BURN PILE: Once upon a time, a (hu)man walks into a bar…

…or hunkers down by the campfire with a story of the big one that got away, or gives in when the kids demand before bed: “Tell us again about that time when…”

How would we know who we are, if not for our stories? When we share them, we reveal the book inside the cover, the person inside the persona we either design for the judging eyes of others, or an identity imposed upon us by circumstance. “Listen,” we say. “Let me tell you who I really am.” Detroit, whose cover blurbs might point to tales of “abandoned auto factories and urban desolation,” has taken steps to present a fresh narrative. Edward Helmore writes in The Guardian of how, “irritated by the relentless focus on ruin porn, or pre-emptive stories about the city’s tech resurgence, Aaron Foley will attempt to offer a more nuanced portrait” of the city and its people, in “Detroit redefined: city hires America's first official 'chief storyteller'”  

Jonathan Gottschall, author of The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, tells us stories about stories and the science behind them in a fascinating (and entertaining) Ted talk. “Every day in our lives we are trying to impose the order of story structure on the chaos of existence.” Telling stories to ourselves, and constructing narratives to inhabit is a survival skill, a winnowing of information overload. But other questions bubble up: Why do “we care so much, especially about fiction? About the fake struggles of fake people. Why is that interesting to us?” Have a look: https://youtu.be/Vhd0XdedLpY

The “chaos of existence” leaves most of us little time for stories, other than trying to predict the path of our days, or to look back and try to shoehorn those days into our chosen narratives. There’s always time for flash, though! The New Yorker discovered flash fiction recently. “Smithereens,” by Aleksandar Hemon, 741 words that revel in the “endless joy of converting something into nothing.”  Visit the entire collection: Flash Fiction: A summer of very short stories, for 10 of the New Yorker's favorites.

(b)OINK presents its 2017 flash contest winners, pieces small and brilliant and distilled.    
The winners were chosen by Kathy Fish, who you can get to know better in an interview at The Other Stories, in which she discusses the evolution of “Sway.”

CutBank’s Big Sky, Small Prose flash contest is open for submissions, but not for long! Entries are welcome until September 16. This year's contest will be judged by Zach VandeZande, an Assistant Professor at Central Washington University, who will choose examples of the most “interesting, compelling fiction and nonfiction prose in 750 words or fewer.” Pare and polish and submit your finest. There’s a $500 first place prize, with publication in CutBank 88, and two runners-up will be awarded $50 each along with publication. All submissions will be considered for the print edition of CutBank Literary Magazine. Guidelines are here, or head straight to Submittable to enter your work!

Take Note! Cutbank’s general submission season opens soon, September 15 - February 1, and we’re always open for your contributions to the blog! Submission guidelines at CutBank Online.