Welcome Amanda Linsmeier to The Muffin today. She was one of the runners-up in the Spring 2012 Flash Fiction Contest. To read her winning story, "Rousseau," click here.
Amanda began writing poetry at the age of fourteen and ventured into fiction writing less than a decade later. She is currently seeking an agent for her women’s fiction novel and is also developing a collection of flash fiction which she’d like to publish someday. She enjoys writing at coffee shops, reading, and shopping. Amanda lives with her husband and spirited little boy, along with two dogs, a kitten, and a fish. She recently received her associate's degree from University of Wisconsin-Manitowoc and hopes to continue her education in the future with a major in English and minor in women's studies. She dreams of being a writer for a living and traveling to France with her family.
WOW: Amanda, congratulations on placing as a runner up in the Spring 2012 Flash Fiction Contest with your flash fiction piece, "Rousseau." Where did you get the idea for the piece?
Amanda: Thank you! I was so pleased to place this year. There were so many wonderful stories in the contest. Most of the time when I write I don’t know what’s going to happen in the end. I usually get a word or a name or a feeling and go from there. This one day I saw a beautiful, curvy, red-headed girl who radiated confidence. I really admire women who just seem to have it all together. A lot of times I wonder how they got that way because sometimes I feel so opposite that. And I believe people-watching can go a long way in getting new ideas. It gave me the idea for "Rousseau," at least.
WOW: People-watching and eavesdropping both can be helpful! (smiles) What themes were you interested in exploring in your story? Are these similar themes that you explore in your completed novel?
Amanda: I really wanted to move forward with the idea that self-confidence doesn’t always happen overnight. I wanted to explore self-esteem in general. That a young girl can become more comfortable in her own skin--not because she wins the affection of some guy, but because she doesn’t. There’s also a power flip in the story, and Ana becomes sexually awakened as well. I like writing and reading stories about female characters. My manuscript, which I'm currently seeking an agent for, focuses on infertility and infidelity. But the main character does have red hair! I guess I like red-haired women.
WOW: Well, the red-haired characters seem to be working for you! How is writing a flash fiction piece similar and/or different to writing a novel for you? Which do you enjoy more?
Amanda: Oh, I love both in different ways. A novel is much more work for me. Years of work. I hope someday to be one of those writers who is tidier and more organized in the process. As it is, I take a long time to work on a novel. And re-writing and editing takes even longer. But I love that I get to really delve into who my characters are and flesh out the details. I’ve got calendars, documents describing characters, pictures, you name it. I really get connected to my characters that way. Flash is a lot of fun and difficult in its own right. As someone who tends to like a lot of description, it is work for me to cut and cut and cut. More often than not when I write flash, it is a longer piece I hack away at until it is acceptable. Sometimes it works, and other times, it’s much stronger longer. I’ve been working lately on 50-word micro flash stories, which are incredibly hard but also fantastic when you get it right. So far I have about four of those I am proud to have written.
WOW: Fifty words? That sounds like a great challenge and exercise! Was it difficult to tell your main character's entire story in 750 words or less? She goes through quite a change in a short amount of words!
Amanda: She does go through a lot of change, but I really wanted to focus more on the present, and how that affected her in the end; and sort of have her being rejected turn into an ah-ha moment. It was just a matter of cutting a lot of extra words that didn’t need to be there. That’s the beauty of flash fiction--telling the same story with fewer words and having it turn out just as well, if not better than a longer story.
WOW: I would completely agree with that statement. It is amazing when you finish chopping words from a story how much stronger it is, especially when you thought you couldn't possibly cut anything when you first sat down to revise. How do you fit writing time into your busy life?
Amanda: I don’t do it as much as I like or should. I devote one day a week to writing when my son is in daycare and any other free time for writing becomes a bonus. When I work on long pieces, I like to have several hours to really get into it. I find it difficult to write at night when everyone else is asleep, even though I’m a night owl. That’s usually when I’m reading or watching happy movies or wasting too much time online. I write best when I know the house is empty, and I can focus. I also like to write at coffee shops because I prefer a bit of background noise and activity. At home, I’m thinking of what else I should be doing. Like cleaning. But I have a playlist of cool, mellow music--Florence + The Machine is my favorite--and I drink some coffee and try to keep my kitten from chewing on the computer cord; and I get to work. And even though writing can be really, really hard, it’s easier now for me to find inspiration and get words on a page than when I was younger. I don’t waste time on writer's block. If I’m stumped, I move on to something else and eventually find my way back. I’ve written some of my best poems and short stories that way. They were just filling up time when I was supposed to be working on other stuff.
WOW: That's actually a great idea--cure your writer's block on one project by working on another project. I bet that tip will help some of our readers! In the future, you hope to get a degree in English and a minor in women's studies AND be a full-time writer. How will you use your degrees in your writing?
Amanda: I received my associate’s degree this past spring, and I’d like to continue in the next year or two to get my bachelor’s degree. I really miss school. I first learned about flash fiction in a creative writing class. And I read some of my favorite stories and had amazing discussions in my English and women’s studies classes that fueled my inspiration. Hated math, but oh well. I would like to be a full-time writer and make a living from it. And I have a little fantasy of being a literary agent. I figure a degree can only improve me as a person and as a writer. I gained a lot from my last couple years of school, more important than even a diploma.
WOW: Thank you for sharing a bit of your writing life with us today, Amanda. Good luck with your future endeavors!
interview conducted by Margo L. Dill