Interview with Maja Scheler: 2018 Fall Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Tuesday, April 30, 2019
Maja’s Bio:

Maja Scheler has returned to the page.

After graduating from Oregon State University in 2015 with a Liberal Arts degree focused on creative writing and Spanish language, Scheler birthed three novel-humans within three years. Her most accomplished works to date are wiping derriéres at NASCAR speed and managing a 24hr buffet for her three sons and Oregonian husband.

Jokes aside, with the encouragement of a few published write-ups already floating around cyber space, Scheler started writing again in the summer of 2018.

Words and their power to tell an evoking story have always been among Scheler’s chief joys in life.

Exposed is her debut flash fiction. If you haven’t read it yet, click through here and then come back to learn from Maja’s writing insights.

WOW: What inspired you to write Exposed?

Maja: My very first draft for Exposed was written in the beginning of 2015 for a class I was taking in college. The piece was the result of my subconscious. About six months prior, my husband and I drove cross-country, traveling through Native American reservations and visiting several National Parks: Olympic, Banff, Glacier and Yellowstone. When we were in Yellowstone, I remember being in a constant state of wonder. I’d look out into the valleys with its mountainous backdrop and I could see them, like ghosts in their former days. I thought a lot about the history of Native Americans throughout that entire trip.

Six months later when I was required to write a 500-word story for class, I woke up one morning and wrote it all down before getting out of bed. I wrote it initially as a soliloquy of Raven’s life, and how she viewed her home, the land. I realized then that I was debriefing my travels. Images of what I had seen were coming back to me, and the rest unfurled in an effort to answer deeper questions I didn’t know I had. Later my professor said she wanted to know more of Raven’s story, and that got me thinking, what was her story?

WOW: That leads us into my next questions. How else did this story change during the rewrite process?

Maja: I picked the story back up for the first time since 2015 last summer (2018). The story began to change when I started to explore Raven’s relationship with her brother. When I read through the soliloquy-style narrative, dialogue happened, and then scenes and flash backs began to flesh out for me. Adding the dialogue and backstory gave my characters a life force; and the more I spent time with them, the more invigorating the revision process became for me.

WOW: In some ways the ending feels so dark since she doesn’t survive. How did you choose this as the essential ending for this story?

Maja: I find it interesting that you say she doesn’t survive. I’ve really enjoyed hearing different take-aways other readers have experienced from this story. I only edited a few words in the last two paragraphs from my original draft. My goal with it was to leave it open ended, to whet the appetite of the reader to wonder about what happens to Raven, when she is ultimately found out. She clearly expects to die, and chooses to accept that fate. But does she actually die? Or is she taken back to the palefaces’ camp? Does she assimilate or is she forced to assimilate? Does she discover that she is not the last of her kind, but just one of many held hostage? What really becomes of her is a question I’m still asking myself. Although these questions may not be in the back of every reader’s mind, I wanted the ending to be haunting, because the history is haunting.

WOW: That’s amazing. It’s like an inkblot test. What are your short term writing goals? What do you hope to accomplish this year? Do you have long term, such as five year, goals? If so, what are they?

Maja: My current short term goal is to finish the first draft of a manuscript I began loosely last summer and more assertively since the New Year. My next short term goals would be to write another flash fiction, and find homes for some already finished work. In five years, I aim to publish a novel and have a collection of flash fiction/short stories. Overall, my long term goal is to keep showing up to the page and write every day.

WOW: What do you hope that our readers take away from your own flash fiction writing experience? What advice do you have for other writers who are new to this journey?

Maja: Gosh, well, one take away from my own experience would be to work with your subconscious. Don’t think; just write. Sometimes this is best done as soon as you wake up. But I’ve also found it helpful to write a few pages whenever I feel that my mind is cramped. When I’m trying to produce words for my novel, but can’t for some reason, I pull out my notebook and write whatever comes to me until I feel as the “dishwasher” of my brain is unloaded. It’s like detoxing your thoughts so you can come to your piece fresh. This is an effective way to rid yourself of that To-Do list that tries to make you do everything else but write.

And for those who are just starting out, take the journey as it comes. After finishing school in 2015, I took a hiatus from writing and started a family. I had three sons within three years, and I was afraid I would never rise above the fog of mommy brain to string two words together again, but in due time— my oldest just turned four.

Since then, I’ve learned that there is no substitute for getting words out. I’ve given myself permission to write atrociously in faith that something worth keeping will emerge. So whether it is typing or writing longhand, writing daily or even a few times throughout the week is vital. I also learned to not take the advice of other writers as anything more than just an idea to try. What works for some, may not work for others. I’ve been experimenting a ton with this, and have learned a lot about myself through the process. If you don’t already know what works best for you, experiment and you’ll discover it.

More advice would be to guard your writing time and befriend Thesaurus. Making time to write and viewing that time as sacred is indispensable. This will require you to say no— a lot; but think of it as a pre-scheduled date with a friend, your friend Thesaurus. With that said, there is a sincere joy hidden in a list of vocabulary words that are new to you.

And lastly, perspective is everything. As a mother, writing often feels selfish. And when I feel torn by this emotional perspective, I remind myself of something my husband wrote to me in letter once: To create is to celebrate the Creator. This to me removes the stress of having to produce something of immediate worth and to have fun by allowing my writing process be an act of celebration of creativity. It’s not about comparing or achieving. It’s about recognizing that we all have stories to share and tell, but only you can tell the story that’s within you your way. And to me that’s a gift from the Divine worth celebrating.

WOW: What a great quote from your husband! And so much excellent advice for women who are feeling guilty about creating the time and the space to write. Thank you for encouraging our readers and good luck with your planned projects. We are all looking forward to seeing more of your writing in the future.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Sue--Thanks for doing this interview.

Maja--Congratulations on earning a spot as a runner-up. I know the competition is fierce when it comes to WOW contests.

I enjoyed your story. It IS haunting. The way white people treated Native Americans makes me wonder: what would our country be like if we hadn't done everything we could to make them disappear... forever?

Congrats again, and good luck with your future writing.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Maja ~ I love that "Exposed" was a result of your subconscious! I'm currently reading Robert Olen Butler's From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction about the process of unconscious writing and "dreamstorming"--the entire process is fascinating, and if you are working on your subconscious, I recommend this book. I learned about it in Naomi Kimbell's Long-Form MFA Class. Your story, "Exposed" is haunting, and I love that readers interpret different things. That's what makes it so personal to each reader, like poetry or a lyric essay, which is my favorite type of writing. :)

Your writing advice is right on! There is no substitute for getting the words out. I feel like women have more of a hard time than men do taking time to write. I love that your husband encourages you. The writing process itself and having words on the page is pure joy. Comparison is the death of writing. And I'm all about slow writing! I sometimes dislike writing, but love having written! :)

Good luck with your writing, and I hope to read more of your gorgeous prose. :) Cheers!

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