Tuesday, April 06, 2010

 

Martha Katzeff, Fall '09 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Martha Katzeff is very excited to have her first submission to a WOW! contest be among the top ten finalists. She has been writing for several years and takes classes at the Gotham Writers’ Workshop. She wrote an essay for Masters Cycling called “My Clown Bike” about her hot pink bicycle and recently had a piece of flash fiction titled “The Farm” published in 365 Tomorrows. Martha swims competitively with a Masters Swim team and wrote an essay about being a slow competitor called “Life in the Slow Lane” for the USMS website. She is married with two grown children, lives in the Bronx and likes to knit, read and travel.

interviewed by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on placing as one of the Runners Up in our Fall 2009 Flash Fiction contest! What inspired you to enter the contest?

Martha: I have a good friend who is also a relatively new writer and we're both always looking for contests to test our skills and storytelling abilities. I like the challenge of competing against other writers in a contest. It levels the playing field.

WOW: Could you tell us a little about your story and what encouraged the idea behind “Get a Fresh Killed Chicken?"

Martha: I initially entered a contest open only to Bronx writers and I wrote a memoir about shopping with my grandmother and mother. When I didn't win that contest, I re-wrote the story as fiction, throwing in a little bit of a speculative fiction/ghost story twist to it.

WOW: Great idea to play around with the story—it worked out well for you. Since you've taken several writing classes, we'd love to know which ones have been your favorites and why?

Martha: My favorite writing classes have been through Gotham Writers' Workshops. I started with Science Fiction I and moved to Science Fiction II which I've taken a few times (online). The instructor for most of the classes has been Michaela Roessener—the author of several wonderful science fiction/fantasy novels. She's very encouraging and loved the idea that one of her homework assignments morphed into this prize winning story!

Science Fiction (or speculative fiction as it's called now) allows me to express my outrageous opinons through fiction in a way that mainstream fiction does not. In sci fi, there are unlimited worlds and experiences to write about.

WOW: It's always interesting to learn about other people's writing routines. Could you tell us when and where you usually write? Do you have favorite tools or habits that get you going?

Martha: I'll probably get into trouble for this, but I do most of my writing at work. Whether for better or worse, I have a low stress job with lots of down time. (I will absolutely not divulge where I work!) Sometimes I write on Sunday while my husband is watching some sporting event. I like the distraction—it helps me think. I wish I did have favorite tools or habits that get me going. I'd write more. That's why I like taking classes—it’s good impetus to keep going.

WOW: Too bad you can’t tell us where you work! I agree that taking writing classes is a great way to force yourself into action. Finally, is there if there was one bit of advice you could pass on to other aspiring writers, what would it be?

Martha: Don't get discouraged by negative criticism. Recently I was told that a story I'm writing isn't really Science Fiction, to which Michaela replied: give 'em the old Bronx cheer!

Ignore unhelpful critiques and keep writing!

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Check back on Tuesdays for more contest winner interviews.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

 

Interview with Pamela Allison - Fall 2009 Contest Runner Up

Pamela ’s Bio:
Pam Allison lives in a historic community near Atlanta, Georgia with her husband. Currently she divides her time between revising her novel manuscript, writing book and movie reviews, and submitting short stories and articles. She’s had several articles, a poem, and illustrations published. An active participant in online critique sites, Pam will attend a writer’s conference later this year. Every day she adheres to her writing schedule, looks for new markets, and researches agents. She enjoys reading, bird watching, volunteering, and spending quality time with family and friends. This year she will also graduate with a degree in Accounting.

If you have not done so already, check out Pamela's story "Ten Past Midnight" and return here for a chat with the author!

WOW!: Congratulations on placing in the Fall 2009 Flash Fiction Contest! What is the inspiration for your story?

Pam: Last year I caught a late night show. When the movie finished, I walked out of the restroom and into a deserted lobby. I’d never experienced that, because I’m a Sunday matinee kind of gal. Everything was dark except for moonlight coming through the front windows, and the only other person I saw was an employee running a sweeper over the carpet. I walked around, struck by the eeriness of it all. So I tapped into that fleeting experience as inspiration. Plus, while in college I worked briefly for a theater and the job was pretty awful, so I drew from that memory as well.

WOW!: You do set an eerie scene. I especially like the line “we leave projectors rolling to keep ourselves company” because it brings out that lonely, eeriness. What is the biggest challenge you face as a writer?

Pam: Sitting down to write is the easy part, and if I didn’t have to eat or sleep or juggle life responsibilities, I’d write nonstop. However, life sometimes pulls me away long enough that it takes a day or two to plug back into the story. I write every day, and when I can’t, it’s frustrating because momentum breakers waste time that could have otherwise been productive. Also, many people dismiss writer aspirations as being a pipe dream, so I don’t really talk about it too much. I just keep my head low and my keyboard clacking as I focus on making my professional goals a reality.

WOW!: I can definitely relate to the frustration of momentum breakers! I have to give myself little pep talks to keep going, but as soon as I start I settle right back into the rhythm again. If you could have lunch with one writer, who would it be and why?

Pam: Definitely Stephen King. I have followed his entire career, and think he’s an incredibly gifted and prolific storyteller who transcends all the labels people have tried to put on him. From everything I’ve ever read and listened to from interviews, he strikes me as a down to earth and genuinely decent human being. I respect many things he stands for and does, including his charities. So to have a chance to talk with him would be wonderful. I envy those in his life who call him friend.

WOW!: According to your bio, you will graduate with a degree in accounting this year, which I think is very interesting because accounting and creative writing are often considered to be opposites. Would you agree? Does studying accounting ever stunt your artistic creativity?

Pam: I get that a lot, and my joke is this: I’m neither a left nor a right brained person, but a whole brained individual. On a surface level they are opposites, but digging deeper you find overlap. I’ve met plenty of creative people who are highly analytical, and analytical people who are highly creative. So I think we’re all analytical and creative in our lives, just in different ways. Accounting probably helps my creativity, by doing its part to keep my mind active and challenged. Even as a kid, math, science, language and art were always my strongest subjects. Also, I’m a realist. Being a self supporting novelist is extremely hard—not impossible, but difficult. By hedging my bets, I can face whatever the future has in store for me. Which career path will win out? We’ll see.

WOW!: I like that, “a whole brained individual.” I'm glad to hear that accounting helps fuel your creativity rather than stifle it. What do you enjoy most about writing?

Pam: The enormous satisfaction I get from channeling my sometimes bizarre imagination into a tangible story. I also love getting feedback, especially from publishing professionals. I don’t shy away from constructive criticism at all, because it’s so important to hear what others say about your work. Last, I feel oddly grateful to look back and see how much my craft has improved since those first initial steps…like I’m doing something right, and that deepens my resolve.

WOW!: Accepting constructive criticism and learning how to use it to improve is, in my opinion, one of the most challenging and most important parts of being a writer.

Thank you, Pam! We hope to see more of your writing in the future!

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

 

Interview with Elizabeth Barton - 2009 Summer Flash Fiction Contest Runner-Up

Elizabeth's Bio: Elizabeth Barton has been writing stories for just about as long as she can remember. After attaining degrees in psychology and nutritional sciences, she began work as a medical writer and editor. She participated in the Writer’s Loft workshop in Chicago for more than four years and has recently begun seriously pursuing a career in fiction writing. Elizabeth has dozens of short stories in varying degrees of completion and is polishing a draft of her first novel. She lives in Chicago with her husband, Ian, and two cats, Roxie and Gordon. When she is not writing, Elizabeth is an avid reader and enjoys travel, theater, and wine. She also loves to dabble in, but never master, various pursuits including drama, sewing, painting, ceramics, and stained glass work. She believes that every experience can be an inspiration. She recently won third place in WOW’s spring flash fiction contest for her story, The Wedding March.



