Tuesday, October 09, 2007

 

Meet Linda Smith-McCormick: WOW's 3rd place Summer Flash Fiction contest winner

Welcome one and all to my interview with 3rd Place Winner, Linda Smith-McCormick, and our chat—among other things—about her winning story, “Love Is A Plastic Rose.” What a joy she is to talk to and such an inspiration. Here, see for yourselves:

First of all, congratulations on placing third in our summer contest! I was so excited to hear about your placement.
Thank you so much, Chynna. I’m extremely thrilled and grateful. I thoroughly enjoyed the 1st and 2nd place stories as well as all of the runners-up. What a difficult job it must be to judge.

Oh my goodness, Linda. You are so right—it is tremendously difficult to judge the entries. I loved Love Is A Plastic Rose. When I read the piece, it brought tears to my eyes. With so much experience as a comedienne and comedy actress, where did this beautiful, heart-string-tugging story sprout from?
It’s so rewarding to know it moved you, Chynna. It also brought tears to my eyes while I was writing it. Except for a few insignificant details, the story is true. The ending is exactly as it happened and I do in fact still have the rose. So I can say my parents helped me write my story, although they passed-on many years ago! And because that particular visit to their gravesite was a peak, mysterious and spiritual moment in my life, the Summer ’07 story prompt seemed to offer a serendipitous opportunity of honoring that precious gift.

In regard to my acting, stand-up and comedy improv background, I do enjoy writing humor and often laugh out loud when it’s going well (my Pug dog thinks I’m a bit loony.) However, my guiding motivation in all my writing is exploring human emotion--and laughter is definitely an emotional expression we all need. (I have an uncanny grasp of the obvious!)

If you have a moment, please take a look at my Fantasy Interview I recently posted on my Blog. I “improvised” an interview pretending I was a hugely successful author. (Please forgive my shameful Blog Plug--the address is below.) Hopefully you’ll get a quick chuckle and maybe try it yourself. It was a blast to create and thoroughly cleaned out my mental cobwebs.
(Laughter) Linda, plug away! I totally agree with you about laughter being something we all need. I’ll be sure to check out your blog. Where did your passion for writing stem from? When did you decide to throw your work into the publishing arena?
In my twenties I developed a raging passion to write because I heard it was an easy way to get filthy rich and immensely famous with little or no effort, minimal education and no need for self-discipline. (Just kidding, obviously!)

Actually, the first memory I have of wanting to write was when I was five years old. I told an elaborate and very convincing lie to my mother that our kindergarten teacher gave our class an assignment to write a story. (I still feel a little bad about the fib, but my wonderful mother never even scolded me.) Fifty-four years later, I’ve decided to buckle-down and get serious about writing. I look at my age as an advantage--a deep well of life experience. I say getting older is a real blessing.

I totally agree with you. As we get older, we write more from experience rather than merely raw emotion (which can also be good). Can you tell us about your publishing credits?
I’ve had an offer from an online ebook publisher to contract my collection of short stories (each one features a plus-sized heroine/protagonist) and will have a poem appear in an up-coming local magazine. Otherwise, I’ve no publishing credits but only recently started dipping my toes in the pool.

However, I have to say this contest has motivated me to strut over to the diving board and do a triple-flip with a twist!
(Laughter) Hey! You’re now a published writer here on WOW! Let’s delve into the subject of your short stories. I loved your brief introduction to your "other passion." Can you tell us more about that?
My entire life I’ve been fat. Denigrating fat people is still an acceptable form of discrimination in the United States. I won’t climb up on a soapbox here, but suffice it to say that fat people, especially fat women, are subjugated, ridiculed and discounted in our thin-worshipping society. Our culture suffers because this prejudice deflates millions of women’s creative potential! The only attention we fat folks receive is when we’re marketing targets for weight-loss rip-offs. If I sound angry--well, I am! I threw away many years of my life because I allowed this oppressive attitude to stomp me in the ground. I’m determined now to do whatever I can in my writing to celebrate, empower and embrace other ladies of size. I’d love to organize an online fat lady support group for all artistic, creative goddesses of girth!
Anyone who’s interested please email me at picklehaha@aol.com or check out my new blog at http://www.fatladyfiction.blogspot.com/.
I appreciate your passion about this subject, Linda. What I admire the most is that you use your passion to create awareness, without bitterness. And with awareness comes understanding. I think you’ve already covered this question but--what inspires you in your writing?
Oops. I’m afraid I pretty much answered that in the previous question. But I’ll use this space to mention an unusual method that has helped me enhance and enjoy writing. I really can’t expand on it here as it would take up too much room, but I take advantage of my training and experience as a comedy improviser.

