This Week’s Reader: James Thomas


JAMES THOMAS coedited all of the Flash Fiction and Sudden Fiction books. He is the founder of Quarterly West, and the annual Writers at Work conference. He has received a Stegner Fellowship from Stanford, a James Michener Fellowship , and 2 NEA grants. His story collection is Pictures, Moving.

Favorite Flash:

I’d like to suggest that the readers acquire either Flash Fiction or Flash Fiction Forward, both published by W. W. Norton and very available at Amazon, on the shelves or through Barnes & Noble, or at a pretty good used book store. Not free and a little bit of a hassle that way, but rather than one or a couple of story titles they get 152 of them. All careful picks on my part.

Deal Breakers:

If a very short fiction reads like it came to the writer in a flash of narrative insight, oh boy … it probably did, and I probably don’t want to hear about it. There’s very little room for epiphany in a closet. Don’t try to show me a big idea in a small space. Just tell me a story, please … quickly if you must, quickly if you can. Skip the flashy language, it takes up too much time. No jewelry, no meditation, no journal entries, no garden paths, easy on the irony, nothing about the profound synchronicity of life. Thank you. Just give it to me straight. I’ll take it from there.


Remember always … it’s not the story you tell, it’s how you tell the story. That’s framed and hangs on my wall. I can’t remember who said it, but you can have it.

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