If you haven't done so already, you should definitely check out Elizabeth's prize-winning story "Not Tonight." When you've finished reading, return here for a chat with the author.



WOW!: Congratulations on placing in the 2009 Summer Flash Fiction Contest! You have managed to pack so much emotion into your piece of flash fiction. Do you believe it’s easier or more difficult to create such vivid feelings under the constraint of a small word count?

Elizabeth: Honestly, neither. I think that one can create vivid feelings in a sentence or two. Of course, it's harder to create a character with depth and tell a complete story when you have word count restraints. On the other hand, it's hard to maintain the intensity you often get with flash fiction when writing longer pieces.

WOW!: Yes, I agree. Despite the word count restraints of this contest, I think you have done a fantastic job of creating a complete story with meaningful characters. In your bio you say that every experience can be an inspiration, and I completely agree. Can you describe or give an example of how some of your other artistic endeavors have inspired your writing?

Elizabeth: I can't think of any specific instances where my other artistic endeavors have directly inspired me in my writing. It certainly could happen, though. For now, I find that it those endeavors allow me to create in a different way. I don't have to think about ceramics or painting in the same way I have to think about writing, so my mind can sort of relax.

WOW!: As an avid reader, I'm sure you’re in the middle of reading at least one (if not two or three) books right now. Are you reading anything interesting? Which writer or story has most influenced your writing?

Elizabeth: Right now, I'm reading Timeline by Michael Crichton, which has an interesting mix of science and history; plus, I've always been a sucker for a time travel story. My all-time favorite book is Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. Although I enjoy both Crichton and Vonnegut, I wouldn't say my writing really resembles either of them. It's hard to pin down one particular author or story that's influenced me most, but I'd list Michael Chabon, Nick Hornby, David Sedaris, and A. Manette Ansay among my influences.

WOW!: I know, it’s difficult to pin down just a few influential writers because inspiring or helpful attributes can be found in so many pieces of writing. In your interview after winning 3rd place in the WOW! Spring 2009 Flash Fiction Contest, you spoke about working on revisions to your novel. How is your novel progressing? Have you had any breakthroughs or run into any roadblocks?

Elizabeth: No, there haven't been any breakthroughs or roadblocks. I'm making steady progress, but it's always slower than I would like!

WOW!: Yes, I know what you mean! When I'm excited about a writing project, it always seems to progress slower than I’d like. What do you enjoy most about writing?

Elizabeth: I just love seeing what happens when I start writing. There's stuff I never knew I had in me that ends up on the page. Also, when I start a story, I rarely know where it's going to go. Just like with reading, I like writing to see how the story ends.

WOW!: Thank you, Elizabeth, for your time, your insightful answers, and your impressive piece of flash fiction. We wish you the best of luck with your writing in the future!


Interviewed by: Anne Greenawalt

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

 

Interview with Lori Lyn Greenstone - Summer 2009 Flash Fiction Contest Runner-Up

Lori's Bio:

Lori is a graduate student in Literature and Writing Cultural Studies at California State University, San Marcos where she teaches composition while finishing her thesis on motherhood memoir and ekphrasis—vivid description depicting a visual work of art. She is married to one of America’s Hottest Husband’s (Redbook, July ’07), a fire captain. They have six kids (what woman in her right mind has six kids?), ages 27-2, and are celebrating their 30th anniversary in November. Lori writes and paints from her studio overlooking their sustainable blueberry farm in Fallbrook. Her artwork has won several awards and been published in Strokes of Genius: The Best of Drawing by Northlight. Her autotheoretical essay “Ekphrastically Writing of Creative Mothering,” will be published in Mothers Creating/Writing Lives: Motherhood Memoirs, forthcoming in 2010.



If you haven't done so already, you should definitely take a look at Lori's award winning story, "Removing the Mask." When you've finished reading, return here for a chat with the writer.



WOW!: Congratulations on placing in the Summer 2009 Flash Fiction Contest! I read in your bio that you’re completing your thesis on motherhood memoir and ekphrasis. I am fascinated by that idea. Could you tell us a little more about it?


Lori: Ekphrasis (ek=out+phrasis=speak) denotes art that speaks out, often poetically. A visual work of art gives rise to a verbal work. For example Homer's "The Shield of Achilles" in the Iliad, or Shelley's "On the Medusa by Leonardo Da Vinci." As a mother-artist who really wants to write, I found ekphrasis as a way to use the art I've created over the past 15-20 years, much of it responding to mothering, using my children as models-- often our oldest daughter who trained with the Joffrey Ballet at 17. I always wanted to write, but I got caught up in art b/c it was successful and it provided a visual map to return to between the many interruptions of mothering.


WOW!: That is such an interesting idea, and a great way to combine writing and other art forms. How has your work on your thesis inspired “Removing the Mask”?


Lori: The mask, created about 15 years ago, is one of many pieces of art in my studio and home. Art has its own story to tell, something I realized recently when I returned to get a Master's degree in writing as a way to force myself back to my desk. The paintings and sculptures speak stories I didn't know were there until I started listening, writing. In this way, I'm rediscovering myself and a whole new world in my own art.


WOW!: I love the idea of art and sculptures speaking their own stories. And it's great that you are able to rediscover yourself through your art. Art and writing can be so fulfilling and rewarding, but they come with their challenges, too. As a writer, what is your biggest challenge and how do you overcome it?


Lori: Constant interruptions, including the internal ones of a manic mind. I collage the interruptions into my work, allowing them to add to and subtract from the story, memoir, or essay I'm writing. My thesis is a fictocritical response to the work of other mother-writer-artists- Fanny Howe who was my mentor at UCSD in the late 80's, and Bernadette Mayer, a beat poet who wrote an epic prose poem "Midwinter Day" on December 22, 1978, Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. This book is the epitome of alternative motherhood memoir. She was a mother of two small children at the time she wrote it. These writers provide incredible inspiration.


WOW!: With six children, a husband, a blueberry farm, teaching and thesis writing it sounds like you’re a busy woman! What are some of your tricks to find time and space to create art?


Lori: As women and writers, we find creative spaces where our minds and bodies dwell and thrive, spaces that drive creativity. Ekphrasis- the space between seeing and saying, between painting and writing is a liminal space, a threshold where confusion presages creativity, bringing order out of chaos. By grace, I am surrounded by a great group of supportive people, but being a mother is confusing. Writing and art help me sort through the tangles, and I am blessed with a partner who encourages me and gives me space. In turn, I have more to give back to the partnership, motherhood, and writing. If there is a trick, it might be knowing what to give up and when. We are going to sell the farm, go travel, find some simple place to live where the ground is covered in pine needles and sometimes, snow; a place where we can write and ski and be together--follow our dreams.


WOW!: That sounds like a great plan! Are there other writing or art projects you hope to create in the future?


