interview by Marcia Peterson
WOW: Congratulations on your first place win in our Winter 2016 Flash Fiction competition. What inspired you to enter the contest?
Solange: I have a problem with accountability unless I have a hard deadline. To force myself to actually finish stories, I set a goal to make at least one submission each month. I’m particularly fond of writing flash fiction because I’m a naturally wordy person. Having a 750 word limit forces me to make the most of every word. The WOW! Women on Writing contest was perfect for me!
WOW: Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, “When You Wake Up?”
Solange: My husband also enjoys writing, and sometimes we will write simultaneously on the same prompt. This story came from one of those sessions a few years ago. I believe the prompt was something about waves. My first thought was of water, of course, but I decided to focus on a different kind of wave—sound. (His version—about a beach wedding—also won a contest! It was a very productive prompt for us.)
I am a total “pantser” (as in “by the seat of my pants”) when it comes to writing. I start with a fragment of an idea and I just write down whatever comes to mind. I’m often surprised by what my characters decide to do. In "When You Wake Up," I remember writing the line about Janice limping over to the picture on the wall and wondering “WHAT? What happened to Andi? Why are you limping?” Derek’s realization mirrors my own.
WOW: Congratulations to your husband too then! We’d love to know more about your writing routines. Could you tell us when and where you usually write? Do you have certain tools or habits that get you going?
Solange: There is a beautiful, carefully organized desk just for me in the office I share with my husband. I never write there. Usually I’m typing away on my laptop while perched on a barstool at the kitchen counter or curled up in a big chair with my spiral notebook and a pen.
About a year ago, I left my day job to help my husband with his company. Working from home means my writing schedule is flexible—probably too flexible! Recently, I partnered up with a writing buddy on a blog project (http://themissingcommaclub.blogspot.com/) so I’d have a weekly deadline to keep me focused. Otherwise, I plug away on my open stories whenever I find the time and motivation. My best writing occurs when I manage to tear myself away from the siren call of social media.
Contrary to everything I’ve ever read about becoming a good writer, I tend to be very inconsistent with my writing habits. I like to switch things up on a regular basis to keep from getting bored. There are a few things that have become writing staples, however:
- Tazo English Breakfast tea with whole milk and a little sugar wakes up my brain. I have a collection of owl and superhero mugs I use when writing.
- Pilot G2 0.7mm gel ink pens have a smooth flow that almost lets my hand keep up with my brain. I get the multi-color pack so I can choose the color that best fits my mood.
- OpenOffice is my word processing software of choice. I love that it can interface with just about any software my writing groups and beta readers are using.
- Pandora’s Classical for Work station gives me something to listen to without being distracting.
I hope that over time, I will find more bits and pieces to build into my routine. I love hearing about things that help other writers stay productive so I can try them for myself!
WOW: You mention playing board games as something you like to do. What are your three favorite ones? Are you super competitive when you play, or it just relaxing fun?
Solange: I play for fun! I don’t mind a good competitive game, but my favorites are cooperative play—Pandemic, for example—which require everyone to win or lose together. I like the teamwork aspect, but I also like how that style of game keeps everyone engaged. There’s no sitting around waiting for everyone else to finish their turns.
Family gatherings at my grandma’s house often include a card game called Liverpool Rummy. I am officially The Worst at it (and all card games), but I love the family time it represents. I laugh more during those games than any others.
I’ve also recently fallen in love with a game called Splendor, which involves collecting gems and strategically trading them for increasingly valuable developments and prestige (points!). Everyone is rushing to get the same big ticket items, but there are many paths to success. I played with my nephew and I was convinced he didn’t understand the game because he was doing things “all wrong”. He kicked my butt.
WOW: I'm not familiar with any of those games, so I'll have to look them up! Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Solange. Before you go, can you share a good writing tip or advice with our readers?
Solange: It was my pleasure! I’m still in shock that someone liked my writing well enough to want to talk to me about it.
I don’t know that I am qualified to give advice about anything, especially writing. I’m still absorbing all the excellent advice out there by writers who have been doing this much longer than I have. Maybe I can share some of the things I’ve learned instead?
- No matter how well-read and open-minded I think I’ve become, there are always new perspectives for me to understand. I try to read things by people with very different experiences from mine. (Related aside—Twitter is a great place to meet writers with unique perspectives! If you want to say “Hi”, I’m @SolHom.)
- Deadlines and rejection letters are my friends! In the beginning, I dreaded them. Now I’ve realized they are some of the best tools for improving my writing skills and habits.
- Writing groups don’t just provide feedback on works in progress. My writing group is the most effective form of therapy I’ve come across. (Yay, Round Rock Writers Guild!) They get me out of the house, hold me accountable, and support me in all the stages of my writing—brainstorming, rough drafts, revising, and even—or perhaps, especially—when I’m paralysed by fear and lack of confidence.
Our summer flash fiction contest is currently OPEN!
For details and entry, visit our contest page.