Pamelyn Casto, Associate Editor

An Essential Reading List


This is a selection of anthologies, collections, instruction books that I have picked up during my in-depth studies of flash literature. All of them are interesting and worth reading and a couple of them also contain articles/ essays I’ve written on the topic of flash fiction.


A Cast-Iron Aeroplane That Can Actually Fly. Peter Johnson, Editor. Mad Hat Press: Cheshire, Massachusetts, 2019. This anthology has many prose poems and each one has an essay by the author of the prose poem. Some of the many writers included are Kim Addonizio, Nin Andrews, Michael Benedikt, Robert Bly, Maxine Chernoff, Michel Delville, Denise Duhamel, Stuart Dybek, Russell Edson, Ray Gonzales, Holly Iglesias, Louis Jenkins, Mary A. Koncel, Robet Hill Long, Peter Markus, Mary Ruefle, Rosemarie Waldrop (and many others). 

Best Microfiction 2019. Meg Pokrass and Gary Fincke, series editors. Dan Chaon, guest editor. Pelekinesis, Claremont, CA, 2019. A few of the writers of these ultra shorties include Matt Bell, Roberta Beary, Myfanwy Collins, Robert Lopez, Michael Martone, and many more.

Best Small Fictions 2015. Tara L. Masih, series editor, and Robert Olen Butler, guest editor. Queen’s Ferry Press, 2015. A few of the writers are Jeff Streeby, Dawn Raffel, Diane Williams, Hiromi Kawakami, and James Keegan.

Best Small Fictions 2016. Tara L. Masih, series editor, and Stuart Dybek, guest editor. Queens Ferry Press, 2016. Some of the writers are Etgar Keret, Kathy Fish, Eliel Lucero, Amelia Gray, and R.O. Kwon.

Best Small Fictions 2017. Tara L. Masih, series editor, and Amy Hempel, guest editor. Writers include Pamela Painter, Stuart Dybek, Brian Doyle, Ian Seed, Joy Williams and others.

Best Small Fictions 2018. Guest Editor: Aimee Bender, Series Editor: Sherrie Flick. Braddock Avenue Books, Braddock, PA, 2019. Among the many pieces is work by Katy Fish, Diane Williams, Deb Olin Unferth, Lydia Davis, Matt Bell, Steven Dunn, Desiree Cooper, Hala Alyan (and many more). 

Best Small Fictions 2019. Series Editor: Nathan Leslie, Guest Editor: Rilla Askew, Assistant Editor: Michelle Elvy. Sonder Press, NY, 2019. Includes pieces by Lydia Davis, Michael Martone, Jolene McIlwain, Robert Vaughan, Diane Williams, Pedro Ponce, Lori Sambol Brody, Randall Brown (and many more). 

Crafting the Very Short Story: An Anthology of 100 Masterpieces. Mark Mills, Editor. Prentice Hall, 2003. A few of the many well-known writers included are Alice Walker, Ernest Hemingway, Anton Chekhov, Joyce Carol Oates, Yasunari Kawabata.

Field Guide To Writing Flash Fiction: Tips From Editors, Teachers, And Writers In The Field. Tara Masih, Editor. Rose Metal Press, 2009. A few of the featured writers are Robert Olen Butler, Ron Carlson, Pamelyn Casto, Stuart Dybek, Sherrie Flick, Pamela Painer, Michael Martone, and Robert Shapard. (The Field Guide contains essays on flash fiction along with example stories from some outstanding writers.)

Flash Fiction: 72 Very Short Stories. James Thomas, Denise Thomas, and Tom Hazuka, editors. W. W. Norton, 1992. Some of the writers are Francine Prose, Raymond Carver, Brett Lott, Lon Otto, Russell Edson, Julio Cortazar, Tim O’Brien, Mark Strand, Gordon Lish, and Pamela Painter.

Flash Fiction Forward: 80 Very Short Stories. Robert Shapard, James Thomas, Editors. W. W. Norton & Co., 2006. A few of the many writers are Robert Coover, Steve Almond, Grace Paley, Ray Gonzalez, Lydia Davis, Dave Eggers, John Updike, and Donald Hall.

Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories From Around The World. Robert Shapard, Christopher Merrill, editors. W. W. Norton, 2015. Some of the outstanding writers include Etgar Keret, Petina Gappah, Kim Young-ha, Czeslaw Milosz, and Ana María Shua..

Four Minute Fictions: 50 Short-Short Stories from The North American Review. Robley Wilson, Jr., Editor. Word Beat Press, 1987. A few of the writers are T. Coraghessan Boyle, Raymond Carver, Stephen Dixon, Stuart Dybek, Thaisa Frank, Edward Hirsch, Barry Lopez, Janye Anne Phillips, and Allan Woodman.

