Black Coffee, struck the hearts of our judges and we are so happy to have her here with us today. So, go read her amazing story, then come back and share our chat. You won’t be disappointed.
For seventeen years, Brenda Watterson enjoyed a career in Human Resources and Sales but decided to stay home after the birth of her twins. She and her husband are blessed with four children, two that grew in her womb and two that grew in her heart. Her oldest two came into her life when they were just five- and seven-years-old, fulfilling her greatest desire to mother a child. While she entered the role with high expectations of the kind of mother she thought she would be, they carefully and lovingly shaped her into the kind of mother she actually is. And for that she is forever grateful.
With the dramatic age differences of her four children, she has experienced enough drama and material over the past five years to host her own “Toddlers and Teenagers” reality show. But now that all of the children are in school, she has coaxed her muse out of hiding and unleashed her dream to write. After completing several creative writing courses she recently began submitting her work and was thrilled to have a few things published in Pooled Ink, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and Rainbowtreekids.com, as well as a piece she wrote about being a stepmom that was featured in the Listen to Your Mother show.
She is currently working on a fiction novel (based on a true story) about a madam for the mob who suffers a brain aneurysm that leaves her severely disabled. Thirty years later the daughter who cares for her receives a shocking phone call that begins to unravel the mysteries of her mother’s life.
Brenda lives in Algonquin, IL where she writes until the school bell rings.
~ Interview by Chynna Laird
WOW: Congratulations for placing third in our Winter Flash Fiction contest! Please tell our readers a little about yourself.
BRENDA: I am a former career woman turned SAHM. I have lived in both “working mom” and “SAHM” worlds and I know how hard each one can be. When our oldest two children were younger, I was at the height of my career. While personal accomplishments made me feel productive and capable, I traveled a lot and often felt guilty for missing school functions and volunteer opportunities. After the twins were born, I traded my business suits for yoga pants and became a full time mom. Dinner conversations with my husband went from discussing corporate policy to who pooped on the potty and I struggled with the loss of self for a while. But looking back I wouldn't change a thing from either experience. There are pros and cons to both scenarios and I think each one helped shape me into the mom I am today. What I learned overall is that motherhood is both beautiful and hard. Sometimes you're savoring it and sometimes you're surviving it.
WOW: I see we have the same challenge with creating a writing career around a big, busy family! Can you share with us some of your personal challenges in this situation and how you’ve gone about getting that writing time in around lunches, school drop-offs and all the other hat changes you have had to make?
BRENDA: Excellent question! My answer to this continues to evolve. When the little ones were home, I could only write when they were sleeping and often times I was just too tired. My husband and I agreed that I needed one evening a week ALONE to dedicate to writing. On those evenings I went to Starbucks or the library for some uninterrupted quiet time otherwise (unless I hid in the closet with my laptop) one of the children was bound to find me. It wasn't until the twins entered kindergarten that I began focusing on writing and exploring opportunities to submit my work, which has been really exciting. But time management continues to be a challenge for me. An online writing course I took, suggested designating a specific time every day for writing and to honor that as a non-negotiable time slot. This was helpful advice, otherwise my writing gets pushed to the bottom of the "to do" list after everything else is done. (And when is everything ever done?)
WOW: Let’s talk about your powerful story, Black Coffee. I won’t blow the ending for those who haven’t had the chance to read it yet (but highly recommend that you do), but I will say I don’t know many writers able to tell us so much about several characters with so few words, having us feel so much for them at the end. Will you tell us where this story came from and your process for getting it just right to send it in to us?
BRENDA: Fiction has never been my strength. I am more comfortable writing essays so this was actually a stretch for me. One of my online course assignments was to go to a public place and describe both the people and the setting. I wrote this story while in a coffee shop. After observing several customers, the ideas for their fictitious personalities and plights just seemed to flow from my fingertips. I now find writing inspiration from paying more attention to every day people and places and it has helped fiction come a little more naturally to me.
WOW: You have worked in many different areas of the writing field. Why don’t you describe these for us, and tell us what you did/didn’t like as well as what someone interested in those areas would need to keep in mind if they wanted to be successful.
BRENDA: My background is not really writing related. In my last position I was the Director of Sales for an Event Technology company, prior to this I spent the majority of my career in Human Resources and Training. I did have the opportunity to write and facilitate training materials but for "in house" use, not for publication. In my personal journey to explore writing opportunities, I have found great leads from C. Hope Clark's "Funds for Writers" newsletter. All of my recent publication opportunities (including WOW) came from this source. I have also found that staying involved in online writing courses (Writers Digest, WOW etc.) have not only helped me grow but the deadlines have kept me focused.
WOW: One question I love asking guests is what your pearls of wisdom are. Please share some with us that guide you through your writing, and/or life in general.
BRENDA: I think actively reading is important. I read fiction for pleasure and to help sharpen my writing skills and I read Inspirational/Spiritual for self-development. I mostly enjoy writing essays because the process of reflecting on personal experiences often brings clarity, insight even resolution. And while they are not as much fun, I believe negative experiences bring about the most growth. Even our difficult relationships have hidden value. They teach us to practice patience and forgiveness and (if we can be receptive to criticism) they reveal our vulnerabilities. I think negative events in life can be purposeful too. I don’t necessarily believe that everything happens for a reason but I do believe that our experiences, and how we respond to them, shape who we are. The lesson isn’t found in the disappointment or the loss, it is found in the healing. When we learn that we are survivors.
WOW: Well put, Brenda! Thank you for taking the time to chat with us today.
To find out more about the current WOW flash fiction contest, visit: www.wow-womenonwriting.com/contest.php