Good day, Muffin readers! You are in store for a sweet treat today. Dana Leipold joins us for conversation about her story The Search, which earned runner-up honors in the Winter 2011 Flash Fiction contest. If you haven't had the opportunity to peruse Dana's story, head over to our contest page and read it. Then grab a cuppa your favorite beverage and come back and enjoy the convo!
Dana lives in San Francisco with her husband and two children. By day, she works in corporate America as a freelance marketing writer. The rest of the time, you'll see this aspiring humor writer juggling writing with home and family commitments.
Dana writes a weekly column for The Castro Valley Patch, where she ponders life and other absurdities. Dana has self-published her first book of poems entitled, Stupid Poetry: Volume I. One of her essays, "The Music Plays On and On and On," was featured in the October 2010 issue of Long Story Short eZine.
Dana's blog, Random Chick Blog, is her creative outlet while he furiously completes her first book of humor essays.
WOW: Dana, good morning and welcome to The Muffin. Congratulations on earning runner up honors in our Winter Flash contest. I must tell you, while I read your story, I can feel this current of tension spurring the action and I'm also chuckling about the humor used to portray the situation. Why do these two opposite elements work so well together to create a balanced story?
Dana: Humor tends to draw people in and tension creates anticipation. Those two elements, when used properly, work wonders for any fiction. It's like a funny joke the readers are in on but they don't really know where the punch line is going to come from. It's not easy to do and it takes lots of practice, practice, practice. I wish it were just like "poof" there it is, but it is not like that at all.
WOW: (chuckles) I could use a few of those "poof" moments when I'm writing humor! I agree - it is not like that at all. One of my favorite humor techniques is utilizing the flip or twist to achieve an unexpected response at the end of a piece. How did you come up with this unexpected ending?
Dana: I really don't know. Okay, I do but I don't want to give away my secret formula. Well... since you asked, I tried to think of what the protagonist could be doing that would be perceived multiple ways. I took the commonly viewed situation and switched it at the end.
WOW: Well...your secret formula works! Let's take a few minutes to discuss your writing background. You have quite the resume: marketing copy, poetry, columnist. How have these genres helped you fine-tune your fiction?
Dana: They've given me more opportunities to write. The more you write, the better you get at it. I'll take any chance to write, especially if someone is going to pay me to do it! With marketing copywriting, I've learned how to get to the point fast in as little words as possible. This doesn't always translate well with other genres, like fiction where you need to explore the language in unique ways to build a character or set a scene. I write poetry for fun but it does help me be more precise. With my column, I just make observations and try to come up with a universal theme. They have all helped my writing in different ways. I also get bored easily so switching from the different genres works well for me.
WOW: Switching between genres is a good strategy. It keeps writing fresh! I'm wondering, Dana, when did you first become interested in writing?
Dana: I think I was five years old. I didn't play with toys, books were my toys. I love the written word and how simple letters put together in interesting combinations can take you on a journey. I also love puzzles and to me, writing is like a puzzle. You are trying to figure out the best way to get your point or story across to the reader.
WOW: I like the puzzle analogy. It's the reason I enjoy writing, too. You mentioned you write poetry. Your collection has an interesting title: Stupid Poetry, Volume I. Would you explain the title? What kind of reaction has the collection received?
Dana: I began writing limericks on my blog that were just silly. Written in rhyming couplets, the "poems" sound a lot like a Dr. Seuss book only with adult themes. I gave the category the name "stupid poetry." People started leaving lots of comments whenever I would post a poem so I decided to collect them all and put them in a book. Stupid Poetry kind of stuck so I used that name for the collection. The reaction? Well, people with a warped sense of humor seem to find the collection entertaining. Sales of the book haven't exactly covered my kids' college education however, or helped me fill my car up with gas for that matter.
WOW: My parents told me I would never make a living as a poet, and they were right! So, what's new? What projects are you working on now?
Dana: Right now I'm finishing up Stupid Poetry, Volume 2 NEW AND IMPROVED STUPIDITY! I'm hoping to launch a big social media blitz if I don't get stuck playing Farmville on Facebook. On the serious side, I'm working on my first novel tentatively titled Laurel Lee, which is based on my mother's life struggling with the trauma of incest and battling anorexia.
WOW: Sounds like you have a full plate! Good luck with your projects and once again, Dana, thanks for sharing The Search with our readers!
Interview by LuAnn Schindler. Read more of LuAnn's work at her website.