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On Submission with Fractured Lit: Interview with editor K.B. Carle

   
   

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ur guest journal this month is garnering attention in the literary community, particularly on Twitter, when it comes to all things flash and micro fiction. As a CNF writer and memoirist, I don’t dip my toes (or pen) into fiction waters, but I read so many wonderful examples on Twitter where the fiction community thrives. This journal consistently puts out some of the best of what’s out there today in flash and micro fiction. And, its Associate Editor is busy racking up her own impressive list of flash fiction publications. Please give a warm welcome to K.B. Carle, Associate Editor for Fractured Lit!

Before diving into our Q&A, let’s take a look at the journal’s mission statement:

We want to find Flash with emotional resonance and characters we care about, who come to life through their actions and responses to the world around them. We’re searching for Flash that investigates the mysteries of being human, the sorrow and the joy of connecting to the diverse population around us.

Fractured Lit publishes flash and micro fiction year-round and they do not charge submission fees. Great news! They also pay—$50 per piece for micro, and $75 per flash! Fractured Lit is seeking micro fiction that is 400 or fewer words, and flash fiction between 401 and 1,000 words. See their submissions page for more details.

Fractured Lit

WOW: Thanks for chatting with us, K.B.! Let’s start with how long you’ve been an Associate Editor with Fractured Lit, and what led you to the journal?

K.B.: Thank you for having me! I’ve had the pleasure of being an Associate Editor with Fractured Lit for almost a year. Our Editor-in-Chief, Tommy Dean, contacted me with this great opportunity to assist him in building an online literary magazine. Fractured Lit is an offshoot from CRAFT, and we specialize in publishing flash fiction that “lingers long after the flash.” I knew immediately that I wanted to help Tommy any way I could, and here we are today!

WOW: We always like to share with our readers how journals differentiate themselves. I see where Fractured Lit brands itself on the website: “Welcome to the future of flash.” Can you elaborate on what this means? And, what do you think sets Fractured Lit apart from other journals publishing flash and micros?

K.B.: When reading for Fractured Lit, I’m always on the hunt for writers who don’t shy away from experimentation. Whether they are playing with form or content within the piece, I want to read stories that resonate deep within my bones for days but also delve into a story’s narrative from a different angle. In looking for these new, inventive ways to write and tell a story, we are seeking the future of flash, venturing into unexplored territory and sharing our discoveries with the writing community.

This is also what sets us apart from other journals publishing flash and micro. Oftentimes, writers hear the term “experimental” and believe the structure of the story must shift drastically in order to fit that category, which is not always the case. For example, if you have a story about a break-up, don’t rely on structure to carry the narrative if the story and emotional resonance is not there. If you have these two ingredients and the story wants to present itself in a series of telegrams, great! If your story wishes to be written in paragraph form, that’s wonderful. Just leave the editors and readers at Fractured Lit with something unique to remember, whether that be your character breaking up with a refrigerator or perhaps told from a mouse’s point of view, where its scavenging is interrupted as the couple constantly bickers.

WOW: I love it! Now I want to write from a mouse’s point of view! I see where Fractured Lit reads submissions year-round. Can you give us a snapshot of a typical week? Approximately how many subs come in on a weekly basis? How is the team structured, and what’s your editorial process like? Do you all have spirited debates?

K.B.: Our EIC, Tommy, divides the submissions among our readers. My typical week for Fractured Lit usually revolves around the readers and also depends on if we’re running a contest. When Fractured Lit first opened its doors, the flash fiction community welcomed us with open arms. The embrace quickly overwhelmed our submission queue, which led to many wonderful readers coming on board! We’re now fortunate to have groups of readers who are assigned different submissions. Some read from our regular submission queue, while others read for our contests. Presently, I tend to work more with contest submissions but I’ll also read submissions that readers mark as needing a second or third opinion.

Though we may not accept every story we receive, all of us at Fractured Lit are writers. If we see that a story has a lot of potential, we’re willing to work with the writer to polish it. There is a lot of back-and-forth between Tommy, Amy Barnes (another Associate Editor at Fractured Lit), and me regarding what strikes us about a story, possible edits, as well as how the readers responded. All of this factors into the final decision.

WOW: What gives you joy as an editor? On the flip side, can you share a challenge?

K.B.: What I enjoy most about being an editor is reading. I love learning about the new ways a writer approaches a topic. If this isn’t a writer’s first time submitting to Fractured Lit, I enjoy reading their latest submission, which will often be very different from the previous one as the writer tries out different narrative styles to determine which approach our editors most enjoy.

