Tuesday, August 04, 2009

 

Interview with Sarah Hina, Winter 2009 Contest Runner-Up

Sarah Hina hails from Athens, Ohio. A former medical student and lab rat, Sarah now writes in between mothering two kids, watching films with her husband, and escaping into the outdoors with her camera and dog. Her debut novel, Plum Blossoms in Paris, is forthcoming from Medallion Press in 2011, while her flash fiction won first prize at The Clarity of Night.

For more of her poetry, vignettes, and musings, check out Sarah’s blog, Murmurs.

If you haven't done so already, check out Sarah's award winning story, Jackpot, and then return here for a conversation with the author.

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the WOW! Winter 2009 Flash Fiction Contest! Could you please tell us more about your short story, Jackpot? What was your inspiration for this story?

Sarah: I enjoy using my photographs as prompts for my vignettes and poetry on Murmurs. However, winter is probably the hardest time to come up with cool photos, since most of the time I prefer outdoor settings. So one day, a little desperate, I decided to take along my camera to our local grocery store to see what I could capture. Well, as soon as I walked in, I saw this wall of gorgeous roses. It was a beautiful sight for my color-starved eyes, especially during those January doldrums. So I snapped a picture.

I think the jolt of finding something so beautiful in that somewhat monotonous, everyday place sparked the idea of Frank and his lovely gesture. We can brighten the world we live in, if we get outside our old routines and mindsets. Even on the coldest day of the year, we can create warmth for the people around us. As cliche as it sounds, giving creates its own reward. I have rarely felt as good after writing a story as I did after this one. Frank gave something back to me, too.

WOW: I felt good after reading your story. It refreshed me to read something so sweet and uplifting. What do you like about writing flash fiction?

Sarah: I love flash. There is nothing like it for stripping away the filler and digging deep into the essence of a character or emotion. It feels like an incredibly pure and potent communication between myself and the reader. The restrictions on length are actually a motivator for me. I had a tendency to overwrite before I started writing flash fiction. I think it's weaned that out of me to a large degree.

Flash does only carry you so far, though. The complete focus and immersion experience that a novel provides us writers is still what I enjoy, and fear, the most. Because there's so much room to fly, or to fall flat on your face.

WOW: That’s so true! Very well said. I see from your bio that you have written a soon-to-be-published book Plum Blossoms in Paris. Could you please tell us more about this novel? Does it feel like a relief to write flash fiction after completing a novel?

Sarah: Thanks for asking! Yes, Plum Blossoms in Paris will be released next summer by Medallion Press. It concerns a young American woman, Daisy, who falls in love with a Frenchman in Paris, with the strained relations between the U.S. and France during 2004 serving as an undercurrent. If you've seen Before Sunrise, with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, it is very much in the same spirit of discovery and connection, with some hard choices that follow.

And yes, it was a huge relief, and a great growing process, to exchange novel writing for flash fiction. The expectations are very different. But there's no doubt that flash fiction is less demanding overall. Since I'm thick in the brambles of a new novel now, I miss it quite a bit.

WOW: As a wife and mother of two children, do you find it difficult to find time to write? What are some of your strategies to find time to write?

Sarah: It's always difficult to find the time, and the quiet space, to write, but I'm much luckier than most. Both my husband and I work from home, and we're both writers. So we're very understanding of one another's need to escape and get some work done.

Lately, I've started going out of the house to do my writing. It's very hard to totally disconnect from the kids' voices and their many small crises (as I'm sure you all know!). And also, I'll admit to being a shameless internet junkie. If I come to a pause in the story with an internet connection around, I tend to hop on and waste too much time. So this new routine has provided the discipline I need for this new novel. I definitely like to write every day, if I can.

WOW: I'm always roped in by the Internet, too, when I'm trying to write. That’s a good idea to find a space outside the home to work once in awhile. What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

Sarah: Write what you're passionate about. Write what moves you. If it doesn't inflame you, then it's just work. My husband, Paul, has always been a fervent believer in writing as art. I really admire that about him. I never wrote, or even dreamed of writing, before I met him. He is a constant inspiration in my life.

WOW: Thank you, Sarah, for your great answers! Good luck with your writing, and we look forward to reading more of your work soon!

