Sunday, March 22, 2009

 

Interview with Doris Wright, Runner-Up for Summer2008 Flash Fiction Contest

Born in the Canal Zone (which is where the resemblance to Sen. John McCain ends) to a Panamanian-Catholic mother and a Lithuanian American-Jewish father, Doris Wright has lived and traveled throughout the United States and the world: in the last two years she has enjoyed the beauty and diversity of China, Senegal, and Mali (including spending the better part of a day in wind-swept Timbuktu), and is just back from France and Spain.

Besides traveling, Doris and her husband Don, an African historian, enjoy gardening, exercise, and their family and friends. They love to learn and to write, respect the precision and beauty of language, and they are passionate about world equity and peace--as well as the occasional microbrewed beer.

Doris recalls beginning her first story on a manual typewriter at age six, and writing steadily through high school and Spring Hill College, where she majored in English. She was a teacher and a newspaper reporter/feature writer before marrying, and then writing took a back seat while she raised her three sons. In the last few years Doris has taken graduate courses in English and participated in the Algonkian Novel Workshop, the New York State Summer Writers Institute at Skidmore College, and Colgate University’s summer writer’s novel workshop.

In addition to writing short stories and poetry, Doris recently has finished a draft of her first novel, “Cabbagehead.”

Today, I was given the wonderful privilege of sitting down with one of our fabulous runners-up for the 2008 Summer Flash Fiction writing contest. She is the author of As if I could forget. Please read her touching story and see for yourself why we chose Doris as one of our top 10.

Interviewed by Carrie Hulce

WOW: Doris, Congratulations, and thank you for sitting down with us today to talk about your wonderful story, As if I could forget. How does it feel to have placed in the WOW Summer 2008 Flash Fiction contest?

Doris: It feels wonderful! Though I've had good feedback in the past, this was my first contest "win." It came at a good time--it is hard not to get discouraged, as most fledgling writers must know--and added a boost to my will to keep going.

WOW: We agree, it is difficult to keep going, but we're so happy that you did and hope that you continue writing--you have a talent that should not be hidden away. Have you entered in any other writing contests recently?

Doris: Yes, I have entered other contests recently. I entered the Glimmer Train competition in the "Family Matters" contest in the fall of 2008, but was not successful.

WOW: It's great that you continue to enter into contests, and we hope that you continue to do so. You have a great writing style. What is your biggest inspiration for your stories?

Doris: I would have to say that the biggest inspiration for my stories is my own life experience, followed by the books I read and enjoy, and my take on life--that it is an experience where all things are possible and not everything can be explained. Thus, most of the things I write are a combination of mundane events with a bit of the bizarre or unexpected woven in (perhaps Anne Tyler with visitations from Franz Kafka?--in feeling, though not in quality).

WOW: Bizarre and unexpected is what keeps things fresh and original. Was your story based off of something that happened in your life?

Doris: In As If I Could Forget, the character Henry is suffering from dementia, without realizing it--his wife though has the full and painful realization and the loss of his love and companionship. Both of my parents, now deceased, had dementia, and, especially in my mother's case, I felt that I had lost my mother, long before her death.

WOW: You've woven your story so eloquently and with so much care. We are sorry about the loss of your parents. In the future, I hope that they will find a cure for this illness and help us all to understand it better. What genre do you typically write?

Doris: Mostly short stories. I also write poetry and am almost finished with revisions of a novel, "Cabbagehead."

WOW: That was going to be my next question! Please tell us about your novel.

Doris: Cabbagehead, is about Bradley, a 50 year old man, who has lived his life, careful not to be noticed or engaged; he has retreated to an uninspiring, interior life, finding his only contentment in gardening...until the day a plant, looking much like a giant cabbage, speaks to him…and everything changes. His new friend, in conversations both humorous and profound, has much to teach Bradley about life, the world, ecology, friendship and love; and sends him off on a mission to connect with his family, and, incidentally, to save the planet from global disaster. It's written in the tone I described above in question 3--my hope is that readers will find it subtly amusing and touching with characters they get to know and care about.

WOW: That sounds like a wonderful story. It almost sounds along the lines of the author Douglas Adams with his trilogy Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy--one of his books entitled, So long and thanks for all the fish. But, the description of your story, sounds so much more captivating. I hope it is a success and I personally can't wait to read it. How long have you been working on your novel?

Doris: For about four years--most of the work on it has been in the last two years.

WOW: I also noticed from your bio you've traveled quite a bit. Out of all the places you've been, where would you say is your favorite place to visit?

Doris: My first impulse was to answer Africa (though I realize that it's a continent, not a country), because of the unique, stimulating feel of it--the vivid colors, the smoky, rich smells, the unique geography, all the while experiencing the reality of desperate poverty and difficult living among people who are generally generous and happy and full of life. It seems impossible to be there without experiencing an increased concern for the others of this world and a change in your attitude about acquisition, and needs versus wants. And then there's Italy…ah, Italy!

WOW: Thank you for sharing that with us. It is amazing how different each country is, and there is so much to learn from each one. Have you ever written anything about Africa?

Doris: I have written a short story in an African setting, a piece much more lyrical and descriptive than what I usually write. On our recent trip, I began another short story set in Africa about western academics traveling by bus to a conference and beset with difficulties--it's based on an actual experience.

WOW: Traveling is such a great way to gain material for writing! I bet you have a lot of interesting stories to tell. If you could choose one valuable lesson to pass on to new writers, what would it be?

Doris: To overcome my fear of writing, I had to accept that I was not going to write the great American novel--having such high expectations freezes one into non-action--nor was I the world's worst writer (terrible! vile! horrid!), another action freezer. It's okay to be okay and enjoy yourself. I would also suggest reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and putting this Latin phrase in a prominent spot near your computer: Begun is half done.

WOW: Doris, that is wonderful. We are sure it will help inspire writers all over the globe to strive for their dreams. Thank you for spending time with us and sharing your wonderful knowledge.

If you haven't done so already, please check out Doris' story As if I could forget.

To find out more about WOW's quarterly contests, please visit: http://wow-womenonwriting.com/contest.php


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