Tuesday, April 06, 2010


Martha Katzeff, Fall '09 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Martha Katzeff is very excited to have her first submission to a WOW! contest be among the top ten finalists. She has been writing for several years and takes classes at the Gotham Writers’ Workshop. She wrote an essay for Masters Cycling called “My Clown Bike” about her hot pink bicycle and recently had a piece of flash fiction titled “The Farm” published in 365 Tomorrows. Martha swims competitively with a Masters Swim team and wrote an essay about being a slow competitor called “Life in the Slow Lane” for the USMS website. She is married with two grown children, lives in the Bronx and likes to knit, read and travel.

interviewed by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on placing as one of the Runners Up in our Fall 2009 Flash Fiction contest! What inspired you to enter the contest?

Martha: I have a good friend who is also a relatively new writer and we're both always looking for contests to test our skills and storytelling abilities. I like the challenge of competing against other writers in a contest. It levels the playing field.

WOW: Could you tell us a little about your story and what encouraged the idea behind “Get a Fresh Killed Chicken?"

Martha: I initially entered a contest open only to Bronx writers and I wrote a memoir about shopping with my grandmother and mother. When I didn't win that contest, I re-wrote the story as fiction, throwing in a little bit of a speculative fiction/ghost story twist to it.

WOW: Great idea to play around with the story—it worked out well for you. Since you've taken several writing classes, we'd love to know which ones have been your favorites and why?

Martha: My favorite writing classes have been through Gotham Writers' Workshops. I started with Science Fiction I and moved to Science Fiction II which I've taken a few times (online). The instructor for most of the classes has been Michaela Roessener—the author of several wonderful science fiction/fantasy novels. She's very encouraging and loved the idea that one of her homework assignments morphed into this prize winning story!

Science Fiction (or speculative fiction as it's called now) allows me to express my outrageous opinons through fiction in a way that mainstream fiction does not. In sci fi, there are unlimited worlds and experiences to write about.

WOW: It's always interesting to learn about other people's writing routines. Could you tell us when and where you usually write? Do you have favorite tools or habits that get you going?

Martha: I'll probably get into trouble for this, but I do most of my writing at work. Whether for better or worse, I have a low stress job with lots of down time. (I will absolutely not divulge where I work!) Sometimes I write on Sunday while my husband is watching some sporting event. I like the distraction—it helps me think. I wish I did have favorite tools or habits that get me going. I'd write more. That's why I like taking classes—it’s good impetus to keep going.

WOW: Too bad you can’t tell us where you work! I agree that taking writing classes is a great way to force yourself into action. Finally, is there if there was one bit of advice you could pass on to other aspiring writers, what would it be?

Martha: Don't get discouraged by negative criticism. Recently I was told that a story I'm writing isn't really Science Fiction, to which Michaela replied: give 'em the old Bronx cheer!

Ignore unhelpful critiques and keep writing!


Check back on Tuesdays for more contest winner interviews.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Interview with Stacy Post - Runner Up in the Fall 2009

