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John Dufresne Workshop

Last Saturday, I attended John Dufresne’s workshop on flash fiction at Rollins College. In addition to confirming, once again, that I stink at writing fiction, I learned some useful tips I can apply to drafting micro-memoir.

Dufresne read the introduction to his new book, Flash! Writing the Very Short Story, which defines the craft:

It’s short but not shallow; it’s a reduced form used to represent a larger, more complex story; it’s pithy and cogent, brief and pointed, and like the gist of a recollected conversation, it offers the essential truth, if not all the inessential facts.

I think that is a pretty good definition of this relatively new genre of distilling a story down to 1,000 words or fewer and writing flash. Dufresne also talked about flash fiction being more guided by theme than plot, and often times, the plot is more suggested and occurs off the page. Interesting concept.

I loved some of the other comments Dufresne made about writing. He encouraged participants, “Sit down and write, and then the inspiration will come. You don’t wait until you’re inspired to write.” How true! He also said, “Start writing before you know what you want to write.” About his writing process, he stated that he always writes first by hand, that he “wants to go slow and welcome the accidents that come along the way.” He believes those accidents often take him to places he would not have found otherwise. That is the magic of writing.

One faithful Writing Your Life class member, Lois Strickland, always called what she wrote snippets. Her stories were short pieces, often humorous, that rarely reached more than two or three pages. There you go, Lois. You were ahead of your time. Now, besides snippets, you can also call your work micro-memoir. How about that?

This genre fascinates and challenges me. At fourteen years old, working for a weekly newspaper, I learned that I was paid twice as much (twenty-five cents a column inch) if I used ten words to say what I could in five. I made a few extra cents, but I also created a bad habit of being verbose on the page. Needless to say, I do a lot of cutting while editing. Micro-memoir provides even more practice in making every word count.

Mark your calendars and come explore this genre in Micro-Memoir: The Art of Writing Short on Saturday, November 10 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on the banks of beautiful Lake Fairview in College Park, 32804 zip code. More details to follow, but for now, save the date for a fun and informative workshop.

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