I love this thing Michelle Elvy‘s doing. A story a week. I think Kim Chinquee‘s crew has been doing this too but I think it’s one a day and what I think it will all lead to are some legendary anthologies in ten years. Cheever says, “Writing is not a competitive sport,” and I say, well hell, maybe it is, but with the self. Join 52/250 it’s great. Michelle Elvy took some time to look up from her ink well and let me grill her about it. Think of this week as an “about us” pamphlet.

Q: Where did the idea for the 52|250 group come from?

It started from an idea I dreamed up one night, to make myself write at least one piece of flash fiction every week for a year (besides my ongoing longer projects – novel, memoir, you know, the usual suspects). That was back in February… it was one of those personal goals you set in order to kick yourself into gear. I was going to make a page on my website, call it 52|250 because I liked the sound and symmetry of fifty-two-two-fifty (yeah, that’s how you gotta say it!). Then, I mentioned it to an old friend from high school, who’s a writing teacher and storyteller himself, and he responded, “I’m in!” A few emails later, we sorted out the details and launched the website. Add a Fictionaut Group and a Facebook page, et voila! a new community is born. My friend John (Wentworth Chapin)’s on board as my co-pilot.

How’s it going? People active? Stories coming? Creativity and good vibes flowing?

Oh, I’m amazed by what’s happened in the first week. We received seventeen stories on the first theme, Breadfruit. The themes are submitted by all sorts of folks – we put out calls for submissions on Facebook, email, wherever. So lots came in. This one – Breadfruit – came out of the blue. I was surprised by it, wondered how we’d write anything at all about it. But then, 17 different approaches to one idea rolled in. And even now, we already have submissions for this next week’s theme, “fancy me”.

Are you putting them in an anthology?

Well, I’ve certainly thought about that. After a year, we’ll look over the whole collection and see what we’ve got. Based on the first week, my expectations are quite high. One step at a time at this point.

Have any been solicited for other journals?

Not yet – we just started! But I encourage anyone who writes for 52|250 to submit their stories elsewhere, too.

Are people offering edits/helpful comments as feedback within the group?

It’s too early to tell – but I hope that will come. I send my stories to other writers and friends for feedback quite often; I know others do as well. So maybe that will develop as the comments evolve. It’s a great idea, though, because not all the writers who submit to the website are from Fictionaut. For those folks, a kind of “workshop” might be appreciated.

Who are you, anyway? Tell us everything, anything.

In 52 words (I like a challenge):

Erstwhile academic, teacher of history; now sailor and teller of tales. Chesapeake born, water girl, live and love in the South Pacific. And yet, still dream of landlocked Berlin. Lover of mangoes, not breadfruit. Optimist-cynic. Mother of two. New to online literary world, blown away by talent/community. Like living large, writing small.

Whats 2011 look like for 52|250?

2011 will be a blockbuster year. James Cameron will be knocking down doors to get to the movie version of 52|250: A Year of Flash, but we’ll probably go with Jane Campion, because I think her quiet, studied approach to art will suit our project better. Of course, by then Meg Pokrass will be a celebrated Xtranormal producer, so we’ll ask her to do a short. I don’t yet know how the story ends, but so far I know it starts with breadfruit and includes little worlds, cartography, lovelies on the beach, the balance of terror, a broken camera, and something about fancy me. Sounds like a blockbuster already, doesn’t it? There are 45 more ideas coming our way, so we’ll write the script as we go….

Anything I left out, go go go

Go check out the website – – it’s bright and beautiful thanks to all the wonderful writing already happening there. I am amazed by the stuff one can create with so few words. Flash fiction is appealing because it represents a burst of energy in a small space. For me, it’s like harnessing something really big and packing it down until you see it clearly. It’s whimsical, fun. It’s also challenging because of the economy of words. For a lot of writers, I suspect it offers an alternative from some of the other work they engage in, and yet it also sparks all sorts of new energy. Several new ideas have been born from flash, for me. The process is wonderful: you start with a vague notion, work it to a small and lovely thing, and end up with an expression of something larger than you. When I read other writers’ flash stories, I’m drawn to the aesthetics of it, how it’s tight and close, never sprawling on the page. And yet the images can blow your mind, or linger with you for a long time.

In short, flash fiction is a unique art. There are 17 works of art up at our website now; 52|250 is a gallery of small frames with big talent.

Nicolle Elizabeth checks in with Fictionaut Groups every Friday.

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