Interview with Second Place Flash Fiction Winner: Theresa Mae Leitch
What a treat for The Muffin
readers today--an interview with 2nd place flash fiction contest winner, Theresa Mae Leitch. Her winning story, "Mommy's Here," is the story of a new mom, trying to get her baby asleep and fight her addiction to cutting. If you haven't had a chance to read it yet, you can do so here
Since I was a kid, I’ve been writing stories and ripping them up before anyone could see them. Now that I’m in my 30s, I’ve finally got the ovaries to share my work with others. It’s amazing what a fun career, two amazing kids, a loving partner and a prescription for Prozac can do for one’s confidence. Besides, I’m finding that it’s a lot harder to rip up my stories now that they’re on a computer.
I have a weird but enjoyable job as a lawyer who runs a library and implements knowledge management initiatives at a large Canadian law firm. In between work and family, I’m polishing my first novel and trying to learn about the crazy world of publishing.WOW: Congratulations, Theresa, on your 2nd place win. Your story of a woman who uses cutting to get through raising her baby is so realistic and heartbreaking. What made you want to write this story?Theresa:
Thank you. I'm really excited about placing second, especially since this story means a lot to me.
I find it fascinating how self-destructive acts can seem utterly logical to someone who is suffering from mental illness, and I wanted to explore that. Depression is a horrible disease, all the worse because it affects the way you think. Often, the sicker you are, the harder it is to figure out that you need help. My character needs to take care of her baby, and cutting lets her do that. So to her, it makes sense to do it. Why get help? It's all under control.WOW: You portray that very well in your story--how relieved she is when she finally cuts and how normal it is to her. You did a fantastic job! How hard was it to put such a gripping story into so few words? You manage to tell us a whole story and let us into the character's life.
That's a terrific compliment, thanks. It was tough keeping the word count so low, but what a great writing exercise it turned out to be! Flash fiction really makes you pause and ask yourself if you really need that sentence or that adverb. I've seen an improvement in my longer fiction as a result.WOW: That's great to hear that winning this contest is also helping your writing. It's like winning two prizes! From your bio, it is easy to tell that you have a great sense of humor. Does this ever slip into your writing, or is it just how you deal with the life of a writer? :)
It's how I deal with everything! Humor is the best defense mechanism in the world. I do try to incorporate some humor into my writing here and there.WOW: So true--humor can help us in our everyday lives, too. Your bio also mentioned that you used to rip up your stories. What made you decide to finally start letting other people read your work, including entering it into contests?
I got an iPod. Seriously!
A couple of years back, I made a big change in my life. I left practicing law to become a knowledge management professional. It's a fantastic job; and although there are stresses and occasional bouts of overtime, I have a lot more time for myself after work and family. That got me writing again, in a way I hadn't had time for in many years.
Then I bought the iPod; and at work one day, I was listening to one of my desert island albums (Haunted
by Poe). I was struck by the lyrics to a song called "Walk the Walk:"My mother spent 10 years sitting by a windowScared if she spoke she would die of a heart attackShe listened as her dreams silently screamedThey drowned like little dolphins caught in a fishnet
I don't want my kids to be able to say that about me.WOW: Those are powerful lyrics, and I'm sure many people reading those are thinking the same thing that you said about your own children. Isn't it strange how an almost unrelated event--getting an iPod--can change the course of your life? Tell us a little about your novel that you are polishing.
It's a suspense thriller. Ally Stone is a serial killer who believes that she's the reincarnation of Medusa, destined to protect women from the men who abuse them. But she's not always right about the guilt of her victims.
I've put the first draft aside for a while so I can go back to it with fresh eyes; and in the meantime, I'm outlining a YA novel about a girl in love with a soul condemned to eternally walk the earth, and her fight to free him from his condemnation.WOW: Those both sound fantastic. I love the plot for the suspense thriller, especially that the serial killer believes she is Medusa. Very interesting! What is your writing routine like since you are juggling your writing and a career as a lawyer?
