Annabelle Guihan Larsen is a recipient of an Elizabeth George Foundation Grant, and a Whiting Foundation Writers Aid Award. Her short stories include, “San Man” nominated for a Pushcart Prize, 2nd place winner in New Rivers Press, American Fiction Vol 15, The Best Unpublished Stories by New and Emerging Writers. And “Urban Guerrillas” finalist for the Third Coast Magazine Jaimy Gordon Prize in Fiction Judged by: Antonya Nelson. She has an MFA in writing from Columbia University School of the Arts and is currently at work on a novel. Visit her website at https://guihanlarsenwriter.weebly.com
If you haven't done so already, check out Annabelle's award-winning story "Messages" and then return here for a chat with the author.
WOW: Congratulations on placing third in the Winter 2021 Flash Fiction Contest! What excited you most about writing this story?
Annabelle: I took characters from my novel and placed them in situations outside of the text. Writing “Messages” gave me the opportunity to listen again to what memories my characters might have shared or were touched by in some way, and then having those thoughts and feelings come alive through different settings and circumstances.
WOW: What a great idea to both add depth to your novel characters and create a stunning piece of flash! What did you learn about yourself or your writing while crafting this piece?
Annabelle: I love finding ways to incorporate my research into my work, so this piece was satisfying in that respect. While crafting this narrative, my interest in the lyric dance between fact and fiction became apparent.
WOW: Can you tell us more about the novel you’re writing?
Annabelle: Yes, thank you for asking! My novel, Urban Guerrillas, takes place, for the most part, in the early 1970s and involves two adolescent sisters dealing with their parents’ divorce and the aftermath. The girls are uprooted by their mother from a semi-comfortable life in suburban Illinois to radical Berkeley, California, where they sink into poverty and become obsessed with the Patty Hearst kidnapping.
WOW: That sounds like something I’d love to read – I spent a summer in Berkeley and loved it and its fascinating history. What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it?
Annabelle: I’m reading Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart and Other Worlds: Peasants, Pilgrims, Spirits, Saints by Teffi. I came across Shuggie Bain because of my interest in reading about characters who are struggling through life without a safety net. The novel is seen through the eyes of a young protagonist who is the primary caregiver of his alcoholic mother. And Other Worlds is a collection of short stories told through a reimagining of folklore or wonder tales, so this was of interest because of its otherworldly nature, which I also try to touch upon a bit in my novel as a way for my young protagonist to cope with the various traumatic events in her life.
WOW: I love your descriptions of those books and it's helpful to hear about the way you connect to them as a writer. If you could give your younger self one piece of writing advice, what would it be and why?
Annabelle: Keep a journal of details, everything you observe. Have a question for everything. Write it down. You might be able to use it later in a story.
WOW: Anything else you’d like to add?
Annabelle: Find a group of talented, supportive artists you can meet with regularly who encourage you and love your work.
WOW: Thank you so much for your great advice and thoughtful responses! Happy writing!