I’m a Writer of Color, untrained, live outside the traditional publishing hubs, and all my learning comes from reading. The Writing Community has been extremely generous to me. To pay it back in my very small way, I wrote about four flash fiction writers and their styles for Writers’ Winter Fair 2021 aiming to help writers like me who might benefit from those writers’ art and process. This time I organized a poll, and out of 4 choices, Top 10 Flash won. So here are my top ten stories from the year, pieces that teach a lot about structure, theme and imagery, apart from being excellently crafted. Ignore the numbers on the left — they are in no way rankings — they are there because I loved the images! Happy Reading!
Why I like it? The marvellous opening! True to the title, Frances begins with ’emergency’, creating a breathless urgency and continues to build layers to this narrative. Plus, love the background of this piece, the reflection of underpriviledge, and the unique takes, like this one: “The room is a pursed mouth…”
Why I like it? This piece actually edged out another contender from my list because it’s so well structured! It plays with the trust factor in a mother-daughter relationship, and stands out because of what it leaves off the page: “…does the mother continue with wobbly lies to protect the narrator because she feels the stories are better than the truth?”
Why I like it? Consider this: “All day, she enjoyed this significant otherness, this double-selfness. ” Melissa weaves intrigue, and universal dilemmas and truths in this brief but deeply insightful story. Check it out!
Why I like it? This tiny piece is a perfect example of how to braid language and culture into your writing and make it universal. I am awed by just how much Melissa manages to include in this tight compression.
Why I like it? Again, I love the voice here, and the unusual setting, very rooted in culture and beliefs. Check out this line: I tell Brother he is more beautiful than the golden crow who burns earth with radiation and explosive flares, who incinerates us, and upon its disappearance, freezes us.
Why I like it? “I fell into a pixel-flimsy dream. Disco goats with burning hooves bleating pe-rish pe-rish pe-rish to the tune of Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! ” Check out the superbly done edge-of-the-seat tension and the ending.
Why I like it? I’d suggest you read it in one flow, dwell on the mesmerising details and be awed by the impactful end. Nominated for Best Small Fictions and Best Microfiction.
There were easily 10 more that I could not include in this list for no reason other than paucity of space (and because it was mandated to make this a Top 10 list!). I feel so bad about this. Apologies. I look forward to include the shortlisted pieces in my upcoming craft blogposts in 2023! Thank you!
2022 actually began before it began, because in the last week of 2021, while I was away holidaying, I applied for and was offered the columnist’s position in trampset. Earlier still, I responded to a contributors-only call for regular columnists at Reckon Review and was warmly welcomed into the fold. Obviously charged up about the dual new challenges I returned home to writing with increased zeal. The year was slow on the submissions front, but I’m happy to end up with 79 published pieces. I’ll be linking up to all of those, except the ones in print/pdf, for you and for me, because online space are so impermanent nowadays. In Jan, “Whether an Apocryphal Story” in Psychopomp Magazine (Winter 2022). “With Nothing to Lose” in Janus Literary. “My Porcellanidae Crab-girl is Away This Morning” in Scissors & Spackle (ELJ). “Piezo” in the Alt current Anthology ‘And If That Mockingbird Don’t Sing: Parenting Stories Gone Speculative’. Of course, the first column I ever wrote, “Pushcarts on the Road” (titled rather ambitiously!), appeared on Jan 10 at trampset columns! The second one was “Summation by Parts.” (Jan 29).
My first column for Reckon appeared on Feb 2, “Outsider Perspectives“. Fractured Literary solicited and published a craft article. My third & fourth columns “Putting my Unknowing on a Pushcart” and “No Never Affairs with Rejection Slips” were up on trampset. “The Bones of Her Back” was up in Lindenwood Review. A recent visit to write this post, revealed the site statistics: the poem itself, individually, has received scores pf downloads, including from Sarasota, Florida and Atlanta Georgia, in the month of November 2022 alone. Overwhelmed how readers relate to this newbie writer’s words!
In April, “Honey and Connamon” appeared in The McNeese Review print edition. I joined the masthead of Vestal Review on the 16th, and it has been such a learning process working under David Galef. JMWW Magazine published my craft essay. “A Home Never Built” about the origins & history of Stanford University, appeared in The Dribble Drabble Review. Flash Frontier, New Zealand, published a favorite piece of mine “Angry Vikings Beating Drums”. “Dark Matter” was published by Contrary Magazine and later nominated for the Pushcart Prize! South Florida Potery Journal published the flash fiction, “Prosody of Rains”. 50WS published “Small Town Surmises”. At Flash Fiction Festival, UK, my hermit crab flash was placed second. An earlier version of “Where We Set Our Easel”, the title piece of my upcoming chapbook (Stanchion, May 2023), appeared in Commmuterlit. The columns “Secret Cousins of Literature” and “In Offense of Narrative Structure” got added to trampset’s pages.
In May, The Penn Review published “This Is It”. “Mimesis” and “A Week is a Long Time” appeared in trampset columns. The poem “Across a Wall” (Best of the Net nomination) was published by Middle House Review. Out came the TL;DR Press Anthology Breathless which featured my poem, “I Thought About My assassination.” The historical flash fiction “Malcha” appeared in the EllipsisZine anthology EZ11. Existere Journal (York University, Canada) published my poem, “Nomad”. “The Quaint Hornbill House Story” is a bit speculative and glad Ligeia Mag published it. “Unbelong” was published in MayDay Online. Crow Collective invited to hold my first ever writing workshop. It was so warmly received!
