WOW! Contest Interview with Andrea Dennin
Andrea Dennin has been creating stories for as long as she can remember. It all started with inventing places and situations for her Barbies to showcase their clothes. Eventually, her ideas escaped to the blank pages of countless notebooks and stayed there. Though recently addicted to flash fiction, she enjoys writing novels and short stories. Andrea has a B.A. in English and is pursuing an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and a M.A. in Psychology. She enjoys teaching, jewelry making, and hiking. She currently lives in Las Vegas.
If you haven't done so, please read Andrea's entry, The Tenth Wife. Afterward, come back and join us for our interview with Andrea to find out more about her and how she created such a winning read!
WOW: Congratulations for being chosen as a runner-up in the Winter 2008 Flash Fiction Contest! How do you feel?
Andrea: I feel great! I’ve never placed in a contest before, so this is very exciting for me. I couldn't believe all the great things I received when my goody bag arrived. Best of all was a hand-written note addressed to me. It felt like a letter from a friend; like I’d won first prize. It's rare for a runner-up to be recognized that way, in my experience, anyway. I would have been happy with just that, so everything else that came with the card was like a bonus.
WOW: Your characters in the The Tenth Wife were so realistic! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. What inspired you to write your entry?
Andrea: What inspired me? Hmm. I can't say one particular person or event inspired such an out-there story. I’d read the guest judge was an agent for romance novels and looked open to zany stories, and I thought why not? I sat down and thought about something fun and light that would still contain a universal truth/struggle that all women can relate to. How many women feel like their spouse puts other things before her? How many let it build over time, then do something crazy because the guy’s clueless? I’m always fascinated by the battles between the sexes and knew a story emphasizing neglect rather than nine other wives might be interesting. And I knew it’d have to be alien because no human woman would be a tenth wife; there would be bloodshed.
WOW: You really succeeded! I had to keep reminding myself that your piece was fantasy and not someone I might know. Is this the first time you’ve been published?
Andrea: Yes. Excitingly enough, this is the first time I've been published. And I feel really blessed to be among the other runners-up and finalists, because all the stories were great! It's wonderful to place with all of these awesome writers!
WOW: You definitely earned it! Your story encompassed the essence of flash fiction: concise and capable of sustaining interest. It certainly held mine! How were you able to achieve this?
Andrea: I had just started writing flash fiction when I found the guidelines for this contest. I had signed up to be a member of an online writer's group specifically for flash fiction and I had no idea what I was really getting into. But everyone in the group was very helpful and honest, so I learned what I was doing wrong. I’d been in this group about two weeks when I saw the contest information. After that, it was just a matter of finding the right idea, then using the ruthless editing skills I’d learned from the group. Because I was shy and new, I didn't show anyone this story. No one critiqued it. I edited it on my own, thinking it was good practice. Still, I wanted the best story represented, so I went over and over and over the story until I could recite it from memory. Only then did I send it in. I knew it was cute and different, but I never expected to place in a contest with only a few weeks worth of experience! Talk about shock!
WOW: You didn’t let your relative inexperience in the genre intimidate you. You went ahead, created a piece, rewrote and edited, and submitted. I’m impressed and encouraged.
I’m also impressed that you’re pursuing both a M.A. in Psychology and a M.F.A in Creative Writing. When do you come up for air? What do you plan to do after you’ve received your degrees?
Andrea: When do I come up for air? Well, I'm actually up for air at the moment, LOL, since I'm on a hiatus from school. Right now, I’m writing full-time, but I plan to start working on the Psych degree this fall and continue on with my MFA in the spring of '09. I'm a writer first and foremost, so I want a job where I have time to write, whether on the weekends or at night, just so I have the energy and time to write. I strive to be published regularly, as both a short story writer and novelist, so energy and time is key.
I also like to teach, and hope to pursue my Ph.D. in English in later years. Then I can teach English and Creative Writing at the college level and write at the same time. Yeah, it sounds ambitious, but I’ve wanted to write since I was twelve; the interest in teaching and counseling came later.
WOW: That’s great that you want to inspire and guide future writers. How about you? What kind of writing inspires you?
Andrea: What kind of writing inspires me? Well, anything with emotions where people deal with changes in their lives--love, loss--anything I can relate to or that affects me. I have to analyze why I'm affected; why a story or character or situation hit me that way. If I'm not emotionally drawn to writing, then it won’t inspire me. That's not to say I don't like science fiction or fantasy, because I do, I love those genres and have great fun writing them. But for me to sit down and write a 80,000 word novel… It's gotta be about people, how they deal with things happening in their lives. I guess that's why a degree in psychology would be natural for me--because I'm nosy. Also, it has to have a satisfying ending. Yeah, I love HEA, but it’s not necessary for a great story. Plath’s “The Bell Jar” really inspired me in my younger years.
WOW: Do you have any current works-in-progress?
Andrea: I have a lot of works-in-progress. Right now, I have more unfinished flash stories than novels and short stories put together. Since I write in almost every genre, I have several works that need to be polished or edited or read by a critique group to see what’s missing. And I hate having unfinished work, so I try to keep it to a small number. But sometimes I’ll get stuck on a particular idea/character/plot that seems dead, but when I go back months later I find it’s still breathing. I have to look at it with fresh eyes and know what needs to be added or edited to get finished. I have two novels I’m working on right now; I hope to finish them and start submitting them to agents before I start my Psych degree in August.
WOW: Your bio mentioned that you started writing stories as a child so that your Barbie dolls had places to showcase their clothes. What were a couple of those stories? Have some of those plots found their way into more recent works?
Andrea: Oh, what a question! I can't recall any specific stories, because I was probably five or six at the time, but I do know a lot of plots revolved around Ken and his car, LOL! They definitely have not worked their way into my recent stuff.
WOW: Do you have any advice for aspiring women writers?
Andrea: Any advice? I still consider myself an aspiring writer, so I'm not sure I'm the best person to ask! But I will say this: if you feel like your life is interfering with your writing, then you’re a writer and you should never let anything stop you. If however, writing interferes with your life, then it's probably a hobby and you should keep a regular job. I can't remember who told me that or if I read it somewhere in one of the many writing books I always read, but it's the best advice I can give.
Like every starting out writer (that I know of) I’ve wondered if I can do it, if I have enough talent, if I have enough passion to sustain me. And most days I still wonder these things and have to remind myself how lucky I am to love something so much. Most people live. But I write.
WOW: I have to ask one last question. Who’s the adorable doggy pal with you in your photo?
Andrea: The puppy in the picture is my dog, Loki. He's almost two years old. I named him after the Norse god of mischief/trickery, hoping he would be sweet. So far, it really hasn't worked, LOL! But I like to include him in most of my pictures because he’s so cute. When I’m writing, sometimes he’ll jump on my lap and play with the keyboard, so I guess you could say he’s my mascot.
WOW: Andrea, it was a pleasure speaking with you. You’re such an inspiration to me and our readers! Thank you so much for such a great interview and we’ll be looking out for more of your work! Good luck!