Interview with Tina Tippett - 2017 Fall Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Tuesday, April 17, 2018
WOW! recently announced the winners of our 2017 Fall Flash Fiction Contest and we are proud to announce Tina Tippett from Eldersburg, Maryland as one of the runners up with The Naming.

About Tina

Tina Tippett makes her living as a legal assistant in a busy law firm just outside of Baltimore. She began jotting poetry in the margins of her schoolwork in elementary school and continued to do so through her career as an English major at the University of Maryland.

A single mom, writing often took a backseat to balancing work and home-schooling her two beautiful daughters. After losing her mother in 2001, she rediscovered the cathartic quality of writing and was able to complete her first novel, Dreams of Mother, the following year. A series of life-changing events brought on a writing hiatus which lasted until 2014. That year, she reached back and self-published Dreams of Mother.

Empty-nested within the last year, she’s discovering the conflicting distress and freedom that come with the territory, and with encouragement from her fiancé, she’s spending some of that extra time reconnecting with her muses. She is enjoying re-honing her skills on flash fiction, short stories and writing lyrics with fiancé David, a bluegrass musician.

She remains very close to her two daughters, one of whom is married and pursuing a degree in early childhood education and the other who has a passion for creative writing as well. She currently resides in Eldersburg, Maryland with her fiancé and their senior citizen cat, Max.

Tina is an avid reader of what she wants to write—women’s mainstream literature. She is working on her second novel, and planning her October wedding to her best friend, David.

One of her most treasured material items is the hard copy of Wally Lamb’s I Know This Much is True, which he autographed to her during a speaking engagement in 2014. The inscription reads, “All the best to a fellow scribe. Enjoy the journey.” Placing in the top ten in her first flash fiction contest has bolstered her confidence—she is taking Mr. Lamb’s advice.

----------interview by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

WOW:  Let's dig right in and ask the toughest question first. I'm impressed with your bio, but it leaves me wondering:   How do you juggle a busy career as a legal assistant and your role as a single mom with your passion and love of writing? What advice do you give others who may struggle with time management?

Tina: I struggled for years with time management, which can subconsciously be a good excuse to give in to self-doubt, and I’ve been guilty of that. “Oh, I just don’t have time,” can be your way not to admit, “I don’t feel like it will be good anyway.” Even as a recent empty-nester, my job is so busy and high energy that I struggle to find time. But it helps to prioritize yourself – tell yourself honestly where writing comes on your list of important things in life. As women - moms, employees, spouses, friends - it’s important for women to remind themselves they don’t have to do everything. I’ve found that on my priority list, writing comes just under my family, fiancé and job. The time to write has to be carved from somewhere less important on the list, even if it seems difficult. I may sacrifice a half hour of sleep in the morning before work, or forgo a favorite tv show, or even skip dusting or scrubbing the tub one weekend. The grime and shows will still be there later. Creativity can be fleeting, and the rewards of feeding your passion are endless.

WOW!: Wait, what? We don't have to do everything? Such a common thread with mothers. Thank you for your great advice. Now that we've discussed time, let's talk about space: Where do you write? What does your space look like?

Tina: I probably have this in common with many writers – I do my best work while either driving to work or trying to fall back to sleep at about 2:00a.m. That’s when the phone “memo” or voice recorder works for notes. But when I sit down to turn those sparks from the most inopportune times into fiction, I have an old green recliner that has seen better days that I climb in, laptop in hand. If I need to pause and it’s daylight, I glance out at my bird feeders which calms my mind and often gives me focus.

WOW: Those little creatures can help put us in the right place or should I say "write place"!

What advice would you give to other writers toying with the idea of submitting their work to a writing contest?

