Introducing Kara Vernor
Kara Vernor writes flash. Her wit and keen observation find a voice in dynamic, edgy stories. How she describes the process of flash writing illuminates volumes in small spaces.
She’s had a long relationship with this genre and gives homage to a high school instructor. Balanced sentences layered with stated and inferred meaning are a hallmark.
Her flash fiction has appeared or is forthcoming, in Ninth Letter, Smokelong Quarterly, Gulf Coast, The Los Angeles Review, Jellyfish Review, PANK, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and elsewhere. An awarded writer, she was the recipient of an Elizabeth George Foundation scholarship, and her flash has been included in Wigleaf’s Top 50 Very Short Fictions, The Best Small Fictions, and Golden State 2017: Best New Writing from California.
Kara’s flash fiction chapbook, Because I Wanted to Write You a Pop Song, is available from Split Lip Press. Kara is on the board of the Mendocino Coast Writers’ Conference.
As a grants officer at a nonprofit, social justice issues are important to Kara. She is more than a spectator to what’s happening in the world. Her feedback and interaction with writing show how pert language and the power of comedy have a place even in these hard times. She lives in Napa with her partner and three cats.
Learn more about Kara on her website.
Get to Know Kara Vernor
WNBA: What appeals to you about flash writing, and what do you look for in a good piece of flash prose?
KARA VERNOR: Because flash is short by definition and requires less of our time, I think it gets away with requiring more of our attention per word. It can be more inventive in form, tone, voice, and so forth because we’re more willing to play along for a page or two, to put in the work to understand it, than we typically would for 300 pages. And I think a good piece of flash prose will take advantage of that trade off.
It won’t just take the conventions of a typical novel or short story and figure out how to arrange them in a shorter space; it will experiment and use different conventions — those found in poetry, comedy, or songwriting, for example — to tell a story.
WNBA: How did you discover flash writing is a passion, and whose flash prose do you admire?
KV: I started writing flash before I knew what to call it. It probably helped that one of my high school teachers taught from the seminal anthology, Sudden Fiction. Then I found more forms along the way that validated experimental and short writing like zines, lyrics, and spoken word prose. Mostly, though, I just came out inclined toward very short stories.
I admire too many flash writers to list them all, so, to narrow it down, I’ll mention some who might not come to mind as easily right now either because they aren’t super active on Twitter or they aren’t publishing a lot of flash currently: Stefanie Freele, Bruce Holland Rogers, Pedro Ponce, Siamak Vossoughi, Molly Giles, Steve Almond, Deb Olin Unferth, Avital Gad-Cykman, and Jensen Beach.
WNBA: Two favorites: first, what is your favorite flash piece of all time, and because WNBA members love books, what is your favorite book ever?
KV: I fail the favorite question every time. There are so many stories and books that I love deeply for very different reasons, so I’m never able to pick just one. Instead, I’ll pick a favorite that has been on my mind recently, Alex Simand’s “Election Cycle.” It appeared in Sonic Boom and then in The Best Small Fictions 2017 and is a marvel — as well as smack on the nose at this moment.
It takes a tired metaphor (election as circus) and makes it frightening and alive again by going all in on it, embodying it to an extreme, with scalpel-sharp language and a ton of irony and humor to boot. It’s a grotesque illustration of the absurdity of our political system and how even when we don’t want to be, we’re all a part of it. Alex and I were briefly in an MFA program together, and he told me he intended the story to be a prose poem, which is how I think a lot of great flash gets written. People set out to write something dense and enormous with feeling, only the language pushes toward narrative along the way.
Because we’re talking flash, I’ll mention my favorite novel-in-flash, Jenny Offill’s Department of Speculation. It’s fragmentary and elliptical and honestly could have been about anything and I would have loved it for its wonder and the spaciousness of its language.
WNBA: We’ve been experiencing a pandemic, a racial reckoning, and wildfires. How does writing contribute to your social justice pursuits? and how has this changed in these unprecedented times?
KV: I’m a grants officer at a nonprofit, so the writing I do in my day job directly connects to social justice. In my fiction, I don’t aim to change anyone. It would too easily come off as didactic. But, of course, my values are there, and they peek through. This hasn’t changed in these times, except that like so many others, I’m writing a lot less.
WNBA: What’s next for you?
KV: I mean, here we are: at the end of 2020. What’s next for any of us?
We thank Kara for being our flash prose judge this year.
The 2020 WNBA Writing Contest has four categories: fiction, creative nonfiction, flash prose, and poetry.
The contest is open to everyone.