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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Patricia Tompkins, Second Place Winner in the Winter 2014 Flash Fiction Contest

What I liked about Patricia Tompkins's flash fiction piece, "American Underwear" from the very beginning of the story is the topic, the tone, and the voice. This story starts with a woman in a foreign country at work sewing a large pair of underwear for American women, "The novelty of sewing extra-extra-large cotton panties faded by late morning. Earlier that Tuesday, Sanetha laughed at their size. They must be American underwear. Such fat women in the United States and so many." To read more of this winning story, go here and scroll down to Patricia's name! 

Here's a little more about Patricia:  As a longtime editor, Pat has learned about writing from working on others’ prose, from lifelong reading, and from trial and error. Following the words of the great Dorothy Parker, “Brevity is the soul of lingerie,” Pat is drawn to short forms, including haiku, tanka, and flash fiction; her shortest stories have appeared in Nanoism.

WOW: Congratulations, Patricia, on winning second place with your short story, "American Underwear." Great title! Where did you come up with the idea for this story?

Patricia: I first wrote the story 10 years ago. It’s always been short, varying from 500 to 800 words over several revisions. I don’t remember what was the impetus, but I always thought it was worthwhile, despite 20 rejections. One journal accepted it, held onto it for months, and folded before publishing it.

WOW: It's stood the test of time, and it shows what persistence can do! What are the themes you are exploring in "American Underwear"?

Patricia: Essentially, the power of stories, whether true or fairy tales, what we tell ourselves and what others tell us.

WOW: How long have you been writing and editing, and how did you get started?

Patricia: I’ve been an editor since the late 1970s, starting in nonfiction book publishing. As a longtime avid reader, I tried to write a novel long ago. With no success getting that published, I put the idea of writing aside. Eventually, I tried short stories and finally poems.

WOW: Another example of your determination. I think this has to be giving people inspiration. Your bio says you like short pieces. What draws you to this form?

Patricia: I read like an editor, so I appreciate writing that isn’t sloppy or wordy. Short is more difficult, and I like the challenge; it also helps me edit myself. Beginning writers often think shorter is easier. That has led to lots of bad haiku, among other things.

WOW: (laughs) I think you have a good point there. You seem like you have a very humorous side! Do a lot of your pieces incorporate humor? Could you give us a couple tips how you include humor in your work?

Patricia: I like to use humor, but it’s tricky, especially with poetry. The term “light verse” almost dismisses humor. Because humor stems from outlook, I doubt that I can offer any tips, aside from read such masters as Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, and Carl Hiaasen.

WOW: What's next for you in your writing life?

Patricia: I hope to keep improving and write longer stories. It’s certainly encouraging to win a prize for my work, and I thank WOW for sponsoring contests that are not winner takes all.

WOW: We are thankful that talented writers like you are entering! Congratulations, Patricia. Keep us posted on your writing life.

1 comment:

  1. Margo--Thanks for doing this interview.

    Patricia--I read your story. You do brevity well AND you do funny. "Coconut holders." ;)


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