Lori: I'm writing a novel told from the perspective of the prostitute to whom Vincent Van Gogh gave his ear. I also have a surrealist novel that takes place along the Alcan Highway with a character who may only exist within a painting- I'm not sure yet- she hasn't told me. I'm writing a piece for a conference in March at UCBerkeley, Our Bodies, Our Shelves - "Ekphrasis as Exploration of the Feminist Maternal Body." I have a memoir "You Are Here: Dots on the Map of a Manic Motherhood." I have more short stories. All are driven by art in some way.


WOW!: You definitely have your artistic plate full for the future! Good luck! What is the best advice you have ever received about your writing or art?


Lori: Carpe Diem- Just do it. Sit your behind down and don't get up until you've written a certain amount of words or pages or minutes, even if it is only 15. I sit on a balance ball so I can bounce energy back to my cerebral cortex when it falls low. The ball allows me to exercise- swiveling the hips, raising the pelvic floor--while I write, important issues for women as we age. I turned 50 on Nov.1. The affirmation from WOW was a nice gift. Thank you.


WOW!: You're welcome, Lori! You earned it! Congratulations with all of your accomplishments and we hope to see and read more of your art in the future!


Interviewed by: Anne Greenawalt

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

 

Spring '09 Contest Runner Up, Diane Hoover!

Diane Hoover was born in New York City across from Yankee Stadium, which might explain her great love for the Yankees. She grew up in the Washington DC metropolitan area, which certainly explains her great interest in politics. Diane has spent the last, almost 40 years living near the foot of Pikes Peak, which definitely has helped inspire her writing.

Diane has published several short stories and an occasional nonfiction piece, as well as placed in a number of contests. Most recently, one of her short stories placed in the Saturday Writer’s contest and was included in the Cuivre Anthology. At the age of 67, after undergoing a complete hip replacement, she decided to learn karate. She now wears a blue belt, which puts her right in the middle. Her four grandchildren think this is the coolest thing. You can read Diane's winning story, "Coffee Break," here.

Interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on placing as one of the Runners Up in our Spring 2009 Flash Fiction contest! What inspired you to enter the contest?

Diane: The challenge of writing a story within a prescribed word limit, plus I like writing stories about women in trouble and how they solve, or hopefully solve, their problems.

WOW: Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story? It was suspenseful—I was on the edge of my seat reading it!

Diane: I like to put myself in the positions I put my characters. What would I do? At least what would I think I would do? Maybe it’s my Walter Mitty alter ego asserting itself.

WOW: Your main character was certainly resourceful! Have you written other flash fiction? What type of writing do you most prefer?

Diane: I have written several flash fiction stories, two for your WOW! contest, one received an honorable mention. And this may sound really strange, but I feel that different stories and different characters call for their own format. In "Coffee Break," I think I said all there was to be said for both my main character and her situation. On the other hand, I have a story about a runaway young girl who is called home by her mother, decides to take the opposite road and is saved by an angel. That story is much longer. My novel is generational, much longer.

WOW: According to your bio, you decided to learn karate the age of 67. What prompted that decision, and what was it like to take lessons?

Diane: I had had a total hip replacement at the end of 2005. Though I’d gotten rid of any limp afterward, I still felt pretty unstable so when the opportunity arose to take lessons that would not only help any stability and balance problems but teach me a new (for me very new) discipline I thought, hey, why not? So I did. I’ve made some great new friends in the process and now I’m learning to use weapons.

WOW: You are a force to be reckoned with, Diane! I always like to ask about a writer’s routines. Could you tell us when and where you usually write? Do you have favorite tools or habits that get you going?

Diane: I am a member of a couple of critique groups and also work with a critique partner. Often I will work on someone’s manuscript and then work on mine. Sometimes though I'll just sit in front of my computer and a story unfolds under my fingers. It is the most surprising and often wonderful experience. Other writers experience the same kind of thing.

WOW: What a great phenomenon what that happens. Do you have any writing goals in mind for the rest of the year?

Diane: I have this book that I’ve been working on for years. It’s an historical novel, from which I’ve taken several stories and turned them into short stories. Some of these have placed in contests. I would love to finish this book before I die. I would hate to have my kids or spouse put on my tombstone WIP instead of RIP.

WOW: That’s a good one! Many writers can relate. Finally, is there if there was one bit of advice you could pass on to other aspiring writers, what would it be?

Diane: Don’t talk about writing, do it! It’s as simple as that. And stick to it. One should have a routine, I feel, to get the best results. Oh, and read a lot. I know that’s two bits of advice but I think it all goes together.

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We'll continue getting to know the Top 10 contest winners every week on Tuesdays. Be sure to check back for more interviews!

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

 

Interview with Nicole Waskie - 2009 Spring Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Nicole Waskie has been writing in one form or another since the age of two, when she would dictate her poetic masterpieces to her mother whilst she languished in the bathtub. Such gems as "Mascara Face" (Nicole's first epic poem about the trials and tribulations of makeup removal) have since evolved into a deep-seated desire to express herself through the written word and an obsession with flash fiction (which may or may not have something to do with her jam-packed schedule and short attention span) though she aspires to write a novel in due time. Nicole currently works as an elementary school library media specialist and cheerleading coach, and furiously pens sentences on receipts and napkins whenever inspiration strikes.

Her e-mail is nnwaskie[at]gmail[dot]com, and she would love to hear from you!

If you haven't done so already, check out Nicole's story "The Last First" and then return here for a conversation with the author!

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the WOW! Spring Flash Fiction Contest! How did you begin writing your award winning story, "The Last First?"

Nicole: I wrote "The Last First" on a whim. I was sitting on my living room floor, and a memory of renting paddle boats at a local park popped into my head. It was so vivid that I felt compelled to re-create the scene in words, and "The Last First" evolved from there.

WOW: You've done well recreating the scene. Your imagery is great! Do you find it difficult or liberating to write within the word limit restrictions of flash fiction?

Nicole: I love flash fiction. It's one of my favorite ways to write! I find that expressing a complete story in a limited amount of space forces you to carefully choose your words and details in a way that longer fiction doesn't demand. So, while it's difficult in that sense, I think it's liberating to be able to express a story in such a rapid, concise way, because you don’t have the opportunity to get bogged down in the exposition of the story.

WOW: Which books/authors do you read for inspiration, and how do they inspire you?

Nicole: I read all the time, and I read anything I can get my hands on. I'm a school librarian, so I read a lot of children's books, and draw much inspiration from children's fiction. Kate DiCamillo is a master of storytelling, and Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy was quite possibly some of the best books I have ever read--I am so inspired by how children's authors handle adult themes using understandable language without becoming patronizing. As far as "adult" books and authors, I am completely obsessed with Alice Sebold, Sue Monk Kidd, and Sylvia Plath. I recently finished John Connolly's The Book of Lost Things, which was dark and delightful. I could go on and on and on…but I won't! I find inspiration in any author that can make the mundane seem epic, especially those that write about the complexities and consequences of the minute choices life presents us, and the doubts that exist in all our souls.

WOW: I like what you say about children's authors writing complex ideas using understandable language. That can be extremely difficult to do and I also find it inspiring when an author does that well. What is your strategy for finding or making time to write with a busy schedule?

Nicole: I'm horrible about writing. I don't have a set schedule, and I should. I write whenever I feel the urge to write. I'm lucky to have a supportive fiancée who understands when I need to disappear with my laptop for an hour or two, but more frequently, I'm scribbling on napkins and scraps of paper, a sentence here, a sentence there. Consequently, my list of finished work is very, very short.

