In September 2012, WLT featured very short—often-called “flash”—fiction. Turning to a less-explored but related form, WLT here collects five very short nonfiction pieces—all under 1,000 words.
In their preface to The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction, Abigail Beckel and Kathleen Rooney distill good flash nonfiction writing down to “the writer’s experience of the world made small and large at the same time.” In his introduction to the Field Guide, editor Dinty W. Moore traces the history of the form back to Heraclitus, through Michel de Montaigne, on to Benjamin Franklin, through the burst of energy provided by flash fiction, and then to contemporary writers William Least Heat Moon, Eduardo Galeano, Michael Ondaatje, Abigail Thomas, and Naomi Shihab Nye. “All along the way,” Moore says, “brief nonfiction has attempted to capture the reader’s attention and imagination in the first few words, and to hold it—uninterrupted—until the final period.”
A memory, a letter, a hike, a resuscitation, and a series of walks: each essay here takes us through both physical and emotional landscapes and provides a flash of insight. Together, they provide a glimpse of this rapidly developing genre.