Changes upon changes…

Every fall I choose a theme for the year. It’s my “real” new year’s ritual. It’s the time that I ask, how will this year be different from last? What will I not tolerate again? What will I enthusiastically add? What will be hard but I’ll do it anyway? What will I not change at all because I love it as is? Of course these questions are assuming that I have an inkling of control over how my life will proceed. ; )

Nature doesn’t have a frontal lobe. Nature doesn’t pontificate its design and move the pieces around. It just rumbles through its job and lets the consequences fall. Fall: To fall into fall. I wonder if the instrument of change finds us best when we are not thinking at all? Listening to nature’s brain and taking note.

And this is why this fall’s theme, Change is so exciting to me. To ask the questions of how any life will change over the course of a year is fun, yes. To imagine and want and design how it could be. Yes. And then sit down and read a story. Come out the other side of it altered, humbled by the unexpected details that not only changed the main character but somehow moved some molecules around in your world view. Real change seems to be laughing at my questions. If change were a Greek God it would throw me a dinosaur to ride into the next chapter of my life.

We are very, very excited to read the many submissions with ‘change’ at the core of each story and to be altered in the process. In the meantime, here are a few stories I can’t forget that changed me.

Stories of note: 

The eery uprising where reality and relationship dance and yet counteract one another in Annie Proulx’s “Half Skinned Steer.”

“Running with Scissors.” A novel and film. My take-aways? Change is relative. There is no normal to deviate from. Nature in full force. Love it.

“The Search Engine.” Sherman Alexie’s book of stories, Ten Little Indians. A beautiful story about an intellectually hungry and passionate college girl in search of a missing Native American poet. The element of surprise for me was contained in the bleak complexities of the examined life. Yet all the stories in this book moved me deeply and caused me to read it again and again.


What are some of your thoughts on stories that you can’t forget that changed you?

And please let us know how our writers stories in November impact you. Comments are like that first cup of coffee – so good and ‘more please’!


Thank you,

Niya Christine, Founder & Publisher CR Stories Journal


Passionate about “Place”

When it comes to literary devices what could more powerful than the mysterious, mercurial, silent passenger under our character’s feet? That is, the place(s) the story moves through support and ground the skein (backbone) of the emotional dynamics that play out on the page. The inner and outer landscape do a lovely dance of transformation.

Now that Beth and I have processed a healthy stack of fiction submissions on the theme of “Place,” I want to give a little attention to the masters who do this dance of transformation in their fictions and creative non-fictions so well.

Tim Cahill

Annie Proulx

Stephen King

Don George

Simon Calder

Robert Hass

Christopher Reyolds

Harriet O’brien

Annie Dillard

Garrison Keillor 

… to name a few.

When “Place” is a character in a story you know it. For example, we feel the chill of the rules crack down on Jack Twist and Ennis del Mar in “Brokeback Mountain” — the very heterosexual, macho cowboy spirit of Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains. The sense of …you guys are really in trouble now! crackles across the dry air and into our bones.

But let’s look at a few excerpts from writers whose talent with image detail and description steals the air out of your lungs. Emotions engage, immediacy is palpable.

“Guitar Central” by Christopher Reyolds – First appeared in The Los Angeles Times.

It is a mild day in the mountains of middle Mexico, a fine day for chasing butterflies or lingering on cobbled side streets, neither of which I’ll be doing. I am here to sniff sawdust and engage in arcane conversations with old men in dim, cluttered rooms.

~ I love the juxtaposition of  cliché to reality. Especially since clichés are like candy when including “place” as vital element of design in story ~


“Las Vegas” by Simon Calder.

But when it comes to gambling, tuition is better than intuition.

Beware of staying in Vegas too long. On my last evening I got so lost trying to find a way out of Binions Horseshoe Casino that I had to ask for directions back to real life.

More in the travel writing tradition but palpable. Vegas takes on life like proportions.


 “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” by Annie Dillard.

Seeing is of course very much a matter of verbalization. Unless I call my attention to what passes before my eyes, I simply won’t see it … I have to say the words, describe what I’m seeing. If Tinker Mountain erupted, I’d be likely to notice. But if I want to notice the lesser cataclysms of valley life, I have to maintain in my head a running description of the present. It’s not that I’m observant; it’s just that I talk too much.

An argument between identity and surroundings-a struggle of nervousness in character. Beautifully developed emotional landscape in parody to the tensions of place and time.


This little article has one simple request: Get excited. Next week’s showcase is a beautiful blend of strong physical detail and emotional story arc’s that are riveting.


~ by Niya C Sisk, CR Stories founder



A Note from Straight Blonde

Okay, so “Straight Blonde” isn’t nearly as catchy or winsome as “Curly Red,” so this is the first and last time you will see me use that nickname in reference to myself. I just had to try it out. Don’t you just have to try out the words sometimes? Type ‘em up, read them on the screen—take your ideas for a little test drive?