Mother. Librarian. Writer. Native Hoosier. Now, Stacy Post can add "WOW! Contest Runner Up" to the list of words that describe her.
As a Mother's Day gift, Stacy's children surprised her with a whirlwind gift: a flying lesson. Ever since, Stacy has been floating on air; earning a pilot's license is on her "bucket list."
Stacy majored in English at Purdue University and received a Master's Degree in Library Science from Indiana University. For the past ten years, she's worked in public libraries.
Stacy's publishing credits include the Purdue Exponent, Skylark, Haiku Headlines, and the Indianapolis Star.
Check out Stacy's story, Twist in the Wind, and then join us for a discussion about flying, expectations, story development, and writing.
WOW: Stacy, welcome to The Muffin. Congratulations on Runner Up honors in the Fall 2009 Flash Fiction contest. In Twist in the Wind, the parents establish a negative tone with the young girl. How does that parental tone affect their child and her future decisions?
Stacy: I was interested in telling a life story in a short amount of words. So I put the parental conflict in early to motivate the character. (It wouldn't be much of a story if she played her parent's negative thoughts in her head like a broken record.) I wanted a character that could move beyond early labels and find happiness.
WOW: Your character certainly broke away from the preconceived notions of her parents and took flight on her own. For me, and perhaps for other readers, flying evokes a feeling of freedom in addition to a feeling of hesitation or uncertainty. What's the fascination with flying, both in your personal life and in your story?
Stacy: In my early twenties, my great uncle took me flying in his small plane over the Gulf of Mexico. When he let me try the yoke . . . that was the moment I put flying lessons on my bucket list.
Presently, we live within a few miles of a county airport. Small planes buzz over the house on fair weather days. I hear this often while writing at my desk. It's neat to know when it is a good day for flying.
In the story, I felt that flying was another form of exhilaration for the character to experience and the plane represented the body well. Her childhood joy was defined in a way she reasonably could express it.
WOW: I'm still visualizing flying a small plane over the Gulf. Beautiful view, I imagine! What a fantastic opportunity! You were able to build a dream based on experience. Why is it imperative for parents to listen to children's dreams?
Stacy: When children share their dreams, I think it's important for parents to listen, to honor those dreams and to help guide those dreams to realistic ends. Not everyone can be a professional ballerina, but everyone certainly can enjoy, appreciate and express a passion for dancing.
WOW: Exactly! My parents supported my dreams and told me I could do anything I put my mind to. I always wanted to be a lawyer, but eventually I followed in their footsteps and became a teacher and writer. Living life to the fullest is one theme your story addresses. Why do you think so many people forget to experience life?
Stacy: Many people don't see beyond the day to day because of responsibilities and obligations. It's easy to get lost in the routine of it all. I think bucket lists are important. Opportunities arise, but if you aren't looking for the potential, they can slip away. For example, if the plane buzzing over my house hadn't happened, I don't think I would've ever had the discussion with my family that I'd like to fly again.
WOW: Good point! I'm sitting down with my husband tonight so we can create our bucket lists. Having that discussion is such an important idea. Stacy, you shared your list with your family and your children gave you the gift of flying lessons for Mother's Day. How did that experience tie into Twist in the Wind?
Stacy: I live a pretty ordinary life as a mom, librarian, wife and writer. Flying ups the stakes. In a small plane, which seriously feels like flying in a tin can, the ride can invigorate or exacerbate your senses. I absolutely love the stomach-trembling sensation of being in the air. It lifts my spirits and changes my perspective.
When you're flying a small plane, your focus has to be directly on the action of flying. There isn't time for distracting thoughts. I felt that was good for my character. There's also so much room in the sky, it'd be hard to knock anything over. And since my character was somewhat clumsy, I wanted to give her plenty of space.
WOW: Character development - and staying true to a character - builds rapport with readers. Such an important lesson for writers to learn! Let's talk about your day job. You work as a librarian in a public library system. What's your favorite genre?
Stacy: That's like asking a mother to pick a favorite child! I read voraciously and eclectically so that I can help many readers find books to enjoy. I worked as a children's librarian for many years, so children's literature will always have a special place in my heart. For my personal enjoyment, I'm a moody reader, in that I might be in a mystery mood one week or a romantic mood the next. Right now, I'm deep into southern fiction with sassy leading ladies.
WOW: Selecting one genre would be difficult for me, too! My reading selections vary with what's happening in my life. My writing process tends to follow that same course. Let's talk about your writing process.
Stacy: Usually a character pesters me. He or she has a secret to reveal. So I follow that character on paper for a while. Sometimes it ends with a flash piece. Sometimes it's a short story. And several times, it's developed into a full-blown novel.
Since I have a day job, I have to manage my writing time efficiently. I'd like to say I write everyday, but it's more like five days a week right now. If I can squeeze in an hour or two in the mornings, or an hour or two in the evenings, I can churn out a decent word count. (I've given up a lot of television to achieve this.)
Revision is a big part of my process too. I like for stories, especially short stories and flash pieces, to sit for a month or two before I go back and revise. Having fresh eyes helps me see the errors. But I'm always thinking about a story or a character, wondering how they'd manage this obstacle or what they'd say or do in a given circumstance.
WOW: Revising work takes practice and a certain openness from a writer to let go of words or entire scenes. What advice would you offer to someone who is considering jumping into the world of flash fiction?
Stacy: Read flash fiction. There are great stories being written right now, available online and in anthologies. Take a workshop and educate yourself on what it is. If you have an idea for a story, see if it can be told in a thousand words or less. It's the perfect medium for tinkering. The WOW! contest offers critiques. It's a great opportunity to see if your story can succeed in the short form. Try it! You might like it.
WOW: Great advice, Stacy! Flash fiction teaches a lot about the craft of storytelling. And, WOW!s critique option helps writers see potential pitfalls and areas that need definition or fine-tuning. What projects are you currently working on that you'd like to share with our readers?
Stacy: February was a great month. I published a poem and two flash fiction stories. I have another short fiction story coming out in the spring issue of Rose & Thorn journal. I'm currently wrapping up a sequel to a middle grade ghost story novel. And, like most writers, I'm sending out stories, poems, queries and gathering rejections. I'm in search of an agent too. It's all a part of the process. I've been blessed to final in this contest. Thank you, WOW!
WOW: Thank you, Stacy, for participating and placing in the contest. If you'd like additional information about Stacy or her work, you can visit her blog or read other works of poetry and flash fiction.
Interview conducted by LuAnn Schindler. Follow LuAnn on Twitter - @luannschindler or visit her website: https://luannschindler.com/.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Interview with Pamela Allison - Fall 2009 Contest Runner Up

