Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: microfiction

Flash Fiction Is Alive and Well

How long is a novel? Brevity-Flash Fiction

Some say at least 50,000 words; but, there are well-accepted novels that are shorter.

How long is a novella?

Longer than a short story but shorter than a novel.

How long is a short story?

Somewhere from about 1,500 words to upwards of (some say) 30,000 words.

So, somewhere under 1,500 words is “Flash” (though, some folks say under 2,000…).

One definition goes like this:

“Flash fiction is an umbrella term used to describe any fictional work of extreme brevity, including the Six-Word Story, 140-character stories, also known as twitterature, the dribble (50 words), the drabble (100 words), and sudden fiction (750 words).”

And, the article on The Review Review is worth reading for an introduction to Flash…

But, I must add the sub-category of Microfiction (sometimes said to be 300 words or less) because of these past posts on this blog:

Breaking Boundaries ~ Microfiction — which has some fine examples of the craft…

Microfiction ~ Revisited — with more fine examples…

MicroFiction Reprise :-)

My Friend ~ Micro-Fiction Writer & Prison Librarian

Author Interview ~ Johnpaul Mahofski — Interview with the Friend of the last post…

Wikipedia lists a number of authors who wrote Flash Fiction

I’ll also share an interview—The State of Flash Fiction—with the author of the book in the image up there (which can be ordered by clicking on the image…).

Then, I should mention that my recent writing endeavor, Story Bazaar, includes many pieces that fall into the category of Flash Fiction (with just a few Micros)
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Author Interview ~ Johnpaul Mahofski

As many of you know, I spend lots of time in the virtual world, Second Life (and, recently, Kitely, too).

Lots for a writer to do in these worlds—at a café, library, or even a fishing club—talking about writing or, as writers do, talking about everything else

One of my long-term friends has had three names, so far, for his avatars—Soup Johnson, Relish Resident, and Brokali (trying on personae is often practiced in virtual worlds…).

His real-world name is Johnpaul Mahofski and I’ve done four past posts featuring him and his unique fiction:

Breaking Boundaries ~ Microfiction

Microfiction ~ Revisited

MicroFiction Reprise :-)

And, we had a mini-interview in this post—My Friend ~ Micro-Fiction Writer & Prison Librarian

And, here’s an article about Microfiction, itself.

Those links to Johnpaul’s posts will lead you to some of his stories

So, let’s have a proper interview with this man.


Would you tell us a little bit about yourself, Johnpaul?

Let’s see I have low self-esteem and suffer from depression and anxiety. I definitly think those two aspects are me. On paper, I am Johnpaul Mahofski, age 43. I’ve been in the taxable workforce since I was 15. Prior to that, I carried newspapers and cleaned offices and, along the way, I’ve earned a B.S. Education, emphasis Mathematics; and, an M.L.I.S. Masters, Library and Information Science.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I read a decent amount, work my day job, fish, and attend church regularly. Oh! And, hang out in virtual worlds

And, the title of our mini-interview revealed that day job as prison librarian—an exemplary service you perform

So, Johnpaul, when did you start writing?

I always enjoyed writing; but, I’d say it was in the early nineties that I penned a column for the college newspaper called Pope’s Thoughts. Little did I know these stories were what I now call microfiction. After that, I earned a bit in journalism (on the side) up until about five years ago—sports reporting, feature writing, local meetings. I did this mostly for Pittsburgh newspapers.

Can you explain your motivations for being a microfictioneer?

I think the best I can say is that short columns and stories are what feels the best. I don’t know about novels for me I love to just punch, hard and quick.

Where do you get your ideas?

I’m a people watcher.

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

No, but I do experience laziness.

Are there any particular authors who’ve influenced you?

Charles Dickens, David Barry, David Sedaris, Lydia Davis, Eminem, Biggie, Tupac, Nicholas Sparks—not in that order.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

I think when you self publish the only challenge is yourself.

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your book or getting it published that you would change?

I feel like I would have done more stories

How do you promote your work?

I haven’t marketed this work yet. (see above—low self-esteem, anxiety, depression {Also see my punctuation.})

Would you say your stories are mostly based on your people-watching or is it also imagination?

Yes, both play hard in these stories.

Do you have any favorite stories in this collection?

No, every little story is important to me.

What project are you working on now?

I’m working on a professional project, an anthology; plus, I’m doing a lot of research about Saints, hoping to write microfiction about them.

What’s been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? Or, what’s been the best compliment?

As a journalist I was often criticized and told “We’ll call you”. It hurt a lot. The best compliment is being interviewed on this blog.

Well, Johnpaul, your best compliment is a compliment for me :-)

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Read, visit your libraries, and write with your eyes closed once a week.


Thanks, so muchJohnpaul, for an interview that’s let my readers peek into a corner of the mind of a microfiction author…

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My Friend ~ Micro-Fiction Writer & Prison Librarian

Johnpaul Mahofski—formerly known as Relish, now known as Brokali on Book Island, in the virtual world, Second Life.

I’ve never met him in “real life” but we do have a Real friendship

We’ve had his Micro-Fiction here twice, so far:

Breaking Boundaries ~ Microfiction

Microfiction ~ Revisited

Johnpaul is also the librarian at a real prison in Maryland in the USA.

Recently, I asked him a few questions about his job:

From the figures you gave me, I notice you have over 9,000 books. What are some of the inmates’ favorites?

