Tricia Bowering: Summer 2009 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up
Here's a little about Tricia:
Tricia Bowering was born and raised British Columbia, where she eventually studied psychology at the University of Victoria. She now makes her home in Vancouver, where she keeps busy with work and spending time with her family. She recalls writing short stories as early as grade two and all throughout high school, but years of study and work slowly pushed writing aside. Finally, she has returned to writing as a serious pursuit and has enjoyed reconnecting with her creative voice. She looks forward to writing more short fiction and entering lots of contests in the future.
By the way, Tricia's been here before. She also placed as a runner up in the 2009 Winter Flash Fiction contest!
WOW: Congratulations, Tricia, on your second win in WOW!'s flash fiction contests. What made you enter another one of your stories in this contest?
Tricia: It is such an honor to be recognized by the WOW! team for this contest! I truly enjoy the process of writing, and very short fiction is a challenging yet rewarding, medium. Once the story is done, it’s always fun to have your work out there for others to read, and placing in the contest is a bonus. I also appreciate the critique option that’s offered, as it’s always valuable. I took the last suggestions to heart and experimented with a new writing process for this contest.
WOW: Thanks for sharing information about the critique service that is offered with the contest. Many writers have probably wondered if it's worth the extra fee; and obviously, you are benefiting from it! How is this winning story similar to or different from your other story, "When My Grandmother Made Perogies?"
Tricia: The stories ended up having very different styles. In my previous entry, "When My Grandmother Made Perogies," I started with a memory from my distant childhood and developed that idea, so that imagery took center stage. The description of the event (the sights, smells, and feel of making perogies), became a central feature; and the interaction between granddaughter and grandmother was almost secondary. With "Remembrance," I started with a pivotal event: a public health nurse’s visit to an elderly client in the community, suffering from dementia. I tried to use description effectively once again to evoke setting and character; but this time, I focused more intensely on the interactions between the nurse and her elderly client. I also tried to develop a coherent plot with beginning, middle, and end.
WOW: And that's not easy in under 750 words! In this season's story, "Remembrance," you explore the theme of dementia in the elderly. Why did you write a flash fiction story on such a complicated and heartbreaking issue?
Tricia: Indeed, this theme resonates with me; both in my career and personal life, I’ve known individuals who have dementia. This illness forces us to confront our feelings around loss, and it is not easy. I hoped to show that there is so much value in a person’s life (as Anita can see as she tours around the house and sees clues of a life well-lived) and not to forget that when confronted with a person who may need help in the face of this devastating illness. I was also taken with the way that Anita had to confront her fears and sadness over her own mother’s illness, leading to a real sense of connection between Mrs. Simpson and Anita. Their roles as nurse and patient were briefly reversed when Mrs. Simpson comforted her.
WOW: It's easy to see, even from your description here, why this was a winning story. It's a well-crafted story with a well-developed theme. When you sit down to write a flash fiction piece, what is your process?
Tricia: I’m not sure I have one process. Occasionally, the writing flows naturally from a scene in my mind, or a memory; and I sit and write the whole story in one sitting. Other times, like with "Remembrance," I take my time, lingering over each sentence. Often, the hardest part is to get the first draft onto paper; but after that the editing process can be fun--shaping the story into what may turn out to be something quite different than I first imagined.
WOW: I agree 100% that editing and revising your work can be fun. I am always saying to myself, "Just get it on paper. You can do it. It doesn't have to be good." (Smiles) Flash fiction writing usually takes a lot of revision and a lot of word-cutting. (Sometimes, it's harder to write a short piece than a long piece!) What is your revision process like? How do you decide what to cut?
Tricia: As I mentioned, I find self-editing a fun, but challenging, process. In the first draft, I let all my ideas flow freely without much thought to the final product, and that’s a crucial part of my creative process. However, when it comes time to edit, brutal honesty must prevail. For the second draft, I concentrate on story essentials: plot, character, setting, and how description and dialogue help those elements come together. Once I have the story that I want, I pick through the draft several times for unnecessary words, such as those pesky adverbs. Any sentence or description that doesn’t directly serve the story is cut. Flash fiction is good discipline! I usually agonize over the last two or three words for a couple of days before I finally send my submission.
WOW: Let's repeat that quote for all to read again: "Flash fiction is good discipline!" I love how you mention those pesky adverbs and how you agonize over two or three words. It shows in your writing that you're carefully choosing your language and sculpting your work. Have you made any 2010 writing goals or resolutions that you could share with us today?
Tricia: Absolutely. I took a writing course last fall; and now I’ve become a part of a writing critique group. It’s a great development because making a commitment to submit writing for the group every month keeps me motivated. I may take another course later in the year (perhaps on self-editing!), and I’d like to enter another WOW! contest. Thanks again for giving emerging writers this opportunity.
WOW: You're welcome, Tricia, and good luck with your goals. We wish you much success in 2010.
Interview by Margo L. Dill