HOW TO CREATE A SEAMLESS COLLECTION OF PUBLISHED/UNPUBLISHED PROSE OR POETRY PIECES
Hey friends, Thank you for following me on this very beautiful journey as I learnt so much about writing and craft, explored new things on the way and shared through my craft essay series. “Collections” is the last craft essay blogpost of the series. See you with a new series in 2023. Meanwhile, happy writing, happy publishing!
Composite redistribution, and flux define the survivality and newness of any group, species or order. So it is with literarture. Enter the newest category in literary arts >>> HYBRID
Hybridisation is essential to variety, randomisation and innovation. In writing, it’s rewarding to fuse disparate forms, and even re-jigging tools and tropes: for example, supernatural beings in politico-social related fiction, magic in regular love story, element of horror in (recorded) historical essay, both prose and poetry in a visual image, and tech-wizardy in creative prose. How about, maybe, within the limits of the flash fiction you’re drafting, blurring the boundaries of autofiction and thriller, experimenting with narrative voice, tinkering with approach or plot lines or dialogues to tell a completely different version of the story? Bottomline is to share an esentially unique experience. If it doggedly refuses compartmentalisation, so be it! Because, what gets created thus, is definitely a hybrid.
Where did it originate? Hybridsation is essential to natural creation. What nature creates today, thinkers and artists replicate tomorrow. Defying rules, ignoring conventions, and nullyfying predictions of final product, results in newness that is challenging but highly satisfying. It is also perhaps a form of creative decentralisation, where set principles, and acquired knowledge, get wilfully thwacked, to allow for regeneration, and renewed interest.
How to prevent ‘Hybrids’ from becoming a mess? Firstly, clarity. Become the reader. Expect to write what you want to read. Something you haven’t read before! Secondly, in genre mashing, keep it personal and unique. Rely on one central theme/form/genre and then branch out. Thirdly, recognize your writing skills, strengths and weaknesses. Avoid attempting unifying those genres where you may not be equipped to do enough. Fourthly, watch out for flows and linearity, alongwith with efficacy and messaging. Crowding too many forms or themes may turn out to be confusing. Finally, do not hesitate to try out new things, but, start small.
In this blogpost, I’ll highlight a few hybrid works published in recent times that are remarkable for their innovation, and may just lead you to new ideas you may want to experiment with. I’ll also be pointing you to publications that are highly encouraging of hybrid submissions.
Loved Census by Jade Hidle (CRAFT). It uses “If I check this box” as a refrain to highlight race divisions in “American” society. The choices in a census questionnaire bring forth the angst of historical exclusion.
Perhaps make a choice to read A Broken Alphabet by Tracy Seid (The Offing). Race through the lines to move to the brilliant ending: You: a zenith zeroed down to sleep.
Another piece that really defies classification is The Husband’s Answersby Rebecca Hazelton (Gulf Coast Magazine).
Definitely try out Hybrids when “stuck” in your process, unable to advance or in doubt
Don’t be too self conscious, just be out-of-the-box
Use hints to tell the reader the kind of mix you’re attempting, and steer clear of genre-defining stereotypes
Be confident of what you’re attempting: readers love a writer when they know where to lead them
Avoid thinking about the ultimate end result, and avoid cliches
Finally, there’s zero room for plagiarism. Maintain originality at all costs.
Being a relatively new category, places that welcome Hybrid work maybe hard to find. Here are some you may submit to: The Offing, Bending Genres, CRAFT, Storm Cellar, Black Warrior Review, DIAGRAM, Hobart and Gulf Coast. Also check out these, currently open: Passages North, Permafrost Magazine, and Foglifter Press.
That is all for today. Writing and posting micro craft essays since October 2021, two each month for a whole year, plus special posts, was a great learning trip and an even greater experience sharing them. You may find all the essays here. “Hybrids” is the penultimate post in this series. The last one, later this month, will be “Collections”.
Hope you found something useful. Like and share, and keep writing, keep innovating!
Have you ever wondered why moral stories and Fairy tales were such favorites? We can hardly say, if at all, anything comes close to that joy as we remember it, and sense of satiation of those tales. Recall the mythical stories our mothers told us and the fables we read as young children. Or even the adventure tales, or the classics. What was common in them? Why each one has stayed with us well into our adult lives?
Well, the reason is their circularity — the synonym of COMPLETENESS.