The art and craft of successful comedy improv is based on a specific, solid and structured technique that consists of several basic elements which neutralize ego and precipitate moments of spontaneous, creative magic. Having taught, directed and performed comedy improv for over 10 years, I’m fortunate to be intimately familiar with these creative and “freeing” tools. When I began to consciously employ this experimental way of writing, the entire process became much less difficult and much more fun and rewarding. It helped me navigate the treacherous, frustrating minefield I stumbled through every time I sat down at my computer.

I recall many times when I would spend 5 to 6 minutes fretting over just one miserable adjective. That consistent anguish was one of the reasons I waited so long to seriously pursue writing. I longed to write with all my heart but found every attempt to be a painful, stress-filled struggle! Now whenever those nasty little trolls rear their heads, I know it’s time to take a break. Inevitably, when I return to my computer, they’ve wandered off due to lack of attention!

Good for you, Linda. And just so you know—even writers who’ve been around for many years still fret over those adjectives! Do you have any words of wisdom for future contestants?
“Words of wisdom”--so funny to contemplate but I’ll try. Because this entry was to be a short, short story (500 words or less), I wrote the first draft without stopping. Happily, it had just flowed and I was already pleased with the quickly written draft. I immediately went back and devoted at least 3 or 4 enjoyable hours tweaking, revising, editing, etc. I say enjoyable as I had already fallen in love with the story. I had written it several weeks before the entry deadline, so I put it out of mind and allowed my story to stew--to simmer for a few days--covered.
Later, when I read it with fresh eyes, I could easily spot and eliminate lurking, unnecessary words. I found additional verbs to punch-up and made sure I had engaged all five senses. When I read it over 2 or 3 more times and couldn’t find even one opportunity for improvement, I blew it a kiss and tossed it into cyberspace. Following that action, I sat back, relaxed, and smiled until my face hurt. I felt so lucky.
Linda, those are certainly words to take note of. It’s especially important to write, take a break then edit. Excellent! Any writing in the works we should watch out for?
Why, thanks for asking! A few years ago I wrote a feature-length screenplay with Camryn Mannheim in mind for the lead role. My inspiration hit the night I saw her accept her Emmy. She held it up high above her head and shouted, “This is for all the fat girls!” I remember getting choked-up. How amazing someone in Hollywood bucked the trend and finally saluted we fat girls! I decided I wanted to do something in honor of the beautiful, proud and empowered Ms. Mannheim, so I wrote a script that I, and hopefully other fat ladies, would love to see produced. I titled it “Release,” and immediately registered it.

Now, thanks to the WOW! Contest’s acknowledgment, I’m going forward, armed with a new confidence, a blueberry bagel and a comfortable pair of running shoes. I WILL find an agent! I WILL sell it! I know this for certain because I WON’T allow anything, or anyone (including myself) to stop me!

I wish the same for all of you wonderful, women writers!
My sincere thanks to you, Chynna, Ms. DeChiara and everyone at WOW!

No, Linda, thank you for such an inspiring and heartfelt interview. It was my pleasure to get to know you and I know other writers will also be inspired by you. And, for the record, I love Camryn Mannheim too.

Well, what are you waiting for future contest winners? Follow Linda’s lead and submit to our Fall Nonfiction Essay contest.

I look forward to reading your entries.

Happy writing!
Chynna

************************************
Linda has performed as a stage actor, stand-up comedienne and in comedy improvisation troupes. Now, at 59 and almost “grown-up,” she’s pursuing my life-long love affair with writing. Her other passion is celebrating and empowering plus-sized women (like herself) to dance their creative dreams--body size doesn't matter, the size of mind and heart does.Her writing features mostly fat heroines including a feature-length screenplay, a collection of 13 short stories and a mystery/crime novel in progress.

Linda also wanted to send this message to future contestants: “Finally, to WOW! and all who entered, I congratulate YOU!”

You can email Linda at: picklehaha@aol.com. Please also visit Linda’s website and blog at http://www.fatladyfiction.com/ and http://fatladyfiction.blogspot.com/, respectively.

2 Comments:

Blogger Sue said...

Chynna, this is a fabulous interview!

Linda, you are by far one of the most illuminating sources of inspiration. I admire your attitude, inner drive, and your goals. Bravo to you on many levels... Good luck with all your dreams! Thanks so much for your candid answers.

10:11 AM  
Blogger Angela said...

I have to completely agree with Sue.

Linda, your story touched our hearts, but getting to know your drive and YOU is even more amazing!

I do happen to agree with your views with how the media warps our views of women. If you haven't seen the videos for the Dove campaign, check this one out: Campaign for Beauty

It's a trip!

I adore "Goddesses of Girth!" You should totally do that! Size is not an issue, talent and your mind is...and that's what brings us writers together.

Thank you Linda for a fun and inspirational interview! ;-)

Hugs,

Angela

10:20 PM  

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