Interview with Lindsey Dryden, Spring 2012 Flash Fiction 2nd place and Runner Up
Lindsey Dryden graduated college with a degree in studio art and an unanticipated longing to write. After returning to her home state of South Carolina, she took a job with the SC Governor’s School for the Arts in Greenville (scgsah.org) and found the creative community amongst her students to be unforgettable. This along with a small band of friends, also aspiring writers, bloggers, poets, and comics, helped push Lindsey over the edge. She began to write consistently and plans to continue being schooled by short fiction until she is ready to take on a novel. This is Lindsey’s first published story.
WOW: Welcome to The Muffin, Lindsey, and congratulations! Not only did your story, The Burden of Living, finish in second place, but you also had a story-Mara Cranberry-earn runner up honors. Why should writers consider entering a flash fiction competition? What can they expect to learn?
Lindsey: I began telling other people about flash fiction contests after my first entry with WOW!, which was actually an earlier draft of Mara Cranberry. I ordered a critique and was very encouraged by the feedback. My critic was thorough on the technical side of my writing but also positive about my ideas. It was a perfect combination to make me hungry to enter again and excited to tell people about it. I think entering a flash fiction contest as a writer can help you find your voice and improve technical abilities such as active voice and descriptive, condensed sentences. It has helped me with endings. I think the novice or non-writer should enter too. A mentor of mine got his start after entering that one novel idea he always had swimming around in his head into a contest at a conference. He left the conference early, feeling discouraged, and they had to call him to tell him he’d won.
WOW: I'm glad to hear the WOW critique helped fine tune your piece. The Burden of Living is such a visual story. How did the idea develop?
Lindsey: One of my first critics was a writing teacher at the Governor's School and his main point was: a good plot needs conflict. And a bad guy. The story he read had a similar theme, but the antagonist was "fear" itself. I heeded his advice and tried to think of a conflict and an antagonist to be the face of fear. I wrote down a few plot ideas in a journal and decided to go with: "Man afraid of death lives above Halloween store."
WOW: I agree that a good plot requires conflict. It drives a storyline. In your runner up piece, Mara Cranberry, characterization is so important to the storytelling. What process do you use to flesh out a character?
Lindsey: Character development was basically my reason for writing Mara Cranberry. I wanted to put an idealistic girl in a gritty situation. Writing in first person was great, because I could give the narrator their own personal and vivid thoughts, which they are unaware of the reader overhearing. Other than that I used physical characteristics and dialogue where I couldn’t let the reader into the character’s head. I think it is interesting when writers use details that they would notice about a person. Some people read body language well, others read between the lines in conversation. All of those small details contribute to a reader learning about a character and his/her beliefs.
WOW: It's very effective in this story. Both stories have a natural sense of rhythm and timing. Why is pacing so important in flash fiction, and how do you determine which details to use to advance or keep that sense of timing?
Lindsey: I owe any sense of rhythm I have to reading authors who do it well! So much so that I’m not sure I can articulate how to do it as well as I’d like. I have heard and try to abide by the “rule” that for fiction this brief, any details that do not give vital information or add richness to the story have to go. I also give some priority of length to the climax and ending, because it is easy to try and cram in the whole resolution into the last two sentences. Building tension from the outset helps me gain some time and wiggle room.
WOW: Writing flash fiction is such a balancing act. So many elements need to fit within the word count, but I like your suggestion about giving priority to the length of climax and ending. I'm going to remember that! Your bio talks about your work at the SC Governor's School for the Arts. What are your personal rewards for working and training emerging artists?
Lindsey: The Governor's School is an all around arts experience for students. They get to devote half of their coursework to their art and when they aren't in class, they are living with over two hundred other young artists. I worked in Student Services, so I took care of the students during their down time (if there was such a thing). Not only was I able to see individual artists grow personally and artistically, but I was able to see them influence and support each other. I am very inspired by the friendship and support I find in their community and beyond, even as they go off to different areas of the country. I think the Governor's School faculty and staff do a wonderful job of fostering collaboration over (unfriendly) competition. It thrills me to see former students thriving and even changing the faces of their various art forms. It feels strange to say, but after working at SCGSAH, I don’t really believe in art for art’s sake. I believe in art for the sake of allowing people to reach their full potential and influence the world through what touches the soul. It’s not about art; it’s about all the people who live more fully by it.
WOW: Reaching potential and influencing people are what it's all about. (smiles) Any current projects you are currently working on? Also, do you have a website where readers can find more of your work?
Lindsey: Flash fiction will always be in my writing to-do list, but I would like to try longer lengths. Holding a reader’s attention for another 2,000 words is my next benchmark. Public reading is another ongoing goal of mine. Standing in front of a group and reading my work is strange and terrifying. But I hear that the feedback and exposure is good, if I can only learn to like the feeling of being fedback (sic) and exposed. I do not have a creative writing website yet, but I am on eLance for writing and editing and open for business!
WOW: Good luck with your writing and achieving the goals you have established! And again, congratulations!
Interview by LuAnn Schindler