Interview with Lynn Nicholas, Spring 2013 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Tuesday, October 29, 2013
I’m pleased to introduce you to Lynn Nicholas who placed in our top ten with her poignant tale Lyrics of Life. In this story, her vivid writing juxtaposes all the color of life against a time of passing.

A compulsive list maker, scribbler of thoughts, and sender of handwritten notes, Lynn is passionate about the written word. She is an insatiable reader with eclectic tastes, most admiring authors who can stop her in her tracks, compelling her to reread the last few lines over and over, in awe of a unique phrasing or an out-of-the-box perspective.

Although Lynn no longer works as a technical editor, she still enjoys reading and critiquing other writer’s work. She reviews and posts on FanStory, under the pseudonym ‘allinmyhead’, and occasionally proofreads and edits for aspiring local writers. Lynn’s own writing is inspired by life as it unfolds around her, her motto being ‘when life knocks you down, pick yourself up, and use the experience in your writing’. Some of Lynn’s stories are published on the Rose City Sisters Flash Fiction Anthology site and in the e-zine Long Story Short. She is beginning to rework her latest draft novel (NaNoWriMo ’07, ’08, ’11): an insider’s view of the ambitions, ethics, passions, and rivalries in the world of ballroom dance, laced with a strong dose of humor.

Lynn, a transplanted Canadian, lives in Tucson, Arizona with her accepting husband, two wonderful dog friends, and a black cat who keeps everyone in line. Lynn is also an amateur ballroom and country-western competitive dancer.

Placing in the WOW! Spring 2013 Flash Fiction Contest is a dream come true for Lynn. For once, she is at a loss for words. Please take a moment to enjoy Lyrics of Life, then come back to meet the author.

WOW: Hello Lynn, congratulations and welcome to WOW! You mentioned that you’re passionate about the written word; how did you first become interested in writing?

Lynn: From the days my parents first read to me as a child, I have loved words and stories. As soon as I learned to use a pencil, I was making up stories of my own. I just never thought anyone would ever want to read them. I’ve always used writing as a way to sort out my thoughts, to clarify things. Writing is cathartic for me.

I worked as a technical editor for over ten years and prior to that every position I held required writing on some level; it was always my favorite part of any job. It’s only been in the past few years that I have had the luxury of not having to work, and the freedom to write creatively. I started by posting on LiveJournal, then submitted a few stories for critique on FanStory, which is where I learned about WOW!

In some odd way, putting my thoughts into writing and having someone read them, sort of validates my existence. I write, therefore I am. Maybe writers are all a little crazy.

WOW: Well, many of us have days when we feel crazy…
We often talk about bringing the five senses into a scene to add a sense of place. The imagery in Lyrics of Life does more than just add a sense of place, it anchors the story. What was your experience in working with the sensory details? 

Lynn: I had just spent several hours at my mother’s bedside, watching her struggle to breathe, barely able to open her eyes. I was outside, needing to be nurtured by nature, watering my backyard plants—reviving them—absorbing the sounds and the colors, feeling the heat, watching the birds… the story just began forming in my head. It flowed more easily than anything I have ever written. There was life all around me in the garden—vivid, hot, noisy, unapologetic—and the contrast between being outside feeling it all and just being with someone who was slipping away… it was almost painful.

When I write, it’s like I see a movie in my head. The sensory details, not just of this story, all of them, are what create the story. I guess I really live in my head.

WOW: You’ve approached a sensitive and complicated subject, the assisted passing of a loved one, in a unique manner. What drew you to approach the subject in this way?

Lynn: I wrote a shorter, gentler version of Lyrics of Life the day before my mother passed away (she died on Aug. 31, 2011), the day I was watering my plants as described above. A few weeks later, another adult dancer at our studio (ballroom) died a difficult death from leukemia. She was close to my age—a wonderful dancer—and she fought hard against death. Her death– there have been too many over the past few years—sort of put me over the edge emotionally, and I rewrote the story from a darker viewpoint. Working through my inner turmoil resulted in this revised, slightly twisted version of Lyrics of Life. My writing usually isn’t that dark.

WOW: I’m sorry about the loss of your mother; I’m sure that was a terribly painful time. Thank goodness you had your writing to help pull you through emotionally! It sounds like you’ve moved on to brighter subjects now with a current novel-in-progress about the competitive world of ballroom dance. How would you compare the experience of writing a novel length work with the anthology pieces you’ve done?