Pamela ’s Bio:
Pam Allison lives in a historic community near Atlanta, Georgia with her husband. Currently she divides her time between revising her novel manuscript, writing book and movie reviews, and submitting short stories and articles. She’s had several articles, a poem, and illustrations published. An active participant in online critique sites, Pam will attend a writer’s conference later this year. Every day she adheres to her writing schedule, looks for new markets, and researches agents. She enjoys reading, bird watching, volunteering, and spending quality time with family and friends. This year she will also graduate with a degree in Accounting.

If you have not done so already, check out Pamela's story "Ten Past Midnight" and return here for a chat with the author!

WOW!: Congratulations on placing in the Fall 2009 Flash Fiction Contest! What is the inspiration for your story?

Pam: Last year I caught a late night show. When the movie finished, I walked out of the restroom and into a deserted lobby. I’d never experienced that, because I’m a Sunday matinee kind of gal. Everything was dark except for moonlight coming through the front windows, and the only other person I saw was an employee running a sweeper over the carpet. I walked around, struck by the eeriness of it all. So I tapped into that fleeting experience as inspiration. Plus, while in college I worked briefly for a theater and the job was pretty awful, so I drew from that memory as well.

WOW!: You do set an eerie scene. I especially like the line “we leave projectors rolling to keep ourselves company” because it brings out that lonely, eeriness. What is the biggest challenge you face as a writer?

Pam: Sitting down to write is the easy part, and if I didn’t have to eat or sleep or juggle life responsibilities, I’d write nonstop. However, life sometimes pulls me away long enough that it takes a day or two to plug back into the story. I write every day, and when I can’t, it’s frustrating because momentum breakers waste time that could have otherwise been productive. Also, many people dismiss writer aspirations as being a pipe dream, so I don’t really talk about it too much. I just keep my head low and my keyboard clacking as I focus on making my professional goals a reality.

WOW!: I can definitely relate to the frustration of momentum breakers! I have to give myself little pep talks to keep going, but as soon as I start I settle right back into the rhythm again. If you could have lunch with one writer, who would it be and why?

Pam: Definitely Stephen King. I have followed his entire career, and think he’s an incredibly gifted and prolific storyteller who transcends all the labels people have tried to put on him. From everything I’ve ever read and listened to from interviews, he strikes me as a down to earth and genuinely decent human being. I respect many things he stands for and does, including his charities. So to have a chance to talk with him would be wonderful. I envy those in his life who call him friend.

WOW!: According to your bio, you will graduate with a degree in accounting this year, which I think is very interesting because accounting and creative writing are often considered to be opposites. Would you agree? Does studying accounting ever stunt your artistic creativity?

