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About Kathy

Baltimore City

Kathy Flann's picture
My first short story collection, Smoky Ordinary, won the Serena McDonald Kennedy Award and was published by Snake Nation Press. A second collection, Get a Grip, received the George Garrett Fiction Prize and was published by Texas Review Press. Get a Grip was named one of the Best Books of the Year by Baltimore Magazine, and it appeared in the Top 10 Baltimore Books chosen by Baltimore City Paper. The book won the short story category of The Best Book... more

Kathy Flann

Get a Grip

Get a Grip was selected as a top 10 Best Baltimore Book of 2015 in the Baltimore City Paper and as one of the Best Books of 2015 in Baltimore Magazine. In 2016, it won the short story category of the International Book Awards, the Best Book Awards, and the National Indie Excellence Awards.

The stories in Get a Grip depict a range of imagined lives. There are Estonian brothers trekking from their blighted neighborhood to a college interview. There’s a TV meteorite hunter in town to search for otherworldly treasure. We meet a widow addicted to physical pain and a successful ad executive who loses all his worldly possessions in one day. All of the characters work out their struggles in a partly real and partly imagined Baltimore, channeling, in turns, its charm, its despair, its humor, its self-doubt, its compassion. Get a Grip is a book about who we are when the cameras are off and the phone has died.

"Kathy Flann has created a beautiful work of art, populated by characters who are full of love, fear, loss, courage, and redemption. A brilliant collection, Flann's work restores my hope in humanity and makes me feel more truly alive." --Julianna Baggott, author of Harriet Wolf's Seventh Book of Wonders, a New York Times Notable Book of 2015

"There's a touch of Barry Hannah's cosmic what-the-fuckness running through Flann's short-story collection, the way an intimate scene's humor or horror depends on the point of view. From the woman whose husband died in flagrante with a prostitute to the teacher who gets a hard-on every time he sees his ex-wife in the cafeteria, these eight Baltimore-set stories dive into the lives of people a little bit desperate. Flann animates their responses to such crises with a merciless humanity, and whether you're laughing or crying with the results, you always feel a little empathy and a little, well, unclean." -- Baltimore City Paper

“Kathy Flann’s Get a Grip is a collection of short stories featuring tales with a strong sense of place (for Flann, Baltimore, Maryland) and believable characters in the midst of struggles with identity, relationships and often devastating circumstances…. Reaching the end of the collection, I felt a sort of disappointment creeping in at the edge of my psyche: not with the stories themselves, but with the notion that the reading was finished, which meant that I would cease interacting with such cleverly imagined characters….” --The Literary Review

“These ailments — the neuropathy, the infections, the possible hairline fractures — outwardly manifest for Flann's stunted, afflicted characters an inner fear that they will never again be loved. So much is at stake here….. As they struggle with their dilemmas, these despondent though often hilarious characters become more human for their flaws.” –Minneapolis Star Tribune

“I'd liken the magnetism of these stories to that of a YouTube reel of BMX wipeouts: painful to watch and yet strangely comic as they unfold, braiding both random bad fortune and intimations of inevitability. The slow-motion spills in Get a Grip are certainly more choreographed than an incidental meeting between a human knee and six linear feet of gravel and asphalt, but readers will be too absorbed in Flann's direct and emotionally perceptive prose to peek around for crash pads or strings.”--Carve Magazine

"Kathy Flann writes about Baltimore; all of the characters inside of Get A Grip know Baltimore and breathe it. They might not represent the whole of the city—Baltimore contains multitudes after all—but the subsection that they capture are represented well. They are well off, they are dissatisfied with their success, they are alienated from their family, their friends and themselves. When you read these characters’ stories, you know that Flann knows her audience well..... When you’re finished Get A Grip, you wonder if you truly know how to speak the language of your soul. You spend time thinking about the choices you’ve made, the choices you’ve failed to make, why you have or have not made them. Are you content? Do you just think you are? These are big questions, bigger than you’re prepared to answer, but you’re grateful that a book of short fiction can get you to even think them. You feel melancholy, like your heart has a toothache, but also hopeful. Melanhope. It’s a new feeling." -- Michael Tager, JMWW