WOW: I've always loved that image of authors being so compelled to write that they scribble away on napkins and paper scraps. It will take some time to pull all of the sentences together, but we'll look forward to reading more of your work when that happens! What’s the most useful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

Nicole: The best advice I ever received was to just keep writing. I often get discouraged with myself for not following through on stories I start. I was complaining the other day about how I never finish what I start, and my fiancée told me, basically, "Then FINISH!" If you love writing, write. It's as simple as that.

WOW: I often ask authors that question, even though "keep writing" is usually the answer. I always find it helpful to hear those words. Are you currently working on any new writing projects or stories?

Nicole: See above! I'm always half-writing something. I've been banging around a few ideas for longer stories, but they've yet to come to fruition. I also review books for School Library Journal, so I'm consistently writing reviews each month.

WOW: Thank you, Nicole! Good luck and keep writing!

Interviewed by: Anne Greenawalt

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

 

Interview with WOW! Runner-Up Vera Constantineau

Vera Constantanieau is a runner-up in the WOW! 2009 Winter Flash Fiction Contest. If you haven't done so already, you should check out her award-winning story, "Ten the Hard Way."

Vera’s Bio:
I live in Copper Cliff in northern Ontario, Canada with my husband Ralph. We have one daughter, Chloe. The easiest thing in the world for me to do is to spin a yarn about the lives of my characters, but ask me about me, and I will stammer that I have been writing for fifteen years. The truth is I began writing when I was five years old; my first project was a cooking show script, spoken in gibberish which I pretended was French, as I concocted mud pies.

Currently, I write a humor column, From the Porch, published weekly in a Canadian newspaper. My work has been featured on CBC radio, Canada’s national radio broadcast, I have published features and personal essays in Canadian magazines and had short stories included in three anthologies. In the fall, my novella Diamond Day will be included in a new anthology along with several northern Ontario writers.

I read, I write, I breathe… it’s all connected.

Read Vera's prize winning story here, and then return for a conversation with the author.

Interview with Vera Constantineau:

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the WOW! 2009 Winter Flash Fiction Contest! Can you tell me more about your short story, “Ten the Hard Way”? How did you start this story, or what was your inspiration?

Vera: I wrote this story in an attempt to portray a woman acting purely on physical attraction, and then, have her pleasure in the resulting relationship eroded by the realities in his life, wife, children and his basic dishonesty. I wanted her to end it, as she began it, for selfish reasons.

WOW: What was the biggest challenge you faced and overcame while writing this story?

Vera: Allowing the woman to be sexual and selfish without trying to cushion the reader with some kind of apologetic behavior on her part was very difficult. The challenge was to keep myself from caring whether the reader liked her or didn’t like her. To let the character create the response I thought this spare style worked to keep her relatively one dimensional.

WOW: I see from your bio that you have variety of writing experiences. Is there any particular type of writing (fiction, non-fiction; novella, flash-fiction; etc.) that you prefer to write?

Vera: My column is creative non-fiction and for fifteen years it has been very satisfying to write, but I love fiction. With fiction I can manipulate the characters, take them to extremes, rescue them from the resulting mess, it’s all up to me – that’s power.

WOW: What excites you most about writing?

Vera: The development of an idea into a full blown story is exciting. Using the characters to support the idea, throwing in just the right mix of quirks and truth, raising the tension level to capture people’s attention, and supplying a moment where I hope they will gasp either in surprise or pleasure, and sometimes if I do it right, with laughter.

WOW: The twist in your story definitely grabbed my attention because I didn’t expect it. What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Vera: Whichever type of writing you choose, read as much of that as you can. Read both the good and the bad. Learn to recognize what works and what doesn’t. Above all I think you have to be fearless, not everyone will like what you write but if you do then likely someone else will as well, stay true to your own style.

WOW: That’s great advice. Writers certainly do have to learn to be fearless! Thank you, Vera, and again, congratulations!

Interviewed by: Anne Greenawalt

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

 

Interview with Nancy A. Jackson, Runner Up in our Fall 2008 Essay Contest


Nancy started writing as soon as she could pick up a crayon, doing poetry books and a "newspaper" for the neighborhood. She was an English major at Ohio State, where she also got a law degree. She practiced law for about 25 years, then worked as executive director of a Michigan nonprofit. She also worked as the single mom of two girls, Katherine and Jenna.
Now that she's retired from 80-hour workweeks, she's writing again, and her daughters, as well as her husband, Tim, are her constant cheerleaders. She also sells out-of-print books online, and she writes articles for Internet content providers. In the past few years, she and Tim have traveled to Japan, Greece, Turkey and South America. Her cats, Bart and Charlie, wish that she would travel less and play with them more.

Visit her website at: http://www.nancyhira.com/

If you haven't read Nancy's winning essay, " The Price of a Room," you can do so here.

Interviewed by: Marcia Peterson
WOW: Congratulations on placing in WOW's Fall 2008 Personal Essay Contest! What inspired you to enter the contest?

Nancy: I loved the subject. It really got me thinking about how hard it’s been for me to get a room of my own and use it in a meaningful way. I think that a lot of really talented women are done in by the pressures of the many demands on them, and the difficulty of finding time and space to write. I think of Sylvia Plath and Zelda Fitzgerald as just two examples.

WOW: You have made not one, but two, writing spaces for yourself in your home. Can you describe these spaces for us, as well as your writing routines?

Nancy: One space is in the kitchen/ dining room area, and it’s really more open, more for routine work. The lower level is a long desk with all my reference material on it—that's where I go when I need to concentrate. I tend to do my writing in the afternoon and at night. I’m really a night owl.

WOW: It's always interesting to hear about a writer's routines, thanks. From your essay, it sounds like your first husband wasn't supportive of your writing, although your current husband is very encouraging. What has this difference meant to you? How important is family support to a writer?

Nancy: Family support is crucial, and I find that it’s harder for women to come by. For one thing, when your children are young, you can’t just tell them, “I’m taking 4 hours off now to write, so talk amongst yourselves.” Also, I had to work to support my children, so I was exhausted a lot of the time while they were growing up. My first husband had to put up with the full brunt of my emotional collapse, so it was harder for him to be supportive, I think. My present husband is wonderful about my writing—but then, it’s just the two of us at home, so I’m not balancing many different roles anymore.

WOW: I love that "talk amongst yourselves" comment. If only! Are you working on any other writing projects? What are some of your writing goals for the future?

Nancy: I want to be able to earn enough money with my writing to support the work I really want to do – finishing a nonfiction book on choosing senior housing options for our elders (or ourselves). Then, of course, every writer has a great fiction idea floating around—I've got a few myself. That will come in time.

WOW: Switching gears, I notice that you've done a lot of traveling around the world. How did you decide where to go?

Nancy: All my life, I’ve wanted to see the Greek islands. After that, I was very intrigued by South America, particularly Brazil. I saw Budapest with my younger daughter. We had a fabulous time!

WOW: Any favorite places?

Nancy: Oddly enough, the Black Hills of South Dakota. I found them to be a very peaceful, spiritual place.

WOW: We don't always have to go far to find lovely places to visit, do we? Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Nancy! Before you go, what one bit of advice would you give to other aspiring writers?

Nancy: It’s never too late to start writing. It’s one thing you can do regardless of age.

