Interview with WOW! Flash Fiction Second Place Winner, Linda Courtland
Linda Courtland's story, "Change Management," won second place in WOW!'s Winter 2008 Flash Fiction Contest. Click on the link to read Linda's fabulous entry, then come back and check out our discussion with her. You'll find out what prompted her story, how she learned to write great flash fiction, and what's next for this busy Los Angeles, California writer.
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WOW: Linda, congratulations on your 2nd place win! How do you feel?
Linda: Thanks! I'm thrilled. When I saw the results, I actually jumped up and down.
WOW: What a great reaction! Could you tell us a little about your story and what encouraged the idea behind "Change Management"?
Linda: One night, I had the flu and staggered off to the supermarket, in search of cough syrup. A disheveled man was standing by the door, asking people for money. When the man saw me struggling along, he stopped his patter and asked if I was okay. His eyes were so full of concern that for a split-second, I wanted to tell him about everything that hurt. Instead, I said something like, "I'm kinda sick. Thanks for asking." But the moment touched me and formed the basis for "Change Management." I also spent many years as a case manager for chronically mentally ill adults, so I'm sure parts of that experience seeped into the story too.
WOW: It's always interesting to hear the background behind a story. Your flash fiction has appeared in Flashes of Speculation, Fictional Musings, FlashShot, and MySpace News. Have you always enjoyed the genre, and how did you learn to write great flash fiction?
Linda: I discovered flash fiction in an ocean-view conference room at the 2007 Kachemak Bay Writers' Conference in Alaska. I went to a "Skinny Fiction" seminar and left with a bunch of great handouts, a reading list, and a 100-word handwritten tale about a lovesick mermaid considering plastic surgery, which was later published by FlashShot.
I kept writing flash fiction and my twisted story, "Fallen" got some good feedback on Flashes of Speculation, which helped to spur me on. I wrote a story for Fictional Musings about a woman with a mad crush on her GPS navigation system, and it reached the #1 spot in the Arts section of MySpace News.
At this point, I'm hooked on the genre and couldn't stop writing flash fiction if I tried. My most recent stories are "Zero Tolerance" on The Short Humour Site, and "Single Socks," which will appear in Apollo Lyre's May 2008 issue.
WOW: Great, we'll have to check out those links. You contributed three stories to Six Sentences, Volume 1, a collection of flash fiction that came out last month. Congratulations on that exciting development! Is writing six-sentence stories similar to flash fiction writing?
Linda: Thank you! It's a terrific book. I feel honored to be included in it.
Writing six-sentence stories is a fun and challenging way to experiment with flash. The first story I submitted to the site was about a bald eagle in search of Rogaine. Editor Rob McEvily responded quickly, and was friendly and supportive. The site has a strong sense of community, and it's a great place to learn, play and share.
WOW: Sounds like an interesting story! You've also been invited to read your work at the Soul-Making Literary Prize Awards, and you apparently have some fun plans afterward. Can you tell us about the trip?
Linda: I wrote a flash story about white tigers and was invited to San Francisco to read it. Now, the idea of reading my story to an audience of strangers was nerve-wracking enough, but my horror reached new heights when I found out the event was being videotaped for a two-hour special on Access San Francisco.
I searched for something to do that was even more terrifying than reading my story on camera, just to put things in perspective. I found a night tour of Alcatraz. Perfect. What could be scarier than wandering through a notorious federal penitentiary at night? As it turned out, it was still light during the prison tour. But after sunset, my friend and I explored isolated parts of The Rock under cover of darkness. It was a really fun and spooky way to spend an evening. And the awards reading went well. Now, I can't wait for another chance to read my work.
WOW: Glad to hear the reading went smoothly. The Alcatraz trip sounds like quite an experience! What projects are you working on now?
Linda: I'm writing a paranormal romance for young adults. It's a book-length story presented in short, flash-like bursts, and it's a blast to write. I'm also working through a long list of contest and submission deadlines. And of course, I'm compiling my previous-published flashes into a collection.
WOW: We'll keep an eye out for your new work. In light of your success, our readers would probably love to know more about your writing routines. For example, where do you write? How many hours a day do you spend writing? Any favorite rituals?
Linda: My favorite trick is to find a song on Rhapsody [a digital music service that lets you listen to all kinds of music for a monthly fee] that has the same feel as my story idea. Lots of rock ballads, angry alternative songs, sweet acoustic pieces -- anything with lots of passion and energy. Then I play the song over and over while I write. I was listening to "Faded Flowers" by Shriekback when I started "Change Management."
WOW: Music can really get you in the mindset of a story or a character. Linda, what one bit of advice would you give to other aspiring writers?
Linda: Find a critique group, either in person or online. I meet with a great group of writers one Saturday a month, and also participate in an online flash fiction workshop. The generous feedback I get helps me write better stories, and providing critiques for other writers is teaching me a ton about storytelling.
WOW: Many writers swear by critique groups, and it obviously works well for you. Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Linda! Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?
Linda: Get excited! It's time to share your work with the world.
Every Tuesday we feature an interview with one of the top 10 winners from the Winter 2008 Flash Fiction contest. Be sure to check back and see who's next!
You can also click on the link for details on WOW! Women On Writing's current contest. The deadline for entries is May 31, 2008.