We are reposting this interview with Siel Ju from August, 2016, in celebration of her book release! Cake Time, a novel in stories, is out on April 6th from Red Hen Press. If you’re in L.A., come join Siel and special guests at Skylight Books on April 5th for the book release party. More events are listed here. Congratulations, Siel!
by Lauren Eggert-Crowe
Siel Ju is the editor of Flash Flash Click, an online lit zine for fast fiction. Subscribers get a weekly flash prose piece delivered every Tuesday. The pieces range in style, tone, and content but all have a compelling narrative driving them, no matter how short. Some veer more towards the lyrical and sublime while others give the reader a sardonic slice-of-life from a first-person narrator. Siel has featured such authors as Wendy C. Ortiz, Catherine Daly, Lisa Cheby, Maureen Gibbon and Molly Fuller. I asked Siel a few questions about her job as editor of Flash Flash Click.
Why did you decide to start Flash Flash Click?
The impetus came from feeling there was a big, untapped population of readers out there who weren’t being reached by the current literary marketplace. I have friends who are writers, but I also have many non-writer friends who are smart and literate — who might very well enjoy reading poems and stories but are completely unfamiliar with the world of literary journals. I think a lot of people don’t even know literary journals exist! So the idea was to start a lit zine that sent a short piece a week via email — tiny bits of prose that can be read easily on a smartphone — sort of like a gateway drug to entice “regular” people to become regular readers of contemporary fiction and poetry.
What sets Flash Flash Click apart from other online journals?
The weekly email format is the main difference. It’s a format and length people are used to reading as part of their day to day lives.
What qualities do you look for in submitted writing?
The piece has to hold my interest and give me some unexpected experience. Beyond that — Since Flash is a flash prose site, I look for pieces that have a sense of completion — pieces that feel like they are meant to stand on their own, versus pieces that read like excerpts of a bigger work. I also look for accessibility. Like I mentioned before, I want the pieces in Flash to be pieces that anyone — even someone who hasn’t read fiction in years — can have a personal connection with.
What are the most frequent cliches or overused themes you see in the pieces you reject?
Well, I’m always surprised by how writers make the usual unusual, so I don’t really have complaints about overused themes and cliches because whatever I complain about, I’m sure a writer will transform that very thing into an unexpected piece I end up loving. My pet peeves have more to do with getting work that’s clearly not ready — sloppy writing where verb tenses and points of view suddenly change mid-story (in a way that’s clearly not intentional), numerous grammar and punctuation errors (again of the unintentional sort), that sort of thing. You’d be surprised at what some people submit!
About what percentage of your featured work is solicited and what percentage is slush pile?
It’s about 50-50 right now, since Flash is just six months old and submissions are still ramping up. I expect in the next year or so, the percentage will shift quite a bit.
What are key things you’ve learned about being an editor since starting this project?
As an editor, I’ve learned that time management is really, really important! But I’ve actually learned a lot as a writer too — to submit often, to resubmit often, and to not take rejection so personally. I think before I started this project, I feared that when I submitted work again to a publication that had previously rejected me, that the editor there might feel disgruntled or put off by having to read more work from me. “Ugh,” I imagined them saying. “Not another story I’m gonna hate from this Siel person again.” Looking at this from the other side, I know this isn’t really how editors think. Well, at least I don’t. I look forward to seeing repeat names — and am curious about and excited to see what they’ve sent me this time around. It feels like an ongoing conversation —
For women who would like to start their own literary journal, what tips would you give them?
Figure out how much time and energy you really have to devote to the journal, then structure the journal so that it fits into that framework. There are many reasons why Flash Flash Click publishes just one 1000-words-or-fewer piece per week, the limits of time and energy being a primary one.
Siel Ju is a writer. Her novel-in-stories, Cake Time, is the winner of the 2015 Red Hen Press Fiction Manuscript Award and will be published in Spring 2017. Siel is also the author of two poetry chapbooks: Feelings Are Chemicals in Transit from Dancing Girl Press, and Might Club from Horse Less Press. Her stories and poems appear in ZYZZYVA, The Missouri Review (Poem of the Week), The Los Angeles Review, Denver Quarterly, and other places.
Siel is the recipient of a residency from The Anderson Center at Tower View and Vermont Studio Center; she holds a Ph.D. in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Southern California. She is the editor of Flash Flash Click, a weekly email lit zine for fast fiction.
Photo by Rachael Warecki