Flash Fiction 1st Place Winner, Wendy Rhodes!
Check out her winning story here, then join us for a conversation with her below!
interview by Marcia Peterson
WOW: Congratulations on your first place win in our Spring 2014 Flash Fiction competition! What inspired you to enter the contest?
Wendy: First of all, thank you so much for this honor. I am both grateful and humbled to be amongst such a fine group of international writers and authors. I was inspired and encouraged to enter this contest by some dear friends who experienced intense emotional reactions to this story. I did some research and was fortunate enough to find WOW. I was so impressed with the website, the abundance of information available on it, and WOW’s commitment to helping aspiring writers, that I decided to enter the contest in the hopes that the story would have the opportunity reach far beyond the limits that I would have to share it. The rest, as they say, is history!
WOW: Thank you for the kind words about WOW. Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your entry, Good and Useful? It’s a powerful story that really stuck with me.
Wendy: It’s interesting actually. The emotions were based upon my own feelings of desperation to get out of a terrible marriage. The characters are fictional, however, and the storyline came to me lying in bed one night, as many of my ideas do. I have found that friendships, especially strong female friendships, can save us when we are at our lowest point. It takes an amazing person to be a friend to someone in their darkest hour, and it can also take immense courage to allow ourselves to be helped. Sometimes we cannot bear to look at tomorrow, but a good, true friend can mean the different between salvation and desolation. Where there is life, there is hope, and that is the true meaning of this story.
As far as it being based in a Pakistani slum, all I can say is that as many writers will attest, it is often easier to put our feelings and emotions into a character than it is to own them ourselves. Whether living in a mansion in Beverly Hills or a slum in the Middle East, it is important to remember that we are all women, and we all experience the same emotions, desires, fears, and dreams. I also think the world today is experiencing a time of extreme polarization, particularly as it relates to Muslims, and that for women to thrive, or sometimes simply survive, we must remember that regardless of race, religion, or culture, we are all people, we are all women, and we must support one another always, in everything, and without judgment.
WOW: Well said, and again, your story was compelling. You’re currently pursuing your master’s degree in English Education. Could share a bit about that experience, and why you chose to pursue that path?
Wendy: Two of my greatest passions are reading and writing, and this degree will afford me the opportunity to not only embark on a career based upon things I love, but to help instill those passions and the appreciation of the written word to future generations. With the increasing popularity of the internet and social media, the days of people sitting down and spending the afternoon with a good book have become rare. It’s a pity, because reading is such an active process that frees our minds and allows us to travel the world and experience diverse cultures, different mindsets, and even other worlds without ever leaving our homes. We create with our minds when we read, and each of us experiences every story differently. Reading expands our minds, teaches us, and bonds us both emotionally and intellectually with the rest of the world. There is nothing I have found that touches me in such a way as a connection with a good book or endearing character.
WOW: Amen! You’ve also just completed your first novel—congratulations. What has your novel writing journey been like?
Wendy: Amazing, mind-blowing, and incredibly emotional! It has been an unbelievably cathartic process and has brought me an extraordinary amount of joy. Many people told me that they were anxious to know what happened to Salihah and Manaar in this short story. I felt sort of gloomy for a while because I did not have an answer and felt I was letting them down. But after a few months, the whole picture began to form in my mind, almost like watching a movie unfold. The book is based upon the short story, and explores the complex relationship between Salihah and her mother and emphasizes the special bond that female friendships hold in a culture of violent male domination. It includes scenes of intense cruelty and abuse, as well as of profound love and acceptance. Although at times heavy and dark, it is ultimately a story of the magic that can happen when love, hope, and the recognition of one’s own power all converge to transform the soul. Literature can unite people and literally change their mindsets, which is what I hope to accomplish with this book
Through this process, I have learned so much about myself, both as it relates to my personal feelings and view of the world, as well as about what I am capable of accomplishing. I am learning what it takes to secure an agent and get a book published. (Ugh!) I had no idea that writing the book would be the easy part! I am in the process of searching for an agent right now, and hope to find one who is as passionate about this novel as I am.
WOW: We wish you the best on your path to publication, and thanks so much for chatting with us today, Wendy. Before you go, can you share your favorite writing tip or advice with our readers?
Wendy: The only thing I would advise is to “write your passion!” What we want to write and what we are good at writing may not necessarily be aligned. Writing should not be a struggle, and if it is, that may be a sign that a different subject matter may be in order. If the passion is there, the words will come easily and the story will pour forth. If you not are experiencing immense joy, pain, terror, love, jealously, or hope, when you write, then it is unlikely that you can expect that intense, emotional response from your readers. Look inside yourself - what makes you laugh, cry, become overjoyed, or enraged? Write your passion, whatever that may be, because that, and only that, will be what connects with your readers. Anything else is just words on a page.
Our Fall Flash Fiction Contest is OPEN
For information/entry, visit our contest page.