Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Interview with Stephanie Haefner - Winter 08 Contest Runner Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Saturday, April 21, 2007


Interview with Stephanie Haefner - Runner Up!

Stephanie Haefner's short story, A Faded Oasis, is such a treat. We love stories that transport us to familiar, yet undiscovered places -- it's like receiving a mini-vacation!

We had a chance to chat with Stephanie and find out what she's been up to, the inspiration behind the story, and what she's working on right now. She's quite a dynamo! She's written two books, runs her own business, is a mom, and still finds time to write.


WOW: Stephanie, congratulations on being in the top ten! That's quite an accomplishment. What inspired you to write, A Faded Oasis?

Stephanie: I love visiting old places and imagining what it was like before time took its toll. We've visited Philadelphia, Boston, Salem, landmarks of our country, and I can easily imagine the people living their day to day lives in the infancy stages of our country. When I read the prompt for the story, my first thought was a girl jetting off and having a hellish (and hilarious) time at this run down resort. As the story evolved, it became a sentimental story about two people who obviously love what they'd done for years.

WOW: That's what we loved about your story. We also enjoyed your description. We could smell the cocoa butter, see the tattered resort, and the tanned old couple. What impressed us was how you ended the story, giving the couple a gift back. I can't imagine a better ending! But this wasn't what you intended when you set out?

Stephanie: I had originally planned on making the story a funny one, focusing on all the things that went wrong, broken mirrors and furniture in the room, maybe a rat or two, dry-rotted beach chairs, etc.... As I wrote the story and added the owners of the resort as characters, the story really evolved into a tale about the love they had for what they did for a living. These girls were their only guests and they were going to take care of them as best they could. As my main character envisioned what the resort was like in it's heyday, she realized how much this couple needed her and all she saw was the gorgeous sight before her. Nothing else mattered.

WOW: Did you do a lot of editing to get the word count down?

Stephanie: Oh yes!! Originally it was almost double the length. I had to edit out most of the funny stuff, but actually once I came to the ending, I didn't need it all anyway!

WOW: Isn't that great how that works out? The word count really tightens the story. In your bio you mentioned that you have 2 completed novels! Are you still working on them, or are you in the submission process?

Stephanie: Novel #1 is finished and sitting on the shelf. I submitted to over 40 agents with only a tiny request for the first 5 pages of the MS. I learned my query was really awful, so when I finished novel #2, I made sure I my query sparkled. It has so far done it's job pretty well..... getting 2 agents to ask for partials, 1 asked for the full manuscript, and the same agent from the first novel asked for the first 5 pages. Unfortunately, I received rejections from 3 of them....the one with the full has not gotten back to me....but I just emailed that to her yesterday. I still have tons of queries out there, waiting to hear back from about 22 more agents.

WOW: That's exciting! We wish you the best! In your opinion, do you think having an agent is necessary?

Stephanie: Oh yes! I've tried to learn what I can about how the publishing business works, but I feel it would be in my best interest to have someone who is 100% on my side when it comes to contract negotiations!

WOW: Most definitely. So tell us... how do you find time to write, take care of your little girl, be a wife, and run a floral design business?

Stephanie: Well, winter is my off season, so not too much going on that time of year with weddings...at least not in Buffalo anyway!! Our nice weather doesn't start until May, so neither does wedding season!! I steal whatever time I can during the day, but get my most productive writing done at night when husband and daughter are in bed! I'm a total night owl! I am planning on getting a laptop soon so my writing can come with me wherever I go!

WOW: That's next on my list as well. :-) Stephanie, you've had another flash fiction piece published in an anthology. What is the appeal of flash fiction to you?

Stephanie: Sometimes I find it hard to keep things short, seeing as I write novels, but I like writing little pieces that are a small snippet of life that can bring a smile to someones face.

WOW: As a novel writer, you must be an avid reader. Who are your favorite authors?

Stephanie: I love Ann Brashares and Judy Blume.....I compare my first novel to Summer Sisters. I guess I am a sucker for a coming of age story!

WOW: I grew up on Judy Blume! She guided me through many coming of age situations. So, in closing, how has entering the WOW! Flash Fiction Contest been for you?

Stephanie: I loved the experience! It was my first real publication (the anthology won't be out until Spring 08). I feel so incredibly lucky to be among such talented writers and can't believe I was chosen to be among them! I thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving me this opportunity!!!!

WOW: We thank you too! And please let us know when the anthology comes out; I'd love to read it!

Click to read Stephanie Haefner's story A Faded Oasis.

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