Talking With Francine Witte

Francine Witte is the author of five poetry chapbooks, two flash fiction chapbooks, and the full-length poetry collections Café Crazy (Kelsay Books) and The Theory of Flesh (Kelsay Books). Her Novella-In-Flash, The Way of the Wind (Ad Hoc), was just released December 2019 and her Flash Collection, Dressed All Wrong for This (Blue Light Press), was released in September 2019.

Dream Noir Fiction Editor, Corey Miller, had the fortune of talking with Francine about her flash writing and her debut collection.

Corey Miller: Your book, Dressed All Wrong for This, just came out in September and is a collection of flashes. How long did it take to put the book together and how did you decide on the order of stories?

Francine Witte: These are stories I had written over the past twenty or so years that I’ve been writing flash fiction. I had asked Meg Pokrass to help me choose the stories and to help with the order.

CM: The order felt very natural and had me along every step of the way, even with topics that are so widespread. What would you say your approach for a story is? Do you find yourself drawing inspiration from living in NYC?

FW: I’m very big on just getting a line or phrase that I like and running with it. I almost never know where a story or poem will end up. I don’t use NYC in any overt way, but I suppose since this is what is surrounding me, I have a response to it.

CM: Do you find it difficult to make time for writing? I see you went to Grand Lake, Colorado for the flash retreat with Kathy Fish and Nancy Stohlman (I’m going this upcoming year!). Are there any other writerly trips you have planned?

FW: I try (lol) to write every day. No really. But I usually keep it to a small amount of time. A manageable amount. Half-hour, one hour tops. I’m pretty good at getting something done, even if it’s a draft by that time. A half hour is not a scary amount of time to deal with. And boy do I feel virtuous after. Unless what I wrote is awful. Then I feel awful. I had the time of my life in Grand Lake. Great atmosphere, teachers, co-retreaters. Enjoy. I am planning to go to the Bath Flash Fiction Workshop in the UK in June.

CM: That sounds wonderful! The UK seems to have such a great flash fiction scene. Your story “The Cake, The Smoke, The Moon” has been nominated by Pidgeonholes for best Microfiction, it’s such a beautiful piece that contains a multitude of layers in under 400 words. How long, on average, does a story take for you start to finish? What’s your revision process like?

FW: I’m a very good first drafter. Usually, a story that works comes out (at least the bones of it) fairly quickly. I often think of the process of writing short pieces such as poems or flash as discovery and I allow myself to go with it and see where it ends up. You can’t do that with longer pieces or a novel. When I revise, I am tinkering. I don’t need this sentence. Or find a better word. Or does the beginning grab you? That type of thing.

CM: I love that you let the story create itself and follow where it takes you. Your work definitely isn’t afraid to explore! I’m always curious what other writers, especially flash fiction writers, are currently reading. Do you have any recommendations? Are there any up-and-coming writers or lit mags you think we should be following? 

FW: I am finishing Ghosts of You by Cathy Ulrich. Honestly, I’m trying not to finish it. It’s really that good. I enjoyed Jennifer Wortman’s This.This.This. Is. Love, Love, Love. But that’s only two of many. This answer could go on for pages.

CM: I love working with Dream Noir and I think we get a wide range of writers who submit their work to us. We’ve even had the privilege of publishing a few debut pieces. Having been published by several different literary magazines, do you have any advice for an emerging writer on how to break the mold and land a published piece?

FW: I think it’s really important to read what other writers are doing in the field you are trying to break into. You have to know what’s going on. You need to know what style of writing a journal is publishing. If you write war stories, don’t submit to a journal with a highly pacifist bent. Or maybe they just published a story on the same theme as yours and therefore, wouldn’t publish it. Also, make sure you are sending something that you would be proud to see in print. Make sure it’s ready. And once you send it out, forget it. Write something else. And don’t check Submittable or Duotrope every five minutes.

CM: Great advice. I’m definitely guilty of lingering on Duotrope and Twitter longer than I should. For all the fans of your work, can you leave us with any hints of what you might have in store next?

FW: I was fortunate enough to have three books published this year. So rather than start on a new one, I will focus on the publication of stories and poems. I also want to write a few longer stories. I like longer stories.

Artist: Patrick Bremer