Fall 2010 Flash Fiction Contest First Place Winner, Cynthia Larsen!
This story began as a workshop piece for Roxanna Robinson’s class at the Wesleyan Writer’s Conference in the spring of 2010. A Cup of Coffee is Cynthia’s first publication.
interview by Marcia Peterson
WOW: Congratulations on winning first place in our Fall 2010 writing contest! How do you feel?
Cynthia: Thanks for asking, Marcia! I was really excited that my story was chosen. And surprised. This is my first publication, so it feels especially valuable to me. I was on vacation with my family when I found out, and quickly ordered up a round of mimosas to toast my achievement. But before we put down our glasses, my sister won $1000.00 in bingo and stole my moment! Marcia, Marcia, Marcia! Of course, she was forced to buy drinks for the rest of the trip, so I feel like I got even.
WOW: I'm no stranger to those Brady Bunch references! Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, A Cup of Coffee?
Cynthia: Most of my stories start with visuals. I pictured a woman, sitting in a diner, waiting for a man. I was interested in the idea that life-altering decisions can be made so quickly. In the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee.
WOW: You did a great job--it was very moving. What was the editing process like for the story, which began as a workshop piece for a class?
Cynthia: A Cup of Coffee started as a one-page character sketch for Roxanna Robinson’s workshop at the Wesleyan Writers Conference. Originally I had a bit of Ray’s back-story in it, which I think crowded the story. So I took that part out, which enabled me to flesh Caroline out a bit more. Even though the story didn’t change much, there was a lot of tweaking. That’s the challenge of flash, trying to squeeze out all of the extra air.
WOW: We’d love to know more about your writing routines, especially since you have three children. Could you tell us when and where you usually write? Do you have favorite tools or habits that get you going?
Cynthia: My writing habits change as my life changes. When my kids were little, I went through a period of time where I got up every day at 5 am to write. And I am not a morning person. Mainly I have become a hoarder of time. I don’t say ‘free time,’ because when you have three kids and two part-time jobs those two words do not co-exist. When my youngest daughter started pre-school, instead of using those coveted hours to catch up on laundry, or grocery shop, I wrote. I became better at ignoring a messy house. But sometimes I find it hard to concentrate at home, especially since high-speed internet made its way to our remote location, so I pack up my lap-top and go to a diner. A large portion of my novel was written in a restaurant called The Golden Egg.
WOW: You've also completed a novel. Can you tell us about that? What did it take to complete that big goal?
Cynthia: My historical novel, LOT’S DAUGHTERS, is the story of the destruction of Sodom, told from the alternating perspectives of Lot’s daughters. That biblical story always bothered me—it was clearly written by men with an agenda, and the girls end up looking like the villains. I wanted to give them a voice.
As far as the accomplishment, I remember noting page increments. I was proud when I hit 50 pages, then 75. I cheered and made myself a martini when I hit 100. But right around 150 I stopped counting. At that point I just couldn’t wait to find out what happened to the girls and no longer cared how far I had gotten. I really didn’t know how it would end. I don’t think I will be able to do that again for my next project, though. I’m sure their will be surprises along the way, which is one of the things I love about writing, but this time I feel the need for more structure from the beginning. We’ll see how that works out for me!
WOW: Love the page count successes! What one bit of advice would you give to other aspiring writers?
Cynthia: Honestly, I feel like I have a long way to go before I can start giving advice to other writers. Personally, I try to focus on the process instead of the end result. I really enjoy creating people and finding out what makes them tick.
WOW: Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Cynthia! Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?
Cynthia: Entering contests is part of the process for me. I think you need to get used to rejection, and learn not to take it personally. Then, when you finally win something, that mimosa tastes even better.
Come back and join us on Tuesdays for more contest winner interviews!
The Spring 2011 Flash Fiction Contest is OPEN