Interview with Rebecca Song, 2nd Place Winner in Summer 2018 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, January 29, 2019
Rebecca was an English teacher before developing ME/CFS. She was privileged to help young teens wrestle with big questions, stretch their intellectual limbs, and find their written voice. While her illness forced her to relinquish her vocation as a teacher, being sick has also been a gift, teaching her how to live with far greater presence and loving-kindness. She’s only just dusting off her own practice as a writer, but as she’d tell her students, Rebecca believes wrapping language around our experiences is one of the greatest (if most impossible) tasks we can undertake. We are sentient tourists in a multiverse with newborn fingernails and undersea volcanoes; we have ancestors who were shamans and atoms in our bodies that were crafted among the stars. “Who am I to write?” is not for us to ask. Who are we not to write?

Please read Rebecca's eye-opening story, The Change, and then come back here to learn more about the author.

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

WOW: Rebecca, thank you for being here and welcome! I love your mantra about "who are we NOT to write?" Well said. You've shown that you are adept at writing fleshed out and compelling flash fiction. Do you also like to write longer fiction pieces or creative nonfiction? What is your favorite form and why?

Rebecca: Most of my work consists of long-form short stories. This is my first flash fiction piece, and it's also my first time sending a story "out"! I really appreciate WOW giving me an entryway into this form.

WOW: That's wonderful that you made such an impact with your first flash fiction piece! We look forward to seeing even more of your work in the future. Your bio states that you have ME/CFS. Can you explain a little more about your illness and how it has impacted your life?

Rebecca: I went from being someone who rode their bike to and from work, who was consumed by her (beloved) vocation as a high school English teacher, and who would regularly spend until the early hours of the morning writing to being someone who on bad days can barely tolerate light, sound, or movement. Clearly this changed a lot about my attitude toward life, but it also changed my writing. I have to treat myself with more compassion than ever before, and this means I'm much less of a perfectionist. It's no coincidence that I only sent my first story out after getting sick; before that, my Inner Critic would get ahold of my work, and nothing was never "good enough" to release into the world. So while I can't write as much as I used to, when I do I'm a lot less inhibited and critical of my work, which is a tremendous gift.

WOW: I'm so sorry to hear that your illness has robbed of you of a vocation you loved, but hopefully writing will help you with the healing process. "The Change" is a metaphorical and lyrical look at the metamorphosis of a young woman named Teresa. How did you first come up with this idea, and what was the writing and editing process like for it?

Rebecca: Most of my stories come from asking myself "what-if" questions. In this case, a friend was telling me about her experiences of sexism as a female software engineer, and I thought to myself, "What if she wasn't a woman...what if she wasn't a human at all but something else? How would her experience change?" and the ridiculous but fun idea of having a young woman turn into a powerful animal came from that chain of thought. I definitely overwrote on my first draft. Having the flash fiction constraint was helpful because then I could cut the weaker material and focus on what the story absolutely needed.

WOW: Flash fiction definitely limits any story to only the most important aspects! What books are on your wish list to read right now?

Rebecca: The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry (The NYT called this "part ghost story and part natural history lesson, part romance and part feminist parable" so it sounded like something I needed in my life) and Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (A) It's Lauren Groff and B) NYT Book Review praises its "comedy, tragedy, erudition, and unmistakable glimmers of brilliance throughout," which sounds like tremendous fun to me).

WOW: Those sound fascinating--thank you to alerting us to these! If you had had one piece of advice to give to a writer just starting out (young or old) what would you say?

Rebecca: Write about characters who interest you. What keeps me writing (and writing things that surprise myself) is wanting to find out what happens to these odd fictional friends I've created.

WOW: That seems like a perfect piece of wisdom to end this interview. We wish you the best of luck with  your writing and your health.



Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--Thanks for doing this interview.

Rebecca--Later today, I'll follow the link and read your flash fiction piece. However, just reading your bio and your journey as a writer makes me think you MUST write your memoir, even if it's in vignettes that you piece together. (Perhaps you're already doing this. I don't mean to presume. I don't mean to nudge. Oh wait. I DO mean to nudge. ;) Other people who are struggling with all sorts of obstacles--depression, anxiety, etc.--would benefit from reading your story.

Good luck, and I'll read your winning piece later on.

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