Terri McGrath Bhatt, Runner Up Summer 2012 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Born in New York, Terri McGrath Bhatt has always loved words and believes in the power of a good story. That's why we are thrilled she placed as a runner up in our Summer 2012 Flash Fiction Contest with her story, "Evaporate," which you can read here.

Currently, Terri lives in Connecticut with her husband, who is her greatest teacher; her 14-year-old daughter, who reminds and inspires her to be true to her gifts; her beloved, clever dog; and a spiteful, exasperating cat. She holds a BA in media communications with a concentration in writing and journalism from Western CT State University. In addition to short stories, poetry, and song lyrics, Terri is presently working on a screenplay.

WOW: Congratulations on your story, "Evaporate," being a runner up in the flash fiction contest. It's a sad tale, but very powerful! Where did you get the idea for your story?

Terri: Thank you so much! I have to say this character just kind of "showed up" for me. I had recently seen a group of children on a playground and noticed that a few of the more overweight children were struggling to keep up with their friends. They appeared to get winded easily and would simply quit running. One child gave up altogether and sat on a bench while the rest of the children continued to play without him. He didn't look particularly sad, and no one picked on him; but something about it broke my heart. I felt that the adults in his life owed him better. I was frustrated wondering what physical, emotional, and social issues he might one day face as a result of being so unhealthy at such a young age.

WOW: Thank you for sharing that with us. Was it hard to pack all that emotion, anxiety, and angst into 750 words or less?

Terri: With a 750-word requirement, I had to show a snapshot of this character's day that would tell the tale of her life beyond the school bus. While not everyone has experienced bullying or this degree of self-loathing, I think her feelings of self-consciousness, isolation, and of wanting human connection-- all while feeling invisible-- are pretty universal, especially for adolescents and teens.

WOW: How do you develop a well-rounded character for a short fiction piece--it's definitely easier in a novel--but just as important in a short story?

Terri: In a short story, I think characters have to reveal themselves rather quickly if the piece is to be compelling. I wanted to paint a character for whom the reader not only feels compassion, but empathy. She is in a predicament on the bus and has feelings that I think most of us can relate to, even if we aren't asthmatic, morbidly obese, teenaged girls.

WOW: I agree, especially in a flash fiction piece. You have a BA in media communications with an emphasis in writing and journalism. Has this degree helped you with your writing career? In what ways?

Terri: Well, my undergrad years feel like a lifetime ago, so I can't say with any certainty how well my degree has contributed to my writing ability at this point. I worked for a book publishing company for a number of years, strangely enough in a marketing capacity; but until recently, my writing has mostly been for me.

WOW: You are also working on a screenplay? What type of piece is this--action, adventure, chick flick, mystery?

Terri: The screenplay is a glimpse of New York City from the 1930s to the 1950s through the eyes and numerous incredible experiences of my father. It was a really colorful time in the city, and Dad had a fascinating life working for many of those years at Grand Central Station. When people have heard his stories, they would say, "That should be a movie." And it should. So, this is my labor of love, dedicated to him.

WOW: It sounds fascinating. Since it's the new year, what are your writing goals this year?

Terri: First and foremost, to become a working, paid writer! Also, to complete and successfully market my screenplay. It has been really exciting to go through the process of this contest and to have actually placed as a runner up was very gratifying. Thanks to my sister-in-law for encouraging me to do this and thanks to the WOW team! It has been a wonderful experience.

WOW: We are glad we could help in some way! Thank you, Terri, for your time and best of luck to you! 

Interview conducted by Margo L. Dill, author of Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg


Angela Mackintosh said...

Great interview, and fantastic story, Terri! I always love hearing where story ideas come from. It's great when a character just shows up, isn't it?

Good luck on your screenplay! That's so interesting your dad worked for Grand Central during its golden era. I just read that the GC Terminal is celebrating its 100th birthday today.

My major goal for this year is a screenplay as well. Here's to what we can accomplish in 2013!

robyn corum said...

I really enjoyed your story. You managed to pack these 700+ words with a palpable sense of emotion and drama.

I love the way you used small, seemingly inconsequential items to represent/emphasize the young girl's state of loneliness and despair.

Great job! It's easy to see why you were honored. Congrats!

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