James Tipton--Third Place Winner in the Fall 2009 Flash Fiction Contest
You might recognize James Tipton since this is the THIRD time he has placed in the WOW! flash fiction contests. You'll want to make sure and read his third place winner, "Getting to the Bottom of the Girl in the
Here's some information about James in case you haven't met him before:
James Tipton lives in the tropical mountains of central Mexico where he writes short poems and short fiction. He is also a columnist for and Associate Editor of El Ojo del Lago and El Ojo del Mar, monthly magazines published in Mexico for the English-speaking community. He is also book review editor for Mexico Connect, the largest online source for “all things Mexico”. He has published more than 1,000 short stories, poems, articles, and reviews in North American magazines, including Esquire, The Nation, Christian Science Monitor, American Literary Review, and Field.
His book of poems Letters from a Stranger (with a Foreword by Isabel Allende) won the Colorado Book Award in 1999.
His most recent collections of short poetry are published in bilingual (Spanish and English) editions: Washing Dishes in the Ancient Village/Lavando platos en el antiguo pueblo and All the Horses of Heaven/Todos los Caballos del Paraíso. He is currently completing a collection of short stories set in Mexico, Three Tamales for the Señor.
Washing Dishes in the Ancient Village is available through Bread & Butter Press/1150 S. Glencoe/Denver, CO 80246, $10.95 plus $3.00 shipping & handling. All the Horses of Heaven is available through www.themetpress.com, $12.95 plus $4.00 shipping & handling.
WOW: Congratulations on your third time placing in the WOW! flash fiction contests. What makes you enter your work into contests?
James: Well, I do not feel particularly competitive, but I do find the WOW! contests fun and also stimulating. Having a deadline, which I keep track of, makes me sit down and do something.
WOW: We're glad you find the contests fun, and the deadline works for you! Where did you get the idea for "Getting to the Bottom of the Girl in the Blue-Jean Cut-Offs?"
James: I lived for many years in western Colorado, and I often saw interesting young Indian women. I also knew many men over the years who had never seemed to be able to "settle down" into a reasonably secure and reasonably well-paying position, partly because of their own characters and partly because of the changing academic world. Women often seem to have a stronger sense of reality. In my story, the man wants to "get to the bottom of the girl in the blue-jean cut-offs;" but of course, what he really wants to do is get to "the bottom of himself," but he does not realize that.
WOW: I love the title, and your "twist" makes it a great flash fiction piece. What are the themes you like to explore in your work?
James: I write a lot about male-female relationships, and I try not to bias my stories and themes--at least looking over a lot of them---either way. Lurking inside of every relationship is the possibility of huge personal growth. We no longer look for God or spiritual meaning in old religious documents or in building churches with ever higher spires. In our own time, we look for God or spiritual meaning in relationships. The person in front of us is the church that we must enter, even kneel down before. Lots of writers are working with this theme...for example, the Canadian writer Leonard Cohen (the song/poem "Suzanne," for example: "who takes you down to her place by the river; or the song/poem "Light as the Breeze" where: "she stands before you naked" and then something like "it don't matter how you worship/as long as you're/down on your knees.). I've always enjoyed the company of women a lot more than the company of men, so I may have some bias there after all.
WOW: You're certainly fitting right in at WOW! (smiles) Do you like to focus more on your characters in your work, your setting, or your plot?
James: I always focus more on the characters, and any plot I have is largely "character-driven". I do use settings toward revealing character. I have lots of stories set in Mexico, for example. Both characters and actual people reveal themselves in foreign or at least unfamiliar settings. How they respond to those settings tells us a lot about their characters. In one aspect, they are "setting-driven" characters, or "situation-driven" characters might be another related idea. I'm trying to finish a collection of short stories, Three Tamales for the Senor, set in Mexico, in which these ideas are working.
WOW: What a great title, and I'm sure it is a fantastic collection. We know you can sure write a short story! Tell us a little about your writing routine.
James: I often go days and days at a time writing something, often for hours. I do this partly because I write a column each month; I write a book review each month for another magazine; and I write various pieces I have promised to still other magazines. Then, for fun, I work on stories and poems, particularly short poems of late. I usually write in the mornings and in the evenings.
WOW: It sounds like you are keeping busy with all your writing responsibilities. What are you currently working on? Any more contest entries in the future?
