She is currently finishing Draft #1 of a historical novel 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 as well as third prize in WOW’s Winter 2020 Flash Fiction 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.
interview by Marcia Peterson
WOW: Congratulations on your top ten win in our Fall 2020 Flash Fiction competition! What prompted you to enter the contest?
Sally: Thanks, and I must admit to being a serial WOW entrant. I was emboldened by winning third place in the Winter 2020 contest, and it pumped me up enough to try again. Plus, when the Boxing Day special entry fee was announced, I just couldn't resist!
WOW: Where do your ideas for stories come from, including your entry, “Be Not Angry?”
Sally: Like everyone alive, I encounter story possibilities every single day. Sometimes I write about them immediately; other times, they snooze away in my subconscious for years. In the case of "Be Not Angry," I time-traveled back to my student undergraduate days, when I had to sit in the music library and transcribe medieval notation from Gregorian chants for hours on end. From that rather boring endeavor, I developed enough knowledge to create an interesting setting—all I had to do, decades later, was throw in some conflict, and the story was born.
WOW: You mention that you’re working on a novel. Can you tell us anything about it, and what your novel writing journey has been like so far?
Sally: Oh, dear. I've been novel-avoidant lately. My poor project is languishing at about the 70,000-word mark, with another 20,000 or so to go. It's a historical fiction, based on fact, and at this point in my protagonist's real life, his existence was more than a bit on the boring side. My writing group has threatened to shun me if I place him in one more café scene—but, in real life, the guy spent an awful lot of time hanging out in restaurants. Sure, I can give the character a totally made-up hobby (fencing? stunt-riding?), but it might be too far-fetched, even for a novel. On the other hand, I can kind of picture him holding an epee, lunging at his opponent...
In other words, the novel writing journey is bumpy. Will I give up? Of course not! Turbulence is inevitable and the road is long, but I'll get there.
WOW: You will get there! What do you enjoy about flash fiction writing versus the other kinds of writing that you do?
Sally: Writing flash fiction is fun and energetic. Having a word count limit forces me to be parsimonious with my language, stripping it down to the essentials, and I enjoy the challenge of selecting the punchiest verbs and most evocative adjectives. Plus, the project is finite—it may take some time to edit, but once it's complete, I've crafted a whole world in 750 words or less. So satisfying!
WOW: Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Sally! Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?
Sally: Choose a contest where there's an option to purchase a critique. I have found the WOW critiques to be worth every penny (and, no, WOW is not paying me for this endorsement!). Before I ever won a prize, I got multiple rejections. Without feedback from a professional, I would have kept repeating the same mistakes.
It's not always easy to absorb and benefit from criticism, but without it, we operate in a vacuum. If an expert tells us where we're going wrong (as well as where we're doing something right), we know what we'll have to fix in order to be successful in the future. The key is to be open-minded and apply the judge's advice so our next story will be better.
For more information about our quarterly Flash Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Essay contests, visit our contest page here.