Interview with Janet L. Cannon: 2014 Winter Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up
Janet L. Cannon has taught technology to children and adults for thirteen years. She enjoys teaching people of all ages a variety of world music and obscure crafts, but also enjoys learning new skills herself. Editing several newsletters and the occasional manuscript carves out more time from the writing she loves, but those are the jobs that pay (for now). She is active with both the state and local writers’ guilds, and her publishing credits include a technical manual, short stories, flash fiction, and Twitter fiction. With a BA and an MA in English, she hopes one day to use it to publish the next best-selling YA urban fantasy series featuring a re-envisioning of the fairy tales we thought we knew. Her blog, Revision is a Dish Best Served Cold, features weekly articles on how the metaphors of speculative fiction revise how we view the world, interviews with authors, and reviews on a variety of books. For more information catch her on her Facebook Page, or on her website.
If you haven't done so already, check out Janet's award-winning story "Final Deadline" and then return here for a conversation with the author!
WOW: Congratulations on placing in the 2014 Winter Flash Fiction Contest! What was the inspiration for your short story, or what prompted you to write this particular story?
Janet: "Final Deadline" was inspired by two events: a weird dream and the frustrations of finishing my master's thesis. After the weird "end of the world" dream, I woke up laughing and thought, "Now I don't have to finish my thesis!" The rest followed organically.
WOW: I love it when dreams provide inspiration. In general, what is your writing process like?
Janet: I keep a journal of snippets of conversations, cool titles I've thought of, dreams and nightmares, random pieces of paper that have interesting information, etc. I flip through it and find something that interests me that day and I sit and type a draft. If the ideas aren't flowing fast enough for typing, I'll pull out the notebook and paper and write a draft then type it. Sometimes I have to write an outline if the ideas are too vague, then I go back and fill in the details later. My philosophy is get whatever is in my head written/typed in as fast as possible and not worry too much about making it perfect the first time. Revision is the key to the perfect story. If I wait too long to type or write it perfectly, the ideas fade. Then, I put it away for a few days or a few weeks and come back to it to revise with fresher eyes. I have three different revision steps: online, on paper, and verbal. Each one catches different mistakes. That takes a lot of time, but seriously, if you want quality work, you have to put quality time into it! That much self-revision catches many errors, but you can't catch all your own mistakes. I have a critique group that I take things to and I have them grind it through the mill. Good critique groups are hard to find and I have an awesome bunch of people who are critical without being mean, and we give each other great ideas, too.
WOW: I agree with you on the importance of revision, and I like your 3-step process. And it’s wonderful that you’ve been able to find a critique group you value and trust. In your bio, you say that your blog, “features weekly articles on how the metaphors of speculative fiction revise how we view the world,” and this fascinates me. Could you say more about the premise and inspiration for your articles?
Janet: My master's thesis theorized that magic, religion, and technology in speculative fiction are merely metaphors for the search for power in all its many forms. In real life, revision is our main source of power. We can choose to revise how we look, how we act, how we treat people, etc. through years of education and careful choices. As a writer, revision is my most powerful tool, and I believe that as people it is just as powerful if we use it well. Writers have to revise how they see the world to get a fresh perspective and make their books interesting. I want people in general to be willing to do the same. When we are willing to listen to the other side, willing to revise our point of view, we can make the world a better place. That doesn't mean I have to AGREE with that other side, just that I'm willing to listen.
WOW: Thank you for sharing that, and it provides a fresh perspective on the importance of revision. If you could have dinner with any writer, dead or alive, who would you choose, and why?
Janet: Jim Butcher, hands flailing in fan-girlish glee. Many writers are great writers but not nice people. Master Butcher is not only a highly successful speculative fiction author, he participates in events WITH HIS FANS, which is something few writers will do. One of my goals as a writer is someday to sit on a writers' panel with him. Eleanor Roosevelt would be a close second. (Yes, I know. Two totally different people, but writers are often of several minds about topics, aren't we?)
WOW: Absolutely! Great answer! Are you working on any other writing projects right now?
Janet: I'm revising my YA Urban Fantasy novel Shadow of Redemption, a story where the Big Bad Wolf and the Monster Under the Bed are good guys, the main character is terrified of light and attention, and someone is stealing baby teeth from children's corpses. I can't wait to get it into the hands of some beta readers to get some reactions to the twists I've put on old fairy tales. Taking readers by the hand and leading them down unexpected paths is my favorite type of book to read and to write.
WOW: Sounds great! Now I want to know why someone would steal teeth from children’s corpses! Anything else you’d like to add?
Janet: For a long time I thought I didn't have the "writing chops" to be successful, but finally these last three years I started winning contests and publishing stories. Why? Because I kept writing and I kept submitting. It sounds like an oversimplification, but if you don't write, keep writing, and write even more, you're not going to find that "one" piece that's perfect enough to submit. If you don't submit it, it's not going to win anything. Risk is tough, especially when you've put your heart and creative soul into something and get rejected, but think of this: what is the WORST that can happen? Are they going to take away your birthday? Are they going to come to your house and throw tomatoes? Are they going to publicly humiliate you at work by sending you dead roses every day for a month? Seriously, this is one of the best pieces of advice I picked up at a writers' conference: Think of the worst, laugh, and SEND YOUR WORK IN ANYWAY. It will pay off eventually.
If you would like to read my blog about revision, metaphors in speculative fiction, satire on a world of themes, writer encouragement, and book reviews, you can find it at http://revisionisadishbestservedcold.blogspot.com/. I'm also available for speaking engagements on how writers can better use technology. You can see a list of my previous topics on my website: http://janetcannonwriter.wix.com/in-the-write-world. (I'm located in the Midwest.)
WOW: Thank you, Janet. Good luck with your writing projects, and we hope to see more of your work in the future!
Interviewed by: Anne Greenawalt, writer and writing instructor