Amy Fuster won the hearts of our guest judges, and literary agent, Wendy Sherman, with her First Place story, The Road Twisted Twice. If you haven't done so already, read her winning story and come back and join us in an inspirational chat!
Bio: Amy Fuster lives outside metro Atlanta on nine acres with her husband of 18 years, their two sons, two dogs, and a dozen goldfish that live in her koi pond with a resident bullfrog. Her inner writer just recently emerged with a roaring battle cry for attention. Managing the home front, their numerous rental properties and the tenants who come with the territory, and pursuing her Black Belt in karate, are additional pursuits vying for her attention. She’s working on her first novel, Lottery Lost, in addition to grooming the writing beast with tools from the Long Ridge Writers Group Breaking Into Print course. Most recently, she’s been published as 3rd place winner in Newnan-Coweta Magazine’s writing contest, and a book review published in the LongRidge newsletter. Travel articles are soon to follow, as ten days recently spent in Hawaii provide a myriad of memories to motivate her muse. You can contact Amy at: fuster1up[at]Hughes[dot]net
WOW: Welcome to The Muffin, Amy, and congratulations on winning first place! Your story, The Road Twisted Twice, is so beautifully written. What inspired you to write it?
Amy: Thanks that's sweet of you to say. I was blown away by the award, what an honor! The inspiration for the story was a snapshot moment in my life that I embellished heartily to fictionalize. There was a mill house, there was a woman, there was a moment; the road curved, and my life went straight. Other than that, it’s fictional.
What inspired me to write about it, though, was a conversation I had one evening with a friend. She mentioned seeing some homeless people who were living under an overpass in Atlanta. I asked her, "Have you ever wanted to just stop and ask one of them, why are you here? What happened, and why didn't you fix it?"
She said she had wondered, but wouldn't stop to ask. It reminded me of that time when I connected with the woman's eyes, driving down that twisted road. It had happened several years ago, but the missed moment stayed with me.
We just can't imagine people actually living in those conditions. But that's exactly what intrigued me so much. I wondered how she could sit there on that porch and seem so very content with so little, and why I am so discontent with so much! And again I wished I had stopped to ask. I felt like she had the answer to some life riddle, and I was just too busy at the time to get it.
WOW: The message of your story is so true...life passes at such a quick pace that we sometimes never get to stop and truly appreciate it, live it. It makes me want to stop for a moment and do something different, talk to someone, break the pattern. Can you recall a time you broke your routine and did something completely spontaneous?
Amy: LOL, sure, hitting 'send' to submit my story to you. :) Honestly, I am spontaneous. I've been known to stop a fellow grocery shopper and ask how they're planning to cook the meat they just chose. I have a fabulous recipe for ox tail soup that I got just that way. I think life's lessons are hidden in unexpected places. If you just look in the obvious spots, you'll miss half the fun.
WOW: Oooh, I had ox tail soup and it's delicious! You'll have to share your recipe with me sometime. So, do you prefer to write what you know, or write what you don't know?
Amy: That's a tough one. I prefer to write what I question. I'm really opinionated. Ask me about anything and I'll likely have a strong opinion I’m willing to share. (ie Hey, you asked. Don't complain if you don’t like the answer.) But given new information, I might change my mind. I constantly wonder why, how, and what if… So I find myself writing from my world view, and inviting questions about whether other, equally valid, points are running around out there. But to answer the question directly, I like to write from observation rather than research.
WOW: I hear that! Now here's a question I'm always curious about: was The Road Twisted Twice a story you'd previously written? If so, did you have to do a lot of editing for this contest?
Amy: I did write it before I knew about the contest. Right after that homeless overpass conversation I mentioned. I wrote it just for myself, not for an audience. (Imagine my surprise to find all of you reading it!)
