Interview with Sally Basmajian: Winter 2020 Flash Fiction Contest Third Place Winner

Tuesday, June 23, 2020
Sally’s Bio:

Sally Basmajian is an escapee from the corporate broadcasting world. Before fleeing the business, she was Bell Media’s Vice President and General Manager, Comedy and Drama.

She is currently polishing a women’s thriller and sketching a number of short memoir and fiction pieces. In February 2020, she was awarded first prize in both the Fiction and Non-Fiction categories for Ontario’s Rising Spirits contest. She completed her Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing at Humber College in 2019 and holds a Master of Arts in Musicology from the University of Toronto.

If you haven't done so already, check out Sally's award-winning story "War Baby" and then return here for a chat with the author!

WOW: Congratulations on placing third in the Winter 2020 Flash Fiction Contest! What excited you most about writing this story?

Sally: My writing group—five creative women who meet weekly and believe in tough love—pushed me to write this story. Our assignment that day was to compose a two-part piece, concluding each segment with the same line. For some reason, the phrase, “You have no claim on me,” popped into my head, and everything else flowed from there.

Having the framework before I even conceived the plot allowed my imagination to soar. In the end, I cheated by varying the wording of the repeated line, but, to me, the whole point of the exercise was to embrace the creative process—which I did!

WOW: Success! Thanks for that glimpse into your writing process. What did you learn about yourself or your writing while crafting this piece?

Sally: Everyone has experiences that can be woven into stories. Several years ago, I visited the town of Arras, France with my son, who was studying World War I in high school at the time. We happened to be there during the annual Andouillette Festival—which neither of us had ever heard of—and he was brave enough to sample the local delicacy. My lasting memory is the smell—not pleasant! Still, I learned even fleeting life events can be mined for atmospheric ore.

WOW: Are you willing to tell us more about any of your works in progress? Does one of them excite you more than the others?

Sally: I’m working on sketches for a historical novel, set in Germany in the first half of the nineteenth century. It’s a beast of a project, the hardest part is trying to nail the day-to-day details: the fashions, the modes of transportation, the way people communicated. Once I absorb as much as my brain will hold, the fun part will be letting it all emerge in fictionalized form.

Thank goodness my weekly writing circle also assigns mini-projects, which likely keep me sane. I take joy in creating small memoir pieces and mini-fictions. Occasionally, these exercises even end up turning into something publishable!

WOW: That sounds like a big—but exciting!—undertaking, and it’s fabulous you have a writing circle to keep you grounded. What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it?

Sally: I’m blushing, but I will tell the truth: I’m just finishing re-reading the full Harry Potter series. During this scary COVID-19 period, I’ve found the familiar brings comfort. The inside covers of my J. K. Rowling collection are inscribed by my son at much younger age, and from time to time I run my thumb over his spiky signature. I find this very reassuring!

WOW: I love the image of the spiky signature on the inside covers. If you could give your younger self one piece of writing advice, what would it be and why?

Sally: Every story needs a satisfying ending. In my childhood stories, I usually killed off all my characters, because that was easier than coming up with proper plot development. This probably explains why I rarely got good marks in creative writing! So, I’d encourage Younger Me to conceive of a logical and interesting ending before attempting to launch into telling a tale.

WOW: That made me laugh because it’s relatable! Seems like you learned from your former writing barriers. Anything else you’d like to add?

Sally: I’d like to encourage all aspiring authors to keep writing, if the process itself brings personal satisfaction. Everyone gets rejections. Suck them up, take any credible advice you can get, apply it to your work, and—above all—persevere.

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 sportswomen with the purpose giving them a forum to discuss their own athletic careers, bodies, and lives in their own words. Join the conversation!


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