The condition of fulfilment lies in this conservation of equilibrium. And thus, the constant drive towards a circularity. It is the same for physics and mathematics (where are the constants?), technology and biology (find the solutions!). Think rotation, think zero and infinity, think reproduction and survival, think dynamic reality — it is the deep note of being complete in themselves, sufficient on their own that works on our minds to create a sense of completeness. The same works for writing. Whether a novel, poem, or short story, the schemata should work towards a satisfactory ending, while the tension should be built on the principles of uniformity. If you begin your draft piece on a conflict point, you must incrementally steer the storyline towards the same position of natural stability, without the conflict point, to achieve the sense of circularity.
I made a short YouTube video on five different elements that you may use to create that illusion of completeness in your reader’s mind. Do like, share and subscribe to my channel for more craft essay videos like this!
In each of our writer lives, we have felt this overall emotional connect to where we began our journey as a student, and then as a practitioner of literature. Most of us, keep returning to our origins. Sometimes it seems done, at other times, the journey feels unfinished. This June, something happened which made me so happy. Keely O’Shaughnessy, Managing Editor at Flash Fiction Magazine, shared that her debut collection, Baby is a Thing Best Whispered (Alien Buddha Press) would be forthcoming on August 15th). If you remember, I published a Special Post in December last year highlighting the work of four writers, who, back then, were without a collection between them, and Keely was one of them! Now, this, for me, is such an incredible circular journey! You can read my article on Keely’s writing style, inspirations and published work here. Read on about the collection:
Baby is a Thing Best Whispered is a collection of flash fiction stories that involve births and deaths. The dying, lost children and those looking to be reborn. Keely says: “The collection is a coming-of-age narrative that centres around otherness that leads to revelation. Being a disabled author, my writing can always be viewed through that lens and although not all the stories contain disabled characters, otherness is a theme that runs throughout. Each story is one of self-discovery or escape, all of which are tethered to themes family and womanhood. The complex relationships of mother/daughter/sister and the love, rage and confusion that come with them.”
1) “Practising Tricks, Spells and Other Incantations” (First published with Selcouth Station, 2021)
Quote: “On nights Mother doesn’t go out but brings her work home, we must stay quiet. She tells us the men are dangerous and wild. Fellow magicians you say, as you watch through a crack in our bedroom door when Mother contorts them and makes them howl. Sometimes, you swear it’s a body sawn in half, sometimes they’re escaping from chains. Tonight, you whisper, “Levitation.” Watching and waiting for a moment of wonder that doesn’t come, I pull you away and into bed before mother has the chance to catch you spying.”
2) “The Asarco Smokestack ’93” (First published with (mac)ro(mic) 2021 on the Wigleaf Top 50 2022)
Quote: “When Sal has been gone a full month, I go to the gasoline station on the corner of our street. It’s been repurposed as a religious centre for years now and the pumps on old forecourt are painted with messages from God. During Sunday meetings, when most families were inside, Sally and I used to bike down together and take turns pretending to guzzle from the pump that said, “fill up with old time salvation and you will be reborn.”
3) “What If We Breathed Through Our Skin?” (First published as part of NFFD’s 2021 anthology Legerdemain)
Quote: “When he’s thirteen, my son, who has his father’s strong jaw and the parts of me that matter, turns into a frog. It’s his skin first. It sheds in large coin-sized discs. I pull off the bigger, dryer flakes and bathe the sores beneath. He’s startled by the patches of green that radiate like sun on stained glass.
“Maybe I have to bury myself like an African bullfrog,” he says.
I picture his body blanketed in the clay-rich soil of our garden, hidden in the damp earth. It is a mother’s duty to shade her child from the midday sun. Days before, his father had reappeared and hopped over our circle of salt without complaint. He had promised he would see his boy, and I promised he would not.
“The males guard their tadpoles until they spawn,” my son continues.
Our home is filled with amphibians, and he knows them all. Their shape and size, and the perfect ambient temperature for each. My boy is smart, but he understands little about the dangers a father can bring.”
The collection has received faboulous reviews from Liza Olson, Laura Beasley and Amy Cipolla Barnes.
Baby is a Thing Best Whispered is now live and available on Amazon.
This blogpost has a reason why it’s titled “Praise Rain”, after flash great Kathy Fish’s remarkable piece of the same title — you’ll know soon. Of course, who hasn’t read it yet? It’s been raining since morning, the monsoons are here, and I can’t tell you how much I love a rainy day. I can watch the drops all day; sing my heart praising the rain! In fact, I told FlashBack Fiction as much when interveiwed regarding the child character in “Kaala Paani” published June 27. Can’t stop gushing about it’s last line (forgive my immodesty). I was being brutally honest there: “Bakru keeps watching the falling raindrops, trailing each other, submissive, and hanging from the merciless sky and why they should be down here, helpless, doing nothing but looking at all the blackness.” My reading of this piece is on YouTube.
