Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Interview with Madeline Mora-Summonte, Runner-Up

Madeline Mora-Summonte’s work has appeared in over 20 publications, including Highlights for Children, Storyhouse, and Every Day Fiction. She’s written poetry, personal essays and book reviews, but her first love is fiction in all its forms, from flash to novels. Every week, she attends a writing workshop where the talent and the creativity of the group continues to amaze her. The workshop, led by mystery author Blaize Clement, is where the seeds of this story took root. For the fifth consecutive year, Madeline is participating in November’s National Novel Writing Month. A four time winner, her goal this year is an extremely rough draft of a YA horror novel.

She lives with her husband/best friend in beautiful Sarasota where they don’t spend nearly enough time walking on the beach and collecting seashells as they’d like.

You can visit her website at https://www.madelinemora-summonte.com/

Interviewed by: Anne Greenawalt

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the Summer 2008 Flash Fiction Contest! The last paragraph of your story gives me goosebumps! It’s great! Where’d you get your idea or inspiration for this story?

Madeline: Thank you so much! What a wonderful compliment! This story emerged - almost whole - from a writing exercise. I attend a weekly writing workshop, led by mystery author Blaize Clement, where the group does semi-timed writing based on a given word or phrase. The one that triggered this story was “a disguise.” Who knew, right? But that’s the magic of writing.

WOW: I guess I should never underestimate the power of a simple writing exercise! NaNoWriMo, on the other hand, is not a simple exercise. I saw on your website that you participated in and completed NaNoWriMo for the past five years. That’s quite a feat! Does it get any easier each year you complete it? Do you have ideas before you start, or do you just dive in head first on November 1st?

Madeline: Let me just say first off that I LOVE NaNoWriMo. I look forward to it like a kid looks forward to Christmas. I pull out my NaNo t-shirts, wipe out my NaNo mug, display my NaNo postcards and other goodies. Even my husband gets into it, presenting me with a “good luck” card at the start and a “congratulations” one at the end!

Every year is different. I think I winged it a couple of times, but I prefer some level of preparation so I usually approach it with a particular project in mind, notes and brief character sketches at the ready. I do play with different genres. This year I tried a YA horror/mystery type of thing, and it was a lot of fun.

WOW: Have you used, or do you plan to use, any of the material from NaNoWriMo for your short stories/flash fiction?

Madeline: I don’t think so. Somewhere in my mind I have a dividing line - novels over here, short stories/flash over there. I have noticed, though, that while the novel ideas tend to stay put, the flash ideas like to cross over and settle down.

WOW: Have you considered writing a novel for publication? If yes, are you working on one now? If no, why not?

Madeline: I am in the process of revising a novel. I love writing flash fiction, but my ultimate goal is to be a novelist. I’ve lost count of the number of manuscripts banished to my closet. Some of those never made it out for submission - I knew they just weren’t good enough. Others came close to securing an agent - requests for partials and fulls kept coming. One ms (a NaNo novel!) actually managed to snag an agent - she wasn’t able to sell it, though, and after our contract was up, we amicably parted ways.

But I have learned something from every single one of those manuscripts and experiences, and I am a better writer for it today. It’s a process, and one I hope I don’t ever stop learning from and growing with.

WOW: Also on your website, I read how you started creating stories by dictating them to your mother. I got started as a writer by dictating stories to my parents, too. At the time, did writing down the stories make your nightmares more controllable? Do you find that writing now helps you organize and control your thoughts, too?

Madeline: If I remember correctly, it helped at the time. Now, though, some of the scariest things I come across are from stories and books!

I sometimes use my journal to unclutter my mind, but I don’t use fiction writing to organize my thoughts. If anything, that’s where I let it all out - the craziest, the scariest, the dumbest ideas -plop out on the paper.

WOW: It’s always a great feeling to let it all out! What do you hope to accomplish next in your writing career?

Madeline: You know that feeling you get when you read a great story or a wonderful book? How you can’t wait to tell people about it, how you can’t wait for someone you know to read it so you can discuss it? I’ve had that experience many times and, for a reader, there’s nothing like it. That’s what I want to do. I want to give that feeling to other readers, just like it was, and still is, given to me, by so many great writers.

Click this link to read Madeline’s award winning entry. For more information on Madeline and her writing, you can visit her website. www.MadelineMora-Summonte.com.

