Interview with Renee Roberson, Fall 2012 Flash Fiction Contest Runner-Up

Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Today we’re chatting with Renee Roberson, one of our Fall 2012 Flash Fiction Contest winners! Please enjoy reading Renee’s entry, In the Depths, and return here to meet this busy writer.

Renee Roberson resides in North Carolina with her husband and two children. In 2003, she left the advertising and public relations industry to begin working as a freelance writer after the birth of her first child. In 2009, she received first place honors in the magazine feature article category of the Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition. Her articles have appeared online and in various local and regional publications across the country, as well as The Writer.

In between the production deadlines of Little Ones, the bi-monthly parenting magazine based in Charlotte, N.C. where she serves as editor, she works on the fiction she one day hopes to publish. She is currently revising a middle-grade novel about a 10 year-old girl’s adventures in time travel to a sleep-away camp in the 1980s and a YA novel. While she is the first to admit her crippling addiction to the Investigation Discovery Channel, she also realizes (happily) that it inspires many of the plotlines in her fiction, so she won’t be giving it up anytime soon. Visit her blog at

WOW: Hello Renee, congratulations! Tell us about your experience writing In the Depths.

Renee: Actually, there’s an interesting story behind In the Depths. It was originally called The Case of Christopher, and I first entered it in the Summer 2010 Flash Fiction Contest. The inspiration came from seeing the news reports about a young man who lived in a nearby city who disappeared after walking out of a bar late one night. He left his coat and wallet behind in the middle of winter, which makes the case all the more disturbing, and he has never been found. That story made it through the first round of judging but didn’t proceed to the finals. I decided to revise it for the Fall Flash Fiction Contest and was thrilled when I found out it had placed. In the updated version of the story, I worked to reveal more detail about the nature of the crime that caused Christopher to disappear, and the Matthew Shepard story came to mind. The big difference in the two versions of the story is that in the first version, there’s really no hope for resolution in Christopher’s disappearance. In the second one, the story builds to the resolution, giving the reader a sense of closure.

WOW: Thank you for sharing that. It’s so easy to give up on a piece once it has been rejected; I hope your story encourages other contestants to revise their work and get send it back in!

As a strong non-fiction writer, what do you feel are the most common difficulties to writing fiction and how have you learned to work with them?

Renee: I’ve never been one to do a whole lot of revising. My background in journalism taught me to gather all my facts and crank out a story quickly (albeit accurately) for deadline. As a fiction writer, I tend to have the same attitude. I finish a manuscript and think to myself, “That should be good enough. Let’s get this thing submitted!” I’m always ready to move on to my next big idea, and I have a really hard time being patient. In reality, the revision and critique process is so important when writing fiction. I’m trying to branch out more, participate in peer reviews and work with professional editors to give each piece of fiction the attention and revision it deserves.

WOW: There’s that “R” word again—the Achilles’ heel of many writers (mine as well).

How did your experience in advertising and public relations prepare you for your writing business?

Renee: In public relations, you have to constantly look for new opportunities to showcase your clients and get them noticed. The same goes with your writing. Most of the time, well-paying clients won’t be knocking on your door with an overabundance of assignments. I believe having a website that showcases your clips as well as a blog is an important part of working as a professional writer. You also have to always be on the lookout for new markets, spend time applying for contract jobs and constantly query new publications.

WOW: All of which takes time. As a writing mom, what time saving tips can you share with our readers?

Renee: Okay, my secret’s out. Housekeeping falls by the wayside when I’m working on a big project. It’s taken me a long time, but I’ve finally learned that keeping the house spotless is not as important as spending quality time with my family and writing to help pay the bills. When my kids were younger, I took advantage of naptimes and preschool hours to get interviews done, and then I would write after they went to bed. Now that they are both in elementary school, it is so much easier to focus on writing during the hours of 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. I try to keep up with the dishes and laundry each day, and my husband is a big help. But after I meet a big deadline, I go on a cleaning spree, which the kids always hate!

WOW: LOL, I can almost hear the groans, “Mom finished her project and you know what that means.”

Renee, in addition to your freelance writing you offer phone consultations for writers; we’d love to know more!

Renee: I think phone consulting is a valuable service to offer because not everyone has the time to attend an all-day writing workshop or take a writing class at a local college. I love that writers can take online writing workshops and classes now and/or choose to participate in phone mentoring. Depending on what the writer needs, we can chat for 30 minutes or an hour and tackle specific questions, whether it relates to a magazine article query or a non-fiction book proposal.

WOW: I can think of a few incidents when a short conversation would have saved a lot of time…and stress!

Thank you for visiting with us today and sharing some helpful tips. Again, congratulations.

Interview by Robyn Chausse


Unknown said...

Congratulations, Renee. It was motivating to read that you revised and resubmitted and didn't give up on your story idea. I think I have a tendency to just hide a story or work away if it doesn't find a receptive audience immediately.

Marcia Peterson said...

I just read your flash piece Renee, what a great entry! Congratulations on placing in the top ten. It's inspiring that you updated your original version and tried again.

Renee Roberson said...

Julie - I definitely have a tendency to hide a a story away if it doesn't work. Sometimes I'm amazed at what I find when I search through my hard drive! I also don't don't scout out enough different markets for my work.

Marcia - For some reason, this story kept coming back to me. I went back and reread the original version recently and was amazed at how different it was. When I revised it for this contest, I actually felt a little tingle go up my spine. I think I knew somehow that I had finally given the story its proper ending.

Margo Dill said...

Congratulations, Renee. I am too inspired by your story idea and your revision story. I also love what you are saying about cleaning. However, I have to admit that I'm not sure if I ever go on the big cleaning spree at the end of a project. . .:)

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