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Rob Vogt, Flash Fiction Finalist, LISP 2nd Quarter 2020

- Can you please tell us about your daily life?

I currently teach English at an all-boys high school on Chicago's South Side, where my students are often loud, impulsive, smelly, and awesome. Living and working in their midst provides an endless stream of creative fodder. - When did you start writing? How often do you write?  For many years, I was a voracious reader and sporadic writer. In 2009 The Prairie Light Review published two of my short stories, which motivated me to keep writing. Since then, my publication credits include a poem that was nominated for the 2010 Pushcart Prize anthology and two short stories that were published by the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park (Illinois). - How does it feel to have your work recognised?

It's a privilege, an honor, and a blessing. I can't speak for anyone else, but whenever my writing is published -- no matter the outlet or platform -- I find myself walking on air for days. Sometimes even longer. - What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing a Flash-Fiction? 

The best thing is that flash fiction is immediate. It is here and now. There's no time for meandering, posturing, or pontificating (all of which lead to lousy writing anyway). The hardest thing is deciding which parts of the story to include, which ones to imply, and which parts to leave out altogether. Try paring a 500-word story down to 350. Or 350 down to 100. Is it possible? Of course. But the revised stories are generally quite different from the originals. -  How did you come up with the idea for your LISP selected story? Is there a story behind your story? And, how long have you been working on it?

During the summer of 2013, I was mildly attacked by a bird near the end of a 10-mile hike. A painful hangover sparked the idea of an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, though I'd never been to a meeting. I went home and wrote a nice little poem that was quickly and decisively rejected by every magazine I sent it to. Last winter I rewrote the poem as a piece of flash fiction, and six months later, by the grace of God, that piece caught the eye of the fine folks at LISP. - Can you please give us a few tips about writing a 300-word flash-fiction story?

Start with a moment -- an action, a thought, a memory, whatever -- and go, go, GO. Write at least one draft that's longer than 300 words; if you don't, the 300 you finally settle on probably won't be very good. Save your earlier drafts, no matter how crappy they seem at the time. You never know when you'll want to go dumpster diving to retrieve a salvageable nugget or two. 

- What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing competitions?

The best thing is the incredible rush that comes with publication. The worst thing is the lack of feedback. Rejection without feedback isn't helpful or instructive -- it's just discouraging. 

-Lastly, do you recommend the writers to give it a go on flash fiction story and LISP? Absolutely. Also to "give it a go" in other genres with which they're not terribly familiar. This will force them to exercise different "writing muscles" than they normally do, and it might even provide a better "fit" for the stories they're trying to tell (as it did with my original "poem").

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