Here’s the backstory on flash fiction

That’s because every issue is first published on the back of someone’s shirt or jacket with the help of a few safety pins.

Safety Pin Review is the brainchild of Simon Jacobs, a 2009 graduate of Centerville High School, current student of comparative linguistics at Earlham College and son of local novelist Martha Moody.

Writers submit flash fiction — extremely short fiction — to the Safety Pin Review. In this case, editor, publisher and founder Jacobs seeks truly short fiction: 30 words or less. Jacobs selects one flash fiction story per issue.

Next, as the review’s website ( explains, this biweekly literary magazine takes “a major D.I.Y. twist: in addition to being published online, each story is hand-painted onto a cloth back patch, which is attached (via safety pins) to one of our operatives — a collective network of authors, punks, thieves and anarchists — who wear it everywhere they go for a week.”

Jacobs also posts the stories — photos of the backs of the operative — onto the magazine’s website.

Jacobs’ concept for wearable/postable flash fiction is a simple but brilliant mash-up of pre-printing press literature (think transcribing monks) and post-printing press technology (the Internet). As such, the Safety Pin Review has garnered impressive attention since its first issue wandered out into the world on the back of an operative in September 2011.

Sherman Alexie — award-winning poet, novelist (for example, “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven”) and filmmaker — discovered Safety Pin Review early on and commented on his own website: “I love, love, love the conceit of this little literary magazine. So funny, so terrestrial and Internetty at the same time. And 30 words! I’m addicted to writing and reading tiny stories. So I’m all jazzed about this magazine. Let’s turn it into a national project.”

“It’s staggering to have mention of your work pop up on the blog of a guy who was in your literature textbook,” Jacobs says.

Safety Pin Review has also been covered on the book blog of Los Angeles Times, tweeted about by Margaret Atwood (author of “The Handmaid’s Tale” and other works) and covered on literary websites.

The stories, which Jacobs says should “be powerful enough to grab readers’ attention but linger in their imaginations long after the few seconds they take to read them,” have traveled on the backs of ‘operatives’ across the United States — in Richmond, Ind., and Dayton, of course, but also to New York, New Orleans, Chicago, California and many other locations — as well as to Turkey, Norway and South Korea.

Jacobs’ “operatives” report that they’ve received positive reactions, with people being surprised to see a brief story printed on the back of a jacket and stopping the operatives, usually with the phrase, “hold on a second so I can read your back!”

Freelance seminar

Next Sunday, May 20, Ron Rollins, associate editor of the Dayton Daily News and contributing editor for Ohio Magazine, will share tips and techniques on how to freelance for newspapers and magazines. This free event, cosponsored by the Antioch Writers’ Workshop and Books & Co., will be from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at Books & Co. at The Greene.

Sharon Short is the author of the novel “My One Square Inch of Alaska,” to be published by Penguin Plume in February 2013, and the director of the Antioch Writers’ Workshop. Contact Sharon with news about your book club or organization at or email sharonshort@

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