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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

 

Interview with Sarah Lucas: 2017 Fall Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Sarah’s Bio:

Sarah grew up in a big small city in Virginia where she enjoyed a diet of artistic culture and her dad’s Sicilian-American food. She makes a living as a French and Art History teacher at a local high school, but she thrives on her family, friends, and the food that she can make for them.

She has recently started sharing her talents for creative writing with others by enrolling in her first-ever writing class in the spring of 2017. Being published as a WOW! Contest finalist is her second national publication if you want to count the short story that she wrote at age 11. Her sixth grade teacher submitted it to Stone Soup magazine in 1984. Her writing has been somewhat dormant for 33 years. It cropped up mostly in family newsletters, Christmas cards, and on social media posts since then. She blames, however does not begrudge, her commitment to her teaching career, her amazing and very faithful husband and unruly, but passionate, children for taking her away from her prose.

She’s looking forward to finding a lot more to put down on paper from now on. If you haven’t done so already, check out Sarah’s award-winning story “The Thief” and then return here for a chat with the author.

WOW: What was the inspiration for this story?

Sarah: To start off, I feel this overwhelming need to clarify that this is fiction and not based on my actual life. I know my family was originally very concerned when they read it.
The premise started as a joke. My husband travels a lot (so much so that we had teased that he could have a whole separate family elsewhere.) And then we invented a fake second life for him.

But then I wandered about what that would really feel like-- to feel the pressing desire for attention, or care, etc. from someone who was unavailable. I remembered that a friend of mine had once confided in me a dalliance that she had had and how it started. With all of that in mind, the story took off. It made me cry a few times putting myself into the character’s shoes.

And ultimately I wanted the story to have an atypical ending. I didn’t want Pollyanna smiles or “happily ever after the divorce.” I wanted to see real struggle in the resolution. My real life is lived more like that anyway.

WOW: I think most of us have had to explain to friends or family – no, that isn’t you or me because I’m writing fiction. Even if the inspiration comes from life, you make changes. Speaking of changes, how did this story evolve during the rewrite process?

Sarah: My first version had too many unnecessary details. I had created backstory that was amusing to me, but not important to the plot or even to the character development.

I wrote the beginning of the story first, but then put in the middle, and then stuck it back in the beginning where it belongs. My friends in my writing class suggested that my main character was a little passionless and aloof, so I made that her tragic flaw.

The cleaner, better organized story that you read now is much more intriguing than the original.

WOW: Flash fiction is so compact that something has to be left out. How did you decide what details belonged in “The Thief” and which ones did not?

Sarah: Chopping was easy at first. I had written a lot of frivolous details into the exposition that I could shamelessly hack out. But then honing it to the last draft was more difficult. I examined each sentence and had to consciously decide which words to keep.

In her very popular book, Marie Kondo explains that in order to cull out the best things to keep in your house, you have to review everything and decide if it brings you joy. In nearly the same way, I analyzed each paragraph and decided which words and details brought the story “joy.”

WOW: That’s the first time I’ve heard of anyone using Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up as a writing guide. Writing is incredibly personal. What bit of yourself can the reader find in this particular story?

Sarah: The woman at the reunion is definitely me at most dress-up functions. I have awkwardly changed shape since nursing my children. It’s appealing for my husband, but dressing up with an ample chest always makes me walk a fine line between alluring and X-rated. I know I’m too self-conscious.

The arguments are real. Any marriage (especially healthy ones) will have disagreements. My husband and I are not perfect and we get on each other’s nerves often. In our first years of marriage we were ruthless about “winning” an argument and we would air our grievances exhaustively. After nearly 20 years together, we’re much more efficient at getting to the heart of the matter and a lot less concerned about “winning.” And we still have make-up sex.

WOW: What advice do you have for anyone who is returning to writing after a prolonged absence?

Sarah: Don’t put it off any longer. Stop making excuses about it. Get back into it even if you haven’t written anything in years. I let everything else (though much of it was important) get in the way of a real passion of mine. I’m not lamenting the “lost” writing years, however, because that would further bring me down. I am looking forward to exploring the palate that my life has given me since I last wrote anything down.

WOW: What a bonus for your readers that you’ve come back into the writing world. And thank you for sharing your techniques and writing wisdom with all of us. We hope to see more of your work before too long.

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