Pam: I get that a lot, and my joke is this: I’m neither a left nor a right brained person, but a whole brained individual. On a surface level they are opposites, but digging deeper you find overlap. I’ve met plenty of creative people who are highly analytical, and analytical people who are highly creative. So I think we’re all analytical and creative in our lives, just in different ways. Accounting probably helps my creativity, by doing its part to keep my mind active and challenged. Even as a kid, math, science, language and art were always my strongest subjects. Also, I’m a realist. Being a self supporting novelist is extremely hard—not impossible, but difficult. By hedging my bets, I can face whatever the future has in store for me. Which career path will win out? We’ll see.

WOW!: I like that, “a whole brained individual.” I'm glad to hear that accounting helps fuel your creativity rather than stifle it. What do you enjoy most about writing?

Pam: The enormous satisfaction I get from channeling my sometimes bizarre imagination into a tangible story. I also love getting feedback, especially from publishing professionals. I don’t shy away from constructive criticism at all, because it’s so important to hear what others say about your work. Last, I feel oddly grateful to look back and see how much my craft has improved since those first initial steps…like I’m doing something right, and that deepens my resolve.

WOW!: Accepting constructive criticism and learning how to use it to improve is, in my opinion, one of the most challenging and most important parts of being a writer.

Thank you, Pam! We hope to see more of your writing in the future!

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010


James Tipton--Third Place Winner in the Fall 2009 Flash Fiction Contest

You might recognize James Tipton since this is the THIRD time he has placed in the WOW! flash fiction contests. You'll want to make sure and read his third place winner, "Getting to the Bottom of the Girl in the
Blue-Jean Cut-Offs."

Here's some information about James in case you haven't met him before:

James Tipton lives in the tropical mountains of central Mexico where he writes short poems and short fiction. He is also a columnist for and Associate Editor of El Ojo del Lago and El Ojo del Mar, monthly magazines published in Mexico for the English-speaking community. He is also book review editor for Mexico Connect, the largest online source for “all things Mexico”. 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, Three Tamales for the Señor.

Washing Dishes in the Ancient Village is available through Bread & Butter Press/1150 S. Glencoe/Denver, CO 80246, $10.95 plus $3.00 shipping & handling. All the Horses of Heaven is available through www.themetpress.com, $12.95 plus $4.00 shipping & handling.

WOW: Congratulations on your third time placing in the WOW! flash fiction contests. What makes you enter your work into contests?
James: Well, I do not feel particularly competitive, but I do find the WOW! contests fun and also stimulating. Having a deadline, which I keep track of, makes me sit down and do something.
WOW: We're glad you find the contests fun, and the deadline works for you! Where did you get the idea for "Getting to the Bottom of the Girl in the Blue-Jean Cut-Offs?"
James: I lived for many years in western Colorado, and I often saw interesting young Indian women. I also knew many men over the years who had never seemed to be able to "settle down" into a reasonably secure and reasonably well-paying position, partly because of their own characters and partly because of the changing academic world. Women often seem to have a stronger sense of reality. In my story, the man wants to "get to the bottom of the girl in the blue-jean cut-offs;" but of course, what he really wants to do is get to "the bottom of himself," but he does not realize that.
WOW: I love the title, and your "twist" makes it a great flash fiction piece. What are the themes you like to explore in your work?

James: I write a lot about male-female relationships, and I try not to bias my stories and themes--at least looking over a lot of them---either way. Lurking inside of every relationship is the possibility of huge personal growth. We no longer look for God or spiritual meaning in old religious documents or in building churches with ever higher spires. In our own time, we look for God or spiritual meaning in relationships. The person in front of us is the church that we must enter, even kneel down before. Lots of writers are working with this theme...for example, the Canadian writer Leonard Cohen (the song/poem "Suzanne," for example: "who takes you down to her place by the river; or the song/poem "Light as the Breeze" where: "she stands before you naked" and then something like "it don't matter how you worship/as long as you're/down on your knees.). I've always enjoyed the company of women a lot more than the company of men, so I may have some bias there after all.
WOW: You're certainly fitting right in at WOW! (smiles) Do you like to focus more on your characters in your work, your setting, or your plot?

