Blending Flash Fiction & Art
Interview with Jacqueline Doyle
I’m afraid it was The Little Engine That Could, which I used to recite to my little brother from memory before I actually knew how to read. I also memorized “Jabberwocky” from Alice in Wonderland, which we both found thrillingly scary. Once I could get books from the local library, I read everything in sight.
I’m a fan of psychological thrillers and police procedurals. Last summer (not exactly a holiday this year): Tana French, Joy Castro, Thomas Perry.
I’m sure I’ll change my mind tomorrow, or later today. There are so many, and I can’t single out one. But right now I’ll say Jesmyn Ward, Lucia Berlin, Carmen Maria Machado, Ocean Vuong, Beth Ann Fennelly.
I have too many writing styles in too many genres (creative nonfiction, fiction, flash) to pin that down easily. When it comes to “Super Stanley,” that would probably be Edgar Allan Poe and Joyce Carol Oates.
What have you learned about the business of writing since you started?
I’ve learned an enormous amount since becoming the creative nonfiction editor at CRAFT Literary Journal last year. It’s made me even more critical of my own writing: you have to interest a stranger and keep them reading, and that starts with the first line. You have to keep up the pace. You have to arrive somewhere, so think carefully about your ending. I’m also very aware now of what factors into an acceptance. Decisions are collaborative at most journals: someone may be rooting for your work, even when it’s not finally accepted. Editors may love your work but decide that it doesn’t fit the journal’s style, or that it’s a subject or style too similar to something they’ve published recently. Soft rejects really mean something: if a journal compliments your work, send them something else. As for publishing books or winning contests, there’s a lot of chance involved. And you want to think hard about the quality of the publisher or journal before you enter a contest, especially if they’ll be producing and distributing your chapbook or book. (I love CRAFT and Black Lawrence Press, by the way.)
I didn't know you were involved with CRAFT, that is amazing. I've been a reader for years, for me it has always been a wonderful place to go when I want to grow as a writer. What about yourself, what has helped you improve your writing the most?
I don’t have an MFA, and never felt I needed one, though I’ve taken a class or summer workshop here and there (Bread Loaf, Squaw Valley), and usually they were energizing. I’m not a big fan of craft books, or prompts (though I love Kathy Fish’s flash classes and her prompts). But I couldn’t live without my writing group in San Francisco, which meets twice a month, and which I’ve belonged to for ten years. We’ve continued to meet via Skype during the pandemic.
What advice would you give someone who is just starting to send their work out to journals?
Don’t send your work out until you’re sure it’s finished. Don’t be discouraged by rejections, which can be opportunities for revision. Believe in yourself. Stick with it. Cultivate patience and resilience.
Jacqueline Doyle lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Blending Flash Fiction & Art