Forest Park author Billy Lombardo (left) and fiction impresario Grant Woods (right) talk at a Forest Park Fiction Reading event at the former Molly Malone's in October. (Courtesy Lisa Woods)

There’s a new monthly literary event in Forest Park, and it all happens in 1,000 words or less.

The Forest Park Fiction Reading series features writers reading aloud from their work — short stories based on a different theme every month. 

The genre is called “flash fiction” or “micro-fiction,” short vignettes between 750 and 1,000 words. 

The event is the brainchild of River Forest resident Grant Woods, who graduated from Columbia College in 2008 with a degree in, yes, fiction writing. When he attended Columbia, Woods was struck by how live readings brought writers together, inspiring and supporting them in what can be a solitary pursuit.  

“I just loved the community that live readings fostered,” Woods said. “Writing doesn’t have to be torture; at its best it can be amazing and incredible,” he said.

Woods has organized two flash fiction readings so far, both at the former Molly Malone’s. Authors submit their work at least two weeks in advance, and the reading is followed by an open mic. 

The October event was a raging success, partly because Forest Park-based author Billy Lombardo read one of his pieces. 

The next event will take place at Skrine Chops on Tuesday, Dec. 9.

Forest Park author E.J. Shumak was pleasantly surprised when he attended the first Flash Fiction, especially because the pieces are “juried” and that keeps the quality up.

“What I heard intrigued me,” Shumak said. “It’s not just a free-for-all.” 

The December theme is “Fool’s Gold.” 

Shumak submitted a piece he had just published on the theme of “something truly valuable hidden behind something else.” He is easing back into writing, after putting it aside since the 1990s. Since then, publishing has changed, especially with short stories. 

“There’s been a resurgence of the short story in web-based periodicals,” Shumak said, noting that these online magazines are often genre-based (he favors science fiction and fantasy). Online journals pay the professional market rate and have a guaranteed distribution of more than 3,000 subscribers. 

He published his most recent piece in an online magazine called Sci Phi Journal: A Journal about Science Fiction and Philosophy. The micro-fiction short story is 800 words, but along with it is a philosophical essay of 950 words citing philosophers Immanuel Kant and Martin Heidegger.  

As he shortens his fiction pieces, Shumak said, they become more like poetry. He once wrote the same story in 200, 100 and 53 words. His critics liked the shortest and the longest versions best. 

Other authors include Chicagoan Brendan Detzner, who runs his own live reading, Bad Grammar Theater at Powell’s Bookstore, and Marcy Darin. 

As for Woods, the gathering’s literary godfather, he works as a contractor and writes for his own enjoyment. He’s finished a couple of novels and lots of short stories in the detective, noir and science fiction genres.

His favorite books are by Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman and Anne Lamott. He decided to write fiction because he loved to read so much.

“Writers have to write. We just have to do it,” he said. 

Woods said he loves bringing writers together to meet and encourage each other. 

 “It shows writers ‘you are not alone.’ There are lots of crazy people doing this.”

Jean Lotus

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...

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