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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Interview with WOW! Runner-Up Jen Payne

Jen Payne is a runner up in the Fall Essay Contest sponsored by skirt! Books. Read her winning story, How the Universe Moved My Sofa and Changed My Life.

Jen's Bio:
I've been a writer for as long as I can remember--adolescent poetry, high school newspaper, college journalism, freelance writing, zine publishing, blog entries. For the past 16 years, I've been a wearer of all hats--editor, copywriter, marketing wordsmith--as the owner of my own graphic design company, Words by Jen, in Branford, Connecticut.

In 2006, I launched Creative Soup (, an online collaboration of artists and writers dedicated to the pursuit of creativity in all its forms. Truth be told, it was the excuse I needed to reconnect to my own creative voice, which had gotten lost amidst the busy-ness of everything else.

That creative voice has always been inspired by those "life moments" that move us--love and loss, joy and disappointment, milestones and turning points. My writing serves as witness to these, in powerful (often humorous) vignettes of thoughts, impressions, and feelings.
I am currently working on several poems, a series of short stories, and my first novel.

If you haven't done so already, check out Jen's award-winning entry "How the Universe Moved My Sofa and Changed My Life" and then return here for a chat with the author.

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the Fall 2008 Essay Contest! How do you feel about your prize-winning entry? Have you won other writing contests?

Jen: It was very exciting to find out that my essay was selected for the Top 10! I have always considered myself a writer, but only recently made a commitment to put my work "out there," to get published. Having one of my first attempts be acknowledged reminds me that THIS is what I am supposed to be doing. So, much thanks to WOW! Women On Writing for the encouragement and incentive to continue on this path!

WOW: You're welcome! I'm very glad we could help! Which of your writing accomplishments makes you most proud?

Jen: I have to say, there has not been one particular moment, or one specific piece of writing, that makes me most proud. What I am most proud of is the process of this writing--to take an idea that tip-toes in and transform it into a story or poem; to speak a truth that others can relate to; to weave words in such a way that it moves the reader, or opens them up to share their own stories.

I had lunch with an old friend a while ago. We hadn't seen each other in eight years, so the conversation was a bit awkward and somewhat censored in that way we are with strangers. I told her I'd been working on a new poem, and she asked me to read it. As I did, you could see the pretense fall away. The poem was a simple piece of truth, but it gave us both permission to be ourselves. By the end of lunch, we were talking and sharing stories as if no time had passed since we'd last seen each other.

WOW: That's a great story because it shows one of the many ways that writing can be a powerful tool. I hear that you have a website. When and how did you get the inspiration to launch your website Creative Soup?

Jen: I am lucky to be connected to a number of creative people--writers, artists, poets. A common thread we all seem to share is the need to find time for our creative work. In my mind, there is a difference between the work we do for pay, and the work we do by pure inspiration. Creative Soup was founded for that reason: to give people a chance to connect to their creative spirit more often.

We do four seasonal installations a year, usually with a theme or prompt. Contributors are encouraged to participate if they are so inspired--to submit work if they can, with no pressure to produce if they can't.

I like to think Creative Soup offers a gently tap on the shoulder: "find the time."

WOW: That's a great idea. For me, finding the time is one of the biggest writing challenge I face. You must be pretty good at finding the time to write because I hear you are currently working on your first novel. Would you mind sharing your progress so far, or what it is about?

Jen: The novel is a fairy-tale of sorts, loosely based on the narrative structure of a hero's journey (or heroine's, in this case). It's part coming-of-age and part life lesson, with a good dose of humor. It started, actually, as a series of very short stories. It's been an interesting process to take those initial ideas and build on them, create characters and a narrative, and keep the story flowing smoothly from beginning to end. Much different than working on a poem or short story, and certainly more challenging!

WOW: It sounds like a great project, and I hope we all have a chance to read it someday! What is the best writing advice you've ever received?

Jen: There have been three pieces of advice that I think of often when I write. The first was something my Dad taught me the day I slammed my sled into a tree when I was four. "When you fall off a horse, get right back on," he said that day, and many times after. You have successes, you have failures, but don't be afraid to keep trying.

The second was from my high school English teacher, who taught me the bones of good writing: organization and flow. He critiqued a poem I wrote once and said, "This needs to be more universal." I think about that every time I write, and always read a piece through that filter before I'm finished--will other people relate to this?

The final piece of advice was from a good friend who is an award-winning author and publisher. She told me "you're not a real writer until you can wallpaper your bathroom with rejection letters." It helps keep things in perspective--but I'm grateful I have a very small bathroom!

WOW: Yes, that is so true, but it’s all of those rejections that make the successes so much sweeter. Thank you for your time and we look forward to seeing more of your work in the future!

Interviewed by: Anne Greenawalt

The Spring Flash Fiction Contest is still open! Deadline: May 31, 2009 (midnight, Pacific time) Visit: for details

1 comment:

  1. Great interview, and CONGRATS to my long-time friend, Jen Payne.


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