Jeannie Waldridge, 2nd Place Winter 2015 Flash Fiction Winner

Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Congratulations to Jeannie Waldridge, who won 2nd place in the Winter 2015 Flash Fiction contest with her story, "The Church Meeting." If you haven't read this humorous short story yet, you can find it right here.

Jeannie  is originally from the small town of Harrodsburg, Kentucky but has lived in Louisville, Kentucky for the last 15 years. She is a certified alcohol and drug counselor who currently supervises substance abuse treatment programs for the Department of Corrections. Jeannie has had a lifelong passion for humorous story-telling and is beginning to translate that love into her written work. There is a love for strong Southern characters that originate from small towns and love to stir up controversy. Who doesn’t want the chance to use “ya’ll” or reference “sweet tea” when they write?
Jeannie is greatly supported by her writing group, Women Who Write, which is based in Louisville. The members readily offer their time, expertise and encouragement to all writers from the novice to the professional. Through the writing group, Jeannie has come to accept the fact that she is a writer as long as she continues to put pen to paper.
WOW: Congratulations on your 2nd place win for your fun story, "The Church Meeting." Where did you get the idea for this story?
Jeannie: I have been living in Crawford County, Kentucky for a few years -- in my head. I have written several short stories and these characters reveal themselves at different times. When I decided to enter the WOW contest, I first did a little research about the guest judge, Stacy Testa. She stated that she loved character-driven stories, an international setting, or a unique subculture. Immediately, Mrs. Abbigail Peters and Katherine came to mind. If you have ever been in a country church in Kentucky, then you know I had the unique subculture checked off the list.
Ms. Abbigail and Katherine have popped up in Christmas and holiday stories in the past but more as passing characters and at times without being named. I sat down and started writing about the first time the preacher’s fiancee with a dark past meets the church’s biggest critic. The story wrote itself after that; I just held the pencil and went along for the ride.  
WOW: In this piece, you chose to tell the story from two of the main characters' points of view. What made you decide to tell the story this way? Why switch in the middle? (Obviously it works well! We want to learn from you!)
Jeannie: As a storyteller, you have to have insider information from all the parties involved. I felt it was necessary to establish Mrs. Abbigail first; after all she is a founding member of Crawford County and the church. She held a position of prestige in the community, and I wanted the reader to understand her first before I introduced the outsider. The little tidbits of information from both of them gave the story the necessary flavor to make it interesting. Chili only becomes chili after you add the spices.
WOW: So true! How did you feel when you got the news that "The Church Meeting" won 2nd place?
Jeannie: I believed the story was something special, and that is why I requested a critique. If I was on the wrong track, I believed that was a good way for me to gauge my meter for “good writing.” When I found out I was through the first round of judging, I was already a winner. Then the critique came, and I called my mom and posted a happy post on social media. Needless to say, when the news came that I was in the top ten, I could not imagine that my story would be included with the other great stories on the WOW website. By the time 2nd place was announced, I was beyond grateful. My friends and family had given me a lot of positive feedback, and I was so proud that a G-rated story about a fictional place in Kentucky was recognized among all of the outstanding stories submitted.
I would be remiss to leave out the reality of the 2nd place win. I am a total amateur writer so I do not have a long list of published stories, a blog or a website. When I was notified that I would need to submit a picture and a short bio and I could include my website, it became quite challenging to make everything interesting and professional. Not to mention settling on a headshot, which is typically not a favorite task for many of us. 

WOW: We are so happy you won! We are sure this is the first of many successes for you. (smiles) Your day job has to be somewhat tough as a certified alcohol and drug counselor who currently supervises substance abuse treatment programs for the Department of Corrections. How do you write funny stories after a tough day job?
Jeannie: My job is rewarding and impactful, and I recognize that we are there to help people get better. Most people are not lucky enough to have a job where they get to witness change first hand, and the impact is not just for our participants but it changes their families, as well. When just one participant leaves the program, returns home, and then resumes their responsibilities as a parent, a son or daughter, a sibling and a productive member of society, then we have all won. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?
If you ask most of the folks I work with, they would tell you that my humor does not start at 5:00 pm. I have a tendency to be humorous, and I love a funny story. Laughter is good for the soul, and it is good for everyone around. I think my funny stories just come from years of telling stories and always looking for the sunny side of things.

WOW: What a great attitude! Tell us about your writing group.
Jeannie: I love my writing group! We are called Women Who Write, and we get together once a month. We are given the opportunity to bring in a piece we are working on, read it out loud and then we request what type of critique we would like from the group. We have published authors, professors, retired teachers, accomplished journalists, and every other profession you can imagine. The biggest thing we have in common is that we love to write. We write children’s books, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, articles, diaries, journals, and doodles. The group does not judge, and they always remind you that you are a writer, which is what a novice like me needs to hear from time to time. They offer their expertise and suggestions to every writer who shares. If I had one piece of advice: find a writing group. If the one you choose does not fit, find another group. Like attracts like; and if you want to be a writer, you have to surround yourself with writers.

WOW: What are you currently working on in your writing life?
Jeannie: I am working on more stories from Crawford County, of course. My strategy is to keep writing short stories that will eventually build into a whole novel. A childhood friend sent me a picture he photographed and asked me to write a story about the image. I just finished that story called “The Tent Revival,” which featured Mrs. Abbigail and Katherine joining forces to expose two evangelical swindlers that come to town. My next story should have some twists and turns as well. You know, every county in Kentucky has a county fair in the summer, and Crawford County is no different.

WOW: We hope that we get to read a collection of Crawford County stories in the future! Thanks, Jeannie, best of luck to you.


Renee Roberson said...

Congratulations, Jeannie! I loved reading your story. You have a great attitude and dedication to your craft and that is 95 percent of what a good writer needs to succeed in this industry.

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