The most challenging aspect for me, and I believe most editors will agree, is the rejection process. Sometimes a piece isn’t ready for publication. The plot might be there, but the characters aren’t fully developed. The dialogue may interrupt the narrative’s pacing, or the beginning leaves the impression that the writer is still trying to find their way into the story. Sometimes, it ends too abruptly. We also receive pieces that aren’t self-contained, something that is challenging to accomplish when writing flash or micro. If a piece reads like a vignette from a short story, even if it’s well-written, we have to pass.

WOW: Fractured Lit is all about flash and micro fiction, so what in particular do you look for besides brevity? What makes a flash or micro stand out for you? Any concrete advice to give our readers on what to include to make it sing?

K.B.: I touched on this briefly, but what I’m really looking for is a self-contained story in 1,000 words or less that resonates in my bones and doesn’t shy away from experimentation. Now, experimenation doesn’t have to apply solely to structure and that’s what I enjoy most about reading for Fractured Lit’s contests. I’ve recently been reading submissions for our contest around ghosts, fables, and fractured fairy tales. I’m excited to see how writers reimagine fables and provide us with new definitions of a fairy tale, and how a ghost in a writer’s ghost story is uniquely theirs.

My advice on what to include in a flash or micro is to add a piece of yourself to the story. Even in fiction, writers leave breadcrumbs of themselves or their experiences. This is what makes their stories unique and makes it sing.

WOW: Your contest around ghosts, fables, and fractured fairy tales sounds so cool! I see on your site that it closed on February 15. The first-place cash prize of $3,000 is amazing! When will you announce winners?

K.B.: We’re thrilled by the number of submissions that flooded our queue! We hope to announce the longlist within eight to ten weeks after the contest’s closing deadline. The shortlist will be announced two weeks after the longlist, and we’ll announce the winners another two weeks after that.

WOW: I can’t wait to read the winning stories on Twitter! So, staying with the theme of fables and fairy tales, what makes “flash fable” so compelling? What do writers need to keep in mind to tick all the boxes and capture the essence of fable writing?

K.B.: What makes a flash fable so compelling is the writer’s ability to depict the overall moral in just 1,000 words or less! I’m really hoping to see some spectacular reimagined fables in our queue. When writers set out to write a flash fable, they should always ask themselves what moral are they trying to capture, are the personified animals enhancing or hindering the plot, and what makes this fable uniquely theirs as the writer?

K.B. Carle

“My advice on what to include in a flash or micro is to add a piece of yourself to the story. Even in fiction, writers leave breadcrumbs of themselves or their experiences. This is what makes their stories unique and makes it sing.”


WOW: Are fables and fairy tales the same thing? If they aren’t, what’s the difference? And, how does one write a “fractured” fairy tale, like for your contest that just wrapped up? Does fractured equate to brevity?

K.B.: I asked myself this same question when writing my recommended reading lists for Fractured Lit that highlight Fairy Tales and Fables! What sets a fairy tale apart from a fable? Also, is it possible to have a fairy tale within a fable? A “faible”?

Here’s how I define the two: a fairy tale incorporates some element of magic. We have the dark forest that oftentimes houses a witch. We have fairies assisting royalty, or whimsical circumstances that reach beyond reality, such as the scenario in “The Princess and the Pea.” A fable, however, contains a lesson that’s clear to at least one of the characters or to the reader. A moral that isn’t stated at the end of the flash, at least not anymore. I’d love to read a piece that’s willing to explore this possibility.

I’m also hoping to read stories that cross genres. A fairy tale with a moral at the end, or a forgotten faible of the Keebler Elves named Tortoise and Hare. That’s how one can look at a “fractured” piece of writing. You don’t need to think of the word fractured based on what’s on the page, though you’re welcome to write and submit a fractured/mosaic/vignette/collage flash, with all the pieces coming together to form a complete story. I like to think of fractured in terms of the story’s creation. For example, when we look at shattered glass we see different pieces capturing a different part of our reflection.

In terms of the contest we just concluded, a writer may gaze upon the shattered glass and see the lost eighth dwarf. Another may see a group of wolves discussing their need to wear wool or a nightgown. A writer may see Frog and Toad, while another may see the Door Mouse. We all see, generate, and write stories differently. So, the word fractured does not equate to brevity, but rather how a writer approaches a piece in comparison to how someone else might when given the same materials to work with.

WOW: This is fascinating, K.B.! I just love your concrete examples of fables versus fairy tales, what makes a “faible” (great new word!) , and what is meant by the word fractured in relationship to flash writing. So, what do you most enjoy about flash and micro? Do you have a favorite?

K.B.: What I enjoy most about both flash and micro is the freedom to play with form! I also love seeing what moment writers select to zoom in on, and why. What is it about this moment the writer hopes will remain with readers?

As for favorites, I love them equally. And if it’s not already clear, I love flash and micro that crosses genres and plays with structure. I love writers who describe everyday occurrences from a new perspective and invent new ways of storytelling.

