Judy Beaston lives in Beaverton, Oregon, drawing inspiration from the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Retired, as much as any parent can be, she now spends her days penning tales short and long. Chance Encounters is her first flash fiction publication, though WritersType recently published her short story, Jason’s Triumph.
Judy hones her flash fiction skills in an online workshop at Writers Village University. In addition to short fiction works, she has a YA novel in process and enjoys spending hours on poetic compositions. When not lost in the words of her stories and poems, Judy enjoys the creative connections found playing tenor saxophone. Two grandchildren help round out her enjoyment of life.
You can visit Judy at her blog, Judy’s NW Notes http://judybnotes.blogspot.com/, or enjoy some of her poetry at Judy Beaston’s Writing Life http://judybeaston.weebly.com/.
WOW: Hi Judy, congratulations! Flash fiction is a new form for you; what are your thoughts on winning third-place in our Winter 2011 contest?
Judy: First words out of my mouth: “WOW!” I put a lot of hours into editing and revising this story. I’m delighted by the strong response Chance Encounters generated, and inspired to continue sending my writing into the world.
WOW: The time and care you put into the entry was apparent and really paid off; well done! Will you share with us the inspiration behind Chance Encounters?
Judy: I was not consciously aware of a specific inspirational spark for this story, though it did take form the day before Valentine’s Day, a day given over to special relationships. Over the years, I have grieved the loss of several close relationships. Where those relationships were intensely intimate, the grief at times manifested with an intensity that baffled logic. So, I think you could say that grief and love inspired the unfolding of this story.
WOW: I enjoyed your description of Amy’s physical sensation while being in the presence of Connor’s apparition as an “embracing stillness.” How did you come to choose that particular sensation?
Judy: In my own life, I have experienced many moments when I just knew something enveloped me, or walked with me. The sensation varies though the sense of being embraced, held, connected beyond and within is always present during those moments. I wanted to convey this energy to my readers without telling them precisely what to experience. I wanted my readers to draw from their own grief experiences and with the power of emotional energy to project those emotions on current circumstances. I believe what we most want projects upon our present reality.
WOW: Very effective, it alludes to a universally recognizable experience. Tell us how you came to the decision to follow your writing muse, was it only after retiring?
Judy: I think there comes a time when the muse says, “enough is enough – no more silence!” The year 2009 was that year for me and the event was National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo). The actual path went something like this:
Prior to the birth of my children, I explored creative writing through classes and workshops. When family arrived, I wrote about my children, the challenges of family relationships and even wrote special letters to my children – my photo albums in words. I suppose if blogs had existed several years ago, the way they do now, I would have been blogging my life daily instead of keeping all those experiences hidden in notebooks and computer files.
In 1999, I found a link to a free fiction writing class and my muse insisted, “Do it!” My fiction writing remained sporadic and hidden (just for me) for a few more years. Through Writers Village University classes, I discovered that poetry could be more interesting than school ever taught me and that became my entire focus. Then in 2009, I read about Nanowrimo and dove in. The experience gave my muse what she needed to make writing my number one priority.
WOW: I noticed on your website that you enjoy writing different forms of poetry, how does your poetry feed your fiction?
Judy: Composing poetry taught me the importance of active voice, active verbs and showing over telling. I learned to consider the necessity, benefit and layered meaning of every word and phrase. My poetry is not about flowery language but aims to bring the reader into a fresh view of life or self. In my fiction, all of these factors play a role, especially when I am editing and revising.
WOW: This practice of mindfulness regarding the use of words really lends itself to flash fiction in particular where you seem to be on a winning streak. You won first place in March at WritersType with Jason’s Triumph and now third place at WOW! with Chance Encounters. What do you feel are the benefits of entering contests?
Judy: In these competitions, I know my story is read and not just shuffled to the side. I believe I will get a fair shot at being evaluated for the quality of my writing and not ignored because I don’t have a lengthy publishing resume. In addition, for both of these contests, the deadline intensified my editing focus.
WOW: I heard you were working on a YA novel, would you like to tell us about it?
Judy: The story takes place during Cassie’s senior year at Montrose High School. Though she transferred to the school her junior year, she earned the role of co-editor for the school’s newspaper and yearbook publications, much to the chagrin of Michael, who assumed he would be in charge. As end of year approaches, mysterious images and bogus stories sabotage Cassie’s efforts to help the school win the statewide publications’ awards. The culprit remains elusive but Cassie comes under fire. Can she stop the sabotage and prove her innocence, or will she be forced to accept failure? And what about Michael? If she quits, he wins the scholarship she desperately needs in order to attend college.
WOW: Ooh, perseverance and morals wrapped up in a whodunit! Keep us posted, we have a lot of YA enthusiasts here who will be looking forward to reading that one.
Interview by Robyn Chausse