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Response & Bio Jessica Treat

Question #3): Peter Richards recalls having a bad reaction the first time he heard the term flash fiction. He further notes that he is “suspicious of those efforts which seek to classify literature according to a school, a movement, or worst of all an aesthetic condition said to exist after Modernism.” Similarly, Lisa Hargon-Smith feels “uncomfortable with the distinction between a poem and a prose poem, fiction, walking, sitting, the difference between one word and another and the difference between how a poem is read out loud and how it looks on the page.” Do you have similar discomforts and suspicions about this form? Richards also suggests that genre designations like this are “restrictive and promotional in nature.” Do you agree or is there something about the flash fiction that you find liberating or provocative?

I write prose poems and short-short fiction. I dislike the term “flash fiction.” I think of flashers, a flash of lightning, a flash in the pan, in the dark, in the night. It feels short-lived, instant, striking perhaps but not enduring. I am more comfortable with the idea of a story. If we must distinguish it by length—novel, novella, short story, short-short story—so be it. I have always been more comfortable with the shorter forms of fiction. Even my novella, “Honda,” published in my second book of stories, is told in 12 “short-short” chapters. My stories—whatever their length—are concerned with narrative, with a narrative voice that pulls you in and along. Image, language, the associative process are what carry my prose poems. Yes there is a story (I can’t seem to avoid it—nor do I want to), but it is not what is most prominent. I am in love with the sentence. A good sentence pulls others along behind it, a rhythmic force—at least that is how it works for me. Sometimes I rhyme quite unconsciously-- if it is too obvious I must change it. I like what Charlotte Wright said in her 1995 review in Studies in Short Fiction of my collection, Barry Silesky’s and Kenneth Koch’s: “Short-shorts are not just underdeveloped or midget stories. They are not just fragments, shards, slivers, pieces, bits, splinters, scraps, etc. My objection to these words as descriptors is that they all suggest a deficiency of some sort, and a short-short is no more an incomplete short story that a short story is an incomplete novel.”


Jessica Treat’s collection of short-short stories, A Robber in the House (Coffee House Press) is in its second printing. She is also the author of Not a Chance, stories and novella (FC2, 2000), and the recipient of an Artist Fellowship Award in Fiction from the CT Commission on the Arts. Her work has appeared in Ms., Epoch, Double Room, Quarterly West, Web del Sol, Terra Incognita, 3rd Bed, and others. She is Associate Professor of English at Northwestern CT Community College and coordinator of the Mad River Literary Festival, now in its 9th year.