Last Sunday week I was sitting in a Melbourne Writers Festival session on microfiction. I was listening to Sam Cooney chat with writers Angela Myer and Oliver Mol about the expansion of fiction to include things like microfictions, flash fictions, sudden memoirs - the terms are seemingly fluid, but nonetheless intriguing and fascinating. Can you tell a story in 300 words? In an increasingly digital world where our attention spans closely resemble that of a goldfish, is it the only way?
Sitting in the darkened, but lovely, Cube at ACMI in Federation Square a memory popped into my head, seemingly from nowhere but subconsciously connected all the same - as memories that pop into our heads often are.
I’m young, five or maybe six, and I’m working on a school project. A project that requires me to write, illustrate and bind my own book (I guess I can claim self publishing experience from this). I write my story, draw my pictures (albeit terribly) and bind my book with a combination of staples and sticky tape. I remember trimming where the pages went outside the edges of the covers and opening my book to find I’d also trimmed the edge of my drawings. Perhaps I shouldn’t claim that self publishing experience after all.
As I listened to the talented and wonderful Myer and Mol discuss their work and the shifting concept of fiction and memoir, I pondered my school project, conceivably a microfiction, and my own creative work to date. The idea of writing anything longer than a few thousand words had always seemed out of reach for me, daunting even. Like I needed more life experience, or more knowledge of all the words in the dictionary, to be able to create anything worth reading. But maybe I don’t. Not all stories need five hundred pages, some don’t even need five hundred words. Maybe we can tell stories through moments instead of lifetimes. Maybe literature is not directly connected to the time it takes to read.
Mol shares a lot of his work on social media, he says he’s addicted to the likes. And I’m fascinated by the idea. Just like I’m fascinated by microfiction. As I walked to the train station after the session had ended, I typed moments into my phone. A homeless man with a library book, an advertisement for diamonds illuminating the footpath before me, tiny wooden forks as weapons. Is this microfiction?
I’m not sure where this is going. I’m not sure what this means. But I know as I sat in the Cube, as I listened to Myer and Mol discuss their work, it felt real. It felt possible.