In the words of Richard Osgood 

I Salute You, Factory Colleagues. 

Somewhere in the non-linear romp between Hemmingway and Barthelme there exists a place called the Flash Factory where artifacts of compact fiction are created from weekly sparks of inspiration.  Opened on the Francis Ford Coppola site American Zoetrope on December 15, 2006 by my good friend Frank Sullivan, the Factory is an interactive workshop focused on short fiction ranging from five to one thousand words.  Many call this length of work Flash Fiction, as if everything needs a name, but as many of us have discovered and continue to debate, it is not always easy to quantify.  

Over the course of two hundred consecutive weeks, minus Week #100 where more than 100 stories were posted, and Week #200 where just shy of 80 stories were posted, we averaged between fifteen and twenty stories each.  This amounts to approximately 4,000 total stories, most of which were ultimately published in a variety of web and print publications.  A dozen Factory stories from the first two hundred weeks were nominated for the Pushcart Prize and twice as many for Best of the Web.    Each weekly gig begins with a prompt from the previous week's winner, which is posted on a Friday afternoon.  Deadline to enter stories is midnight the following Wednesday.  Reviews can be entered as soon as stories are posted but we allow an extra day to complete all reviews.  Voting begins on Thursdays, with midnight Thursday as the deadline for reviews and voting.  Votes are tabulated and results are posted Friday morning with a new prompt from the author of the week's top story by Friday afternoon (give or take).  Cycle complete.  And yes, there is the occasional tie, which means we either get more than one prompt or a two-headed spark of inspiration.  

The bicentennial week, to which this fine edition of Foundling Review is dedicated, was divided into three prompts.  Each prompt reflected longstanding Factory tradition:  Photo, Words, Open.  All current (and former) Factory members were invited to participate in the celebration.  We had virtual wine, cheese, cigars, entertainment (frequent posts of favorite YouTube videos are another Factory tradition), and the clink of champagne glasses.  Two hundred weeks is a long   time and we were all in a mood to celebrate.  By the way, the winner from Week #199 provided the prompt for Week #201 and on we went.    

Writers are the lifeblood of the Factory, and Factory writers are some of the best around.  Those featured in this special edition represent the talent and diversity of voice to be found each and every week.  Douglas Campbell, Kyle Hemming (who also goes by David Woodruff), Diana Ferraro, Marko Fong (whose tribute to Donia, a woman dear to my heart and one I continue to miss, touches me deeply), Cynthia Litz, Sue Babcock, Linda Manning (who challenges the Factory on a daily basis with her creatively titled jumbles), Len Joy, Tara Laskowski, and Beth Thomas (who is one of my all time favorites, both as a lovely person and a gifted author), are representative of the writers we've all come to admire and respect (and yes, to envy, in the most well adjusted sense).  

It's the work that matters.  In the Flash Factory we exercise our craft, more often than not exposing ourselves to the uncertainty of narrow ledges thirty-six stories above the street.  But we all know there will always be a greater number of us below, like a human safety net, to catch us when we fall, or to at least remove vertigo from our minds long enough to ease doubt and inspire confidence.  

Before long week #300 will arrive and we will celebrate once again.  For the present we motivate and support each other.  I think we all consider ourselves fortunate to be among this fine crew of talented, humble, and auspicious colleagues.    

- Richard Osgood (One of the earliest founders of Flash Factory, a Zoetrope office)

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