I do a lot of prep-work away from the keyboard. I imagine the scenes I want to write about and daydream myself as the different characters. I do this all the time - on the streetcar, when I'm watching Kung Fu Panda
with my sons (for the millionth time).Then, when I sit down to write, I have a really good idea of what's happening in the scene and why, which allows me to bang it out pretty fast. When things aren't too busy at work, I'll do the physical writing at night four or five times a week. Other times, I'll only get an hour or so every few weeks.WOW: It sounds like a plan that is working for you, and we hope it continues. Thanks again for talking with us today, Theresa. We hope to read more from you soon! interview conducted by Margo Dill, www.margodill.com, http://margodill.com/blog/,
Labels: flash fiction contest winner, Margo Dill, Second Place, Theresa Mae Leitch
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.
* * * * * *WOW: Linda, congratulations on your 2nd place win! How do you feel?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.--MP
Labels: Linda Courtland, Marcia Peterson, Second Place, W. W. Norton, WOW Winter 2008 Contest
Donna Wilkins short story, Nearly Rich and Famous
is one that you're not likely to forget. Who can forget a story about a talking dog?
If you haven't read it yet, you'll have to check it out... it's bound to make you laugh!
Join us as we interview Donna and get to know the wonderful writer behind the story and find out what sparked her creativity.
***WOW: Congratulations on winning Second Place in the Winter 2007 flash fiction contest! How does it feel to win?Donna:
Placing second in the WOW fiction contest was very exciting and encouraging. This is the first award I have ever received for my writing, so it means a great deal to me. This award, and being published on the WOW website
, made it feel official; I really am a writer!WOW: You mentioned you've only been writing for a year - that's amazing. What prompted you to start writing?Donna:
It only took me fifty years to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I finally began writing barely a year ago. It wasn’t any one thing that prompted me to begin a writing career; it was more an accumulation of stories and characters that kept running through my mind and I just had to let them out. I’ve always had a vivid imagination but had never felt an inclination to write when I was younger. I believe my reluctance to try writing was a result of the strict emphasis put on proper form that was taught in school. Not that proper form is a bad thing of course, but for some people, like me, creativity can be hindered because of fear of failure. I hope other aspiring writers will break out of their shells and forget about their old high school teachers or college professors standing over them with a red pen in hand and that look of disapproval. Just write!!WOW: Oh yes, the dreaded red pen... Beryl has horror stories about that one! But your story is well-structured, and we don't believe in red pens. Did you do a lot of outlining?Donna:
I’m ashamed to admit that I have not been an outline person. Again, this is like breaking one of the ‘Golden Rules”, but usually I write short stories as the inspiration flows. And then, I do at least three rewrites. However, for a novel, I believe an outline is a must. I’m working on the first draft of my first novel and I learned the value of an outline the hard way. My first draft has serious plot problems (that I will resolve!) that would have been avoided by doing a detailed outline first.