That’s one of the great things about flash fiction. Its design lends itself well to experimentation. Which is not to say it’s easy or fluffy, or necessarily even edgy. A quick tour around the stories on Curly Red will show you a range of tone and topics, from heavy to light, sunny days to darkest night.

Here’s the deal: whether you view flash fiction as a creative writing exercise, learning tool, or legitimate literary genre (we do), writing flash will make you work. It will sharpen your writing and editing skills. If you can craft an engaging story—complete with a beginning, middle, and end—in 750 words or less, chances are you’ll be capable of longer forms. And once you’ve got the longer forms down, turning a 10-page short story into flash is an excellent opportunity to practice “killing the darlings,” cutting all but the most essential words, sentences, and paragraphs, while leaving intact the story’s guts. Less can be more.

And, just so we’re clear: flash fiction is not the 21st century-American literary fad you may think it is. With roots in ancient fables and parables—from countries as remote from the West as China and Japan—microfiction is nothing new. (What is microfiction, and how does it differ from short or flash or prose poetry or sudden fictionIs there a difference? We’ll cover these questions in another blog post down the road.) What’s still true of the style is this: it allows you to play with words and ideas, and create a world with very few, strategically selected words. In a very compact space, you can populate this world with characters, color it with conflict, even drawn an arc. And we’re talking hours/days/weeks to make a story take shape, not months or years.

So try it out. Mess around! Sculpt some small but sturdy little tales, and send them in. I am eager to read your work, delighted to serve as editor of stories, and honored to be invited into the worlds you create. (Thanks, Curly Red!)

–Beth Bates, Stories Editor

Call for Submissions – Spring 2012 Showcase

‘PLACE’ as a character of story is such a ‘hot and intriguing’ atmosphere for a reader. Don’t we just love to visit another place in our minds? — budget vacation — lots of imagination possibilities for this next showcase. We are excited to read your work!

I do realize that the image for this post is a Diner. But this diner is so unique, I think it can only exist on a dusty road that exits route 66 somewhere near Flagstaff or a place in Turkey I never knew existed. Something about the color of that sky and the architecture. Who does that?

We aren’t very literal over here in Curly-land.

So have at it. Enjoy. And we can’t wait to read.

Go here for detailed submission guidelines…

Letter from Curly Red

Hello and thank you for stopping by! I’m more than thrilled to offer a platform for our writers that shows off their talent more fully. I’m also excited to be introducing some new activities and changes to the magazine. But first a little history about our publishing hiatus for nearly a year.

Curly Red Stories, originally didn’t intend to be a cyclical magazine. I had focused on design driven prose at Vermont College of Fine Arts and was hooked. I published a few writers in 08′ with the ‘working title’ of Curly Red Stories. However, I was more than a little surprised by the amount of enthusiasm for flash fiction. The word spread quickly. I was getting regular submissions. And people actually liked the title. I went with it and Curly Red Stories took on a life of it’s own, like all stories waiting to happen. However, I began CR Stories on iWeb. iWeb is really not set up for magazine proportions in the long run. In 2010 I maxed out on space. I purchased more. Then I maxed out on the max. So, I was unable to publish any more writers on that platform. All those comments that the writers had more than earned. All that content had to be migrated carefully; responsibly. It was going to take cash and time. CR Stories, then was somber during summer months, so last fall I devised a plan that has now been carried out. I couldn’t have done it without the help of Jess Nunez. She is amazing when it comes to technology. She very carefully migrated all the content and wrote custom code to the tune of my design and creative direction. We are over the moon to share it.


Beth Bates, marketing maven and talented editor has joined CR Stories. I feel very lucky. She’s sharp with the pen. I’m your typical creative director. I will be making the vision of the showcases come true. While Beth is not only a talented writer of flash fiction but her eye for detail and inquiries into the text as well as skills in marketing are a clear route to more success for our magazine.

Featured interviews: We will rotate interviews regularly on the home page and announce them via social media channels as we do.

More Circulation: Both Beth and Niya will be attending conferences in 2012 as well as guest blogging in relevant media/writing/publishing circles and we will be showing off CR Stories writers every chance we get. We are even going in arms with cool business cards. Maybe even fancy hats! In addition, Niya’s newly published illustrated children’s book, recognizes CR Stories inside the pages and on Amazon. We will announce juicy PR placements as we gain them. In the meantime, we are charged up and ready to spread the word.

Micro-publications + Events: The views of this author is that flash fiction expresses itself in many forms throughout our culture. A letter between two people can tell a compelling story. A one page dialogue in a screenplay, one word each character throughout can leave the audience floored with all that is revealed. A painting can be translated into a wonderful story in 300 words. Therefore we will have mini-calls for submissions and add pages and showcases in between the Spring and Fall main publications. The best way to stay in the loop is to subscribe to our newsletter. You’ll never miss an announcement or ‘sweet article’ — Thanks!

These are many of the highlights. And as we grow, we are a work in progress, so stick around… you might be as surprised as we are of what comes!