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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Interview with Second Place Flash Fiction Winner: Theresa Mae Leitch

What a treat for The Muffin readers today--an interview with 2nd place flash fiction contest winner, Theresa Mae Leitch. Her winning story, "Mommy's Here," is the story of a new mom, trying to get her baby asleep and fight her addiction to cutting. If you haven't had a chance to read it yet, you can do so here.

Theresa's bio:
Since I was a kid, I’ve been writing stories and ripping them up before anyone could see them. Now that I’m in my 30s, I’ve finally got the ovaries to share my work with others. It’s amazing what a fun career, two amazing kids, a loving partner and a prescription for Prozac can do for one’s confidence. Besides, I’m finding that it’s a lot harder to rip up my stories now that they’re on a computer.

I have a weird but enjoyable job as a lawyer who runs a library and implements knowledge management initiatives at a large Canadian law firm. In between work and family, I’m polishing my first novel and trying to learn about the crazy world of publishing.

WOW: Congratulations, Theresa, on your 2nd place win. Your story of a woman who uses cutting to get through raising her baby is so realistic and heartbreaking. What made you want to write this story?

Theresa: Thank you. I'm really excited about placing second, especially since this story means a lot to me.

I find it fascinating how self-destructive acts can seem utterly logical to someone who is suffering from mental illness, and I wanted to explore that. Depression is a horrible disease, all the worse because it affects the way you think. Often, the sicker you are, the harder it is to figure out that you need help. My character needs to take care of her baby, and cutting lets her do that. So to her, it makes sense to do it. Why get help? It's all under control.

WOW: You portray that very well in your story--how relieved she is when she finally cuts and how normal it is to her. You did a fantastic job! How hard was it to put such a gripping story into so few words? You manage to tell us a whole story and let us into the character's life.

That's a terrific compliment, thanks. It was tough keeping the word count so low, but what a great writing exercise it turned out to be! Flash fiction really makes you pause and ask yourself if you really need that sentence or that adverb. I've seen an improvement in my longer fiction as a result.

WOW: That's great to hear that winning this contest is also helping your writing. It's like winning two prizes! From your bio, it is easy to tell that you have a great sense of humor. Does this ever slip into your writing, or is it just how you deal with the life of a writer? :)

Theresa: It's how I deal with everything! Humor is the best defense mechanism in the world. I do try to incorporate some humor into my writing here and there.

WOW: So true--humor can help us in our everyday lives, too. Your bio also mentioned that you used to rip up your stories. What made you decide to finally start letting other people read your work, including entering it into contests?

Theresa: I got an iPod. Seriously!

A couple of years back, I made a big change in my life. I left practicing law to become a knowledge management professional. It's a fantastic job; and although there are stresses and occasional bouts of overtime, I have a lot more time for myself after work and family. That got me writing again, in a way I hadn't had time for in many years.

Then I bought the iPod; and at work one day, I was listening to one of my desert island albums (Haunted by Poe). I was struck by the lyrics to a song called "Walk the Walk:"

My mother spent 10 years sitting by a window
Scared if she spoke she would die of a heart attack
She listened as her dreams silently screamed
They drowned like little dolphins caught in a fishnet

I don't want my kids to be able to say that about me.

WOW: Those are powerful lyrics, and I'm sure many people reading those are thinking the same thing that you said about your own children. Isn't it strange how an almost unrelated event--getting an iPod--can change the course of your life? Tell us a little about your novel that you are polishing.

Theresa: It's a suspense thriller. Ally Stone is a serial killer who believes that she's the reincarnation of Medusa, destined to protect women from the men who abuse them. But she's not always right about the guilt of her victims.

I've put the first draft aside for a while so I can go back to it with fresh eyes; and in the meantime, I'm outlining a YA novel about a girl in love with a soul condemned to eternally walk the earth, and her fight to free him from his condemnation.

WOW: Those both sound fantastic. I love the plot for the suspense thriller, especially that the serial killer believes she is Medusa. Very interesting! What is your writing routine like since you are juggling your writing and a career as a lawyer?

Theresa: I do a lot of prep-work away from the keyboard. I imagine the scenes I want to write about and daydream myself as the different characters. I do this all the time - on the streetcar, when I'm watching Kung Fu Panda with my sons (for the millionth time).Then, when I sit down to write, I have a really good idea of what's happening in the scene and why, which allows me to bang it out pretty fast. When things aren't too busy at work, I'll do the physical writing at night four or five times a week. Other times, I'll only get an hour or so every few weeks.

WOW: It sounds like a plan that is working for you, and we hope it continues. Thanks again for talking with us today, Theresa. We hope to read more from you soon!

interview conducted by Margo Dill,,,

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