Flash fiction, microfiction, sudden fiction, palm-of-the-hand stories, short shorts... the names for the shortest form of fiction are as varied as writers’ and readers’ interpretations of the work. Generally defined as a story between six words and 1,000 words, flash fiction operates by a different set of rules, blurring genre boundaries, challenging conventions of narrative, and encouraging play and experimentation. How do the constraints of the form allow for new possibilities?
In this course, we will discuss "flash fiction" from writers such as Italo Calvino, Jayne Anne Phillips, Bryan Washington, Ted Chiang, and Lydia Davis. In addition to taking a macro view of flash pieces, we will revel in the possibilities of language, breaking down sentences word by word. For workshop, students will write at least one flash piece, as well as offer constructive feedback to one another in a supportive setting. Students can also expect to receive detailed instructor feedback, writing exercises, and suggestions for where to submit their work.
Class meetings will be held over video chat, using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the desktop client so you have access to all platform features.
- At least one original flash fiction piece, with detailed feedback
- An expansive understanding of the short form and its possibilities
- Close attention to language at the sentence level
- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
- Prepare for discussions of class readings
- Provide written and in-class feedback on workshop stories
- Write 1-2 original flash fiction pieces (under 1,000 words total)
- Optional: submit revision or additional flash fiction piece (under 350 words) for “on-the-spot” in-class feedback
Week 1: Reading Discussion: Time
Week 2: Reading Discussion: Patterns and Escalation
Week 3: Reading Discussion: Wrinkles and Disturbances/Workshop: Group #1
Week 4: Workshop: Groups #2 and #3
Week 5: Reading Discussion: Lydia Davis/Workshop: Group #4
Week 6: Workshop: "On-The-Spot" Feedback/Wrap-up: Revision, Publishing, What Next?
Simon Han is the author of Nights When Nothing Happened (Riverhead Books, 2020). His short stories, flash fiction, and essays have appeared in The Atlantic, The Iowa Review, Guernica, Electric Literature, and the Texas Observer. He's received awards from the MacDowell Colony, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the Tulsa Artist Fellowship, and Vanderbilt University, where he earned his MFA. He has most recently taught at the University of Tulsa and the Sewanee Young Writers' Conference.
"Han’s expansive sympathy and twilight lyricism make NIGHTS WHEN NOTHING HAPPENED a poignant study of the immigrant experience. This is an author who understands on a profound level the way past trauma interacts with the pressures of assimilation to disrupt a good night’s sleep, even a life.”
“NIGHTS WHEN NOTHING HAPPENED is very much about the private, shadowy parts of ordinary lives, but Han’s evocative writing is anything but ordinary. . . . a brief novel best read slowly, so one can savor the resonance and originality Han wrings from the quotidian. . . . Han’s gift at zeroing in on matters of the conflicted heart is its own reward.”
“Han displays incredible range as a novelist, oscillating between honest, almost tangibly real scenes, opaque dreams and refractive memories. . . . . [his] prose is vivid yet restrained, and his characters are multidimensional and alive. Emotionally resonant and packed with nuance, this is an exemplary debut novel.”
"Simon is an excellent teacher, writer, and critic. The atmosphere in his classroom was always encouraging and challenging and drove me to strive for excellence in my writing. I valued his critiques on my work and was truly inspired by the writing he shared with us. I really felt that I grew in his classroom and created some of the first short stories I felt proud of. I would recommend his class to anyone!"
"Other than being an amazing writer, Simon is an excellent teacher, who offers constructive feedback that helped me grow as a writer. When giving feedback, he doesn't tell you what is wrong with it, but asks you questions about the choices you make and helps you brainstorm ideas of where to go from there."