Monica Sackman, Third Place Winner, Spring 2014 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, October 21, 2014
An epiphany; it can rise from out of the most unlikely scenarios. Eva’s epiphany comes courtesy of a lone mare in Coming Unfettered. I encourage you to read Monica’s winning entry; perhaps you will have your own epiphany! But come on back to meet this new voice in country writing, Monica Sackman.

Monica, known to family and friends as Mikey, is an educator and aspiring author. She enjoys living the country life in central Montana. Monica has been writing stories for years, often for her students and now for her adorable grandchildren. Having lived in central Washington before moving to Montana, she finds inspiration for her writing in the farming, ranching, and small town people she meets. She also enjoys learning and writing about the history of the west. Her secret “dream vacation” would be spent finding and exploring old ghost towns. When not teaching or writing, Monica likes to hang out with her husband, play with her horses and visit her grandchildren. She is developing her website,, which she considers a work in progress. She also plans on launching her own blog about living the country life. Watch for her in mid-August at

WOW: Hi Monica, congratulations on placing third in our Spring 2014 Fiction Contest! We’re so glad to have you with us today.

On your website you mention that writing is an integral part of who you are, yet it seems that bringing your stories out into the big, wide world is a new part of the journey for you. Share a little bit about this new direction in your writing life.

Monica: It is true that I have only been sharing my writing, even the fact that I like to write, for a little over a year. As a child, I loved to read. I read everything. Then I began writing little stories and poems. I even wrote a short play that my cousins and I put on at a family Christmas party. As I entered my teens, my writing became more personal and I rarely shared it with anyone. I came from a working class family and writing wasn’t considered work, so to speak. Nevertheless, I decided I wanted to go to college and major in English. I attended a college fair where one of the college recruiters told me to “go home, find a nice boy, and get married.” Even though he was a stranger, it was a huge discouragement to me. So basically, I did just that, got married, had two children, but continued to write off and on, stuffing my stories and poems into drawers, nooks, and crannies. Then two years ago, with my children grown, my new husband and I decide to take on an adventure by moving to the middle of Montana. I was feeling a little sorry for myself, missing my friends and family. I knew I needed to do something “productive.” So I took a creative writing class which required students to share their writing. It was an online class, so it did not seem so intimidating. My instructor encouraged me to join a writing group. I was scared to death. But it was a great experience. The members of the group totally understood how difficult it can be to share your writing, especially in the beginning. At this point, I had not shared my writing with my husband or any of my family. My mother was staying with me and one evening, I read her a poem I had written and then a short story about my grandmother. I started crying before I could finish the story. It was such a relief to share it. My husband and my entire family have become huge supporters. The next step for me was (and is) to start sharing outside my comfort zone by submitting to contests, magazines, etc. I did submit a short story to a magazine last fall. I wasn’t surprised by the rejection letter. In fact, I took it to my writer’s group and shared it with them. I told them I now felt like a bonafide writer.

WOW: Oh boy, so many of us can relate to that story! It’s such a shame, how we let the years pass before diving in… I’m wondering, why do you say you have a “co-dependent relationship with writing”?

Monica: As a teacher, I do a great deal of writing. Sometimes I get frustrated by the technical type of writing my job requires and the timelines that go with it. But, I am good at it so it comes pretty easy. The creative writing that I would love to have more time to do just doesn’t seem to flow as easily or it comes in spurts. Those spurts give me energy, make me eager to write more, and I hate when I have to interrupt a delicious flow of words because of other responsibilities. But I do try to use that energy to make my technical writing a little more interesting. I also try to apply it to my classroom since I have to teach writing to middle school students. When I have little creative writing time or my words and ideas seem stagnant, it becomes apparent in my classroom and my other writing.

WOW: Oh! Great description... As writers, we all strive to pen a memorable line. In Coming Unfettered I particularly liked “an old boundary marker long forgotten, yet rooted in wide open isolation” and the way it ties in to the end of the story. What was your process for writing that line and tying it to the main character?

Monica: That’s my favorite line in the story too. This story was based on an actual incident that happened to my neighbor. As she was sharing the story of the horse with me, I was looking at the old fence post and thinking how it used to mark a boundary, a line that wasn’t supposed to be crossed, yet no one remembered who put it there or why. My neighbor, a widow of about seven years, lives a pretty isolated life, as I had been doing since moving to Montana. We were both living in wide open isolation, tied to boundaries we had established long ago, forgotten, but so rooted in our psyche that we didn’t realize they were holding us back. I was definitely thinking of my neighbor when I wrote that line and myself, as well. Although I would like to think that I am beginning to let go of some of those old boundaries.

WOW: It sounds like you are growing past them beautifully.

Monica, if you could see your muse, what would she look like? (I think I have a good idea, let’s see if I’m right…)

Monica: Funny, I’ve never really thought of my muse, not specifically anyway. Let’s see. She’s definitely a red-haired cowgirl riding a black mare carrying a couple of good books, paper and pencils in her saddlebags. She can open gates without getting off her horse. On hot summer days, she drinks cold beer and talks about the good old days. In the winter, she bakes cookies and cleans her rifle. She can’t decide whether bribery or intimidation inspires me most.

WOW: That is too funny! I guess the cookies and the rifle explain the bribery and intimidation tactics.

Many writers have a “dream project,” something they would love to write or a manuscript that remains in their heart—and their desk drawer; what is yours?

Monica: My dream project. Yes, I have one. It’s one of those things I haven’t really shared with anyone. I guess it is time to put it out there. I have been working on a novel, off and on, with the working title “Bakken Wife.” It’s based somewhat on my experiences but also on the stories other wives and girlfriends have shared about what life is like for them when their husbands/significant others work in the oil fields of North Dakota. It is a difficult situation for most of them. There are many misconceptions about working in the oil fields. The general consensus is that it isn’t worth it. The story focuses on one couple in particular, their strained relationship, frustrated dreams and a sense of hopelessness that causes them to wonder if living apart “for the money” is really worth it.

WOW: That sounds like a wonderful idea! Thank you for letting us in on your secret. Maybe now, with all of us behind you, you can get that one really rolling. Just remember to come back and share it with us! Congratulations again, and thank you for coming by The Muffin.

Ready to let go of old boundaries? WOW’s Fall 2014 Fiction Contest is Now Open! So revamp that old idea or brainstorm a new one—we want to read it!


Sioux Roslawski said...

Robyn--Thanks for doing the interview.

Monica--Are you planning on doing NaNoWriMo this year? You can be a NaNoWriMo "rebel" since you already have started your novel. (It's okay to cheat as long as it leads to lots of productive writing. ;)

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