Travis Garner, Flash Fiction Finalist
Travis Garner, Flash Fiction Finalist. LISP 3rd Quarter 2020
Can you please tell us about your daily life? Currently, I work an office job – I do business development for a language school in Berlin. Outside of work I try to spend my free time either with people I love or doing the things I love such as rock climbing or writing. I attend a weekly writing group called Poetry Club, where we meet in a pub and read what we’ve written; I try to go to the boulder gym at least once a week; I also attend bi-weekly German classes. When I’m not doing any of that I run a small business called Climb Om (climb-om.com) which offers climbing and Yoga retreats in various places in Europe. When did you start writing? How often do you write? I've been writing stories on and off since was I was eight, but I became a lot more serious about my writing when I was in my mid-twenties. I try to write at least one day a week, two if I can manage it. I tend to switch back and forth between working on an ever ongoing novel and writing short stories so that I can feel a sense of completion. To date I have two published short stories: An Unexpected Event, published by Liar’s League NYC; and The Naughty List, published by Cheeze und Krackers e-zine. I also have two 42-word stories in Bam Write's forthcoming 42-Word Stories Anthology. All of my work can be found on my website: travisgarner.ca How does it feel to have your work recognised? Really great! Writing is such a personal thing; at the start I was very self-conscious about showing it to people, so it feels really nice to have someone unbiased look at my work and say, "this is actually pretty good!" It provides a sense of validation and is a good motivation to keep pressing forward. What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing a Flash-Fiction? The best thing about Flash-Fiction is that I have a complete story that someone can read in just a few minutes. I really want my work to be read, but I know that longer texts can be prohibitive to new readers. With Flash, if someone is interested in reading my work, I've can give them a taste with a full, bite-sized story. The hardest thing is definitely keeping it short. I like to be descriptive and go into a lot of detail, but that adds words. I've been practicing for years to write stories that stay under 1,000 words, and I would say that it's only recently that I've been able to do it reliably. The nice thing about focusing on such a short length is that I'm forced to really focus on the story essence and cut anything extraneous - there isn't a word or detail that isn't important.
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? As mentioned, I attend a weekly writing group where we choose a theme, write a short piece, then meet in a pub to share our work. One week the theme was "Pocket Lint." I thought about how pocket lint is always there but kinda useless. It's reliable but in a very unreliable way. Then I thought, what if I wrote about a person who was like pocket lint; reliably unreliable. I let the story bounce around in my head for the week and then wrote it in one go. I was pretty happy with how it turned out, so I didn't do much editing until I discovered LISP and that the competition had a maximum limit of 300 words. Like Pocket Lint was 373 words but I was excited for the competition so I figured I could slice nearly a quarter of extraneous details out of the story; it took a couple of hours, but I managed. One more interesting note: the narrator begins the story by scavenging change from the ground around drive-thru windows. This idea came from when I worked in fast food. Sometimes, in the process of handing someone their change, one of you would drop it. Very few people felt like getting out of their car to recover it. You could usually find a few bucks on the ground around the window, especially after the snow melted at the end of winter. I thought this would be a good way for my child-narrator to make the money they needed to buy groceries and which also had the added benefits of making you wonder why they're doing it in the first place and immediately sympathize with them.
Can you please give us a few tips about writing a 300-word flash-fiction story? Practice, practice, practice. Seriously, it's only been through many, many failed attempts that I've managed to write a quality story with such a short length. In terms of craft, the thing that helped me most was switching from third-person past-tense to first-person present-tense. There former is my favourite style - maybe because the majority of the stories I read as a child were written in third-past - so that's my go-to writing style; but when it comes to writing something short, I've found that first-present gives the story a sense immediacy and personalization that I would otherwise have to spend more words to achieve.
What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing competitions? The best is having your work recognized. I entered several before becoming a finalist, and finally being one feels good. The hardest for me is choosing a competition. When you begin looking into writing comps, there are so many that look interesting, and you don't have unlimited writing time, so how do you choose? Lastly, do you recommend the writers to give it a go on LISP? Of course! It's a cool competition, is very well run, and, of course, I enjoyed reading the other selected stories!