Welcome to The Muffin, Sarah Welty, who won third place in the Spring 2012 Flash Fiction Contest with her story, "The Event," which you can read right here. Sarah recently began her senior year as an English major at Davidson College. She first began writing when, as a young, avid reader, she felt compelled to re-write the endings of classic novels. Even as an eight-year-old, Sarah knew Jo March should end up with Laurie. Today, she writes mostly flash fiction, plays, and essays for law school applications. When not reading, writing, and avoiding ‘rithmetic, Sarah is an amateur stand-up comedian. For more of Sarah's work, check out http://www.davidsonian.com, or follow her on Twitter @weltywhat.
WOW: Congratulations, Sarah, on your third place win in the flash fiction contest. Where did you get the idea for your hysterical story, "The Event"?
Sarah: Thanks! My mother is actually a teacher, and would always come home with really bizarre and funny stories about things her students had done. None of her students ever actually stripped naked and ate a cactus; but when I was a kid, I had a weird fixation with eating bits of house plants. Thankfully, I grew out of it and never actually got caught doing it at school.
WOW: Ahh, so it's a bit biographical. (smiles) What's your writing process like once you get an idea--are you a planner or a pantser?
Sarah: I'm definitely a planner, although I do most of my planning mentally. I'll be writing an essay for class and trying to flesh out the plot of a story at the same time. A writing habit I have that I'm trying to get away from is that when plotting something, I'll have this set of funny anecdotes that I always try to shoehorn into the story. The plot then feels unorganic, though, so I have to go back and stay true to the characters and their world without forcing my own life onto them.
WOW: What are the challenges of writing flash fiction pieces, like "The Event"?
Sarah: I love tiny, character-building details; but in flash fiction, you can accidentally stuff a story with all nuance and no plot because you've dedicated so much space to building your characters. The challenge then becomes how can I say all of those things about this character in one detail? In "The Event," I wanted to establish that the young teacher was anxious, a bit messy, and not accustomed to handling things by himself; I think you can get all of those details from his blazer with the chalk dust on the sleeves.
WOW: That's an interesting look at building a character--even with few words. Do you often enjoy writing humor?
Sarah: Absolutely. I love reading humor, so it's the easiest thing for me to write. I hate reading a story without even a touch of humor in it. Sometimes people laugh at funerals: I think life is never purely comical or serious, so showing that nuance in writing is really important to me.
WOW: You have a very colorful bio! Besides a writer, you are also applying for law school, a college student, and a stand-up comedian! So, you must be wonderful at time management. Can you share a couple tips with us for fitting all your interests in?
Sarah: Thanks! I do a lot, but I'm also addicted to having a full night's sleep and an active social life, so I have to get pretty creative about time management. I am constantly prioritizing: how important is it that I eat lunch today? Can I wait until Saturday to wash my hair if it means that I can finish my assignment before noon? Also, I can accomplish a lot of my creative interests because it's so easy to work on them mentally while accomplishing other tasks. While I'm at work, I can think of a punchline to a joke or have an idea for a new story. If my hobbies included, say, knitting, I think that kind of multitasking might be more difficult. My general advice is: a) be a writer and b) the laundry can always wait another day.
WOW: Now that is a great philosophy! You also have a website and are active on Twitter. How important do you think social media is to today's writer? What do you share on social media?
Sarah: Social media is massively important to my generation of writers. I think that while Amazon has democratized online book publishing, a social media network like Twitter has democratized advertising for your projects. If I have no time to try and get the word out about something I wrote or a project I'm working on, I can just type it up on Twitter in 140 or fewer characters, and I've suddenly got an audience.
WOW: What's up next in your writing world, besides law school essays?
Sarah: I'm trying to finish at least one full-length play before Christmas; but unless I write it in the form of an admissions essay, I might not succeed. I also absolutely love the way that WOW! organizes their flash fiction writing contests and look forward to submitting my fiction in the future.
WOW: Great! We look forward to you entering more contests. Thanks, Sarah, for talking with us today. Best of luck to you in your future endeavors.