***
To find out more about WOW's quarterly contests, please visit: http://wow-womenonwriting.com/contest.php

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

 

Interview with Doris Wright, Runner-Up for Summer2008 Flash Fiction Contest

Born in the Canal Zone (which is where the resemblance to Sen. John McCain ends) to a Panamanian-Catholic mother and a Lithuanian American-Jewish father, Doris Wright has lived and traveled throughout the United States and the world: in the last two years she has enjoyed the beauty and diversity of China, Senegal, and Mali (including spending the better part of a day in wind-swept Timbuktu), and is just back from France and Spain.

Besides traveling, Doris and her husband Don, an African historian, enjoy gardening, exercise, and their family and friends. They love to learn and to write, respect the precision and beauty of language, and they are passionate about world equity and peace--as well as the occasional microbrewed beer.

Doris recalls beginning her first story on a manual typewriter at age six, and writing steadily through high school and Spring Hill College, where she majored in English. She was a teacher and a newspaper reporter/feature writer before marrying, and then writing took a back seat while she raised her three sons. In the last few years Doris has taken graduate courses in English and participated in the Algonkian Novel Workshop, the New York State Summer Writers Institute at Skidmore College, and Colgate University’s summer writer’s novel workshop.

In addition to writing short stories and poetry, Doris recently has finished a draft of her first novel, “Cabbagehead.”

Today, I was given the wonderful privilege of sitting down with one of our fabulous runners-up for the 2008 Summer Flash Fiction writing contest. She is the author of As if I could forget. Please read her touching story and see for yourself why we chose Doris as one of our top 10.

Interviewed by Carrie Hulce

WOW: Doris, Congratulations, and thank you for sitting down with us today to talk about your wonderful story, As if I could forget. How does it feel to have placed in the WOW Summer 2008 Flash Fiction contest?

Doris: It feels wonderful! Though I've had good feedback in the past, this was my first contest "win." It came at a good time--it is hard not to get discouraged, as most fledgling writers must know--and added a boost to my will to keep going.

WOW: We agree, it is difficult to keep going, but we're so happy that you did and hope that you continue writing--you have a talent that should not be hidden away. Have you entered in any other writing contests recently?

Doris: Yes, I have entered other contests recently. I entered the Glimmer Train competition in the "Family Matters" contest in the fall of 2008, but was not successful.

WOW: It's great that you continue to enter into contests, and we hope that you continue to do so. You have a great writing style. What is your biggest inspiration for your stories?

Doris: I would have to say that the biggest inspiration for my stories is my own life experience, followed by the books I read and enjoy, and my take on life--that it is an experience where all things are possible and not everything can be explained. Thus, most of the things I write are a combination of mundane events with a bit of the bizarre or unexpected woven in (perhaps Anne Tyler with visitations from Franz Kafka?--in feeling, though not in quality).

WOW: Bizarre and unexpected is what keeps things fresh and original. Was your story based off of something that happened in your life?

Doris: In As If I Could Forget, the character Henry is suffering from dementia, without realizing it--his wife though has the full and painful realization and the loss of his love and companionship. Both of my parents, now deceased, had dementia, and, especially in my mother's case, I felt that I had lost my mother, long before her death.

WOW: You've woven your story so eloquently and with so much care. We are sorry about the loss of your parents. In the future, I hope that they will find a cure for this illness and help us all to understand it better. What genre do you typically write?

Doris: Mostly short stories. I also write poetry and am almost finished with revisions of a novel, "Cabbagehead."

WOW: That was going to be my next question! Please tell us about your novel.

Doris: Cabbagehead, is about Bradley, a 50 year old man, who has lived his life, careful not to be noticed or engaged; he has retreated to an uninspiring, interior life, finding his only contentment in gardening...until the day a plant, looking much like a giant cabbage, speaks to him…and everything changes. His new friend, in conversations both humorous and profound, has much to teach Bradley about life, the world, ecology, friendship and love; and sends him off on a mission to connect with his family, and, incidentally, to save the planet from global disaster. It's written in the tone I described above in question 3--my hope is that readers will find it subtly amusing and touching with characters they get to know and care about.

WOW: That sounds like a wonderful story. It almost sounds along the lines of the author Douglas Adams with his trilogy Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy--one of his books entitled, So long and thanks for all the fish. But, the description of your story, sounds so much more captivating. I hope it is a success and I personally can't wait to read it. How long have you been working on your novel?

Doris: For about four years--most of the work on it has been in the last two years.

WOW: I also noticed from your bio you've traveled quite a bit. Out of all the places you've been, where would you say is your favorite place to visit?

Doris: My first impulse was to answer Africa (though I realize that it's a continent, not a country), because of the unique, stimulating feel of it--the vivid colors, the smoky, rich smells, the unique geography, all the while experiencing the reality of desperate poverty and difficult living among people who are generally generous and happy and full of life. It seems impossible to be there without experiencing an increased concern for the others of this world and a change in your attitude about acquisition, and needs versus wants. And then there's Italy…ah, Italy!

WOW: Thank you for sharing that with us. It is amazing how different each country is, and there is so much to learn from each one. Have you ever written anything about Africa?

Doris: I have written a short story in an African setting, a piece much more lyrical and descriptive than what I usually write. On our recent trip, I began another short story set in Africa about western academics traveling by bus to a conference and beset with difficulties--it's based on an actual experience.

WOW: Traveling is such a great way to gain material for writing! I bet you have a lot of interesting stories to tell. If you could choose one valuable lesson to pass on to new writers, what would it be?

Doris: To overcome my fear of writing, I had to accept that I was not going to write the great American novel--having such high expectations freezes one into non-action--nor was I the world's worst writer (terrible! vile! horrid!), another action freezer. It's okay to be okay and enjoy yourself. I would also suggest reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and putting this Latin phrase in a prominent spot near your computer: Begun is half done.

WOW: Doris, that is wonderful. We are sure it will help inspire writers all over the globe to strive for their dreams. Thank you for spending time with us and sharing your wonderful knowledge.

If you haven't done so already, please check out Doris' story As if I could forget.

To find out more about WOW's quarterly contests, please visit: http://wow-womenonwriting.com/contest.php


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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

 

Interview with WOW! Runner-Up Julie Donner Andersen

Julie grew up in rural Ohio where she graduated from the University of Toledo and married shortly thereafter. The stay-at-home mother's writing career started nearly two decades later when, faced with divorce and life as a single parent in 1996, she chose a job with a political action committee as a speech writer. This stint lead to becoming a lobbyist for parental rights at the Ohio state capital, which occasionally took her to Washington DC. Her political networking skills helped to hone her freelance writing career. While researching information about chat rooms for a Christian publication, Julie met her present husband in a chat room for Canadian widows and widowers. After marrying, Julie moved with her two children to Ontario, Canada. At age 40, Julie and her husband welcomed a new baby to their family, and "The Brady Bunch Bonus Family" became a happily blended group of five.

Julie's experience with marrying a widower was the catalyst to penning her first book, a self-help guide, entitled PAST Perfect! PRESENT: Tense! Insights From One Woman's Journey as the Wife of a Widower. Her personal website hosts a helpful message board for women dating or married to widowers. The following year after her first book was launched, Julie switched genres and wrote again from life experience, this time with humour. Her comically illustrated book Parentally Insane: Insights From The Edge...of Midlife! has been compared, much to Julie's delight, to the writing style of the late Erma Bombeck, her idol.

