Flash Fiction Writers Gabriela V. Everett, Allie Scully, Bridge Lower, Mike Barthel, and Ellie Laabs

Artists on Artists: the Flash Fiction Writers of Vol. 10

By Vol. 10 Flash Fiction Authors | March 12, 2024

We asked the flash fiction writers from our Witness issue what questions they would want to ask their fellow Volume 10 contributors. A few then answered those questions, delving into their craft, their inspirations, and their approach to creating. Read on to learn more about Gabriela V. Everett, author of “Opposite Day on Earth,” Allie Scully, author of “Drive-Thrus and Crepe Myrtles,” Bridge Lower, author of “Kensington Mews,” Mike Barthel, author of “On the Beach with Fireworks Above Us,” Aasiya F. Mirza Glover, author of “We Died a Little, You and I,” and Ellie Laabs, author of “Portrait of Home as an Onion.” Make sure to check out their work in Vol 10: WITNESS!

Gabriela V. Everett, interviewed by Ellie Laabs

Ellie Laabs: What are some of the motifs that return in your work over and over that you can't seem to set down? 

Gabriela V. Everett: Oddly, apocalypse. I’ve had dreams about the end of the world every which way: fire, floods, WWIII, nuclear meltdown. Knives often make an appearance; they come loaded with extra-shiny-dangerous sensuality. (Have you ever dragged a knife across a body, so gently, not breaking skin? It’ll make you shiver.) Other than that: angels and vampires, the great siphons of human energy. I like the desert, too. I like the vacancy.

EL: How did you first know yourself to be a writer?

GVE: I’m not sure I ever did. I started writing because there was this maw begging for food, and there was nothing to feed it. The copy-paste narratives of most commercial stories didn’t seem to sate it. I had to give it something from myself to feel full. Most of the time it’s still hungry.

EL: Who are three of your most prominent literary influences?

GVE: While it sounds basic, I actually really like Camus. Sure, he’s for the angst of adolescence, but isn’t life one great puberty? Ottessa Moshfegh is another favorite of mine. I always appreciate a woman who plays with grime and glamor. Last thing I read was Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas De Quincey—his prose bangs even 200 years later.

EL: What makes a piece great?

GVE: A great piece grabs you and shakes you. It haunts you. It steals your car and lights it on fire. It never lets you forget, even if you found it a little ugly or endearingly strange, it changes you. You will stay awake with vivid memories of things you’ve never experienced. That’s a great piece.

Allie Scully, interviewed by Mike Barthel

Mike Barthel: What surprised you as you were writing this story?

Allie Scully: I thought I was writing about the present moment I was in, but really I was writing about the past and all the things that had specifically led me to this present moment. 

MB: Who did you think you were writing this story for?

AS: I’m not sure who I intended to write this for when I started, other than myself—it was an exercise in describing current surroundings, exploring a neighborhood I wasn’t that familiar with. I think in the end, I was writing for past versions of myself, and probably other women in their 30’s who aren’t quite sure how they ended up exactly where they are.

MB: What is your favorite detail from this story?

AS: The vagina painting, and also the lethargic cat. 

MB: What is your least favorite landscape, where you feel least at ease?

AS: Spread out, suburban strip mall landscapes with no place for walking. Places you can only drive to. I miss living in New York City, taking public transit and walking everywhere. Being responsible for a car makes me panic!

Bridge Lower, interviewed by Allie Scully

Allie Scully: How do you write on-the-godo you use your notes app, or do you carry a notebook? 

Bridge Lower: I am 100% a Notes app gal. I own dozens of beautiful notebooks, each with a few confident pages completed, the rest filled with grocery lists. As a New Yorker, I’m always on the go and it’s simplest to have a tiny, electronic place to put all my weird little sentences. When I’m gone, I fear for the person who goes through my Notes app without any context. 

AS: What's the best thing you've read lately? 

BL: A get well soon card from my youngest, a poem by my oldest, some helpfu—and hopeful!—feedback from a literary agent, and “We Were Hungry,” an essay by Chris Dennis. 

AS: How do you know when an idea is flash vs. for a longer piece? 

BL: I write novels and flash; for me, there is no middle ground. I have written exactly one short story and I still look at it askance, suspicious of its word count. I should probably do the same with half of the novels I’ve written. Things can always be shorter, but rarely do they need to be longer. 

AS: What are you working on now?