James: I always focus more on the characters, and any plot I have is largely "character-driven". I do use settings toward revealing character. I have lots of stories set in Mexico, for example. Both characters and actual people reveal themselves in foreign or at least unfamiliar settings. How they respond to those settings tells us a lot about their characters. In one aspect, they are "setting-driven" characters, or "situation-driven" characters might be another related idea. I'm trying to finish a collection of short stories, Three Tamales for the Senor, set in Mexico, in which these ideas are working.
WOW: What a great title, and I'm sure it is a fantastic collection. We know you can sure write a short story! Tell us a little about your writing routine.

James: I often go days and days at a time writing something, often for hours. I do this partly because I write a column each month; I write a book review each month for another magazine; and I write various pieces I have promised to still other magazines. Then, for fun, I work on stories and poems, particularly short poems of late. I usually write in the mornings and in the evenings.
WOW: It sounds like you are keeping busy with all your writing responsibilities. What are you currently working on? Any more contest entries in the future?

James: I'll probably try some contests in the future, perhaps even a WOW! contest. I really thought I would receive first prize this time because I had worked so hard on that story, "Getting to the Bottom of the Girl in the Blue-Jean Cutoffs," honing it and honing it--so that when I finally sent it, I thought I had it perfect. I also have a collection of poetry, in both English and Spanish, about finished, titled To Love for a Thousand Years, as well as that collection of short stories I already talked about.

WOW: Best of luck to you in the future, James, with all your writing projects.

Interview by Margo L. Dill, margodill.com/blog/

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010


Arlene L. Walker, 2nd Place Winner - Fall 2009 Flash Fiction Contest

Arlene’s Bio:

Arlene L. Walker is passionate about the written word. Her friends tell her even her Emails are writ full of drama. For years, she worked as a stenographer writing other people's words until one day she was forced from the workplace. She decided to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a writer. She enrolled in the UCLA Writers Program to pursue a Certificate in Fiction. She began to enter first one short story contest, then another, and another. She was thrilled to finally garner an Honorable Mention in a publication last year, but being in the top ten of the WOW! Women On Writing Fall 2009 Flash Fiction Contest is her highest achievement to date. When she's not spending time with her family, Arlene is either reading, writing, or working on her blog about her Bucket List escapades, Adventuresalon.blogspot.com. Her favorite quote is by Ayn Rand who said, "It isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me." Next stop for Arlene is penning the Great American Novel.

If you haven’t read her winning entry, you can do so here, and then c’mon back for our interview with Arlene.

Interview by Jill Earl

WOW: So glad you could join us today, Arlene, and congratulations! How does it feel to be one of the top finishers in WOW! Flash Fiction Contest?

Arlene: It feels like I'm eating a bucket of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, and not getting fat. It's a dream come true.

WOW: (laughs) Fabulous, that has to be one of the best responses yet! We’re glad you feel that way! If you would, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Arlene: I was born and raised in the housing projects of Los Angeles, though I now live in the suburbs. I'm married with children -- actually, they're adults now and living on their own. I am happy to say not once did I ever experience empty nest syndrome. I presently attend the UCLA Writers Program, and I'm just thrilled to be there. It's where my imagination soars.

WOW: Isn’t it great how writing does that? Let’s talk about your entry. In your story, you took a unique approach regarding your character’s experience with abortion, not a topic that’s easily approachable. Can you share how you decided to take this direction in creating your story?

Arlene: I wanted to expose the brutality of illegal abortions, and how a 15-year old pregnant virgin might deal with it. During a procedure in which she is almost fully awake, her only avenue of escape is via the movie reel of her life she plays in her head.

WOW: As I read, I could easily see your story being turned into a short film. Your story packed a heck of a wallop, elliciting a range of emotions from me. Not an easy read, but worth the effort to do so. Good work!

Arlene, your bio mentions that you went from being a stenographer to actively pursuing your writing dream, including enrolling in the UCLA Writers Program to pursue a Certificate in Fiction. Quite a switch in gears! Can you share that experience with us?

Arlene: I worked for many years in a high-volume criminal court where day in and day out, I wrote down verbatim everything that was said during the trial. As such, you're not an active participant, but a silent observer. Well, that left my mind to wander, and I'd make up backstories in my head about the various witnesses, attorneys, and the criminals they defend. That spawned a desire to use my creative side. When I was diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome a few years ago, I was no longer able to perform my duties, and was forced by my employer into an early retirement. I took those lemons and made lemonade, where I serve it up by the pitcher full at the UCLA Writers Program.

