Interview with James Tipton, Summer '09 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up
James Tipton lives in the tropical mountains of central Mexico where he writes short poems and short fiction. He is also Associate Editor of the monthly magazine in English, published in Mexico, El Ojo del Lago (The Eye of the Lake) and Book Review Editor for the on-line magazine, Mexico Connect. He has published more than 1,000 short stories, poems, articles and reviews in North American magazines, including Esquire, The Nation, Christian Science Monitor, American Literary Review, and Field.
His book of poems, "Letters from a Stranger" (with a Foreword by Isabel Allende), won the Colorado Book Award in 1999.
His most recent collections of short poetry are published in bilingual (Spanish and English) editions: "Washing Dishes in the Ancient Village" (Lavando platos en el antiguo pueblo) and "All the Horses of Heaven" (Todos los Caballos del Paraíso). He is currently completing a collection of short stories set in Mexico.
Washing Dishes in the Ancient Village is available through Bread and Butter Press/1150 S. Glencoe/Denver, CO 80246, $10.95 plus $3.00 shipping & handling. All the Horses of Heaven is available through http://www.themetpress.com/
, $12.95 plus $4.00 shipping & handling.
WOW: First of all, congratulations on placing again in WOW’s Flash Fiction Contest! What do you think has helped you in producing winning contest entries?James:
He is currently completing a collection of short stories set in Mexico.
Check out his entry, “And To Think That Only Yesterday
”, then grab your favorite hot drink and come on back for our latest interview with James.Interview by Jill Earl
I think I was initially helped by reading lots of the past winners on the WOW site. I liked some of those stories and I thought, WOW!, maybe I can write stories like that as well. I like short forms of literature, whether fiction or poetry, and I have published hundreds of short poems, many of them as haiku or tanka, including two collections in 2009: “Washing Dishes in the Ancient Village”, and “All the Horses of Heaven”, both in bi-lingual editions (English and Spanish) incidentally.WOW: Studying the entries of past winners is a great way to get a feel for what judges are looking for, not just for our competition, but for others as well. Great advice for future contestants to follow.Speaking of entries, I thoroughly enjoyed reading “And To Think That Only Yesterday”. The imagery was so vivid and rich. What was the inspiration behind it?James:
I like vivid imagery and living here in Mexico life often seems to me to be more vivid, or perhaps I simply have more awareness of how vivid it is.Reading lots of Latin American literature, novelists like my dear friend Isabel Allende (who wrote the introduction to my book, Letters from a Stranger) and Gabriel García Marquez, opened me up to images, including unusual ones, that seemed to penetrate more deeply into reality, so that reality itself shifts, becomes something very fascinating.WOW: Looks like you studied well. You’ve captured the country’s essence in such an appealing manner, I think.Switching gears, you mentioned in your previous interview, that among your many publications, your tanka “All the Horses of Heaven” has been published by Modern English Tanka Press. For those who may not have heard of it, can you explain what tanka is?James:
Yes, basically a tanka is a five-line Japanese form of poetry, unrhymed, usually about aspects of love, and initially written by court ladies in Japan in the 6th or 7th century, and sent in secret to potential lovers. They (the lady and the lover) often communicated or understood their relationship through tanka poetry. Usually there are three lines that are followed by two more than often sum up or comment or expand the first three. The form is much older and in Japan is more popular (I have been told) than haiku. You might enjoy “All the Horses of Heaven” (www.themetpress.com
).WOW: I’ve read a bit about this poetic form, and found it more appealing than haiku. Thanks for the explanation and I’ll be sure to check out “All the Horses of Heaven”.Let’s talk about your writing process. Are there specific themes that you like to explore when you write?James:
I like to explore the age-old themes: love, sex, God, death, what are we doing here in these bodies on this beautiful planet, where did we come from, where will we go? How can we live our lives more deeply?WOW: Amazing how those themes endure, waiting for a writer to approach them from their own unique perspective, and share their findings with the world. It never gets old.What about your writing schedule? Is there a specific one that you follow?James:
I write every day, often in the morning, rarely in the afternoon, often in the evening. When I write I like to focus on writing and really like to be totally alone, locked in my room, so to speak. When I eat, although often with others, I like to focus on food. When I make love, I like to be totally focused on the woman I am with. People have always told me I listen well, but that probably only means I focus on the person talking with me. When I walk, I like to pay attention to walking. So, I guess, attention and focus are important things to me, both in writing and in living.WOW: I agree with you on that. I believe they’re key to the creative process, helps get that story, script, article, poem or whatever you’re writing down and hopefully, published.In your bio, you mention that you’ve been working your collection of short stories. Can you share how that’s coming along?James:
My collection of short stories, tentatively titled "Three Tamales for the Señor", is almost complete. I have three or four story ideas I want to get down into words and include in the book. I hope to have it finished this year, but I have lots of other writing projects including a monthly column called “Hearts at Work” that I write for a magazine in English published in Mexico called El Ojo del Lago, and I review a book each month for Mexico Connect, and I write lots of articles about Mexico for various magazines, like International Living, and I write lots of short poems, some stories.WOW: You’ve definitely stayed busy, James! Is there anything else you’d like to share with WOW! readers?James:
Advice? I’d say keep reading WOW! I have found it stimulating and useful. I like, for example, the January piece by Gretchen Rubin, “20 Questions.” I like going through Premium Green now and then.WOW: Thank you for your insightful interview, James. And again, congratulations, we’ll continue to be on the look out for your work. All the best to you!
