Tuesday, July 08, 2008

 

Interview with Stephanie Haefner - Winter 08 Contest Runner Up




Stephanie Haefner is an aspiring novelist dreaming of the day she'll see her name blazed across the cover of a book! She is currently working on novel #3. Her favorite types of stories to write (and read) are those that take the reader through every emotion. If she can make a reader cry on one page and laugh hysterically on another, her story is complete! Among several WOW! contests, her publishing credits also include an anthology about the city of Buffalo, NY, where she was born and raised and still lives today. When Stephanie is not writing, she spends her days caring for her husband, 5 year-old daughter and infant son and also tending to a serious scrapbooking obsession!






If you haven’t had the opportunity to read Stephanie’s story Have A Nice Day, go ahead and click on the title. Come on. You know you want to read it!

WOW: Welcome back, Stephanie. You're a multiple WOW! contest winner. Any secrets to offer readers who might be considering entering one of the WOW! contests?



Stephanie: Definitely go for it!!!! Especially with the open prompt!! Make your piece as descriptive as possible. I feel it's best to write about a very simple event, then use your words to describe it in as much detail as possible. Never ever has the phrase "show, don't tell" meant more!! Show as much as you can...make those 500 words count for so much more!!



WOW: Good advice! You definitely make the words matter in your story. What was the inspiration for Have A Nice Day?



Stephanie: It was actually a prompt for an online writing class I was taking at the time. There was a list of three objects. When I envisioned a plastic bag, an image of a ragged one blowing in the wind on a dark and dreary winter day popped into my head. I wondered why it was blowing, where it had been, what led it to it's current status. The story took from there.





WOW: I like the anticipation the bag feels prior to being "sacked" and how that theme of anticipation of the unknown traverses throughout the story. It builds a feeling of suspense. How do you determine the direction that roller coaster of emotions will travel when crafting a story?



Stephanie: When I write, I always like to take the reader through a range of emotions. I think about my own life, the feelings I've had, the ups and downs, the unknown. Everyone feels that way at one time or another. I think readers can really identify with a character, even an inanimate one, who has felt the way they did at one point in their lives. I don't think there's anyone on this earth who hasn't had fears about what the future holds for them.





WOW: Playing on the reader's emotions can create a powerful story. What else do you draw upon for inspiration for your writing?



Stephanie: Many things. My mind seems to wander a lot and starts to ask questions..."What would I do if this crazy situation happened to me?" Many of my completed fiction stories and story ideas that are waiting to be written are based on mini daydreams I've had at one time or another. It's the things I see and experience around me. I started traveling with a notepad in my purse. There have been times where I was stopped at a red light and pulled it out to jot things down! I get some of my best thinking done while I'm driving around town! As for non-fiction pieces, many are written about events taken directly from my past.





WOW: Drawing from personal experience enhances the direction a story takes. A tinge of irony always piques my interest. I sensed the use of irony in the title. What tips can you offer for titling a piece?



Stephanie: I struggle with titles very often. I love when a title gives the reader an idea of what the story could be about but then surprises them when there's a twist to what they originally thought. I love to surprise the reader!





WOW: Great idea! Being surprised gives readers a chance to contemplate the various aspects of the story. I see you spend a lot of time scrapbooking. To me, scrapbooking is a visual storytelling. Do you ever draw inspiration from any of your scrapbooking endeavors for a storyline?



Stephanie: Yes! I have many stories that are based on my own life and the twists and turns that could have happened! Usually my stories are a bit more dramatic than my real life, but that's the fun, isn't it?





WOW: Oh, most definitely! Building dramatic elements is vital for an effective storyline. What are some of the similarities in the creative process between scrapbooking and writing?



Stephanie: Scrapbooking to me is an art form, just like writing is. In scrapbooking, the storytelling is done with photos. The creator is showcasing a memory by arranging photos and adding artistic elements of color and design. With writing, words are arranged and the reader forms their own mental picture.





WOW: Stephanie, you are a very busy woman! What projects are you working on now?



Stephanie: I just finished yet another edit of my second novel and am trying my luck at finding an agent for it again! It is extremely hard for me to throw this story on a shelf and walk away! I am also about halfway through my third novel and have tons of little essay pieces I've been working on over the past few months.





