Meet Kristen Olsen, Spring 2018 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Tuesday, October 16, 2018
Kristen Olsen lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her husband and cat. After practicing law for 17 years, she’s now on a creative sabbatical. Kristen studied creative writing at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Madeline Island School of the Arts and through Her flash fiction has been published on the website (prize winner) and in the online literary journals Panoply and Exposition Review. Kristen loves writing flash fiction and short stories and is working on revisions to her second novel. Besides writing, she enjoys going to the YWCA and volunteering at a performing arts center for actors with disabilities. Follow Kristen on Twitter @kolsenjd.

Check out Kristen's thought-provoking story "Dandelion" here and then return to see how Kristen's explores real life through fiction.

----------Interview by Renee Roberson

WOW: You are one busy lady, having practiced law AND studied creative writing in a number of places. What has been the most beneficial part of participating in such programs?

Kristen: Legal writing is very different from writing fiction. For instance, in writing legal briefs, emotion is a big no-no, but readers of fiction want to feel. Writing classes helped me understand the craft of fiction, as well as story structure.

WOW: Having read a few of your flash fiction stories (loved "The Truth of the Evening" over at I'm sensing a theme or epiphany you may have had after you had established a career in law. Could you share some of that wisdom with our readers?

Kristen: I had a lot of false starts early in life and went to law school in my thirties. Shortly after I began practicing law, I also started creative writing. I think I needed to establish a strong structure in my life (both as a career and my internal sense of self) before it felt safe enough to start asking the bigger questions. I was on a writing retreat on Madeline Island in Lake Superior when it became clear to me that my outer life no longer matched who I was inside. It took three years after that (which weren't comfortable) to make an internal and external transition to letting my law job (and part of my identity) go. I don't believe there are any shortcuts. The wisdom is to listen to your insides, and take the name you need, but follow those big dreams.

WOW: That is such sage advice! We are so glad you are continuing to follow those big dreams and encourage others to do so as well. What do you think is the most important thing to focus on when writing flash fiction?

Kristen: Flash fiction is a little like poetry in that you need to use image and language to reveal a character and emotion in very few words. I try to focus on one emotion that I want to communicate and find one primary image throughout the story to help evoke it.

WOW: That's a great way of looking at writing flash fiction. Could you share a little bit of what the novel you're currently revising is about?

Kristen:  I'm turning the flash fiction story you mentioned above into a full-length novel. It's about a burned out lawyer in Chicago who, while on a road trip to Arizona with her aunt, realizes the life she's been living no longer fits her, and she needs to find her way back to herself.

WOW: Good luck with that novel! Those characters instantly came alive in that story so I have a feeling you're on to something there. What have been some of your favorite moments volunteering at the performing arts center for actors with disabilities?

Kristen: As a volunteer, I participate in everything the actors do, such as improvisations, theater games, and singing. My favorite moments are when each actor shares who they are inside. My first day, an actor came up to me and said "don't worry about how good you are. Just try, that's what's important." She can never remember my name, but she could tell that day I was a little nervous and wanted to reassure me. Another time, one of the actors led the group in a warm-up tai chi exercise that was so beautiful, it blew me away. One of the center's slogans is "work with your quirk." That's a good message for everybody.

WOW: Thanks again for chatting with us today, Kristen, and we look forward to reading more of your work!


Angela Mackintosh said...

What an inspiring interview! Great questions, Renee. :)

Kristen ~ I love your story because it's so relatable and I've felt the same way at almost every job I've had. The pull between working to make a living and following your heart. I'm really interested in your novel! Also, thank you for sharing that quote from the actor in your last question. As a perfectionist, I need to remember that.

I'll have to check out your other flash! Good luck on your novel. :)

Mary Horner said...

Thanks for the great interview Renee!

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