Corinne Mahoney, First Place Winner!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Corinne Mahoney, a native of Massachusetts, lives in North Carolina with her husband and three children. She received her BA in English from the University of Notre Dame and a Master’s in Library Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a Knowledge Services Manager for a non-profit organization in the field of global health. She believes that writing can be transformative and would like to one day establish a non-profit fiction writing program for at-risk adolescent girls. Corinne was an avid writer throughout childhood and college, but found that life is full of excuses to set aside one’s dream. Her children and their beautiful, whacky imaginations have inspired her to put pen to paper again. Plus she says, “I expect my kids to pursue their dreams, so I better get going on my own.” Flash fiction is the genre of necessity for this full time working mother with three children 3 years old and younger, but a novel will come someday. Other neglected favorites include: traveling, hiking, and exploring local parks and restaurants.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on winning first place in our Winter 2010 writing contest! How do you feel?

Corrine: Elated and honored. It’s an excellent motivator to keep writing, and it’s a privilege to see my work featured among such strong talent.

WOW: Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, Attempted Interview with Randall Clark Rural Community Oral History Project/Eastern State University Interview Declined?

Corinne: The phrase “we don’t talk about dead babies” wormed its way into my consciousness. When it didn’t go away, I knew there was a story to tell. I sat down, wrote that line and the rest came out. I was surprised by the trajectory the story took. I love, as a writer, when it feels as if the character is writing the story, as if you’re just along for the ride. Of course, the character never does a great job of editing, so I’ll take full credit there. That said, the story does touch on themes that I love to write about: grief, religiosity, parenthood, resilience, and the unspoken.

WOW: It's a powerful story. Good thing you followed up on that phrase! Have you always enjoyed the genre, and how did you learn to write great flash fiction?

Corinne: I love flash fiction. Even before I knew it was a genre, I found my short stories getting shorter and shorter. I prefer concise, intense writing, and I love to cut stories down to their core. Flash fiction leaves a lot up to the reader, and I like trusting the reader to fill in the details and context.

Cutting a piece down to a required word count is a great way to hone your editing skills. This story was originally around 950 words. I did a ruthless edit, but felt I could only get it down to 770. I almost didn't enter it. Those last 20 words were painful; I felt like I was taking a scalpel to the piece. In the end, though, it was a better story because of it.

WOW: Your painful editing process led to a winning story, so again, congratulations.

It's always interesting to learn about other people's writing routines. Could you tell us when and where you usually write? Do you have favorite tools or habits that get you going?

Corinne: I usually write at home when moments of inspiration magically coincide with my limited moments of free time. Between my job and three young kids, these moments are rare. I have not made my writing a priority over the last few years (ok, I’ll admit it—the last decade). With so many demands on my time, I have finally realized that I need to indulge my love of writing now or never. Life doesn’t slow down. So my New Year’s resolution this year was to write one story each month—not overly ambitious, but I needed a manageable goal. If an inspired moment doesn’t occur by the end of the month, then I sit down and write something anyway. I’m also trying to respect those lingering phrases that pop in my head instead of ignoring them. When inspiration comes knocking, I should probably answer the door. Deadlines, including contest deadlines, are a great motivator.

WOW: Sounds like a good plan. What one bit of advice would you give to other aspiring writers?

Corinne: Put your commitment to writing on par with your other commitments. I feel guilty or at least distracted if I sit down to write knowing I still have a looming deadline at work or a sink full of dirty dishes. Don’t consider writing time self-indulgent. I’m still working on this.

WOW: I think we all feel this way sometimes. Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Corinne! Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?

Corinne: WOW is the only contest I’ve entered so far (I’ve entered twice), and it’s been a great experience. Reading the winning entries was a great source of inspiration for me and also gave me confidence that my writing would be a good fit for this contest, so I would encourage others to do the same. Also, with flash fiction, especially if you have dialogue, read it out loud while you’re editing. It’s a great way to identify unnecessary words or awkward dialogue. Mostly, I encourage people to go ahead & enter. The only way to guarantee you won’t win is by not entering.

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