“Figure Eight on the Waves,” won first place in the WOW! Women on Writing Fall ’18 Flash Fiction Contest. Her poetry and fiction appear in the Spring 2019 issue of KYSO Flash and Flash Fiction Magazine. Linda writes from her home on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island. These days she’s working on a memoir about her search for Shiro Sokabe, the Saint of Honomu. You can find her flash fiction at jackrabbitfiction.com.
----------interview by Renee Roberson
Read Linda's award-winning story here and then return to learn more about her writing process and where she finds inspiration.
WOW: Your story, “Figure Eight on the Waves,” placed first in WOW’s 2018 Fall Flash Fiction Contest. How was the process of writing “Poi Dog” different from the writing of your previous win?
Linda: “Figure Eight on the Waves” was inspired by a vintage swath of cloth I discovered at a yard sale. When I picked it up, its beauty and utilitarian artistry sent tingles through my fingertips. The cloth took on a life of its own as I envisioned the stories of all the people who came into contact with it. The characters and their lives just flowed from my pen and it was if I could hear the voice of the narrator in my head.
The telling of “Poi Dog” (and to be honest, the majority of my writing) wasn’t nearly so fluent. The story of the relationship between the grandmother and granddaughter made multiple appearances in my journal. It took several weeks to craft the story, and finally I re-wrote it in 1st person POV after struggling with it in the 3rd person. In fact, I’m still tinkering with the ending!
There is also a similarity between the two stories—the humble majesty of fabric. To me, textiles, an art traditionally but not exclusively practiced by women, is a powerful symbol of the inextricable warp and woof of humanity.
WOW: You write a lot of flash fiction and even have a blog designated to showcasing it. What attracts you to this form of writing specifically?
Linda: Flash fiction’s brevity appeals to the minimalist in me—and the appreciation that short works of art can deliver a sharper punch than long ones. It’s also fun to see that what I leave out from a story may be more significant than what I include.
Word restriction, the hallmark of flash fiction, seems to help my storytelling. The compression creates tension that as a beginning writer of fiction, I might clumsily dilute in a longer form. There’s a lot I like about short-shorts—nowadays, there’s so many forums to read them and so many great writers. I especially like that the form encourages innovation and experimentation.
WOW: Do you prefer reading fiction or nonfiction and why?
Linda: This is impossible for me to answer as an either or—I just love to read. And I include poetry in my reading list, too. This year I have been reading a lot of memoir, as I’ve been studying and learning how to write that genre. I’ve found that the best memoirs I’ve read all utilize narrative techniques. Fiction does transport me into a world. I love that experience of being immersed in a character’s life, a place, a time. But nonfiction has that power, too.
WOW: That is so true. I believe it's important for us all to read a variety of literature--even things we normally wouldn't be drawn to at first. From the opening lines of “Poi Dog,” the voice of the main narrator is innocent yet authentic. Where did you first get the idea for this story?
Linda: The basis of this story was autobiographical and made several appearances in my writer’s journal before it came to its present form. The story’s origin evolved from childhood experiences of being bullied and the spiritual grace of my grandmother. I used to sleep on a pull-out couch in the front room of her tiny apartment and just before I would drift off to sleep, I could hear her pray for me in Italian. My imagination was also sparked by the Hawaiian tutu I know from my church—their humor, their faith, their stalwart love of family—who also reminded me of my own grandmother.
WOW: You’ve mentioned before that you enjoy entering contests specifically with critiques. As a writer, what do you look for in a good writing critique from a judge?
Linda: I tend not to trust critiques that overpraise or sugarcoat a response. I like judges that can point out deficiencies and then make suggestions for how I might fix the problem and improve the story. I appreciate judges who can comment on the big picture by pointing out concrete details in the manuscript.
Some of the most probing critiques I’ve received simply asked a few questions about my purpose in telling the story. Always appreciated is an encouraging word and the attitude that we’re in this together.
WOW: Linda, thank you so much for this insightful interview and we can't wait to read more of your work!