Spooky moonlit night

San Gabriel Writers’ League’s flash fiction anthology

Four Halloweens ago the San Gabriel Writers’ League published a flash fiction anthology—Flashes of Fear: 41 Chilling Short Stories & Poems.

Flash fiction is an abbreviated form of storytelling, sometimes called “short short fiction,” in which a short story must be written in 1,000 words or fewer. Taking brevity even further, Joan Upton Hall challenged the writers in Flashes of Fear to tell their stories in 100 words or fewer. “I had learned in a project one time how much you really can say in a one-hundred word piece,” she says.

Sam Holland, who was president of the San Gabriel Writers’ League at the time the book was written, says, “I always felt that my job as president was to set the vision for the group.” He and his board had known they wanted to write some kind of book and, while Joan set the parameters, it was Sam’s idea to tackle flash fiction. “[You] throw suggestions out to the group, particularly to the board, and see what we can get some traction on.” Flashes of Fear had that traction.

The writers didn’t think it was possible. Some didn’t see the point of the exercise. Many insisted they needed at least 200 words to write a story. Joan says, “I told them I would help and they would be able to do it.” And they did. With Joan’s guidance, 41 writers completed the task. “The people who did it were very pleased,” she says. “They learned how to limit their words to make them more powerful.”

Flashes of Fear cover

In short, potent doses, Flashes of Fear has something for every reader, not just the horror lovers. Joan wrote a limerick, “Three Ways to Make a Ghost of Yourself.” Poems capture the childhood joy of Halloween and the happy, simple grin of a jack-o’-lantern. Vampires, goblins, ghosts, and clawed monsters all make appearances, and readers will also find flashes of humor in stories such as Glenda Dickey’s A Tale with No Tale or Vicki Jordan’s darkly satisfying Trick or Treat.

Interspersed among the stories and poems are eerie lines from authors such as William Shakespeare, Bram Stoker, and Edgar Allan Poe and original artwork created by SGWL members and professional artists Jason Minor and Ross Carnes. Carnes also designed the book’s cover art. “Both are extraordinary artists,” Sam says, who also contributed stories to the anthology.

The San Gabriel Writers’ League is proud of their book. “It was a challenge, but it was fun,” Sam says.

“It was fun,” Joan agrees, “because you were wondering, ‘How much more idea can I get in there’?”

Sam adds, “[As a writer] you’re getting outside of your comfort zone doing something like Flashes of Fear, but it’s very rewarding.”

The same could be said for reading the book. Just don’t read it alone at night. You never know what the next page will bring.


Flash of Fear will soon be re-released on Amazon. For more information on it and other SGWL projects, visit www.sgwl.net.

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