I’ve written about flash fiction before, but here’s a brief refresher. Flash fiction is short fiction, usually at least under 3,000 words. More often under 1,000. Sometimes as short as two sentences or 50 words. It’s not about how long it takes to write the story. In fact, flash fiction should take just as long to write, edit, and revise as a more traditional short story because every single word counts.
Maybe the spread of flash fiction is a sign of our dwindling attention spans. Who knows? What I know is that there are so amazing stories being told out there with flash as a medium. Kelcey Parker’s novella in flash, Fallingwater. Essays in flash at Brevity. Almost everything at Smokelong Quarlterly, but especially this story by Margaret Patton Chapman.
First draft written: July 4, 2013
Number of drafts: 3-4
Number of rejections: 12
From submission of publication: about 3 months
We were driving from Madison to my parents’ house in Kentucky for their big Fourth of July party. There are a lot of corn fields between Madison and Burlington, Kentucky. I thought to myself, what if there were flowers growing in the corn fields? A rose, maybe? I liked the sound of that phrase–the rosebush in the corn. The combination of the fairy tale and the mundane. Rosebushes made me think of my grandmother, so I thought she’d be in there somehow. The only question was, how did the rosebush get there?
I skipped the big fireworks show that day in order to write the first draft of this story. Skipping fireworks isn’t such a big deal, but it highlights one of the truths of being a writer–at some point, you’re going to have to be alone. Even if you’re sitting in a room full of people, if you’re writing, you’ve removed yourself into another world. If you can’t do that for sustained periods of time, you’re probably not going to be able to write.
This story got rejected a lot of times, and you never know exactly why. I wonder if a lot of people reading this lacked some important context. The farm I imagine this story taking place on is big–one of those huge Indiana farms with miles and miles of corn and soybeans. The kind of farm where the tractor’s controlled by GPS and the seed companies dictate your every decision. On that kind of farm, a rosebush showing up in the middle of a field is a weird thing. But if you don’t understand what farming has become in places like Indiana, maybe the story doesn’t make as much sense.