Friday, January 4, 2019

Six Questions for Keely O'Shaughnessy, Reader, Flash Fiction Magazine

Flash Fiction Magazine champions original, creative and engaging works of fiction, which run between 300-1000 words in their entirety. The stories can be of any genre but the emphasis should be placed on a complete story, where there is conflict and character development.  Flash Fiction Magazine accepts submissions all year around. Stories can be on any genre and it is always free to submit.

For guidelines and to submit your story please use this link.

SQF: How did you become involved in Flash Fiction Magazine?

Keely O'Shaughnessy: I began at FFM as an author when, in 2015, my story, ‘The Gallery Attendant’ was chosen for publication on the site and then in our first anthology. (We are now on issue number 4, I believe.) I answered an email from Shannon asking for editors on FFM’s sister site 101Words and then progressed to being a reader and then Lead Reader with FFM.

As well as reading some of the great submissions we receive, I’m also tasked with training up other volunteer readers. The FFM community of writers has just gone from strength to strength since our last interview with Six Questions back in 2016. The staff at FFM is always evolving and growing stronger.

Since 2015, our new Managing Editor has been the talented, Mark Anderson: a writer and English professor from Minnesota. It is great to be a part of such a diverse and cultured editorial team and be able to read awesome flash stories from all over the globe.   

SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?

KO: Things that I love are: following a character’s honest and believable transformation. (This could be the smallest revelation if written well enough.) Without this a story can’t really have a narrative.

I also have a soft spot for specific and concrete detail. If an author uses specific and concrete detail in the right place at the right moment, it really helps to elevate a story and makes it both believable and relatable.

Thirdly, if pushed for an answer, I’d have to say that I’m always drawn to paired-back dialogue that can speak volumes and drive the narrative forward. It’s something that is tricky to do in shorter fiction.

SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?

KO: The other day, I was discussing a story with a new reader that I’m training. She wondered if a story should be selected as it had some beautifully written lines in, and ultimately, as there was no real plot, we decided that it couldn’t be. It’s a really sad decision for a reader to have to make because you know that these moments of exquisitely crafted fiction aren’t going to be seen by FFM readers. But, powerful images and crisp sentences don’t count if the narrative isn’t there to give the whole thing purpose. In such short fiction, every word the writer chooses has to drive the narrative towards a conclusion. It’s so frustrating.

My other turn offs include: adverbs, when not used sparingly and stories that don’t have a resolution of some kind. When thinking about ending, an author should always consider, will my reader be satisfied enough?

SQF: What magazines/zines do you read on a “regular” basis?

KO: I don’t think there’s one magazine, other than FFM, obviously, that I read regularly as I tend to read loads of magazines at once. That’s the beauty of short fiction, isn’t it - it allows you to dip in and out of magazines collecting stories as you go.

I have a very varied taste in what I read. I try not to discount a story based on genre or anything. I will often read Ambit Magazine as I’m based in the UK and I do like a lit mag published in London or fiction that is local to me. Sometimes, I check in with Glimmer Train, but can easily switch to something online like Everyday Fiction or Chaleur Magazine, who publish stories more regularly - all showcases equally striking fiction.

SQF: What do you look for in the opening paragraph(s) of a submission?

KO: When I’m in Reader mode, or even just reading in general, I look out for opening lines that grab me and promise something concrete and maybe a little out of the ordinary, (and deliver on that promise through to the end). That’s a big ask, I know, but I have high standards.

SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?

KO: Something about word count. My answer: FFM’s word limitations are 300-1000 words, but it’s crazy how many stories we have to turn away just because the author hasn’t adhered to the word count. If a story runs over the limit or under, it doesn’t matter how much we might like it or how good it is. Our editors and readers are all volunteers and don’t have the time to spend cutting down/bulking up stories to fit a word count. It’s just the rules.

Thank you, Keely. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

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