This year (the Boot camp year always starts December 26th) I'm determined to be more methodical about my reading. I managed to critique three stories in BC today and then turned to reading a few from Flash Fiction edited by Thomas, Thomas & Hazuka.
I must confess to a degree of disappointment with this collection. It's not that any of the stories are noticeably BAD, but few are truly resonant or special, none so far have lingered long after the reading; none make me want to ring a friend or colleague and say, "You must read this!".
They mostly seem to be highly competent. Some raise a wry smile or a professional nod, but most seem to be "set-ups", set-ups of solid but unmemorable prose leading to a flourish, a punch-line, or a good "close". None strike me as memorable art.
Today I read "Vision out of the Corner of One Eye (Luisa Valenzuela) a good example of "quirky" but ultimately a trivial "so-what?" cute ending. professional, sure, but SPECIAL? Pamela Painter's "I Get Smart" was fractionally better, but was another one setting up a punch-line. I teach beginners NOT to use twists and these punch-lines, while not strictly-speaking "twists" do give the impression that the story's purpose was setting up the end.
Don Shea's story "True Love" was a step up on the other two, a neat take on the battle of the sexes. This one too had its best line the last one, but what came before MATTERED.
In Boot Camp we write a lot of flashes. I find them excellent for breaking down block, creating a good working atmosphere. We have flash prompts usually at 9AM, 6PM and 9PM and in 2006 will be having timed sessions every night.
Of the 450 or so "hits" in BC 2005, well over 100 were flashes and in March 2005 we ran our second "Eclectica Experiment" where Boot Campers and outsiders came together to write flashes for a week and then a shortlist was offered to the magazine, appearing in Vol 9 No 2. We had run an equally successful collaboration in 2004 with stories appearing in Vol 8 No 4.
In November 2005 Boot Camp led 33 writers in a Flash Writing Marathon for a charity, the BBC Children in Need. With a few trial runs and a warm-down this produced 450 stories, over a quarter of a million words. Some writers wrote for 27 Hours non-stop, one flash per hour, and the standard was surprisingly high.
Eclectica will be featuring twelve winning stories from the night plus one from myself, early in 2006. There is also a print anthology (all profits to Children in Need) from Leaf Books
In 2006 Boot Camp will be running a Flash-Only subsection for writers specialising in Flash Fiction.
Here is one of mine, a prize-winner in Canada.