Interview with Tearra Rhodes, Fall 2011 Flash Fiction Contest Runner-Up
Tearra Rhodes began her interest in creative writing in elementary school, but did not consider it more than a minor hobby until she got her first taste of affirmation after winning a local one act playwriting contest her sophomore year of high school. Having graduated from Canisius College with a minor in English (major Communication Studies), she is working towards making creative writing more than just a hobby. She lives in Buffalo, NY, where she has boxes and boxes of unfinished short stories and plays. Her next project will be pulling out one of those boxes and dusting off a potential masterpiece.
If you have not yet read Tearra’s story, I Began Baking a Cake, please enjoy it now— it’s murder with a sweet little twist!
WOW: Congratulations on placing in the WOW! Fall 2011 Flash Fiction Contest! What prompted you to enter?
Tearra: I entered a flash fiction contest with another website and I had ‘flash fiction fever’ and was on the lookout for another contest for which to write a story.
WOW: LOL. As they say…feed a fever! What was the inspiration behind I Began Baking a Cake?
Tearra: I watch a lot of police procedurals and murder mysteries and the killer is usually someone the detectives or amateur sleuths already interviewed/talked to. My question was why didn’t the killer ever just flee? Regardless, if it was self defense, an accident or premeditated, why didn’t they just run? I started with the line, “You shouldn’t have come, Boyd. I know why you did, but you shouldn’t have.” I really loved my unnamed character saying this to her adversary, knowing that he was there to hurt her and knowing what she was going to do to protect herself.
WOW: I enjoyed the opening as well because of all the questions it raised in my mind. But a great opening sentence is only part of the recipe for a satisfying story and flash fiction in particular can be tricky to work with, what was your process?
Tearra: I wrote a complete short story exploring the above mentioned idea and then I pared it down to the bare bones. The familiar term ‘less is more’ came heavily into effect. There was more mystery.
WOW: You say you have “boxes of unfinished stories and plays.” I think all writers have a stash like this—I know I do! What is it, do you think, that has kept you from finishing them?
Tearra: I have so many story and play ideas. When I write one down, I get a completely different idea for something else; hard to focus on just one. Plus, I’m a huge procrastinator.
WOW: I can relate on both accounts! There are different skills required for writing plays as opposed to short stories—tell us a little about working with both forms.
Tearra: When I start writing a play, I write out all the dialogue, just character’s talking to each other. When I’m finished I add action sequences accordingly. When writing a short story I do the exact opposite. I write out the action first and add dialogue later. I like to play around with the point of view in which the story is told and the tense. I’ve found that first person present tense adds more flavor and urgency to a piece.
WOW: Great points! So, what is your next project?
Tearra: I want to complete a novel in the near future, so I’ve dusted off a story idea that’s been hidden away for a while about a woman who reconnects with the group of guys she hung out with in high school. The leader of the group is getting married and she gets roped into being the Best Man. I am also working on a Christian based short story, because Christian fiction is important to me.
WOW: Sounds like you’re on a roll! Do you have any words of advice regarding flash fiction writing or contest entering…or our boxes of neglected literary children?
Tearra: Really, just don’t procrastinate, especially if you’re entering a contest. Mistakes can be made if you’re hitting the ‘Submit’ button two minutes before the contest closes. Trust me, I’ve done that, and it’s a horrible feeling when you look back at your story and see obvious errors. As for “our boxes of neglected literary children,” take them out sometime and let them breath a bit of fresh air and get some sun. They may inspire a new work or just make you laugh.
WOW: Anything else you would like to share?
Tearra: It’s never too late to start and finish a project you start. The fun part when you’re finished is seeing how people react to it.
WOW: Important words, thank you. Do you have a blog site where readers can connect with you?
Tearra: tearrarhodes.blogspot.com (I just started it, so be patient with me and enjoy)
WOW: Thank you, Tearra. If you need a break from your novel writing come back and enter another of our quarterly contests—we’d love to see you here!
by Robyn Chausse