Interview with Roberta Godar, Runner Up in WOW's 2015 Winter Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Roberta Godar's fascination with history led her to pen "Signal of the Firefly," which placed in the top 10 in the WOW! 2015 Winter Flash Fiction Contest. Check out her winning entry here and then come back to learn more about Roberta.

Roberta Godar lives with her husband, their dog, Penney, and several, snooty cats on a small farm in Southern Illinois not far from the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. When she’s not writing, she’s hiking, learning Spanish and having coffee with the neighbor.

An avid reader from a young age, the written word has continually held a fascination for her. She’s always liked to write and now that the responsibilities of family, employment and taking care of the dog have lessened, she can devote more time to the art of writing a good story.

Her quest to trace her ancestors triggered a desire to tell stories of the past. She’s currently working on a fictional tale “The Bad Woman” that’s set in 1930’s Arkansas and told from the viewpoint of nine-year Mattie, a little girl full of curiosity that’s trying to understand the complex meaning of right and wrong.

Roberta’s story “Signal of the Firefly” recalls what many people refer to as “a simpler time” and reflects her belief that the past and the present can sometimes come together to touch a person’s life in an unexpected way.

WOW: Congratulations, Roberta, and welcome! We can't wait to learn more about you. First off, your bio mentions a "quest to trace your ancestors." What has that process been like? Have there been any surprising discoveries?

Roberta: The quest to trace my ancestors has involved hours of research in court houses, museums and on the internet. And, oh yeah, let’s not forget traipsing around in overgrown cemeteries looking for that elusive headstone. Each time I find a piece of information, it’s like finding a little diamond.

Interviewing numerous relatives, some willing, some not-so-willing, proved to be a valuable source of knowledge. Two elderly second-cousins who grew up with my great-grandparents generously provided me with a considerable amount of information, which led to other specific details about my ancestors. At times, their step back to the past brought up painful memories for them as well as joyful ones. I’ll be forever grateful to them for giving me a true glimpse of their early lives, and for sharing so much of what they remembered.

One exciting discovery I’ve made is that my great great-grandmother whose first husband died in the Civil war, remarried a man with the last name of Houston. Family lore was that he was a cousin of General Sam Houston. I think the term cousin was probably used loosely during those turbulent times, but though I haven’t been able to make the connection yet, I’ll keep looking.

One of my elderly cousins once said to me, “Tracing your ancestors is a labor of love.”
She was right.

WOW: What is your writing process like? Do you like to crank out rough drafts first or revise/edit as you go along?

Roberta: My writing process begins with a concept that I think about for a week or two before I ever put anything on paper. By the time I begin to write, I have a sense of where I want to go with the piece. If it’s a short story or article, I’ll revise and edit as I go along. For a longer piece, I compose a general outline of the story. I’ll revise “some” as I write the narrative, but in a fictional tale, I never know where a character might take me, so I don’t want to suppress that journey with too much editing. When the story is finished, that’s when I do the mean, hard revision. Sometimes it takes a while, but until the story feels “right”, I can’t let it go.

Writing is definitely a challenge, but it’s an itch that has to be scratched.

WOW: How did you get the idea for "Signal of the Firefly?"

Roberta: The idea for “Signal of the Firefly” came from the nostalgia I felt after looking through a box that contained old family photographs of my grandmother sitting in her rocking chair on the front porch of her Arkansas home, and photographs of my parents looking so young: mom in a pretty, flowered dress and dad looking like a young Clark Gable. The pictures brought back warm-hearted memories of family get-togethers with aunts and uncles and cousins: memories of tag and hide and seek and evenings spent catching those magical fireflies.

My grandmother was a good Christian woman, who as far as I know, only drank sweet tea and lemonade minus the vodka.

WOW: Do you prefer to write flash fiction or longer pieces? Why?

Roberta: Although I have longer stories I’m working on, I like writing flash fiction because it keeps the storyline simple. The narrative doesn’t involve numerous complex characters, grandiose surroundings or lengthy description. Also, less time is spent revising. The word limit is a definite challenge. Concise and carefully chosen words are significant to the meaning of the story and determine the impact on the reader. Sometimes it’s hard to find that perfect word. The discipline it takes to stay within that limit is a great way to sharpen my skills and improve my thinking process. One of my favorite books when I was a kid was “Grimm’s Fairy Tales”. Some of its stories are perfect examples of flash fiction.

WOW: What advice would you give other writers who are considering entering the WOW! Women on Writing quarterly flash fiction contest?

Roberta: For writers who are considering entering the WOW quarterly flash fiction contest, I say do it. I was so thrilled to have placed in the top ten of the winter contest. I never really thought my story would make it out of all the entries, but it did. So, all you writers out there who think you don’t have a chance, think again, you do. I plan to submit more stories and I will ask for a critique next time.
WOW! is a great website for writers wanting to improve their craft. The site offers informative articles, writing workshops and classes, and resources galore. Published stories from people of all walks of like make for interesting reading, and let’s not forget the Muffin Blog.

WOW: We thank you for that glowing endorsement, and we'll take it! Best of luck with all your future writing endeavors.


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