Interview with Robyn Russo: Spring 2018 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Robyn’s Bio:

Robyn Russo ponders life and writes about it from Austin, TX. She studied Human Relations at the University of Texas, a field she chose primarily because it involved gobs of writing. Her fascination with interpersonal communication and her tendency to play devil’s advocate shape her storytelling goal—fostering empathy in situations where initial reaction might be condemnation. Robyn earns a living as a technical writer, leads a creative writing group, and contributes regularly to a blog about progressive faith. A member of the Writer’s League of Texas and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, she can be contacted at robynrussowriter[at]gmail[dot]com or followed on Instagram @writerrobyn. When you can’t find her, it’s because she’s holed away with a great book and a bottle of red. She’ll resurface when done.

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

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the Spring Flash Fiction Contest! What excited you most about writing this story?

Robyn: Originally, I’d written it in third person, which led the protagonist to be seen as cold. Flipping it around into first person submerged me into her mind so that I could create a little history for her in order to draw the necessary clues for her backstory, describe her thought process. As for the topic, I think it’s a situation many young girls find themselves in—lonely so that any attention they get is welcomed but misinterpreted. They have to decide what they’ll do to keep that connection, even if it’s unhealthy.

WOW: A little perspective shift can make a huge difference. Did you learn anything about yourself or your writing while crafting this piece?

Robyn: I learned that stepping away from a piece at the right point in the editing process can be invigorating. A piece needs space to breathe and it’s hard to give it that when you look at it constantly. Step back, think about something else for a few days. When you come back, you may be pleasantly surprised with the results—a new idea, a solution to a creativity roadblock, or the ability to see the flaws.

WOW: Great insight into your process! You also received an honorable mention in this contest for your story "Seeing Red." How does that compare to "Whiskey Friends"? What excited you about “Seeing Red”?

Robyn: I’m proud of both for different reasons. They are completely different stories in subject matter, pacing, emotions. Both show my breadth as a writer so I’m excited that “Seeing Red” also advanced in the competition.

“Whiskey Friends” challenged my ability more because I had to drizzle in the little details about her past/current situation showing the reader why she was in the situation she was in. That was really hard to do in 750 words. And I still find myself editing it to make it better! “Seeing Red” is a scary snapshot of postpartum depression, which doesn’t necessarily have a drawn-out backstory.

Also, I think the content of “Whiskey Friends” draws a lot of opinions and judgement to what she did or was willing to do. The world right now is filled with finger-pointing, judging each other, and I think we could all use a bit more perspective.

WOW: Thanks for that comparison, and congratulations again on your success with both stories. What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it?

Robyn: I’m reading Dani Shapiro’s first novel Playing with Fire. I’ve read a couple of her memoirs and follow her on Instagram. Her prose is just great—beautiful, clean, insightful. You can tell she works each word/phrase repeatedly till she hits on just the right one, a trait I admire and aspire towards. So, I’m checking out her fiction now.

WOW: If you could give your younger self one piece of writing advice, what would it be and why?

Robyn: Write as often as possible because it’s exercise for the brain. Journaling, free writing, whatever, just write. Because writing is work, it takes dedication, practice. Getting used to writing anything and everything trains your brain to respond quicker. You’ll get comfortable with the fact that not everything you write is (or has to be) perfect. So, when you stare at the blank screen, it’s less intimidating to spout off imperfect prose.

WOW: Awesome advice! Thank you for sharing that with us. Anything else you’d like to add?

Robyn: The critiques were beyond helpful. The feedback was invaluable, always delivered in a constructive, supportive way. I’ve submitted to other contests that do not offer that option and it sucks not knowing where I’m missing the mark. Thanks WOW!

WOW: Thank you again for sharing your stories and for your other 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.


Angela Mackintosh said...

Great interview, ladies!

Robyn ~ Wow, your story has so many layers! It's so interesting to discover that you wrote it in third person and switched to first. You chose the perfect perspective because it allows us to feel for your protagonist. I love the way you've given us hints into her backstory, and she's a flawed character, which I appreciate because it's human and realistic. Excellent work!

I read my first Dani Shapiro book recently--her fragmented memoir, Hourglass--and I loved it. Her prose is gorgeous, and I appreciated the format of the book. There are so many passages I've highlighted for quotes. If you get a chance, check it out.

Great advice to write as often as possible! We do get better with practice, and I agree that it does not have to be perfect.

Thanks for the interview! :)

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