Coauthor David Treadwell holding a copy of his new book, “A Flash Fiction Exchange Between Methuselah and the Maiden.” C. Thacher Carter / The Times Record

After 40 years of writing alumni magazine articles and admissions and fundraising materials for schools throughout the country, David Treadwell “semi-retired” to Brunswick in 2002. Since then he has written two newspaper columns: “Unsung Heroes” for the Forecaster and “Just a Little Old” for The Times Record. In addition to his most recent work, Treadwell has authored two other books: “The History of Mere Point, Maine,” co-authored with Phil Cantelon, and “Full Speed Ahead with a Twinkle in Her Eye: The Life and Legacy of Kate Ireland.”

Most recently, Treadwell coauthored “A Flash Fiction Exchange Between Methuselah and the Maiden,” with Bowdoin College senior Anneka Williams. The book is a collection of “60 short stories to while away the hours” and was published in late April. The stories in the book fall under the literary category of flash fiction, a style in which an author will use a prompt to create a story of 1,000 words or less.

The Times Record: Can you give our readers some background behind the book, your friendship with the co-author Ani and how you were introduced to flash fiction?

David Treadwell: Ani and I struck up a friendship at the end of her first year at Bowdoin. She’s always been interested in writing so we had that in common. As it happened, her dad taught with my stepson at an independent school in Vermont, and both her parents were at Princeton at the same time as my son David. Last fall, Ani texted me, wondering if I knew about flash fiction. I didn’t know about flash fiction, but I did some research and was intrigued with concept. We agreed to give it a try together. In the beginning we were going to write one story a week, but soon that became two or three stories a week. We had a blast all along the way.

TR: When coming up with a prompt for a flash fiction story, from where did you source inspiration? What did you find ending up being important elements of a successful prompt?

DT: Ani and I took turns making up our own prompts or sometimes we got them from the internet. We would each write independently to a given prompt and then comment briefly on each others stories. Almost anything works as a good prompt. I slightly preferred the open-ended prompts, such as “the smell of chocolate” or “what a way to die” over the ones that set a specific scene (e.g. “A young man and a young woman develop a romantic relationship while being stuck at the top of a roller coaster.”)

TR: If any, what barriers did you come across with flash fiction? Did you find the constrictions of the style challenging or do you feel that it aided your ability to construct compelling to-the-point characters and stories (or sometimes both)?

DT: Since I was new to writing fiction of any kind, it was challenging at first. I quickly grew to love the genre because you can write almost anything from a given prompt. Moreover, you can change directions in mid-stream, and I often did just that. The challenge is to make the story interesting, believable and self-contained in 1,000 words or less.

TR: Can you select a prompt and a passage from the story that particularly resonated with you and that you feel speaks to the book and writing style at large? Why this one?

DT: Well, two examples especially spoke to me – one fairly serious, the other more humorous. I wrote the serious one to the prompt, “Write a story that takes place over breakfast.” I wrote about two old people in their 90’s having breakfast together. The wife was anxious to know if her husband still loved her. The husband didn’t want to “get into the pit,” as he put it, to deal with emotional stuff, but finally after some reflection he allowed as how he did love her.

I wrote the more humorous story to the prompt, “Put bolo tie, chandelier and toothache in the same story.” I created a sleazy Texas oil man who wore a bolo tie and had a mistress who dreamed of living in a house with a fancy chandelier. He couldn’t decide whether to go see his mistress on their appointed get-together day or go to the dentist.

TR: Throughout the writing process, did you notice any differences in style between you and Ani that might be generational? With your different life experiences, what did each of you bring to the table, and how did it mesh?

DT: Well, I was able to draw upon older movies or books or different eras that Ani may not have seen or read or experienced. And she was much more tuned in to young people and their hopes and dreams and all things technological than I was. That said, I suspect that many readers wouldn’t be able to guess which writer wrote which story to a given prompt. Overall, she was probably more idealistic, and I was probably more cynical.

TR: Sometimes for authors, truly fictional writing and one’s own lived experience are hard to completely separate in their stories. To what degree did your own “non-fictional” life stories play a role in your flash fiction writing?

DT: I created some of my stories out of whole cloth, like the one about the sleazy Texas oilman. Real life experiences or events or people sparked many stories. I really did collect baseball cards when I was a kid, for example, but nowhere to the extent a character did in one of my stories.

TR: What did you find most inspiring about the project? What did you enjoy most?

DT: I really liked getting a prompt from Ani and wondering, “Wow, what do I do now?” And then I’d come up with a germ of an idea and take it from there. I also enjoyed seeing what she would write to the same prompt. I was inspired about how well Ani wrote, how maturely and thoughtfully. I think we both improved as we went along, and she would probably say the same thing. I was sad when we had to stop after 30 stories, but Ani was facing the demands of her last semester at Bowdoin and we had to come to a halt.

TR: Can you explain to the readers the book’s title? “A Flash Fiction Exchange Between Methuselah and the Maiden?

DT: Well, Methuselah was an old man from the Bible who is said to have lived 969 years. And Maiden is, well, a young woman. We wanted a catchy title which conveyed the thought that an old man and a young woman teamed up together for a writing adventure, and that’s exactly what it was.

TR: What is next for the book? Where can the reader find a copy? Is there anything else you are currently working on?

DT: We’ve begun to sell the book to family and friends. Happily, everyone who has read the book really likes it, everyone from a 90-year-old friend to a 79-year-old college classmate to my 20-year-old granddaughter. It is available at Gulf of Maine Books on Maine Street in Brunswick. It can also be found on the Maine Authors Publishing web site. Go to and search the “fiction” section within the “bookstore.” It will be on Amazon for purchase in both hard copy and for a Kindle in the near future.

After this project ended, I convinced four women from my former writing group to do flash fiction. They agreed and we’re off and writing.

Portions of this Q&A have been edited for brevity. 

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