Using Tarot to Inspire Flash: Anna M Wang

    Anna M Wang is a Bristol based author and librarian. Her novella in flash, Prodigal (runner up Bath Flash Fiction Novella in Flash Award 2023), is currently available through Ad Hoc fiction and Amazon. Her writing examines the introspective, the interpersonal, mental health, surrealism and femininity.

    She’s recently begun organising a community project on the subject of Tarot Cards, and is eager to showcase a variety of voices and styles.

Interview with Anna

  • Can you tell us more about your project to create a group of flash fictions based on tarot cards?
    The project is to find 78 writers and assign each a tarot card picked at random from my deck. They then use their assigned card to write a piece – in any form – inspired by their card. The only rule is that the works need to be under 500 words.
    Authors can use the standard or reversed interpretation of the card, they can research its meaning as much or as little as they want. Some of the writers involved so far are extremely au fait with tarot and some are totally unfamiliar; I really wanted a mix to add to the variety in the pieces
  • How did it come about and what do you envisage?
    I had been reading A Poet’s Tarot by Josep Miquel Sobrer, a book I bought at a tiny independent shop in St. Nicholas’ Market in Bristol. It’s a description of the meanings of tarot cards, written in a sort of narrative fashion, to act as a tarot interpretation guide.

    The book had been living on my bedside table for a few weeks when I attended a Bath Flash Fiction reading, with a bunch of fabulous flash writers. One such writer was Robin Thomas (author of Margot and the Strange Objects), and mentioned A Poet’s Tarot. He asked me if all of the card descriptions were written by the same author, which they are. However, that instantly sparked the idea; what if we had a book of writing around tarot cards, not overtly describing what they mean, but capturing the essence of their meaning through an individual perspective?

    Tarot cards are very aesthetically popular, you see them referenced in fashion and home decor, they’re all over Etsy; and I’m a big fan of art inspired by spiritual and religious imagery. Think of paintings based on Bible stories, Greek mythology, Catholic flaming hearts, Hamsa hands, the Tree of Life. I think tarot is starting to share that level of universal iconography, and I wanted to see more of its influence in literature and poetry.

    For me the overall experiment of the book is exploring the concept of spirituality being both communal – with shared reference points and texts – while also being deeply individual and subjective. Having elements of a single source filtered through 78 lenses, I think, exemplifies this perfectly.

  • Which tarot pack are you using for prompts? Is there a reason for your choice?

I have the Qualis, Rider Waite ‘The Original Tarot’ deck, it’s the yellowy-brown box with a wild illustration on the front of the wheel of fortune (plus sphynx, angel, bird, winged bull, winged lion, snake, and red demon-type creature). From what I saw online it seemed to be the default, no frills, tarot deck, and the illustrations from it are always the first ones that come up on any search engine.

I wanted a deck in the “purest” form I could get, so that the deck itself didn’t have too many of its own additional elements and I could focus more on the symbolism of the core set of cards. It also came with a pocket guide, The Key to the Tarot: Based on The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, which was really useful to me because I’m quite new to the details of Tarot reading.

  • I believe you have been assigning cards to people but have about thirteen cards left?

Yes, we currently have the last 13 spots left, which feels fittingly occult. I’ve been very happy for the involved
writers to come to the project by happenstance (or fate, if you will).

Obviously the first to be asked were those present at the event where it was conceived, and also good friends of mine. But then people were asked to send any other writers they knew who might be interested my way.

Thankfully they did, which brought people from other cities, other countries, people I never would have met otherwise into the fold. It sort of became this spiderweb and people were reaching out to me through friends of friends of friends. If anyone sees this and is interested I would love for them to reach out. Contact me on annawangwriting(at)gmail(dot)com

  • Do you send people the image? Or a link to it?
    I used The Key to Tarot booklet that came with my deck, going through the description for each card and boiling all of them into roughly four key words or phrases a piece. These brief descriptors went alongside the cards that were issued to people. This meant if they just wanted to take the name of the card and the essence prompts they had enough there to hit the ground running. Some people requested images, which were easy to send digitally since the deck I have has every picture from it available online.
  • Is there a word limit for the fictions and a deadline to complete them?
    The word limit is 500, so the pieces should fit quite comfortably in the ‘flash fiction’ category, though some are more poetic in structure. The initial deadline was the end of January so that we could meet up and workshop in February.

    It looks like it will be impossible for me to get everyone involved to attend a workshop for it, but I’m happy to just work with the authors individually to make sure their pieces are what they want them to be.

    I would love to have all the pieces compiled by Spring this year. My dream would be to have an October release so it’s out in time for Halloween, which is probably extremely unrealistic. I’ll just have to see what the cards have in store.

share by email