Pamelyn Casto’s 98 word microfiction, “Blocked Sewage”, will appear in the first issue of The Centifictionist (Vol. 1, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2020). Pamelyn graciously answered a few brief questions for us. Read the interview below.
1. What inspired the story “Blocked Sewage”?
In graduate school I did a mountain of research on a particular aspect of Nazi Germany so now and then I create stories from that huge mountain. I also use the research to work on my historical novel on that same topic that’s composed of short pieces. This story, “Blocked Sewage”, is from that in-progress historical novel.
2. What inspires you and your writing?
The challenge of trying to get a reader as interested in my story or poem as I am. I’m also inspired by trying to get a reader to see something in a new or different way. I’m also inspired by the fact that I sometimes don’t know what I think about a topic until I try to articulate my thoughts on that topic.
3. What keeps you going when experiencing times of misery and despair?
I would say writing is mostly what keeps me going. That, and being able to talk to a close friend. Writing can sometimes be a distraction for me from a troubling situation. Other times writing seems to help me deal with whatever I have to deal with. In trying to articulate the situation it seems I come to better understand it and can also better understand the source of the pain. Somehow attempting to put words to what’s bothering me often helps me see beyond my personal hurt. Nothing remains the same so I think it’s important to remember that eventually “this too shall change.” Or one day it will at least be different.
4. What advice do you have for microfiction writers?
Keep reading. Keep writing. Keep trying. There is a Chinese saying that applies well here: “One who reads one hundred poets sounds like one hundred poets. One who reads a thousand poets sounds like oneself.” Always be going for the thousand. And always be willing to push the boundaries. Microfiction by its very nature is an experimental type of writing so always be willing to experiment. Do your best to give readers something new, different, surprising, unexpected. Try to give your readers the kinds of stories you would like to read. And never think it’s easy to write outstanding short things. They take time and work. Blaise Pascal said it well: “I have made this [letter] longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter.”
5. Is there anything else that you would like people to know about you and/or your writing?
I’ve been fascinated with flash fiction (and other flash-length literature) for over twenty years now. I’ve studied it extensively, have taught popular courses in flash fiction (and haibun), and have written a lot about the short-short type of writing. I have a feeling it is perhaps the kind of literature that will become even more important as our world gets more and more crowded with data, as it gets even more filled with raw information coming at us from every direction. People will always need stories that help us understand ourselves and our lives. With less time available to explore lengthy literature, flash fiction (and poetry and other shorter pieces) can be a saving grace to readers who want a helpful or new or different perspective.
Pamelyn Casto, twice a Pushcart Prize nominee, has articles on flash fiction in Writer’s Digest, Fiction Southeast, OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters, Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction: Tips from Editors, Teachers, and Writers in the Field, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of New American Reading, and in Critical Insights: Flash Fiction. She is associate editor for flash discourse at OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters (ojalart.com) Her poems have been published in several print and online publications. Twitter: @graphomaniacal.