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Tuesday, October 06, 2015

WOW: Meet Maggie Veness, Spring 2015 Fiction Contest 2nd Place Winner

Maggie Veness was born in Sydney, Australia, and lives in a small harbour-side city on the sunny north coast of NSW, Australia. Coming from a nursing and community welfare background, she began writing as a hobby in 2007 and hasn’t stopped. Intrigued by an idiosyncrasy or peccadillo, her stories are often quirky or unpredictable. While Maggie has flash through to novella length fiction published, she has always enjoyed the challenge of writing compelling flash fiction. She has received several awards for her stories, and was a 2014 Pushcart Prize nominee. While she’s thrilled to say her fiction has been published (mostly in print) in literary journals and anthologies in seven countries to date, she would love to see a collection of her own published some day. Maggie works part-time, has two regular volunteer positions, and cycles many miles each week so she can keep enjoying chocolate and red wine. She has dozens of literary idols, including Miranda July, Sam Lypsyte, Cate Kennedy, Raymond Carver, Tim Winton, Kurt Vonnegut, and Helen Garner.

Maggie won second place in our Spring 2015 contest with a wonderful little seductive piece called GLASS: Heat Sand to 1,700°. We invite you to read Maggie’s story, then come back to enjoy an interview with the author as we discuss the art of exploring emotional places.

WOW: Congratulations Maggie, and welcome to The Muffin! Did I mention how much I enjoyed GLASS: Heat Sand to 1,700°? The residual odd rippling of emotions left me wanting to read more of your work; it’s so delicious to trip over such talented writing!

You said that your writing began on a whim, the result of looking for a hobby. Since then you’ve created an impressive collection of published work. Can you share with us some idea of the personal transformations that were taking place during this time?

Maggie: When I joined a writing group back in ‘07 I had no idea I was beginning a journey of personal transformation. Learning the craft was challenging and fun, but my stories frequently took me on an emotional roller coaster. Like most new fiction writers I was given that great piece of advice, write what you know. While drawing from our own life experience can certainly enhance our fiction it can also open the lid on stuff we’ve had safely locked away. For example, can we write credibly about how it feels to lose a child, if in real life we are even yet to be a parent? Or about how it feels to experience emotional abuse during a ten year marriage if we’ve only ever had one night stands? Of course, it is possible. A healthy imagination makes all the difference. I’ve killed off many a character but I’ve never actually murdered anyone. Promise!

WOW: You have a gift for painting emotions with words. What process do you go through to find the right ones?

Maggie: That’s a great compliment. Thank you. This question is difficult to answer because it’s difficult to do. We’ve all had sweaty palms or an aching heart or clenched our jaw in anger. You need to slip your feet into your character’s shoes; think and feel for them.

WOW: I’m impressed with your ability to express the male POV in an intimate way. What tips do you have with someone struggling in this area?

Maggie: Regardless of our sexuality, I believe all humans have a masculine and feminine side. Ying and yang. We women also have relationships with fathers, brothers, husbands, lovers, or male friends, etc, that help us imagine the way our male characters are likely to think, feel, or react, when faced with certain situations. Again, imagination is key. I’m proud to say that a couple of years back I had a piece of sensual, sweet, gay erotica published which featured two male characters.

WOW: While this story falls into the peccadillo category, I believe you’ve written about more intense situations—I remember reading that one of your favorite characters unleashed herself on a person who had abused her. What are your thoughts on the places we go as writers? 

Maggie: I must confess I almost didn’t enter ‘Glass’ in this competition, fearing the contents may be a tad risqué. Having said that, characters with quirks and flaws are way more interesting to write. Who doesn’t like a perfectly imperfect character? And yes, I’ve tackled some tricky issues in my fiction, such as child abuse, schizophrenia, drug addiction, and prostitution. My advice is, just bite the bullet. Be brave enough to let your writing take you to those uncomfortable places. Sometimes writing fiction can allow us to re-write parts of our own history―to give us outcomes we would have preferred. To right some of those wrongs. I find this part surprisingly satisfying.

WOW: Ooh, that's a great motivational quote to post above our desks! What are you working on now?

Maggie: I’m working on part three of a three-part novella. Although I have had one novella-length story published I prefer writing shorter fiction, but each story just seems to take on a life and length of its own. We never stop learning the craft. Writing is lot of fun, and getting to share our stories feels amazing. Thanks, WOW, for the second place award as well as for the opportunity to publish my little story.

WOW: Thank you, Maggie, for sharing your story with us. We hope to see you back here again, either in the winner’s spotlight or perhaps with your novella!

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