Interview with Patricia Donovan, Spring 2019 Flash Fiction Contest 1st Place Winner

Tuesday, September 03, 2019
Patricia Perry Donovan is an American journalist and author of two novels of domestic suspense published by Lake Union: At Wave’s End (2017) and Deliver Her (2016). She has nearly completed a third, Her Own Best Interests, a family drama with a dose of medical intrigue set on Spain’s Costa del Sol. The story follows burnt-out social worker Aida Bischoff, who, while in Marbella for her husband’s medical conference, grapples with the disappearance of a wealthy American surgeon, the five-year-old daughter the surgeon left in Aida’s care, and a loved one’s baffling illness whose origins threaten to infect Aida’s marriage.

Her short story, “Still Life,” was awarded second place in Women on Writing’s Winter 2018 Flash Fiction competition, and her fiction has appeared in several literary journals. She is a member of the Jersey Shore Writers and enjoys mentoring aspiring writers, including several whose work has been recognized in recent WOW! Women on Writing contests.

Patricia and her husband have two grown daughters and live at the Jersey shore with Diesel, their senior-aged Yorkie. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or visit

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on your first place win in our Spring 2019 Flash Fiction competition! What inspired you to enter the contest?

Patricia: I’m a huge fan of WOW! Women on Writing contests—-so much so I encourage several writers I mentor to enter. I’m proud to say all have made it through at least the first round of elimination. WOW contest genre choices, word count, entry fee, contest frequency and limit on the number of entries make it very attractive proposition for writers. And with its framework of writing craft and writer interviews, WOW! offers a supporting and inspiring haven for women writers.

WOW: Thank you for the kind words about WOW! Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, “The Everyday”?

Patricia: My second novel, AT WAVE’S END, was inspired by living through Hurricane Sandy at the Jersey Shore. The novel ends about a year following the storm, but the real story didn’t end there. Even today, six years later, storm survivors struggle to reclaim their homes. Some renovated from the ground up, only to move out again for six or nine months in order to elevate their updated homes and avoid astronomical flood insurance premiums. “The Everyday” is a reflection on not letting life’s disappointments ruin the small joys.

WOW: What do you enjoy about flash fiction writing versus the other kinds of writing that you do?

Patricia: Besides the instant gratification of writing a shorter piece, flash is an exercise in brevity, clarity and pacing, forcing you to tell a compelling story in abbreviated form. Flash also hones your editing skills as you carve away the non-essential. I’ve whittled down longer stories and even outtakes from my novels to flash fiction.

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?

Patricia: For several years I rose early to write fiction, churning out a thousand words before heading to work. However, life changes in the last year have freed more time in my day for writing. This is not always a good thing, as I create best under pressure! In this new life order, I first “warm up” with coffee, a few inspirational readings and a ten-minute journaling session. I often hit 500 words during these timed sessions. That output is more introspective than fiction, and so plants seeds for future essays. Then, after a workout (biking, running or yoga), I settle in for three or four hours of writing fiction.

As to when and where I usually write, I’m striving to adopt the “laptop lifestyle” and work wherever life takes me. If I’m honest, however, I do my best writing at my desk, at home, in silence, with only the white noise of our Yorkie gently snoring at my feet.

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

Patricia: Yes…by all means enter them, but judiciously. Contests foster hope, acclimate you to deadlines, and thicken the writer’s skin because yes, there’s plenty of rejection! Even while working on a novel, I usually have two or three entries in contention. I view contests as kind of like running a 5K race while training for a marathon. However, don't just enter to enter. Make sure your story is the best it can be before hitting “Submit.”

Before entering a contest, I read previous winning entries, and, importantly, familiarize myself with the judge’s background and literary tastes. I also maintain a spreadsheet of contests and stories entered and/or submitted, along with results, so I don’t make the mistake of submitting the same piece twice. (Yes, this happened.) According to my spreadsheet, I entered my first contest in 2013. Since then, I’ve entered more than seventy contests.

If you are on a tight budget, don’t be deterred by entry fees. There are many free contests and/or publications to submit to in the hopes of building publishing cred. Good luck to all the aspiring writers out there!


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


Renee Roberson said...

Thank you for a great interview, Marcia.

Patricia, your prose in this story is beautiful. I think my favorite line is "A few weeks ago, the town razed the last abandoned cottage, exorcising the sole clapboard ghost of the hurricane that capsized their community." Powerful stuff. Your writing contest submissions also inspired me to get back at it!

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