for this review.
In addition to some things I touched on already, be sure to check out the Interviews section. The interview with Tara Masih, thankfully not limited to 100 words, gives a fabulous insight of her love of writing flash fiction and what she believes it takes to be successful at it. I think my favorite question of the interview was when she was asked what makes good flash fiction. She replied:
Sometimes it’s a unique voice or subject, but all the successful stories have one thing in common: they tell a small story in a small space with not a word or mark of punctuation out of place. They hook in to some essential characteristic of human foibles and triumphs. Each sentence drives forward to the next.
Excellent to remember when crafting your own flash fiction. She also goes on to talk about her current projects and what flash fiction has taught her about her own writing and herself. This was just one of several very interesting interviews. The Grant Faulkner piece was the latest posted and the next one I plan to read. Mr. Faulkner is the co-founder of 100 Word Story and while researching for this review I came across Fissures. It is a collection of 100-word stories that were passionately crafted as small separate entities bound together in one fabulous read. My reward for getting this review to my editor in time is reading the interview!
The site also features book reviews and access to quick links on its sidebar which I found rather handy and supplied me with several things I bookmarked for later reading. For the writer, as I said before, the guidelines are pretty straight-forward and allowed via Submishmash. If you are new to the concept of flash fiction and need a jumping point, a photo prompt is available to help get you started. I suggest you read more than a handful to get a feeling for it. The submission and publishing process is on a rolling basis.
In conclusion, I just want to say that although the concept of micro or flash fiction is not new, it has been making a comeback in recent years and I think we will see more of it surface, especially within the online publishing arena. I really enjoyed writing this review as I learned a great deal and now have a new challenge place upon my writing plate. Perhaps my life story in 100 words…well maybe I will start with just one day!