Last week to enter the Winter '09 Flash fiction Contest with Guest Judge Literary Agent Janet Reid! Visit the Contest Page.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Interview with Gayle Carline, Runner Up in the Summer 2008 Flash Fiction Contest!

Gayle Carline was a software engineer for over 20 years, until she finally chewed her way out the cubicle and became a freelance writer. She quickly became a regular contributor to California Riding Magazine, and in 2005, began writing a weekly humor column, What a Day, for her local newspaper, the Placentia News-Times.

Although she came late to the writing party, Gayle is making up for lost time. Her humor essays have been recognized in contests held by both Humor Press and the Watermark Writer’s Conference, and she wrote a screenplay for the 48-Hour Film Project, an international competition. Her debut novel, Freezer Burn, will soon be published by Echelon Press.

Gayle lives with her husband, Dale, their teenage son, Marcus, and a small zoo that includes two horses. In her spare time, she likes to laugh with friends over a glass of wine. You can visit her at https://www.gaylecarline.com/.

WOW: Congratulations on placing as one of the Runners Up in our Summer 2008 Flash Fiction contest! How do you feel?

Gayle: As writers, we do our best and think it's good, but sometimes we wonder if we're biased, so it always feels great to be validated. Thanks so much for the recognition.

WOW: It's well deserved! Could you tell us a little about your story and what encouraged the idea behind "Quarter Life?"

Gayle: "Quarter Life" actually came from an online writer's group I belong to, the Orange County Writer's Meetup. We had a member for awhile, Victory Crayne, who would provide first or last sentences and let us take it from there. I had recently been to Vegas with a girlfriend, so an opening line about a guy turning his collar up to the cold suddenly made me picture a down-on-his-luck gambling addict on the streets of Vegas. It's a departure from my usual writing, which tends toward humor.

WOW: It's always interesting to hear about a story's background. Have you written other flash fiction? What type of writing do you most prefer?

Gayle: I'm actually pretty popular at 250 words or less (LOL). I've attended several Southern California Writer's Conferences (www.writersconference.com) and entered their flash fiction contest each time. Of 5 entries, I've won twice and been runner-up once. I usually look at the prompt and go, "nah, I can't think of anything." Then I think of something. When writing fiction, I like my stories dry with a twist.

My favorite type of writing is the humor essay. James Thurber, Erma Bombeck, Dave Barry, and Gordon Kirkland are my heroes. When I'm not writing fiction, I write a weekly humor column for the Placentia News-Times. It's about my home and family life. I would describe it as non-fiction, although my husband says he has his doubts. I never lie—but I do exaggerate.

WOW: So you're good at flash fiction, non-fiction, and you've also written a book. Your first novel, Freezer Burn, is coming out soon. You must be very excited! What did it take to complete that big goal?

Gayle: It took two SoCal Writer's Conferences, a trip to Paso Robles, my girlfriend, Robin, and a wicked bartender.

I got the first idea at my first conference, for a guy who hires a PI to find an ice cube tray in his freezer. In the meantime, Robin and I had been joking about a new PI for our times: Peri Menopause. She solves every crime by eating chocolate, weeping and bitch-slapping people until they confess. I combined the two ideas and asked myself, what else could Peri find in a freezer? The rest of the plot came to me as I slept while my hubby and I drove to Paso Robles for a horse show. I started writing the plot, then when we went on vacation that summer, I asked Mark the bartender if he could think of a cool signature drink for my heroine—something she saved her pennies for. He came up with a dirty martini, the perfect drink for a gal who used to clean houses for a living. Finally, at the San Diego SCWC, I met Karen Syed of Echelon Press (www.echelonpress.com). She read 20 pages of the novel and said, "Give me the rest if it's ready."

I had no idea if it was ready, but I gave it one more good scrubbing and sent it in. She loved it.

And yes, I'm very excited! Every time I see my cover art, my tail starts wagging!

WOW: It sounds like a great read! We will definitely keep a lookout for Freezer Burn. Aspiring authors would probably love to know more about your writing routines. For example, where do you write? How many hours (or words) a day do you write?

Gayle: I wouldn't recommend my routine to anyone - it's fairly chaotic, although I'm organized about it. I start with a spreadsheet that gives me the clues, who finds them, and some info like day, location, etc. Time tends to leap around in my stories, so I need to keep track of which day it is, even if I don't specifically mention it. Then I write a little in the morning, in between loads of laundry, and anything I have to do for my teenager (I volunteer at his school). Then I run errands and usually go to the ranch and ride my horse. After I fix dinner in the evening, I open my document and write more.

