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  • Joan Schweighardt

Spotlight Interview with Faye Rapoport DesPres

If you’ve been wanting to know more about flash fiction, you’ve come to the right place. Faye Rapoport DesPres started off writing creative nonfiction, took a detour to produce three wonderful children’s books, and lately has been writing flash fiction. In fact, her first flash book, Soul to Soul: Tiny Stories of Hope and Resilience, could be classified as micro-fiction. It features 100-word stories, many complemented by charming illustrations by artist Anya Lauchian. The book’s positive themes couldn’t come at a better time. Here we shine a spotlight on her and her work in our latest one-on-one interview. 


A child on a magic carpet flies above a forest, while another child sits in an armchair below, petting a black-and-white dog. Between them, an ornate 3-part window bears the words: Soul to Soul: Tiny Stories of Hope and Resilience

Your new story collection, Soul to Soul: Tiny Stories of Hope and Resilience, includes 100 stories, and each of them is 100 words long. This kind of precision, I believe, imparts a sense of harmony for the reader. What is the payoff for you as a writer? What inspired this format?

 

I happened upon this format—100-word stories—purely by accident. A friend and I had agreed to write at least 100 words per day to inspire us to keep working. I found I was forming small, complete stories with each 100 words rather than adding words to longer pieces. I got kind of addicted to forming little stories. It was only after I’d been playing with the form for a while that I learned that there was a name for 100-word stories—drabbles—and an entire genre known as micro-fiction.

 

Putting together a drabble is like doing a puzzle. I often start out with a slightly longer piece and edit it down to the bare minimum. During the process I might add a couple of words here or subtract a couple of words there to strengthen the sentences. It’s a wonderful exercise in writing tight sentences and using strong language. It’s an absorbing challenge.

 

More and more well-known literary magazines are including flash fiction in their pages. For some readers, flash or micro-fiction may still feel odd or exotic. Tell readers what they can expect to get out of it as a genre.

 

Readers can expect to infer more from flash fiction or micro-fiction. There’s not a lot of space for the writer to go deep into character development, setting, or description. The reader adds into the story what the writer didn’t “spell out”—especially when it comes to theme or meaning. That’s the fun of it.

 

I think many readers appreciate the opportunity to absorb a piece of literature in just a few minutes. As with poetry, you don’t have to spend hours or a week reading a flash fiction piece. You can do a little reading in a short amount of time and be entertained while getting a lot out of it. Flash fiction and micro-fiction tend to include interesting twists, especially at the end of a piece. That’s another aspect of the fun. At a time when a lot of reading is understandably “heavy” or difficult, sometimes it’s nice just to have fun.

 

Many of your reviewers have noted that you “write from the heart.” How do you keep your stories heart-centered, especially in consideration of the times we live in?

 

I think that’s just who I am and what I naturally express as a writer. I’ve never been particularly edgy (though I admire some writers who are, such as poet Alison Stone and multi-genre writer Meg Tuite). For better or worse, I tend to approach life with an open, hopeful heart. I don’t learn my lesson fast enough when I stumble, put myself out there for the wrong people or in the wrong ways, and end up hurt or looking ridiculous. I’ve been knocked down, and sometimes I’ve stayed down for a while. Life, especially at times like this, can do that to you. But then I pop back up and say, “OK, let me do this again,” making my friends wring their hands over my, well … you can call it either resilience or stupidity. I’m doing a bit better these days at accepting that you have to choose who, or what, deserves your time and energy.

 

Even in the face of the opposite, I’ve somehow maintained a sort of innocent belief in—or at least hope for—kindness and generosity. I’ll always root for the underdog. I’ve made mistakes and owned up to them; that’s part of the human journey. Soul to Soul is about the rewards that can result from being—and remaining—open and aware while you’re on that journey.

 

What age group did you imagine Soul to Soul would most appeal to while you were writing it? Were you correct in your assumption?

 

I wrote the book for the general adult reader of any age, knowing that many of the stories could also be read to children. It’s a great book to have in your backpack, on the coffee table, or by the bedside to pick up now and then for a little lift. It’s an excellent book for book clubs to discuss. From the reader responses I’ve had so far, I think I was on target.

