Latino Flash Fiction
An Interview with Sudden Fiction Latino co-editor Ray Gonzalez
Flash fiction has been around at least since Ernest Hemingway penned the line, "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." Flash fiction's rise in profile and growth in popularity is evidenced by the publication of the exquisite anthology Sudden Fiction Latino: Short-Short Stories from the United States and Latin America. Learn more by reading this month's Q&A with Sudden Fiction Latino co-editor Ray Gonzalez.
Published on LatinoLA: June 8, 2010
Ray Gonzalez is the author of 17 books of poetry, non-fiction, and fiction
and has edited 13 anthologies of contemporary literature. His most recent
books include Renaming the Earth: Personal Essays (University of Arizona
Press) and Faith Run: Poems (Arizona). He was awarded a 2005 Lifetime
Achievement Award from the Border Regional Library Association and is a
full professor at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, where he
directs the MFA Program in Creative Writing. For more information, visit
Q: The Editors' Note to Sudden Fiction Latino states, "Great short-short
stories can come from any part of the world, and . . . nowhere in the world
are they more brilliant or popular than in Latin America." Why is this so?
A: I believe Latin American culture is based on rich storytelling and finding
ways to preserve the oral tradition of telling stories when that tradition is
transformed into writing and literature. Good stories attract many listeners
and, of course, many readers. Of course, political and economic history in
Latin American has shown high illiteracy rates and social repression. Despite
this, Latin American writers often become national heroes and their books
and stories are widely read and discussed. The art of good story telling lies
behind this. Today, when the short story appears in innovative forms like
short-short tales, it shows that the tradition of the good story is preserved
by adapting to new forms that are very popular in contemporary world literature.
Q: How do you see flash fiction in general and Latino flash fiction in
particular evolving in the future?
A: In the U.S, flash fiction is a major form and very influential on just about
everything that is being written, including novels. A great deal of this comes
from the major transformation of contemporary writing into multi-genre
texts, where prose poems, lyric essays, short fiction, and poetry all combine
to create short, short writing. U.S. Latino writers have been at the forefront
of contemporary writing for decades, though the U.S. literary establishment
has refused to recognize many writers of color over the years. A book like
Sudden Fiction Latino proves that some of our best American writers come
from various Latino cultures that still rely on a good story as they lead the
way to more modern forms of fiction and how these innovative forms attract
a very large readership.
Q: In addition to the wonderful Sudden Fiction series published by Norton,
which litmags and/or books would you recommend to writers who are
interested in learning more about flash fiction?
A: The Book of Embraces by Eduardo Galeano, who is from Uruguay, and
Cronopios y Famas, by the late Argentinean writer Julio Cortazar, are classic
books of short-short forms and have influenced many writers across
cultures. These are required reading in the field. There are many books of
prose poems that are also important because one reason short-short
stories are so popular today and are being written by so many writers is
their poetic language and tone. The prose poem bridges the world of poetry
toward the world of flash fiction. I edited an anthology of prose poetry in
2004 called No Boundaries: Prose Poems by 24 American Poets
(Tupelo Press). Maurice Kilwein Guevara, originally from Columbia and now
living and teaching in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has a number of prose poem
books. My most recent collection of poetry is a prose poem book called Cool
Auditor (BOA Editions).
Q: Who is your agent? If you don't have an agent, how did you come to be
published by the University of Arizona Press, Norton, etc.?
A: I used to have an agent in the mid-nineties when I edited several
anthologies of U.S. Latino writers for Anchor/Doubleday Books. BOA
Editions publishes my poetry and the University of Arizona Press published
my three books of non-fiction and two books of prose poems. Arizona has
published seven of my books over ten years and I originally started as an
outside editor for them when I founded the Camino del Sol Series of books
there. It is now the most successful series of books by U.S. Latino writers. So,
I have had a good relationship with them for many years. Due to my
experience editing twelve previous anthologies, I was invited by Robert
Shapard, the main editor of Norton's Sudden Fiction series, to work on
Sudden Fiction Latino.
Q: Other than honing their craft, what advice would you give to Latino writers
looking to land a book deal?
A: Good writing comes first, along with a professional looking manuscript.
Investigate the publishers you are interested in. Find out what they publish
and how and when they are open to unsolicited manuscripts. Small,
independent presses and universities presses are a beginning writer's best
friends in the highly competitive literary world. If you are just starting out,
forget about agents unless you have a great novel that is highly commercial.
Agents want fiction above anything else.
Marcela Landres is the author of the e-book How Editors Think. She is an Editorial Consultant who specializes in helping Latinos get published and was formerly an editor at Simon & Schuster.
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