And, as unproductive and wacky as all that sounds, I still managed to write Freezer Burn (about 70,000 words) in three months.

WOW: That's very inspirational, thanks—especially for us momwriters! According to your bio, you were a software engineer for over 20 years before becoming a freelance writer. How did you orchestrate that change, and how would you compare your life then and now?

Gayle: There were a few things happening at that time. One is that, as much as I enjoyed the technical aspects of my job, I was the lead on a proposal that kept dragging out and keeping me from the work I liked. The desire to write more pulled at me as I grew unhappier with my job. The second event was that I had bred my mare; she was due to foal in April and I really wanted to spend a lot of time imprinting with the baby. The last "thing" was just the fact that I was getting home late every night and not spending a lot of time with my 12-year old. I wanted to be in the room when he had something to say. I talked it over with my husband, that my ideal life would be writing, tending to my horses, and spending time with my family.

I'm married to a generous (if laconic) man. He said yes.

There's not much about my engineering life I would like to return to - except the salary!

WOW: How great that you've created a satisfying life built around family, writing, and your beloved horses. Do you have any final words of wisdom for our women readers/writers?

Gayle: Words of wisdom? Wait - let me stop laughing... it took me nearly fifty years to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up.

If you're a writer, write. Don't sit and whine about how you want to if only you could think of something to write about, or don't have time, or blah-blah-blah. Write a journal. Look up some writing prompts. Find a picture in a magazine and make up a story about it. Even if it's 20 words a day, it's 20 more words than you had yesterday.

And whether you're a writer or not, find your own bliss, then spread it around.

How's that?

WOW: Just perfect! Thanks, Gayle. Be sure to let us know when your novel comes out, so we can spread the word.


Every Tuesday we're featuring an interview with a top 10 winner from the Summer 2008 Flash Fiction contest. Visit next week to see who's next!

Also, check out WOW! Women On Writing's current contest. The deadline for entries is February 28, 2009.

--Marcia Peterson

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009


Interview with James Tipton, Runner-Up

Interviewed by: Anne Greenawalt

James Tipton lives with his wife Martha and his daughter Gabriela in the tropical mountains of central Mexico in the town of Chapala, south of Guadalajara. His collection of poems, Letters from a Stranger (Conundrum Press, 1999), with a Foreword by Isabel Allende, won the Colorado Book Award. He has a particular interest in short poems and short (including flash) fiction. A collection of haiku, Proposing to the Woman in the Rear View Mirror, has just been published (October 2008) and a collection of tanka, five-line poems, All the Horses of Heaven will shortly be published (January 2009) by Modern English Tanka Press (https://www.modernenglishtankapress/).

Jim is currently completing a collection of short stories set in Mexico, Three Tamales for the Señor, many of them about expatriates living south of the border, and a collection of short poems, Washing Dishes in the Ancient Village, set in Mexico and Latin America, which is finished and is being translated into Spanish to be published very soon in a bilingual edition.

He lives in a “high-estrogen” house consisting of his wife, daughter, two female dogs, a female cat, and various young mothers who make their appearance almost daily (often with their daughters) to visit his wife and daughter. All of these females serve from time to time to inspire him and to provide him with subject matter; and if nothing else they give him lots of excuses to retreat to his upstairs office to write, versus all the excuses not to write that he used to come up with when he was single.

James Tipton's latest book, Proposing to the Woman in the Rear View Mirror, has just been released. It is a collection of haiku and senyru, three-line poems, some about the natural world, some about the human world. William J. Higginson, author of The Haiku Handbook, says these poems are "by a man who is not afraid to be himself," who can tell "the truths of his mind without flinching or apology".

Proposing to the Woman in the Rear View Mirror can be ordered on line for $9.95 plus shipping and handling at https://www.modernenglishtankapress.com/.

James placed as a Runner Up in the WOW! Summer Flash Fiction Contest. If you haven't done so already, read his winning story, Howard and Helen Play House, and then come back for a chat!

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the Summer 2008 Flash Fiction Contest! I see that you are already an accomplished writer of short poetry. And based on your award-winning entry, I’d say you have a gift for saying a lot in only a few words. Do you find it challenging to make the transition between writing shorter and longer pieces? If so, in what ways to do you find it challenging?

