Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Flash Fiction Histories

Add Mary Austin's collection of One -Smoke Stories to the history of flash fiction. Originally published in 1934 (then republished in 2003) the collection includes multicultural stories (from Native American, Spanish colonial, mestizo, and European people of the Southwest)-- folktales, animals stories, sayings, and other popular genres. Some of the "flashes" are just a couple of pages in length.

In her introduction, Austin says the variety of cultures in the Southwest share an approach to storytelling in the one-smoke story-- a type of story that's especially suited for the communication of experience. Her description of the story-telling ceremony is rich and interesting. Here's a snip of her description:

Each participant selects a corn husk from the heap and gathers a pinch of "native tabac" from a dark bowl as it "passes the ancient ceremonial road from east to north by west to south," and holding the dry roll delicately between the lips, each participant tries to "dispatch the salutatory puffs to the six... or the four... world quarters."

Each participant holds the "crisp short-lasting cylinder between thumb and fingertips, unlighted, one begins, always gravely, and holding on for the space of one smoke, tales, each one as deft, as finished in itself as a ceremonial cigarette."

Each story ends with what Austin calls "the fang of the experience." Between participants, "the ingoing and outgoing sense of the universe pulses and spirals with the ascending smoke."

Noreen Groover Lape provides an excellent Critical Introduction to Austin's collection.

See info on this collection here

If, like me, you're interested in a general history of flash fiction do check out my 8,000-word article on flash fiction in Books and Beyond: The Greenwood Encyclopedia of New American Writing (4 vols). (Edited by Kenneth Womack. (Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut/ London, 2008.) See info on the encyclopedia here

Or you can likely order it through your local libary.

Now, off to explore more older anthologies that include flash fiction types of writing.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010


There are a few more openings for my next online flash fiction course. It runs for four weeks and starts on Monday, August 9, 2010. I've been teaching online courses in flash fiction since 2002 and the course continues to be quite popular. Be sure to sign up soon so you can be part of the next session-- it always fills so don't wait too long.

See signup details at

Evaluations from the last online course I taught (permission obtained from evaluators):

Barbara Farnworth
This Flash Fiction Course was an extremely valuable experience. I have attended several writing courses (in person and online) and this course was by far the best. The facilitator, Pam Casto, provided us with an amazing amount of information which was well organized and applicable to the participants. I have saved all of the lessons so that I can review them again with more leisure. My fellow students actively participated in submitting their own work and providing thoughtful critiques of one another's work. I would highly recommend this course to other writers interested in learning about flash fiction. I would love to participate in the continuation of this class.
Emma Munro
I've completed in-person and online writing courses and three factors determine a good writing course: the teacher/course facilitator; the quality of the information, and the level of interaction and support amongst the students. Pam, you are a standout as a teacher and course facilitator. You are motivating, encouraging & tireless...Your critiques and analyses teach so much. You have made this the most rewarding online writing course I've taken. I look forward to taking part in more of your courses. The quality of the information you offer is excellent. I feel I have a good grounding in flash fiction basics,
Liz Martinez:
You certainly are a one woman encyclopaedia (to coin a new phrase - a pamcastopaedia ) of information about flash fiction. I feel I received my money's worth and so much more.... I have already recommended it very highly to several other writer friends and family, and I would happily take the same course again because I know I would learn even more on different levels. And Pam, thank you so much for your dedication. You obviously really care about the work you are doing here, and about giving good quality value for money no nonsense tutoring. I really appreciate that.

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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

My next four-week online Flash Fiction Course begins August 9, 2010. It fills quickly so sign up soon. See details at (I limit the course to ten participants so I can give it my closest attention.)

More good news for Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction: Tips From Editors, Teacher, and Writers in the Field (edited by Tara Masih, 2009).

ForeWord Magazine awarded a Bronze Medal (in their Writing Category) to Rose Metal Press’s Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction in their Book of the Year Awards. The criteria they use for their awards include editorial excellence, originality of subject matter, accuracy, contributor credentials, and professional packaging. Finalists are determined by a jury of judges consisting of editors and reviewers of ForeWord Reviews, booksellers, librarians, and other industry professionals. It should go without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that I’m pleased to have my article included in this fine collection. See the info (and other winners) at

Do send your flash literature publishing news to me for inclusion in the Flash Fiction Flash Newsletter. And do subscribe to my free monthly newsletter by sending a blank email message to and you'll see how to format your news for the newsletter (where I ask for specific labeling and specific info). I'd also like to get publishing news about your flash fiction/ flash literature collections or new flash anthologies you have work in (for the newsletter). So subscribe and I'll be happy to pass along your news.

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