Interview with Betty Nearing, Flash Fiction Runner-Up
Betty’s Bio: Elizabeth Darling Nearing writes under the name “Betty Nearing” and lives in Southwest Florida. Originally from Rhode Island, she moved to Alabama, Pittsburgh, and then Florida. She prefers the term elegant, elderly lady to old woman, but recently passed her 84th birthday. (It is never too late.)
Betty was one of those students who sat staring at the blackboard until the last minute and then wrote frantically to complete her theme. She drove her teachers crazy. In high school she broke a cardinal grammar rule—a split infinitive and flunked. Embarrassed at this blot on her record she submitted a play written when she was nine years old and the F was changed to an A.
As a young adult, she wrote technical sales letters, edited and wrote articles for an in-house trade association magazine, wrote poems to her husband, but the real muse remained silent. The muse awoke when the love of her life passed away and she entered the internet world of creative writing classes. An instructor encouraged Betty to submit her short stories to a small publishing company for submission in a series of anthologies. Her first three were accepted. Completing the challenge of National Novel Writing Month resulted in publishing her first novel: The Island House. Her second published novel, Hang the Witch is based on the true story of her 8th great grandmother’s three trials for witchcraft. More novels are in progress.
Betty is working on a web site and writes blogs at bettynearing.com. It is not complete, but is easy to navigate.
She has particularly said what a thrill and honor it is to be in the top ten of WOW’s flash fiction contest and sends her thanks to all those who made it possible.
interview by Marcia Peterson
WOW: Congratulations on placing in the top ten in our Fall 2013 Flash Fiction competition! What inspired you to enter the contest?
Betty: Fiction piqued my curiosity and I wanted to see whether I could really write a complete story in 750 words or less. It was the challenge.
WOW: Well, you rose to the challenge with a top ten entry! Your bio reflects a lifelong love of writing, and you have written various types of fiction and non-fiction. How did you get involved with flash fiction, and what do you enjoy about it?
Betty: As above--curiosity. I rewrote sales letters when I was in the business world so that everything would be on one page. Very good training in throwing out extraneous words.
Betty: I can't say I crafted the flash fiction story. It was an idea I had that sort of wrote itself. I went through the usual 6 or 7 edits, but actually added words rather than subtracted them.
WOW: It sounds like you had a very successful experience participating in National Novel Writing Month, completing a novel that was also published. Tell us your NaNoWriMo success secrets!
Betty: One word: determination. I believed that if other people could write a novel of 50,000 words or more, so could I. I tried to write about 1800 words per day on average. Some days it was more and many days it was less. It was a mood to finish. About six months after I wrote the NaNoWriMo novel, I started to read it and found it was a pretty good story. At that point I edited and re-edited (you know the procedure). I went for self-publishing because the time element involved in having something accepted and traditionally published was too long for me to consider. I was 82 at the time and figured I could die before anyone read it. So I self-published. Never going to make me rich, but I made more than I spent and that was satisfying.
WOW: I think you've just inspired a lot of people to try NaNoWriMo this year! We’d also love to know more about your writing routines. Could you tell us when and where you usually write? Do you have favorite tools or habits that get you going?
Betty: I live with my son and daughter-in-law and have one room in which I have a computer hutch, file cabinet (which doubles as a printer stand), bureau, bookcase, TV, bed and two night stands (plus a collection of teddy bears). Hey, when you're my age, you can get away with have a collection of stuffed animals.
I write when I feel like it. No tools or habits. If I feel I am stuck in a story, I go back and read the preceding few pages and that gets me started again.
WOW: Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Betty! Before you go, can you share your favorite writing tip or advice with our readers?
Betty: If you want to write, do it now in your spare time or get up an hour earlier and write. Write for yourself. Don't wait until you are my age to do the things you really want. When you write, don't constantly edit, keep on writing. The mistakes and changes will come when you edit. I learned that the hard way with my second book. I kept changing the first chapter. When I finally let it go and wrote the rest of the story, it was a great relief.
Thanks for the opportunity of sharing with you all. Good luck and good writing.
Our Spring 2014 Flash Fiction Contest is OPEN until May 31, 2014 Midnight (Pacific Time)
For details, visit our contest page.