WOW! Interview with Lin Wilder, Fall 2014 Fiction Contest Third-Place Winner

Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Lin has been writing since high school, but only recently began to dare to share her writing with others. This is her first placement in a writing contest and she is understandably thrilled. While her career in public health, her family (one husband, three teenagers, too many pets) and her love of outdoor adventure often preclude time for writing, the written word keeps demanding to be part of her life. She sometimes writes things in her head while commuting to work on her bike. Lin is also a certified Spellbinder oral storyteller and often tells children stories from her life. She is slowly working on writing a collection of stories about growing up poor in rural Maine, with a remarkable mother whose mental illness was both a daunting force and an inspiration.

Lin’s winning story, Condiments, reflects her penchant for chatting with absolute strangers (much to her children’s embarrassment) and how she believes that even the simplest of interactions with others can have lasting impact. Please take a moment to enjoy Condiments, and return here for a short interview with the author, Lin Wilder (wilderwomn[at]gmail[dot]com).

WOW: Third place! Congratulations, Lin! What was your inspiration for Condiments?

Lin: Condiments was inspired by an actual experience waiting for food in a cafeteria and watching a similar young man go about his job with such passion. I imagined an actual interaction with this fellow, resulting in the story. I think I was so inspired by this young man’s enjoyment of his job because I was feeling bored and unhappy with my job at the time, but the experience showed me how much I was taking for granted in my work and life. So I wanted to illustrate through this story the idea that even the smallest contribution like refilling condiment tubs or making a simple connection with a stranger can make a big difference.

WOW: It’s so easy to forget that in our hustle-bustle daily life... It seems like you enjoy sharing stories; tell us a little about your Spellbinder training?

Lin: Spellbinder Oral Storytellers is a Colorado organization with various chapters around the state. Training of certified Spellbinders centers on ways to tell stories orally rather than reading to an audience, recreating the age-old tradition of storytelling as a way to engage imagination, pass on wisdom and foster community. I can’t even begin to describe to you the joy of connecting with an audience of children through a story. Imagine an entire room of children focused intensely on the process of seeing, in their mind’s eye, what the storyteller is describing. This is made even more meaningful for me because children get so much of their input through electronic means these days, and yet they still respond so well to a simple story. For me, my love of both oral stories and written ones intersects in many ways. I believe that telling stories in schools helps ignite the imaginations of children resulting in a greater interest in stories of all kinds, and helps them recognize that we are all storytellers--to be human is to have a story to tell.

WOW: I couldn’t agree more! There was a time when families would sit around and listen to their elder members’ tales; sadly, that is rare these days. What encouraged you to delve more deeply into the telling of tales, both written and oral?

Lin: Stories have always been a part of me. Growing up poor and isolated in rural Maine meant I had to invent my own entertainment--so I told myself stories. I remember that I would often write the present moment in my head as I lived it…horribly mundane stuff that I brought alive through words, like “Every morning she rose even before first light and made the cold, unwelcome trek to the outhouse.” In high school, I put together a little chapbook of poetry for an assignment, and one of my teachers encouraged me to keep writing. My undergraduate degree in anthropology exposed me to the myths and legends of various cultures and I fell in love with stories all over again. Then, when I was working as a counselor years later, I began using stories with clients, finding them to be impactful teaching tools. So becoming an oral storyteller has sort of brought me full circle again to embrace both the written and the oral tradition of the story.

WOW: You’ve been working on a collection of stories; can you share a little about that experience?

Lin: Well it’s a slow process; believe me, with a full-time job and three kids! But I have often considered telling about my childhood experiences in some way; however, the idea of writing a book has seemed rather daunting. When I became an oral storyteller, I began working up and telling a few stories about some of the more humorous or ludicrous experiences that resulted from my mother’s untreated schizophrenia, or from our unique lifestyle living in a bungalow in the woods without running water or indoor plumbing. To my surprise, of all the stories I told, these were the stories that kids came up to me in school halls years later to say, “I still remember that story you told about….”

For example, I often tell children about how my mother took me on bike vacations because we couldn’t afford a car. We sometimes peddled for days on the narrow shoulders of hilly, traffic-clogged Maine highways, she on her rusty three-speed Schwinn, and me on my banana-seated one speed with pink streamers on the handlebars. No helmets of course! Once we were exhausted, we knocked on the first door we came upon to beg a room for the night, and we were never turned away! I thought this was normal when I was a kid, but the fact that this is so outlandish in this day and age makes it a great story to tell and to write. Kids ask me, “Did you really do that?” I love to tell and write stories that shake up the audience’s perspective a bit.

WOW: Oh my goodness, I can just imagine all the stories you have to share! What words of wisdom do you have to leave with our readers?

Lin: If you aren’t a professional writer or a published writer it is sometimes difficult to actually call yourself a “writer.” Sometimes sharing your writing is not the easiest thing to dare to do. But if you love to write, then write, and dare to share it with others. Enter contests like the WOW Flash Fiction contest, or give friends stories or poems as gifts. Even if you have never made or won a penny with your writing, stand up proudly and say “I am a writer.”

WOW: Wonderfully said. Thank you for visiting with us today, Lin. We hope to see you here again soon!


Renee Roberson said...

Thank you for a fascinating interview, ladies! I loved the story, Lin, and learning about your oral storytelling. I loved how you even incorporated what you learned into counseling. Very inspirational to us all to think outside the box!

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