Interview with Madelyn F. Young: 2014 Summer Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up
Retired teacher and school administrator Madelyn F. Young has been an active member of the Village Writers’ Club in Hot Springs Village, Arkansas, since 2003. Her work has appeared in the online magazine Persimmon Tree, the print publication Storyteller, and she has presented one of her memoir stories on the internationally syndicated public radio show Tales from the South.
Madelyn’s 2012 collection of short stories and essays, Views from an Empty Nest: Award-Winning Tales Written after Fifty, includes thirty-one tales of family loyalty and love, discord, and intrigue. In creating her stories, Madelyn takes real-life experiences and transforms them into compelling accounts that sometimes take surprising twists in the end. Readers may also connect with her by visiting her blog: www.southernstorylady.wordpress.com
If you haven't done so already, check out Madelyn's story "A Time to Be Born" and then return here for a chat with the author.
Congratulations on placing in the WOW! Summer 2014 Flash Fiction Contest! What was the inspiration for your short story, or what prompted you to write this particular story?
Madelyn: I was awakened one night by a strange sound. I thought it was our doorbell, but I listened more intently and never heard it again. However, my imagination kicked in. What if our doorbell had rung at that early hour? Who could it have been? What problem might they have had? That’s when I came up with the idea for this story.
You just never know when an idea might strike. What do you enjoy the most and/or the least about writing?
Madelyn: It’s fun to spin a story to draw in my readers and entertain them. I love to imagine my characters and reveal their thoughts and actions as they work to overcome some dilemma. I also enjoy my association with other writers who have taught me many technical aspects of how to develop a good story. Now the old “teacher” in me enjoys encouraging and mentoring other writers.
That wonderful that you take the time to mentor other writers. It sounds like you enjoy being part of the writing community! In your bio, it mentions that you write creative nonfiction in addition to fiction. In what ways do you approach writing essay/memoir differently from writing fiction?
Madelyn: The only difference between a short story and a memoir is that I’m the main character in the memoir and the incident actually happened. I still use internalization, dialogue, and action to build the scene to a climax and then conclude with a resolution.
If you could have dinner with one author, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Madelyn: I’d love to meet and have dinner with Mississippi native, Donna Tartt. Her recent novel The Goldfinch won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. I picked up this lengthy tome in order to write a review of it for a contest sponsored by Arkansas Writers’ Conference last June, but her main character, thirteen-year-old Theo, caught my attention immediately. In fact, each of her characters was so well drawn and unique. I’d love to ask her how she came up with them!
Yes! I would love the opportunity to pick her writing brain, too. What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it?
Madelyn: Right now, I’m reading John Grisham’s latest novel, Gray Mountain. Grisham is a great storyteller, and he usually exposes some problem in our society. This book is his first to have a female protagonist, and new legal-aid lawyer Samantha Kofer learns first-hand about the violent world of Big Coal. In the small Appalachian town of Brady, Virginia, laws are being broken and the land is under attack by strip mining, but the community is dependent on the income and is divided about how to react. Grisham is building the suspense! I love that!
Great! Thanks for the recommendation. Anything else you’d like to add?
Madelyn: Yes, I’d like to say that most of my stories have been written since I retired, and I’d like to encourage anyone who is looking for a fun and productive way to spend their golden years to consider writing. Many of us in our sixties, seventies, and eighties have a treasure trove of experiences from which to draw. When my husband and I moved to Hot Springs Village, Arkansas, in 2003, I joined the Village Writers’ Club. It’s been fun to interact with other writers, learn how to tell a good story, and even win some writing awards along the way! I feel truly honored to have my story chosen among the top ten in the WOW Summer Flash Fiction Contest.
Thank you for your thoughtful responses! We hope to see more of your work in the future. Happy writing!
Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, writer and writing instructor