Interview with Linda Petrucelli, 1st Place Winner in Fall 2018 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, March 05, 2019
For most of her adult life, Linda Petrucelli has lived on islands—Taiwan, Manhattan and Hawaii. Her article, “Listening for the Tao in Eight Tones,” a personal essay about learning how to speak Taiwanese, appeared in the book, Language Crossings: Negotiating the Self in a Multicultural World. A feminist theologian and ordained minister, Linda holds theological degrees from Yale Divinity School and Chicago Theological Seminary; she believes the best fiction is revelatory. Her writer’s mantra is—Bad Choices Make The Best Stories. Linda writes from her home on the Kohala Coast in Hawi, Hawaii. She posts her flash fiction at

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on your first place win in our Fall 2018 Flash Fiction competition! What inspired you to enter the contest?

Linda: Thank you, Marcia. This is a thrilling moment in my life. When I started writing fiction, I needed feedback. I’d email my tiny stories to family and friends, wait to hear from them, and then wonder about their polite responses. As a minister, when I deliver a homily I’ve written, I know immediately whether it’s any good or not by the comments after the service at the door and whether I noticed anyone snoozing in the pews. I began entering the WOW! Contests for the critiques. I wanted to hear how an impartial reader experienced my words. The critiques I received often validated my own intuitive sense of what was wrong or right about a story (so helpful!) and provided a friendly voice encouraging me to keep writing. Entering WOW! Contests was one of the first steps I took to widen my circle of readers. I am so grateful there are quarterly contests…and critiques.

WOW: Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, “Figure Eight on the Waves?”

Linda: I was at a garage sale one Saturday. An elderly lady was clearing out her house so she could move in with her daughter. At one of the tables, I discovered a carefully folded swath of old Japanese cloth and fell in love with it. I’ve been to indigo-dye workshops in Japan before and recognized the artistry in the fabric. The woman sold it to me for a dollar. As I rode home that morning, I held the material in my hands and it seemed lightning struck. Soon afterwards, I began to craft a little tale of all the people who had benefited from its generous and utilitarian beauty. Also—I recently retired from serving a rural, Japanese-American congregation founded in the late 1800’s to serve migrant plantation workers. My octogenarian Japanese-American parishioners also inspired this story, especially the women, whose fierce frugality taught me to never waste a thing.

WOW:: We’d love to know more about your writing routines. Could you tell us when and where you usually write? Do you have favorite tools or habits that get you going?

Linda: Almost every day around 4 am, I go from my bed, to the coffeemaker and then to my desk where I automatic write on a computer for about 20 minutes. This loosens me up, and often I discover ideas for stories when I reread my entries. I do most of my writing on a laptop. If I feel myself losing steam, I’ll do 10-minute freewrites sitting in different places in my house. When I start a story though, I begin with pen and paper so I can be as messy and unfettered as possible. After I’ve written for a while, I’ll take a short break and then see what I wrote, circling the words and phrases that create a little zing inside me. Then I take those little gems I’ve mined, type them into a new doc and go from there—freewriting and looking for the little zings each time I get stuck, dissatisfied, or can’t see my way forward.

WOW: You mentioned that your writer’s mantra is, “Bad choices make the best stories.” Where did that idea come from? It seems like it would be a good guide for fiction writing!

Linda: Last year I happened to be in the Honolulu airport waiting for a return flight to the Big Island and a young man (very hip-looking) walked past me. He was wearing a T-shirt with the slogan, Bad choices make the best stories, and I laughed out loud. Then and there I claimed it as my mantra. And yes, it’s true about fiction that only “trouble” is interesting.

WOW: Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Linda! Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?

Linda: Contests are good things. With their deadlines and promise of reward, contests offer strong motivation to complete pieces, go public, and become part of a community of other aspiring writers. Enter as many as possible!


For more information about our quarterly Flash Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Essay contests, visit our contest page here.


Kristin Lenz said...

Congrats, Linda! It was great to learn more about you and your writing inspirations.

Linda Petrucelli said...

Dear Kristin-- Photosynthesis is an awesome story! Congratulations to you, too. Sending you aloha.

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