Spring '12 Flash Fiction Contest 1st Place Winner: Dale Sakamoto
As a writer he enjoys creating unique worlds in short stories and plays, and as a composer he has written many pieces ranging in style from a Czech art song to a symphonic tone poem. As a former resident composer of Vanguard University, Dale has won several university awards along with 3rd place in the San Jose Choral Productions Composition Competition and an International Music Prize for his choral piece The Western Shore along with the Hatz Recognition Award for the NFMC Student/Collegiate Competition for his piano piece Fleur de L’ Hiver. He aspires to continue onward through graduate school and complete his Ph.D. and eventually to take his musical and creative writing talents to Broadway and write the book and score for an original Broadway Musical.
Visit him online at: http://dalesakamoto.wordpress.com/
interview by Marcia Peterson
WOW: Congratulations on your first place win in our Spring 2012 Flash Fiction competition! What prompted you to enter the contest?
Dale: Applying to the competition was actually an assignment for a Creative Writing Class. We were all required to submit one of the pieces we wrote over the semester into two separate competitions. After researching online I thought that the WOW competition would be the perfect fit for my story.
WOW: Your story, "Just a Number," is a haunting and beautifully written piece. What was your inspiration for writing this story?
Dale: The inspiration for this piece began from a research paper I was writing on human trafficking. One day I was sitting in my room looking at all the statistics and data. I realized how impersonal all this information was and wanted to find a way to communicate the true impact of human trafficking through a more effective medium.
The document I was reading was a huge pamphlet done by the United Nations on trafficking throughout the world. While there were hundreds of pages full of stats nothing seemed to communicate how devastating trafficking really was on people around the world. Our culture is so focused on quantitative scientific and mathematic data, I feel like much of our humanity is lost in the numbers. People will point to such books as Brave New World and 1984 and say, “why don’t we have ‘Big Brother’ or flying cars?” But I think the true message of these books is that as we begin to progress technologically, we also begin to lose the emotion and spirituality that makes us human. In a similar way I wanted to show that this issue, like so many others is more than just a number, but the story of a living, breathing human being.
WOW: You certainly were effective in getting that message across with your story. What do you enjoy about flash fiction writing versus the other kinds of writing that you do?
Dale: In the same way I enjoy the potent and energy-packed power of a poem, flash fiction has a more direct sense of urgency than a short story, novella, novel, etc. This was actually the first piece I ever wrote in this genre, and it really impacted me. I have always loved writing poetry and shorter pieces, as I am able to create a more arching and powerful scenario. In a larger work sometimes I get bored of my characters or lose interest in the story, but in a flash fiction piece or poem every word and detail has meaning and significance, and that is just the type of writer I am. I want every sentence, every comma to have meaning and importance.
WOW: As an accomplished writer and composer, how do you balance your writing and music interests, or decide what projects to work on?
Dale: Oftentimes, my decision to write or compose is purely based on inspiration. Since I am always at my piano every day, practicing a Debussy or Beethoven piece often turns into writing music of my own. I think their music and craftsmanship inspires me to compose.
In the same way, I try to read before I fall asleep every night. It may sound crazy, but this not only creates a more interesting dream world for me to explore while I sleep, but also inspires me to write when I wake up in the morning.
As a composer and a writer, though, I am mostly writing and composing under a deadline. However, in music, I must not only find a competition, but also must adapt my instrumentation, length, style and record the work before I enter it. Writing a story or poem is a little easier, because oftentimes the prompt is open, and although some competitions have a word count, the stipulations are usually much more adaptable.
WOW: Do you listen to music when you write, or have any other favorite tools or habits that get you going?
Dale: Sometimes I listen to music when I write, usually classical instrumental or choral works. However, I don’t like listening all the time, and especially not to a piece I know or a choral work in English, because it will distract me. Honestly, as I mentioned before, the best inspiration for writing is reading. When you read constantly, your imagination is being stimulated and you are able to see different styles of writing that you want to partially imitate. From these minute pieces, you begin to piece together your own style of reading.
However, I believe it is so important to read far and wide. My two favorite books are Catch-22 and A Tale of Two Cities. Although, these two could not be more far apart in style and approach, I believe constantly stretching your own ideas and boundaries stretches your writing as well. I think that anyone who does not read cannot be a true innovator. While movies have begun to take over our culture, images are placed in our minds rather than explored on our own. Although, I think movies can expand the mind and creativity, nothing can ever replace the impact and power of a good book.
WOW: So what’s next for you in your creative life? Do you have a plan for the rest of the year?
Dale: Currently, I am working part time at a law firm and using the rest of my time to compose and write. I am looking forward to applying to graduate programs for music composition in the fall and hope one day to receive both a doctorate in music composition and English.
WOW: Best of luck with all of your goals, and thanks so much for chatting with us today, Dale! Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?
Dale:Try to find a competition where you do not have to conform your style or personality for the sake of the competition. Write to your strengths. There are so many competitions out there, and you will have to spend some money, but if writing is your dream and calling then don’t let that stop you. I’d say about 90% of the time you don’t win, but keep on pushing.
My teacher told me that Ernest Hemingway, one of my favorite writers, used to post rejection letters all over his wall as wallpaper to remind him that it takes a ton of failure before you can be successful. I keep a book of all my failures along with successes with the promise that I will not give up until the book is full, and perhaps several others.
Finally, always stay true to your own style and don’t change. You never know who may want to snatch up your unique style of writing and utilize it. This will not only cause you to continually be interested in your own writing, but will also garner inspiration from your reader.
Our Fall 2012 Flash Fiction Contest is OPEN!
For details, visit: http://wow-womenonwriting.com/contest.php