Guest post: Flash Memoir: Writing Prompts to Get You Flashing by Jane Hertenstein

Today’s guest blog post, on the topic of the delightful short short, is brought to you by Jane Hertenstein.

Flash Memoir: Writing Prompts to Get You Flashing

My writing was languishing. After a number of brilliant early successes, I suddenly found myself remaindered. Hot dogs seemed to have a longer shelf life than the novel I had just slaved over for five years. I couldn’t face another long slog. Let alone the money—the deal I got was negligible. Smaller than the poo I scooped up on the sidewalk after the dog.

Back to the beginning.

I’d sit in front of the keyboard and daydream, or play Solitaire, my latest obsession. I needed some positive reinforcement and fast. But what did I know outside of my own existence. With that, I hit upon the idea of memoir, or at least using autobiographical details to enhance my fiction. I was also at the same time experimenting with flash.

I quickly typed up a flash inspired simply by a friend who likes to keep her cell phone handy, as in tucked inside her bra. My brain flashed back to my grandmother. Thus, I wrote “Granny’s Pockets.” After lunch I came back and edited it down to 100 words and submitted it to Friday Flash Fiction, ( where it was accepted and posted by the end of the afternoon.

Well, that was instant gratification!

At my blog Memoirous (, which I use as a platform to publicize my I started a column called Hot Flash, hoping to spark memories with my readers/writers. After compiling the best of these, I am launching an eBook, Flash Memoir: Writing Prompts to Get You Flashing (available shamelessly EVERYWHERE!).

Sometimes all it takes is a nudge to get the engine of memory to turn over. Once started memories, whether invited or not, continue to roll over us. What one needs to do is create a habit of acting upon these flashes by quickly jotting them down before they disappear. Using a process I call Write Right Now, I encourage readers to do just this: build a portfolio of small flash memories that will eventually be expanded upon or become the foundation for a scene. Memories are the building blocks to most everything we write.

For some of us sitting down to transcribe or pen a memoir can be an overwhelming task. I recommend approaching it in bite-size pieces or rather applying flash. By freeze framing a moment, a memory, like a camera snapshot, and dwelling there you are creating the foundation for longer memoir, a jumping off place to expand upon later. (see my other eBook, Freeze Frame: How to Write Flash Memoir)

The nice thing about flash is that it can be unresolved. There often isn’t enough space/word count to fully explore the memory. And, like so many of our memories, there is an undercurrent of lose threads, fuzzy blurred beginnings and endings with little or no significance. They simply are.

So set yourself the task to sit down and set down these memories. Perhaps, begin with a prompts from my book, Flash Memoir: Writing Prompts to Get You Flashing.

Taste is a huge trigger—recall Proust in In Search of Lost Time or also known as Remembrance of Things Past where he writes about involuntary memory instigated by a simple cookie. Dunking a tea biscuit can easily lead one on a journey into the past. Some call this nostalgia or déjà vu.

Write Right Now: Think about some unforgettable taste that still lingers in your mouth. I once wrote about my mother’s fruitcake, archival and unforgettable, also useful as a door stopper. Write right now.

Thank you, Jane. That was fascinating.

Jane Hertenstein’s current obsession is flash. She is the author of over 40 published stories, a combination of fiction, creative non-fiction, and blurred genre both micro and macro. Her latest book Freeze Frame: How to Write Flash Memoir is available through Amazon. Jane is a 2-time recipient of a grant from the Illinois Arts Council. She can be found blogging about Flash Memoir at


Related articles:

and from this blog, my guests who have written on this topic are… Alberta Ross, Helen M Hunt, Morgen Bailey, Roger Hurn, Sarah Grace Logan, and Warren Bull.

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. Guidelines on guest-blogs. There are other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.

Guest post: ’Tis The Season To Write Short Stories by Helen M Hunt

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of writing seasonal stories is brought to you by short story author Helen M Hunt.

