One of the classes I teach at Story Circle Network, a non-profit organization that encourages women to tell their stories, is on Flash Nonfiction. (“Flash” means works that are no longer than 1200 words.) One might think that nothing important could be expressed in so few words, but I am here to tell you that hope, fear, pain and joy can be thoughtfully compressed into less than even 1000 words and can produce a meaningful connection with the reader. There are some people who believe 750 words is more than enough to get to the heart of the matter. Just ask Dinty W. Moore, the editor of the online journal Brevity: A Journal of Concise Literary Nonfiction at https://brevitymag.com/, who places a limit on all pieces at 750 words. The goal of these pieces is artful compression to produce resonance.
In my current class, I have been deeply impressed with the wonderful pieces my students are producing within the 1200 word limit. Stories that tell of childhood hurts, adult challenges, love, grief, pain, triumphs and empowerment. My students have poured out their hearts through their fingertips, composing stories that have allowed the reader to see clearly into their worlds. I have appreciated their openness, their fearlessness and their desire to write real life stories that demonstrate our shared humanity.
Today, one of my students sent this quote to the class. I believe this exemplifies what Story Circle Network stands for in championing women’s stories. I believe all of our stories, women and men, help us to connection on a deep level, helping us to remember that we share more similarities than differences when it comes to day-to-day living.
Here’s the quote:
“Put it out there! It’s an important act to take. Take that step, make that promise to yourself and try to make something good out of it. Try to make something solid and meaningful out of emotional chaos. Don’t think about what could potentially come of this. Tell yourself, ‘You are actually going to do this. This is a writing project and you are going to treat it seriously.’ This is part of respecting the story: believing in it enough that you could put it out there. Believing that your story deserved to be told and to be told well.”
– Sandra Murdock
Yes, put it out there. That is the name of the game.
I am grateful to my students for doing just that. My life is enriched as a result.
I’ll be checking back in with you again tomorrow.