Arts & Culture / Mosaic / May 27, 2010

Knox prof writes, alum publishes flash fiction

Phantoms is Professor Chad Simpson’s newest published work. It is a collection of nine flash fiction stories that stand alone and intertwine with each other.

All of the stories are under 2,000 words and were written over a long period of time, some for various competitions. Simpson was contacted by Knox graduate Rebecca King, 09. King owns a publishing company, and the process of creating Phantoms started. King said she wanted to publish something he wrote, so he sent her a selection of his previously written flash fiction and some short stories. Then King narrowed them down to the nine flash fiction stories she felt related to phantoms best.

Simpson was reading a lot of flash fiction when he started writing short stories and was drawn to the style. He likes how flash fiction is capable of moving a person emotionally more than longer stories.

Simpson said, “you can turn the page once and be moved by it [the story]”

He pointed out that a lot of people say flash fiction has become popular because of society’s shorter attention span. However, he agrees with a Charles Baxter quote that flash fiction is not popular because of shorter attentions spans, but because the average person now is used to taking in a lot of information at once. Simpson said flash fiction compresses a lot of action and material into a small amount to read.

Since Simpson really enjoys reading flash fiction he is happy to be focusing his writing in that genre now. His favorite aspect of Phantoms is how the individual pieces speak for themselves, but still fit together. The title story is towards the middle yet he said the previous stories relate to the title story.

He started writing when he was 19 years old and mostly wrote three page stories. Then in graduate school he worked on writing longer stories. When Simpson started teaching at both Monmouth and Knox College, he ran out of time to write long stories, so flash fiction became his writing format.

Simpson started reading and writing because he liked the impact words can have, and the emotions they can evoke. His ideal Phantoms reader would be moved and crushed by what they read. Simpson also loves to experiment with language, which he feels flash fiction is ideal for. “Flash fiction will always be a form I turn to,” said Simpson.

During the summer, Simpson plans to work on two projects. Both projects will incorporate flash fiction structures. First he will write a novella whose chapters will be their own stories, but will also create an overall story. He will also be working on a short novel of letters that will each be like flashes.

Jennifer Lloyd

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