By Meredith Hritz, ’10, A&E Editor
I have to admit, I was pretty nervous before I attended the flash fiction writing program at Brown this past summer. I had never had an experience like this—getting dropped into a place where I knew no one. The first hour after my parents left me in my empty dorm room I felt awkward and did not know what to do with myself. However, as soon as I tentatively descended the stairs to the lobby of our building, I ran into an energetic Texan who was just as nervous as I was, and we spent the rest of the day together making more friends and learning the ropes of [email protected] The first night, everyone in my dorm gathered in one of the rooms and talked until we all felt completely comfortable. With this newfound confidence, I entered my first class that was made up of only 15 juniors and seniors and one young, female professor. We started the class with a question: What is flash fiction? No one knew! The teacher explained that flash fiction is an unknown genre of very short stories, typically under 1,000 words. In these stories, each word and punctuation mark must speak volumes. The brevity of flash fiction is what makes it so powerful.
Each day, we would have a reading assignment by a notable flash fiction writer, like Russell Edson, and a writing assignment, which always came with odd and interesting parameters. One day, we were given a sentence in Gaelic and told to translate it into English in any way we could think of, such as using similar rhythm or transliteration (see Meredith’s interpretation of this assignment below). After a writing assignment, we would have to get up in front of the class and read our work. Initially this was terrifying, but after a few days, I grew accustomed to sharing my writing and getting feedback from the many great minds in my class. I found myself taking pride in my writing and creating pieces I never thought I could. My experience at [email protected] was unforgettable, and my sole complaint was that it only lasted two weeks. The skills I took from the program have helped me further establish my writing style. I will never forget what I learned or the amazing people I met there.
*******Meredith’s Writing Asssignment:
As inspiration for a creative writing assignment I was given this Gaelic line: As amlaid imorro robai Aed cona sibh digh a leastur aile o ra dealuig re cich a mathar acht a cum namba. I was to translate this sentence into English in any way I could think of, through use of similar rhythm or transliteration. Then from the first “translated” sentence I was told to continue and write a short story.
As the man lay there in the morning, a robber arrived, sat and sighed at the dinner table and looked at all the beautiful things, rich things the man had and cried. The robber cried silent tears. His gaping mouth and moist ruddy cheeks were the only indications of his sorrow. He could hear the man upstairs snoring. It was a deep, rhythmic snore that was so calming that it almost lulled the despondent robber to sleep. But he snapped out of his dream with a start. He had to find it. Find something. He began to rummage through drawers, shelves, cabinets but found nothing. He continued through the rest of the house. Some crappy paintings by D-list artists, a wooden box filled with ashes with the name Bud scratched on the side, pictures of women – many different women, mismatched socks strewn across the carpet and lots of silver, fine silver. The robber approached the silver dinette set with an outstretched hand. But when he saw the reflection of his dirty, calloused, bulbous finger in the serving plate, he lurched back. He ran to the nearest bathroom and washed his hands furiously. Returning to the living room, he tried again. His freshly washed hand groped at the air in front of the dinette set only to be pulled back again. The robber held his right hand in his left and examined it. Dirty. So very dirty. After one glance at his tear-soaked face in his reflection, the robber darted from the house leaving nothing but a trail of dirt behind. BT
Header photo courtesy of Meredith Hritz.