Interviewed by: Anne Greenawalt

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

 

Interview with Tricia Bowering, 2009 Winter Contest Runner Up


Born and raised in Victoria, British Columbia, Tricia Bowering studied Psychology at the University of Victoria. She lives in Vancouver, where she keeps busy working as a physician and spending time with her partner Alan and energetic daughter Sophia. Tricia remembers 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.
If you haven't had the opportunity to read Tricia's wonderful story, When My Grandmother Made Perogies, head to the WOW! site and take time to devour it. Like a fine meal, Tricia's story is meant to be savored.
WOW: Congratulations, Tricia, and welcome to The Muffin. Your story reminds me so much of my grandma. Is this story based on personal experience or is it purely fictional?

Tricia: Much of the fiction that I write starts with a few details from life, either a conversation or an image. In this case, I was able to take some of my memories and build a fictional event around them. My grandmother did indeed make perogies that we devoured on our trips to her house, but my daughter hadn’t been born by the time she moved. In some ways, the story reflects what I wish could have happened. I would have loved for my daughter to enjoy the same cherry tree climbing and perogie eating that I did. The story is really a tribute to my grandmother, and her important traditions.

WOW: Those are great memories! Your grandmother sounds like a marvelous woman. Your story definitely fits into a 'keepsake' category. Why are stories that preserve family values and traditions important to tell?

Tricia: Reflecting on the past, and incorporating it into our own lives can be important in many ways. I find myself wanting to explore the themes of my childhood as I get older, perhaps as a means of connecting to previous generations. Now that I have my own home and family, I’m trying to create traditions of my own. I’m beginning to understand the ways that my grandparents and parents instilled a sense of meaning in my life, and I don’t want to lose those memories.

WOW: Keeping and building traditions is so important. Your family will appreciate them as they grow, too. You use a quite a few sensory details. Why is it important to use those details to paint a vivid picture for the reader?

Tricia: Without a lot of action in the story, vivid description became particularly important. I tried to describe the scene as if from a child’s point of view, with all the wonder that it encompassed. Since the story was so much about the perogies, I wanted the process of making them to come to life, evoking a special time and place. I used other details about the house and the past to create a sense of nostalgia, something I felt while writing.

WOW: (smiles) That sense of nostalgia comes across. Let's talk about the writing process. What's your writing routine like?

Tricia: It’s irregular, at best. When I have a writing project on the go, I tend to set aside writing time each day. My mantra is “an hour a day for writing”. However, when life gets busy, or I’ve just finished a piece, I tend to slow down a bit. Sometimes, it’s just a few hours of writing on a day off, once a week.

WOW: Great mantra! Even experienced writers need to be reminded of that. It's difficult to always make time to write, and you are a busy woman. How do you balance working in the medical field with family and writing time?

Tricia: First off, family comes first! Balance in life is difficult and I’m always busy, but I try not to use that as an excuse. Although finding time to write has been a challenge, I feel such a sense of accomplishment and pleasure in crafting and completing a story that it’s so worth it. It’s only been a year since I’ve taken up writing again, and reconnecting with the creative part of myself has been a great journey.

WOW: Good for you! Keep on the "write" path! Due to study and work, you weren't able to express your creativity. Why is it important for people to stay connected to their creative voice?

Tricia: So many parts of my life are enriching. Both work and parenting challenge me in different ways, but as I begin to have a bit more spare time, life is quiet enough to allow me to reflect on my experiences. Beginning with a blank page and ending up with a finished story that is meaningful to me is very satisfying. It challenges me in different ways than studying and working. I’m sure that the importance of creativity is different for each one of us.

WOW: That's so true. It depends on what our interests are. What types of writing do you prefer? Has any of your work been published elsewhere?

Tricia: I’m still exploring different types of writing, and it’s a fun process. I like to write flash fiction and longer short stories, taking my inspiration not only from life events, but also from interesting contest prompts. At the moment, I’m having fun rediscovering language, playing with phrases and description. I’ve never used my thesaurus so much! I’ve not been published yet, but here’s hoping…

WOW: We'll keep our fingers crossed for you! What projects are you currently working on?

More short fiction. I’ve got lots of ideas in my head waiting to be written down, and the difficulty is which one to tackle first. As for the future, who knows? I’m enjoying the journey right now.

