Meet Flash Fiction Winner, Jeannie Waldridge
Jeannie recently won second place in the WOW! Women On Writing Winter 2015 Contest for her humorous flash story, "The Church Meeting." The current submission, "Serving Life on the Inside," is a bit of a departure for a humorous storyteller but a story that deserved to be told.
Jeannie is greatly supported by her writing group, Women Who Write, which is based in Louisville. The members readily offer their time, expertise and encouragement to all writers from the novice to the professional. Through the writing group, Jeannie has come to accept the fact that she is a writer as long as she continues to put pen to paper. Currently, Jeannie finds that photographs make great writing prompts and inspires fabulous storytelling.
interview by Marcia Peterson
WOW: Congratulations on your first place win in our Summer 2015 Flash Fiction competition! What inspired you to enter the contest?
Jeannie: Thank you so much. I must say I was a little shocked to win first place after placing second in the Winter Contest. This is quite an honor to be chosen again. Thanks for taking the time to speak with me.
I have found I am much more of a productive writer if I have a deadline and an idea. I also love competition and flash fiction does not carry a lot of time commitment stressors. I usually encourage my social media friends and writing group to enter contests as well. Having the benefit of receiving a critique in the WOW Contest is also a huge bonus. If I don’t win, at least I can get an idea of what folks are looking for and how I can make improvements.
WOW: Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, "Serving Life on the Inside?"
Jeannie: For years I worked with youth in foster care and group homes. Many of them carried around their parent’s baggage as well as their own. For many of them, it was hard to tell where one story ended and another story began. Many times the children would pick up their parent’s story despite fighting temptation and having the desire for a better life. I wanted to tell that side of the story but have a somewhat better ending. Many of our foster children move from place to place with all of their belongings in garbage bags. It is a visually powerful message we send to the children, what you own is not worthy of a bag or a suitcase. The message becomes, you are disposable. The social workers are given limited resources and expected to work miracles. Don’t get me wrong, I am pretty sure many of them can be caught walking on water from time to time. They do great work and care about the children but the system just keeps moving.
Unfortunately, this story plays out over and over all across the country until someone breaks the cycle. That doesn’t mean they become president, work for NASA or make millions. It simply means they find a way to be productive beyond just surviving and they make it without having some agency make decisions for them. I heard that little girl’s voice for a long time until I finally wrote her story. I think some of the demons of my past work life finally found peace from the story.
WOW: We’d 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 (you mentioned using photographs as writing prompts, for example)?
Jeannie: I tend to write in chaos. I like to have noise and activity. If things are too quiet, I find it terribly distracting. I am most content when I write with flash fiction parameters, small word count and a complete story at the end. Then the story is neatly wrapped up with a bow. I think it has been difficult for me to branch out with my writing style because I love completing the project and moving on to another story. There are only so many hours in the day and I tend to get distracted by shiny things. I really do benefit from having a specific challenge or contest to write or life creeps up and gets in the way. However, I am finding the note app on my phone to be a perfect typing medium. I can write a few lines here and there with little fanfare. It is amazing how productive you can be on a smartphone.
A friend of mine is a photographer and he has sent me some pictures and asked me to write a story. Those stories are some of my favorites. I really love that process and find that using photos is a great way to start a story. It is amazing where our imagination takes us with just a little snapshot from a moment in time.
I continue to attend my monthly writing group meeting called, Women Who Write in Louisville, KY. There are so many talented writers there it really pushes you to want to write better. Everyone has different styles so the feedback helps you look at your piece from different perspectives.
WOW: Great ideas for writing inspiration! Can you also share any good books you’ve read lately?
Jeannie: Tis the Christmas season so I have just finished Fannie Flagg’s A Redbird’s Christmas. I just love books with southern charm. I also read Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman. I usually like books that are more humorous and have memorable characters. Life can be stressful so I tend to stay away from anything that elevates my heart rate, so that limits my selection a great deal. I have found myself in the young reader section just to get an idea of the tempo and structure of the chapter books. I have some ideas for stories but want to see what is out there already.
WOW: Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Jeannie! Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?
Jeannie: I think everyone should enter at least one contest every six months. Of course, once a quarter is even better if you are entering the WOW contest. It is a great way to keep us all writing and sharing our talents. If there is a critique available, it is worth the investment to get the feedback. I would also join a writing group so they can offer feedback and support on a regular basis. It never hurts to have a little input before you hit the submit button. Who knows, you just might win.
Our Winter 2016 Flash Fiction Contest is OPEN
For details and submission, visit our contest page.