WOW: Good luck with finding an agent! And thanks, Stephanie, for sharing your writing passion with WOW! readers.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

 

Interview with WOW! Flash Fiction Second Place Winner, Linda Courtland



Linda Courtland's story, "Change Management," won second place in WOW!'s Winter 2008 Flash Fiction Contest. Click on the link to read Linda's fabulous entry, then come back and check out our discussion with her. You'll find out what prompted her story, how she learned to write great flash fiction, and what's next for this busy Los Angeles, California writer.

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WOW: Linda, congratulations on your 2nd place win! How do you feel?

Linda: Thanks! I'm thrilled. When I saw the results, I actually jumped up and down.

WOW: What a great reaction! Could you tell us a little about your story and what encouraged the idea behind "Change Management"?

Linda: One night, I had the flu and staggered off to the supermarket, in search of cough syrup. A disheveled man was standing by the door, asking people for money. When the man saw me struggling along, he stopped his patter and asked if I was okay. His eyes were so full of concern that for a split-second, I wanted to tell him about everything that hurt. Instead, I said something like, "I'm kinda sick. Thanks for asking." But the moment touched me and formed the basis for "Change Management." I also spent many years as a case manager for chronically mentally ill adults, so I'm sure parts of that experience seeped into the story too.

WOW: It's always interesting to hear the background behind a story. Your flash fiction has appeared in Flashes of Speculation, Fictional Musings, FlashShot, and MySpace News. Have you always enjoyed the genre, and how did you learn to write great flash fiction?

Linda: I discovered flash fiction in an ocean-view conference room at the 2007 Kachemak Bay Writers' Conference in Alaska. I went to a "Skinny Fiction" seminar and left with a bunch of great handouts, a reading list, and a 100-word handwritten tale about a lovesick mermaid considering plastic surgery, which was later published by FlashShot.

I kept writing flash fiction and my twisted story, "Fallen" got some good feedback on Flashes of Speculation, which helped to spur me on. I wrote a story for Fictional Musings about a woman with a mad crush on her GPS navigation system, and it reached the #1 spot in the Arts section of MySpace News.

At this point, I'm hooked on the genre and couldn't stop writing flash fiction if I tried. My most recent stories are "Zero Tolerance" on The Short Humour Site, and "Single Socks," which will appear in Apollo Lyre's May 2008 issue.

WOW: Great, we'll have to check out those links. You contributed three stories to Six Sentences, Volume 1, a collection of flash fiction that came out last month. Congratulations on that exciting development! Is writing six-sentence stories similar to flash fiction writing?

Linda: Thank you! It's a terrific book. I feel honored to be included in it.

Writing six-sentence stories is a fun and challenging way to experiment with flash. The first story I submitted to the site was about a bald eagle in search of Rogaine. Editor Rob McEvily responded quickly, and was friendly and supportive. The site has a strong sense of community, and it's a great place to learn, play and share.

WOW: Sounds like an interesting story! You've also been invited to read your work at the Soul-Making Literary Prize Awards, and you apparently have some fun plans afterward. Can you tell us about the trip?

Linda: I wrote a flash story about white tigers and was invited to San Francisco to read it. Now, the idea of reading my story to an audience of strangers was nerve-wracking enough, but my horror reached new heights when I found out the event was being videotaped for a two-hour special on Access San Francisco.

I searched for something to do that was even more terrifying than reading my story on camera, just to put things in perspective. I found a night tour of Alcatraz. Perfect. What could be scarier than wandering through a notorious federal penitentiary at night? As it turned out, it was still light during the prison tour. But after sunset, my friend and I explored isolated parts of The Rock under cover of darkness. It was a really fun and spooky way to spend an evening. And the awards reading went well. Now, I can't wait for another chance to read my work.

WOW: Glad to hear the reading went smoothly. The Alcatraz trip sounds like quite an experience! What projects are you working on now?

Linda:
I'm writing a paranormal romance for young adults. It's a book-length story presented in short, flash-like bursts, and it's a blast to write. I'm also working through a long list of contest and submission deadlines. And of course, I'm compiling my previous-published flashes into a collection.

WOW: We'll keep an eye out for your new work. In light of your success, our readers would probably love to know more about your writing routines. For example, where do you write? How many hours a day do you spend writing? Any favorite rituals?

