Interview with Rachelle Allen, Winter 2018 Flash Fiction Runner Up

Tuesday, June 26, 2018
Rachelle’s Bio:

Rachelle Allen teaches private voice, flute, and piano lessons weekly to seventy beloved students in their homes. She lives in East Rochester, New York, with her husband, Bobby, and likes writing stories that offer unexpected endings.

In 2012, she placed 50th in the Annual Writer’s Digest Competition for non-fiction, and her story, “A Second Chance For Randall,” was published in The Storyteller Magazine.

She loves that her life is comprised of all the best commodities on the planet: children, music, reading, and writing.

You are going to want to take the time to read Rachelle’s story, "Leopard," before moving on to her interview.

WOW: What was your inspiration for Leopard?

Rachelle: So, my inspiration for Leopard came one day when I was separating my laundry...into - yes, it's true- lights, darks, and leopard.

WOW: You and I both find that inspiration can come at any time.  How do you handle it when inspiration strikes in the middle of a chore or some other activity?

Rachelle: I keep a pen and small notebook nearby at all times so I don't forget ideas that pop into my head. I did that the morning of my laundry epiphany, and then let various scenarios steep in my mind throughout the day. I've loved (and worn) leopard apparel for decades now, and I've grown accustomed to the comments I receive. So my McGuffin became: What if someone who was never used to hearing positive comments about her outfits suddenly began to receive them? And that's how my story came to life.

WOW: Obviously it was a heady experience. What was the most difficult thing about writing this story?

Rachelle: The most difficult thing was making the protagonist understandable and likable despite her extreme behavior. There's a thin line between "Relatably Unbalanced" and "Just Plain Crazy," and for this story to work, our girl needed to be enjoyable on both sides of it. The minute we read that it's taken her forty-one years to get noticed by anyone in her life, we begin to melt for this poor woman. Who can't relate to feeling invisible on some scale?

Then, when the unraveling escalates, our knee-jerk reaction is to cringe and turn away, and break our connection with her. But because we feel for her, what we do, despite ourselves, is witness the hilarious horror that unfolds and listen to the tiny voice whisper in our head, "You know, this is not altogether impossible."

Because, after all, who among us doesn't have a breaking point?

WOW: We are often told that art imitates life. How do elements of your life, such as your teaching, music or students, make their way into your stories?

Rachelle: I've written an entire book about it that I've been shopping to agents for awhile now. It's entitled "Lessons in the Key of Life" and is comprised of vignettes from all my years in the creative and performing arts. Before teaching voice, flute, and piano, I choreographed shows and taught dance for twelve years.

"Lessons in the Key of Life" features actual experiences I've had as a teacher- some funny, some poignant, some inspiring and deep - and at the end of each vignette, in bold type, the universal truth, i.e. "lesson," I learned from it.

In fiction pieces I've written, I've used character traits, some admirable, some not, of mentors and students who have touched my life.

WOW: What advice do you have for our readers about balancing work and writing?

Rachelle: I've found that writing is like any other discipline: it requires DAILY practice. If I have limited time - and, with traveling to seventy students' homes each week, this is the case a lot - then I at least make time for an entry in my Fly on the Wall Journal, where I write about something I noticed or experienced that day that kept it from being ordinary.

Today, for example, I was at the check-out counter at the Dollar Store, facing a wall with lettering the size of North America that read: EVERYTHING'S A DOLLAR!!! The cashier proceeded to hold up my first item and shout to her manager, "BOB!!! HOW MUCH IS THIS?" I'm serious! I leaned in and whisper to her, "Um, I think it's a dollar," which caused her to glower at me and hiss, "Well some things are TWO for a dollar." "Ooooookay!" I responded, cowed. Bob shouted back, "IT'S A DOLLAR!"

See what I mean? There is always something to write about, so don't let yourself miss the opportunities that present themselves.

WOW: You are definitely a pro at finding slices of life worth writing down. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to encourage us all to look for stories everywhere we go. And congratulations yet again on placing in the contest.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Sue--Thanks for doing this interview.

Rachelle--First, I cannot imagine you teaching 70 lessons every week. That must keep you extremely busy. My son took trumpet lessons, but we went to the trumpet teacher's house. How do you carve out writing time?

I enjoyed your story. Yes, after so many years, when pushed, people DO have a breaking point. (I hope she gets to wear her leopard evening gloves to dinner in prison. It's only fitting.)

Good luck with your book. It sounds like you're persistent and determined enough to get it published.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Great interview, ladies!

Rachelle: OMG, that dollar store story is hilarious, and I've actually experienced the same thing, so I wonder if it's a normal occurrence. In my case it was the 99 Cents Only store and sometimes they have things that are higher priced, like $1.99, which totally doesn't make sense...

I adored your story, and you nailed the balance, for sure! That's super tough to do. Your protag certainly kicked it up a notch, but I related to her as a leopard print fan myself. ;)

Your book sounds fascinating, and I love that each vignette explores a universal truth. I can't imagine 70 lessons a week either. I can see why you have some interesting stories! Definitely try querying Jen Chen Tran since you have an introduction.

Daily writing is something I'd love to do. I've been writing a lot lately, but not every day. I usually pick at least one or two days and go for a longer writing session.

Thanks for the interview, and I look forward to reading more of your work! :)

Renee Roberson said...


I LOVED your story. I was smiling the entire time I was reading it and let out a big cackle at the end. Well done! I also laughed at the Dollar Store story. Priceless! My 15-year-old daughter plays the flute and piccolo so I have the utmost respect for your work as a music teacher, and yes the vignettes sound amazing! Wishing you continued success with your writing. Thanks, also, Sue, for some great interview questions!

Rachelle Allen said...

Thank you, Sioux, Angela, and Renee, for your comments and feedback. I've been away, so yesterday was my first time seeing them.

About your question, Sioux, for how I carve out writing time, it's not nearly as tough as it may sound. I'm in a different student's house every weekday morning at 7, and so most mornings, I'm back home by 8:45, which gives me a nice chunk of time to write before lessons resume at either 2:30 or 3:00, depending on the day. I work all day on Saturday, so my writing that day is relegated to when Bobby and I return home from dinner, after 8 pm.

Angela, we think the same: I did query Jen Chen Tran and am waiting -with fingers crossed- to hear back.

And Renee - a piccolo player in the family, eh? That is one difficult instrument to be on the 'listening' end of, is it not?! One of my floutists also plays piccolo, and she laughs when I hand us both earplugs before she begins. Definitely not meant as a solo instrument! Oy.

Thank you again, Friends, for taking the time to comment here. xo

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