BL: A handful of flash pieces, and I’m always tinkering with my manuscript. It’s a literary novel about sisterhood and female friendship, but as I’m querying and seeking representation, I feel I really ought to stop and let it breathe a bit. I’ve started fleshing out the next book, and the one after that. I guess I like to have my fingers in all the pies. 

Mike Barthel, interviewed by Aasiya F. Mirza Glover

Aasiya F. Mirza Glover: When do you find yourself sneaking a write?  

Mike Barthel: Right before bed—I do everything in Google docs and so can edit on my phone. If there’s a piece I was actively working on that day, I’ll call it up right when I get into bed and do a quick edit on my phone of the fresh material. Then I’ll open up my bedtime novel for reading (on my phone, too). Being able to write (and submit) on my phone has been enormously helpful to me as a writer. I like feeling as if the writing is always with me, something I can carry around and access, instead of living in a special place in my desk or wherever. It makes my writing closer to a refined version of my thoughts.

AFMG: What physical sensations do you wish to capture but as yet feel unable to? 

MB: Smells are always the hard one for me. One of the things I really liked about Emily Gould’s Perfect Tunes is how accurately it described the smells of 00’s Brooklyn rock clubs, something I was very familiar with. It’s rarely the first thing I think of to include in a scene, maybe because I have allergies!

AFMG: How do you think—in words, or pictures, or other—and how does that impact your writing?

MB: Definitely words. Last week, the whole family got the flu, and I spent one disease-addled night having repetitive, circular thoughts about the Sopranos (which I’m currently rewatching). Not even anything coherent, just words words words. I’ll do that even when I’m not in a fugue state—work a sentence or two over and over in my mind until it feels right to me. I think that makes me the kind of writer who enjoys language in and of itself, which makes for some good paragraphs but characters who don’t come out as fully formed. It also means I tend to think through things by writing through them. My editing process always involves a lot of cutting!

Aasiya F. Mirza Glover, interviewed by Gabriela V. Everett

Gabriela V. Everett: What's the origin of the idea for this piece? Did it evolve unexpectedly or was it thoroughly planned? 

Aasiya F. Mirza Glover: I remember writing a quick note on an idea in my journal app about the idea of simply blipping out of existence for a period of time. I liked the idea of it being a year or so, a significant period of time. I looked again just now, and there it was, dated February 14, 2021: “She had been gone for a year. You just ‘go’ somewhere for a period of time and you sort of know when it’s going to happen but sometimes not. It’s like being gone for work or a cold or something. Being gone from your own life.”

The piece evolved from there through a choice and a condition. I wanted the characters to be forced to choose to leave—it needed to be something characters did so that the choice’s ramifications became the center of the story. And the condition was parenthood. I was living and working from home in the midst of pre-vaccine pandemic, as a parent of two young children. All day, every day, my partner and I negotiated extreme limitations of time. I wanted to explore what the choice to “leave” would mean to parents, who might be slightly more willing to make it if they felt they could come back.

GVE: The abruptness of flash can make it startling, beautifully intense, or poignant. What drew you to more bite-size fiction? 

AFMG: It’s the rhythm for me—the ability to focus on sentence-level rhythm while finding a precise rhythm that can be crafted very carefully, and which sometimes gives way to other narrative needs in longer (short) fiction.

GVE: Do you find that short-form writing serves as a better vehicle for some topics rather than long-form styles? If so, what topics?

AFMG: Often when I want to represent an emotion, a single feeling, I write a scene or multiple very short scenes in flash, to capture the rhythm of that particular emotion.

GVE: Who do you write for? I find acts of creativity often seek to connect to the world or others in some way; who do you want your work to connect with?

AFMG: I write mostly for myself, to try to pull out a specific feeling or meaning I can’t understand or process in any other way. I suppose my desire for connection is a little bit like this: I often feel alone in a thought or feeling and I want to pull out the thought or feeling, externalize it, and then project it out into the world and ask, there! You see it now, don’t you? You can’t help but see it now, in this way, now that I’ve put it in words, in a story? Do you see it too? Do you see what I see? 

Ellie Laabs, interviewed by Bridge Lower

Bridge Lower: What are you working on at the moment, and how is it vexing you? 

Ellie Laabs: At this moment, I don’t have a project over and above achieving a kind of genuine expression. I’m interested in what compels me to write out in the world, what makes me feel most vulnerable. I’m vexed—as always—by the irregularity of my urge to truly get to work. As a poet, I’m always trying to sit in a moment. The question that haunts me these days is how to speak to that moment, how to capture it before it dissipates. To do so may be, after all, impossible, but the asymptotic relationship to the present moment (and the communication of that presence) that we have as writers is one I’m grappling with and trying to make sense of in my work now, and always.