WOW: And enjoying the journey is so important for a writer. Good luck with your endeavors. What advice would you offer to fellow writers?

Tricia: Taking up writing again has shown me that it’s never too late to start something new. I hope that these contest events inspire more women on their own pathways to creativity.
Interview by LuAnn Schindler

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

 

Winter '09 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up, Cindy Haynes

Cindy Haynes has written enough stories, essays and mostly children’s tales to fill a very large wardrobe that might just open in the back to some far away time and place. She would rather be with herself and her imagination and her writing than anywhere else. Inspiration comes from friends, daydreaming out a window at the garden and from snatches of life such as walking by a limousine recently in NY City and seeing a beautiful woman in the back seat crying, while a man in a tuxedo standing outside caressed her cheek. It is easy to live the writing life when your senses take in all about you.

When not writing, Cindy runs, reads and takes wonderful trips in a 19’ RV named Van Cliburn with her husband Bill and way-too big dog Sadie.

Interviewed by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on placing as a runner up with your story, “Windows of Change.” What inspired you to enter the contest?

Cindy: WOW is like Christmas every day. I wake up each morning, grab the coffee and head to my computer to keen the essay of the moment. I love your 750 word limit. First I just write away at my dream or experience of the moment. Then I repeatedly hit word count and smile. The fine tuning is a skill that I learned at a three week Iowa Writer's Workshop with fabulous writer/instructor Chris Offutt. He does something like cut his story into sentence strips and place them around his house. Wherever he is he takes a sentence and rearranges, eliminates, adds words until it is "tight and clean." I'm no Chris. But I love the process. I adore your contest and of course the prizes. You are my inspiration. I bow down to you WOW staff.

WOW: Thank you for the kind words about, WOW! Your editing process sounds kind of fun too. Could you tell us what encouraged the idea behind the story?

Cindy: Although I do not think I portrayed it well, my neighbor is my dearest friend and has been for 35 years. And she did lose a child.

WOW: I thought it was a lovely portrayal. It seemed like it could be based on real life events. Have you written other flash fiction? What type of writing do you most prefer?

Cindy: Yes, I have entered each season for two years now. I was honorable mention last fall and runner up this past winter. I am with you for life! I read contemporary fiction and seem to write that best. However, I have "finished" but not at all fine tuned a young adult chapter book about low lives who are comprised of Mosquito Bite, Brussel Sprouts, Finger Nails On Chalkboard and a few others. Boy do I need help with that. Anyone out there wanna start a YA writing group? Ooops. I should look over what WOW offers. Maybe there is some workshop I can take.

WOW: We do have some great workshops available. A YA class would probably be a good addition to the list, so we'll look into that.

We’d 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?

Cindy: I am missing the part of the brain that "finishes things." Again, WOW is helping me to develop that part of my meager brain. So I do not have a routine where I sit for hours. Any good book will distract me. However, I do write copious emails and work at my essays and chapter book for a couple of hours each morning. I dart for the computer when a new idea comes my way. My computer is in a cubby and all around me are photos of me with greats for inspiration. My latest and most prized is me sitting next to a glowering Lemony Snicket aka Daniel Handler. I'm also partial to the picture of me with Mary McGarry Morris taken at a book signing about 15 years ago.

WOW: You mentioned that you take trips in a 19’ RV named Van Cliburn. Where have you been lately and how the heck did the RV get its name?

Cindy: My favorite trip in Cliburn was three years ago when we traveled to Alaska and back from March 31st to July 31st. We had particularly great weather. It was a magical trip. I put together a small book of my essays from the trip. I gave it to fellow writers and to my best fan of all, my 98-year-old mother-in-law, Marion, who inspires me by always asking for more.

My husband Bill is a classical and opera music lover. He has taken the same opera course from the same instructor no less than 15 times. The instructor does work with different composers and operas each semester. So Van Cliburn was a fit name for our little home on wheels.

WOW: Sounds fun. Do you have any final words of wisdom for our women readers/writers?

Cindy: I do know by now as I approach the winter of my years, that one has to have a passion for writing to really get to it. I feel so very blessed that I have the passion. When one loves to read and write, one will never ever be bored. If you are inclined to try writing, start with this essay contest. When you enter, it will be the best ten dollars you spend all summer. You will hit send, smile and begin another adventure story. Have I said thank-you Women On Writing?

