2007 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Gold Medal Portfolio winner Denise Rickman has been published, just two years out from high school. Denise’s story appears in Long Story Short: Flash Fiction by Sixty-Five of North Carolina’s Finest Writers.
The book was edited by Marianne Gingher. Ms. Gingher is a creative writing professor at The University of North Carolina, whose press published the book. She was inspired to collect examples of flash fiction* after the death of her mentor, the author Max Steele, who directed the UNC creative writing program from 1967 until 1986. In addition to founding The Paris Review with George Plimpton, Steele won the Harper Prize, the Saxton Memorial Trust Award, the Mayflower Cup Award and O. Henry Prizes.

At some point, his stories started getting shorter and shorter, and he began to promote the idea of shorter (and shorter!) stories as a useful means of preserving the clarity of a moment, relationship, proposition, misunderstanding…whatever the focus of your story is. He shared his contention that such a form could free a writer to express him- or herself boldly and economically. There is the famous story of Ernest Hemmingway bragging that he could write a story with just six words…what were they?
“For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.” He said it was his best work. Personally, I prefer “The Sun Also Rises”, but I guess this is good if you’re in a hurry.

Here, you can listen to an episode of “The State of Things” (a public radio program broadcast by The University of North Carolina) where Ms. Gingher and three of the book’s contributors discuss “Long Story Short” and flash fiction as a form. At the end, she mentions Denise Rickman and says that she is a natural. Denise “…continues to win all of the mini-max contests. When we have flash fiction contests…she’s the winner.”

We spoke to Denise to ask what it felt like to be published while still in college, and she was excited. She has enjoyed the literature community at UNC—her professor is Daniel Wallace, author of Big Fish (a novel that was later made into a movie by Tim Burton) and five other books, she has a challenging slate of classes that are broadening her inspirations, and she is a part of several writing workshops that provide critiques from her teachers and fellow students. She feels that this last part of her college education has been the most important, as it has made her a better reader and writer. She told me to not even bother reading the pieces that won her her 2007 Scholastic Art &; Writing Award in the portfolio category, but I did and they are great.

So congratulations to Denise, and keep your eyes open for future works from her.

*Also known as sudden fiction, microfiction, micro-story and postcard fiction.
In The Scholstic Art & Writing Awards we call it “Short Short Story”).

Hopefully we won’t have a “rap” vs. “hip hop” phenomenon, where using a term that was once in vogue makes you sound like a total Clyde.

Here are some more examples of flash fiction, courtesy of Wired Magazine:

“Failed SAT. Lost scholarship. Invented rocket.
William Shatner

“Computer, did we bring batteries? Computer?”
Eileen Gunn

Machine. Unexpectedly, I’d invented a time machine.

Alan Moore

“It’s behind you! Hurry before it – ”
Rockne S. O’Bannon

“Lie detector eyeglasses perfected: Civilization collapses.”
Richard Powers

“The baby’s blood type? Human, mostly.”
Orson Scott Card

“Kirby had never eaten toes before.”
Kevin Smith

“I couldn’t believe she’d shoot me.”
Howard Chaykin

“Easy. Just touch the match to -”
Ursula K. Le Guin

Think you can do better? Post your flash fiction in our comments section.

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