Close to 50 million people worldwide suffer from dementia and around 10 million new cases appear every year. Dementia patients experience numerous symptoms — one of the most prominent and noticeable being memory loss. Memory loss can also appear naturally due to aging, as well.
This forgetfulness can impact a person’s life and prevent them from enjoying the hobbies and passions they used to, like reading. Anchala Studios has recently published a work that could benefit people experiencing these types of symptoms.
The Collection: Flash Fiction for Flash Memory is an anthology compiled by Anne Anthony and co-editor Cathleen O’Connor. The anthology features a collection of sixty 500 to 700 word short stories from over 40 writers across the United States and United Kingdom. These stories cover a wide range of emotions, from melancholic and reflective reading to upbeat and inspiring stories.
As is the case with most writers, Anthony has always been an avid reader. Three years ago, she attended a workshop hosted by the North Carolina Writers’ Network where she had her first encounter with flash fiction.
“I thought it was a great form of fiction. The brevity and crispness of it was really interesting to me,” Anthony said. “It got me thinking that people who have limited attention spans, whether it’s due to memory loss, aging, even people who just have a lot of stuff going on in their lives. They would really welcome an anthology that has these short flash fiction stories.”
Anthony’s mother also enjoyed reading but her passion for literature was hindered by memory loss in her later years.
“She could read things but she couldn’t read any more stories because of her memory loss. She definitely would have gotten a kick out of reading these 500 word stories,” she said. “They’re so short she would have remembered them and enjoyed them in the moment.”
After her mother’s passing, Anthony began to think more about her idea for a flash fiction anthology. She shared the idea with her friend, O’Connor, who had recently put an anthology together herself. The two met in May of last year to plan out the project and opened a call for submissions in August. 60 stories were selected out of the 141 submissions they received.
Putting an anthology together may seem like an easy task, but it is a deceptively large undertaking. Anthony first started to realize this while reviewing the submission guidelines with a friend in order to make sure that everything was in order.
“You know, it’s kind of like having a baby for the first time. You think it’s a great idea and then you have to go through months and months of the process,” she said.
With work on the anthology drawing to a close after months of hard work, Anthony was surprised by how receptive others were to the idea of her anthology. Conversation and genuine interest in the anthology, outside of just friends and family, presented itself in many surprising places — including her neurologist’s office.
Anthony’s neurologist had never heard about flash fiction and became very insistent about using it for her patients that lived with memory loss.
“She said to me ‘Many of my patients have memory loss and they’re in their thirties or forties. They’ve experienced a brain aneurysm or some brain injury that has affected their ability to retain information on the short term,’” she said. “’They love to read and they’re so unhappy about not being able to read. If they could read flash fiction, that would be amazing.’”
Ashley Memory is one of the writers featured in the book. She encountered the call for submissions through the North Carolina Writers’ Network and felt moved by the unique theme of the anthology as well as the story behind it. Creating something that could have such a positive effect on people compelled her to submit her stories.
Flash fiction had always interested her, but she never realized it could be a means of improving quality of life for those who were unable to follow longer and more drawn out plots.
“It’s a challenge for them to keep the threads of the plot together, but with flash fiction it’s over pretty quickly and you don’t have to retain a lot,” she said. “It’s the job of the writer to build your interest as you go and to still leave the reader with a sense of satisfaction, even with a smaller plot.”
Memory’s interest in the format extended beyond just the anthology. She has been teaching writing since retiring and recently lead a flash fiction workshop at Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro.
Zachariah Claypole White’s work, “Books from Keida,” is also featured in the anthology. Claypole White described writing and editing for his other published work as more of a solo endeavor, where correspondence was over the phone or through email. This was his first time having a fiction piece published in an anthology.
“It was cool to be part of a community and meet other local writers who are doing very different things than me but are still functioning in the same landscape,” he said. “This felt more like a community push. Getting to know these people was a unique experience for me.”