Congratulations, Nancy, for your winning Flash Fiction contest entry, "Mary's Little Lamb Spills the Beans." We'd all like to learn more about you. Tell us whether you have written any novels/books, etc. Also if you have a personal website you’d like to share.
To date I have roamed only the world of short stories and have not written a novel or other book. I am a novice at fiction writing and am taking my second short story writing class this semester. This is the sixth short story I have written.
Q. How did you ever come up with the idea of Mary's Little Lamb Spills the Beans?
Recently, for a class project, I studied the works of Margaret Atwood, which are typically a means for serious social commentary. In one story, she structured her commentary about Western culture around a children's story. The concept appealed to me, so I decided to research nursery rhymes on the web, then picked Mary Had a Little Lamb, writing from the lamb's perspective. The story flowed out of me from there and became a light, humorous look into modern life with Mary from the lamb's point of view.
Q. What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?
Being new to fiction writing, my opinion from this vantage point is that voice, the emotional integrity of the characters and the conflicts explored are the key elements of good writing.
Q. How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
I develop plot and characters by listening to the world around me and then letting my imagination grab tidbits of real life that later gel with my own personal experiences.
Q. What would you like our readers to know about you?
It took me many years (two decades, to be exact!) to get the courage to move from my profession as a medical writer and editor into the world of creative writing. My credo is a quote by George Eliot: "It is never to late to be what you might have been." I read that quotation every morning before I start my day.
Q. What do you do to unwind and relax?
My decompression chamber is a grand piano. I play classical music and it gives me the emotional, spiritual and intellectual stimulation, relaxation, and rejuvenation that I need away from the intensity of writing.
Q. What does your family feel about your writing? Are they supportive?
I'm very fortunate that my family is very supportive of my writing, as are my closest friends.
Q. What inspires you? Who inspires you?
God and the creative gifts with which He has blessed me (and all of us) are my key inspiration. Regarding writers, right now I am very inspired by the works of Ann Beattie and Robert Olen Butler.
Q. Are you working on any projects right now? If so, what are they?
I'm working on two short stories. One is about a Polish man and his wife who were freed from a slave labor camp in World War II, then immigrated to the United States. They moved to the South side of Chicago, started a family, and over time unconsciously visited their pain and deprivation on their children. The second story is about Christmas for singles.
Q. Do you ever get Writer’s Block? If so, what do you do about it?
Yes, I get writer's block. I have read that writer's block is due to fear and perfectionism. I agree. So I try to look at what I'm afraid of and try to disengage from the need to write the perfect sentence, paragraph, etc. (On a more practical note, I also change the music I'm listening to when I write from Beethoven [my muse] to Chopin, Brahms, or Dvorak and then back to Beethoven. That always seems to help!)
Q. What is most frustrating about writing? Most rewarding?
So far, the most frustrating part of writing is working under deadline pressure. Of course, deadlines have a way of spurring one on as well. Writing is so very rewarding to me because the written word is a way to explore, visualize, and feel the breadth of human emotion and human experience.
Q. Do you have any kind of writing schedule? Can you tell us about it?
I tend to start my writing in the evening, working until the early morning hours. I like to work while the rest of the world is quiet and asleep. However, I'm also trying to learn how to "grab" little bits of time to write during any part of the day.
Q. Do you have any links you’d like to share with our readers?
None come to mind.
Q. What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given as a writer? What’s the worst?
The best advice I've been given is to let the characters come alive and speak in their own time and on their own terms. I haven't been given a bit of bad advice in the two classes I've taken to date.
Q. If I were sitting down to write my very first story, what would your advice be?
To write a story that only you can write. By that I mean, a story that is birthed from your particular personal history (that has your fingerprint on it) and is written only from your way of viewing the world.
Q. What advice would you give to writers just starting out?
READ, READ, READ short stories, novels, anything that will inspire you and model excellent writing. Begin writing and join a writers' group so that your work can be critiqued by other writers.
Q. Any last comments or advice
? Most "famous" writers lived with REJECTION LETTERS for many years before being published, so never give up!