What are some of your favorite chapbooks? Or what are some chapbooks that have influenced your writing?
xTx’s Billie the Bull came out originally as a nephew from Mudluscious Press (RIP) and was republished by Dzanc Books, and it’s this amazing, compact story. It’s a fine example of the power of brevity, of what is being said and not being said.
John Jodzio’s Get In If You Want To Live (Paper Darts) is a great collection of flash fiction paired with beautiful art. Jodzio works within the absurd and uses the confines of flash to great effect.
Aaron Teel’s Shampoo Horns (Rose Metal Press) is a great linked flash fiction chapbook where each piece functions independently but contributes to a greater story, a novella-in-flash.
I’m currently reading Rosie Forrest’s Ghost Box Evolution in Cadillac, Michigan (Rose Metal Press). It’s a gorgeous collection of flash fiction so far.
What’s your chapbook about?
Neil is about what’s missing.
What’s the oldest piece in your chapbook? Or can you name one piece that catalyzed or inspired the rest of the chapbook? What do you remember about writing it?
“Fruit” was the first story I wrote that was the catalyst of exploring this relationship between a single father and his son, and I was curious about the relationship between them after writing it. I wanted to explore what that relationship looked like, and how the narrator’s relationship with his own father impacted that.
Describe your writing practice or process for your chapbook.
Once I figure out the core idea of a project, I explore the core idea by writing my way through it. I take what I develop and sift my way through what’s there to figure out which pieces work and which pieces don’t. It’s always easier to have a lot to work with when it comes down to choosing and revising which pieces best fit.
How did you decide on the arrangement and title of your chapbook? What was your titling process for individual pieces in the chapbook?
I’m a big fan of non-linear storytelling when creating linked flash fiction. The past and present reveal more about each other when you are able to see them in parallel but also working together. I wanted the pieces in the chapbook to slowly reveal the true nature of the relationship between the narrator, the narrator’s father, and the narrator’s son.
Where the titles come from vary. “Fruit” came from the key object of the story, a pair of dirty underwear. “Fleet Street” came from Sweeney Todd as this story involved cutting hair. I believe the title of a story should be subtle and not necessarily give the reader an idea what the story is about.
What are you working on now?
Expanding Neil for my MFA thesis.
What advice would you offer to an aspiring chapbook author?
The chapbook is an underrated media. A poetry or story collection can be sometimes too much for what the writer wants to say. The compression of a chapbook is a fantastic challenge and what you can do with that compression is amazing. I wished more people would embrace taking on that kind of compression.
J. Bradley is a writer based out of Orlando, FL. His chapbook, Neil, won Five [Quarterly]‘s 2015 e-Chapbook Contest for Fiction. He runs the Central Florida based reading series/chapbook publisher There Will Be Words and lives at iheartfailure.net.
“What’s a middle school math teacher gonna teach you about sex?” My father held the permission slip away from him like a carton of curdled milk.
“All you need to know is whether you want to pull out.” He crumpled the permission slip, lobbed it in the trash. “You’ll know from where when the time’s right.”
I waited until he was asleep to recover the permission slip. He made me practice signing his name as an emergency precaution; not wanting to be a father like him counted as an emergency.