How and when did you decide, or discover, that you were to be a writer?
I’ve always been a storyteller. In grade school, I used to tell ghost stories to my classmates during recess. All of the kids would gather around me in a circle on the playground, and I would entertain them with the most terrifying tales I could conjure. Doing that gave me a thrill, and I still get a charge out of telling a story and engaging a reader or a listener. Writing is the most efficient and effective way for me to communicate a story I want to tell—a story I think needs to be told—to a larger public.
What inspired you to write flash fiction?
I was drawn to flash fiction because I love the discipline of the form. With a piece that is 500 words in length, you have to be a merciless editor. You can only keep the words that absolutely must be there. I enjoy the challenge of trimming a story down to its most essential elements. With flash fiction, there is no room for frills or fluff, and there is something hugely refreshing and honest about that. Another thing that is good about flash fiction is that it is tailor-made for the modern reader. I think a large portion of what people are reading these days are emails, texts, Tweets, and Facebook posts—small snippets of language. For better or for worse, I think all of this “snippet reading” has led to dwindling attention spans. I think many readers today don’t have the time or patience for long, door-stop books that take hundreds of pages to fully unfurl their stories. But most people have time for 500 words.
Describe your writing process.
This may sound crazy to some, but I typically get up at 4:30 every morning, eat breakfast, and start writing by 5:00. I write from 5:00-6:30, and then I’m off to work (I’m a high school English teacher by day). During the summer, I keep this routine going even though I’m not going to school during the day. For me, the utter stillness and quiet of very early morning is the best writing environment. If I can write 100 good words in a morning, I consider that a productive and successful day. Occasionally, I will get up and realize that I’m just not feeling up to writing. I’ve learned that on those days, it’s best not to force it. Still, I try not to skip too many days.
What was the inspiration behind what was published on FewerThan500.com?
I was driving my daughter home from her friend’s birthday party. We pulled off the freeway, and at the end of the exit, I saw this guy with a gray beard wearing blue jeans, high-tops, and a dirty white T-shirt. He was standing on the side of the exit ramp holding a cardboard sign that said “Homeless. Please Help.” People stopped at the light were rolling down their windows and handing him money. What struck me about this guy was that despite his situation, he was smiling—not crazily or strangely—just warmly, beatifically, like a man who was at peace with himself, a man who believed that things were going to be okay. I thought to myself, what kind of narrative must a man like that be telling himself every day to keep his spirits up, to keep on going? That was the seed for this story.
What are you working on now?
I am finishing up a collection of short stories focused on men at different stages in their lives. I am interested in relationships between fathers and sons, young men and old men, men and their spouses, lovers, and ex-lovers. Some of the stories in this collection have already been published. My goal is to put all of the stories out in a book. Anybody who is interested in reading more of my work can visit me at www.jacksomerswriter.com or check me out on Twitter @jsomers530. I love connecting with other people who are writers or lovers of literature.