Interview with Winter 2016 Flash Fiction Runner-Up, Pam Maddin-Baker
If you haven’t read Pam’s story, “Snow Boy,” and read this story about family and love, loss and moving forward.
WOW: As a teacher, you shared your love of theatre and English with your students. How does this background impact your writing?
Pam: As a writer, I am very lucky to have a background in theatre and English literature. I have a lot of training in acting, and that means I have experience imagining and creating back story and motivation for a character. When I am creating characters for a story, I am constantly imagining their history, the way they would feel, and what that makes them do or say in the narrative.
My love of literature, everything from Shakespeare to Game of Thrones, has allowed me to explore a wide of variety of writing styles and learn to have confidence in my own style and voice. My students have also taught me a valuable lesson: Every reader responds uniquely to a piece of writing. Not everyone is going to like a piece of writing, and that is okay.
WOW: You seem to write for many different readers – you’re working on everything from a historical fiction novel to short stories and flash fiction. What motivates you to write such a variety of pieces?
Pam: Ideas for stories are always popping into my head. Some of those ideas are best told in a short piece of writing. But others keep coming back and developing in my imagination. I feel the need to continue exploring them.
That is how my novel began to take form. It actually began as a flash fiction piece about a Canadian woman on vacation in Mexico. She meets an impoverished Mayan woman the same age as herself and is amazed by her strength. The story would not leave my thoughts and now it has grown into a full novel centered round the Zapatista revolution in 1994.
I just keep following my characters and let them lead me through a story until the end!
I am always working on the craft of writing. Learning through doing is an ongoing and important goal for me. My novel is research and on the job learning. Flash fiction helps me explore telling a story when every word is important…and counted.
WOW: What inspired this particular piece, Snow Boy?
Pam: I was moved by the recent understanding that a child who is born after the loss of another child is sometimes called a rainbow baby. In the real world, a beautiful and bright rainbow follows a storm and gives hope of things getting better. The rainbow is more appreciated having just experienced the storm in comparison.
Snow Boy developed from the complicated mix of joy and guilt that a mother would feel after losing a child and then finding out she was pregnant again. She would want to be excited about this new life, but also respectful toward the life that is no longer here. I wanted to explore how the lost child would have been happy for the mom.
WOW: How did Snow Boy change between the initial idea and the finished story?
Pam: I actually submitted this story to WOW twice! The first time I asked for a critique and received some excellent advice. I developed the character of Sherry more and explained more of her past. I tried to make her relatable to the reader, rather than "she could be anyone".
I also decided to let the reader imagine what happened to her child rather than impose a story. The loss was the important aspect of the story, the “how” was not as necessary.
WOW: What advice do you have for writers who are new to flash fiction but are thinking about entering one of the WOW contests?
Pam: Trust your reader. Your reader doesn't need to know everything, it is fun for them to figure out the back story of even put their own experience into the story. But you need to give enough information so it is clear why the story is happening. Ask yourself, What does the reader need to be told? What can be implied through words or actions? A reader loves to be surprised as well, so have an interesting ending.
Also, don't be discouraged. Remember that writing is subjective. Everyone has a different opinion about what is good. Tell your story as best you can and be proud of it!
WOW: Thank you for giving our readers a look into how you create your characters as well as the surprising link between WOW and Snow Boy. I know I speak for the whole community when I say that I hope we see more of your writing out there in the world!