Interview with Anna Chapman: Fall 2019 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Tuesday, May 05, 2020
Anna’s Bio:

Anna Chapman is originally from Alaska and has lived much of her adult life in Vermont, on the southern edge of the northern latitudes. She is a freelance editor specializing in medical research journals. When not wrestling medical jargon into respectable English, she volunteers at the checkout desk of her town library, sings alto in an a capella choir, and does her best to stay connected with her scattered family, friends, and writing buddies. Her poems and essays have appeared in Yankee, Planet Vermont Quarterly, Ruminate, the Berkshire Women’s Quarterly, Explorations, and Birchsong I and II. She is currently researching documents from the late 19th and early 20th centuries for a narrative history of an Alaskan Indian mission school.

If you haven't done so already, check out Anna's award-winning story "Northwest Coast" and then return here for a chat with the author.

WOW: Congratulations on placing third in the Summer 2019 Flash Fiction Contest! What excited you most about writing this story?

Anna: Loading up the setting with specific details while keeping the characters and narrative somewhat gauzy, with an open-ended conclusion.

WOW: What did you learn about yourself or your writing while crafting this piece?

Anna: I learned once again that the same inspiration can find expression in different forms. Quite some time ago, I envisioned this piece as the beginning of a full-length work, but that plan never took off. Then it became a prose poem and sat in a drawer for a while. When I revised it into this short fiction, I was able to let it out.

WOW: Thank you for sharing the evolution of your story! Can you tell us more about your research and/or writing process for the narrative history you’re creating?

Anna: For my account of an Alaskan Indian mission school, I have access to an abundance of original documents. I love digging through primary sources and finding surprises. From these sources I am developing a timeline, noting suggestions to myself as I go, and often drafting a few sentences or whole paragraphs that will eventually become part of the finished work after much revision. I’ll round out the history of the school with as many personal stories as possible.

As a history major, I had drilled into me the importance of relying on data instead of an agenda, using reliable sources, avoiding unsupported conclusions, identifying speculation clearly as such, and steering clear of “present-mindedness”—judging or interpreting the past by our experience and perceptions. Historians like Robert Caro, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and David McCullough are my heroes; they use their sources responsibly while writing in a style anyone can read. My ambition is to produce a compelling narrative that rests on impeccable research without sounding like a thesis.

WOW: That is a very worthy goal, and I’m intrigued by your phrase “relying on data instead of agenda.” Or in other words, the way I interpret that, is to let the story/research do the talking and don’t force it. What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it?

Anna: Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin, which aligns with my interests and is a refreshing counterbalance to the events of our time. Poems by Brigit Pegeen Kelly; her “Song” grabs me and doesn’t let go.

WOW: If you could give your younger self one piece of writing advice, what would it be and why?

Anna: Keep reading, keep writing, revise fearlessly, and pay attention to musicians, visual artists, and creators in other media; they all have something to teach us.

WOW: Excellent advice. Thank you! Anything else you’d like to add?

Anna: I’m delighted to appear in WOW! Women on Writing and very pleased with the affordable submission fees and the opportunity to receive good critiques.

WOW: Thank you again for sharing your story and for your other thoughtful responses! Congratulations again, and happy writing!

Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, who keeps a blog of journal entries, memoir snippets, interviews, training logs, and profiles of writers and competitive female athletes.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Anne--Thanks for doing this interview and for providing the link to Anna's story. I especially loved your question about what Anna is reading and WHY she is reading it. I'm always curious about what writers are reading and what made them choose that book.

Anna--Your story was so rich with details. I loved the "gauzey-ness" of your character. When I attempt stabs at flash fiction, I usually take a different approach. Your story opened up possibilities to me.

Congratulations on your win, and best of luck with your future writing.

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