James: I'll probably try some contests in the future, perhaps even a WOW! contest. I really thought I would receive first prize this time because I had worked so hard on that story, "Getting to the Bottom of the Girl in the Blue-Jean Cutoffs," honing it and honing it--so that when I finally sent it, I thought I had it perfect. I also have a collection of poetry, in both English and Spanish, about finished, titled To Love for a Thousand Years, as well as that collection of short stories I already talked about.
WOW: Best of luck to you in the future, James, with all your writing projects.
Interview by Margo L. Dill, margodill.com/blog/
Labels: Fall 2009 Flash Fiction Contest, James Tipton, Margo L. Dill
Interview with James Tipton, Summer '09 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up
James Tipton lives in the tropical mountains of central Mexico where he writes short poems and short fiction. He is also Associate Editor of the monthly magazine in English, published in Mexico, El Ojo del Lago (The Eye of the Lake) and Book Review Editor for the on-line magazine, Mexico Connect. He has published more than 1,000 short stories, poems, articles and reviews in North American magazines, including Esquire, The Nation, Christian Science Monitor, American Literary Review, and Field.
His book of poems, "Letters from a Stranger" (with a Foreword by Isabel Allende), won the Colorado Book Award in 1999.
His most recent collections of short poetry are published in bilingual (Spanish and English) editions: "Washing Dishes in the Ancient Village" (Lavando platos en el antiguo pueblo) and "All the Horses of Heaven" (Todos los Caballos del Paraíso). He is currently completing a collection of short stories set in Mexico.
Washing Dishes in the Ancient Village is available through Bread and Butter Press/1150 S. Glencoe/Denver, CO 80246, $10.95 plus $3.00 shipping & handling. All the Horses of Heaven is available through http://www.themetpress.com/
, $12.95 plus $4.00 shipping & handling.
WOW: First of all, congratulations on placing again in WOW’s Flash Fiction Contest! What do you think has helped you in producing winning contest entries?James:
He is currently completing a collection of short stories set in Mexico.
Check out his entry, “And To Think That Only Yesterday
”, then grab your favorite hot drink and come on back for our latest interview with James.Interview by Jill Earl
I think I was initially helped by reading lots of the past winners on the WOW site. I liked some of those stories and I thought, WOW!, maybe I can write stories like that as well. I like short forms of literature, whether fiction or poetry, and I have published hundreds of short poems, many of them as haiku or tanka, including two collections in 2009: “Washing Dishes in the Ancient Village”, and “All the Horses of Heaven”, both in bi-lingual editions (English and Spanish) incidentally.WOW: Studying the entries of past winners is a great way to get a feel for what judges are looking for, not just for our competition, but for others as well. Great advice for future contestants to follow.Speaking of entries, I thoroughly enjoyed reading “And To Think That Only Yesterday”. The imagery was so vivid and rich. What was the inspiration behind it?James:
I like vivid imagery and living here in Mexico life often seems to me to be more vivid, or perhaps I simply have more awareness of how vivid it is.Reading lots of Latin American literature, novelists like my dear friend Isabel Allende (who wrote the introduction to my book, Letters from a Stranger) and Gabriel García Marquez, opened me up to images, including unusual ones, that seemed to penetrate more deeply into reality, so that reality itself shifts, becomes something very fascinating.WOW: Looks like you studied well. You’ve captured the country’s essence in such an appealing manner, I think.Switching gears, you mentioned in your previous interview, that among your many publications, your tanka “All the Horses of Heaven” has been published by Modern English Tanka Press. For those who may not have heard of it, can you explain what tanka is?James:
Yes, basically a tanka is a five-line Japanese form of poetry, unrhymed, usually about aspects of love, and initially written by court ladies in Japan in the 6th or 7th century, and sent in secret to potential lovers. They (the lady and the lover) often communicated or understood their relationship through tanka poetry. Usually there are three lines that are followed by two more than often sum up or comment or expand the first three. The form is much older and in Japan is more popular (I have been told) than haiku. You might enjoy “All the Horses of Heaven” (www.themetpress.com
).WOW: I’ve read a bit about this poetic form, and found it more appealing than haiku. Thanks for the explanation and I’ll be sure to check out “All the Horses of Heaven”.Let’s talk about your writing process. Are there specific themes that you like to explore when you write?James:
