Jillian Ports: Runner Up in 2015 Fall Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Jillian Ports’ works as operations manager at Astor+Blue Editions, a small press publisher in New York. That’s right – her day job is all about books. But editing isn’t enough for Ports who also loves to write. Her blog, The Love Song of J. Awkward Prufrock, tells about her life of an introvert and the many awkward situations she finds herself in as she attempts to navigate society.

If you’re one of those writers who happens to be an extrovert, be sure to read Jillian’s entry in the Summer Flash Fiction contest. Her story, “Are We There Yet?” is a telling look into the thoughts of an introvert.

WOW: First of all, congratulations on your story. Book Girl is clearly an introvert and your blog is all about being an introvert. How autobiographical is “Are We There Yet?”

Jillian: It isn’t autobiographical in the sense that it was a real event that occurred in my life. But as an introvert I find myself self-sabotaging relationships. Like Book Girl, I know I could make great memories with these potential new friends, but I can also sabotage it before we actually become friends. In that sense it is autobiographical.

WOW: How did this story change from rough draft to finished product? Was there anything about it that surprised you?

Jillian: Once I wrote everything down as one complete first draft it really didn’t change much other than basic conventional revisions, word changes, etc. But my initial idea was a comical treatise, like Woody Allen or Dave Berry, on the differences between men and women. It was going to be two people sitting on a bench and their thoughts about each other, but when I sat down to write, the bench became the cafeteria. The story became “Book Girl” vs the satire that I originally had going on in my mind.

I think it just had to do with my state of mind when I sat down to write the story. I was in a very isolated environment when I was writing it. I think that caused me to create a more isolated character. A common theme in my stories, including Book Girl, is people who are presented with an opportunity to change, but decide not to.

Once the images started unfolding in my head and the characters came to life, it just sort of flowed out of me. From that point, it didn’t change very much.

WOW: What is the most difficult part in writing flash fiction?

Jillian: I love exposition. It’s my favorite thing to write and my favorite thing to read. The first book in a series is always my favorite because I love getting to know the characters and the setting. I love the details, their favorite foods and their first kiss.

Flash fiction doesn’t leave a lot of room for slipping in those details. You have to give the reader the who, what, why, when, and how. In flash fiction, you don’t have the room to get that in and build that foundation of exposition for the characters. You just have to get right into it.

But do I know the details? If asked, I could deduce in a Sherlockian fashion some of the details. I don’t have a concrete answer for “what is Book Girl’s favorite movie?” although it is something like Annie Hall. I wasn’t thinking about that as I was writing the story. When I’m writing a novel I do have those things in mind.

I have an acting background so the Stanislavsky Method is always present in my head. As a writer every character has an intention and the details have to contribute to that intention to move the story forward. Those are the most important things that have to come across.

WOW: How has your experience as an editor altered your writing process?

Jillian: In a lot of ways it has made writing so much harder. It has made me a better writer but being able to take off your editorial hat and put on your writing hat and saving the editorial hat for another time can be difficult. For the sake of the story, you have to do it if you are going to get the story told. Otherwise you get stuck on really tiny things that should be fixed later on.

WOW: As an author and an editor, what advice do you have for readers who are new to flash fiction?

Jillian: You have to be prepared to give yourself a sensory overload when you’re writing flash fiction. You have to give the who, the what, the why, the when, the where, and the how in several hundred words. Think about your favorite book and all the emotions and feelings it evokes for you. Now imagine all of that in one page. You have to be prepared for a much more intense writing experience.

When it comes to what you read, the most important thing whether you are reading good stuff or not is to keep reading because, no matter what, you are going to learn from it. Not every genre is for everyone. If you are really a writer at heart and you take yourself seriously as a writer, you should be able to really appreciate a well-crafted story even if it isn’t your genre. If you are serious, you should be able to separate personal preference from genuinely good writing. If you don’t think it’s good, put on your editor hat and consider what would make it good.

To find out more about Jillian, follow her on on Twitter@AwkwardPrufrock or Pinterest @jayeepe.


Angela Mackintosh said...

Great interview! I can see Annie Hall as Book Girl's favorite movie. :) I adored this story. It's so hard to write funny, and you nailed it, Jillian! I also like that Book Girl stuck to her true nature, but she did think it through...enough to talk herself out of it. I look forward to reading more of your stories!

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