At present, Julie's works can be read on over 200 websites internationally. She has continued her freelance writing career enthusiastically, with published articles and stories appearing in print publications such as Metro Seven (Australia), Family Digest, and Golden Living magazines. Julie is currently working on her next humour book, entitled Lance Romance In His Underpants: A Girls' Guide to 'Guy Things' as well as a tear-jerker book of letters from a mother to her daughter spanning 30 years, entitled I'll Always Be With You: Memoirs Of A Mother's Love. This is her second writing contest win.

Visit Julie’s websites:

If you have not done so already, read Julie's runner-up entry here.

Interveiwed by: Anne Greenawalt

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the WOW! Fall 2008 Personal Essay Contest! When you saw the topic for WOW’s Fall 2008 contest, did you know immediately what you wanted to write about, or did you need time to mull it over?

Julie: Being that I usually write about my life experiences, I have a library of ideas always floating around in my head, ripe for the picking. Drawing on my early childhood home, as well as my life as a wife of a former widower, helped me pen the two winning articles I submitted for the contest.

WOW: That's right--not only did your essay "Lady of the House?" earn the runner-up prize, but your other essay "Country Fried City Girl" earned an honorable mention. Your writing resume doesn't end there, either. Which of your many writing accomplishments makes you most proud?

Julie: I have written two books of which I am extremely proud. My first book, "PAST: Perfect! PRESENT: Tense! Insights From One Woman's Journey as the Wife of a Widower" has been one of my publisher's best sellers, and continues to help women deal with their relationships and resulting issues. Because of this book's popularity, I have been able to open a message board for wives and girlfriends of widowers, where they can find support, advice, encouragement, and hope among their fellow "sisters."

My second book, "Parentally Insane: Insights From The Edge of Midlife" is an illustrated humour book. After years of researching grief information for the first book, "Parentally Insane" was a breath of fresh air. Penning it allowed me to stretch my skills as a writer. I had a lot of fun with it, and it's nice to hear from female readers who not only appreciate the humour that can be found in aging, but who can also relate to the serious physical and emotional ups and downs of parenting in their 30's , 40's, and beyond.

WOW: It sounds like you have experience writing and publishing in different genres. Do you have a preference between writing fiction and non-fiction?

Julie: As someone who wears her heart on her sleeve and writes from life experience, non-fiction is my genre of choice only because it seems to come easier to me than fiction. Although "Parentally Insane" is fictional, many of the ideas came from life with my own insane family (but don't tell them!).

WOW: Don’t worry--my lips are sealed! Did you enjoy your time as a speech writer? How does speech writing compare to other types of writing?

Julie: Oh yes, I thoroughly enjoyed speechwriting because it gave me personal, intimate insight into the political process. It also gave me a chance to express some of my own political opinions through someone else! I am terrified of public speaking, so translating a like-minded politician's views into my own words gave voice to my deeply held beliefs while, at the same time, remaining true to the politican(s) and constituents whom my speech represented. It is thrilling when the speech you write snags a sound bite by the media, but even more exciting when your speech brings a crowd to tears...or to their feet! To me, that is what writing is all about: moving people emotionally and/or giving them food for thought.

WOW: It must be quite an experience to watch others' reactions to your writing. Eliciting an emotional response in your readers/listeners is definitely motivation to keep writing. What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

Julie: "Write what you know and love." This piece of advice has never failed me. Also, my grade school English teachers deserve a nod for how they demanded proper grammar and correct spelling from their charges. There is nothing more off-putting than reading something chock full of grammatical errors, which brings me to my second best piece of advice: editing is key. I edit my works at least fifty times before submitting. It's amazing just what you can catch, even on the fiftieth edit!

WOW: Thank you, Julie! Keep up the great writing!

To find out more about WOW's quarterly contests, please visit: http://wow-womenonwriting.com/contest.php


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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

 

Interview with Madeline Mora-Summonte, Runner-Up

Madeline Mora-Summonte’s work has appeared in over 20 publications, including Highlights for Children, Storyhouse, and Every Day Fiction. She’s written poetry, personal essays and book reviews, but her first love is fiction in all its forms, from flash to novels. Every week, she attends a writing workshop where the talent and the creativity of the group continues to amaze her. The workshop, led by mystery author Blaize Clement, is where the seeds of this story took root. For the fifth consecutive year, Madeline is participating in November’s National Novel Writing Month. A four time winner, her goal this year is an extremely rough draft of a YA horror novel.

She lives with her husband/best friend in beautiful Sarasota where they don’t spend nearly enough time walking on the beach and collecting seashells as they’d like.

You can visit her website at http://www.madelinemora-summonte.com/

Interviewed by: Anne Greenawalt

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the Summer 2008 Flash Fiction Contest! The last paragraph of your story gives me goosebumps! It’s great! Where’d you get your idea or inspiration for this story?

Madeline: Thank you so much! What a wonderful compliment! This story emerged - almost whole - from a writing exercise. I attend a weekly writing workshop, led by mystery author Blaize Clement, where the group does semi-timed writing based on a given word or phrase. The one that triggered this story was “a disguise.” Who knew, right? But that’s the magic of writing.

WOW: I guess I should never underestimate the power of a simple writing exercise! NaNoWriMo, on the other hand, is not a simple exercise. I saw on your website that you participated in and completed NaNoWriMo for the past five years. That’s quite a feat! Does it get any easier each year you complete it? Do you have ideas before you start, or do you just dive in head first on November 1st?

Madeline: Let me just say first off that I LOVE NaNoWriMo. I look forward to it like a kid looks forward to Christmas. I pull out my NaNo t-shirts, wipe out my NaNo mug, display my NaNo postcards and other goodies. Even my husband gets into it, presenting me with a “good luck” card at the start and a “congratulations” one at the end!

Every year is different. I think I winged it a couple of times, but I prefer some level of preparation so I usually approach it with a particular project in mind, notes and brief character sketches at the ready. I do play with different genres. This year I tried a YA horror/mystery type of thing, and it was a lot of fun.

WOW: Have you used, or do you plan to use, any of the material from NaNoWriMo for your short stories/flash fiction?

Madeline: I don’t think so. Somewhere in my mind I have a dividing line - novels over here, short stories/flash over there. I have noticed, though, that while the novel ideas tend to stay put, the flash ideas like to cross over and settle down.

WOW: Have you considered writing a novel for publication? If yes, are you working on one now? If no, why not?

Madeline: I am in the process of revising a novel. I love writing flash fiction, but my ultimate goal is to be a novelist. I’ve lost count of the number of manuscripts banished to my closet. Some of those never made it out for submission - I knew they just weren’t good enough. Others came close to securing an agent - requests for partials and fulls kept coming. One ms (a NaNo novel!) actually managed to snag an agent - she wasn’t able to sell it, though, and after our contract was up, we amicably parted ways.

But I have learned something from every single one of those manuscripts and experiences, and I am a better writer for it today. It’s a process, and one I hope I don’t ever stop learning from and growing with.

WOW: Also on your website, I read how you started creating stories by dictating them to your mother. I got started as a writer by dictating stories to my parents, too. At the time, did writing down the stories make your nightmares more controllable? Do you find that writing now helps you organize and control your thoughts, too?

Madeline: If I remember correctly, it helped at the time. Now, though, some of the scariest things I come across are from stories and books!

I sometimes use my journal to unclutter my mind, but I don’t use fiction writing to organize my thoughts. If anything, that’s where I let it all out - the craziest, the scariest, the dumbest ideas -plop out on the paper.

