Online flash literature journal debuts
In an era when online ventures are folding
daily, Debi Orton has called on her colleagues in the online
writing community to help her establish a new quarterly
online literary journal.
“I’m a writer myself,” Orton says,
“and I became tired of submitting my work to online
journals and never hearing back from the editors. In some
cases, they would accept work, but made it clear that you
were contributing ‘for credit only.’ Others publish your
work without even notifying you.”
Unlike most existing online journals —
also called “e-zines” — flashquake is unique in that
its editors are determined to provide at least some form of
payment for all contributors. “Payment ranges from a CD of
the issue in which your work is featured to $25 for the top
work in each of four categories: fiction, nonfiction, play,
or poetry. We ask potential contributors for a $2 reading
fee, which covers expenses and the cash awards,” Orton
Orton knew she couldn’t do it alone and
enlisted a group of more seasoned authors and artists to
help her launch her new venture. flashquake’s editors were
selected from members of online critiquing workshops. “The
groups work in the flash literature genre,” she explains.
“Flash fiction is probably the best-known of the
disciplines. It’s also known as ‘micro fiction,’ ‘short-short
stories,’ or ‘sudden fiction.’ In Japan, they’re
called ‘palm-of-the-hand stories.’ Stories are usually
under 1,200 words, some as short as 55 words.” Flash
fiction is gaining popularity, and Orton thinks that’s
attributable to the limited time people have to read for
pleasure. “You can enjoy a piece of flash literature in
ten or fifteen minutes,” Orton says, “and it’s a
In addition to flash fiction, flashquake
welcomes the gamut of flash literature. The new journal will
present flash memoir, flash plays, short poetry, artwork,
and photography. “We have contributors from all over the
world — Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the Netherlands,
and all over the United States. There may be minor cultural
differences, but good stories are good stories in any
language,” Orton says. “The editors and I feel that
enjoying literature and art should be as interactive as
possible. There is a link on every piece we publish that the
reader or the viewer can use to contact the author or
An IT manager and technical writer for
many years, Orton said that she made a New Year’s
resolution to begin writing for pleasure this year. She
initially set herself a goal of having three pieces polished
enough to be published by the end of the year. “I’d met
my goal for the year by the end of May. I guess I’m a late
bloomer, but I’m trying to make up for lost time by
learning both the creative and business sides of writing in
the same year,” she laughs.
flashquake has also been designed to be
accessible to individuals with disabilities, Orton said. She
is a strong advocate of accessible web design and made it a
point to incorporate those principles into the new journal.
“It’s important not to exclude people,” Orton said.
“It bothers me that some sites become so enamored of the
technology that they forget the first principle: to tell
your story to as many people as possible. Some sites try to
deliver their message using visitors’ sense of sight or
sound, and they forget that some visitors may have deficits
in their hearing or vision.
“Yes, we include artwork, but future
issues will also include artists’ descriptions of what the
artwork depicts so that visually impaired visitors get the
same experience that sighted visitors do. In fact, they may
have a richer experience, since the artist will be
interpreting his or her work for them in their description.
And we have designed the site to require as little
navigation as possible, to make it easier for those with
mobility impairments. We don’t want the technology to get
in the way of the literature and art.” She hopes to ask
some friends with disabilities to critique her site and tell
her what improvements she can make as it evolves.
The new journal debuted publicly on July
1, 2001. To visit, point your browser to www.flashquake.org.
Writers, artists, and photographers are invited to submit
their work. Submission guidelines for all disciplines are
posted on the flashquake site. Work can be submitted
electronically or by the more traditional land mail method.