WOW: Seeing an opportunity to pursue your dreams and going for it. What a great example of the perseverance we writers need to develop.

Let’s talk about your writing habits. Do you have a specific routine that you follow?

Arlene: Having Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, I am limited in the time spent on the computer, so -- again -- I do most of the formulation of a story in my head. Then I write it down little by little. Flash Fiction seems to work best for me.

WOW: I’d have to agree on that. It does take practice to write short and tight for flash fiction, and your story was very successful in achieving that. Now, in addition to writing fiction, you’re also a blogger. I have to say that Adventure Salon, your blog of ‘bucket list’ activities, was a delight to read. What made you decide to blog about your adventures in travel?

Arlene: I'm delighted that you were delighted by my blog! I think everyone has a list of things they'd like to do in their wildest dreams. I'd always had a list; I just didn't know it was called a Bucket List until the movie was made. So when the writer within was fighting to get out, that was the only way I knew to channel it. Blogs are a good place to practice your writing, and the blog site is free. And if it's free. . . it's me.

WOW: With the availability of free blog sites, it's easy to get started. And I agree that blogging's a great way to expand writing skills.

Let's talk about down time. When it comes to winding down, what types of books do you turn to? Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction in either your reading or writing?

Arlene: The only nonfiction I read may be a biography here and there, or books about writing. I'd already read Noah Lukeman's First Five Pages, so I was honored that he was the judge who selected my story for 2nd place. I guess my genre of choice to read is literary fiction. Though I love me some John Grisham, too. Of course, I want to be a literary writer, and I hope I am considered that.

WOW: I think you’re off to a pretty good start with that. How about current writing projects? What are you working on?

Arlene: I'm currently working on a post-Civil War saga about a former slave of the Cherokee Tribe who is caught in the middle of a tug-of-war between the Indians and a land-hungry United States. The heroine is called Sput Louie, and she hungers for her own piece of The American Dream. There's a lot of research to it, but research is one of my favorite parts of writing. That and revision. I know; I'm officially weird.

WOW: That sounds fascinating! I’m with you on researching, I enjoy it too. Have to pass on the revision aspect of writing, though. But, it’s all good that it jazzes you!

Wrapping up, what kind of advice would you like to leave for our readers?

Arlene: My father always said to me, "Know thyself first." In other words, I think he meant pay attention to you, which I didn't for a long time. One day, while cleaning out my bookcases, I discovered a gazillion how-to-write books that I'd purchased throughout the decades. Had I been paying more attention to me, I would have realized how badly I wanted this writing life, and would have embarked on this journey much sooner. As it is, I'm in Act III of my life, but I plan on having many, many encores.

WOW: Your father sounds like a wise man. Good thing for us that you paid attention! Arlene, thanks so much for sharing a bit of yourself with us today. All the best in your writing, and we’ll be looking forward to those encores!

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010


Leigha Butler, 1st Place Winner, Fall '09 Flash Fiction Contest

Leigha Butler teaches and writes in New York's beautiful Hudson Valley region. Her stories and non-fiction are inspired by the landscapes and waterways she has encountered—from the Long Island Sound to the Yellow River to the forested kids-only diving holes of her childhood. She teaches Writing and Environmental Literature as an adjunct professor at two colleges in the region. She earned her masters degree in Literature & Environment from the University of Nevada, Reno where class was often conducted on a hiking trail or over a potluck supper. In order to polish several stories and essays that sit, dusty, on her hard drive, she plans to attend Chatham University's Nature Writing MFA program in the fall. When she's not agonizing over a sentence, she's likely reading, kayaking, doing her sun salutations or catching up on the worst of reality TV (one has to be versed in the culture of her students, after all).

You can find her work at: https://www.everydayfiction.com/riding-in-circles-for-love-by-leigha-butler/ and https://gloomcupboard.com/2010/01/03/prose-113/. Or submit a story to her community-writing blog: https://talesfromthedomicile.blogspot.com/.

Interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Leigha, congratulations on your first place win! How do you feel?

Leigha: Thanks. I feel wonderful! I was so impressed by the second and third-place stories; I’m honored that "Kayana's Secret" was chosen to be in their company.

