Exploring the art of prose


Tag: Tension

From the Earth by Randy Nelson

alt text: image is a color photograph of hanging flower baskets in a nursery; title card for the flash CNF piece "From the Earth" by Randy Nelson

  In the gathering dusk of an afternoon that still lingers, I followed my father into the woods. He had not prospered in his first attempt to start a nursery business, the crimson-budded azalea liners withering only days after he…

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Interview: Tommy Dean

alt text: image is the cover of a book called HOLLOWS; title card for Jill Witty's new interview with Tommy Dean

  In Hollows, Tommy Dean’s first full-length flash fiction collection, the narrative lens captures everyday humans at a pivotal moment, where one decision will change everything. Three boys enter the woods carrying a gun. A divorced teacher borrows money from…

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Author’s Note

As with my previous CRAFT publication, I have an MFA classmate to thank for my inspiration: the very talented and kind Angelica Escalante. Last fall she posted on Facebook that she had over 200 postcards and stamps and offered to send one to anyone who replied with the choice of message they wanted to receive: limerick, a memory, a writing prompt, etc. As a writer, I naturally chose the writing prompt.

Angelica sent me a postcard of Keith Harrop’s Anamorphia #7 Water Buffalo Drawing with the following message: “Write a flash piece in which the main character is the buffalo on this card and there’s somehow mention of a girl who ate so much of her emotions that she ballooned 3X her size.”

I found this image incredibly intriguing: the majestic horns, the smart suit, the pride in the pose with one hoof on a wooden pedestal and the other resting just above the hip, and all of it rendered with such realism. There’s a wonderful mixture of dreaminess and precision in this image, and I aimed to bring that combination of moods into my story.

In terms of character, I was struck by the confidence in the subject’s body language, which might have seemed pompous if not for the expression on the water buffalo’s face: steadfast rather than haughty. This idea of balance made me wonder what it might be like for him: someone successful (guessing from his dress and pose), with ample reason to be proud, but who is also aware of his outsider status, having to operate in a society that only welcomes him because of the money and power he’s managed to amass.

The mention in Angelica’s prompt of the girl eating her emotions put me in the mind of a restaurant, and the horns led me to high tea via the expression “bull in a china shop.” Add to this the idea of a woman who can’t bear to share what she’s feeling, and of course, I arrived at a forbidden romance with an urbane, well-traveled, financially stable water buffalo man.


TARA CAMPBELL is a writer, teacher, Kimbilio Fellow, and fiction co-editor at Barrelhouse. She received her MFA from American University. Previous publication credits include SmokeLong Quarterly, Masters Review, Wigleaf, Booth, Strange Horizons, and CRAFT. She’s the author of a novel, TreeVolution, and four collections: Circe’s Bicycle, Midnight at the Organporium, Political AF: A Rage Collection, and Cabinet of Wrath: A Doll Collection. Connect with her at www.taracampbell.com or on Twitter: @TaraCampbellCom or IG: @thetreevolution.