’Tis The Season To Write Short Stories

Women’s magazines all want stories that mark special events and occasions – both annual things such as Christmas, and one-off events such as the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics. It means they get the chance to offer their readers something relevant to the season and topical which will chime with what their readers are thinking and talking about.

For the writer there are lots of positive opportunities here, as well as a few drawbacks. Let’s start with the positives.

Writing a story to fit in with a season such as Christmas gives you an opportunity to add an extra element to your writing that will make your story sparkle. A very simple ‘boy meets girl’ plot can be lifted out of the ordinary if they meet in Santa’s grotto. Or maybe they meet in a shelter for the homeless where they’ve both given up their own Christmas to help others. Or maybe they’re both nurses and they’ve pulled the short straw and got night duty on Christmas Eve. The possibilities to add poignancy and raise the stakes of your story are endless.

If you’re going to write seasonal stories, you need to remember that magazines work well in advance. How far in advance depends a bit on the magazine, so you’ll need to read their guidelines, but typically several months. This means one of two things. Either you write your Christmas stories in the middle of the summer when everyone else is sunning themselves and drinking lemonade by the pool, or your write your Christmas stories now while you’re still eating your way through the leftover turkey and picking tinsel out of the carpet, and then sit on them for a few months. Different writers work in different ways so the choice is yours.

There are some drawbacks to writing Christmas stories, or stories written for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day or Easter. What happens if you don’t place your seasonally sensitive story?

Don’t worry; all is not lost. If you don’t sell your Christmas story in 2012, you can hang on to it and send it to a different magazine in 2013. Don’t forget, in women’s magazine writing selling a story can sometimes be a very long game. In fact, last year I sold a spring story just as spring was coming to an end. The story had missed the slot for spring 2011, so now it’ll be published in spring 2012 – getting on for eighteen months after I wrote it.

But what if you don’t want to wait that long? Or even worse you’ve written a story for a one-off event, such as the London 2012 Olympics, that isn’t going to happen again?

In that case your only option is to see if you can deconstruct your story. How integral was the event or season to the plot? Would it work if you pegged it to another event? Or what about if you can find a more universal activity or theme to pin it to? Could you rewrite your spring story, taking out the daffodils and replacing them with autumn leaves? Sometimes a bit of ingenuity is required to rework a story that might otherwise have reached the end of the line.

The other thing to remember is that if you’re going to write a Christmas tale, or any other seasonal stories, you need to avoid the clichés and well-worn themes around that event. Magazines are looking for a new take on the subject, so try to avoid being too predictable. We’ve all read stories featuring the turkey being burnt, the dog eating the presents and the fairy lights fusing, so see if you can come up with something a bit different. It’s often useful to jot down all the ideas you can think of that fit in with your theme, and then discard the first six or so. The more obscure ones you’ve come up with are much more likely to produce a story that is fresh and different.

Last year I sold a ‘Christmas’ story called ‘A Second Christmas’ which was set a few days after Christmas. Setting it just after Christmas took it out of the normal run of seasonal stories and made it different enough for the Fiction Editor to accept it and run it in the first issue of the New Year. Try to think laterally and it might just pay off!

But whatever you do, try to keep your short story writing fun, and above all inventive, that way you’ll be coming up with stories that are a pleasure to write and also a pleasure to read, no matter what season it is!

If you’re interested in writing short stories for women’s magazines you may find some of my courses helpful.

New for 2012 is my online short story writing course, the ‘Hop On, Hop Off’ course. You can find details on my website

You might also be interested to know that I run workshops for people who are interested in writing for the women’s magazine market. (Dates for 2012 will appear on my website soon.) And I also offer email short story critiques.

You can read two of my stories, along with stories by other writers including novelists Cally Taylor and Tamsyn Murray and women’s magazine favourites Kathleen McGurl, Bernadette James and Karen Clarke, in the ‘Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After’ anthology which is now available Amazon for Kindle.

