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The power of micro-fiction

Last year, Ernest Hemingway tweeted one of his own quotables: “That iswhat we are supposed to do when we are at our best — make it all up —but make it up so truly that later it will happen that way.”

Last year, Ernest Hemingway tweeted one of his own quotables: “That is what we are supposed to do when we are at our best — make it all up — but make it up so truly that later it will happen that way.”


Well, not the writer himself, but an enthusiastic fan posing as him on Twitter as @ehemingway.
The legacy of the original Hemingway lives on, as his tweet-, text-, and status update-like style dominates our online language. Blame Papa (who won a $10 bet for his short story, For sale: Baby shoes, never worn) for engaging in micro-fiction, a literary form perfectly in tune with the other lumps of online data we regularly consume.


Toronto-based writer Julie Wilson believes 140-character word counts are akin to the poet’s stanza constraints. “You have people talking, responding and observing the world — putting creativity out there in a public way that’s completely fascinating,” she said.


Since 2006, Wilson — the “Gossip Girl of the book world” who’s worked for publishers such as House of Anansi Press — has maintained seenreading.com, a popular “literary voyeur” site that captures people reading on the subway, in parks, in coffee shops. She imagines those readers as characters, and spins them into micro-fiction postings.


However, she’s still concerned about how this changes our definition of literature.


“If it can be delivered in a tweet, does that suggest there’s any less thought or labour?” Wilson muses.


“As a reader, I’m the sort of person that if you get me in a sentence, I have to put the book down because I’m caught by how wondrous it is,” she says. “That’s the power of micro-fiction.”


Rea McNamara writes about the on/offline statuses of niches and subcultures. Follow her on Twitter @reeraw.

 
 
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