I like to explore the age-old themes: love, sex, God, death, what are we doing here in these bodies on this beautiful planet, where did we come from, where will we go? How can we live our lives more deeply?WOW: Amazing how those themes endure, waiting for a writer to approach them from their own unique perspective, and share their findings with the world. It never gets old.What about your writing schedule? Is there a specific one that you follow?James:
I write every day, often in the morning, rarely in the afternoon, often in the evening. When I write I like to focus on writing and really like to be totally alone, locked in my room, so to speak. When I eat, although often with others, I like to focus on food. When I make love, I like to be totally focused on the woman I am with. People have always told me I listen well, but that probably only means I focus on the person talking with me. When I walk, I like to pay attention to walking. So, I guess, attention and focus are important things to me, both in writing and in living.WOW: I agree with you on that. I believe they’re key to the creative process, helps get that story, script, article, poem or whatever you’re writing down and hopefully, published.In your bio, you mention that you’ve been working your collection of short stories. Can you share how that’s coming along?James:
My collection of short stories, tentatively titled "Three Tamales for the Señor", is almost complete. I have three or four story ideas I want to get down into words and include in the book. I hope to have it finished this year, but I have lots of other writing projects including a monthly column called “Hearts at Work” that I write for a magazine in English published in Mexico called El Ojo del Lago, and I review a book each month for Mexico Connect, and I write lots of articles about Mexico for various magazines, like International Living, and I write lots of short poems, some stories.WOW: You’ve definitely stayed busy, James! Is there anything else you’d like to share with WOW! readers?James:
Advice? I’d say keep reading WOW! I have found it stimulating and useful. I like, for example, the January piece by Gretchen Rubin, “20 Questions.” I like going through Premium Green now and then.WOW: Thank you for your insightful interview, James. And again, congratulations, we’ll continue to be on the look out for your work. All the best to you!
To read James’ Summer 2008 interview and contest entry, click here
And to find out more about the poetic form known as tanka, check out the American Tanka
Labels: interview, James Tipton, Jill Earl, WOW Summer 2009 Contest
Interview with James Tipton, Runner-Up
Interviewed by: Anne Greenawalt
James Tipton lives with his wife Martha and his daughter Gabriela in the tropical mountains of central Mexico in the town of Chapala, south of Guadalajara. His collection of poems, Letters from a Stranger (Conundrum Press, 1999), with a Foreword by Isabel Allende, won the Colorado Book Award. He has a particular interest in short poems and short (including flash) fiction. A collection of haiku, Proposing to the Woman in the Rear View Mirror, has just been published (October 2008) and a collection of tanka, five-line poems, All the Horses of Heaven will shortly be published (January 2009) by Modern English Tanka Press (http://www.modernenglishtankapress/
Jim is currently completing a collection of short stories set in Mexico, Three Tamales for the Señor, many of them about expatriates living south of the border, and a collection of short poems, Washing Dishes in the Ancient Village, set in Mexico and Latin America, which is finished and is being translated into Spanish to be published very soon in a bilingual edition.
He lives in a “high-estrogen” house consisting of his wife, daughter, two female dogs, a female cat, and various young mothers who make their appearance almost daily (often with their daughters) to visit his wife and daughter. All of these females serve from time to time to inspire him and to provide him with subject matter; and if nothing else they give him lots of excuses to retreat to his upstairs office to write, versus all the excuses not to write that he used to come up with when he was single.
James Tipton's latest book, Proposing to the Woman in the Rear View Mirror, has just been released. It is a collection of haiku and senyru, three-line poems, some about the natural world, some about the human world. William J. Higginson, author of The Haiku Handbook, says these poems are "by a man who is not afraid to be himself," who can tell "the truths of his mind without flinching or apology".
Proposing to the Woman in the Rear View Mirror can be ordered on line for $9.95 plus shipping and handling at http://www.modernenglishtankapress.com/
James placed as a Runner Up in the WOW! Summer Flash Fiction Contest. If you haven't done so already, read his winning story, Howard and Helen Play House
, and then come back for a chat!
WOW: Congratulations on placing in the Summer 2008 Flash Fiction Contest! I see that you are already an accomplished writer of short poetry. And based on your award-winning entry, I’d say you have a gift for saying a lot in only a few words. Do you find it challenging to make the transition between writing shorter and longer pieces? If so, in what ways to do you find it challenging?
