Thursday, June 3, 2010

Interview with #FridayFlash Creator, J.M. Strother

In honor of the 1 Year Anniversary of #FridayFlash, I would like to present its creator, J.M. Strother.  He was kind enough to grant me an interview, which I'm thrilled to share with everyone!  To all the Friday Flashers out there, be sure to leave some of your contact info in the comments section.  Think of this as an online FridayFlash BBQ...let's get to know each other!  Be sure to leave your name, how long you've been participating in Friday Flash (or how many stories!), the genre you prefer to write, and of course a link to your blog or website!  

Where did the idea for Friday Flash come from? Has it developed as you thought or has it changed since the original idea?

I have always posted bits of creative writing on my blogs – fiction, essays, attempts at poetry. Usually I was just shouting into the wind. Those pieces drew very little attention. It was not uncommon to have weeks go by without a comment. Spam comments became dear to me.

Then I went to a science fiction convention (Archon) a couple of years ago and they had a session on using social media to reach your audience. I came home and signed up for Twitter and thought – What the heck? Who cares when I wash my socks?


It took a while for me to figure out that Twitter actually could be useful. The #followfriday hashtag introduced me to the concept of hashtags. It dawned on me that combining a blog post and a tweet with a tag might be just the ticket, and viola, #FridayFlash was born.

I'm not sure anything develops as one anticipates, but #FridayFlash came pretty close. I was pleased to see some actual comments show up on my blog (5!) on the first week, and to have a few other people join in using the hashtag. I advertised it on all the writer forums I frequented, as well as on Twitter, and participation slowly grew. Over all, I'm pleased with the rate of growth – fast enough to build interest, but slow enough that we all can get to know each other over time. I think if anything surprises me, it is the sense of community and friendship that has developed as we share our stories (bits of our souls, really) every week.


How many writers participated in the first Friday Flash? And how many are you up to at this point?

I feel terrible that I can't tell you who all the first time flashers were, but I did not keep very good records back then. I know Kevin J. Mckey, E. D. Johnson, and Laura Eno were early participants, but I can't tell you how many and who were there to start. There were just a handful.

Now we typically have around 70 stories each week, usually with several debuts. Over the course of the first year we've been graced with stories from no fewer than 248 writers. With my poor record keeping early on, and the fact that not everyone who uses the hashtag lists themselves in the Collector, means some have gone unaccounted for. No telling how many.

How did you find writers/readers for Friday Flash?

As mentioned above I tweeted it, and posted short blurbs on the various forums I frequented. I know some of the early participants came around from the Editor Unleashed forum: Kevin, E. D., and Laura for sure. And I participated in the Writing Adventure Group, a weekly challenge hosted by India Drummond. Some of the WAG participants also started doing #FridayFlash. But it was not until Maria Schneider let me guest blog about it on her Editor Unleashed blog (as opposed to the forum) that it really took off. We started picking up 10, 12, 18 debuts a week for a while there. Many of them are still regulars. I really owe Maria a huge debt of gratitude for hosting my post.

http://www.indiadrummond.com/writers-group/ Link to the Writing Adventure Group


What do you see for Friday Flash in the future?

I think we will carry on carrying on. It seems to be working rather well. In a way, you don't want it to grow so fast that it collapses under its own weight. I think slow and steady growth in authors works well. A few people come in and go out every week. Those of us who stick around come to know each other, and really build up a sense of camaraderie. Though I would not mind seeing some exponential growth in readership. ;)

There is an anthology coming along (honest!) which will feature the best of 2009. It's been long in coming and I know some authors must be getting anxious to see it actually get released. I am working toward that end, all too slowly, but surely. I hope we can do it again next year, but the focus now has to be on getting that first one out.

I see some of the participants are starting to do some wonderful things on their own to help promote #FridayFlash. Jen Brubacher started a FridayFlash Tribe. Emma Newman is holding a very generous monthly contest with an impressive prize – a professional podcast of the winning story. There are a lot of cross promotional efforts being done on individual blogs. I started this as a crowdsourcing experiment, and these are just the kinds of things that help build readership. I'm grateful to everyone who helps promote #FridayFlash.


I have registered the FridayFlash.org domain name, and have vague notions of trying to do something with that. I'd like to see some sort of place besides by blog that would serve the #FridayFlash community, both readers and writers, as a whole. It's all very murky in my head right now, and I'm open to suggestions.