James: I've always loved short poetry and short fiction. But I think about "short" poetry and "short" fiction a very "long" time. While others dash out thousands and thousands of words, I muse over what I want to say, and then I diligently work and rework what few words I finally end up with. I was influenced by reading Kenneth Rexroth's translations of short poems from the Japanese and the Chinese, mostly love poems. My own poems, as Isabel Allende points out in her Foreword to my book of poetry, Letters from a Stranger, are often about "ordinary experiences--wings, canyons, rocks, flesh--but mainly about that other extraordinary experience....love." Love (and its various facets) for me, is always immediate, experienced in the moment, and somehow this is related to why I write short love poems.

I do like working on longer pieces of fiction, though, but rarely over 8,000 words. Right now I have almost completed a collection of short stories about expatriates living in Mexico, titled Three Tamales for the Señor. And all of them, one way or another, are about love.

And speaking of Mexico, I have a collection of 100 short poems (generally three lines) about Mexico and Latin America (but also about love) that is coming out in a couple of weeks, titled Washing Dishes in the Ancient Village. (I live in Mexico, but the book will be distributed in the states by Bread & Butter Press, 1150 S. Glencoe, Denver, CO 80246.)

And still on the subject of short poems, Modern English Tanka Press, which recently published a collection of my haiku, Proposing to the Woman in the Rear View Mirror, will publish a collection of my tanka (a 5-line Japanese form) in February titled All the Horses of Heaven. (https://www.modernenglishtankapress.com/)

Both All the Horses of Heaven and Washing Dishes in the Ancient Village are published bi-lingually (with Spanish translations).

WOW: Congratulations on your recent and upcoming publications! We’ll have to keep an eye out for them. You’ve mentioned that many of your poems and short stories are about expatriates living south of the border. Are you an expatriate? How did you come to make the decision to live in Mexico, and how long have you been living there?

James: For decades, actually, I have wandered around Mexico and parts of Latin America. The Hispanic culture is richly textured, closer to the earth, more connected to magic, and at least in the little towns the people care a lot about each other, and children, and neighbors. The violence that has developed because of the drug business (to provide the United States with "product") is beginning to touch all of us, though--I personally know of five murders in our little village--Chapala--this past month or so.

I am married to a Mexican woman, Martha, who grew up in a little Indian village near the Pacific...dirt floors, thatched roofs...the type of childhood I think I sometimes hungered for, and we have a lovely daughter, Gabriela. I have been living here full-time for about five years. Prior to that I was a beekeeper and writer in the high desert region of western Colorado.

WOW: How did your story “Howard and Helen Play House” take root?

James: I like "heroes" and so many stories I read are about sad losers who allow circumstances to determine their lives. Helen in my story "Howard and Helen Play House" is not, finally, a loser, and like the classic hero she does not allow her situation to destroy her. The catalyst for change that wakes her up is when her husband throws an unopened can of tuna at her and splits open her forehead. I have left relationships that began as romantic ones after a significant and defining event, a variation of that can of tuna tossed so carelessly and callously at Helen. Helen discovers she is a strong woman, much stronger than Howard has ever imagined.

When she walks out, she is no longer a child "playing house" with another child, her husband Howard.

WOW: What do you believe is your greatest writing accomplishment, and what do you hope to accomplish in the future?

James: I don't think much about accomplishments past, present, or future, although awards come my way now and then. Letters from a Stranger, for example, won the Colorado Book Award.

I think a lot about words, about love, about real things that have happened to me and to others, and then I like to distill those thoughts and experiences into poetry or fiction, usually short poetry or fiction. I suppose my greatest accomplishment is that I've stuck with it for decades without much real success in the way people usually think about writers and success.

The "sound" of words is also very important to me and for years I have read aloud what I have been writing and rewriting, feeling the taste of those words...in some strange way it is almost erotic to me.

WOW: Sticking with something that you love, with or without traditional success, is definitely a great accomplishment and I commend you for being able to do that. Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

James: Don't think much about being a writer. Think about writing.

Let yourself be seduced by your own heart and then see what happens to you.

Advice? Maybe there is some hidden in my poem, "One Night I Picked up in a Bar," which begins:

One night I picked up in a bar
a woman named Poetry,
and she was drunk, or I was drunk,
but at any rate I took her home
and listened to her.

If you haven't done so already, read James' award-winning story "Howard and Helen Play House".

Enter the WOW! Women On Writing Winter Flash Fiction Contest, open now. Deadline: February 28, 2009.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Interview with Sarah Mian, First Place Winner of the Summer 2008 Flash Fiction Contest!

