Tuesday, January 12, 2010

 

Interview with Evelyn Addison Ray, WOW! Summer ’09 Contest Runner Up

Evelyn’s Bio:

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!

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

 

Interview with Amanda Pettit, Summer ‘09 Flash Fiction Contest Runner-Up

Amanda Pettit is a devoted enthusiast of hot beverages, classic literature, and close friends. She divides her time between her family, her writing, and the management of Sanctuary Home For Children, which has taken her to India and back and given her an ongoing mission to improve the lives of street orphans. When she's not busy with the big stuff, she also enjoys sewing, video games, football, and shopping. Amanda lives in Texas with her husband Ray and their children Virginia and Edward.

Visit her blog at http://thislittlepig73.wordpress.com/.

Interviewed by: Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on placing as one of the Runners Up in our Summer 2009 writing contest! How do you feel?

Amanda: Thanks! I feel fabulous. This is actually the first contest I've entered since I embarked in earnest on my writing adventure. Earning a spot in the top ten on my first attempt has been a wonderful morale boost, and I so enjoyed receiving the prize package in the mail.

WOW: That’s great. Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, Coffee Date?

Amanda: I am fascinated by family dynamics, particularly the relationships between sisters. I have two sisters myself, and there is a wealth of interesting material, both positive and negative, when I look back on our decades together. Each sister has made unique choices about parenting, marriage, career, and a million other things, and I think those differences and similarities are worth exploring. While my own sisters and I are younger than the characters in Coffee Date, we have definitely had profound differences and reconciliations. We have changed our opinions of each other over time. I like the way people—both in fiction and in real life—can have disagreements but choose to respect each other, even if it's a long process. And the setting, a coffee shop, is one I find popping up repeatedly in much of what I write, probably because I enjoy a weekly coffee date myself with a close circle of girlfriends. A coffee shop is the ideal neutral ground for relaxing, sharing, talking things out.

WOW: We’d love to know more about your writing routines. Could you tell us when and where you usually write? Do you have favorite tools or habits that get you going?

Amanda: I write three full days a week, while my children are at school. When I write, I need a big chunk of time in order to really get going, and I don't like interruptions. A full day (about seven hours for me) is perfect. By the end of the third day, my wrists and elbows ache, but I'm very happy and wishing there was some way to skip the housework days and the weekend to get back to the writing days again more quickly. I need a clean room, silence, something hot to drink (more on that later), my laptop, and whatever notes or books I have to refer to. I try to write something smaller, like a flash fiction piece or poetry, at least once a week, and most of the remainder of the time is spent on novel writing. I blog, too, but it's easy for me to lose half a day on blogs, both my own and reading/commenting on others, so I try not to spend my real writing time in the blog world, tempting as it is.

WOW: What projects are you working on now? Have you made any writing goals for the New Year?

Amanda: My top goal for 2010 is finding an agent to represent one of my novels. I currently have two novels written but not completely polished, so getting them both through the final stage is high on my list of writing tasks right now. The first, Scribe, is an adventure set in modern day San Antonio, ancient Egypt, and the mythical Egyptian world of the dead. My educational background is in anthropology, so I have a strong interest in other cultures, archaeology, history, and love to put those elements into a story. The second novel, The Great Uneven, is about an older woman with OCD, and I completed most of it during NaNoWriMo. It has been really fun getting those two major projects on paper and I look forward to getting them really polished—even though I'm tempted to set them aside and start on the next book.

WOW: Your books sound interesting, and we wish you the best of luck with your goals. How did Sanctuary Home For Children come about? How can people help?

Amanda: Sanctuary Home was started about three years ago when my close friends in India asked us to help them start an orphanage. At first, I absolutely thought the idea was ridiculous - who was I to take on a task like that? What did I know? I'm a Christian, and my connection with the Indian family was ultimately because of church stuff, so I prayed about it. Honestly, what I prayed was that God would show me how crazy it was, and close doors, confirming that it was impossible. I was mortified at the thought of asking people for money. My husband was a graduate student, we were broke, and even living in my parents' basement. We were definitely not the right people for the job. As you've probably guessed, though, it didn't turn out the way I wanted, and instead of an impossible task, one good thing led to another, and three years later I am somehow directing a 510(c)(3) nonprofit with a network of child sponsors in the US and over ninety former street children are being fed and educated and loved. It's been an humbling and joyful experience, from the first day I realized people did want to help, to the beautiful meeting with so many sweet little faces on my first visit to India, to the continuing support and ongoing communication with the directors in India, who amazed me by opening their home to so many in need. It's a lot of work, but completely worth it. Our website, www.sanctuaryhome.org, has information on how to help, and there is a recent article on halogentv.com about us. Thanks for asking.

WOW: On a lighter note, you mention that you’re a “devoted enthusiast of hot beverages.” Describe your top three favorites.

