Final Flash Photo! A Story of Four Girls



Youth Night, Revival Week, July 1965

New girls brought instant novelty, even Deirdre’s own tired moss green dress seemed fresher walking beside them.

The eldest girl, Sally, had been an easy victory. When Deirdre caught sight of the Bible in her tote bag, right as Sally was leaving the IGA, she invited her to Youth Night at Revival that very same evening. “I’ve got two younger sisters,” said Sally. “Is it okay if they come too?”

Of course it was. But as soon as Deirdre met the middle girl, Anne Marie, who at 15 had a savage self-confidence and rather mature beauty, she knew she would bring trouble.

She behaved herself during the service, even the prayers, Deirdre observed, peeping through the steeple of her fingers. But who knew what she was thinking?

At the end of the night, instead of walking home with her family, Anne Marie immediately sidled up to Doodle Hayes, a farmer’s son with a tendency to hunch his fingers into the pockets of his jeans and teeter on his heels whenever Deirdre spoke to him. And now he teetered next to Anne Marie.

Ashley Memory
~182 words

What fun you can have from photographs, especially when you have no idea who the people are or where they’re from! This gives you the freedom to truly imagine, and conjure an original plot from the simplest of details. And because it’s flash fiction, you have to keep it short, less than 750 words, which helps you pare it down to the absolute essentials. I actually wrote 364 words in my first draft and ended up cutting it in half. Honestly, I think it’s better now!

For even more fun, stay tuned for more prompts, and of course, more details on future workshops I’ll be leading at Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro in Fall 2018.


Flash Photograph! Meet Reinhardt…

army dog_editedReinhardt

By some trick of doggie geneaology, I missed being born a Dalmation, the breed who rides on a proper fire truck.  I’ve got a different gig.  When that man with the sunglasses yells “Atten-hut”, I half-sit half-stand on my mixed breed hind legs.

When my tongue lolled out, my mother used to say that now my face was going to stay like that for the rest of my life.  But I’ve just run clear across the parade grounds to sneak into this photo opportunity, so naturally, I’m panting.  This is the the United States Air Force, you know, and these are my guys.  They just finished washing the bivouac, the tires shine like their newly polished shoes.

Hixon, Hershey, Cyril and Donald keep the trucks running on this base.  The Corps doesn’t pay much, but they earn enough to buy me a decent collar and to keep food in my bowl.  They found me covered with mud in a ditch.  And they don’t never mind that I speak German.

Mary L. Barnard

Editor’s Note: Leave it to Mary to write from the point of view of the dog! Her love of dogs rules (she owns 2 rescue angels herself) as well as her sense of humor. What seals the deal for the reader is the title. His German name makes perfect sense when you read the last line of the story. Such a little touch results in a big payoff for the reader. Woof-woof!

Flash Photograph! Two Sisters in Sepia

two girls_edited1000 Words

From the shoulders up we are nearly the same, our corseted torsos in similar stiff poses. Your glossy brown hair is arranged in the same pouffy waves of fat rolls as mine. Those little girl bows, made from Momma’s scraps of white satin, forever perched on top; yours on the left, mine always on the right, as if our heads were presents to be opened. Our small gold lapel watches came from Mason’s on the square, Daddy’s gift to all his girls when they turned sixteen. They shine a bit in the old photograph, the only light on those dark, heavy dresses, holding time still.

Our eyes look the same of course; generations of Jackson women reflected in that sideways glance, left brows slightly raised, as if always asking. Same noses, familiar cheekbones but a subtle difference, perhaps, hinted at around our mouths. We were so close, this worn picture says, the best of friends, two serenely smiling, secret sharing, sepia sisters.

Locked in two dimensions, only I know what lived below the spotted grey paper frame’s oval window; your sharp little fingers, curled in a claw, pinching my compliant arm.

A. Kissel
‘DIY’ Flash Fiction Class: 03-03-18

Editor’s Note: Masterful. Though the title of this piece is “1,000 words,” a play on the old expression about a photograph being worth 1,000 words, the author succinctly captured the essence of this image in just 212! Make note of the ending. Here her imagination truly soared as she projected “beyond the photograph” and delivered conflict and tension, so essential to effective flash. Bravo!