Sarah Mian has been a writing junkie since childhood. To support her habit she has worked, among other jobs, as a film extra, waitress, substitute teacher, and currently as an exhibit custodian who ships and receives evidence in a crime lab. She has been published in numerous journals and anthologies, including The Vagrant Revue of New Fiction and The New Quarterly. Her co-written play, 'Creatures of the Moment' was produced by Metamorphic Theatre.

Sarah has written her way across Canada, living on Vancouver Island in the west, Toronto in the middle and Newfoundland in the east. She also spent nine months abroad to see how the other half lives before returning home to Nova Scotia where the waves break on all sides and everyone says 'thank you'. She lives with her boyfriend, Leo, who can't sing but is a damn fine kisser.

You can read Sarah's winning contest entry, "English as a Second Language," then come back to our interview with her below.


WOW: Congratulations on winning first place in WOW!'s Summer 2008 writing contest! How do you feel?

Sarah: It's elating to have my work read and considered, let alone recognized as exceptional. I'm grateful I saw the contest listing and took a chance. In November, I kept checking the web site to see who had won and all of a sudden my own face appeared on the screen!

WOW: That must have been fun to see yourself there as the winner! Could you tell us a little about your story and what encouraged the idea behind "English as a Second Language?"

Sarah: Now that I am back home and stationary, I'm doing a lot of exotic travel in my head, sucking on all the juices of my past adventures or those of people I know who lived in foreign countries. I imagined this piece as a visual post card, a haiku, a love letter and a very long story all in one.

WOW: Your story is artistic and poetic, and does seem to have all of those elements. Have you written other flash fiction? What type of writing do you most prefer?

Sarah: Short fiction has become my medium of choice in recent years, but I am always experimenting with length and form. Writing poetry and flash fiction disciplines me to cut away the fat, which carries over into longer works. I'm learning how to paint whole scenes with just a few brush strokes and how to leave some edges in shadow. I believe this is the secret to great writing; when the story is mutable enough to allow recreation with each reader. It's like magic.

WOW: I love the image of painting whole scenes with just a few brush strokes. Aspiring authors would probably love to know more about your writing routines. For example, where do you write? How many hours (or words) a day do you write?

Sarah: I have to write. It's not about squeezing it in; it's as much a necessity as brushing my teeth. If I don't write for a week, I feel completely out of sync. Therefore, I have chosen a career that does not rob me of my creative energy. During my breaks at work I brainstorm on whatever I'm working on in my "real" job as a writer. The amount of time I spend writing a day depends on what demands to be freed from my mind; sometimes I unleash fifteen pages at my desk after work, sometimes just two sentences. I tend to back and forth between wholeheartedly living life and rehashing/analyzing it on paper.

WOW: You're obviously a very dedicated writer. Have you ever faced writer's block or burnout? If so, how do you deal with it?

Sarah: If anything, my problem is that I have too many ideas and have a hard time honing and ordering (or ditching!) them. The ability to recognize what isn't working is a crucial writing skill. On the first draft I let it all out, then the hard work really begins.

WOW: We can relate to that! What other projects are you working on? Anything we should look out for this year?

Sarah: I am perpetually sending out short stories to literary journals and I've recently completed a comedy screenplay. In the next three years, I expect to start a novel.

WOW: We wish you luck with all of those endeavors. Do you have any final words of wisdom for our women readers/writers?

Sarah: My best two pieces of advice:

#1-When you think a piece is finally finished, put it away for at least a month. Guaranteed, when you read it back you'll see room for improvement. It's tricky to get things out of our head and make them lie down on paper in a way that others can make sense of them. You need distance in order to recognize if you've achieved clarity with every line.

#2 -Ignore the rule that you can't submit a piece to more than one publisher at once. Having one editor agree to publish your work is like capturing a unicorn; what are the odds of capturing two? I say, send your work everywhere and anywhere, and if a piece you really believe in has been rejected more than once, keep trying. 'English as a Second Language' was rejected three times in slightly different drafts before winning this contest.

WOW: Great advice, Sarah. Congratulations again on your first place win!


Every Tuesday we're featuring an interview with a top 10 winner from the Summer 2008 Flash Fiction contest. Be sure to check back and see who's next!

There's still time to enter our current writing contest, too! The deadline for entries is February 28, 2009.

--Marcia Peterson

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