Today we are chatting with Pam Maddin Baker, one of the runners up in the Winter 2018 Flash Fiction contest. If you haven’t had the chance to yet, “The Fire,” then come back and read her interview below.
After recently retiring from three decades of teaching in both elementary and high school, Pam realized she no longer had a captive audience to listen to her stories. So, needing to continue her passion, she decided to start writing them down. Her degrees in Theater Arts and English Literature have proven useful in developing believable characters and composition. She also relies on family and friends who are always willing to provide feedback on her work. Thanks to all that support, she has been published online in the magazines, Story Quilt, and Canadian Stories, as well as in previous WOW! flash fiction contests. She is an avid member and contributor to TheNextBigWriter community and Ottawa Independent Writers group.
Pam has a strong passion for social justice issues and animal rights. These themes weave themselves into much of her writing. She often finds inspiration for stories while riding her bike around her home city of Ottawa, Canada or as a snowbird in the ocean city of Venice, Florida. Luckily, she doesn’t try to write them down until she stops riding.
Visit her website at writingmylifeawayblog.wordpress.com.
WOW: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today! I was so moved by your story “The Fire.” What was the inspiration behind your story?
"The Fire” is based on an event that happened in my home city of Ottawa, Canada. Just days after a new park had been completed for the children of a disadvantaged neighbourhood, a young man was tragically shot and killed in a gang murder. The shooting was particularly shocking as it occurred just as the children were arriving home from school. Local residents were horrified by the act, but the next day a group of mothers in the community organized a protest. I was very touched by their bravery. Despite the possible danger of even being out on the street, they decided to speak out and demand changes for the security of their neighbourhood. Many of them had already fled their own countries to escape war and violence. I decided to write the story from the point of view of one of the women who had escaped war in Somalia. I researched what might have happened to her before she came to Canada and tried to imagine how she would have acted and felt.
WOW: That is absolutely incredible you based this on a real event that happened. So, you mentioned in your bio that you have a passion for social justice. How does that passion influence your writing?
When I write about situations that are unjust, I feel more powerful in dealing with the issues. I hope the story leads other people to empathize with the characters in the story. Having to flee a home country, living in poverty, dealing with gun violence — these are the realities for many people who are just trying to do their best to make a good life for their families. Writing is my way of expressing support for those that need it.
WOW: I love that you use your writing to show support for those in unjust situations. And I couldn’t help but notice your story coincides with a troubling theme of shooting violence that seems to be happening more and more. What do you hope people take away from your story?
My story takes place in Canada where the laws for purchasing and carrying firearms are more restrictive than those in the United States. Yet, gun violence is currently on the rise in our cities. Communities are trying to stand up to the violence and demand better supports. Acknowledging the problem is an important step towards solving it. Children have the right to live and play in a safe community. We need to do whatever is possible to protect that security.
WOW: I absolutely agree. 100%. So, what are your writing goals? What are you working on at the moment?
Pam: Currently, I’m exploring different styles of writing. I am really enjoying focusing on short stories and flash fiction. I also have a couple of larger projects I 'm working on. One is a novel about a young Maya woman in Mexico struggling to support her family. Another is a memoir recounting times growing up with one of my best friends. She passed away from cancer and I find the writing a good way for me to express my feelings and preserve my memories of her.
WOW: What a way to honor your friend! I love how you use your writing for a greater purpose, whether it’s to honor someone or help people find justice. What advice do you have for writers interested in writing flash fiction?
Flash fiction can be a lot of fun! Telling a full story within such a tight word limit is difficult, but it pushes the author to keep the writing concise. Finding the right words and images is part of the challenge of creating an emotional impact. I find it invaluable to have someone listen to my story and give feedback on what works and what could use revision. I am lucky to have some dependable friends who listen tirelessly to my many edits. (My thanks to Gary, Joann and Victoria!)
Having supportive people who will read and give you feedback means so much! Thank you again for taking the time to chat with us today and congratulations on your story.
Be sure to find Pam over at her blog writingmylifeawayblog.wordpress.com
-- Interview by Nicole Pyles