  • GAGcover.jpg

    Get a Grip by Kathy Flann
  • Baltimoremagbestof2015.jpg

    Get a Grip by Kathy Flann was named one of the Best Books of 2015 by Baltimore Magazine.
  • Citypaperbestof2015.jpg

    Get a Grip by Kathy Flann was selected as one of the Top Ten Baltimore Books of 2015 by the City Paper.
  • BBSmallWinner2017WHITE.jpg

    Winner of 2016 Best Books Awards for Fiction: Short Story
    Get a Grip by Kathy Flann was the Winner of 2016 Best Books Awards for Fiction: Short Story
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    Winner of 2016 International Book Award for Fiction: Short Story
    Get a Grip by Kathy Flann was the Winner of 2016 International Book Award for Fiction: Short Story
  • Audio excerpt of Neuropathy read by the author

    This is an excerpt of "Neuropathy," a story about a Baltimore woman who is addicted to physical pain and searching for her sense of purpose on Home Shopping Network. The story won third prize out of nearly 700 entries in a contest at Carve magazine, and this audio recording can be found on the Next Best Book Blog.
  • Full text of Neuropathy

    You scan The Shopping Network again for the thing God wants you to buy, the thing for the troops. Those barely-shaving boys. There are wind chimes, brooches, stop-snoring aids, mini trampolines. And more stuff of no value to young men in Humvees, young men storming rooftops, shooting at cars, frisking villagers whose kind brown faces are costumes.

    PDF icon Full text of Neuropathy
  • Excerpt of Half a Brother

    Valdur – with his impossible wingspan – reached into the taxi, all the way across the passenger seat, and put his hand on the Russian cabbie’s shoulder.
    “Don’t!” I said, glancing at the traffic light, which had just turned green. “If he drives away, you’ll break your arm.

    PDF icon Excerpt of Half a Brother
  • Full text of Heaven's Door

    The Meteorite Man did not need this shit. "For every hour that the grass grows over my rock and rusts it..." he said to his assistant Hankey, pausing to decide on just the right empty threat, "I'm going to cut off a lock of your hairdo while you're asleep."

    PDF icon Full text of Heaven's Door
  • Excerpt of Little Big Show

    The footpath gallops ahead like a dumb dog, disappears around bends in the forest. This has been Alexander’s first real hike, a hard scrabble -- scuttling along in a crouch at times as if he might find grips on the flat rocks. His assistant at work would have loved some photos.

    PDF icon Excerpt of Little Big Show

Smoky Ordinary

Winner of the 2008 Serena McDonald Kennedy Award

"Kathy Flann’s collection of eleven short stories in Smoky Ordinary was a delight for me to read. For example, in her compelling tale, “The Dispossession of Billy Montgomery,” you will find plenty to hold your interest, while having a huge laugh at the same time. Ms. Flann’s fiction stories are centered around Smoky Ordinary, a community located in rural Virginia, just south of Washington, D.C. I highly recommend her book." -- William Hughes, Media Monitors Network

Stories in this collection have appeared in Shenandoah, The North American Review, Quarterly West, The Barcelona Review, New Stories from the South, and other publications.

  • Smoky Ordinary

    "Please welcome Kathy Flann, whose keen eye, quick pencil, and tremendous heart have reached practically everybody in the inverted but wholly believable community of Smoky Ordinary, from small to great, the up-and-comers to the down-and-outers, from the woman caring for her dying husband to the man that howls like a dog, from a jaded former United States President to the bird smashed on the grill of his limo. This collection marks the beginning of an original and memorable career." -Madison Smartt Bell
  • New Stories from the South

    The first story I ever wrote and finished, "A Happy, Safe Thing," was published in Shenandoah. Later, it was selected for New Stories from the South, as a top story of that year. It appeared along with newly discovered story by William Faulkner. Later, "A Happy, Safe Thing" inspired me to write a whole series of stories set in that same town -- a made-up place called Smoky Ordinary.
  • Full text of An Airtight Box -- first published in The Del Sol Review

    During intermission of the "Tosca" benefit performance, ex-President Clinton, without Hillary, stepped outside the door of his Kennedy Center box, wondering what it would be like if someone shot him, maybe in his good lung, or maybe, if the attacker had lousy aim, even in the penis.

