Interview with Kelli Short Borges, 2nd Place Winner of the WOW! 2023 Winter Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, June 20, 2023


Kelli Short Borges is a writer of essays, short stories and flash fiction. A former reading specialist in the Arizona public school system, Kelli is a life-long reading enthusiast. Her work has been published at The Tahoma Literary Review, The Citron Review, MoonPark Review, The Sunlight Press, and Ghost Parachute, among other publications. Kelli is a 2022 Best of the Net and 2023 Best Microfictions nominee. She is currently working on her first novel. Read more of her work at or connect with her on Twitter @KelliBorges2

 ----------Interview by Renee Roberson 

WOW: Hi Kelli, congratulations on your 2nd place win and welcome! Your story, “Slither,” was a runner up in the WOW! Summer 2021 flash fiction contest and you said it was inspired by a bully you encountered in high school. How did the idea for “Undertow” first come to you? 

Kelli: Hi, Renee. First, I would like to say thank you to all of the wonderful editors at WOW! who make contests like this possible. It’s such a fun way to encourage writers to share their work, and to honor and celebrate craft! The seeds for “Undertow” came to me while I was on a trip to Saint Martin with my husband. One day, we were relaxing in the sun on a gorgeous beach, and I noticed a group of young kids splashing in the surf. They were just completely uninhibited—laughing, swimming, and having a ball. As I looked around, I realized almost all of the adults on the beach were passively lounging and sunbathing. It didn’t look like anyone was watching the kids. And as a mother myself, I instantly started to worry. Where were the parents? Of course, everything was ok that day, but my mind started spinning, and the idea for a story involving a drowning was born. From there, the story sort of “told itself,” as stories often do. 

WOW: I love this, and I love when the stories come to us in such a way that they have to be told. What do you think makes a compelling piece of flash fiction? 

Kelli: A great flash piece usually captures me from the very first sentence. The voice or form is fresh and unexpected, and for me there has to be a bit of underlying tension there from the start. I want to be intrigued as the story builds, and I like the challenge of doing a bit of work, of filling in the “white space.” I love that moment at the very end of a story best, when there’s a wider realization that takes the reader by surprise, when there is resonation that’s deep and universal. I want to say “Oh…” and just sit in that moment for a bit. I’m also personally drawn to pieces with lyricism and rhythm. 

WOW: Can you tell us a bit about your current novel in progress? 

Kelli: I'm really excited about my novel in progress! It's my first, so I'm learning as I go, and at this point I’m working on a first draft. What I can tell you is this: It’s a story about contentment, and desire, and how far we humans might go to create our own reality. There are contemporary themes, such as AI. And at the very heart it touches upon elements that I find come up again and again in my writing, themes of strength and trust and letting go of things that don’t serve us. 

WOW: Sounds like a great concept! Having been successfully published in so many places, what advice would you give other writers looking for places to submit their fiction and nonfiction work? 

Kelli: There are so many ways to discover places to submit your work. You can sign up for Submittable and explore the “Discover” tab, or Duotrope, a database with thousands of literary journals listed, which has a wonderful search engine to help writers narrow down places that might be a good fit. But, for me, the most useful tool has actually been sharing tips with other writers by getting to know them through classes and workshops, and also establishing a Twitter account. There’s a huge community of writers sharing work there, and journals tweeting submission calls. In my experience it’s a really supportive and engaging environment where you can read some incredible stories, support other writers, and also get a feel for where they’re being published. If you think a particular journal might be a good fit for your own work, you can investigate that journal and submit. 

WOW: Having worked as a reading specialist for many years, what genres are you drawn to in your own book selections? 

Kelli: This is really hard to answer, because I enjoy so many genres! If I had to pick one, I would say that I absolutely love great historical fiction. Some of my favorite novels written in this genre are “The Red Tent,” by Anita Diamant, “The Nightingale,” by Kristin Hannah, and “The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet,” by Jaime Ford. But my favorite book of all time is actually a nonfiction work, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” by Viktor Frankl. I’ve read it again and again through different phases of my life, and discover something new to mull over every single time. To me, Viktor’s philosophical reflections are profound, and I’ve internalized them and turned to them as a source of strength during difficult periods in my life. If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend!

WOW: I've read most of Kristin Hannah's books but I'll definitely be checking out your other recommendations--thank you so much for sharing those with us! Again, we appreciate you being here today and can't wait to read more of your work.


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