Thank you Helen, lovely to have you back!

Helen Hunt writes short stories and features for magazines. Her short stories have appeared in Woman’s Weekly, My Weekly, The Weekly News, People’s Friend and Take A Break Fiction Feast in the UK, and That’s Life Fast Fiction in Australia. She also writes articles for Writers’ Forum and Writing Magazine. You can find her website at

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please” (while quietly bouncing up and down in my seat with joy!).

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with women’s / contemporary romance author, story development consultant and animation producer Shannon Muir – the two hundred and thirty-first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords.

Guest post: Writing Short Stories For Women’s Magazines by Helen M Hunt

I’m delighted to bring you this guest blog post, today by short story author, book review blogger and writing magazine columnist (and writing friend so I asked her to do this for me :)) interviewee Helen M Hunt.

Writing Short Stories For Women’s Magazines

The women’s magazine short story market remains one of the most competitive out there. Sadly, it is a shrinking market and because competition is so fierce, only the very best stories will make it to publication. There are still opportunities for those determined to succeed though, and in this post I’ve gathered together what I think is the most helpful advice for anyone who wants to make their mark!

For beginners

Patience is the key – don’t expect your first story to be accepted for publication, or your second or third. It can be a long process. Check submission guidelines for specific magazines carefully: there’s no point in sending a story that doesn’t fit the magazine’s requirements. I strongly recommend Womagwriter’s blog which has all the guidelines and contact details for the magazines you might want to submit to.

Initially you should concentrate on targeting one or two magazines – pick the ones that appeal to you most as a reader. If you try to research all the magazines in one go you’ll be overwhelmed. Remember that magazines are looking for stories that are similar in style and tone to the ones they are currently using, but at the same time they need to be different enough to catch an editor’s eye. That’s why you need to study the magazines really carefully and ask yourself why the stories in them work. Then ask yourself how you can bring something different to it!

Magazines aimed at writers – Writers’ Forum and Writing Magazine are the big names – often have advice for beginner writers and also for short story writers. I’m writing some articles for Writing Magazine at the moment that cover different aspects of short story writing, so look out for those over the next few months.

For those with a bit more experience

Write as many stories as you can and keep sending them out. It’s helpful if you can set yourself a quota – but make sure it’s realistic. Once you are writing to a publishable standard, the more stories you have out there, the greater your chance of acceptance.

Never give up on a story! If one magazine rejects it, look at it again, revise it if necessary and send it somewhere else. Different editors have different tastes and I’ve sold a story on its seventh outing before.

Join a critique group if you haven’t already, either online or in the real world. Make sure that at least some people in the group are being published in the area you are aiming for. Ideally join a group that are just writing short stories as, although general creative writing groups are great for encouragement and inspiration, short story writing skills are very different from novel or poetry writing skills. If this isn’t possible you could use a critique service instead.

Women’s magazine writers are a friendly lot and always generous with their advice. There’s lots of online support out there for people who are aiming at this market.

In particular you might want to have a look at Womagwriter’s blog, Teresa Ashby’s blog and Della Galton’s website.

For anyone who prefers a book to refer to, Della Galton’s ‘How To Write And Sell Short Stories’ is the best book out there on this subject and I highly recommend it.

You might also be interested to know that I run workshops for people who are interested in writing for the women’s magazine market. You can find full details here. I also offer email short story critiques.

Thank you Helen! 🙂

Helen Hunt writes short stories and features for magazines. Her short stories have appeared in Woman’s Weekly, My Weekly, The Weekly News, People’s Friend and Take A Break Fiction Feast in the UK, and That’s Life Fast Fiction in Australia. She also writes articles for Writers’ Forum and Writing Magazine. Helen is also a contributor to the ‘Tears and Laughter…‘ anthology.

You can find her blog at You can also read my interview with Helen here.

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about – take a look here for the list of current topics and dates. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please” (while quietly bouncing up and down in my seat with joy!).