Guest Author - Siobhain M Cullen
Flash Fiction anthologies make great potted books for any reader in a hurry, and the Leaf books anthology 'Derek and More Micro Fiction' is no exception. Writers in particular will find the collection a gripping read as it allow them a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ look into the writing lives and successes of other authors who are maybe not so very far ahead of them, but who have ‘made it.’
This directory of Micro Fiction competition-winners is made all the more delectable by the knowledge that smug published authors have not 'gotten into print' before novices just by sheer dint of their name and reputation. That greatest of levellers, anonymity, apparently prevails. So read the winning short fiction pieces and weep - or learn!
Derek and More Micro-Fiction is an anthology which may attract those who are automatically drawn to books which have a short, minimalist look about them – even if they are not writers. This slim, black, shiny volume with its lino-print effect, and black photo-negative style image of an empty park bench, looks mysterious.
Perhaps the styling even suggests an instruction like that of the bottle in Alice in Wonderland - inviting ‘read-me, you know you can do it in twenty minutes.’ Perfect for commuters or writers on the go, the anthology presentation suggests fiction which is witty but not too heavy.
Mini stories, 500 words or less, were called for and Leaf Books owns up to the fact that they sometimes admire the shortest – as in ‘a single paragraph.’ But then, that is now their prerogative, being (as they now suspect) a world-leader in Micro-Fiction publishing - and one which specialises in getting first-timers into print.
Some of the thirty-seven crisp shorts carry the dark theme forward, whether through representation of blind senile dementia, or through the enigma of mystery. Many of the short stories have ‘something of the night’ about them.
Readers may even take issue with the choices of winning entries, making perusing the anthology a truly interactive experience. They may find themselves subconsciously, or consciously, comparing the stories, mentally weighing the carats or flaws. They may harbor their own little grudges as they read, carrying their chosen one forward in their hearts to compare with the next story on the list - an intellectual challenge.
Many readers may feel, for example, that a story about a girl who is taken to one side at a party by her mother- to be told that she is ‘adapted’ (no, that’s not a typo) and is in fact, in reality, a slug, is more memorable than yet another story about dementia - one which would have had more impact if it had indeed stuck to the dementia theme, rather than offering the superfluous alternative interpretation of astral or time-travel.
These are the intellectual contortions that reader-writers may find rewarding in this Leaf Books anthology,as perhaps, they subconsciously look for the niche they could burrow into amongst some of these flashes of brilliance. They may wonder, should their own writing take up residence amongst the oh-too-clever slicks which are so deliberately ambiguous as to make themselves totally invisible by virtue of being unmemorable a day later?
Or should reader-writers position themselves alongside the tired stale-relationship stories? Perhaps would-be micro-fiction writers should take the anthology away with them in their heads, go join the traffic-jam to work, or go rescue the dry coco-pops from the kitchen floor before crunching them under their slippers. Two days later they could discover which story stuck? Which one left an ‘aura’ like a dream or nightmare?
It may be the one which took them back in time to their school bus and the revulsion that they felt as shiny-haired students who, pretty and pristine in pink, deliberately thumped their schoolbags onto the seats next to them on noticing the beery smell of a jaded leery passenger boarding at the bus stop.
The reasons why a particular story attaches itself to a reader’s psyche may be random of course. A non-event like the aching absence of a daughter may, through the sharp point of nostalgia, hurt - and will be remembered for that. Or, imagery may be the hook a story sticks on – a particularly long french-fry or the sleepy lapping of lakewaters around a smoking longboat. Either way, after a few days the chaff will gust away and some stories will linger.
Inspired by such atmospheric and ephemeral works, reader-writers may try for the next competition – and buy the anthology when it appears.
Voracious reader-writers can do this through Amazon, or through Leaf Books. Apparently Leaf benefits more from the latter purchasing option. In either case, there may well be ‘good goods in small packages' with these competition winner anthologies.