 

You don’t have to be a literary critic to appreciate Soul to Soul. The craft behind the stories is in the background, not at the forefront. Anyone can enjoy Soul to Soul.

 

How can Soul to Soul be used as classroom teaching tool?

 

There are so many possibilities. Students can learn about inference and story elements—character, setting, problem, resolution. Teachers can use these tiny tales to tweeze out those elements. And what about theme? Picking out the “message” in tiny tales can be interesting for students, who can then try to write their own micro-fiction.

 

Soul to Soul can also be used for analyzing sentence structure. Students can practice how to write tight sentences with varied structures.

 

The artwork in the book is another source for inspiration and education. Students could discuss how the beautiful illustrations by Anya Lauchlan complement the stories, comparing the experience of reading illustrated stories with reading those that have no illustrations. Art classes could attempt to illustrate the stories that aren’t illustrated. Students can match photographs or artwork with their own tiny stories to discuss how images can amplify meaning.

 

Besides being a journalist, you are a writer of essays, children’s books, and some fiction. What, or who, has inspired your writing over the years?

 

I have been inspired by so many authors and books over a lifetime of reading and study. I’ve always been attracted to classic literature and to European literature, perhaps because all of my grandparents and my father were from Eastern Europe and my father spent time as a child who survived the Holocaust in post-World War II France. The Russian greats—Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky—have been a huge influence. I have also been deeply moved by books such as The Elegance of the Hedgehog (L’Élégance du Herisson) by Muriel Barbery and every book I’ve read by Swedish author Fredrik Backman (including A Man Called Ove, Bear Town, and Anxious People). I studied literature and theater in England for a year during college and have been back to visit many times, so British literature is also important to me. Jane Austen’s work was an early inspiration (Pride and Prejudice is the only book I’ve read four times). I’m inspired by the lyricism of poetry as well as prose. Right now, I’m re-reading a number of Shakespeare plays. Some people are surprised at the idea of reading Shakespeare for fun, but I absolutely love it.

 

Still, I don’t have my head stuck in an ivory tower (talk about mixed metaphors). I’ve read every Tony Hillerman mystery, every book in Lilian Jackson Braun’s “The Cat Who …” series, and all of Tana French’s Dublin murder mysteries. I often enjoy reading cozy mysteries before I fall asleep at night. Sometimes I just need an enjoyable escape. The best mystery writers are masterful story tellers.

 

Soul to Soul and my other books—from soulful reflections on the human condition to light-hearted, uplifting children’s stories about animals—feature elements of all of these influences. One of my award-winning short stories was a mystery story about cats (“Who Let the Cats Out,” which is included in the Mystery Times Ten 2013 Anthology).

 

What can we expect from you in the future?

 

I’m working on a sequel to Soul to Soul, but my publisher, Huntsville Independent Press, and I have to determine if readers love it enough to publish a second version. I hope also to get back to writing personal essays (my first book, Message from a Blue Jay, is a memoir-in-essays). I’ve started a couple of novels over the years, so who knows … at some point I might finally finish one. But first I’ll have to remember how to write stories that have more than 100 words! 



A smiling woman with dark curly hair, in sunglasses and a blue-patterned shirt; head shot of Faye Rapaport DesPres

Faye Rapoport DesPres is the author of the memoir-in-essays Message from a Blue Jay (Buddhapuss Ink); the three children’s books in the Stray Cat Stories series (Writer’s Coffee Bar Press); and the micro-fiction collection Soul to Soul: Tiny Stories of Hope and Resilience (Huntsville Independent Press). She also co-edited and contributed to The Art of Touch: A Collection of Poetry and Prose from the Pandemic and Beyond (University of Georgia Press, 2023). A graduate of the Solstice MFA Program in Creative Writing, Faye has taught writing at Framingham State College and Lasell University. Her fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry have appeared in a wide variety of literary journals, and one of her publications was included in the Best Microfiction 2023 anthology. Find out more about her at http://www.fayerapoportdespres.com/. Follow her at Twitter/X @fayerapodespres, or at Threads and Instagram as faye_rapoport_despres.

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