Donna Wilkins short story, Nearly Rich and Famous is one that you're not likely to forget. Who can forget a story about a talking dog? If you haven't read it yet, you'll have to check it out... it's bound to make you laugh!
Join us as we interview Donna and get to know the wonderful writer behind the story and find out what sparked her creativity.
WOW: Congratulations on winning Second Place in the Winter 2007 flash fiction contest! How does it feel to win?
Donna: Placing second in the WOW fiction contest was very exciting and encouraging. This is the first award I have ever received for my writing, so it means a great deal to me. This award, and being published on the WOW website, made it feel official; I really am a writer!
WOW: You mentioned you've only been writing for a year - that's amazing. What prompted you to start writing?
Donna: It only took me fifty years to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I finally began writing barely a year ago. It wasn’t any one thing that prompted me to begin a writing career; it was more an accumulation of stories and characters that kept running through my mind and I just had to let them out. I’ve always had a vivid imagination but had never felt an inclination to write when I was younger. I believe my reluctance to try writing was a result of the strict emphasis put on proper form that was taught in school. Not that proper form is a bad thing of course, but for some people, like me, creativity can be hindered because of fear of failure. I hope other aspiring writers will break out of their shells and forget about their old high school teachers or college professors standing over them with a red pen in hand and that look of disapproval. Just write!!
WOW: Oh yes, the dreaded red pen... Beryl has horror stories about that one! But your story is well-structured, and we don't believe in red pens. Did you do a lot of outlining?
Donna: I’m ashamed to admit that I have not been an outline person. Again, this is like breaking one of the ‘Golden Rules”, but usually I write short stories as the inspiration flows. And then, I do at least three rewrites. However, for a novel, I believe an outline is a must. I’m working on the first draft of my first novel and I learned the value of an outline the hard way. My first draft has serious plot problems (that I will resolve!) that would have been avoided by doing a detailed outline first.
I am also rather undisciplined with my writing time, although I seem to be the most inspired at night. That’s when I’m feeling the most creative, but then the next morning, when I’m fresher, I have to check on all that pesky technical stuff like format, sentence structure, grammar, and punctuation.
WOW: You have the same schedule as I do; I seem to be most inspired at night as well. Probably because it's nice and quiet. So as a free-flowing creative writer who doesn't outline or have a strict writing schedule, it must be hard to taper your creativity into the word count...
Donna: I found the limited word count for this story very challenging. It’s difficult to develop much of a story line with so few words. Actually the limited word count was part of what inspired me to write about a talking dog. Animals can speak volumes without saying a word. And the dog in my story was based on my daughter’s greyhound, Mickey. He dislikes dog food, and being unusually tall for his breed, if left unattended, he can easily steal food off the kitchen counter or table. I’m certain that if this animal could speak, he would give us a detailed, and probably persuasive, argument as to why he should not have to eat dog food while we get all the ‘good stuff’.
WOW: Yes, I agree. That's why your story is so funny! It had me laughing out loud. For most writers, it's not an easy task to write humor. Are there any 'craft of writing' books that have helped you write comic scenes?
Donna: For the past year I have been reading stacks of books on creative writing, but the most important one for me was a book titled ‘Write Great Fiction; Plot and Structure’ by James Scott Bell. Plot and structure was one on my weak points and this book has helped me a lot, so I highly recommend it. Writing comedy seems to come naturally to me; I’m not sure if it can be taught. I think you just have to have a ‘feel’ for it.
WOW: So, how about authors or genres, do you have any favorites?
Donna: Humor is definitely my favorite type of short story, but when it comes to novels my first love is fantasy. C. S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien are two of my favorite authors and after them is the classiest romance writer of all time, Jane Austen. But she didn’t just write great romance, she also made important statements about the injustices of women living in her time. I believe in the statement that the pen is mightier than the sword, and the influence of authors like her have helped to change the world for the better. Young people today have many unwholesome and negative influences to deal with, and it is my hope to someday write novels that will have a positive effect on them. I think that the best literature is fun and entertaining to read while having a constructive message.
WOW: Well put, and I'm sure you'll do just that! Do you have any parting words for our readers?
Donna: I want to take this opportunity to thank Betsy Gallup for choosing my story, and a special thanks to the staff and editors of WOW. I heartily recommend entering contests for writers; it’s a great way to have contact with others in your profession, and reading the past winners’ stories is an excellent way to hone your own writing skills. Also, having a deadline to meet is good discipline, and of course the hope of scoring an award and some prize money can help to move a stubborn writer’s block. And, getting to see your story in print is awesome!
WOW: Thanks Donna! And thank you for taking the time out to answer our questions. Please keep us up to date on any exciting developments in your writing career! Be sure to drop us an e-mail when you receive your prize-pack. ;-)
Read Donna Wilkins' story and others in the Winter 2007 Flash Fiction Contest Winners Feature.