Saturday, March 27, 2021

The Difference Between the Lightning Bug and the Lightning

by Fiction Editor J. Nishida 

Bacopa Literary Review 2021 will receive hundreds of fiction submissions. What will make yours stand apart? We seek short fiction (up to 2500 words) that immediately captures the imagination, tells an original story in vivid language, and provides an ending that rewards our investment of time and attention. 

Steven Millhauser writes: 

Its littleness is the agency of its power ... The short story apologizes for nothing. It exults in its shortness. It wants to be shorter still. It wants to be a single word. If it could find that word, if it could utter that syllable, the entire universe would blaze up out of it with a roar. That is the outrageous ambition of the short story, that is its deepest faith, that is the greatness of its smallness. 

If you Google the qualities of a well written short story, you'll find a thousand rules to follow, many of them debatable. But Kurt Vonnegut’s first rule is not debatable:  

Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

Listen to your story read aloud for clarity, logic, coherence of shifts (time, place, tone, point of view), completeness, and music. Trust your readers to “get” what needn’t be stated outright. Favor concrete detail to philosophical musings. Be sure the writing conventions (grammar, punctuation, syntax, spelling) serve comprehensibility and fluidity of reading, instead of impeding them. Use crisp, concise, and readable language, free of clich├ęs and distracting convention errors. Spark a life that lingers in the reader’s imagination.

Cut and cut; distill your language. If 1000 words will capture the heart and bone of your original 2500, use 1000. If 500 will capture that of the 1000, use 500. If one word will do instead of three, use what Mark Twain describes as the right word:  

The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter--it is the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.

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Fiction Editor J. Nishida has B.A. and Masters Degrees in English, graduate-level certification in Teaching English as a Second Language, and an Education Specialist degree in secondary school reading. She's studied numerous languages, including Spanish, French, Japanese, Welsh, and Arabic; has co-edited/co-translated a book of Japanese Waka poetry; self-published a children's beginning reader chapter book for ESOL and/or special-needs students; taught English reading, language arts, and writing in both classroom and online environments; tutored and taught ESOL with high school/college students and adults; done free-lance editing; and worked for charitable and non-profit endeavors supporting literacy and the arts.

Nishida has traveled widely to feed her addiction to Shakespearean theatre, including NYC, London, Stratford-upon-Avon, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. She's attended numerous literary conferences, festivals, and workshops, among them the Dodge Poetry Festival, the Palm Beach Poetry Festival, the American Literary Translators Association Conference, the Toronto Storytelling Festival, and the Florida Storytelling Festival.

As a child of a military family, Nishida lived in five U.S. states and near Oxford, UK. As an adult she has lived in Leuven, Belgium and Mallorca, Spain, and has traveled as far afield as Japan and New Zealand. Her family currently lives in Gainesville, FL with two dogs, a snake, and far too many cats. She favors the Oxford comma with  a zealotry that borders on fanaticism.