I am also rather undisciplined with my writing time, although I seem to be the most inspired at night. That’s when I’m feeling the most creative, but then the next morning, when I’m fresher, I have to check on all that pesky technical stuff like format, sentence structure, grammar, and punctuation.WOW: You have the same schedule as I do; I seem to be most inspired at night as well. Probably because it's nice and quiet. So as a free-flowing creative writer who doesn't outline or have a strict writing schedule, it must be hard to taper your creativity into the word count...Donna:
I found the limited word count for this story very challenging. It’s difficult to develop much of a story line with so few words. Actually the limited word count was part of what inspired me to write about a talking dog. Animals can speak volumes without saying a word. And the dog in my story was based on my daughter’s greyhound, Mickey. He dislikes dog food, and being unusually tall for his breed, if left unattended, he can easily steal food off the kitchen counter or table. I’m certain that if this animal could speak, he would give us a detailed, and probably persuasive, argument as to why he should not have to eat dog food while we get all the ‘good stuff’.WOW: Yes, I agree. That's why your story is so funny! It had me laughing out loud. For most writers, it's not an easy task to write humor. Are there any 'craft of writing' books that have helped you write comic scenes?Donna:
For the past year I have been reading stacks of books on creative writing, but the most important one for me was a book titled ‘Write Great Fiction; Plot and Structure’ by James Scott Bell. Plot and structure was one on my weak points and this book has helped me a lot, so I highly recommend it. Writing comedy seems to come naturally to me; I’m not sure if it can be taught. I think you just have to have a ‘feel’ for it. WOW: So, how about authors or genres, do you have any favorites?Donna:
Humor is definitely my favorite type of short story, but when it comes to novels my first love is fantasy. C. S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien are two of my favorite authors and after them is the classiest romance writer of all time, Jane Austen. But she didn’t just write great romance, she also made important statements about the injustices of women living in her time. I believe in the statement that the pen is mightier than the sword, and the influence of authors like her have helped to change the world for the better. Young people today have many unwholesome and negative influences to deal with, and it is my hope to someday write novels that will have a positive effect on them. I think that the best literature is fun and entertaining to read while having a constructive message. WOW: Well put, and I'm sure you'll do just that! Do you have any parting words for our readers?Donna:
I want to take this opportunity to thank Betsy Gallup
for choosing my story, and a special thanks to the staff and editors of WOW
. I heartily recommend entering contests for writers; it’s a great way to have contact with others in your profession, and reading the past winners’ stories is an excellent way to hone your own writing skills. Also, having a deadline to meet is good discipline, and of course the hope of scoring an award and some prize money can help to move a stubborn writer’s block. And, getting to see your story in print is awesome! WOW:
Thanks Donna! And thank you for taking the time out to answer our questions. Please keep us up to date on any exciting developments in your writing career! Be sure to drop us an e-mail when you receive your prize-pack. ;-)
Read Donna Wilkins' story and others in the Winter 2007 Flash Fiction Contest Winners Feature
Labels: Donna Wilkins, flash fiction contest winner, Second Place, short story
Diana Ewing's story, "The Gift of the Mac Guy," delighted us all and warmed our hearts. And since it was the perfect story for the holiday season, we had to ask Diana her inspiration behind it. Here's what she had to say:WOW: What inspired you to write this story?Diana:
I thought and thought about how to use your pom-pom theme, dismissing every idea I came up with. Finally, because the holidays were approaching, I happened to think about the old O. Henry story, "The Gift of the Magi." And, voila, my story was born!WOW: That's great Diana! Taking an old story and tailoring it to fit the prompt. I had no idea where it came from, but it was absolutely wonderful. Can you tell our readers what you're working on right now?Diana:
Besides my regular freelance P.R. and copywriting work, I'm working on my nonfiction humor book proposal, refining my first three chapters and writing a synopsis toward the late January writers' conference in San Diego.WOW: That's great to see you're staying busy writing and attending events. Do you enter many writing contests?Diana:
This is the first fiction writing contest I've ever entered.WOW: Well, congratulations! And how was the experience of entering the WOW! Fall 2006 Flash Fiction Contest been for you?Diana:
I was attracted to your fun and clever prompt and found the rules and guidelines for entering the contest to be very clear and easy to follow. Plus, the prize package is amazing! I would suggest to all short fiction contests that they provide a prompt because it puts all the stories on a more equal footing.WOW: Well said. In fact, that's the whole idea behind the prompt! It does level the playing field for all writers. We've seen first hand that it's not the experience of the writer that counts here, it's the way the story is told, and the way it is written. And you can see from the diverse entries that experimental writing is encouraged!
Diana, thanks for answering our questions, and we look forward to your article in our February Issue's Freelancer's Corner.
If you haven't read Diana's entry yet, check it out here: http://wow-womenonwriting.com/5-fallcontestwinners.php
Labels: Diana Ewing, Diana J. Ewing, Fall 2006, Flash Fiction Contest, Second Place, Winner, WOW Women On Writing, writing contest