    PDF icon Full text of An Airtight Box -- first published in The Del Sol Review
  • Excerpt of A Happy, Safe Thing

    My older sister, Minnie, and her new husband, Sax Smithers, whom she met six months ago, are going to show up half an hour late for their wedding reception. They get held up on the way to the American Legion because all six guys from the pharmacy, where Sax sorts boxes of pills, want a ride, right then, in front of Shepherd of the Hills Methodist Church, in Grandma Tillie’s brand new 1983 Cadillac convertible.

    PDF icon Excerpt of A Happy, Safe Thing
  • Full text of El Corazón (later entitled The Dispossession of Billy Montgomery -- first published in The Barcelona Review

    Billy was squatting on top of the toilet lid in the stall at The El Corazón Disco Lounge, and he was staring at the gun in his shaking hands, the gun he had bought that afternoon at a pawnshop just outside the Smoky Ordinary town limits. The fluorescent lights were flickering, casting strange intermittent shadows on the bathroom ceiling.

    PDF icon Full text of El Corazón (later entitled The Dispossession of Billy Montgomery -- first published in The Barcelona Review
  • Excerpt from Experiments

    My father, appliance repairman Ed Hart, had been dating a reporter from the local news for over three months, ever since he and my mother separated. They met when Channel Four’s "Eye on You" News interviewed me at the Northern Virginia Sixth Grade Science Fair about my winning project, The Worm Farm--a kitchen composter made from a recycling bin filled with dirt, biodegradable household trash, and a hundred worms.

    PDF icon Excerpt from Experiments
  • Excerpt of Strike Anywhere

    When Rochelle refers to your brother Scott as "Sparks," which is his prison name, you feel certain you've lost her. She perches on the arm of your sofa, slender ankles crossed just below the hem of her sheer blue dress, neck craned toward Scott, who traipses through your off-white living room in work boots. He has been living with you for three months. You cannot, at this moment, remember the last time you spoke to him.

    PDF icon Excerpt of Strike Anywhere
  • Excerpt from Mad Dog

    At that moment three years ago when John Casey had signed up for University Challenge, he could not have known that the BBC cameras would love him, that the incongruity of his Washington Senators baseball cap, his impossibly swift answers to questions from any academic field, and his penchant for the exclamation “Who da brain man!” would make him a stand-out on the Lancaster University team.

    PDF icon Excerpt from Mad Dog

Nonfiction pieces

Kathy has contributed reflections on writing and life for The Texas Review, Baltimore Style, Baltimore Fishbowl, Stay Thirsty Magazine, and other publications. 

Letter from America

"Letter from America" is a tri-annual column in Writing in Education, the magazine of the UK's National Association of Writers in Education. When I lived in the UK, I was the vice chair of the board of the association, and my outsider's perspective was something people valued. The director invited me to continue to contribute my reflections after I moved back to the US. The column explores issues related to writing and to the teaching of creative writing, with a special focus comparing US and UK practices.


Atomic Books Fiction Series

Kathy Flann is a co-host at the Atomic Books Fiction series, which brings writers to a lively discussion about their works. She has interviewed writers like Tao Lin, Madison Smartt Bell, John Sayles, Laura Lippman, Paula Bomer, Michael Kimball, Leigh Newman, and John Dermot Woods.

How to Survive a Human Attack

This is a series of advice pieces for movie monsters such as zombies, mummies, and swamp monsters. Everyone is always trying to kill these creatures, and these are guides for avoiding that fate. Partly, the pieces are a bit of fun. Partly, they are an exploration of the subjectivity of the concept of "monsters." Movie villains undoubtedly perceive themselves as the heroes.

These pieces have appeared in Word Riot, Monkeybicycle, Defenstration, and The Higgs Weldon. On the basis of them, Flann was invited to appear at "An Evening of Humorous Prose," in Washington, DC, along with writers from Cracked, The Onion, McSweeneys, and TV's "Late Night with Seth Myers."

The examples include:

"How to Survive a Human Attack: A Zombie's Guide to Filling the Emptiness and Moving Forward"

"How to Survive a Human Attack: A Mummy's Decree (Papyrus Edition)"

"How to Survive a Human Attack: Swamp Monster Makeovers"

"How to Survive a Human Attack Appendix I: A Compendium of Human Repellents"

Connect with Kathy

Kathy's Curated Collection

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