Interview with Mary E. Michna, Spring 2012 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Good morning, Muffin readers! Today, we welcome Mary E. Michna to the blog. Her story - "A Different Season" - earned runner-up honors in the WOW! Spring 2012 Flash Fiction contest. You'll want to read Mary's story (which generated a great deal of empathy with this reader) and then come back to get to know her.

Mary E. Michna is a wife, mother and grandmother. Always an avid reader and aspiring writer, she wrote poems, stories and plays in grade school. She put those dreams aside with family; her career as a journalist, feature writer and editor; and later as a public relations and fundraising professional. During those years, she kept the dream alive with journaling and writing, making an occasional attempt to market her work.

Three years ago, Mary worked with a friend to form a women writers' group. Since then, she has retired and is focused on what she "really" wants to write. Last year, she received second place honors for a poem and is excited to have placed in the WOW competition. She feels that she has learned from every writing job and looks forward to growing as a writer.

WOW: Welcome to The Muffin, Mary. I must tell you, this story hit home. Nearly a decade ago, my spouse passed away suddenly, and like Lynn, evening was the worst. I'm of the mindset that the best stories come from life experiences. I'm wondering how this storyline came to life?

Mary:  This was not my experience, but one of a former neighbor and friend. I called and wrote her frequently after her husband's death. Her difficulty with "eating alone - a seemingly small thing" really struck me and stayed with me for some time. In different conversations, the subject of "meal time being the loneliest time of the day" came up several times. I felt it would make a good story and that I wanted to tell it.

WOW: It's powerful and true to life. Thank you for sharing it. With flash fiction, character development is so important, especially since some type of growth should occur in a short amount of words. Do you have a formula for developing characters?

Mary: Lynn's development in this story had to happen in a certain time frame. I think I showed her personal growth through the pain of her loss.

WOW: That development comes through clearly. Mary, I'd like to talk about writing experiences. Your writing background is varied: journalist, editor, fundraising and PR, and fiction. What are some similarities in all writing experiences and how have those earlier experiences shaped your fiction writing?

Mary: There is great satisfaction in know that you have taken words and crafted a piece of writing that will entertain, inform, inspire and/or arouse feelings. Sometimes you can become too attached to your words. Here are "all these pretty babies" that I created! You have to be willing to step back and trim it down for the greater good: to have a piece that tells the story, fairly sings and does not distract the reader. Like journalism,  flash fiction is a great discipline.

WOW: One of these days, perhaps I will be disciplined enough to complete a flash piece. I have several stories that are close to word count, and I agree; it takes discipline! Maybe my critique partner will hold me accountable. (smiles) Your bio mentions a women's writing group founded by you and a friend. Why is it beneficial for writers to work together and support each other?

Mary: My good friend and fellow journalist Colette Wisnewski and I shared our poetry and fiction with one another and attended a fiction class together. We wanted to expand our small circle. We both had a connection to a local retreat house. The two of us presented an afternoon program for women writers three years ago. Our group averages seven to 10 women and meets one Sunday a month. We have hosted several readings, a Poets for Peace event and will hose a retreat for women writers in June. As much as your family loves you and supports your creative endeavors, their "that's nice" just doesn't cut it. It's great to share your work with people who have a similar passion for the written word. It makes all the difference.

WOW: Agreed! Meaningful support of the written word makes a huge difference. With that in mind, I'm wondering what type of support, in the form of advice, would you offer writers considering entering a writing contest. You've experienced a fair bit of success!

Mary: This was the second time I entered a WOW Flash Fiction contest. Having a cut off for entries is inviting and gives one a better chance. I especially liked having the option for a critique. It was quite exciting to find out I made the first cut with the first contest I entered. And it was even more exciting to place in the top 10 stories in the last contest.

WOW: I imagine it is quite exciting! Congratulations again, Mary, and thank you for talking about your story and writing.

Interview by LuAnn Schindler


Anonymous said...

Great inspiration-- and a good reminder that even the smallest comment can lead to an inspirational story.

Margo Dill said...

Congratulations on placing as a runner-up in this contest and making the first cut in the first one that you entered. I think flash fiction must be a good fit for you! LuAnn: thanks for the insightful interview.

Audrey said...

Mary, this is a wonderful story. I was widowed in 1998 and can relate to the need to adjust to a new season in life. I remarried in 2009, and that has brought another new season... but that is another tender story waiting to be written. Thanks for sharing your talent and congratulations on placing in this contest!

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