WOW: Yes, you have and thanks again, Nancy! Best of luck with your future writing endeavors.

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Join in the fun! Our Summer Flash Fiction contest is OPEN.

Check back on Tuesdays for more previous contest winner interviews.

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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

 

Interview with Julie C. Eger, Winter 2009 Contest Runner Up

Julie Eger is from the heart of Wisconsin. She has been accused of playing well with others. She is aware that a story unfolds every second; unfortunately she can’t type that fast. Her work has been published in numerous journals and anthologies including Green Prints Magazine, ARGIA, Free Verse, Hummingbird, Other Voices, Bar Code, and Write Away! She is a three time winner of the Wisconsin Regional Writers Association (WRWA) Jade Ring Contest.

When Julie isn’t busy with her regular job as a massage therapist she acts as coordinator for The Original Voice, a local venue she founded to help highlight some of Wisconsin’s most hidden talent including seasoned and unseasoned poets, writers, musicians, and artists through feature presentations and open mike events.

Julie lives with her wood-splitting/fisherman/plumber husband, a chocolate lab named Aggie, and a black Golden Doodle named Estr. She has two grown sons and two beautiful grandchildren. She didn’t start to take writing seriously until 2004 when she became a member of a local writing group, claiming she had finally found her ‘tribe.’ Much of her writing stems from group assignments but she would love a side job where she gets paid for her writing. It’s true she’s a dreamer, and even though she often gets lost in the words, she always finds her way home.

You can learn more about Julie by visiting www.julieceger.com or http://theoriginalvoice.blogspot.com.


Interview by Jill Earl

WOW: First of all, Julie, congratulations on being selected as a runner-up in our Winter ’09 Flash Fiction Contest! How do you feel?

JULIE: Hi Jill, thank you and it’s so nice to talk with you and to be a runner-up in this contest! It feels amazing to have placed within the top ten and I’m still a little shocked to learn I made it this far.

WOW: Your entry was amazing! Mama’s Wish Comes True is so powerful! It wasn’t an easy read for me, yet I couldn’t tear myself away from the harrowing story and intense imagery. How were you able to come up with the idea behind your piece?

JULIE: This piece stems from my World History class back in 1975. There were images that stayed with me, and the story was born out of that. I was curious if the piece would be too dark for this contest. I get comments from the members of my writing group that I’m too dark with my writing. Sometimes I think I have to get the dark stuff out before I can write something lighter, but I’ve been working on some humorous pieces. I wrote a piece titled Bowling Green about a woman who wrecked her husband’s favorite bowling ball when she bowled over a bunch of little green aliens who kept wrecking her petunias. The writing I did for that was very different from this entry, but I want to learn to write about all kinds of things.

WOW: ‘Bowling Green’ sounds like a hilarious read, and I love the play on words with the title. Do you have a writing routine that you follow?

JULIE: My writing routines change with the seasons. In winter, I can roll out of bed writing at 4:00 AM. Then I’ll go through a phase where time is impossible to find so I set a timer and write whatever I can in 15 minutes. I amaze myself at how much I can accomplish in short spurts. Now, it’s summer and I’m all over the board. One thing I’ve learned about myself it’s that I’m consistently inconsistent. I think it’s a multi-tasking thing. The more I have going on, the better I write. When I’m doing something like vacuuming, or driving to the store, that’s when the best ideas come. I have a voice recorder I carry to capture ideas. Once I have the idea, anything goes! It’s my most effective way of writing.

WOW: I admire anyone who can write at 4 A.M, but regardless of the time, you've got to write. Those short spurts you mentioned really do add up. And tools such as voice recorders are very helpful in retaining ideas as they come; my PDA goes everywhere with me for that very reason.

Your bio mentions that you didn’t start to take writing seriously until 2004. How did that period of time become a turning point for you?

JULIE: My kids were grown and gone. I had extra time on my hands and one day I sat down to write a brief history of my family, and then stopped at 396 pages, about 6 months later. That experience surprised me in how caught up I was with the idea of writing. I loved playing with words, rearranging them, thinking of interesting ways to phrase things. There was a writer hiding inside, and that experience brought it to the forefront for me.