Linda: My favorite trick is to find a song on Rhapsody [a digital music service that lets you listen to all kinds of music for a monthly fee] that has the same feel as my story idea. Lots of rock ballads, angry alternative songs, sweet acoustic pieces -- anything with lots of passion and energy. Then I play the song over and over while I write. I was listening to "Faded Flowers" by Shriekback when I started "Change Management."

WOW: Music can really get you in the mindset of a story or a character. Linda, what one bit of advice would you give to other aspiring writers?

Linda: Find a critique group, either in person or online. I meet with a great group of writers one Saturday a month, and also participate in an online flash fiction workshop. The generous feedback I get helps me write better stories, and providing critiques for other writers is teaching me a ton about storytelling.

WOW: Many writers swear by critique groups, and it obviously works well for you. Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Linda! Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?

Linda: Get excited! It's time to share your work with the world.



***

Every Tuesday we feature an interview with one of the top 10 winners from the Winter 2008 Flash Fiction contest. Be sure to check back and see who's next!

You can also click on the link for details on WOW! Women On Writing's current contest. The deadline for entries is May 31, 2008.

--MP

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

 

Interview with WOW! Flash Fiction Winner, Cynthia Boiter

WOW!'s Winter 2008 Flash Fiction First Place Prize goes to Cynthia Boiter, an award-winning freelance writer whose work has appeared in Southern Living, Woman's Day, and Family Circle, among other national, regional and local publications. When she is not writing, she is a member of the adjunct faculty in the Women's Studies Program at the University of South Carolina. She is currently working on a book with her husband on beer and travel, tentatively titled, Bob, Beer and Me.

If you haven’t already read Cynthia's story about a brief conversation between a husband and wife that says more without words than with them, please do so: Dobie. And don’t forget to come back and read our interview with this talented woman, whose well-deserved first place win should come as no surprise.

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WOW!: Cynthia, you have an impressive, award-winning writing background. Did you have any idea you might win first place in our contest?

Cynthia: I actually happened upon this contest the evening that it was due and decided to give it a shot – so I banged this piece out, sent it via email to one of my daughters to see if it made any sense, and decided to give it a shot. I had no idea what to expect – I hadn’t even read any of the previous winners at that point because I was pressed for time.

WOW!: Your decision to give the contest a shot definitely paid off! Your story contains excellent descriptive passages, especially the use of color. Do you have any of the creative interests in your personal life that Timbro is trying to steer Dobie away from?

Cynthia: I like to think that I live my life with an eye toward creativity. I think we all have that capacity within us – to create, to make our environment pleasing and interesting. I love color and texture and whimsy and I’m a huge patron of the arts – but other than the little bit I can do with words; I wouldn’t call myself “talented.”

WOW!: Our readers may beg to differ on that, Cynthia, as you have a talent for creating such believable characters. How did the characters of Timbro and Dobie come about?

Cynthia: When I was a young woman I read Alice Walker’s In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens, and that was, I believe, the single most influential book of my life. Being from the South and a descendent of families who worked the land for little pay, I realized when reading Alice, that the women in my own background may have been talented artists who had no canvasses for their artistic abilities. They couldn’t have afforded the tools and provisions to pursue creativity, nor would they have had the time or the encouragement, given that they were mere “women”—so in all likelihood, like Alice’s mother, they captured their canvasses wherever they could – in the garden, in the clothes they sewed for their families, in their pantries. This realization both thrills me and breaks my heart. So, maybe with stories like Dobie’s, I can channel a little of the creative energy of my own ancestors onto the page.

WOW!: I like how the story ends, with Dobie humming, as if she knows something her husband doesn't. She's already so creative, perhaps without realizing it. What would you tell Dobie if you could tell her anything?

Cynthia: First of all, I would talk to Timbro! I’d give him a little lesson in how lucky he is to live the life that Dobie has made for him. I’d ask him where he thought his meals and his clean clothes and happy home would come from if Dobie weren’t there doing the equally important work she does – and how would he be able to do his work if Dobie didn’t do hers. Being a woman, Dobie, of course, is already aware of this. I would tell her 3 things: To keep the faith; to teach her daughters well; and to put back secret money of her own whenever and wherever she could!