Stay tuned for more exciting stories from our March 3rd flash fiction class at Central Carolina Community College. I’ll post these regularly. And let your own mind wander a bit. Dream. Imagine how this one-of-a-kind Creative Writing Program can help your own imagination take flight.


Welcome Breath O’Spring!

breath of springIn spite of wintry weather, these lovely branches of “breath o’spring” are flowering. We brought these into our house when they were fat with buds, but they may be blooming in the wild very soon as well. I wish you could smell them. In my poetry, I’ve described the scent as “lemon and vanilla riding on the breeze that blows through a pine forest after rain” but my words fall far short of the real thing…..

What’s perking you up about spring?  The Collection: Flash Fiction for Flash Memory will be out in the world in just one month — March 2 — and I’ve been honored to be invited, along with other featured authors, to give a reading at the Seymour Center in Chapel Hill on March 24.

And on March 3, as many of you know, I’ll be leading a workshop at Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro on how to craft your own flash fiction.  The class is full, but if you’re interested, please, please keep checking the registration page to see if any cancellations arise and for a future date of a repeat event. Due to high interest, I’m hoping to give it again, perhaps in the fall.

Leading a workshop brings me great joy, for many reasons. First, I get to spend time with people who love writing as much as I do, and second, I find the experience enormously stimulating as a writer. Right now, even as I plan for the class, I’m polishing up a number of short stories of my own and submitting “late-blooming” poetry.

Last year, I wrote one poem each day in the month of April as part of the Tupelo Press 30/30 Poetry Project. A handful of these recently made it to the second round of consideration in a national poetry competition (note the positive phrasing here — I did not say rejected :), so I plan on continuing to revise and submit until they find a home.

Here’s wishing a great start to  your own spring. For inspiration, read what fellow writer, Arthur Plotnik, author of  8 books, including Spunk and Bite, a contemporary writing guide (and one of my favorites) has to say: “You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you.  And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.”



What’s in Your Writing Kit?

writingkit2My mother gave me a lovely box many years ago. It’s covered with inspirational writing in a lovely gold script, and it’s become my nesting box for those little snippets of inspiration — favorite new words, quotes, articles, even bits of random conversation I happen to overhear. It also includes old postcards and pictures,  like the daguerreotype of a young married couple, circa 1840….

When my creative well dries up, this is the first place I plunder. My “writing kit” is particularly helpful for flash fiction because those “flashes” of inspiration can lead to instant stories. It has recently led the way to many new pieces, including poems in The Gyroscope Review (Summer 2017), “Party Etiquette for Insects Recently Transformed into People” (Honorable Mention,  Women on Writing, Summer 2017), and most recently in The Collection: Flash Fiction for Flash Memory, to be released by Anchala Studios on March 2, to coincide with the Read Across America campaign.

Participants attending my daylong flash fiction workshop on Saturday, March 3 at Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro will receive a starter kit for what I hope will inspire their own creative plundering. Right now, in preparation for the class, I’m compiling the most delicious prompts, tips, samples, and vocabulary words, all of which will help germinate our individual kits and lead to even more stories in the future.

Spots are filling quickly! Hope to see you there! To reserve your seat, visit the CCCC website.


Seeking a Refuge from the Cold? Write!

Got cold weather blues? Anxious about the holidays? Or are you just in a rut? If you’re like Baby Dog, you might just needbaby to surround yourself with your own creature comforts. In her case, it’s a nest of cushy autumn leaves. Can you find her?

For you, have you considered taking advantage of the comforts offered by writing? According to writer Edna Ferber, who wrote in her 1963 autobiography: “Life can’t ever really defeat a writer who is in love with writing, for life itself is a writer’s lover until death – fascinating, cruel, lavish, warm, cold, treacherous, constant.”

So why not embrace life by signing up for a creative writing course at Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro? We’re offering a wide range of opportunities in Spring 2018 that are sure to lift your spirits!

In fact, I’ll be leading a one-day workshop on Saturday, March 3 on flash fiction. Flash fiction is irresistible; a joy for both reader and writer. Opportunities are better than ever, with a virtual explosion of contests and publications specializing in the form. Read some of the best, experiment a little, and leave the class with a complete “kit” of your own for future inspiration.