WOW: What’s Fractured Lit’s acceptance rate, by the way? What can our readers expect for an average response time?

K.B.: According to Duotrope, we have an acceptance rate of 1.63 percent, which isn’t what it feels like from behind the Submittable curtain, by the way. We try to get a response to your inbox within three months. However, that is our max allotted time for consideration. We often respond to submissions much sooner.

K.B. Carle

“I like to think of ‘fractured’ in terms of the story’s creation. We all see, generate, and write stories differently. So, [it] does not equate to brevity, but rather how a writer approaches a piece in comparison to how someone else might when given the same materials to work with.”


WOW: At WOW, we love to promote other writers. What flash and micro pieces from Fractured Lit have stayed with you, and why? We’d love to read them, so please share links!

K.B.: The following five pieces published in Fractured Lit have stayed with me because the writers challenged the common practices of storytelling. These are the stories that settled within me, the ones I continue to think about throughout the day, and left my emotions shattered on the floor which, if you know me, is the highest compliment.

the sea was there, by Alvin Park
Wild Thing, by Van Thaxten
Operating Instructions for Your Broken Heart, by Kendra Fortmeyer
Grown-Ups Also Lie: Three Micros, by Melissa Bowers
On the Day Meryl Stopped Being Pregnant, by Melissa Ostrom

WOW: K.B., these examples. My heart is thumping after reading Van Thaxten’s piece. I love stories written in one sentence, and this one is masterful and absolutely terrifying. And the three micro pieces from Melissa Bowers ... wow. OK, turning the tables, from the journal to you personally. Tell us about your first publication. The thrill of it.

K.B.: When I received that first acceptance letter for my story Gone Fishing, I was thrilled! This story was inspired by my mother’s relationship with her father. It’s a short story I wrote during my first workshop on my journey to earning an MFA from Spalding University’s Low-Residency MFA program. I screamed with joy and couldn’t stop smiling. To think, an editor wanted to publish my story!

WOW: Since we touched on flash fable earlier, I came across one of your published pieces, This Is a Story About a Fox, that I want our readers to see. Can you tell us about your inspiration, and how you approached it?

K.B.: First, foxes are my favorite animal and I’ve always wanted to incorporate one into a story. I was enrolled in SmokeLong Quarterly’s flash fiction workshop and the teacher for the week, Michael Czyzniejewski, asked us to play with imagery. I knew I wanted to write a story about identity but would have never guessed that this story would end up as a fable. I approached the story as I do with many of my other pieces: I selected my cast of characters, decided how Bunny would see herself, and let my creativity flow onto the page.

WOW: I noticed on Twitter that you’re also a fiction editor with FlashBack Fiction, which publishes historical flash fiction, prose poetry, and hybrid work. Sounds cool! I love anything old—I live in a Victorian filled with antiques, “and” I just started experimenting with prose poetry—so I’m adding this journal to my wish list! How long have you been with them, and what do you love about what the journal publishes?

K.B.: I’ve been with the lovely ladies of FlashBack Fiction for a little over two years now! What I love about working with them are reading how our submitters capture history within 500 words! Some focus on one moment, others imagine a “what-if” scenario for a historical figure, and others really focus on the emotions tied to a moment in history. I’m particularly drawn to the stories that capture the emotional impact of a historical event, characters finding ways to survive events we hear about through documentaries or within the pages of a textbook.

WOW: A final question: Netflix or Amazon Prime? Why?

K.B.: Ah! Oh no, I don’t know! I do love HBO Max. I recently binge-watched, The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart and I May Destroy You (CW: sexual assault) while recovering from a cold. I loved both! I’m also looking forward to watching Let Them Talk, Black Art: In the Absence of Light and new episodes of Snowpiercer.

But, I’m a child at heart and love cartoons. HBO Max has Adventure Time, Infinity Train, Close Enough, and my absolute favorite, Courage the Cowardly Dog!

Fractured Lit

My thanks to K.B. Carle, Associate Editor with Fractured Lit, for chatting with me. OK, scribes, it’s your turn now. Want to try writing a fable or fairy tale? Have you tightened and retightened a fiction piece down to its core, and it’s under 1,000 words? Submit your flash (or, if you’re feeling even less wordy, your micro under 400 words) to K.B. and her team!

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Ann Kathryn Kelly

Ann Kathryn Kelly writes from New Hampshire’s Seacoast region. She’s an editor with Barren Magazine, a columnist with WOW! Women on Writing, and she works in the technology sector. Ann leads writing workshops for a nonprofit that offers therapeutic arts programming to people living with brain injury. Her essays have appeared in a number of literary journals. https://annkkelly.com/.


 

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