Interview with Karen Simmonds, a Double Winner in the Spring 2010 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Karen always knew she wanted to write. Once, at a slumber party, she trapped a group of 11-year-old girls in a dark room and read her scary stories to them. She knew she had a captive audience!
Now, she operates a non-denominational wedding chapel and banquet hall with her oldest daughter. (Karen says all three of her daughters are magnificent!)
Although she hasn't had any run-ins with a bridezilla...yet, Karen imagines when she does, she'll end up writing about it.
This is Karen's first published flash fiction story. More sit patiently in a desk drawer, awaiting their turn in the publishing world.
If you haven't had a chance to read Karen's piece, Fly Girl, head over to WOW! and check it out. Then, grab a cuppa your favorite beverage and settle in with Karen as she talks all things writing with The Muffin.
WOW: Karen, congratulations on your double victory in WOW!'s Spring 2010 Flash Fiction Contest. Not only did you nab Runner-Up honors for Fly Girl, you also earned an Honorable Mention for another of your stories, The Costume Party. That's simply awesome! Based on your experience, what advice would you offer to writers who are considering entering a writing contest?
Karen: Take that step! I kept my writing under wraps for years. It can be tough to know when something is ready, but sometimes you just have to let go and not work a piece to death. Sending your story out into the world can be very exciting. Keep challenging yourself, learn as you go, but don't hide it away.
WOW: Sage advice! I want to talk about the concept for Fly Girl. While reading it, I had such an "I've-been-there" feeling. Why do you believe everyday situations make such a connection with readers?
Karen: I think readers can identify with the character and her situation because we've all had disillusionment with regard to work, relationships, and life in general. It's nice to be reminded that we're not alone. I tried to offset the negativity by showing her feelings of protectiveness toward the young woman. We'd all like to think we can retain our empathy even when we're having difficulties.
WOW: I agree. Having empathy in the midst of tragedy or even a minor problem proves to be difficult at times. What caught my attention are the humorous undertones in Fly Girl. How do you balance humor within a piece?
Karen: I do try to let the humor in. Life's certainly not fair, but the idea of karmic justice can be a way to resolve some of that. I definitely attempted to explore that in this story. I don't think about it much when I'm writing, but it's always interesting how the humor sort of gets in there anyway. I just let it come into the piece naturally. My writing used to be too much work, not enough fun. Now I try to be more playful. It's such a relief!
WOW: (laughs) I completely relate! There's no use fighting what's meant to be! I imagine running your own business has brought about laughs (and maybe a few tears at times). Have you taken bits and pieces of people you've worked with and have those tidbits shown up in a story?
Karen: Our business is still fairly new, but i"m sure I will end up doing exactly that. I try to observe and to listen to random bits of exchange. It's the odd things that pique my interest, the things I don't expect. And I think it's great that writers can go almost anywhere to do this. People are infinitely interesting. The minute we think we have nothing to learn from them, we're done.
WOW: So true! Watching, listening and learning are the most important tools a writer can utilize! And speaking of putting those tools to use, what projects are you currently on your plate?
Karen: I've been working on a book of stories that are interrelated, concerning a neighborhood and the people in it, for quite some time. It's funny how the busyness of life keeps getting in the way. I've also been gathering information on a 50-year-old boating accident and the people involved, so that I can write their story. As I get older, history fascinates me more and more!
WOW: Oh, that captures my interest! I'd like to read that story when it's complete. Karen, congratulations, again, for both honors you received in our latest Flash Fiction contest, and thank you for taking time to chat with our readers.
Interview by LuAnn Schindler. To read more of LuAnn's work, visit her website


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