Questions and Answers
I wrote commercials for Herbal Essence shampoo in the tub when I was 4 years old, but my true calling was revealed in 3rd grade when I wrote 18 essays and won an award for most prolific writer. My teacher, God bless her, told me not to stop until I wrote the Great American Novel, so here I am.
Sorry! I find inspiration expressing raw emotions and hope readers can relate. If I tried to write about unicorns and butterflies, there would be no true resonance. I do think there’s a sense of change and movement in my stories that take characters to a new place where they are stronger. These could be called happy endings.
I scrutinize the smallest details. That means looking at every single word to make sure it’s exactly what I need to convey. Here’s a phrase I mulled over for quite some time: “That night, in the kitchen,” or “In the kitchen that night.” (I went with the former). I spend a lot of time stringing sentences together. I particularly love the semi-colon. Also in love with: alliteration.
I was recently smitten with the challenge of writing something so highly condensed. Flash, to me, is like poetry. I look at how the words are placed on the page. I deliberate over formatting and punctuation (some stories need none!) Despite their brevity, flash must build tension, uncover secrets and ultimately, satisfy readers that the entire story has been told. But yes, flash takes me less time to write than longer works! Sometimes complete stories are whispered into my ear. Not all the time. Just once in a while, if I’m lucky and if I’m listening.
The stories come to me organically in either first or second person. When I had stories critiqued in writer’s workshops, lots and lots of people expressed their dislike of the second person narrative, but I stuck to my guns. There’s a sense of intimacy in this narrative, as if we are inside the characters’ hearts and minds.
It would be easier to list what I did NOT write about! I covered municipal meetings, school boards, ice sculptors, cheese makers, a kid who made granola for squirrels, library book sales, tarot card reading, what makes people donate their bodies to science, why more girls need to study math and science, the 6 most common nightmares, haunted B&B’s, what kids think the 4th of July is celebrating (HINT: It involves birthdays, but whose? Some said God’s, some said George Washington’s), pumpkin growers, sidewalk chalkers, jump ropers, sky divers, coffee servers, protesters, you name it. I rode in an ice cream truck and the driver gave me free samples, watched a man drink a glass of muddy, algae-infested river water to prove it was safe, cried with a mom who lost her son to MS, climbed into a pigeon poop covered clock tower on top of a former paper bag factory, sang happy birthday to Martin Luther King with a class of first-graders, watched kids’ faces turn purple in a blueberry pie-eating contest, and so much more. I loved, and still love, writing news stories and features, and have a profound respect for reporters.
Ah, the dreaded question…. I’m reminded of the old adage “write what you know.” Yes, to some degree or another, my stories are reflective of my own experiences. That said, they are highly fictionalized, and the narrative voices are often far from my own or someone else’s. My family and friends frequently remind me not to use what they say or do as fodder for my work. It’s a deal I reluctantly strike.