WOW: It’s always a great feeling to let it all out! What do you hope to accomplish next in your writing career?

Madeline: You know that feeling you get when you read a great story or a wonderful book? How you can’t wait to tell people about it, how you can’t wait for someone you know to read it so you can discuss it? I’ve had that experience many times and, for a reader, there’s nothing like it. That’s what I want to do. I want to give that feeling to other readers, just like it was, and still is, given to me, by so many great writers.

Click this link to read Madeline’s award winning entry. For more information on Madeline and her writing, you can visit her website. www.MadelineMora-Summonte.com.

Last week to enter the Winter '09 Flash fiction Contest with Guest Judge Literary Agent Janet Reid! Visit the Contest Page.


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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

 

Interview with Gayle Carline, Runner Up in the Summer 2008 Flash Fiction Contest!

Gayle Carline was a software engineer for over 20 years, until she finally chewed her way out the cubicle and became a freelance writer. She quickly became a regular contributor to California Riding Magazine, and in 2005, began writing a weekly humor column, What a Day, for her local newspaper, the Placentia News-Times.

Although she came late to the writing party, Gayle is making up for lost time. Her humor essays have been recognized in contests held by both Humor Press and the Watermark Writer’s Conference, and she wrote a screenplay for the 48-Hour Film Project, an international competition. Her debut novel, Freezer Burn, will soon be published by Echelon Press.

Gayle lives with her husband, Dale, their teenage son, Marcus, and a small zoo that includes two horses. In her spare time, she likes to laugh with friends over a glass of wine. You can visit her at http://www.gaylecarline.com/.

WOW: Congratulations on placing as one of the Runners Up in our Summer 2008 Flash Fiction contest! How do you feel?

Gayle: As writers, we do our best and think it's good, but sometimes we wonder if we're biased, so it always feels great to be validated. Thanks so much for the recognition.

WOW: It's well deserved! Could you tell us a little about your story and what encouraged the idea behind "Quarter Life?"


Gayle: "Quarter Life" actually came from an online writer's group I belong to, the Orange County Writer's Meetup. We had a member for awhile, Victory Crayne, who would provide first or last sentences and let us take it from there. I had recently been to Vegas with a girlfriend, so an opening line about a guy turning his collar up to the cold suddenly made me picture a down-on-his-luck gambling addict on the streets of Vegas. It's a departure from my usual writing, which tends toward humor.

WOW: It's always interesting to hear about a story's background. Have you written other flash fiction? What type of writing do you most prefer?

Gayle: I'm actually pretty popular at 250 words or less (LOL). I've attended several Southern California Writer's Conferences (www.writersconference.com) and entered their flash fiction contest each time. Of 5 entries, I've won twice and been runner-up once. I usually look at the prompt and go, "nah, I can't think of anything." Then I think of something. When writing fiction, I like my stories dry with a twist.

My favorite type of writing is the humor essay. James Thurber, Erma Bombeck, Dave Barry, and Gordon Kirkland are my heroes. When I'm not writing fiction, I write a weekly humor column for the Placentia News-Times. It's about my home and family life. I would describe it as non-fiction, although my husband says he has his doubts. I never lie—but I do exaggerate.

WOW: So you're good at flash fiction, non-fiction, and you've also written a book. Your first novel, Freezer Burn, is coming out soon. You must be very excited! What did it take to complete that big goal?

Gayle: It took two SoCal Writer's Conferences, a trip to Paso Robles, my girlfriend, Robin, and a wicked bartender.

I got the first idea at my first conference, for a guy who hires a PI to find an ice cube tray in his freezer. In the meantime, Robin and I had been joking about a new PI for our times: Peri Menopause. She solves every crime by eating chocolate, weeping and bitch-slapping people until they confess. I combined the two ideas and asked myself, what else could Peri find in a freezer? The rest of the plot came to me as I slept while my hubby and I drove to Paso Robles for a horse show. I started writing the plot, then when we went on vacation that summer, I asked Mark the bartender if he could think of a cool signature drink for my heroine—something she saved her pennies for. He came up with a dirty martini, the perfect drink for a gal who used to clean houses for a living. Finally, at the San Diego SCWC, I met Karen Syed of Echelon Press (www.echelonpress.com). She read 20 pages of the novel and said, "Give me the rest if it's ready."

I had no idea if it was ready, but I gave it one more good scrubbing and sent it in. She loved it.

And yes, I'm very excited! Every time I see my cover art, my tail starts wagging!

WOW: It sounds like a great read! We will definitely keep a lookout for Freezer Burn. Aspiring authors would probably love to know more about your writing routines. For example, where do you write? How many hours (or words) a day do you write?

Gayle: I wouldn't recommend my routine to anyone - it's fairly chaotic, although I'm organized about it. I start with a spreadsheet that gives me the clues, who finds them, and some info like day, location, etc. Time tends to leap around in my stories, so I need to keep track of which day it is, even if I don't specifically mention it. Then I write a little in the morning, in between loads of laundry, and anything I have to do for my teenager (I volunteer at his school). Then I run errands and usually go to the ranch and ride my horse. After I fix dinner in the evening, I open my document and write more.


And, as unproductive and wacky as all that sounds, I still managed to write Freezer Burn (about 70,000 words) in three months.

WOW: That's very inspirational, thanks—especially for us momwriters! According to your bio, you were a software engineer for over 20 years before becoming a freelance writer. How did you orchestrate that change, and how would you compare your life then and now?


Gayle: There were a few things happening at that time. One is that, as much as I enjoyed the technical aspects of my job, I was the lead on a proposal that kept dragging out and keeping me from the work I liked. The desire to write more pulled at me as I grew unhappier with my job. The second event was that I had bred my mare; she was due to foal in April and I really wanted to spend a lot of time imprinting with the baby. The last "thing" was just the fact that I was getting home late every night and not spending a lot of time with my 12-year old. I wanted to be in the room when he had something to say. I talked it over with my husband, that my ideal life would be writing, tending to my horses, and spending time with my family.

I'm married to a generous (if laconic) man. He said yes.

There's not much about my engineering life I would like to return to - except the salary!

WOW: How great that you've created a satisfying life built around family, writing, and your beloved horses. Do you have any final words of wisdom for our women readers/writers?

Gayle: Words of wisdom? Wait - let me stop laughing... it took me nearly fifty years to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up.

If you're a writer, write. Don't sit and whine about how you want to if only you could think of something to write about, or don't have time, or blah-blah-blah. Write a journal. Look up some writing prompts. Find a picture in a magazine and make up a story about it. Even if it's 20 words a day, it's 20 more words than you had yesterday.

And whether you're a writer or not, find your own bliss, then spread it around.

How's that?


WOW: Just perfect! Thanks, Gayle. Be sure to let us know when your novel comes out, so we can spread the word.

*****




Every Tuesday we're featuring an interview with a top 10 winner from the Summer 2008 Flash Fiction contest. Visit next week to see who's next!

Also, check out WOW! Women On Writing's current contest. The deadline for entries is February 28, 2009.

--Marcia Peterson

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

 

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?

James: 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?

James: 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?

James: 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.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

 

Interview with Shannon Caster, Runner Up in the 2008 Spring Flash Fiction Contest


Interviewed by Jill Earl

Shannon Caster has been writing since she first found her mother’s manual typewriter at the age of seven. Back then, all her stories started with, “It was a dark and stormy night.” Luckily, Shannon has found new openings for her stories. Her work has appeared in such publications as Highlights for Children, Ask! Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, and Pockets Magazine. Shannon is currently perfecting her young adult novel, which is sure to capture the perfect agent’s attention.