WOW!: Excellent advice for both of them, especially for women who aren’t allowed to have much control in a relationship. You are a talented writer in all fields, but which is more challenging for you to write: fiction, non-fiction or poetry?

Cynthia: Well, I’m not a good poet – I’m totally unschooled in it and, while I had some success when I was young, I think that was when the bar wasn’t very high because I haven’t been very successful as an adult. That said, sometimes poems just hit me in the face and I have to write them down. I suspect they’re very amateur. In terms of fiction or non-fiction – I have to want to write something to do it well. Non-fiction isn’t difficult, but I’m my own worst enemy and I’ll procrastinate until the last minute just like in college. With fiction though, I sometimes feel like the words just come from somewhere else and my fingers just type them out. I love that, but I can’t always count on it happening. So, I’m probably equally challenged by all three.

WOW!: Very interesting and something that other writers can relate to. What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

Cynthia: Well, obviously I love giving voice to women whose voices may have gone unheard, and I really like looking at the interaction of individuals both with their social environment and with the earth itself. So I often write about people who live off the land in one way or another – I almost always write about Southerners – real, working-class Southerners – not those media created Belles, but real women with dirt under their fingernails. And the other thing that I really enjoy doing is looking at a moment in time – one moment or decision or intention that illuminates a step forward for the character—an emotional or intellectual or spiritual moment of growth.

WOW!: You definitely captured such a moment in Dobie. Is there any type of character you haven't yet written about that you'd like to create?

Cynthia: Well, I rarely write about men, although I’m working on a short story about a boy now and I finished one about a man who had totally repressed his feminine side due to an incident from childhood, not long ago. What I want to do is to take a look at a typical man—in many ways, one like Timbro – and explore why they are the way they are. I want to look at all those repressive, stressful messages that living in a patriarchal society piles on them – and I want to find the authentic self in his character – I want to help him be free.

WOW!: It’s always wonderful when authors try to capture a character from a different perspective like that. Now, what type of writing inspires you?

Cynthia: I don’t want to sound flip, but “good” writing is what inspires me. You know, the orchestration of words – the flow and construction of a beautiful sentence and the use of the most absolutely precise word. That floors me. So, sometimes it Anna Quinlan in the back of Newsweek, and other times its Barbara Kingsolver or Zora Neal Hurston. I like it when words make me feel them.

WOW!: What advice do you have for aspiring women writers?

Cynthia: Be patient with yourself. Try to not beat yourself up but let the muse take you where she wants you to go – not where you think you should go. I, just 5 months ago, came off of a period when I could hardly write. Five years ago my family experienced what I call the “year of death” – my Dad and my Brother and our Golden Retriever all died within a few months of one another and I think I went sort of numb. I wrote very little during that time and I got to the point that I didn’t identify myself as a writer. Combined with that is that I also have what I think may be a real fear of both failure and success, which takes constant rationalization on my part. Then suddenly, I was entering my 49th year of life and I guess the ice cracked. I started writing and I promised my daughters that I would put a collection of my short stories out there and see if anyone thought they were worth reading – and that I would do that before my 50th birthday – which is just about 6 months away. A year ago I wouldn’t have agreed to that kind of timeline – but now, I think I’ll follow through.

WOW!: I really hope you do follow through and I think a lot of readers out there hope the same thing. It’s good that you were able to return from a difficult period in your life back to pursuing your talent. Also, I know you're working on a book with your husband. Are there any plans for a novel in your future?

Cynthia: Oh, I’ve started a couple but then put them aside. But, your site and this contest have encouraged me – maybe it’s time to pick them back up again!

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If you haven't done so already, please read Cynthia's story, Dobie. And remember, every Tuesday we'll be featuring an interview with one of the top 10 winners from the Winter 2008 Flash Fiction contest. So, be sure to check back and see who's up next!For more details on WOW! Women On Writing's current contest, please visit: http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/contest.php.

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Friday, April 04, 2008

 

Winter Contest Results

Angela and I have received many excited emails from contestants who are literally dancing in their pants waiting to hear the final results. We love how proud you all are of your submissions and we're looking forward to revealing the winners in our April issue which should be live by Monday, the 7th (that's all in the hands of our webmaster).