Microcosmic Tales: 100 Wondrous Science Fiction Short-Short Stories. Isaac Asimov, Martin H. Greenberg, Joseph D. Olander, editors. Daw Books, 1992. Some of the authors include Isaac Asimov, Lester del Rey, Arthur C. Clark, Fritz Leiber, Mack Reynolds, Larry Niven, Alice Laurance, Harry Harrison, Joanna Russ, Robert Silverberg, Harlan Ellison, and Frederic Brown (along with many others)

Micro Fiction: An Anthology of Really Short Stories. Jerome Stern, Editor. W. W. Norton, 1996. A few of the writers are Virgil Suarez, Jesse Lee Kercheval, Antonya Nelson, Amy Hempel, and George Garrett.

New Sudden Fiction: Short-Short Stories from America and Beyond. Robert Shapard, James Thomas, editors. New York: W. W. Norton, 2007. A few of the writers are Tobias Wolff, Aimee Bender, Sam Shepard, Ian Frazier, Jorge Luis Arzola, and Teolinda Gersao.

100 Great Fantasy Short Short Stories. Asimov, Isaac, Terry Carr, Martin H. Greenberg, editors. Doubleday, 1984. The anthology includes short-short stories by Harlan Ellison, Marion Zimmer Bradley, H.P. Lovecraft, Damon Knight, Bruce Boston, Jane Yolen, Lawrence C. Connolly, Andre Maurois, Edgar Pangborn, Barry Malzberg, Roger Zelazny (and many others).

PP/FF: An Anthology. Peter Connors, Ed. Starcherone Books, 2006. Some of the writers included are Stuart Dybek, Kim Addonizio, Lydia Davis, Brian Evenson, Harold Jaffee, and Jessica Treat.

Short: An International Anthology of Five Centuries of Short-Short Stories, Prose Poems, Brief Essays, and Other Short Prose Forms. Alan Ziegler, ed. Persea Books, 2014. Some of the writers included are Paul Celan, Fernando Pesoa, Franz Kafka, Henri Michaux, Czeslaw Milosz, W. S. Merwin, Luisa Valenzuela, Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Joy Harjo, and Aimee Bender.

Short Shorts: An Anthology of the Shortest Stories. Irving Howe, Ilana Wiener Howe, editors. Bantam Books, 1982. A few of the writers are Jorge Luis Borges, Grace Paley, Augusto Monterroso, Paula Fox, Octavio Paz, Ernest Hemingway, Katherine Anne Porter, and Doris Lessing.

Sudden Fiction: American Short-Short Stories. Robert Shapard, James Thomas, editors.
Peregrine Smith Books, 1986. Some of the writers are Raymond Carver, Leonard Michaels, John Updike, Ernest Hemingway, and John Cheever.

Sudden Fiction (Continued): 60 New Short-Short Stories. Robert Shapard, James Thomas, editors. New York: W. W. Norton, 1996. A few of the writers include Margaret Atwood, Don DeLillo, William Maxwell, Mark Richard, Molly Giles, Andrew Lam, and Judy Troy.

Sudden Fiction: International: 60 Short Short Stories. Robert Shapard, James Thomas, editors. New York: W. W. Norton, 1989. Some of the contributors include Colette, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, Jorges Luis Borges, Slawomir Mrozek, and Krishnan Varna.

Sudden Fiction Latino: Short-Short Stories from the United States and Latin America. Robert Shapard, Robert, James Thomas, Ray Gonzales, eds. W. W. Norton, 2010. Some of the writers included are Junot Díaz, Sandra Cisneros, Roberto Bolano, Gabriel García Márquez, Isabel Allende, Jorge Luis Borges, Andrea Saenz, Daniel Alarcón, Alicita Rodriguez, Julio Ortega and Hilma Contreras.

Sudden Stories: The Mammoth Book of Miniscule Fiction. Dinty W. Moore, Editor. Mammoth Press, 2003. Among the many fine writers are Virgil Suarez, Melanie Rae Thon, Molly Giles, and Aimee Bender.

You Have Time For This: Contemporary American Short-Short Stories. Mark Budman, Tom Hazuka, editors. Ooligan Press, 2007. Some of the forty-four writers from all around the globe are Aimee Bender, Steve Almond, Katharine Weber, Alex Irvine, Robert Boswell, Justine Musk, and Susan O’Neill.


These are various collections I’ve purchased and often recommend to other writers.

40 Stories by Donald Barthelme. Penguin Books: New York, 1989. A few piece are a bit longer than flash fiction but all are interesting reading.

60 Stories by Donald Barthelme. New York: Penguin Books, 1993. Not all the stories in the collection are short-short length but many are and Barthelme’s one who’s gifted in pushing boundaries, in experimental writing, in mixing genres.

A Man Jumps Out of an Airplane by Barry Yourgrau. New York: Arcade Publishing, 1984.

Almost No Memory by Lydia Davis. Picador, New York. 1997.

Black Tickets by Jayne Anne Phillips. Vintage Contemporaries: New York, 2001.

Paris Spleen by Charles Baudelaire. Translated from the French by Louise Varèse. New Directions Books: New York, 1970.

Can’t And Won’t: Stories by Lydia Davis. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014.

Children of The Days: A Calendar of Human History by Eduardo Galeano. (Trans., Mark Fried). Nation Books, 2013.

