“I had no idea. I didn’t realize there were other working writers in Lancaster,” says Jeremy Hauck, leader of a flash fiction workshop series taking place this spring at the Lancaster Literary Guild. “It’s really grown on me,” he says. Hauck and his wife Sonja are both 2012 graduates of Temple University’s new MFA program. They moved to the city of Lancaster last January, and then had their daughter, Edel, in June. “She just started crawling and standing up on stuff…all of the sudden you can’t take your eyes off of her,” says Hauck. As a writer and a family man, Hauck has faced the age-old dilemma of how to adequately support oneself and one’s family with a job that also supports a writing routine. “People who want to support themselves as writers usually do one of two things: journalism or teaching. I’ve kind of flipped back and forth between those two,” says Hauck. Originally from Wilmington, OH, Hauck says he started writing during his undergraduate studies at Miami University of Ohio. Shortly after, he worked as a journalist for three years, before teaching English abroad for one. Then, before he started his MFA, Hauck was back to working as a journalist again. Although he never planned to go to grad school, Jeremy’s writing brought him to Temple in 2010 to begin studying fiction. This is where he and Sonja met. It is also where they both now teach as adjunct professors, a job that Hauck enjoys. He cites the freedom as a major benefit, adding “We’ve even co-designed our own course.”
The two have developed a work schedule that includes teaching heavy course loads in the fall and taking it a bit easier in the spring. This has allowed Hauck the opportunity and energy to take on the eight-week workshop he’s now teaching at the Lancaster Literary Guild. His workshop brings together sixteen short fiction writers from the area, giving him his first look into the depth and variety of the local literary community. The workshop is midway through its course, and focuses on flash-fiction, a genre of short-story that limits writers to a thousand-word count. Hauck talks about the advantages of flash for both publication and live reading.”My experiences with readings, is that if you come with a story story, something you need to savor, it isn’t going to go over well. Flash works because people want to laugh; they want something weird, and quick. Punchier.” This seems to be a growing attraction for readers and publishers alike. Flash is now published widely, with many literary journals accepting only this sort of brief, driving fiction. The reward of an effective flash story is the surprise, impression, or image it leaves the reader, often sticking around for much longer than it took to actually read. Hauck describes the effect of one such story (“The Sewers of Salt Lake City” by François Camoin) as, “coloring the next few hours of my life.”
Fiction pieces that clock in under a thousand words are not entirely new, but their popularity and prevalence are growing. Many readers unfamiliar with the “flash” terminology may think of Hemingway’s single-incident shorts. Since the 80s, flash seems to have stepped up, taken more seriously as a genre by both writers and critics—consider Raymond Carver, Lydia Davis, and the publication of the anthology Sudden Fiction, which collects over 70 American works of “short-short” fiction. The momentum behind flash continues to grow, as readers can find it all over the internet, in magazines as long-standing as The New Yorker, and in new anthologies and publications. In fact, last year Persea Books published an anthology of short-short fiction called Short, which chronicles the form over the last five centuries.
However, flash is still new to many. The term wasn’t even coined until 1992, with the publishing of an anthology called, Flash Fiction: 72 Very Short Stories. As much as it is about actually writing flash fiction, Hauck’s workshop is also a venue to discuss, analyze, and weigh in on the nature and boundaries of the genre. Individuals in the workshop vary greatly in familiarity with the genre, age, and occupation, creating a layer of diversity in the classroom. Although it seems that teaching and journalism are the types of jobs that lend themselves to the writing life, these writers, along with many we read in the workshop, work in very different settings. A construction executive writes and reads next to a server, who sits next to an employee at the Department of Public Welfare. In this workshop, there are highschool students writing beside professors and retired writers. One author we’ve studied, Ian Woolen, works as a psychotherapist and still finds the time to not only write, but publish and work on literary magazines.
Regardless of day-job, writers everywhere will tell you that there is no better way to get yourself writing than to take a class or join a workshop. Hauck actually decided to do the flash workshop for two reasons, saying, “I wanted to study some quicker routes to publication, and I really just missed workshopping.” The discussion, community, and feedback that comes from a workshop class have generative and, dare I say, inspirational effects on its participants.
A lot of flash fiction comes not from inspiration centered on plot and characterization, but more on image. This visual impetus for the story seems to be what lies behind the stories, novels, and poetry of one of Hauck’s favorite authors, Ron Rash, who too claims that images, rather than plot, are what prompt him to begin writing. Hauck explains his attraction to the genre in similar terms, saying, “It’s easier to be brave in a flash piece…You don’t have to fashion it so much, and layer it with so much artifice, and make things work over a long stretch of time. You just try to get as close to a feeling or an image as you can. There’s a different kind of energy to it.”
To read one of Hauck’s own flash pieces, check out his story “Where the Pop Machine Rattles” over at the Molotov Cocktail. He’s also been published in Penduline Press and The Rusty Nail. His nonfiction can be found online at Ploughshares, TINGE Magazine, and The Review Review.
For more on the Literary Guild’s workshops and other events, check out their calendar.