Interview with Maureen Brooks, Spring 2016 Second-Place Winner

Tuesday, September 27, 2016
We are so happy to introduce Maureen Brooks, who just won Second Place with her entry titled “While She’s Sleeping.” Please take a moment to enjoy her story (it has a bit of a twist to it).

Maureen has considered writing to be her special gift after being recognized as a strong writer by her second grade and high school teachers. After graduating college, she entered a few writing contests and then—like so many—put her dream aside to pursue a career.

After working in the insurance and telecommunications industries, Maureen is currently a High School English teacher. Her favorite class is Creative Writing. Believing that competition can bring out the best in us, she’s encouraged and coached her students to place or win many writing contests including earning the Silver Key Award in the Scholastic Art and Writing Contest. Following the advice she gives her students, last year Maureen began entering writing contests. This is her third entry to WOW and her first time being published. She’s an active member of the writing community and thanks them for helping her improve her craft.

Maureen is also the proud aunt of 13 nephews and 4 nieces and excited to show them that dreams do come true if you keep pursuing them.

WOW: Good Morning, Maureen, and congratulations! Why do you enjoy entering contests; how do you feel they “bring out the best in us”? 

Maureen: I truly believe that competition does bring out the best in us. Years ago, I had joined my company’s Toastmasters club. I was scared of public speaking—but knew it was a skill necessary to get promoted. After getting positive feedback, I decided I wanted to improve and entered one of their speaking contests. My initial goal was to be brave enough to compete. Overtime, I began winning some of these contests and found that entering them made me “step up my game.” I find that true with writing as well. Knowing so many people are competing makes me polish the story more before I submit it.

Interestingly, it was one of my creative writing students who introduced me to the WOW website.

WOW: How fun is that! It’s nice that you and your students encourage each other in that way. You’ve used the image of diapers to illustrate the tension and disruption of a household. Can you share with us the process you went through in choosing that focal point, and how the diapers work within your story? 

Maureen: I began the story with a couple’s evening being interrupted by someone else in the house. I was thinking of a baby at first—but wanted the story to have an unexpected ending. I kept the elements that older people and babies share—such as not sleeping through the night, needing more patience, and the baby diapers/adult diapers seemed the perfect tool to lead the read into thinking the third person was a baby and then surprising the reader with an adult parent.

WOW: So many people think flash-fiction, being short, should be quick and/or easy. What would you say to them?

Maureen: Most things in life that seem “simple” are usually the result of many hours of practice and it’s that practice and skill building that make them seem easy. Flash-fiction is very challenging at first because you have to provide a full story in a short space. With practice, they do become fun to write. I find I begin with the opening and then think about it for about two days trying to make the end seem unpredictable. Then I fill in the middle and edit to the word limit.

WOW: You obviously work hard at encouraging your students along their own paths; what visions do you hold for your own writing?

Maureen: My first year teaching, I encouraged students to enter a song-writing contest as a class project. It was held by Hewlett Packard and open to students in ten states. Amazingly, we swept the contest winning 1st, 2nd, 3rd. We also earned 5 out of 10 honorable mentions in Florida. This got me hooked on aligning writing contests with class assignments so students could see the “real world value” of writing. Over 7 years, we won or placed in every contest. My vision is to take this same advice and use writing contests to improve my own writing. A year after setting this goal, I’ve placed second in this contest and have already submitted more stories online.

WOW: What do you most hope your students learn from you?

Maureen: Make every day count. I read that Jerry Seinfeld was successful because he kept a calendar and marked a red X every day he wrote. His goal was to “never break the chain” of red X’s. What he wrote each day didn’t have to be perfect—but the habit of writing every day enhanced his skill and increased the chances he would develop strong material. I started this calendar chain and it’s true, you’ll work hard not to break it. I'm sharing this tool and goal with my current students. In doing this, I want them to learn that dreams need discipline and discipline brings dreams closer to reality. I also want them to know that they should start today.


Angela Mackintosh said...

I didn't know that about Jerry, and I love that idea! That might help me stay motivated.

Maureen, your use of the diapers was very clever and I was definitely surprised by the ending. Well done. :)

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