WOW: The process of exploring your family history and discovering the writer inside you is inspiring. And ‘Playing with words, thinking of interesting ways to phrase things,’ appears to sum up the essence of writing.

In addition to writing, you have a regular job as a massage therapist, and you founded and coordinate a local venue called The Original Voice, which showcases writers, musicians, poets and artists in Wisconsin. How do you manage to balance them all?

JULIE: Being self-employed and at the mercy of my client’s schedules, I have no set schedule. It’s like working without a net, and when you do that, you’ve got to find a way to achieve balance in your life or things can start to fall apart. I think the key in that regard is that I’m doing things I love. I love my work as a therapist. I love writing and all that is involved in that arena. And showcasing some of the hidden talent in our rural area is very rewarding. Some of the artists have never performed in front of an audience and it is amazing to see how they shine when they get a chance.

WOW: You truly are blessed to be working at what you love! Speaking of The Original Voice, can you tell us how you became involved?

JULIE: A few years ago I took a few writing classes, and after one class they held an open mic to showcase our work. I’d never experienced an open mic before. While I was sitting in the audience, I kept thinking, “We need something like this where I live. We have people who have stories to tell.” That’s how it began. It also helped that I had my own microphone, amp, and speaker from when I belonged to an all girl band called ‘The Reflections.’ I think I’ve always had a secret desire to be heard, since my voice is so quiet and I thought maybe other people might have the same problem, the same desire. The microphone unleashes something inside. Everyone has a story and it’s important for those stories to be told. Hearing them in the author’s own voice is very powerful.

WOW: How fortunate that The Original Voice has you as an advocate for writers and other artists in your hometown. If you weren’t willing to help your peers get their voices heard through their writing, some would never be known.

Besides runner-up in WOW!’s Flash Fiction Contest, you are also a three-time winner of the Wisconsin Regional Writers Association Jade Ring Contest. How have you found success in entering contests?

JULIE: When I first started writing I wanted to know if, how, and where my writing might fit so I decided to enter a contest. It was scary to send out my first entry, and I was surprised when it took second in state. I kept sending things in. Some of my work didn’t place, but some of it did, and some entries took first. I was using the contests to help me define what kind of writing suited me. I viewed the judges as though they would be editors considering a piece for publication. Having that background gave me enough courage to send an entry to WOW! I don’t have much training behind me, and it was a gauge I could use to see where I fit and if people liked what I was writing. Through this, I began to see the strength in my essays, poems, and short stories.

WOW: Using contests to discover what writing best fits you---I think that’s a great idea. You get to experiment with various forms, while sharpening your skills. It also helps that you didn’t get discouraged when one of your entries didn’t place, but kept the momentum going by entering other contests.

So, Julie, can you share what you’re currently working on?

JULIE: I’m having fun writing simple how-to articles for eHow (thanks to a link from WOW! - see Julie Eger or Jukota at http://www.ehow.com/) but I think the most serious writing I’m doing is a collection of short stories. Even though I wrote a novel (which – by the way - is still available for just the right publisher whenever they’re ready!) and though I’m extremely fond of poetry, I think I’m more of a short story writer. For a long time, I kept thinking I had to write a novel, because that’s what people would want to read, but I’ve found I really like short stories, and if the stories are good enough, people will want to read them.

WOW: You definitely have plenty on your plate, but that’s a good thing! What’s one piece of advice you’d like to offer aspiring writers?

JULIE: The one piece of advice I would give is that there is more than one way to become a better writer:

1. WRITE. A blank page will leave you with nothing to send out. Some of my best work has come from just jotting down what was on my mind in the morning when I woke up. If I hadn’t caught it on the page, it would be gone forever. It’s a tool to work from.

2. RESEARCH. Know something about the publication where you plan to send your work. Do you THINK it will be a good fit or do you KNOW if it will be a good fit? Always follow the publisher’s guidelines.

3. SUBMIT YOUR WORK. Buy a stamp and an envelope. Hit ‘send’ on your computer. Use rejections as a tool to help you become a better writer. Use work you’ve had accepted as a tool to help you become a better writer. Write what you love, let it set for three days, read it out loud, make corrections, and then send it out.

WOW: Write. Research. Submit your work. Classic advice for writers.

Julie, thank you so much for taking time out to chat today with WOW! Best of luck and we’ll see you on the writing front!

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