CCCC offers many other valuable classes and workshops this spring–including a workshop to help writers achieve publication led by recent novelist Michele Berger. I also recommend you consider the weekly course offered by the celebrated poet Mary Barnard titled “Write to Heal.”

For the complete list of offerings, and to sign up, visit the CCCC website.


Find the “Write” Tools to Heal!

Last week Johnpaul built a ramp for our beloved Buster, whose legs are too short to jump into the truck on his own. Guided by a treat at his nose—and the cheers of his brother Finn—Buster quickly mastered the “mountain” like a champ.

This little ramp is so much more than a slab of poplar. It symbolizes what it takes to recover from a traumatic experience that might be holding you back. With the buster“write” tools, and the support of loving friends, you too, can easily triumph over the obstacles of life.

Based on research by Dr. James Pennebaker, “Write to Heal” offers 21 different expressive writing tactics (or tools) in an upcoming 8-week class at the Pittsboro campus of Central Carolina Community College beginning Monday, March 5, 2018.  A pen and notebook is all you need for writing in timed sessions on assigned topics.  Most importantly, you do not share what you write, it’s for your eyes only.  Registration begins in December 2017.  Just search for CCCC Creative Writing Program and click on “View the Online Schedule.”

Accomplished writer and workshop leader Mary Barnard, certified in 2016, has led 3 sessions for cancer survivors at Waverly Hematology Oncology in Cary and one session at CCCC in Spring 2017.  You can make a positive difference in your health and well-being by giving “Write to Heal” a try!  One cancer survivor said she used to dread coming to the clinic, but now she smiles when she walks in the door.

As a reminder, on Saturday, March 3, 2018, I’ll be leading a separate, daylong workshop on Flash Fiction at the same location. We’ll also be providing the “write” tools to turn your experience and ideas into memorable short fiction pieces. Every participant will leave with finished writing and a “do-it-yourself” kit of inspiration for future works.

Hope to see you at one of these events, or both!




Mark Your Calendar: A Workshop on Flash Fiction!

flash fiction

“A small fiction is a lone wolf of a lie, sometimes hounding the truth across a field but oftentimes simply sitting on a hilltop to raise its face to the moon and howl of love or loss….” Robert Olen Butler

On Friday, I was honored to learn that 3 stories of mine were accepted by Anchala Studios for an upcoming anthology called Flash Memory. It’s a collection of flash fiction intended for memory-impaired readers, but the book may appeal to anyone who has limited time and just needs a quick fix of fiction (might this be you?). Stay tuned for the details.

I’ve written about flash fiction and its growing popularity before, for both readers and especially writers. I’ll actually be leading a workshop for Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro on this very topic on Saturday, March 3, 2018 from 9 a.m.- 3 p.m.

Flash fiction stories (usually 750 words or less) are irresistible, savory nuggets of human experience at your fingertips. Opportunities for writing and publishing are better than ever. Participants will read some of the best, experiment a little, and leave the class with a “kit” for future inspiration. Bonus: The editors of Flash Memory have also kindly agreed to share with me some of the insights they gained while reviewing and selecting these stories, and I plan to share their wisdom during the workshop.

Interested? Registration deadlines will be available soon at the CCCC website.


Happy Holidays from Janet at Lifeline!

On Friday night, Johnpaul and I participated in the annual Fall Open Mic sponsored by the Creative Writing Program at Central Carolina Community College. The event was kindly hosted by the Joyful Jewel, a vibrant arts and craft gallery in the heart of downtown Pittsboro.

The optional theme this year, fittingly enough, was holiday angst, and we heard a variety of creative works featuring the joy and occasional madness that marks the holidays. We heard the travails of a real working Santa (featuring local Santa Al Capehart), fiction by Robin Whitten, Kim Overcash and Linda Johnson, and poetry by Judith Stanton, Bonnie Korta, Ruth Moose and our emcee Mary Barnard, among many other delightful voices. We also had the honor of hearing Michele Berger read a poignant essay on her mother that was published in “Letters to My Mother,” a book which featured the voices of other celebrity and national personalities. Yes, Michele is our own celebrity!


