Inspo & Flash CNF

Is there a difference between flash fiction and flash nonfiction?

I wrote the story “Vestibules” about 3.5 years ago in a class with Michael McGregor at Portland State. It didn’t look at all like the piece that it is now up at Little Fictions | Big Truths. To be honest, I never saw myself writing flash, even as my writing classes were actually assigning flash.

The assignments were all the same, a tiny word count which always felt daunting until it didn’t:

Write about a moment of joy in 400 words with a beginning, middle, and end. Write about a local event you attended in any style in 300 words or less.

My professors, who didn’t have time to read any more than 500 words per student, per week, were inspiring me to write smaller and smaller. I had gone into my classes with book length publication dreams, and those still haven’t gone away entirely. However, the more I looked into writing flash as a form the more I grew to appreciate the immediacy it offers – and the elements of poetry they often wind up emulating.

For many years I had placed long-form writing on a pedestal; I aspired to write novels.

Then short story collections. Then essays. Then 2-page stories.

Flash is particularly comforting for me to write especially when it comes to nonfiction. As much as I have tried, large banks of my memory, especially during my childhood, feel totally inaccessible, mostly because of stress and trauma.

Flash allows me to hone in on the memories I do have a grasp on to paint a larger picture, which may encapsulate my experience of my truth even better than if I had access to those memories in the first place.

Writing smaller and smaller can also open up avenues for experimentation with language, time/chronology and point of view. Every word becomes that much more intentional because we only have this small space to get our story, our emotion, accessible to the reader.

In his essay on the form, “On Fire and Ice,” Dinty Moore takes the reader through a brief history of flash CNF before providing two comparisons to provide a near-definition of the genre today. Something close, but not rigid, and something I like to reread when I’m wondering where to go with a new piece of writing; does it rely on urgency, or length and space to convey its truth?:

“In an essay of conventional length, the reader begins at the forest’s edge, and is taken on a hike, perhaps a meandering stroll, into those woods, in search of that fire…In a very brief essay, however, the reader is not a hiker but a smoke jumper, one of those brave firefighters who jump out of planes and land 30 yards from where the forest fire is burning. The writer starts the reader right at that spot…” (XXIII, Dinty Moore, The Rose Metal Press Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction.)

The more I read flash the more I want to share it and write it, both fiction and nonfiction.

While Brevity magazine takes the cake for being one of the few places to showcase flash non-fiction only, more and more literary magazines are opening up to include this form. I wanted to compile a list of literary magazines and books that are accepting and creating space for flash nonfiction that I can add to as I write.

Brevity’s list is a great start, so I wanted to include that here, as well as more I have discovered in my search to read and write more flash nonfiction, or micro-memoir depending on your terminology preferences.

As is mentioned in Brevity’s list, just because a lit mag doesn’t advertise flash, I have found short-short nonfiction on these sites in the past and/or found they don’t specify a word minimum.

Happy writing!


Little Fictions| Big Truths They started opening up to non-fiction flash this year and are now accepting submissions on the theme of food!


Green Briar Review

Cow Creek Review

Bear Review

Books to explore for flash nonfiction inspiration:

In Short: A Collection of Brief Creative Nonfiction by Judith Kitchen and Mary Paumier Jones, editors

The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction Edited by Dinty Moore

The Next American Essay edited by John D’Agata

One thought on “Inspo & Flash CNF

  1. My essay lengths wax and wane in a flowing movement over time. As a blogger, I love the conciseness of flash. Prose poems that more paint a picture than tell as story. When I’m in a brevity phase, as I hit publish I always think “oh, they’re going to love this” but they never do. I think people prefer to be told a narrative over 800 words that shown a scene in 300. Or maybe I’m just not doing it right.

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