The collection balance is slowly growing as many have donated books, and I have purchased books. We have a normal dewey system library. With Urban fiction circulating the highest, but Horror and Mystery being second. The number one author is James Patterson. I have an entire section dedicated to his work.

Also note that we constantly weed books due to the inmates reading them until they are tattered beyond repair. Your book was like that!

I’ll be eternally grateful that you found a home for Notes from an Alien in your library :-)

So, do your patrons use the Internet?

Inmates cannot use the Internet. I can however look up things for them. Sometimes they are researching things and want more info. They like to learn about everything they read about and beyond. I have searched for them about Herod, Ring fingers, small towns, slavery, the 1968 Olympics, many medications they are prescribed and much more.

Do they use computers at all? Also, what about printed reference books?

Our reference collection, print-wise, is no different than any public library. The computers we have offer inmate resources including rehabs, outside programs once paroled, zip code finders, resume makers, typing tutors, Word, Excel, Power Point tutorials, Lexus Nexus and many other legal resources. I track stats for all of these.

They can even send for full case reports and use them to help with their legal motions. Everyone can order up to 5 cases a week.

Any special programs you’d like to mention?

Book discussions! Each unit has approximately 5-10 volunteers that read 2 books a month and then discuss them.


I can’t leave this post without mentioning that, whenever Johnpaul and I are on Book Island together, FUN  is a major part of the program :-)
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MicroFiction Reprise :-)

Our Internet Age has spawned what appears to be an appetite that’s appeased in bits and bites rather than in full-course meals.

It’s even become a form of writing, whether in blogs, news, or fiction.

The Paris Review had a clutch of excerpts from Lou Beach’s forthcoming book, 420 Characters : Stories.

The book’s description: “Miniature short stories written as Facebook updates, when there was a 420-character limit, spaces and punctuation included.”

Lou Beach’s Site quotes Kirkus Reviews: “Celebrated illustrator Beach…turns his uncommon sensibilities to the written word, composing a small fortune in vignettes that originally appeared as Facebook updates. An adroit experiment that marries linguistic restraint to literary cool.

I was alerted to this new release by a good friend of mine on Book Island in the virtual world, Second life.

His name is Brokali now. As often happens, since Second Life is a virtual world, folks will re-create themselves, changing their names along with their appearance.

Brokali’s name in Real Life is Johnpaul Mahofski and, when he still had the name Relish (in Second Life), I did two posts about his MicroFiction which included 10 of his superb stories.

Johnpaul is a librarian at the Eastern Correctional Institution in the State of Maryland in the U.S. A.

He’s written a huge number of Facebook Fiction stories (as well as other lengths) in the new Literary Realm

Do, please, check out our sampling of Johnpaul’s masterful fiction in these two posts:

Breaking Boundaries ~ Microfiction

Microfiction ~ Revisited

Our Comment Link Is At The Top of The Post :-)
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Microfiction ~ Revisited

A few days ago, we had the post, Breaking Boundaries ~ Microfiction, which you may want to look at before reading the rest of this post; mostly for the links and references it provides for this very new genre of literature

So, without further ado, I’ll present six more of Relish Resident’s microfiction stories.

Oh! One tiny ado: These are all a sub-genre that can be called Facebook Fiction; or, as Relish likes to call them, Status Fiction—they each have less than 460 characters–not words, but characters!!


All stories copyright, Relish Resident, 2011

House Hunter

“I love you, but I hate our house,” he said.
They stared at it. It was green and too tiny.
The newspaper even looked too big for the front porch.
“Your problem is you notice houses and not new curtains. You notice windows and doors but not the antique table from Grandma inside.”
He spit on the ground, grabbed the grocery bag, and walked towards the house he hated.


They drove for hours to the ocean city boardwalk, split a delicious pizza, bought salt-water taffy, fed a one legged seagull and commented on how it didn’t stop her spunk, and they drove home satisfied they had vacationed.

Best Friends

My dad’s best friend Mich is ill. Two kind men, one illiterate, but handy, the other literate, but all thumbs.
My dad found his friend free places to live, a farm once, a drive-in theater, apartments, finally a small house.
Mitch fixed our broken house, tubs, stairs, garage doors.
My dad wrote out Mitch’s bills and read his mail aloud to him. And now they just sit in a hospital room and watch tv together.

Close Encounter

“Take me to your leader,” the Alien pointed at him.
“We don’t really have access to our leaders. If I email the President, and I say an alien wants to see you they will put me on a watch list like my middle-eastern friends that fly.”
“Take me to your leader,” it said.
“I can take you to meet my friend Lucinda. She is easy on the eyes and owns a Dominoes pizza.”
“Okay. Take me to Lucinda.”


The cow was livid and he marched right into the tiny butcher shop in the inner city. He rang the bell for assistance at the butcher counter.
“Umm can I help you…si—-cow?”
The cow grabbed the counter man, hacked off his head, arms, and used his machines to create 2 butt roasts, a shoulder roast, ground human, and some delightful stew meat. He then carefully wrapped up the items in white butcher paper and walked out of the store. Stopping twice to moo.


“It is all cycles,” the bike shop owner said. “God’s cool then God isn’t. Having babies is cool, then it isn’t, then it is. Tattoos are bad, now they are good. Cycles.”
The customer seemed confused realizing he had fallen into a deep semantic trap spawned by generations of talk radio, and excessive newspaper reading.
“I mean, I’d like to know more about BIcycles.”
The owner pointed to his sales representative.
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