Interview with Myna Chang: First Place Winner of Summer 2019 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, December 03, 2019
Myna Chang grew up in the Oklahoma panhandle, surrounded by vivid reminders of the ecological disaster known as the Dust Bowl. Her grandparents filled her head with frightening and exciting tales of their adventures during that harrowing time, and now she explores those remembrances in her writing. She also enjoys stories about robots, dinosaurs, and kung fu. Her work has been featured in Writers Resist, Twist In Time, Enchanted Conversation, Daily Science Fiction, Copperfield Review, Dead Housekeeping, and others. Myna’s story “Good Deal” won an honorable mention in the WOW Fall 2018 Flash Fiction Contest. Myna lives with her family in Potomac, Maryland. Read more at or find her on Twitter @MynaChang.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on your first place win in our Summer 2019 Flash Fiction competition! Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, “Air So Thick?” It sounds like it may have been inspired by the place you grew up and conversations with your grandparents.

Myna: Air So Thick” is one of several stories inspired by my childhood growing up in the Oklahoma panhandle, where I learned to hate the wind. Gusts up to 60 mph were a daily occurrence, whipping grit into my eyes and mouth, and scouring the skin on my legs when I was foolish enough to wear shorts on a bad day.

As bad as I thought I had it, my grandparents suffered so much more. Colorful terms were invented to describe their place and time — the Dirty 30s, Tornado Alley, the Dust Bowl. Their childhood years were scarred by environmental disaster and economic ruin, but they survived and came away with some amazing tales.

Their adventures have stuck with me, and I keep coming back to the topic. I’m especially fascinated by the massive Black Sunday storm, which reportedly was hundreds of miles wide and thousands of feet high, and blacked out the sun for three full days.

Many of my stories feature young people overcoming the challenges of this hostile environment, just as my grandmothers and grandfathers did.

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

Myna: I love the condensed form. My favorite length, both to read and write, is around 500 words -- long enough to have strong character voice and a dynamic setting, but not long enough for meandering. Every word has to count. It’s like assembling a puzzle.

WOW: You mentioned that you enjoy stories about robots, dinosaurs, and kung fu. Where did this interest come from, do you think? Any favorite stories to recommend?

Myna: My uncle (the greatest uncle in the history of the universe) provided a steady supply of scifi and fantasy fiction while I was growing up. He handed me The Hobbit when I was 9 and said, “Please be quiet and read this!” My mom and step-dad introduced me to martial arts and monster movies. I never stopped loving speculative fiction, and I still seek stories of wonder in my everyday life.

As far as recommendations? Too many to list! It feels like heaven to be a speculative fiction lover now. Any length and type of story you want is available with only a few moments’ search. It’s no longer unusual to find a badass female protagonist who does whatever-the-heck she wants while saving the world. Also, dinosaurs are just cool.

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?

Myna: I do some sort of writing-related activity every day, usually before the rest of my household wakes up. I require lots of coffee. But even with unlimited caffeine, I often struggle to create a complete story without an external motivator. Prompted contests and workshops have proven to be the best tools to keep me going. I love the excitement and sense of possibility when I wake up to a unique set of prompts, then I spend my afternoon panicking and hating whatever I’m trying to write, but by evening I’m usually filled with satisfaction as I play with the final word choices and hit the submit button. My husband and son call this “binge writing.” I’m lucky to have such a supportive family -- they bring me sandwiches and cheer me on.

“Air so Thick” originated in a workshop. The prompt was to write a map-based flash, and we were given several thought-provoking examples to get us started. Approaching this story from the perspective of a landscape map is something I wouldn’t have considered before taking the workshop, and the other participants provided fantastic feedback on my first draft.

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

Myna: I love contests! There are so many different contests to choose from. I think it’s important to do some research before entering one. Is the contest managed by a legitimate group or publication? How is it judged? Will they provide feedback on your entry? Will they give you prompts, or do they have a specific theme? If winning entries from the past are available, read them to get a flavor for the tenor and quality of writing the contest judges appreciate.

Once you’ve settled on the perfect contest, find someone to review your story before you submit. Beta readers are essential, so take the time to find someone trustworthy and honest. And be ready to return the favor! There are several top-notch writers’ groups online, so even if you don’t have access to a beta reader in your everyday life, you can find great candidates via social media and reputable organizations such as WOW!.


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


Angela Mackintosh said...

Fantastic interview! :)

Myna, I love your story. Your imagery is gorgeous, the prose lyric, and your pacing is perfect. I also appreciate that it's based on a real event.

It's funny that 500 words is your favorite length! It's my nightmare length. My favorite length is 3k+. ;) But this week I actually wrote 3 cnf essays just under 500 words, and you're right, it's like assembling a puzzle. It's a tiny glimmer of something with less than a sentence of backstory. :) I love the idea of writing a map-based flash, and I'm actually going to try it. Maybe binge writing! That's a great term. With a little less hangover than binge drinking... although I do have a writing hangover after NaNoWriMo. :)

Thank you for the interview, and congratulations on writing an outstanding piece. Please keep us up to date on your contest wins! We'll be following your work. :)

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