I really struggle to get the words out, usually. I've said that writing, for me, is like pulling kudzu off pine trees. But with this story, the first line wrote itself, and the rest flowed easily. I did have to squeeze it down to size, but lost nothing in the effort. Exactly the opposite, I tightened the belt and it made the story's eyes bulge out.
WOW: I think the first line definitely sets the tone for the story. Your prose is gorgeous. You must be an avid reader. Who are some of your favorite authors?
Amy: Thanks for the compliment about the prose. You're making me blush.
I have always loved to read, but I don't read always. When I do, I become absorbed and I'm likely to forget to do important things, like make dinner, or pay the bills, or blink.
I don't have favorite authors, but there are powerful books that stand out. The Bridges of Madison County, by Robert James Waller, comes to mind. The Thorn Birds, by Cathleen McCullough, and Hanta Yo, by Ruth BeeBe Hill, are favorites. Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, by T. Harv Eker, and The Book of Secrets, by Deepak Chopra, in the non-fiction realm. Most recently I read The Last Time I Was Me, by Cathy Lamb, and found myself literally laughing out loud. That's a sure sign you’ve got my attention!
WOW: That's a great selection! Since it's November, I have to ask, are you participating in NaNo this year?
Amy: I'm so glad you asked that! Yes, this is my first time. Two friends and I agreed to keep each other pegged to the challenge. (Would you believe their names are Angie and Angela?) I'm not a disciplined writer, so in September I did a trial run, a commitment to write 1667 words per day. It turned into more of a journal experience (I've never kept a journal) than a novel project, but frankly, I could base a novel on some of those entries!
I’m treating NaNo just like an exercise program. I don't have to like it, I just have to do it. I sit down to write 1667 words (the goal) every day. Sometimes I bitch and whine throughout. But I always feel better when I'm finished. A trick that's helped is to picture an in-town jogger. They don't stop jogging just because they hit a red light, instead they jog in place. So when I hit a red light in my writing, I just keep writing, even if the words don’t make sense or move the story forward. Eventually the light turns green again, and I'm running on down the road again.
WOW: That's an excellent example! I'll have to use that. In your bio, you mentioned Long Ridge's Breaking Into Print course. Many of WOW's writers are students as well, including myself. What have you discovered about your writing since taking the course?
Amy: I've discovered that I babble and insert tons of useless words into first drafts. And I tend to write in fragments and run-ons. I've learned to condense. I think too much and write too little. It's better to write a bunch of drivel, and then cut it by half, and then plump it up, than it is to wait until I think of something brilliant to say.
(I could have used that advice here, I've taken a ridiculous amount of time to conjure these simple answers! And I should know them already, no research, nothing to create! LOL)
Seriously, the Long Ridge Course has been terrific. It's awesome to have feedback from successful writers. Nothing compares to having your author/instructor's comments written in the margins of your work. It's contributed at least as much to my confidence as to my writing.
I'd absolutely recommend Long Ridge to anyone who’s sitting on the fence. Hop on over, you won't be sorry.
WOW: I completely agree. Thank you for chatting with us today, Amy! And congratulations again! Do you have any advice to share with other flash fiction contestants?
Amy: Thanks, I appreciate all your kind words. Writers have fragile egos ya know. We need those pats on the back.
What I've learned from practicing karate is that nobody wants to be a white belt, because they feel awkward and inept. But the higher belts are quick to assure that everybody started as a white belt, and felt just as awkward and inept. You don’t achieve higher ranks without doing things that feel clumsy at first. But you advance only with practice, not just with time spent, or desire, or wishing.
Martial arts, writing, real estate, and so many other things I've tackled, have been learn-as-you-go processes. But what I've found is that you don't get better just by learning more, you get better by doing more.
So my advice…go do. Write. Submit. Smile. Every thing you produce is worthy. Know that it is.
If you haven't done so already, please read Amy's award-winning story, The Road Twisted Twice.
For more details on WOW! Women On Writing's current contest, sponsored by skirt!, head over to our contest page. The deadline is approaching! November 30th.