Will there be any compilations of Friday Flash works, now that you've concluded a full year?

The #FridayFlash anthology will be coming out sometime around mid-year. It will be made available in both print and ebook formats. Plus I plan to do a collection of my own stories – my first year of #FridayFlash. I intend to pitch the idea to some publishers. Who knows what will develop. I have to wrap up the anthology first.


How long have you been writing? Are you currently published?

I have been writing from at least the 4th grade onward. I finished my first novel length manuscript while in high school. It was dreadful and is, thankfully, lost.

I don't have a lot in the way of publishing creds, as I rarely submit. That is something I need to be more diligent about. I have a story in the Twelve Days anthology, was selected for inclusion in the Why I Write essay collection at Editor Unleashed, and am scheduled to be in the next Chinese Whisperings anthology. I've won a contest or two from time to time. And I have some technical articles published in the proceedings of some obscure technical conferences dealing with Geographic Information Systems. Exciting stuff, that.

http://12days2009.wordpress.com/ Link for the 12 Days anthology
http://chinesewhisperings.com/ Link for the Chinese Whisperings anthology


What is your goal as a writer?

Primarily, to be read. Oh sure, I'd love to be published, to become rich and famous, but that is not why I write. I write because I have stories I want to tell, and what good is a story if no one ever sees it? Someone recently asked me why I give my stories away for free. I think that is the ultimate answer – to be read.


Can you give us an interesting fact (or facts) about yourself?

Interesting, eh? That could be a problem. I'm very boring. Besides writing I like to bicycle, garden, and read. Our reader's club, The Omnivores, has been around since 1975. We've read a fair amount of books since then. I'm in my mid-fifties and looking forward to retirement so I can turn my attention to writing full time. I have a wife and two kids. One of my kids actually reads my blog. Sometimes, if I ask her nicely, my sister does too.


What is your absolute favorite book?

My all time favorite book is The Lord of the Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien. Did I mention I wrote a dreadful novel while in high school? It was a Tolkien knock off. At least I got it out of my system. In SF, I absolutely LOVE the Red/Green/Blue Mars series by Kim Stanley Robinson. My favorite book of recent years is The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue – talk about a terrific debut.


Where do you like to write? And what is your preferred genre to write?

I had a little dormer office set up in our third floor bedroom – it was my favorite place to write. It was isolated enough from the rest of the house that I could concentrate and get lost in my worlds. Recent events have forced us to move the bedroom downstairs. Now I write at a beautiful oak rolltop desk in our first floor bedroom. It is not as isolated, so it's harder to concentrate, but it is where I do virtually all my writing now.

I'm very eclectic. I like to write fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and slice of life. I also enjoy writing essays and dabble in poetry. One of my favorite poems is Road Cloud. I wrote it after a road trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was a foggy morning when we pulled out of Asheville, North Carolina.

Road Cloud

The morning begins in a slow drizzle.
The car is packed.
On the road before a muted dawn.

The girls in back, awake, then dozing – bored.
Vacation road trip.
Many weary miles to go.

The asphalt ribbon wends up and down,
This way and that.
Mountain road, seldom traveled.

My wife points ahead; the mountain hides.
Watch for Fog on Road.
She looks to me with worried eye.

No real choice, we carry on, slower now.
Road climbs into the mists.
Hey girls”, I say over my shoulder, “We're in a cloud.”

Sitting up, they look around. “We're in a cloud?”
Then, amazed,
We're in a cloud!”

As long as I'm writing, I'm happy. It really doesn't matter what genre or form it takes.

Website? Twitter? Facebook?
My website is Mad Utopia http://jmstrother.com/MadUtopia/
You can follow me on Twitter as jmstro http://twitter.com/jmstro

14 comments:

  1. This was great to get to know our #Fridayflash founder. I haven't missed a single week since I've started and I have Jon's brainchild here to thank for making me write "something" every week. I'd love to see more readers. The people in the group are just amazing, supportive and really feel like family. Thanks for doing this Jon and Karly!

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  2. Great interview!!!! Love seeing the man behind the #FridayFlash machine. :-)

    I've been writing flash for a couple months. I love to write all types of fantasy.

    michellesussman.blogspot.com
    @michellesussman on Twitter

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  3. Oh, I'm first at the BBQ! Really enjoyed the interview and getting to know more about Jon.

