Interview with Mark Budman of Vestal Review

Mark Budman is the publisher and editor of The Vestal Review, a quarterly dedicated to “flash fiction.”

Wayne: What term do you prefer for flash fiction (short short, flash fiction, micro fiction, etc.) and why?

Mark: I prefer “flash fiction” because of its connotation of swiftness, dynamics and intellectual flare; it brings to mind an image of a bolt of lightning, the sound of thunder. By Vestal Review’s definition, a flash is an intense story under 500 words, with a plot, characters and great language.

Wayne: Has there been a rise in the flash fiction form, and if so, what has convinced you that there has been? For instance, what have we seen in terms of the quality/number of literary magazines and anthologies we now see? Have you found any essays or articles about the form that have been seminal or influential?

Mark: Since March of 2000 when Sue O’Neill and I started Vestal Review, I have seen an explosion in the numbers of literary magazines that publish flash – a definite volume increase. Quality has also improved, but unfortunately by a smaller margin. Everyone thinks they can write flash but not everyone has the talent and determination to succeed. I should actually reverse the terms – determination first and then the talent. As for essays, Jason Gurley’s “Flash What? A Quick Look at Flash Fiction,” comes to mind.

Wayne: What social trends, if any, do you think are influencing the popularity of the flash fiction form?

Mark: Instant gratification has always been an American trait. Flash fiction is an ideal media for people on the run who still retain their intellectual curiosity.

Wayne: What technological trends are influencing the form?

Mark: The proliferation of digital media has reinforced the notion of instant gratification. For people used to CNN, e-zines and blogs, flash fiction with its swiftness, intensity and dazzle seems like a good match.

Wayne: What attracted you to editing a publication that focuses on flash?

Mark: I have loved the genre since I first discovered it, by reading Shapard’s and Thomas’ Sudden Fiction series. At the time, the number of magazines that published flashes was limited. The only way to rectify that was to start my own publication that would promote the overall genre and my vision of it.

Wayne: What is it about the flash fiction form that attracts writers? What kind of writers are most attracted to the form?

Mark: Flash is the most concentrated, intense and poetic sub-genre of fiction. A good flash, replete with a cohesive plot, rich language and enticing imagery, is perhaps the hardest type of fiction to write. A good flash is so condensed that it borderlines poetry. A good flash engages your mind not only for the short duration of its read, but for a long time after. The skills learned in writing flash can be applied to longer genres, allowing the author to write with brevity, intensity and precision. Any writer who is familiar with the genre is attracted to it.

Wayne: What kind of readers are most attracted to flash?

Mark: All readers enjoy flash, but the ones who have no time for words enjoy it the most.

Wayne: Where is the form headed next? What do you think about the experiments to distribute fiction and poetry on cell phones and other devices? How much longevity do such experiments have and why?

Mark: I see flash transcending the written word and rapidly moving into the world of sounds. Isn’t that what original story telling was all about? A story told around the fire to a crowd of attentive listeners, a story sung by a bearded bard in the banquet hall lit by torches. Since no one has time to build a fire today and since torches would probably violate one local ordnance or another, a cell phone, a car radio and other technical means that allow an instant delivery of flash to the listener will benefit flash fiction.

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4 responses to “Interview with Mark Budman of Vestal Review

  1. I like some flash, but this interview provides another example of what’s so offputting about the genre: the hype.

    “I see flash transcending the written word and rapidly moving into the world of sounds.”

    As if poems haven’t explored the interplay of sound, sense and rhythm for centuries.

    “Flash is the most concentrated, intense and poetic sub-genre of fiction.”

    This conveniently gives short shrift to prose poems, and poems which incorporate a dramatic progession. Not to mention the fact that it discounts the purpose of cohesively written chapters in longer works.

    “A good flash, replete with a cohesive plot, rich language and enticing imagery, is perhaps the hardest type of fiction to write…The skills learned in writing flash can be applied to longer genres, allowing the author to write with brevity, intensity and precision…Any writer who is familiar with the genre is attracted to it.”

    Pure marketing bosh. The first assertion is unprovable, the second could just as easily be reversed, and the hallmarks of “brevity, intensity and precision” belong to all good fiction, not just flash. As for its universal attraction, it sounds lovely, but I know plenty of writers more than happy to take a pass on the form, for equally subjective reasons.

    “A good flash engages your mind not only for the short duration of its read, but for a long time after”

    This is true of all good fiction.

    Flash has merit, but it would be far more appealing if its enthusiasts didn’t make outlandish self-promoting claims. At the moment, regrettably, as it does in rap and spoken word, self-flattery seems to come with the territory.

  2. Hi Wayne,
    Last weekend I gave two workshops on flash fiction at the Southern California Writers Conference. I emphasized that with flash you cut to the core of a story in a short burst and that with practice it can be written in one hour. After explaining what flash is I had people writing them in twenty mintues and they all cut to the core of the story.

    I reguarly write a few flashes a month and work on my novel in process. The flashes allow a writer to build a portfolio while also working on a longer piece.

    Julie Ann Shapiro

  3. Deart Editors at VESTAL REVIEW:
    I’m happy that I came across this interview. I can identify with this type of writing short sories. Years back — I wrote a column for local papers BAY NEWS/Brooklyn; also a column for THE NEWSDAY in a format of a short, condensed story. I remember being well accepted by the readers’ comments.
    P.S. Just the other day I wrote a short story titled: WHEN YOUR TENANT BREAKS THE LEASE, with the idea of submitting it to you guys…
    P.S. Please let me know if I should proceed with it by sending it to you; its (a little) over 500 words.
    Appreciate your response.
    Sincerely,
    Janko Deur/Brooklyn, NY

  4. Please let me know what you think?

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