So you know, the Top 10 have already been notified. The first, second, and third place winners have been chosen by literary agent, Kristin Nelson who had some very nice things to say about the writer she chose for 1st place. (Personally, if I were that contestant, I'd immediately follow up on that!) So, how's that for a little added excitement to carry you all through the weekend? ;-)

The Top 3 winners and the 7 runners up will have their pictures, bios, and stories featured, and the 25 honorable mentions will also be named and congratulated in our April issue.

I will say that it was a VERY tough decision picking only 35 winners out of all the entries we received. It took weeks of reading, tallying, rereading, and deliberating. There were so many phenomenal entries that, literally, some of the choices came down to judging between two great stories, and the one with the correct punctuation was chosen. So, everything counts!

I will give you a little hint about the winners... The Top 35 winning stories crossed every possible genre from romance to sci-fi. There were stories that made us laugh, cry, cheer, think, see things from a different perspective, and examine a small incident or moment in time. We were saddened, inspired, and moved in so many ways. There were stories with clever twists and very simple stories telling simple truths about what it sometimes means to be a woman. But there was just something in the winning entries that resonated with us.

Honestly, every story that was submitted, even the stories that didn't make it into the Top 35, had something about them that enriched our lives from having read them. For those of you who did not win, please keep writing, and never, ever, give up on your dream. You are all winners just for believing in yourselves and sending your stories out into the world.

Much love and admiration,
Annette & Angela

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

 

Update On WOW! Winter '07-'08 Flash Fiction Contest

Tick-tock... I know you all must be waiting on pins and needles to hear the announcement of the Winter Flash Fiction Contest winners--and believe me, we are waiting patiently too. Right now your entries are in the hands of our fabulous guest judge for the season, Kristin Nelson, who is working diligently to deliver the final scores.

We had a great turnout this season (our biggest yet!), so it's not too surprising that this contest has been incredibly hard to judge. We wish you the best of luck, and are keeping our fingers crossed for all those who have entered. We've enjoyed reading your entries, and applaud you for hitting the send button. You are all winners in our hearts for getting your work out there and crafting amazing stories that resonate with our guest judges.

Please stay tuned, as the Flash Fiction Winners will be announced in a feature in WOW! Women On Writing's April Issue, which is due out in the first week of April.

Best of luck!
Love ~ Team WOW!

Visit our Contest Page for the latest Flash Fiction Contest ~ Now with Critique!

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

 

TLC = Tenderly Loved Contest

Our founder and CEO, Angela Mackintosh, adds her own personal touch to each of the WOW! Quarterly Contest prize packages. Each season, Angela receives as many compliments as there are winners, and the winners are abundant! Thirty five winners every season. Hoo-Ya!

We could post numerous testimonials, but here are a few words from one of our former contest winners that says it all:

Dear Wow Women,

I just got back from vacation, so I am only now getting to thank you for the wonderful prize package you sent. You didn't only send 'things'--you sent joy as well. From pink wrapping paper to the sparklers to the hand-lettered card, you demonstrated your abounding care for us women who are struggling to express ourselves.

And I did love the things too. My husband is jealous of the books, the book-mark kit, the mints, and yes, even the pink mug. However, I don't think he's jealous of the eye-lash curler. Not his thing.

So once again, THANKS! I find myself thanking you often because you are so generous so often.

Much Love,

Laura Seltz

These adoring letters always go to the WOW Women, but it’s high time to give praise where it’s due. Yes, many of us are involved with the contests, overall. But Angela Mackintosh has been the gracious shopping and packaging elf for all seasons, not just during the holidays. So, send your kudos to Angela, and thank her for all the time and energy she doles out into her TLC!

As familiar readers know, our Fall Contest has just ended, and our contestants are eagerly awaiting the news. Of course, everyone must wait until the January issue. (Sorry, our lips are sealed!)

In the mean time, we’re back to Flash Fiction--250-500 words--from now through February 29th, 2008. If you haven’t checked it out, please do. It’s Open Prompt Season. Plus, WOW! Women On Writing is proud to partner with W.W. NORTON & COMPANY to bring you this Winter 2008 Flash Fiction Contest. Don't wait too long.

Please don’t wait until the last minute, ladies. That’s not the best strategy. Take your time and apply some other TLC to your next entry.

Best wishes for all your writing.

~Sue Donckels

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