Interview with Stacey Tarpley; Runner up in WOW!s Fall 2011 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, May 01, 2012
For anyone who has ever thought the grass might just be greener… WOW! is very happy to share with you Stacey Tarpley’s Fall 2011 Flash Fiction entry Molting. Let’s just say that for our main character it was “just one of those days.” This one will make you smile!

Writing fiction from the time she learned to spell, Stacey Tarpley is a professional story-teller. Her full-time career as a zoo and aquarium designer takes her around the world, meeting amazing, inspiring people and encountering unbelievable experiences. In her free time, she has completed two fiction manuscripts and continuously challenges herself with flash fiction writing.

Stacey has published several professional papers, speaks at national and international conferences, mentors new designers at her firm, and maintains a one-of-a-kind blog, She looks forward to one day being a full-time, fully-paid author living on a farm filled with happy, cuddly critters.

WOW: Hi Stacey, congratulations on placing in WOW!’s Fall 2011 Flash Fiction Contest! I thoroughly enjoyed Molting and felt you gave it the perfect, albeit sad, ending.

Stacey: Oh thank you! I think it’s a reflection of how life seems to go. At least for me! Happiness is far too often balanced with a healthy dose of sorrow. But, really, the story was just a poke at irony.

WOW: Yes, the irony is the element that makes this story universally appealing.

I have to admit that while reading your bio and viewing your beautiful blog I felt a pang of, “why didn’t I go that direction?” You have this amazing job that includes travel, a creative outlet via habitat design, and the knowledge that you are doing your part to improve life’s experience for our fellow furry and finned friends. Yet, you look forward to settling down to write. How do you balance these two loves?

Stacey: It’s a challenge. My career is one that is wholly encompassing. When I’m in the middle of a project, it really can take up all my time and energy. And the same is true with writing. I get totally wrapped up in the story. That’s why I’ve embraced the flash fiction genre. I can sit down for an hour and let my mind go, but that’s all I need. I’m not going back to the story to analyze the next moment or delving into character development. I write and it’s done. I can explore a whim and walk away.

WOW: In your work as a zoo and aquarium designer you need to be able to experience a space from the viewpoint and needs of the creature it will house. I see this talent expressed in Molting as we experience the same scene from two different view points, that of the birder and that of the duck. In what other ways does your work compliment your writing?

Stacey: Generally, I think it’s very helpful being enveloped in a creative endeavor all the time. My job is a wonderful mix of right and left brain thought—much of zoo and aquarium design is pure logic. Find the best solution to meet the needs of all the users (animals, staff and guests). This can be very complicated.

A huge part of my job is story-telling. We talk about the story the guest experiences as the primary driver of the design, so understanding emotional arc and building on empathy is critical. It absolutely helps me in writing, and vice versa. A big part of the guest experience is awe and surprise. These, of course, are elements I prize in writing, as well as a sense of humor and flexibility to just go along with the ride! Lastly, what we do is all about innovation. Looking at something that’s been done a hundred times before and approaching it differently, improving it. Writing’s exactly the same. Most stories share the same themes. Writing is all about approaching a theme differently.

WOW: Those are engaging analogies…they cause me to look at writing in a different way.

You mentioned having completed two manuscripts…do tell!

Stacey: I completed my first manuscript three years ago. I took me 5 years. It’s not very good! But I proved to myself I could do it. It’s a fictional look at my grandmother’s life who, like many folks, had endured a lifetime of sorrows and challenges. I was inspired by her bravery and the fact that she accomplished so much as a young single mother after my grandfather died of MS.

My second manuscript, Corn Cob Castle, is “finished,” but is currently undergoing some heavy editing. This one took me about three months. It’s a totally different tone than the first, which I think made it easier to write. The book is about a lowly architect who embarks on a very quirky adventure to uncover the truth behind a shady underground government agency who hired him to renovate their labs. Roland, the architect, is a combination of many people I’ve known over the years in my career including me. He’s a lovable goof who wants nothing more than to be world renowned for his design skills, but has found himself painted into a corner of drawing other people’s buildings. It’s a fun book with an element of sci-fi and fantasy, and blends the main story arc with outrageous fables of Roland’s architectural heroes. It makes me smile.

WOW: That sounds like a fun! I think most of us can relate to feeling painted into a corner and not living up to our own dreams or potential.

How did you happen to come across WOW!’s Flash Fiction Contest?

Stacey: In an effort to get my work published, I Googled ‘flash fiction contest.’ Nothing more exciting than that!

WOW: What are you currently working on?

Stacey: Editing, editing, editing Corn Cob Castle. Hoping to be able to start shopping around for an agent in the coming month. Any takers?

WOW: Okay, agents, you heard the call!

Incidentally, the November/December Issue of WOW! Women on Writing will be about publishers and agents; it may provide some useful leads.

Thank you for taking the time to visit with us today, Stacey. I look forward to reading Corn Cob Castle!

Interview by Robyn Chausse


Karen Wojcik Berner said...

Congratulations and best of luck with "Corn Cob Castle."

Anonymous said...

Great write (flash fiction story) Stacey. Loved it.

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