June ushered in a very eventful month. “Kaala Paani” (BotN & Best Microfiction nominated) appeared in FlashBack Fiction. “A Story I’d Tell My Unborn Grandchild” was included in Best of Asian Speculative Fiction (Insignia). Pigeon Review published “Close as Breath”, a favorite piece of mine. Necessary Fiction, a longtime aspired publication, accepted and published “Did You Know…”.Insignia Drabbles published a couple of Drabbles: “If Light Doesn’t Reach” and “Dimpy”. The craft essay “Five Approaches to Great Flash Fiction” was published by LitMAG. I managed to book a spot on Flash Flood with “Glass/Fire.” Night Heron Barks published the poem, “Hope Mission”. MiniSkirt Mag’s Starcrossed Issue featured my work “Tone Deaf”. The yearly MicroMadness (NFFD NZ) included my piece “Jamun”. I was also invited to the Flash Fiction Day New Zealand panel discussion on “Myths and Fairy Tales” (YouTube). Books Ireland Magazine published “On a Trellised Arbor”. “Home, Hinges and Halcyoons” appeared in Reckon Review. West Trade Review published “The House in the Math Problem.” My contribution to trampset columns this month was “Uncovering the Cover Letter.” I also interviewed Maria S. Picone for Vestal Review.
July was great too. Founding Editor Scott offered me to join trampset to read and vote on a wonderfully broad spectrum of submissions. Proud to put New Delhi on such a popular litmag’s landing page. I jumped at it in minutes and six months into the job, hands down, it has been a most exciting time. I continued to write columns, and 2 essays appeared in July: “On the Topic of Subjectivity” and “Word Wise Penny Fools– The World of Broke Writers“.
In August, three columns appeared in three places: “Holy Moly Vocabulary” in trampset, “Reckoning Flash” in Reckon Review, and “Center of an Imaginary World” in Cleaver Magazine. “Do You Ask to be Married to a Dress” was shortlisted in the New Flash Fiction Review Contest. Funny Pearls UK published “For Sure, Myman Knows”, earlier loglisted in the SmokeLong Commies 2021.
October is my birth month. On the publications front, it was a bumper haul. “Ribbons” appeared in Variant Literary. “How to Wear Your Eyes on Your Wedding” was published by Peatsmoke Journal. “Posthumus Susan” appeared on EllipsisZine. Scrawl Place published “Skirting Around the Corner.” The column, “Why Rowling Wrote Her Best Thing on Sick Bag?” in trampset.
December opened with couple of acceptances: both flash fiction chapbooks upcoming in 2023. Closer, now, I voiced my concerns about the Indian Lit scene and a writer’s “akrasia” in my trampset column. “Gift”, a micro piece, published by Five Minute Lit found many readers. I interviewed the amazing Melissa Llanes Brownlee for Vestal Review. Moot Point published a piece that’s hybrid-y. The Indian magazine Usawa Literary Review kindly showcased my short-story in the December Issue. Also scheduled this month are pieces in MayDay Online, and AAWW.
Hi friends, I write to you to share the anatomy of a debut chapbook. Now where to start? As you may already know, I enjoy writing prose, particularly flash fiction. Two-thirds of my published pieces are under 1000 word fiction pieces, yet it was destiny that my debut collection should be of poems. (Btw, my first ever published piece was a poem too!). This ocassion demanded a celebration which I wanted to share with lit community. Hence this blogpost. You may have read an earlier post I published about how to compile a collection of one’s work — theme, structure, title, etc. My collection grew on those lines, focussing on the lives of people in small-town India, their struggles, conflicts, and hopes. Interestingly, Fahmidan Publishing picked up my chapbook around that very time and yet, none of my analysis/study prepared me for what awaited. Farah shared images of the cover as it took shape, and the collection was really coming together! Friends, it is overwhelming to find readers (who had an advance copy) tell you they enjoyed the collection, sharing words of generous praise. Then came the advance reviews. First up, came an interview with David L O’Nan in Fevers of the Mind, which fatefully, was about my writing journey — how it started, till the chapbook! Sara Dobbie’s review appeared next, also in Fevers of the Mind. Describing the chapbook, Dobbie writes, “…is a study in provincial struggle, both heart-warming and wrenching at varying points. From the first lines of the title poem Pattnaik takes us by the hand to guide us with stunning imagery through the small-town India of her heart and memory.” I cried after reading it. It meant so much. Daniel Clark, editor of Briefly Zine, published another extremely kind review on November 16, titled “Weathering Words”. Daniel Clark’s concluding paragraph is especially touching: “Mandira’s keen descriptive eye and vivid imagery convert the twists and turns of doubt into an enriching journey. Navigating ‘the fog of | yesterday’ and ‘the palm of tomorrow’ could be a précis of the ongoing COP27 negotiations. Her climate warning is stark – and her poems are a reminder of the beauty and richness of life on our planet.” A nod to how thoughts and dreams resonate and bind us in invisible threads across countries and continents. I’m most grateful. Universal Journal described the collection as “kaleidoscopic” adding, “poems, with chunks of words so intricately woven that one is compelled to take a pause, close the eyes and see it, feel it.” These magnanimous words served to reinforce the palette I’ve long been working with: the colors and images ofIndia — the diversity in culture, scenery and people. If you’re looking to read (or gift your friends) a total experience about a place and people that is so varied, and written by a writer living and observing it every day, the chap is available HERE. It’s digital, so no hassles of postage! Now, the best was saved for last: Until the chap’s launch on November 20, I hadn’t discovered the blurbs Maria S.Picone, Christina Taylor and Keana Aguila Labra had so kindly written for the collection, reproduced below. From when I read them first, and still, I’m at a loss to express how grateful I am. Finally, one of the first people who had bought the collection, shared their reading experience: “An emotional collection flush with beautiful language.” All this is the anatomy of a debut collection! If you’ve published a debut chapbook this year, do share below, and add your experience. And, consider purchasing a copy to support an independent press. That’s all for now, friends! Thanks!
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