BL: What texts outside of your genre do you turn to for inspiration? 

EL: I studied the Great Books in undergrad, so I am heavily steeped in literature and philosophy outside poetry and, perhaps, spend most of my time there. Virginia Woolf is the greatest poet-non-poet I look to with some frequency. The way she turns over an image, a particular spot in time, to expand, contract, explore and contour it baffles and excites my linguistic imagination. I’m very intrigued by the modernists in general—the project of “stream of consciousness” speaks a lot to what I look for from poetry (my own and others). I’m drawn to an exploration/enumeration of what it means to be a thinking and feeling being in this world.

BL: What misconceptions do you think others might have about writers and the writing life? 

EL: I hold the same (mis)conceptions so it is hard to say, honestly. 

I want, as maybe anyone, the glamor of waking up and brewing black coffee, putting on a record of Glenn Gould’s Goldberg Variations and writing all day until I cry over my typewriter in relief. And I do not kid when I say I do try to do this sometimes. But I don’t believe human beings are consistently romantic people like this, and we cannot always be so aware or so open. Sometimes a writer laughs at the least intelligent joke, or goes to bed early, or forgets to remark on the color of the sky. There’s a dualism to my mind as a writer—it’s a kind of attention I turn on sometimes, and something that I just am at others. I’ve never been sure if writing is a true state of soul, or just a proclivity. 

BL: Can you share a turning point or crossroads in your writing career? 

EL: My senior year of undergrad I received a prize for a poem I wrote. I say this hesitantly because I do not believe “turning points” ought to come from praise, nor that that is the best (or only) way to grow. For me, it made me realize that the literature I had been metabolizing and churning over for years had impacted me in a way I could be active about in a more serious sense. Much of academia is about the right kind of receptivity. To understand that the analysis and attentiveness I gleaned through reading had, in fact, given me a creative toolbox was somewhat of a revelation. I mean, who, as a writer, hasn’t had a moment where they realized their whole life was (perhaps) preparing them to consider, regurgitate, process, love, their lives through words? I don’t know how to say why this moment came for me when it did. But I think we turn as writers when we are ready. And I am grateful to have lived enough to think I might be ready now. 

About the author

Gabriela V. Everett is a mixed-race, queer writer hailing from Sin City. She possesses a BA in creative writing from Columbia College Chicago and an affinity for coffee at midnight. When she’s not road-raging or reading, she’s hiding secrets in plain sight; they can be found in Allium, Dream Noir, Glyph, Main Squeeze, Hot Pot Magazine, The Museum of Americana, and The Acentos Review. She is currently editorial staff for Mulberry Literary.

Allie Scully is a writer and filmmaker with an MFA from Brooklyn College. She enjoys writing deep character studies from aggressively feminine, sometimes absurd points of view.  She writes fiction, non-fiction, stage plays, and screenplays.

Bridge Lower is a writer, educator, and graduate of The Writer’s Foundry MFA program at St. Joseph’s University. She is currently a Best of the Net nominee and was a finalist in the L Magazine’s Literary Upstart competition. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Mike Barthel is a writer, researcher, and recovering blogger living in Washington, DC. His work has been published in The Offing.

Aasiya F. Mirza Glover has previously published stories in Catapult, Headland, and Damazine. She is of mixed Pakistani American heritage and originally from Tennessee, and explores issues related to post-colonialism and intersectional relationships in both realistic and speculative fiction. She is a practicing attorney and lives in New Rochelle, NY with her family and cats.

Ellie Laabs is a Boston-born poet, currently residing in Mount Vernon, NY. She received her B.A. from St. John's College in Liberal Arts through their Great Books Program and is a current MFA candidate at Sarah Lawrence College. In her writing, she enjoys inhabiting--and toying with--the intersection between the ordinary and the philosophical. She is drawn to the vivid, the unexpected, and the oxford comma. When she (frequently) is not writing, she spends most of her time listening to Simon & Garfunkel, solving "crimes," and winning board games.

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Artists on Artists: the Fiction and Nonfiction Writers of Vol. 10

We asked the fiction and nonfiction writers from our Witness issue what questions they would want to ask their fellow Volume 10 contributors. A few then answered those questions, delving into their craft, their inspirations, and their approach to creating. Read on to learn more about William Hayward, Ross Hargreaves, Molly Seale, Heather Pegas, and Angela Townsend.