Interview with Valerie Maczak - Runner Up in the WOW! 2006 Flash Fiction Contest
From talking with Valerie, we've learned that she's a free spirit, an extraordinary person, and a dedicated writer with tons of talent. Over the years, Valerie has worked many jobs, yet, throughout each one of them, she still finds time to write. When we first read her short story, Rolling Along, we wondered if she actually spoke the way she writes! After receiving our first e-mail from her, we immediately deduced that it wasn't the way she speaks; it was a true manifestation of her writing voice.
WOW: One thing that impressed us most about your story, Rolling Along, was your ability to stay true to your characters' voices. How important is voice to you?
Valerie: Extremely. I have a frightening gift for finding a character's voice. In my professional life, I work for a financial publishing company that represents investing "celebrities," so every day I become a 50-year-old, white male who is worth $4 billion. I get to "say" things like, "McDonald's posted a phenomenal 37% earnings surprise in the third quarter, and the currency tailwind we saw in the fourth quarter means another stellar report is ahead." It's VERY exciting.
WOW: Sounds like it! So tell us, what inspired you to write a story about a roller derby girl? (What an original take!)
Valerie: Jim Croce's "Roller Derby Queen," and quite honestly, I figured you would be overwhelmed with cheerleader pom-pom stories, so I hoped it would make me stand out.
WOW: I know that song! In fact, down here in San Diego there's a restaurant I go to every once and a while. It's called Croce's Restaurant & Jazz Bar. It's owned by Ingrid Croce, and is a tribute to the memory of her late husband Jim -- and the place has excellent food and a great music scene... it's also a fabulous place for drinks.
In your bio you said that you're 'a recovering bartendress, a reformed flight attendant, and a beauty school drop out.' What a colorful resume! While working these jobs did you still manage to find time to write?
Valerie: Always -- my professional life is the best fodder for my work. In fact, while I was flying the friendly skies, I was also attending college. I would work trips Friday through Monday then take classes on Tuesday and Thursdays. It worked well -- I'd pack my text books along with my underpants and polyester frock, so I did a lot of writing on the road, though much of it was academic. I did that for about 2 years, but I eventually had to take classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and the fallout from the September 11 sadness became more intense, so I quit in 2003, but I have missed it ever since.
WOW: Yeah, the September 11th issue has been coming up a lot lately in our interviews. Check out what Amy Tan told us about where she was at the time... it's too strange...
In your bio, you also said that you take on freelance writing in your spare time. What kinds of projects do you get involved in?
Valerie: Oh, good Lord, what kind of projects DON'T I get involved in? I've written product reviews and "how to" articles for an adult Web site. I've ghost written freelance articles about chandeliers, Chinese real estate and home improvement loans. I also transcribe Congressional hearings. Earning a living from writing, even when you're writing about money, simply isn't very lucrative. I've accepted that I will probably always have a side job, which is alright because it keeps me out of trouble and out of the bars.
WOW: Val, that's quite a diverse selection! Do you have a day job now?
Valerie: Indeed, I work for a financial publisher. I'm low on the totem pole but high in spirit.
WOW: The photo of you with the guitar is great. What type of music do you like to play?
Valerie: Anything with easy chords. I do write my own songs, but I'm very private with them, so I tend to perform unusual cover songs -- things that probably shouldn't be played acoustically, such as A-Ha's "Take on Me" and a lot of Air Supply songs. Outside of that, I love Bob Dylan, Ray Lamontagne, James Taylor, Paul Simon -- I could go on an on.
WOW: (laughs) I grew up in the 80's so I'm all too familiar with A-Ha's song and their infamous video/cartoon. That must be very hard to play acoustically, I'd imagine!
Speaking of childhood, your article about Walt Disney was published in The Daily Jeffersonian when you were in the third-grade. Is that what encouraged you to take your writing seriously?
Valerie: I'm still struggling with taking my writing seriously. It seems very pretentious to me to refer to myself as a writer. I tend to tell people that I "like words," but each time I get something published, whether it's an article on caring for older horses or a very generous mention on your Web site, my confidence builds.
But, it was actually a high school English teacher, Carlene Jackson, who told me, point blank, "You write very well." That sentiment was later reiterated by several college professors whom I respected very much and my friend Sean P. K, who acts as my editor. It's a bit Lifetime movie-ish, but they inspired me with those simple words. Or maybe I'm just a sucker for compliments, but either way, I will always appreciate
WOW: I think encouragement is definitely needed for all of us to grow as writers -- it seems to be a theme; actually, in the answers we're receiving. Someone somewhere in school or life has been encouraging, providing a catalyst for talent. So, do you have any writing goals for the New Year?
Valerie: To master hyphen usage. I always get tripped up on the hyphens.
WOW: Even the Fowler brothers (the first editors of the Concise Oxford Dictionary) had trouble with that one. Check out their explanation HERE.
So, how has entering the WOW! Fall 2006 Flash Fiction Contest been for you?
Valerie: Fantastic -- I love prizes! I'm currently working on my submission for the next contest.
WOW: That's great to hear. We can't wait to read it! Thank you Valerie for inspiring us and sharing your unique outlook on life.
If you missed Valerie's story Rolling Along, you can read it HERE. Enjoy!
Labels: Flash Fiction Contest, Jim Croce, Roller Derby, Rolling Along, Valerie Maczak, WOW Women On Writing