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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 said.

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 complete experience.”

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 artist.”

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.





From time to time, the Call will carry selections from flashquake. This is one of them:



Black, cold, narrow
as a grave,
I didn’t see the hole —
didn’t look before I stepped
Long,long I fell
past shards
empty as plastic
champagne glasses,
past deflated balloons
pink and yellow,
past a magician’s
empty black hat
dead rabbit,
               and curiouser.
Past the touch of your lips
brushing my neck —
a silver moth in flames,
onto barren lunar landscape
I stopped.
And Alice,
it’s true what they say
          it’s not the fall
               that kills you.

It is the nature of stone
to be satisfied,
it is the nature of water
to want to be somewhere else.


— Mary Oliver


Carol Borzyskowski (carolb@selco.lib.mn.us). © 1998. Wonderland previously appeared in American Poetry Monthly.