Interview with Emma Stough (MFA ‘19): On Being Selected for Flash Fiction America (W.W. Norton, 2023)

I recently caught up with MFA alum Emma Stough, whose story, “Jenny Watches The Exorcist,” was recently selected for inclusion in Flash Fiction America, just out from W.W. Norton. You can read my interview with Emma here:

How did you find out that your story would be included in the anthology?

I received an email from one of the anthology editors, Sherrie Flick!

What was your reaction?

My immediate reaction was to do some quick Googling to be sure this was for real—but once I did that, I was floored! Having my work in such a stellar anthology alongside some of my favorite flash writers is unbelievable. I feel so lucky to be included!

Could you tell us a little bit about the story? What is it about? Where did it first appear?

What struck me after watching The Exorcist for the first time was how quickly the little girl, Regan, goes back to “normal” after such a horrific possession. So I took that seed and let Jenny process all the oddities of The Exorcist through the lens of her own sleeplessness/hopelessness, finding ways that she and Regan overlap, like their lack of autonomy. To Jenny, that imprisonment and loss of control is scariest thing about possession, whether demonic or medical or self-inflicted.

Barrelhouse first published “Jenny Watches The Exorcist” in 2020, and I’m so grateful that now it has a second life!  

 What do you enjoy about writing flash fiction?

I think what impatience I have for the short story is forgiven by the flash form; you can get the same sparkling story but in such a small time, and with such a punch. And then to use a series of flash as an exercise in trying to create something bigger, that really rings my writerly bell.

 What are you working on now?

I’m still writing flash and trying to wring out the occasional short story here and there, but my most exciting project is the long form something where Jenny emerged from. Flash has been a great tool in excavating her larger narrative. I’m thrilled to keep digging!