Interview with Maja Malgorzata Zmyslowski: Spring 2017 Flash Fiction Contest Third Place Winner

Tuesday, October 03, 2017
Maja’s Bio:

Maja Malgorzata Zmyslowski is an award-winning Polish-American writer living in the Arizona desert. Her poems have recently appeared in Mid-American Review and the 150th edition of Reed Magazine. The League for Innovation in the Community College’s 2017 national competition awarded her 1st place in fiction for her piece, “Flipping the Bird.”

While she holds a B.A. in Humanities from California State Monterey Bay and a Masters in Education with a focus on Adult Training/Ed from the University of Phoenix, she credits her local community college with reigniting her writer’s heart after a 10 year hiatus from creative writing. She is currently working on a poetry chapbook and challenging herself to write more fiction. When she’s not longing for snow, she’s flirting with the summer monsoons and wondering what kind of tea to make.

If you haven’t done so already, check out Maja’s award-winning story “Coma, Comma” and then return here for a chat with the author.

WOW: Congratulations on placing third in the Spring 2017 Flash Fiction Contest! What was the inspiration for your short story, or what prompted you to write it?

Maja: The poem “Sense of Time” by George Bowering was the source of inspiration for my piece; I was intrigued by the idea of being aware of time while you’re a coma. Lines about losing time “…It can turn your eyes from brown to blue. It can grow hair on your belly, it can get you lost between bedroom and office…” were especially effective in their spookiness. I’ve only begun writing flash fiction recently, having focused on poetry and longer fiction/non-fiction in the past. I found the challenge of condensing a story into a flash structure as a natural hybridization of prose poetry and fiction, and fell in love with the process. I’m thankful to WOW for prompting this challenge.

WOW: And we’re thankful for you creating an amazing story to share with us! What do you enjoy the most and/or the least about writing?

Maja: I enjoy learning about myself and others when I jump into a topic that is foreign to me. It’s true that writing what you know is effective, but writing about things you have little knowledge of forces you to research, read, empathize and act. Trying on new shoes, if you will. I dislike having to find time to write—I feel like a thief stealing away chunks of time, with no formal structure. I am envious of people that carve out specific writing appointments and keep them—I aspire to that!

WOW: I like your stance on writing about what you don’t know—that becomes a great opportunity to learn something new! What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it?

Maja: I’m reading copious amounts of poetry books and journals—they are rife with ideas for flash pieces without investing too much time or tying yourself emotionally to longer fiction. The imagery in poetry influences the senses and roots you to a moment.

WOW: Why had you taken such a long hiatus from creative writing, and in what ways did your local community college reignite your writer’s heart?

Maja: I wrote actively until age 25 and then got caught up in “being an adult” in terms of relationships, advanced education, career, moving states, etc. I didn’t realize how important creative writing was for my emotional wellbeing, and I escaped the stresses of life in less productive ways. Last year, I watched a silly movie that had one great line (can’t remember the movie and I’m paraphrasing) “When you abandon your talent, you are in essence betraying yourself.” That struck me as true, and illuminated one source of my unhappiness as not having a creative purpose. I decided to enroll in an Intermediate Poetry course at my local community college and found myself in an all-women class full of vibrant writers ages 18 to 60. The experience was so positive, encouraging, and not intimidating. It was a flint to the fire and I’ve been consumed ever since.

WOW: What an excellent reminder to return to your passion, and I’m thrilled that the course provided a positive experience to help you to keep writing. If you could give other creative writers one piece of advice, what would it be and why?

Maja: Read across genres and forms—don’t limit yourself to fiction, nonfiction or poetry only. Read a play! Look up experimental fiction, or attend a local poetry reading. The more you connect with things unfamiliar to you, the deeper the saturation of ideas.

WOW: Thanks for the advice! Anything else you’d like to add?

Maja: I’m thankful for Women On Writing—the staff is super supportive and accessible, and the community is unmatched in talent and backgrounds. Wonderful resources and connections, too. I am beyond excited to be a part of it!

WOW: We’re excited for you to be a part of it, too! Thank you so much for your thoughtful responses. Congratulations again, and happy writing!

Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, who keeps a blog of journal entries, memoir snippets, interviews, training logs, and profiles of writers and competitive female athletes.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Anne--Thanks for doing this interview.

Maja--I too aspire to be able to write at regular times on consistent days. Unfortunately I have to carve out time so I can write in dribbles and drabs.

I read your story. I wonder what kind of revenge that doctor is going to get?

Angela Mackintosh said...

Great interview, ladies. :)

Maya ~ I just read "Sense of Time" - thank you for that! It is a beautifully written and haunting poem. I can see where you drew your inspiration from: "It can turn your eyes from brown to blue" (the cousin coveting the narrator's blue eyes), "you have to save your humor and guard it" (your narrator is very funny), "white strips on the road flying beneath your vehicle" (the accident) ... what a brilliant idea to write a piece of flash inspired your interpretation of a poem!

I'm so glad you watched that movie and it inspired you to write again. It's so interesting the things that affect us to create change in our lives.

Sioux, Maya ~ That would be a great connected flash piece! To see both sides of the coin. It's great as it is though, and makes you wonder.

Maja Z. said...

Sioux - great question! I wanted to leave the ending open - would this turn into a homicide, or something unexpected?
Dribbles and drabs - I liked your naming of the sporadic moments. I will aim to drab and dribble tomorrow during a coffee break at work. I find it encouraging to hear that other writers struggle to find time but somehow the muse won't be ignored!
I enjoyed your Sherman Alexie post – “Those are the stories that help me navigate the mess of my life...” – so well put.

Angela - wasn't "Sense of Time" just outrageous? Obviously, it won't touch everyone the same way, if at all. Your comment about it being interesting, the things that affect us to create change in our lives - I think that's where so many stories germinate, they are the origin of unforgettable tales.
My best to you both,

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