Stephanie Train lives in Fort Collins, CO with her husband, John, and her daughter, Emma. She is currently a Ph.D. student at Colorado State University, studying transmedia narrative in the Journalism and Technical Communications program. Currently, she is an assistant project researcher on the CYCLES team, a project focused on video games and how they contribute to learning transfer/retention.
Stephanie writes science-fiction, fantasy, and literary fiction, though dabbles from time to time in other genres.
She has also spent time facilitating workshops for Colorado inmates and hopes to continue her literacy volunteerism by teaching creative writing to a veteran’s group.
Her works can be found in The Berkeley Fiction Review, The Copper Nickel, Transgress Magazine, Changing Minds – Changing Lives, and Construction.
Visit her website at www.stephantrain.com.
interview by Marcia Peterson
WOW: Congratulations on your top ten win! What inspired you to enter the contest?
Stephanie: I can be something of a chicken at times with my writing. The WOW contest is only my third. I must have rued over my submission for months. Should I? Shouldn't I? Am I good enough? I read some of the past winning stories and got cold feet for a few weeks. I couldn’t do that. I'm in over my head. I ended up going for it because the story spoke to me and I felt like this venue (WOW) was so beautifully done. I had to try to become a part of that.
WOW: Thanks for the kind words about WOW! Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, Pine Box?
Stephanie: It started with a small moment for me. After my grandfather passed away, I had the oddest memories manifest in the wake of it all. The grandfather clock for instance, that I write about in the story, I remember lying on the couch in his house as a girl, looking up to that clock and wondering why people cared so much about time, why we kept winding the clocks. He wound that clock every day because he was always worried about the tempo slowing. He had a thing about being on time. Now, I see a clock and I think about him. I wanted to approach this particular story with that notion of small moments. Like the clock, these moments draw us in and become a touchstone of sorts, memories that surprise us, especially when we lose someone.
WOW: How did you craft your winning flash fiction story? Did you have to edit much to get to the final version?
Stephanie: I'm a sloppy drafter. I get the story on paper quickly. Turn off that internal editor and just GO. I teach writing to inmates and this is something I have to work on with them. Unleash that inner writer and let him/her "play." With my jail writers, they often come to the creative writing class with a fear of "messing up," or a "fear of the red pen." When we put words to paper, it's not permanent until we say it's permanent. Editing isn't a chore; it's power. There is something magical in looking a messy rough draft and turning it into something that you can be proud of. If I were to guess, I'd say that I spend 20% of my time drafting and 80% revising and editing. But I'm a word-nerd. It's not "work," it's taking a lump of clay and molding it and refining it.
WOW: I like the "word-nerd" decription and think there are a few of us here! In your bio, you mention that you’re involved in research focusing on video games and how they contribute to learning transfer/retention. What have you been learning from this project?
Stephanie: I'm learning that video games are amazing platforms for learning. The more we DO, the more we learn. It's really that simple. Our results have shown that this is especially true for retaining knowledge. You may read something in a book, attend a lecture, but the educational video game has proven to help in long-term retention. We can apply this to writing as well. I can't tell you the number of classes I've attended where we would sit and talk about writing. There is no doing. This made no sense to me. When you take a painting class, you expect to paint. You buy your brushes, you wear your frock, you choose your easel. When I started teaching creative writing, I wanted my students to write. In the jail writing class, for example, we spend most of our time writing. I want my writers to have a safe space where they aren't afraid to "fail brilliantly," because I'll be there to hold their hand and help them work through it.
WOW: The way you explain it really makes sense. Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Stephanie! Before you go, can you share your favorite writing tip or advice with our readers?
Stephanie: I'm thrilled to answer these questions! I feel important now. The best advice I can give writers is to write across genres. I'm not just talking about genre fiction such as literary fiction, romance, science-fiction/fantasy. I'm talking about fiction, poetry, play-writing, screenplays. Write anything and everything. The best gift I gave myself as a writer was to delve into as many writing methods as I could. Play-writing helped me immensely with dialogue. There is no exposition in play-writing. Your dialogue has to pull its own weight.
I learned more about plot and structure in a 2-hour film-writing class than I did in my three years in an M.F.A. program. And poetry. While I'm a terrible poet, forcing myself to engage in the form gave me massive appreciation for language efficiency and sensory details. Furthermore, don't just write in these forms, read them. Whenever my prose turns stale, I open up a book of poetry (Billy Collins and Jake York recently). Or read a play. Sam Shepherd's "True West," inspired me to consider the quiet moments between dialogue, those empty spaces that say more than words themselves.
For more information about our Quarterly Flash Fiction Contest, visit: