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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

 

Interview with Ashley Memory, 1st Place Winner in Summer 2018 Flash Fiction Contest

Ashley Memory finds inspiration in the ancient Uwharrie mountains surrounding her home in rural Randolph, County, N.C. She enjoys preserving what she grows in the garden she tends with her husband Johnpaul. She’s learned the hard way about wearing gloves when making jalapeno pickles!

Ashley’s poetry and prose have recently appeared in The Birds We Piled Loosely, Gyroscope Review, The Ginger Collect’s 2018 Halloween Mini-Magazine and numerous other literary journals and anthologies. New work is forthcoming in Okay Donkey and Coffin Bell. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and a two-time recipient of the Doris Betts Fiction Prize sponsored by the N.C. Writers’ Network. A previous story, “Eula Dare Hampton Agrees to Edit the Quaker Ladies’ Cookbook,” earned honorable mention in the WOW! Winter 2018 Flash Fiction Contest.

Ashley loves sharing what she’s learned as a part-time instructor for Central Carolina Community College’s Creative Writing Program in Pittsboro, N.C. Follow Ashley on Twitter @memoryashley or visit her fruit-inspired blog at ashley-memory.com.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on your first place win in our Summer 2018 Flash Fiction competition! What inspired you to enter the contest?

Ashley: I love entering writing contests! A deadline is an excellent incentive for finishing a story, and a little healthy competition is good for every writer. I’m also a big fan of the WOW contests and their community in particular, which I first learned about from a writing friend many years ago. The WOW prizes and support of their writers is outstanding, and unique of its kind. The entry fee is very reasonable and the judging is blind, two factors which equalize the playing field for everyone. This means that even someone like me (from the little town of Asheboro, N.C.) can earn a place along with the best writers across the world. Oh, and it’s also judged by a literary agent. How cool is that?

WOW:  Love your enthusiasm for our contests! Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, "Dear Derinda?"

Ashley: Years ago I heard about such a situation—a cell company offering big bucks to a rural community to install a tower and how it fractured the neighborhood. But I just tucked it away in my head as an anecdote because for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how to turn it into a story. And then in May of this last year, I participated in Julie Duffy’s Story A Day project and one of her prompts was to write a story in the form of a letter. The two elements just clicked – one friend mad at another and so she writes a letter – and the story finally came to life. The “turn” in the story, how one friend forgave another, was a bit of a personal journey. Having to work that out, as I’m not sure how I would have personally handled that dilemma, meant I had to imagine that I could forgive such a betrayal, which turned out to be an exercise in humility and grace. Does writing make you a better person? In my case, I think it does. At least I hope so.

WOW What key elements do you think make a great piece of flash fiction?

Ashley: A flash fiction should have all the elements of a traditional story – a strong character or two, sense of place, imagery, conflict and some kind of resolution – but within an extremely tight space. Beyond this, the writer Vanessa Gebbie says it best. “What a good flash ought to do,” she says, is to “catch you as you turn away, hold you, and when you’re finished reading, it should echo and resonate.”

All of these things make flash fiction one of the more challenging pieces to write, but it’s a wonderful exercise for writers of any level, from professional to beginning because it hones your skills so sharply. It’s also just plain fun! I am fortunate enough to lead a couple of workshops a year on flash for Central Carolina Community College’s Creative Writing Program, and we have a blast. There are so many possible formats for flash, from emails to text messages to even overheard conversations. The sky is truly the limit!

WOW Are you working on any writing projects currently? What can we plan on seeing from you in the future?

Ashley: For the past year, I’ve focused on improving my writing, through close study of the masters and a disciplined writing of the short story in particular. Eventually, once a theme emerges, I may produce a collection of stories. I’m also exploring creative nonfiction, particularly the essay. I’m taking my second Chelsey Clammer workshop – one on humor and loving it.

Interestingly, I recently revised a flash story that placed in a WOW contest last year and gave it a holiday twist. “Holiday Party Etiquette for Insects Recently Transformed into People,” will be published by one of my favorite literary magazines, Okay Donkey, in December. I also have a long form narrative poem, “Orchard #9,” about a haunted cherry orchard that will be published by the evocative and eerie Coffin Bell in January.

WOW Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Ashley. Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?

Ashley: First, enter! Second, you, yes you, I’m talking to you! What are you waiting for?!! Seriously, I encourage all my writer friends to enter contests, especially ones like WOW offers because of the blind judging and great prizes. Look at it like this. The judge may very well be looking for a story just like yours, and it’s your responsibility to share it with her! :) But the best part of entering a competition is the opportunity to join a terrific community of fellow women writers and continue to grow, rewards that endure well beyond the contest itself.

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For more information about our quarterly Flash Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Essay contests, visit our contest page here.


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3 Comments:

Blogger Renee Roberson said...

Ashley,

I absolutely LOVED your story and could not stop laughing at that pickle line. This is a piece that must be read out loud and I read it out loud to my husband and acted it out. It also helps that we lived in High Point for a few years before making our way to the suburbs of Charlotte. Your use of dialect and southern humor made me kick myself for not being a funnier writer. (I err on the dark and twisty side usually!) Now I might have to check into that class with Chelsey! Anyway, I agree with everything you said on here. When I placed as a runner up years ago in one of the WOW! contests it really helped boost my confidence and I've been entering them ever since. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but it is great to have a deadline and prompt to work with. I look forward to checking out some of your other work!

4:59 PM  
Blogger Sioux Roslawski said...

Marcia--Thanks for doing this interview.

Ashley--First of all, what a great name for a writer. Ashley Memory. Wow.

Second, I loved your story. The tampon bit was hilarious. I was reminded a bit of Fanny Flagg...

Congratulations, and good luck with your future writing.

6:32 PM  
Blogger Ashley said...

Thank you for your kind words Renee! Great to know that you're in Charlotte. While I love to travel, I have to say that 99.9% of my inspiration comes right out of my own community. But I love dark humor too, and this class with Chelsey definitely hits on that element as well. Join us! It's a blast and I can't wait until next time.

And Sioux, thank you also for reading this interview and the story. I've definitely had some mishaps in the kitchen, to say the least. I'm making a pound cake right now, as a matter of fact. :)

7:38 AM  

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