Amanda: My absolute favorite, or at least the hot beverage I consume in the largest quantities, is French Vanilla black tea by Bigelow, served pretty close to boiling, with a bit of milk and sugar. If I'm out and have a little money to spare, I go for a chai tea latte with soy milk from a coffee shop. Among many other wonderful hot drinks of all sorts, another standout is a traditional hot toddy. It isn't something I drink on a daily basis, best saved for the times I'm under the weather, or have a headache, or just can't seem to get warm. My favorite hot toddy recipe: 1.5 ounces of brandy, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons honey, a cinnamon stick and a few whole cloves, and the mug topped off with hot water. Of course, I always nuke it for an extra thirty seconds, because as with all hot drinks, the hotter the better.

WOW: Now I’m ready for a nice, warm drink! Those all sound delicious. Do you have any final words of wisdom for our women readers/writers?

Amanda: Do it. After waiting a lot of years for the stars of circumstance to align perfectly, I finally started writing like I meant it. The wait, for me, was about twenty-five years, which I calculate based on the fact that I recorded in a journal at age eight my intention to write a book. I have never been happier than I am now, since I finally took the plunge. If you have a dream that's hanging on somewhere in the back of your mind, something that keeps resurfacing, some aspiration that keeps knocking at your door, let it in. Don't put it off any longer. Do it.


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We'll continue getting to know the Top 10 Summer '09 contest winners every week on Tuesdays. Be sure to check back for more interviews!

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

 

Rebecca Gray, Runner Up

WOW! talked to another of our Winter Flash Fiction Contest winners. Gather round and be inspired.


WOW: Rebecca, kudos to you for placing in the top ten! What encouraged you to write Nor Iron Bars a Cage?

Rebecca: When I read the prompt for this contest, I didn't think about where I would go, but instead, wished I had the freedom just to go. Like the main character, I have epilepsy and, after two years of driving, am no longer allowed to drive. I live in a small village and am reliant on friends and family to take me to nearby cities. I will always wish to drive, but writing Nor Iron Bars a Cage helped remind me that there are so many more important things in life.

WOW: I’d say you have a beautiful attitude! It’s so wonderful when our writing helps us gain wisdom in areas we might not expect it. I’d say that’s a major benefit from writing. Since the character shares a part of you, did you have to do a lot of editing to meet the word count limit?

Rebecca: Oh, yeah! I tend to think every little thing is important and find it hard to cut my work up.

WOW: You did a fine job, as we can tell from the final result. Did your friends or other writers provide feedback here? In your bio you mention spending time with friends and Inspirational Romance novels. Could you tell us a little about these get-togethers and how they influence your own writing?

Rebecca: Sorry to disappoint you, but my get-togethers with friends are simply that. While my friends are wonderfully honest and I can trust them to speak the truth when I bounce ideas off them, for the most part, our get-togethers are for ourselves as humans not myself as a writer.

WOW: You’re definitely not disappointing! Friends are crucial for that “human touch.” Many times I think our friends help us forget about our writing for a while, giving us that much needed mental break. Could you instead recommend any books for aspiring writers? Readers?

Rebecca: Not a book so much as an author: Dave Barry. As a reader, I find him refreshingly entertaining. As a writer, I desperately want to learn how throughout an article - or even one of his novels - he repeatedly leads the reader down one path until, with just a few carefully placed words, he spins the scenario backwards and upside down, catching the reader off guard with zany humour. (I'm sorry, that's the best description I could give. You'll have to read his work to really understand).

WOW: I’d say that’s a fine description. Humor is helpful in many ways as well as refreshing, and I believe we could all us more of it in our day to day dealings. What would you say is the most helpful part about writing for contests?

Rebecca: I love the challenge of word count limits. It helps me determine what's really important to the story. My first novel rambled on, but after several short fiction contests, I can already see a positive difference in my second novel.

WOW: You certainly have a great attitude! Speaking of novels, you also mention in your bio that you’re working on Romance novels. Could you tell us a little about your experience in this arena?

Rebecca: My parents own a Christian bookstore and, as a teen, I think I read every book on their romance shelves at least once. A couple years ago, I found myself wanting to read, but without a book. I began to write a story that I would want to read. Wisdom's Cry was finished last year. It now sits on the backburner as I hone my skills with various contests, challenges, and a second romance novel. I will be attending two writer's conferences this fall. I look forward to finding answers to questions I don't even know I'm supposed to ask.

WOW: That’s a huge accomplishment! I hope you find many answers at the conferences. On a totally different subject, here’s a purely fun question about your cat, Goose. Many writers have pets that inspire or play the part of companion. Does Goose keep you company or inspire you when you write?

Rebecca: Sometimes I talk to her when I'm stuck. She's an ok listener, but not so great at feedback. Although, sometimes that's a good thing.

WOW: A silent listener sometimes exceeds another person’s wisdom when a writer’s ideas are forming! Do you have any wise words for our readers?

Rebecca: Um, wise words usually come from wise people so, uh, nope. No wisdom here.

