Interview with Emily McGee, 3rd place winner, Summer 2012 Flash Fiction contest

Tuesday, January 01, 2013
Happy New Year and welcome to 2013, Muffin readers! Today, we'll be chatting with Emily McGee, whose story "After Herman Died" placed third in the Summer 2012 Flash Fiction contest. If you haven't had the opportunity to read the piece, head over to WOW!'s contest page and partake. Then, grab a cup or glass of your favorite Holiday cheer and settle in for our chat with Emily.

Emily McGee has lived in Africa, the South Pacific, and three states in four years. She pays the bills by writing for various educational companies, but she’s happiest when writing fiction. Emily and her husband live life on the go, and they recently returned to the U.S. after living in Nairobi, Kenya. Emily writes about travel, and life as a trailing spouse at One Trailing Spouse. You can also connect with her on Facebook and twitter.

WOW: Emily, congratulations on placing third in the Summer 2012 flash contest. The story's premise struck a chord with me. My spouse passed away suddenly about a decade ago. I remember that need for peace and quiet - just for a moment - following his death. How did the idea for this story develop?

Emily: The story actually started with a first line prompt from another contest. After losing that contest, I cut the first line and spent some time pondering the story while on the elliptical machine at the gym. (This is where I do much of my best thinking.) I revised the story after my gym session and after thinking more deeply about how I would react if my own spouse had a long and painful death.

WOW: (Smiles) I do my best thinking when I'm pushing the lawn mower! It's a great time to think. A lot of times, I find myself working on a particular line or phrase and how to make sure it impacts the story. I'm a stickler for the last line leaving a lasting impression. How do you "know" when you've hit gold with the final line? Do you try to make an impact or do you strive for a touch of irony? What's your strategy?

Emily: I try not to think too hard about it, but I feel like I know when I have a good line. The first several drafts of this story just didn't have "it", whatever "it" is.

For all my stories, I revise until I have a line somewhere near the end of the story that can leave a lasting impression. With flash fiction, I think it's even more important the the very last line leave that impression. In longer stories, I'm OK if a sentence on the last page of the story has that special something.

WOW: Completely agree! In journalism, I call it the power quote. With that strategy in mind, not every genre falls into this category, like writing a test question for fifth grade science. You have experience writing for education companies. What types of writing is included under this umbrella?

Emily: I write blog posts, assessments, lesson plans and unit plans. When I write standardized test questions, I feel slightly evil. When I get to write short stories for kids, I have a blast.

I have a Master's degree in education and I used to teach (before my husband and I started moving so often). Between my background and the unrolling of the Common Core State Standards, I've been able to find a lot of work doing this type of writing.

WOW: That's great! As a teacher, I've penned my share of lesson plans and unit assessments. It takes a lot of work, but it's so worthwhile. You also have another unique writing assignment - your blog. When I was younger, I wanted a job where I could travel. Your blog seems like it's part travel guide, part survival guide. How do you decide what types of posts to include?

Emily: I've tried to narrow the scope of my blog to travel and trailing spouse issues. Those two categories still encompass a lot of things though! I write about my marriage, and moving, and life as an expat. My husband and I love to travel, so I also include travel posts.

My blog has been a great writing outlet for me. It's also been a great way to connect with people who have also made career adjustments for the sake of a relationship or family.

WOW: Well, I certainly enjoyed reading about places you've visited. You share a lot of great information. Since you entered and placed in this contest, I'm wondering what information or advice would you offer a writer contemplating entering a contest?

Emily: If you're going to enter one contest, enter many. Rejection happens to everyone, and in my experience, to every story. I have had two short stories place in contests after being passed over in other contests. Rejection stings a bit less if you know you have several stories being read in several different contests. And if you know your story is good, then stay confident and keep submitting. Eventually you'll find success.

WOW:  Excellent advice for all writers to remember. Thank you for sharing, and once again, congratulations Emily!

Interview by LuAnn Schindler


Margo Dill said...

Congratulations, Emily. I enjoyed your interview as we have a lot in common. I've done a bit of education writing after moving with my husband and having a master's degree. :) And Happy New Year to you and LuAnn. I enjoyed your story.

Marcia Peterson said...

Congratulations Emily! I liked hearing about how you developed the story, and great advice at the end of the interview.

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