Interview with Johnna Stein, runner-up in WOW’s Summer 2012 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, February 19, 2013
What happens when a fortune teller delivers bad news—does it change the course of one’s life? Johnna Stein offers up one scenario in her flash fiction entry, The Winter Will Ask. We invite you to enjoy her story here and return for a short interview with the author.

Like so many, Johnna longed to be a published writer. About five years ago, after returning to the USA after a ten-year stint in The Netherlands with her Dutch hubby and two teenagers, she decided it was time. Various articles and short stories have found their way into print and she’s very proud of her children’s story, “The Wooden Apple” recently published in the November 2012 issue of Cricket Magazine. Johnna recently returned from a five-day Highlights novel in verse workshop where she hopes she found the secret to publishing her YA novel in verse.

WOW: Welcome Johnna! What was the inspiration for The Winter Will Ask?

Johnna: I woke up one morning thinking, “What if a wife went to a fortune teller and was lied to and was told her husband would die, when in fact it was the wife who would die?”

WOW: (Smile). Writers wake up with the oddest thoughts…
Tell us a little about your writer’s journey; what was your first big sale and what did you learn from it?

Johnna: My first non-fiction piece was returned with an editor’s request for me to shorten it by half, with no promises to publish. I considered this a victory since it wasn’t a flat-out rejection. I edited away, sent it back, and I sold “Heart in Africa” to GUIDE magazine. I’ve since sold three more to them. My favorite sale was “The Wooden Apple” which appeared in Cricket this past November.

WOW: In what ways does flash-fiction challenge your writing skills?

Johnna: I must search for the absolute best word and sentence structure to convey the meaning. It teaches me to write tight and bright.

WOW: In what ways has expat living influenced your writing?

Johnna: It’s taught me to see with different and new eyes. When I returned to the States after living in Holland for almost ten years, I had to learn to be American again.

WOW: I hear the potential for a memoir in there; have you ever considered writing about your experience?

Johnna: I prefer fictionalizing my experiences. I've had a few non-fiction pieces published about my life, but I haven't really considered writing a memoir. I think I've found my sweet spot in YA.

WOW: What author has most inspired you and how?

Johnna: John Greene has been the most recent inspiration. I love his voice and the way he’s able to recreate the teen aura.

WOW: Regarding your YA novel in progress—how does writing in verse benefit the story? What points should a writer consider before choosing this route?

Johnna: My novel is about a very sensitive subject, sex trafficking. The poetry acts as a buffer between the reader and difficult subject matter. I believe you should only choose this form if you see it as the best way the story can be told and you have practiced writing poetry.

WOW: Do you have a website where readers can connect with you?

Johnna: Not yet! Hopefully, I’ll be blogging soon, though!

WOW: We hope to see you back here soon--perhaps to celebrate your YA novel!

Interview by Robyn Chausse


Unknown said...

I have to admit my fiction writing skills aren't as honed as my non-fiction,so I read your entry with one eye towards the story and another towards your technique. It was a lovely story with rich detail and imagery and a heart. Well done for so few words! Let us know when you get that blog up.

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