WOW: Well, I’ll have to disagree with you there. You definitely display wisdom through your writing, answers, and your positive attitude, to say the least. Keep on writing, and good luck in all your endeavors!

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

 

WOW chats with Tracy Horan - Runner Up in the WOW! Winter Contest


WOW got a chance to chat with another of the top ten runners up. Pull up a chair and join us:-)

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the top ten with our latest contest! What was your reaction to placing in the top ten?

Tracy: The minute I read the email telling
me I had placed in the top ten, I ran around the house yelling “Guess what? Guess what? I made the top ten in a contest!” I did a happy dance right there in the kitchen…a little shimmy with a pinch of the running man! I sang, “Oh yeah, stir the pot…I’m da bomb!” My kids were mortified and embarrassed at my shenanigans. (Which was an added bonus.)

WOW: Some writers don't enjoy the "structure" of contests with prompts and short word counts. Do you? And what inspired your contest entry, Whitewater Romance?

Tracy: I love contests because they are like school assignments. My mind starts formulating a plan the minute I read the requirements. The story prompt instructed us to come up with a tale about how we would celebrate paying off the car. The first thing that came to my mind was ‘take a vacation, of course,’ which, in turn, sparked the memory of the whitewater rafting trip from hell.

Sadly, my tale was more fact than fiction. You need to understand, I am not a girl who craves blood-curdling adventure. I am terrified of excessive speed and heights. I avoid roller coasters and drive my minivan like a granny. In retrospect, perhaps whitewater rafting was not a great vacation choice for a wuss like me! It makes for a funny story, though. Of course, they say … Comedy = Tragedy + Time. Sad, but true!

WOW: Do you find it easy to write flash fiction or do you prefer longer pieces?

Tracy: Flash fiction is my favorite type of writing. I tend to be long-winded, so flash is a challenge for me and a great tool to help me learn to cut back on excessive wordiness.
One of my college instructors is always saying, “Great story, but wayyyyyyyy too long.
Flash helps me learn to cut, cut, cut.

WOW: It's wonderful you are continuing to learn about the craft of writing. Are you enjoying your writing classes at the University of Wisconsin?

Tracy: Love it! The University of Wisconsin offers many writing classes online. It is a wonderful way to take college level courses from home. My main professor is Marshall Cook. He does a great job offering advice and criticism in constructive ways. I used to hate negative comments about my writing. I took every remark so personally! But Coach Cook showed me how an intense critique serves to improve your writing and make it better. Now I welcome all editing suggestions with an open mind.

WOW: Have you always wanted to write?

Tracy: I’ve played around with writing off and on my whole life. But, you know how it is…you get a job, get married, have kids. Pretty soon, the only thing you find yourself writing are grocery lists. Books have always been my real passion. I am a voracious reader and I devour books like Pac-Man eating those little dot thingies. I finally realized that writing a book of my own would be a dream come true.

WOW: Reading is another great way to learn what good writing is like. Who are your favorite authors?

Tracy: Lately, I have been reading Jodi Picoult—she is an amazing writer. I also love Jennifer Weiner—her humor is too delicious. Honestly, I read everything I can get my hands on. I like Janet Evanovich, Stephen King, Patterson, Grisham, Jeanette Walls, Kim Edwards. Oh, there are so many phenomenal authors out there, it is tough for me to pick a favorite!

WOW: If you could pass on one piece of advice to other writers, what would it be?

Tracy: The most valuable, gratifying thing for a writer is to share their work. What is the point of writing if no one reads your brilliant, gorgeous pieces of literary genius? Be honest, we are all a bunch of insecure creative types who need constant ego strokes. I found a website called Fanstory where I can post my work for other writers to read and review. It has been the single most wonderful, encouraging experience of my writing life. Face it, our friends and family want to be kind and loving. It takes a stranger to say, “Dude, you used ‘was’ eleven times in the last three paragraphs—fix it.”

WOW: Your contest bio mentions a work in progress. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Tracy: My main project is an anthology of humorous non-fiction essays I am in the process of writing. They tell the tale of when my family and I lived on a farm in rural Indiana. My two daughters were young, my husband traveled for work a great deal of the time, and I was absolutely the world’s most inept farm wife. I like to call it a tale of “Gilligan’s Island meets Green Acres.” The name of the book is “Never Tie a Horse to a Swing Set.” That pretty much sums it up.

WOW: What a great chat. Got any last thoughts?

Tracy: I would love to publish a book or two, and I would be thrilled if my books sold a few copies, but that is not the reason I write. Writing fulfills a need within my soul. It is a balm, a salve, and a great comfort. Writing is free therapy that fills up an empty place inside of me. Even if I never publish a single word, I will always introduce myself as Tracy Horan, the Writer.

Thanks Tracy. You're an inspiration to all writers. If you haven't had the chance to read Tracy's story, stop by the Winter 2007 Flash Fiction Contest Winners Page and check it out. I know you'll enjoy it.

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