Einstein’s Dreams: A Novel by Alan Lightman. Vintage Contemporaries: New York, 2004.

Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges. Grove Press, NY., 1962.

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. San Diego: Harcourt Brace & Co., 1972. Trans. William Weaver. (This is a novel done with short-short pieces. It’s a very different sort of beast.)

Labyrinths: Selected Stories & Other Writings by Jorge Luis Borges. New Directions, 1964.

Mr. Agreeable: Stories by Kirk Nesset. Mammoth Books, DuBois, Pennsylvania, 2009.

Palm-of-the-Hand Stories by Yasunari Kawabata. Translated from the Japanese by Lane Dunlap & J. Martin Holman. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1988.

Revenge of the Lawn/ The Abortion/ So the Wind Won’t Blow It All Away by Richard Brautigan. Omnibus Edition, Houghton Mifflin, 1995.

Samuel Johnson is Indignant: Stories by Lydia Davis. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001.

Sum: Forty Tales From The Afterlives by David Eagleman. Vintage Books: New York, 2009.

The Book of Embraces by Eduardo Galeano. Trans.:Cedric Belfrage, W.W. Norton., 1991.

The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God & Other Stories by Etgar Keret. The Toby Press: London, England 2004.

They Could No Longer Contain Themselves: A Collection of Five Flash Chapbooks. Elizabeth Colen, John Jodzio, Tim Jones-Yelvington, Sean Lovelace, Mary Miller. Rose Metal Press: Brookline, MA 2011.


In Brief: Short Takes on the Personal. Judith Kitchen & Mary Paumier Jones, Editors, 1999. Some of the writers are Andre Dubus, Charles Baxter, Edwidge Danticat, Jamaica Kincaid, Mary Oliver, and Robert Shapard.

In Short: A Collection of Brief Creative Nonfiction. Judith Kitchen and Mary Paumier Jones, Editors, 1996. A few of the writers are Maxine Kumin, Naomi Shihab Nye, Tobias Wolff, Joy Harjo, Rita Dove, Ted Kooser, Charles Simic, Sherman Alexie, and Lee Gutkind.

Short Takes: Brief Encounters With Contemporary Nonfiction. Judith Kitchen, Editor, 2005. Some of the many writers included are: Amy Tan, Ron Carlson, Michael Martone, Dinty W. Moore, Salman Rushdie, Gerald Stern, Marvin Bell, Albert Goldbarth, and Terry Tempest Williams.

The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction: Advice and Essential Exercises from Respected Writers, Editors, and Teachers. Edited by Dinty Moore. Rose Metal Press, Brookline, MA, 2012. Some of the essay authors are Rigoberto Gonzalez, Carol Guess, Robin Hemley, Judith Kitchen, Brett Lott, Brenda Miller, and Aimee Nezhukumatathil.


Books and Beyond: The Greenwood Encyclopedia of New American Reading. Ken Womack, Editor. Greenwood Press, Westport, CT 2008. Includes my 8,000-word essay on flash fiction.

Creating Fiction in Five Minutes by Robert Allen. Story Press, 1997.

Critical Insight: Flash Fiction. Editors: Michael Cocchiarale and Scott Emmert. Grey House Publishers, 2017. Essay included are 2,500 to 5,000 words in length and each has a “Works Cited” section along with end notes. My essay is “Flash Fiction: From Text To Audio To Music, Stage and Film Adaptations.”

Field Guide To Writing Flash Fiction: Tips From Editors, Teachers, And Writers In The Field. Tara Masih, Editor. Rose Metal Press, 2009. A few of the featured writers are Robert Olen Butler, Ron Carlson, Pamelyn Casto, Stuart Dybek, Sherrie Flick, Pamela Painter, Michael Martone, and Robert Shapard. (The Field Guide contains essays on flash fiction along with example stories by some fine writers.)

Flash!: Writing The Very Short Story by John Dufresne. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York, NY, 2018. Good instruction on writing short-shorts through explanations of various writer terms and writing strategies and through some fine example stories.

The Art of Brevity: Excursions in Short Fiction Theory and Analysis. Per Winther, Jakob Lothe, Hans H. Skei, editors. University of South Carolina Press, 2004. Several in-depth analysis essays.


About the writer:
Pamelyn Casto, twice a Pushcart Prize nominee, has published feature-length articles on flash fiction in Writer’s Digest (and in their other publications), Fiction Southeast, and Writing World (and elsewhere). Her essay on flash fiction and myth appears in Rose Metal Press’s Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction: Tips From Editors, Teachers, and Writers in the Field and her 8,000-word essay on flash fiction is included in Books and Beyond: The Greenwood Encyclopedia of New American Reading (4 volumes). She also has a 5,000-word article on flash fiction as the lead article in the new book Critical Insights: Flash Fiction. Subscribe to her free online monthly FlashFictionFlash newsletter (first issue published in 2001) for markets, contests, and publishing news for flash literature writers. Casto is an Associate Editor at O:JA&L.

Image: Untitled by Oladimeji Ajegbile. Fine art photograph from Pexels.