I've always loved short poetry and short fiction. But I think about "short" poetry and "short" fiction a very "long" time. While others dash out thousands and thousands of words, I muse over what I want to say, and then I diligently work and rework what few words I finally end up with. I was influenced by reading Kenneth Rexroth's translations of short poems from the Japanese and the Chinese, mostly love poems. My own poems, as Isabel Allende points out in her Foreword to my book of poetry, Letters from a Stranger, are often about "ordinary experiences--wings, canyons, rocks, flesh--but mainly about that other extraordinary experience....love." Love (and its various facets) for me, is always immediate, experienced in the moment, and somehow this is related to why I write short love poems.
I do like working on longer pieces of fiction, though, but rarely over 8,000 words. Right now I have almost completed a collection of short stories about expatriates living in Mexico, titled Three Tamales for the Señor. And all of them, one way or another, are about love.
And speaking of Mexico, I have a collection of 100 short poems (generally three lines) about Mexico and Latin America (but also about love) that is coming out in a couple of weeks, titled Washing Dishes in the Ancient Village. (I live in Mexico, but the book will be distributed in the states by Bread & Butter Press, 1150 S. Glencoe, Denver, CO 80246.)
And still on the subject of short poems, Modern English Tanka Press, which recently published a collection of my haiku, Proposing to the Woman in the Rear View Mirror, will publish a collection of my tanka (a 5-line Japanese form) in February titled All the Horses of Heaven. (http://www.modernenglishtankapress.com/
Both All the Horses of Heaven and Washing Dishes in the Ancient Village are published bi-lingually (with Spanish translations).WOW: Congratulations on your recent and upcoming publications! We’ll have to keep an eye out for them. You’ve mentioned that many of your poems and short stories are about expatriates living south of the border. Are you an expatriate? How did you come to make the decision to live in Mexico, and how long have you been living there?
For decades, actually, I have wandered around Mexico and parts of Latin America. The Hispanic culture is richly textured, closer to the earth, more connected to magic, and at least in the little towns the people care a lot about each other, and children, and neighbors. The violence that has developed because of the drug business (to provide the United States with "product") is beginning to touch all of us, though--I personally know of five murders in our little village--Chapala--this past month or so.
I am married to a Mexican woman, Martha, who grew up in a little Indian village near the Pacific...dirt floors, thatched roofs...the type of childhood I think I sometimes hungered for, and we have a lovely daughter, Gabriela. I have been living here full-time for about five years. Prior to that I was a beekeeper and writer in the high desert region of western Colorado.WOW: How did your story “Howard and Helen Play House” take root?James:
I like "heroes" and so many stories I read are about sad losers who allow circumstances to determine their lives. Helen in my story "Howard and Helen Play House" is not, finally, a loser, and like the classic hero she does not allow her situation to destroy her. The catalyst for change that wakes her up is when her husband throws an unopened can of tuna at her and splits open her forehead. I have left relationships that began as romantic ones after a significant and defining event, a variation of that can of tuna tossed so carelessly and callously at Helen. Helen discovers she is a strong woman, much stronger than Howard has ever imagined.
When she walks out, she is no longer a child "playing house" with another child, her husband Howard.WOW: What do you believe is your greatest writing accomplishment, and what do you hope to accomplish in the future?
I don't think much about accomplishments past, present, or future, although awards come my way now and then. Letters from a Stranger, for example, won the Colorado Book Award.
I think a lot about words, about love, about real things that have happened to me and to others, and then I like to distill those thoughts and experiences into poetry or fiction, usually short poetry or fiction. I suppose my greatest accomplishment is that I've stuck with it for decades without much real success in the way people usually think about writers and success.
The "sound" of words is also very important to me and for years I have read aloud what I have been writing and rewriting, feeling the taste of those words...in some strange way it is almost erotic to me.WOW: Sticking with something that you love, with or without traditional success, is definitely a great accomplishment and I commend you for being able to do that. Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?James:
Don't think much about being a writer. Think about writing.
Let yourself be seduced by your own heart and then see what happens to you.
Advice? Maybe there is some hidden in my poem, "One Night I Picked up in a Bar," which begins:
One night I picked up in a bar
a woman named Poetry,
and she was drunk, or I was drunk,
but at any rate I took her home
and listened to her.
If you haven't done so already, read James' award-winning story "Howard and Helen Play House".
Enter the WOW! Women On Writing Winter Flash Fiction Contest, open now. Deadline: February 28, 2009.
Labels: Anne Greenawalt, interview, James Tipton, Runner up, WOW Summer 2008 Flash Fiction Contest