To read James’ Summer 2008 interview and contest entry, click here
And to find out more about the poetic form known as tanka, check out the American Tanka
Labels: interview, James Tipton, Jill Earl, WOW Summer 2009 Contest
Interview with Evelyn Addison Ray, WOW! Summer ’09 Contest Runner Up
Evelyn Addison Ray, retired from training and development and community education, has written job materials as a matter of course in all her career, but never fiction. Now, having written two short stories for WOW!, she is proud and delighted to be in the finalists and motivated to continue to write short fiction. She earned a B.A. in Journalism and English and an M.A. in Education Leadership. She and her husband, Gary Holloway, live in Foley, Alabama and are avid travelers.
If you haven’t read her entry, please check it out here, then come back and settle in for our chat with Evelyn.
Interview by Jill Earl
WOW: First of all, welcome to you, Evelyn! How does it feel to be a runner-up in our Summer ’09 contest?
Evelyn: Motivated, absolutely motivated! Of course, I was excited to think that I might have an opportunity to write, and, with humility, I am very proud.
WOW: And you should be, your story was wonderful! Please tell us what was the inspiration behind your story and its title.
Evelyn: In the Seventies, I lived in a large, two-story older home and, then, needed to be extremely thrifty. As a result, I learned to shop at yard sales and estate sales. In that neighborhood, many of the residents were elderly and many sales resulted from their having passed on or been forced to seek institutional care. I think this story started then.
WOW: It’s interesting the varied ways writers become inspired to write their stories, isn’t it? In reading yours, I appreciated its contemplative nature, especially how your character gravitated towards memorabilia such as photos, cards and letters of the estate sales she haunted. What made you take this direction in your piece, as opposed to having her attracted to other antiques?
Evelyn: I believe that for many of us, those whose mark on the world is not evident in visible works or buildings or things, our stories are told in such detritus or remnants. I have often seen boxes of photos in antique stores and at estate sales and wondered how it is possible they are no longer important to anyone. Once, I was at an estate sale and only when I read discarded letters and postcards, did I know that the estate had belonged to a former teacher at my high school. The box of cards and letters told me more about her than any of the furniture being sold.
WOW: I’ve often found myself drawn to the same items when at yard sales and the one estate sale I’ve attended---for the same reasons you’ve mentioned. Reading through this material can stretch the imagination, and serve as a good source of inspiration.
Let’s move to your writing routine. Have you established one, and if so, what’s it like?
Evelyn: Unfortunately, it is very erratic now and one of my 2010 goals is to set a routine and stick to it.
WOW: I think that’s a goal that many of your peers share with you, so you’re not alone! Now, in choosing the writing path, did you always know that you wanted to be a writer?
Evelyn: Yes. I always wanted to write, but believed that my niche would be journalism, particularly news features and editorial writing.
WOW: In your bio, you formerly worked in community education and training & development. How did you make the transition from more technically-oriented writing to fiction writing?
Evelyn: I never considered fiction because I did not see myself as creative. When I retired, WOW gave me the opportunity to take a shot at fiction and get some feedback to test my perceptions of myself.
WOW: We’re glad that WOW! was able to help you explore your creative side, Evelyn, and that it paid off for you!
How about your reading preferences, do you have a favorite writer?
Evelyn: Not one, but many favorites. Among the contemporary writers, I read and re-read are Pat Conroy, Amy Tan, Rick Bragg, and P.D. James. ‘Hall of Fame’ writers for me are Ayn Rand, Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Isabel Allende. and on and on. I love to listen to books on tape, as well are read the written word.
WOW: That’s quite a list there, Evelyn! I see we have similar tastes. I think being well-read contributes to making a writer more well-rounded in their work.
Your bio also mentions that you and your husband are avid travelers. What are some of the places you’ve visited and have those experiences found their way into your stories yet?
Evelyn: We are foremost now U.S. travelers, with a couple Caribbean cruises during the year. In the past, we typically vacationed in a major city such as Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Bar Harbor, Seattle and Key West. However, we now have begun volunteering twice a year as park hosts for state and national parks, traveling in an RV and living the immersion travel story. By volunteering, usually two to three months each place, we provide services for three days a week and travel locally the other days. We go home in between. Because my experience is limited in fiction writing to three attempts, travel experience has surfaced only briefly, primarily with regard to referencing a road and city.
WOW: You’re really well-traveled and your work as volunteer park hosts sounds fascinating! We wouldn’t be surprised if you eventually tackled travel writing and some of your experiences found their way into your work! Do you have any projects in the works and can you share some details with us?
Evelyn: Other goals are to participate in some of the writing courses offered, for example, by WOW, and to look for a local writers’ group for writing conversation and feedback when we are not travelling.
WOW: Wonderful! Glad to see that you’re planning to take advantage of WOW! course offerings and hope that you’ll find a writer’s group soon.
One last question, Evelyn. What advice do you have for our aspiring writers?
Evelyn: Be confident. Just write whatever comes to mind and then do the hard work of determining if it has promise. Edit, edit, edit and find someone or some source for feedback.
WOW: Such wise advice for writers of all levels and duly noted! Evelyn, it was a pleasure chatting with you today and best of luck in your writing endevours!
Labels: Evelyn Addison Ray, flash fiction winner, Jill Earl, WOW Summer 2009 Contest