When Shannon is not taking care of her husband, two kids, three dogs, and calico cat, she enjoys volunteering, reading, and enjoying the sights of Portland, Oregon. To find out more about Shannon, visit her website at www.shannoncaster.com.

Click on the link to read Shannon's touching story, “Remembrance”, then come back and join us as we sit down with her for a chat.

WOW!: Congratulations on being a runner-up in our Spring ’08 Flash Fiction Contest! How are you feeling about it all?

Shannon: First of all, I want to thank everyone at WOW and Seal Press for organizing and sponsoring the Spring Flash Fiction Contest. It’s an amazing opportunity for authors to show off their talents.

The entire experience has been a thrill ride for me. When I first heard I was a finalist I about fell out of my chair. So when the news came that I was a runner up, I had to have my kids help me off the floor. It’s been a huge honor and I’m glad I took the leap and entered the contest.

WOW!: We’re glad you entered also. Not only was your story wonderful, it held such emotion! Can you tell us about the inspiration behind “Remembrance”?

Shannon: The idea for “Remembrance” first came to me after a very scary experience with my son in which he started choking and I had to give him the Heimlich. During the entire ordeal the world stopped and the only thing that mattered was hearing my son take a breath. I was fortunate to have my husband there and I kept wondering what I would have done if I’d been alone? Would I have been able to stay calm? What if my son had gone limp? That’s when I started playing around with the idea for “Remembrance.” Next thing I know the main character is on the side of a busy road, fighting to get her child out of the car seat, and nobody’s there to help her.

WOW!: No wonder your story was so powerful! I believe your piece serves as a good example of writing about what you know. I also think that it’s interesting that in your piece you show that adoptive mothers have maternal instincts. What made you take this direction in your piece?

Shannon: Both my mother and I were adopted as very young babies, so we’ve shared a lot of stories over the years. My mother used to talk about how she sometimes wondered if she had that “maternal instinct” or not. Let me be the first to tell you, I wouldn’t be here today if my mother didn’t have an extra dose of maternal instinct. As a toddler, I had an allergic reaction to an antibiotic I was given at the hospital. Right after the doctor left the room, my mother grabbed me and chased the doctor down saying I didn’t look right. A few moments later I was in anaphylactic shock. I was a magnet for dangerous situations as a child and somehow I survived it all—thanks to my mom’s material instinct she worried so much about.

WOW!: Thanks for sharing that, it really adds an extra element to your piece. Let's turn to your writing preferences. Do you prefer nonfiction or fiction or a combination of both?

Shannon: I write both fiction and nonfiction. Most of my nonfiction is centered around science and history pieces for children’s magazines and educational stories for teachers. I love research, so writing nonfiction is like play time for me. When it comes to fiction, my audience is primarily young adults and adults. I find it rewarding to write fiction, but it’s harder for me because the answers aren’t black and white. I never know where my character will take me until the end.

WOW!: Isn’t it fascinating how sometimes our characters won't let us--the writer-- know what they--the character--is up to? I'm curious, you did a fantastic job with your entry, is this the first time you’ve tackled flash fiction? If so, did you find it easy or difficult?

Shannon: This was the second flash fiction piece I’ve written for an audience. I’m always writing short humorous stories for family and friends, but those pieces are much easier to write. You don’t have to worry about getting in all the essential background pieces because everyone knows Uncle Troy jumped off a rope swing and landed in a blackberry patch when he was younger. I find when I write flash fiction, I end up cutting twenty percent of what I’ve written, then have to add ten percent to make sure I didn’t miss an important connection.

WOW!: That’s great advice for those of us wanting to try flash fiction out for ourselves. How about you? What kind of writing makes you sit up and take notice?

Shannon: Writing that tugs at my emotions. If you can make me laugh out loud at the doctor’s office, wipe tears from my eyes at the library, or make me scream when someone knocks on the door, then I’m hooked. If you can do all three in one novel, then I’m buying copies for my friends and family.

WOW!: What about books? What kind catch your eye and why? Do you happen to have a favorite one and/or author?

Shannon: Looking at my bookshelves, I’d say the list of what doesn’t catch my eye is shorter. I love books—picture books, middle grade, young adult, adult fiction and nonfiction. My husband has a rule about how close my growing collection of books can get to the fireplace in my office. Maybe I should close my office door so he doesn’t have to worry so much?

My all time favorite picture book is Tuesday by David Wiesner. What’s not to love about frogs flying around a town late at night? My favorite adult author has to be Iris Johansen. I can’t get enough of her Eve Duncan forensic sculptor storylines.

WOW!: I hear you on the growing book collection situation! I’ve cut back on adding to my collection---sort of. You bio mentioned that you're currently working on a young adult novel. Can you share a bit about it?

Shannon: I’d love to! The story is about sixteen-year-old Eva Van Patterson, a fashion savvy, technology obsessed ghost, who has been waiting eighty years for her boyfriend to come home. To pass the time, Eva occasionally meddles in the affairs of those living in her home. But who can blame her? If you have access to a cell phone, why not reach out and text someone? So when fifteen-year-old Nikki, a girl who sees and hears ghosts, moves into Eva’s home, the tables quickly turn. Nikki begins prying into Eva’s past, forcing Eva to reexamine her life and death. In order for Eva to be reunited with her boyfriend, she must live out her dreams, discover the secrets surrounding her untimely and embarrassing death, and address the one fact she’s avoided the past eight decades: Is her lost love still out there waiting for her?

WOW!: Sounds like you've got another great read in store for us! Since you've got quite a bit of experience under your belt, what kind of advice would you offer aspiring women writers?

Shannon: Find your true voice. In sixth grade, I thought writing was about spelling, grammar, punctuation and paragraphs. Wait, handwriting too! Whew, Mrs. Baker would be so proud I remembered the proper way to make a capital cursive G. But it wasn’t until after college when I was teaching writing to my students that I realized the heart of the story is in the voice. How we tell the story is just as important as the story itself.

WOW!: Finding and maintaining my true voice in my writing is one of the things I find myself struggling with and you’ve offered some great advice on tackling this.

I noticed in your bio that you truly have a menagerie in your home with three dogs and a cat. I love animals myself. What are your pets' names?

Shannon: Menagerie, I like that. Sounds more sophisticated than zoo. Our akita is named Yumi and our basenjis are Osiris and Zaire. The cat is Avvy, which is short for Avalanche.

WOW!: Avalanche! How in the world did you come to name your cat Avalanche?

Shannon: Avvy came by her name honestly. As a kitten she was a little white ball of fur that tumbled off everything she tried to jump on. Jump on couch, tumble down. Jump on bed, tumble off. She looked like a little snowball rolling down the hill, the one that starts an avalanche. The name seemed to fit her perfectly. Thankfully, over the last thirteen years she mastered the art of jumping. Now she teases the dogs with her acrobatic leaping feats. I had a dog named Fluffy as a kid (and one named Precious). Mom's choice, not mine. I knew then I needed cooler pet names when I grew up. :-D

WOW!: That's quite the tale, pun intended! Thank you for your interview, Shannon, it was delightful getting to know you better. We’re looking forward to seeing more of your writing in the future. Best of luck to you!

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