Johnpaul and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to read a “re-mix” of “The Suicide You Prevent Might Be Your Own.” In this version of our darkly humorous 3-minute play, innocent sports fan Russell Huggins is unlucky enough to accidentally call Janet, a stressed-out suicide prevention counselor, while trying to order a pizza for the Peach Bowl party he’s hosting on New Year’s Eve.

As with all of the open mic events sponsored by the Creative Writing Program, the roster invariably features a wide variety of talent and the full spectrum of human emotion–from laughter to tears to joy.


We hope to see you at one of our events soon, but in the meantime, stay tuned for the spring catalog of creative writing courses offered by the College. These classes will not only sharpen your writing skills, but they will also introduce you to terrific people who, like those I’ve been privileged to get to know, may become lifelong buddies.


Creative Writing Creates Community!


With nearly 45 attendees, we set a record!

In between all the costumes, readings, nibbles, and door prizes, a theme quickly emerged at the CCCC Creative Writing Program event open mic on Friday: COMMUNITY!  In addition to appearances by favorite local writers and fans, people came from as far away as Lee, Randolph, and Orange counties to read and savor the work of others.

Open Mic 1-23-1529

Robert Baggett, Kristy Baggett, Maggie Zwilling (CWP Program Coordinator) and Al Manning of the N.C. Writers’ Network.

We were delighted to see Kristy Baggett, Director of Personal Enrichment at CCCC, who joined us with her husband Robert. To name just a few, local writers such as Karen Pullen, Al Manning, Mary Barnard Ruth Moose, Ralph Earle, Judith Stanton, Linda Johnson, and Michele Berger also joined us.


Check out our new podium sign! Many thanks to Maggie Zwilling!

Our emcee, founding CWP member, linguist and poet Chris Bouton (pictured above in a snazzy hat), opened the event by reading our newly minted mission statement, which was compiled by our wonderful and talented marketing intern, Sarah Beth Robbins:

“The Central Carolina Community College–Creative Writing Program teaches the craft of writing as an art form, fosters imagination and excellence in writing, and creates a community for writers, whether they are beginners or seasoned veterans. We believe in the beauty and power of good writing and its ability to transform both writers and the world.”

Chris was on the verge introducing the first reader when lo and behold in sashayed none other than Queen Elizabeth I, that legendary patron of Shakespeare and many other poets.

Queen Elizabeth

Susie Whorley, a talented and favorite local actress, brought Good Queen Bess to life again.











Fittingly, the Queen transported us back to Elizabethan England, the home of the English sonnet.  She regaled us with a reading of “When I Was Fair and Young” (penned by the Queen herself) and other Elizabethan favorites!


Ralph Earle, author of The Way the Rain Works, treated us to a new poem, “Blood Moon over Brooklyn.”

Our readers then took their turn at the mike, where we were transported again into the hearts and minds of friends, both new and old. Given the occasion, I shared a piece of my own twisted writing, “The All-Inclusive Vacation for Pessimists.”

The work shared (whether poems, essays, or fiction) was truly global, featuring settings as familiar as Pittsboro and as exotic as Africa. The universal emotions conveyed united us all: joy, laughter, grief, and fear. And this is how community is created.

Chris then closed the event by thanking everyone and drawing three door prizes, which included published samples of several of the local writers.

Scroll down to see more pictures of the event. And if you hadn’t been there, no worries, we’ll be holding another event in the spring. In the meantime, however, you can join our community by enrolling in any of the CWP Spring 2016 Courses, which will be available online soon.

Photographs courtesy of CWP Board Member Mary Barnard, who pulled double duty as photographer AND poet extraordinare! 


Ty Stumpf, CCCC Director of Humanities and N.C. Poetry Society Board Member, shared three wonderful poems. He is a regular favorite!


Kim Overcash, CCCC faculty member, CWP Committee Member, and local writer, shared a portion of a short story in progress. Think Jayne Mansfield, reinvented as a zomb-shell. (Get it? Bombshell!)



Al Manning, who leads the Pittsboro Writers Morning Out, and who represents Chatham/Lee counties for the N.C. Writers’ Network, shared a curmudgeon-y version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”





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