    I came to Twitter - kicking and screaming - last August. Didn't think I would stay very long. But I was following Editor Unleashed and read Maria's interview with Jon. I thought, "why not?" even though I was terrified to let others read my stories. Yeah. I know.

    Did not have to worry. The #fridayflash community is so incredibly supportive and wonderful. I have become close to many of the writers, and hope that we can meet in the real world one day.

    Jon's brainchild was inspired. Writing a weekly flash has been a great exercise for me and I do feel that I get better and better as I go along. I don't really have a set genre, but mostly my pieces fall into slice of life, humor, and magical realism.

    Thank you for putting the spotlight on Jon. He's awesome!

    My website is Out of Order Alice http://www.marisabirns.com/

    Twitter: marisabirns http://twitter.com/marisabirns

    Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=100000500500027

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  4. It is fascinating learning how something starts, and how it grows. Jon is very humble but gives good interview. I love these little "magnifying glass" views on people. (Thank you Karly--terrific questions and insights.)

    My only wish is that I'd found twitter and #fridayflash sooner. I discovered it all in November 2009. I am a total speculative fiction geek and was thrilled to learn Jon loves the Tolkien series! My high school actually gave classes in Tolkien (it was the '70s) and I've reread the Lord of the Rings series every 3 to 5 years since. (Which reminds me... where did I leave the Hobbit?)

    Thanks for inviting me to the bbq. I'll be hopping 'round, reading and commenting.

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  5. Super interview! Jon, you are so fabulous (you know I am a fan), and Karly, I am sure you will be fav of mine, too! Super questions, wish there was an encore.

    And congrats Jon for #fridayflash anniversary. I love the community. Thank you. peace...

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  6. I feel like a dolt - I should have closed with a big thank you for having me, Karly. So here it is now: THANK YOU. I much appreciate you giving me time and space to ramble.

    Peggy, I also re-read the Lord of the Rings every three to five years. It's the only book I do that with.

    Thanks for the kind words, everyone.
    ~jon

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  7. Great interview! Nice to see how it all began. I started writing flash for a site that went bust back in October '09. The word limit was 200 so most of mine (even the new stuff) falls under 300 words. I love the challenge of making a big impact with so few words.

    I started blogging my flash in April, but I didn't find #fridayflash until a few weeks ago. You have all been so open and welcoming. It's a wonderful place to hang out and share.

    You can find my flash fiction blog at: http://daniellelapaglia.wordpress.com/

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  8. Excellent interview Jon and Karly. #FridayFlash was, and remains, an inspired idea of Jon's. I am very happy to have been part of it. i've been fortunate to have seen the community at its earliest. I love how it's grown, without losing its essential quality of community.

    The writers and readers have been part of that, for sure. But much of the credit belongs with Jon who has fostered that community.

    Well done.

    - KjM
    http://kjmackey.blogspot.com
    twitter: kevinjmackey

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  9. Our founding father emerges from the shadows of modesty and not before time. We all owe you a huge debt Jon - and get submitting!!!

    marc nash

    http://sulcicollective.blogspot.com
    http://marcnash.weebly.com

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  10. I adore that poem :) Great interview!

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  11. That was so good to read. I'll look into FridayFlash now that I know all about its creator (and it seems so fun!)

    I've been writing since freshmen year oh high school (so 4 years) and I enjoy every minutes.


    http://writelovelivelaugh.blogspot.com/

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  12. Carrie just turned me on to Friday Flash and I'm so glad. Thanks for the interview, it's great to hear how it started and get to know Mr. Strother a little bit. He strikes me as a very kind person with a good brain. I'm going to do my best to keep on flashing and reading.

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  13. Great idea Karly! Jon deserves the spotlight for once. I had no idea what to do with twitter until I found #fridayflash in Aug of last year. It's an amazingly supportive atmosphere to share in and it's a great challenge to meet a deadline every week. I don't always make it, but I'm always thinking of new ideas now.

    I love that poem, Jon. I've been there, with the anxiety of driving into mountain fog. Would be better to look at it with the girls' perspective and wonder.

    Long live #fridayflash :-)

    Shannon Esposito
    http://murderinparadise.com/
    http://twitter.com/soesposito

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  14. Thanks everyone for stopping by, it was so nice to get to know everyone!

    And Jon, really, it's nothing! I mean, you had to answer all the questions! Thanks for creating something as cool as Friday Flash and thanks for agreeing to the interview!

    Have a great week, all!

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