WOW: Could you tell us a little about your story and what encouraged the idea behind “Kayana’s Secret"? I’m guessing it may have been inspired by a place from your childhood.

Leigha: When I was little, my brothers and I loved to jump off of this particular pier into the Long Island Sound. My mother trusted me to determine whether tide was high enough to make our jumps safe, the scary implication being that my brothers’ lives were in my hands. The responsibility weighed heavily, but it marked my transition into adulthood and adventure for me.

In the story, Kayana experiences a similar rite of passage, made possible by her older sister. Devil’s Hole and Neversink Crag from the story combine several of these diving pools from my childhood. I still find my way to these kinds of jumping spots every summer. There is something so intriguing about how dangerous these places are, and yet how – again and again – they draw so many curious kids.

WOW: You switch between third person and second person narrative modes in the story in a very effective manner. It’s an interesting choice—and a hard one to pull off successfully. What made you decide to approach the story this way?

Leigha: I have written and re-written this story so many times, from so many different points of view! There’s a special kind of immediacy a writer can achieve, I find, with the second person point of view. Then again, as a reader, I get annoyed with the second person sustained. In the end, my decision to mix it up was the result of lots of experimentation and lots of feedback from friends and colleagues.

WOW: It's heartening to hear how much work it took to create the winning story! Have you written other flash fiction? What type of writing do you most prefer?

Leigha: Yes, I have written other flash fiction. My other flash stories have been published with Every Day Fiction, Gloom Cupboard, and Mslexia Magazine. I like the form because it combines everything I love about the short story and poetry. There is only time to focus on a single event, and the language has got to be tight and deliberate. It strikes me as beautiful that so much meaning can be packed into such a short space. I hope it’s not too hokey to say that flash fiction offers an idealized way to experience the world and all its richness.

WOW: What a wonderful description of flash fiction! 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?

Leigha: I cannot seem to break the habit of writing mostly at night. Nothing beats the peace and quiet available at the midnight hours. A cup of coffee will get me going, but more and more, for my nerves' sake, I’ve been opting for tea. One writing tool that’s very important to me is my laptop. I don’t think I could really commit to writing in just my office. I like the luxury of writing at a coffee shop or, better yet, on my couch.

WOW: For those of us unfamiliar with Environmental Literature, please tell us about this genre.

Leigha: Environmental Literature is any writing – fiction or non-fiction – that places emphasis on the natural world, whether as setting, subject or character. It takes seriously the notion that we must re-imagine our relationship with the environment and with our fellow species. It acknowledges humans as part of an ecological system instead of somehow separate from it. Aldo Leopold’s collection of essays, A Sand County Almanac, is a good place for interested readers to start. Terry Tempest Williams’ Refuge and Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek are also wonderful, canonical works. "Ecocriticism" is the critical lens born of literary scholars' desire to take the environment seriously as a subject of analysis.

WOW: Thanks for the brief lesson and reading recommendations. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you. Do you have any final words of wisdom for our women readers/writers?

Leigha: Thank you for the opportunity to share my work!

I’d tell aspiring women writers to permit themselves to be selfish. There’s such pressure in this culture for women to be the conduits of everyone else’s success—as supportive moms, wives, volunteers, etc. Perhaps this is why, for instance, Publishers Weekly’s Top Ten Books of 2009 included not a single woman author! We’ve got to be selfish enough to pursue our dreams so that future generations of girls and women can make their mark on the literary world.

Thank you again, Marcia. I'm so grateful for the work WOW! does for women writers and readers.


Check back on Tuesdays for more contest winner interviews!

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Saturday, September 19, 2009


The WOW! Fall '09 Flash Fiction Contest is Open!

Yes, it's here. We're officially taking entries now! Limit: 300 entries, first-come, first-serve. And we've done something extra special this season. We've raised the cash prize for the first place winner by $50. So the first place winner will take $250 (instead of $200).

We also have a very special guest judge this season--legendary literary agent Noah Lukeman!

Deadline: November 30, 2009

Word Count: 250 minimum - 750 maximum

Open Prompt: You can write about anything as long as it's fiction and within the word count.

Limit: 300 entries

Visit the Contest Page for complete details. Good luck!

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