Interview with Courtney Essary Messenbaugh, Spring 2019 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Tuesday, October 08, 2019
Courtney Essary Messenbaugh is an expert dilettante. In other words, her curiosity about the world has propelled her to try all kinds of different things over the years. She’s worked as a bond analyst, waitress, political fundraiser, and even once, a documentary film producer. She now occasionally gets paid to do some writing and communications work, spends a lot of time getting her children to and fro, and dreams a fair bit about having space and time of her own to do nothing but craft short stories and dive deep into her creative mind.

Someday, she’d like to produce an entire collection of short stories. Until then, some of her more mundane (i.e., paid for) writing can usually be found at, but that site is currently undergoing a redesign, so check it out at a later date!

Courtney loves travel, music, dancing, movies, and books and likes to get lost in the lives and histories of people and places both fictional and real. When she’s not dreaming and scheming, she’s enjoying a hike with her dog, doing yoga, or meditating. She took a solo trip earlier this summer to hike to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro and feels a bit like she’s got a superpower as a result. She could live on champagne, laughter, and toast (but doesn’t, actually) and loves her three children, husband, and dog immeasurably.

interview by Marcia Peterson

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

Courtney: It had been a while since I’d entered one of the contests and I missed it! As often happens, the demands of family and my day job had begun to consume my time and I’d inadvertently stopped creative writing. Since I love how I feel when I’m able to be creative, I clawed my way back from being “too busy” and committed to entering the Spring 2019 contest. I felt buoyant after I’d finished the story and knew that no matter how my story would fare in the contest, writing short stories was something I needed, simply for how it makes me feel.

WOW: Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, “Cracked”?

Courtney: Several ideas: the inherent human appeal of people watching, either overtly or covertly; the deeply personal experiences of reproductive health and the inner lives that can develop as a result; and, the flow of the waves of our relationships with ourselves and those around us.

WOW: As a busy mom to three children, how do you find time to write? What works best for you?

Courtney: That’s the million dollar question. I do not have a lot of time (see my answer to the first question!). One of my goals this year is figuring out how to carve out more creative space - both mental and physical - for myself. For the physical space, I have a home office, but it doesn’t inspire me much since it’s where I work my day job, so I’ve got a chaise lounge in a sunny corner of the house on which to park myself, or I’ll sometimes go to a local coffee shop for more stimulation. As for mental space, I’m trying to get in the habit of consistent, hour-long creative writing sessions several times a week to get my juices flowing and feel more comfortable with the writing; I'm trying to be more observant and sensitive to the world around me for inspiration; and, I have signed up for a short writing seminar this Fall with The Lighthouse Writer’s Group, a terrific local nonprofit.

WOW: Are you working on any writing projects right now? What’s next for you?

Courtney: I have a notebook filled with ideas for short stories that I’ve jotted down and hope to fulfill and have also been trying to write a bit of poetry. I am quite certain my poetry is horrible, but I’m indulging myself nonetheless. I read poetry often and a good poet’s words are soul food for me.

WOW:Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Courtney! Before you go, can you share your favorite writing tip or advice with our readers?

Courtney: I’m not sue that I’m in any position to give advice, but I am currently trying to read as much as I can. There is so much good writing out there that serves as great inspiration and a tool for learning.


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


Sue Bradford Edwards said...

As a people watcher, I loved your story. Like you I often wonder about how what we see corresponds with a deeper reality. Looking forward to seeing more of your work!

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