The Short Story Interview: Meg Pokrass at Great Jones Street

Great Jones Street with The Short Story

Meg Pokrass has authored four collections of flash fiction and an award winning book of prose poetry. Her work has appeared in 220 literary journals and anthologies (W.W. Norton, 2015). Meg won the Blue Light Book Award in 2015.  Her most recent collection, The Dog Looks Happy Upsidedown was recently reviewed by TSS here. You can also read our last interview with Meg here.  Meg currently works as a curator for Great Jones Street.

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Interview by Rupert Dastur

 

Hi Meg, thanks for speaking to us again. Since we last chatted, you’ve moved to the Great Jones Street team… what can you tell us about that?

 Great Jones Street’s founder, Kelly Abbott, is the son of beloved American short story writer and legend. Lee K. Abbott. Kelly grew up around short stories and inherited a great love of the short story form. I was thrilled when Kelly offered me the job of curating flash, a dream job for me. Working with people who are excited about what they do and are doing is addictive, and Great Jones Street is a rare, stunning idea that is coming true before our eyes. Great Jones Street is an innovative literary offering that puts short stories in the hands of anyone with a mobile device and a will to read them. It has become the Spotify for short fiction.

 As Great Jones Street’s  Flash Fiction curator – what do you look for in great flash?

I look to be emotionally affected by flash fiction. I crave the discovery of new writing that employs fresh language in a way that does not feel imitative, or at all like anything I’ve read before. I want to be awakened and dazzled.

You’ve been writing flash fiction yourself for a number of years – what can you tell us about the form that makes it so exciting?

I love flash fiction’s inventive, impish nature. I find that there are thousands of ways a story can be told. For example, I love the idea that a writer can tell a powerful story by creating a narrator who is trying not to tell it. Or when a writer creates the feeling of humans caught in amber—love caught inside a snow-globe. Or when a writer can show us a fragment of life-in-miniature, with all of its thwarted longing. These are the kinds of moments that make flash fiction seductive.

Writers of Flash Fiction often talk about the ‘risks’ you can take with the form. What exactly does that mean? How does a risky flash appear on the page?

A risky flash does not appear like anything special, but it does something magical that we can’t pull away from. Reading masterful flash fiction is very much like falling into a manhole. The hole is filled with what is not said. What is not said becomes far more compelling than what is said, and we are pulled in hard and fast.

What, in your opinion, is the optimum length for a flash. At what point does it start to drift into short story territory?

I feel partial to flash fiction that lives between 300 – 750 words. That is a personal preference. To answer your question about drifting, right up near 950 words, a writer is approaching the short story border.

If you were to explain to someone who had never encountered flash fiction before what exactly it was, what would you say? And which authors would you suggest they read?

Amy Hempel, Jayne Ann Philips, Jeff Landon, Curtis Smith, Robert Scotellaro, Russell Edson, Lydia Davis, Pamela Painter, Sherrie Flick, Anthony Tognazzini, Thaisa Frank, Tiff Holland, Tania Hershman, Molly Giles, Lou Beach, Allen Woodman, Grant Faulkner.. these are some writers I’d suggest a new flash fiction writer read.

Are there any useful resources out there that flash fiction writers can usefully turn to?

There are endless resources these days. I’d start by reading Flash Fiction International (W.W. Norton) and the Sudden Fiction anthologies edited by Shapard, Thomas and Christopher Merrill.

Lastly, in your work as a Flash Fiction curator for Great Jones Street, what’s top of your agenda?

I want to fill our library at Great Jones Street with the world’s best flash fiction library.

 


Rupert Dastur is a writer and editor. He studied English at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he specialised in Modernism and the Short Story. He established TSS with the aim of furthering discussion, interest, and development of the form. He has supported several short story projects and anthologies, and his own work is in / forthcoming in The New Flash Fiction Review, A3 Review, Field of Words, Bath Flash Fiction Anthology 2016, and Bath Short Story Anthology 2016.

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