Liz Toolen Duggan, Runner Up, Spring 2014 Flash Fiction Contest
She has always been blessed with the encouragement of her family and friends, and the kind consideration and advice of people who are more skilled than she.
Liz earned her first writing award in 4th grade, with an essay on Memorial Day and so is delighted that this short story on the same topic has been recognized among so many deserving entries.
Visit her website at elizduggan.com.
You can read Liz's winning story, "Memorial Day, This Year," here, and join us for a peek inside her writing life below.
interview by Renee Roberson
WOW: Congratulations, Liz! I enjoyed reading your very moving story. Memorial Day seems to hold a special place in your heart, as it was the subject of both your award-winning fourth-grade essay and this flash fiction runner-up entry. How is this holiday significant to both your personal and your writing life?
Liz: Memorial Day touches me deeply because I think about the people who are being honored - they’re mostly kids, certainly most were under the age of 25 when they died in combat. I think about teenagers, popped into wars that they may have volunteered for and might have been conscripted to. I think about my own kids at that age and about their fears and abilities, their maturity levels, the altruism they felt. I remember young hearts breaking during relationship issues, I remember them feeling invincible, I remember hugging them, advising them, loving them. And then I think about some other mother, and all she wants to do is hold her kid when she reads or watches news reports about what’s happening in the corner of the world that her child is “visiting." The pride and poignancy are almost too much to bear or even consider.
Memorial Day touches me as a person, as a mother, as a grateful citizen, but the significance to my writing life is a little different and a little more self-centered, I suppose. I’d always been told I was a writer--imagine that great gift!--and entered a “What Memorial Day Means to Me” contest in my town on a whim. Winning that contest kind of affirmed what my family and teachers had been telling me: I was a writer! Strangers had chosen my work! The Memorial Day story I submitted for this contest sprang from something I’ve been considering for some time, Gold Star Mothers, women who’ve lost children in combat. That this story--one of the first I’ve submitted since finally deciding to act like a writer and believe I’m a writer--was also chosen provides a symmetry of sorts, I suppose, and truly an affirmation that those strangers back then were on to something.
WOW: What an eloquent response and very poetic! While it looks as though writing is something that comes very naturally for you, what do you think is your biggest challenge when it comes to writing, such as time management, revision process, coming up with ideas, etc.
Liz: The biggest challenge is believing in myself, believing that the time spent alone, writing, has value in and of itself. Even though most of my children live in their own homes, it’s still a little difficult to go off by myself to my writing place to indulge in this solitary pursuit.
WOW: Ah, writer's guilt. I know it well. What would you say is your favorite part of the writing process?
Liz: I am transported into another world when I write. I am part of whatever I’m putting on the page. I’m the observer, I’m the subject, I’m the reader, I’m the teller. There is a sense of wholeness and comfort, of mastery, of peace. I love breathing life into these stories. I love the feeling of writing.
WOW: On your blog you share a lot of entries in the vein of flash fiction. Is this your favorite form of writing? If not, what is and why?
Liz: I haven’t considered that question, but yes, I suppose flash fiction is my favorite. I really enjoy fleshing out a moment in time and offering a glimpse into another person’s life. I find that each of the little scenarios I write about make me more curious about the people who inhabit them. I start to know more and more about the characters and then start working on longers stories about them. I’m especially thankful for my writing friend, Sheila Daly, who turned me onto flash fiction. We meet weekly via Skype, find a subject to write about, set the timer and go. Some of my best work has been born in that very supportive environment!
WOW: I love that idea, and how fun! What’s up next for you? Are there any special pieces you are working on that you’d like to share with us?
Liz: I have several pieces in the works, and perhaps this goes back to the “writing challenges” question: focus on one and get going! I’m working on two children’s series called "The Candy Cane Chronicles," and "The Adventures of Stewart the Sheep." In a more adult vein, there’s historical fiction that moves between the New Jersey shore and Ireland and the story that’s closest to my heart at the moment, about a retired beat cop, a beloved father, Grandpa and patriarch, who’s developing Alzheimers.
I’m just dipping my toe into the blogging world and have put a few short fiction pieces up on elizduggan.com and working on very short observational pieces on ltdwritinglife.wordpress.com
Thank you, so much, for your interest and kindness!