Lynn: In some ways writing a shorter piece is much harder than working on a novel; it’s so time-consuming and brain-draining trying to tell a story in 750 to 1000 words. But writing the shorter pieces is a great way to sharpen one’s skills and focus. It’s also a procrastination tool to avoid the really serious work of buckling down to finish a novel.

Reworking, editing, and expanding the draft is a daunting process that boggles my mind, but my characters have voices, and they are bullying me to let them tell their story. I just know that once I set everything else aside and devote my time to finishing this novel, nothing else in my life will get done. It will become consuming. I get lost when I write and time just disappears. So much for getting dinner on the table by 6:30pm (smile).

I wrote the first draft of this most recent novel for National Novel Writing Month, November 2011. (I’ve participated three times.) It’s an insane process of writing nonstop, trying to complete a draft novel (minimum of 50K words) in one month. I am still working through formulating the core of the book. I don’t want this novel to just be a light-hearted expose; I want to create a slice-of-life story with a strong point of view about human nature and personal growth. To play with character development, I pulled one scene from the draft and worked it into a piece of flash fiction, which is published on the Rose City Sister’s FF anthology site (Mr. Machismo). I’ve had great feedback on bits and pieces of this book, so… time’s a-wasting and I need to get myself ‘in gear’.

WOW: You mentioned you admire authors who can stop you in your tracks. Who are some of your favorites and what have you learned from them?

Lynn: I have so many favorites, I can’t even begin to list them. What I have learned from writers I admire is to be unafraid to expose your feelings, to dig deep. It’s essential if you want to have a genuine voice. It’s OK to present a point of view that is a bit off center, a bit quirky. More people will relate than you realize. Don’t be afraid that the men with the white coats will come knocking on your door (smile). Be original, be real.

Writers like Nuala O’Faolain, who writes with an uncensored frankness that is almost raw. You feel as though you are reading her journal or peering into her thoughts, unnoticed. She is truthful and introspective. She is a gutsy writer. I’m hoping to be able to become a ‘gutsy writer’.

Writers like Barbara Kingsolver: Kingsolver. She always forces me to rethink and make lifestyle changes. She’s articulate and very well-informed–a deadly combination–her words translate to mental, billboard-sized flash cards that I just can’t shut out. She interprets complex ideas into understandable, rational, well-thought-out arguments in support of her point of view. She is very hard to ignore.

Then there are writers we can all relate to, like Elizabeth Berg, who makes us feel that we are not alone. She can succinctly sum up feelings that we all struggle to articulate, and she seems to do it so easily.

I love Lisa See. She paints visuals with her words and takes us into another time and culture with beautiful phrasing.

I just love statements like these, from the book ‘Swimming Naked’ by Stacy Sims. They are novel and fresh and creative.
‘Texas was the brightest place I had ever been, each day the sun came up for a new interrogation.’
‘Our family was built on secrets and whitewashed every year or so with a brand-new coat of denial’

Tim Robbins is another one who will have rethinking everything you currently think. I love that.

Again, there are just too many.

WOW: It sounds like you’re keeping good company! Please keep us posted on the release of your novel; we can’t wait to read it. Before we say goodbye, is there anything else you’d like to share?

Lynn: I just want to add a note to thank you all for your site: all the inspiring work to be read from other writers, the contests and the articles. I think the caliber of the writing on WOW! is very high and it’s been a huge goal of mine to make it into the Honorable Mentions, let alone the Top Ten. It’s challenging and rewarding to even get past the 1st round of judging.

Entering the contests works for me on many levels: gives me a writing goal and a deadline, the satisfaction of having what I wrote actually read by someone (pure writer’s ego here), and the quality and depth of the critiques are an excellent learning tool. Each time I enter a WOW! contest, I’m putting myself out there (which can be hard for me—out of my comfort zone, which is where we grow, but it’s often painful). Once I get over the disappointment of not placing, I buckle down and learn from the critique. I tighten, rethink, re-evaluate, and improve my work. I very much appreciate the critiques. So, Thank You.

WOW: Thank you for sharing that. We love hearing that we’ve made a difference in our reader’s lives and encouraged writers along their path.

Interview by Robyn Chausse


Marcia Peterson said...

Congratulations on your top ten win. I enjoyed the interview, especially the discussion about what you've learned from various authors. Good recommendations for reading!

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