Tina: Submitting to WOW was one of the best choices I have made as a writer, and the option of purchasing a critique is great for those struggling with confidence, as I was. It’s an opportunity to learn and grow as a writer. I was invited to join a Facebook closed writers group last year, and it has a bimonthly flash challenge for which I wrote my first ever flash pieces. The admins give feedback and are always available for questions. It began a cycle that is still in motion. Placing in WOW has given me the confidence to keep writing, and I find the more I write, the more I want to write and the easier ideas and words flow. I’d suggest if you’re on the fence about submitting to a contest, edit and polish your best piece until you’re sick of reading your own writing, then jump off that fence on the side of courage. All you have to lose is a generally nominal entry fee, but there is so much to gain.

WOW: Such kind words - thank you! (and dear readers, I didn't pay Tina to say any of that!)

What’s next for you? What are your writing goals for 2018 and beyond?

Tina: I finished my only novella in 2002, after which a series of challenging life events halted writing for many years. Now that I have fallen back in love with writing and do so almost daily, I am vigorously developing characters, plots and taking notes for my next novel I’m toying with the title Trash to Treasure, taken from the adage, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. My goal is to have the first rough completed by year’s end. I’d also like to overcome my fear of query letters and finding an agent, and perhaps seek an agent to take my first book, Dreams of Mother, from its current self-published format to traditional, even if it required a major re-write.

WOW: I figured you were working on something - you don't seem like someone who sits idle.

I must also admit, I am tickled pink about interviewing you. I also have a signed copy of Wally Lamb’s I Know this Much is True – and I’m super jealous that you’ve met him in person. Can you share with us some of what you learned from him and listening to him speak in 2014 as well as your take a ways and how that’s helped you as a writer?

Tina: I’m sure when someone thinks about going to see an author speak, they are prepared for all the mirth and excitement of a silent auction. But Mr. Lamb was humble, warm and very funny. He lends an everyday human aspect to someone whose work I revere. And what I remember best was him describing his process, which I could actually relate to – it helped me overcome my personal doubts about my own process. Where I read so many folks talking about outlines, plot notes, etc., I am far too unstructured to try that. Apparently, so is Wally Lamb. He shared with us something that I relate completely to: he starts where he starts, just an idea, no beginning, climax, or end in mind. An image, a voice needs to be captured, and (hopefully, if you’re lucky) that character tells you what’s coming, or that plot reveals itself to you. I used to tell myself this was creative, but really, I thought I was making an excuse for myself not being well structured or organized. During the writing of We Are Water, he struggled with plot so badly that he described himself sitting in his basement playing with one of those old paddle toys with the pink ball tethered to a string. That image is still so empowering (and humorous) to me –I used to imagine the greats hammering away at a typewriter or keyboard, possessed by muses, plot points painted on a perfect timeline with their character’s names, zodiacs and psychological issues perfectly in their minds. But I learned from Wally Lamb that I might just have this one thing in common with successful and talented writers: some of them just might start with a scrap of an idea, struggle, wing it, and work hard until the craft molds it into a gift. It’s amazing to learn you might be doing something right all along, especially if it works for you.

WOW: This interview has been absolutely such a joy and thank you for sharing your Wally Lamb experience! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas and congratulations again as one of the runners up for the  WOW! Women on Writing Fall '17 Fiction Contest! 

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Angela Mackintosh said...

Great interview, ladies!

Tina ~ I thought your story was beautiful and you have some fantastic lines that have stayed with me, which is always the sign of a powerful piece. Your imagery was perfect, slipping in and out of reality, myth, and memory while dying in the hospital. Gorgeous and well done!

I also use my phone's voice recorder while driving for writing. The Wally Lamb event sounds inspiring! Thank you for sharing that. Also, thank you for your kind words about our contests, and I'm looking forward to reading more of your work!

Renee Roberson said...


Congratulations Tina--your piece was so well done and multi-layered I had to read it more than once to savor it!

Here's a quote from your interview that really struck a chord with me:

“Oh, I just don’t have time,” can be your way not to admit, “I don’t feel like it will be good anyway.”

I think this is something I've felt in my heart for years but didn't want to admit it. Thank you for the nudge!

Crystal Otto said...

Thank you again Tina! Your thoughts and insight are as wonderful as your contest entry!

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