Congratulations to Caleb Collier for placing 2nd in the 2010 Spring Flash Fiction contest. You can read his winning story, "Bedtime Story," here.
Caleb grew up in Pound, VA, in a hollow of the Appalachian Mountains. He is a storyteller at heart and puts words to his solitude from time to time. He works for a non-profit organization called Give Us Names, which seeks to use storytelling as a means to combat social injustice. Right now, he can be found in Columbia, working on a documentary about the tragedy of displacement.
WOW: Welcome to The Muffin, Caleb, and congratulations on your win! Where did you get the idea for "Bedtime Story?"
Caleb: I remember glancing at a picture in the newspaper of a woman I never knew. Somehow, I got this strange feeling that all this woman would ever be to me is a person made out of paper. So that, combined with that creative spark of loneliness that pushes you to dream up a lover where none exists, led me to pen the words, "There once lived a girl who was made out of paper." The piece took shape from there.
WOW: That's a great line! What are the themes you are exploring in your flash fiction piece?
Caleb: Well, there is the theme of identity. The paper metaphor serves as a way for this girl to see the "stuff" she is made of, to know who she is, and how she is put together. It is also written through the lens of exaggerated perfection. It seems to be the voice of someone completely enraptured with this woman, describing her every feature in poetic detail. I think loneliness is a thread through the story. For all we know, this girl is the only one of the Paper People. There seems to be a great deal of solitude in her life. And, of course, you have the theme of death. It seems to be a place that most stories end.
WOW: Your imagery is fantastic. How difficult was it to get the description and story into such a small amount of words?
Caleb: Imagery is often about what is left unsaid. Give the reader just enough color and let them to finish the painting.
WOW: So true. How long have you been writing and what are your favorite types of pieces to write?
Caleb: I have been writing since before I could read. It's always been the way I interpret the world around me. I have tried to tackle just about every type of written word--from screenplays to poetry, novels, letters, journal articles, short stories, and a master's thesis. I even dabbled in haikus for a summer. I get different things out of each project. I like the intimacy you can put into a letter, the dialogue in a script, the character development in novels, and well, the poetry in poetry. But I think short stories are what I enjoy most. I can tell the story I want to tell and be done with it.
WOW: What is a current project you are working on?
Caleb: Well, I have this novel I've been toying around with for the last year. It is written as a sort of faux-memoir. A guy at the end of his life tries to put words to his existence. He does so through a series of short stories, essays, travel journals, and poems. "Bedtime Story" is actually a chapter out of that novel. I'm not sure if it will go anywhere. I'm not good at finishing projects, and I have a lot on my plate right now. Maybe some literary agent reading this wants to help me get an advance so I can devote serious time to finishing it?
WOW: Yes, Caleb, I think that is every writer's dream. Best of luck to you with finishing your work-in-progress. It sounds really interesting and different. Please tell us more about the non-profit organization you work for, Give Us Names. What is your position there?
Caleb: Give Us Names is a storytelling organization that seeks to raise awareness about social injustice. Right now, we are working on making a series of films about the issue of forced displacement in Colombia. There are over three million internally displaced people in Colombia, putting it neck and neck with the situation in Darfur. And no one seems to know about it. So, I'm currently in Colombia, putting together our first film. I guess I'm sort of a story advisor in this process.
WOW: Thanks for explaining your work to us. So to close, why do you think it is a good idea for writers to enter contests?
Caleb: Everyone has a story to tell. I am a big fan of writing contests and film festivals. I think it democratizes the storytelling process. Take advantage of these avenues. It's a good way to get your material out there and get a foot in the door of a very complex industry. Just write. And if you want to share your words with others, contests are a good platform to do that. You know someone will read your work.
WOW: Thanks, Caleb, for taking the time to talk with our readers today. We want to congratulate you again for your winning story and wish you the best of luck in your future projects.
interview conducted by Margo L. Dill; http://margodill.com/blog/