As you may know, we interview the top 10 contestants of each season and post the interviews as they roll in. Well, we just heard from Colleen O'Brien, runner up in the Fall 2006 WOW! Contest! And we're happy to hear that she's doing well. So, join us in a treat as we complete our interviews for our Fall season, as we chat with Colleen and find out what she's been up to.
WOW: Colleen, we loved your bitter-sweet story, Pom-Poms and Promises. Can you tell us what inspired you to write it?
Colleen: The prompt! Ok, seriously, I enjoy writing about teen angst, and I thought it would be a great exercise for me to help improve my writing skills.
WOW: Well, I think the 'exercise' paid off; congratulations on a great entry! How much editing did you have to do to get the word-count down?
Colleen: A lot! I wanted to say so much more! Having a 500 word limit makes you realize the value of every single word. I do a lot of copywriting with word count limits, so the "word count" feature in MS Word is my best friend!
WOW: I must agree, and I often wonder what writers did before computers. You mentioned that you do a lot of copywriting, and in your bio you said that you own a marketing consulting business. How do you find time to write for yourself? Do you have a schedule?
Colleen: It’s not easy! I try to make it a priority, but sometimes it doesn’t work, as I enjoy a roof over my head and regular meals. I don’t write as often as I should, but I’m hoping to change that this year. I don’t have a writing schedule, but I desperately need one!
WOW: How far along are you with the novel you're writing? And how has the process been for you?
Colleen: I have about 90% of it written. Throughout the process, I’ve been plagued by such self-doubt, which I’ve learned is typical of new writers. It’s been a great experience, though. One during which I’ve learned a lot about myself.
WOW: That's what it is... a learning process that is also very spiritual, because you're really digging inside and pulling out. Self-doubt is normal, but try not to read too many how-to-write-a-novel type books, it can be discouraging. One thing I do suggest though, is to read novels that interest you. You can never go wrong with that. Do you have any favorite authors?
Colleen: I love Marian Keyes. Her work is so engaging and relatable. And no one can suck me into a story like Maeve Binchy. I also love Augusten Burroughs and David Sedaris. They’ve had life experiences that might make lesser men curl up and die, but they manage to communicate their stories with irony and humor.
WOW: Oh, I love David Sedaris' stories, especially hearing them on This American Life, which ignites my writing and ignites my soul. How about you... what does writing do for your soul?
Colleen: It reminds me that I actually have a voice. I become more self-confident when I can write something I'm happy with. (But are we ever really completely happy with what we write?)
WOW: Good question, but sometimes you just have to jump in with both feet! Although I must say, novels are the hardest to let go, especially if you're a perfectionist. It's almost like raising a child, or a pet... and speaking of furry friends, we noticed the picture of your canine companion! Can you tell us a bit about him/her?
Colleen: Since the last contest, I have taken in another dog, and been elected to the board of the organization from which I got him. (How’s that for jumping in with both feet?) Both of my golden retrievers have come from one of the largest golden retriever rescue organizations in the country. Peyton is 1 ½ and Seamus is 2. Though their personalities couldn’t be more dissimilar, they’re best pals! I don’t know what I ever did without them!
WOW: Aw... you'll have to send us pics! So, do you have any writing goals for this year?
Colleen: Write more! I’ve been procrastinating when it comes to finishing my book, but I absolutely have to do it this year.
WOW: Somehow, I think you will get right on track with that... WOW! may just have some surprises to announce very soon. Sorry, I don't mean to be a tease... but, just know that we're here to support you all the way! ;) So Colleen, how has the Fall 2006 Flash Fiction Contest been for you?
Colleen: It was unbelievable! I’ve written for a while, but just for myself. I certainly never called myself a “writer.” I entered the contest on a lark, and when I heard I was in the top ten, I was so excited! It’s really helped me realize that I can do this. This whole experience has provided a much-needed confidence boost for me! Thank you!
WOW: That makes us smile from ear to ear.
If you didn't get a chance to read Colleen O'Brien's entry Pom-Poms and Promises, CLICK HERE, you won't be disappointed!