“When it rains, God sits on his throne and listens to his favorite music — the sound of thunder.” ― Michael Bassey Johnson
I’m honestly amazed how often rains appear as backdrop in my stories, expressing longing, expectation, a grieving heart, melancholy, and so on. Allow me to link two: “Rubble” in New World Writing Quarterly and “Lyrics of a Thunderstorm” in EllipsisZine. Both were written when it was pouring outside, and the sounds and scenery was just perfect to write!
Where it fell on earth, on fields and gardens, it drew up the smell of earth. Here a drop poised on a grass-blade; there filled the cup of a wild flower, till the breeze stirred and the rain was spilt. Was it worth while to shelter under the hawthorn, under the hedge, the sheep seemed to question; and the cows, already turned out in the grey fields, under the dim hedges, munched on, sleepily chewing with raindrops on their hides.
Virginia Wolf, The Years
Writers have effectively drawn on nostalgia and written excellent prose in settings of rain/thunderstorm/drizzle. I recall these lines: “Rain brings back an image of you, like a photograph. Your smile, eyes fixed on mine, hair in dripping rats-tails as they towelled us off, scolding all the while.” from Sarah McPherson’s “After the Rain”.
Rains have a profound impact, and are symbiotically linked with great epiphanies. In the fictional world, characters delve deep to be united in grief and pain, in joy and celebration with the limitless void above, precipitated by a rainy setting. Consider reading “Diamond Rain” by Basil Rosa, or Myna Chang’s “A Practical Guide to Making Rain”. Dwell on the enormity of the setting that surpasses the limits of the words.
Regardless of its miniature form, flash offers abundant scope to use the rain as narrative setting, backdrop, or as a character in itself. The page yeilds to an experience where the reader may find themselves under an umbrella, or be drenched, exposed to the gray skies. I hope the example stories above will be inspiring.
Some additional notes. How about these prompts?
Use only the onomatopoetic words/sound words for rain (pitter-patter, thrum, pelt, hammering, pingling, plunking) to create atmosphere in the opening of the story
A mythical story where rain is metaphor for the wrongs done to character(s)
The dark side of rain. Including storm, floods, drowning.
A personal memoir, only remebered still because it was raining unusually bad
Rain as symbol of fertility
Rain as a condition to find the rainbow
Expecting to rain, you carry the umbrella, and what funny adventures happen on the train to work
Waiting to catch a bus in blinding rain, you take the wrong bus, and that’s where your story takes off
With a notebook beside the window, devour the rain, praise rain! As always, happy writing!
Last week, Gillian O’Shaughneesy mentioned my craft essays on her blog, saying they are “great material for beginners also. It’s a rabbit hole of resources and great contacts, and most importantly brilliant stories you can read and wring out for inspiration for your own blossoming writing career.” She also added in a tweet later that these have helped her own writing — a huge recognition for all the hardwork, boosted me immensely! I’ve always been this self-taught writer who has gone into many dark alleys looking for that perfect ‘flash’ of light. Remember falling in love with flash-fiction at first sight! Recall being distraught as I scrambled for months looking for what to read, how exactly to train myself, and finding little-to-none classes that I could comfortably afford. To rectify some of it, I recently announced a low-cost workshop especially tailor-cut to beginners, so I could share with writers new to the genre, my experience and research in a 2-hour capsule module. I am eagerly looking forward to it in July, and also a special anniversary post here as my website turns ONE next month.
Hope you’ve been reading up all the great work being produced. Flash fiction is constantly evolving and writers are trying out new and innovative ideas. For this blogpost, I’ve combed through my notebooks to come up with a list of six new flash ideas you may try:
1. Introduce Yourself — Who you are, what do you see, what do you hear, where you are — THIS MOMENT— in an epistolatory flash story
Remember this might not result in a traditional story with an opening, tension and resolution, but many writers will vouch for it that a writing exercise such as this, without the constraints of theme etc. is, in fact, therapeutic, and almost always leads to other offshoot pieces!
2. READ a POEM describing the weather/winter/climate/summer. Make a list of associated emotions/objects of that weather/climate from the poem as well as from memory. Now, write a story around it.
5. Scroll through the images above (in no particular order). Use as many as possible in a Gothic-themed short-story.
As always, happy writing! You need it, we need it, the world needs all the art we can gather. Watch out for the next (ANNIVERSARY!) post, I have already started working on it. Share this page and subscribe to my blogposts/craft essays if you enjoy them. Thanks!