Rachel Phelps, First Place Winner in Summer 2010 Flash Fiction Contest!
She has been scribbling ever since she can remember and is working toward her dream being a published novelist. She is active on FaithWriters, enjoys writing skits and plays for her church, and has finally joined the blogosphere. Her favorite genre to write is historical of any period. Rachel will read almost anything as long as it is well written and isn’t senselessly offensive (offensive with a purpose gets an extra star in her book). Her biggest dream is to be an excellent author who is a Christian and prove to the skeptics that the terms are not mutually exclusive.
Find out more about Rachel by visiting her website,
http://www.wix.com/parexcellence/home, and her blog,
interview by Marcia Peterson
WOW: Congratulations on winning first place in our Summer 2010 writing contest! What was your reaction when you found out you won?
Rachel: I screamed. I was watching a movie with friends and decided to check the Web site even though I hadn't received an email yet. When I clicked on the Contests tab, there was my picture on top. I almost dropped my computer. Once my friends figured out what was happening, I was given an impromptu toast with our soda glasses. Definitely a moment to remember.
WOW: Love your reaction! Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, Motherhood?
Rachel: I love telling the stories of forgotten characters. I think it's the journalist in me--I believe everyone deserves to have their story told. I'm adopted, so even though I'm not a mother, I've often thought about what it takes to give up a child. Putting those two instincts together brought me to Moses' mother.
WOW: It’s a powerful story that really pulled me in. You also seem to have a clear understanding of the historical period that made the story seem real. Could you share your research process, or any other good tips for writing historical fiction?
Rachel: The most important part of writing historical fiction is understanding the rhythm of the voice. For example, today, somone would say, "Hey, whatcha' doin'?" In medieval times, it would sound more like "Good morrow. How do you fare this day?" In the 1800s, you might say, "Good day. Is your family in good health?"
The best way to capture the voice of a period is to read a lot of stories from (or set in) that period. You'll also learn a lot about mindsets and social issues of the day by doing that. I've never officially studied Ancient Egypt, but I've read a ton of novels set there. I'm also very familiar with the Biblical account of the story of Moses, so it was a matter of pulling together what I knew to create the story.
WOW: Great tips! Have you written other flash fiction? What type of writing do you most prefer?
Rachel: I participate in the Weekly Writing Challenge on Faithwriters.com as often as I can - I usually don't miss more than one week a quarter. Their maximum word length is also 750 words. I love book-length works, but I tend to lose focus with the plotting and let them wander. I have yet to complete a novel-length draft because of this failing. Consistent flash fiction has really been a blessing because it has given me a chance to hone my style, cut flabby language and keep a story focused. I'm in the process of trying another novel right now, and am enjoying it much more than my previous attempts.
WOW: We’d love to know more about your writing routines. Could you tell us when and where you usually write? Do you have favorite tools or habits that get you going?
Rachel: I suppose the strictly honest answer would be that I don't have a writing routine. I'm rather terrible at making myself sit down and write. However, I console myself with the reminder that I am always writing in my head. It's true--I try to keep several projects going at once and any moment I'm not focused on something else, I'm plotting or perfecting a turn of phrase in my head. Then when I have free time at lunch or in the evenings, I'll open the Word document and plow in.
I've discovered that I write best in bed late at night. It's a nostalgia thing for me--I spent most of my growing up years doing a Jo March impression and writing into the wee hours of the morning. Even if it's not late, there's something about plumping up all my pillows and getting settled under the covers that triggers my writing mode. I've also rediscovered my love of writing long-hand this fall. I write much faster and clearer when I have a freshly sharpened pencil and a blank sheet of paper in hand. Now if only my copy and paste function worked as well in my notebook as it does in Word!
WOW: So, do you have any writing goals for the New Year?
Rachel: I want to complete the novel I'm working on now. I also intend to stay active on FaithWriters--the community there is one of the best incentives to write I've found. I have a few other projects I'd like to dust off, but I want to keep my focus on the novel, so we'll have to see.
I'm a competitive person, so now that I've won a contest I'm on the prowl for more to enter. I want to at least place in two contests in 2011.
WOW: Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Rachel! Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?
Rachel: Go for it. If you feel you're ready to get your work out there, don't be afraid of getting your work out there. I submitted my story literally thinking, "I don't think I have much of a chance, but getting the critique will be helpful," and look what happened. I hope to be competing against many of you in the future!
Check back on Tuesdays for more contest winner interviews!
For information about our quarterly writing contests, please visit: http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/contest.php.