Interview with Runner Up Contest Winner, Trudy Gomez
Congratulations to Trudy Gomez! Trudy, under the nom de plume Serena Helriot, is a runner-up in the WOW! Winter 2011 Flash Fiction Contest. This is Trudy’s second time entering a WOW! Flash Fiction Contest; she received an honorable mention in the Fall 2009 contest with "Like Father Like Son." I encourage you to read this year’s poignant entry Pink Lipsticked Lips, and then return for an interview with Trudy.
My name is Trudy Gomez (my pen name is Serena Helriot). I live in Glendora, California. I’m married and have three grown children. I am a resourceful person, often called to direct the flight patterns of geese heading south for the winter while dousing the flames of a forest fire with my tongue. I have had many interesting and life-affirming experiences. I played the bass at Woodstock with Santana and tuned Jimi Hendrix’s guitar. I discovered how to tickle the sun awake and how to land on the moon without a lunar module, although I made the instrumental discovery to allow one to do so. I discovered plutonium was radioactive but I forgot to tell anyone. I was the inspiration for the atomic bomb. I have spoken to the Beatles on more than one occasion and was the one who suggested they rethink the title, “A Hard Night’s Day.” Okay, seriously, I’ve been writing for years in journals and enjoy writing poetry and short stories. I love chocolate. I tried my hand at NaNoWriMo last year and completed a first draft, very exciting. I am a voracious reader. This is the second piece of writing I’ve sent out anywhere (the first being WOW! Fall 2009 contest on a dare). I love how the wind and sun feel on my skin. I find the medium of flash fiction to be particularly challenging and enjoy uncovering the zen-like realization within the larger story of life in order to make it work. I also like how it forces me to cut out the extraneous.
WOW: Congratulations Trudy! I love your imaginative bio. In addition to writing, do you have other creative outlets?
Trudy: I have a pretty rich inner life, which I enjoy exploring in journals and in meditation. I also enjoy putting together "collections" of my poetry in books with my own abstraction drawings or designs.
WOW: When did you first begin writing?
Trudy: I came to writing late, in my thirties. I've always been a voracious reader and I had teachers tell me I had talent and should consider writing but I guess I wasn't ready since I didn't take it to heart. Then, although I don't remember the circumstances or the catalyst, a story (actually it was more of a voice) just showed up so I wrote it down, practically like dictation. I've been hooked ever since.
WOW: You write both poetry and fiction; tell us a little about your relationship with each form.
Trudy: Poetry for me is a complete mystery and seems out of my reach, sort of like a guy you want to date but you're too intimidated to approach directly. Poetry just shows up or it doesn't but I definitely feel it's out of my control in a sense. Fiction and I understand each other better. It doesn't necessarily come easy but it feels more like a partnership. But I have this horribly mean critic inside that is never satisfied with what I do, so that can cause me suffering, but at least when I write poetry the critic shuts up quicker because it doesn't understand it in the first place. I feel like I pursue fiction but poetry seems to pursue me.
WOW: Spoken from a poet’s heart (smile). What inspired your story "Pink Lipsticked Lips?"
Trudy: It came to me while I worked on another story. I was going in one direction and boom, the main character's mother shoots herself during an intermission in a family basketball game. It didn't belong there but it interested me nonetheless, and I've long wanted to find a home for it. I tried writing it as a short story but it still wasn't right. Then one day I knew: this is a flash fiction piece and sat to hone it. The story simply poured out and was a joy to write; even with the subject matter being was it was. The image of the woman applying lipstick before she did it intrigued and touched me. I couldn't get that out of my mind.
WOW: You mastered the art of the “unspoken” in this tale; the underlying tension between the characters with hints toward the backstory, the personalities, the mood—all difficult to accomplish in a flash piece. Tell us about your experience in writing this piece.
Trudy: Thank you. It must be because I knew the characters and their relationships so well by the time I wrote it as a flash piece. While reading the WOW newsletter I just thought hey... I wonder if I could write this as a flash piece? It was truly on a whim. I've tried with other stories I'm working on and sometimes it just doesn't work. But with "Pink Lipsticked Lips," it just flowed onto the page and did not require many rewrites. I ended up sending it in the same day, just so I couldn't chicken out. By the time the inner critic could convince me it sucked, it was too late.
WOW: (Laughs) Better to deal with the panic than to miss the opportunity. Where do you go from here?
Trudy: I have so much to work with I'm a bit overwhelmed. Now that I know I write well enough to win a contest, I just want to polish and hone the stories I have. This is only the second piece I've ever sent out, only due to a lack of confidence, so I'm ready to send out more. I have two first drafts of novels and many short stories. I also have an idea for a longer story told in short flash pieces. I'm very excited about that project. I'm also working in collaboration with a friend for a fantasy type story. And I also have the poetry. I'm a very prolific writer, but right now it's all filed in a cabinet. I just need to start sharing it. Thank you for your encouragement.
WOW: Thank you for sharing your stories with us!
Interview by Robyn Chausse