Interview with Sumitra Singam, First Place Winner of Winter 2022 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, June 07, 2022
Bio: Sumitra writes in Naarm/Melbourne on unceded Wurundjeri land. She travelled there through many other spaces, real, metaphorical and transitional; and likes to write about those experiences pretending that it is all fiction. She works in mental health when she inhabits the real world and realizes there are bills to pay. Find her on twitter: @pleomorphic2.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW:  Congratulations on your first place win in our Winter 2022 Flash Fiction competition! What prompted you to enter the contest?

Sumitra: I am a member of Writers HQ (www.writershq.co.uk – do join, it is a friendly and welcoming writing group) where we create lots of flash pieces, and I was looking for a place to submit a piece I had recently written. A friend on the site recommended WOW. I had a look at the website which seemed positive and inclusive, so I thought I’d submit!

WOW: Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, “The Garden of The Masseuse Noi Is Fed on The Sorrows and Resentments of Her Clients?” It’s a beautifully written and affecting story.

Sumitra: Thank you! The story grew from an experience of receiving a massage. I had a brief conversation with my lovely masseuse, and my imagination took over. I felt very affected by her migrant story, and wondered what it might be like if you had little choice over where you lived and what you did for a job, particularly if you were a woman In saying that I just want to check my own privilege – I am from a similar part of the world, and am also a migrant to a Western country, but the similarity stops there – I have been fortunate in my life. I felt it was an important story to tell, and it flowed easily from the pen.

WOW: What key elements do you think make a great piece of flash fiction?

Sumitra: I don’t know if I am qualified to answer this question! I feel like I am still learning. I know that when I read pieces of flash that move me, they convey something unspoken about the human experience. There is a connection to my own experience, but then something that pulls me further along that curve, to a deeper understanding.

I’m sure people know of the main pieces of advice – careful word, especially verb, choice, confining the subject of the story to something quite specific, and starting and ending well. I find I have to leave pieces for a while then come back to it, and then I am able to edit more effectively. I also find having others read and critique absolutely invaluable, so I really want to thank Sarah, Jane and Caoileann for the beta on this piece.

WOW:  Great tips! 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?

Sumitra: Well, it always works best for me if I write daily – that helps to reduce revving time, and gets me into the meat of it quicker. That isn’t always possible, but it is more likely to happen if I take time to plan my week and slot in writing time in my diary (another thing I learned from Writers HQ!). Generally I write in my journal the minute I wake up – just for 10 minutes or so, then I allocate some other time in the day to write and to edit. Sometimes that is ten minutes, sometimes two hours. Writers can be quite hard on themselves, and I think it is important to acknowledge that we do the best we can given that we live in a world that demands other things of us (like feeding children - might be important occasionally).

WOW:  Yes, children do need occasional feeding and care, haha. Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Sumitra. Before you go, do you have a favorite writing tip or piece of advice you can share?

Sumitra: I read Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott, a great book of advice on writing. In it she says that she doesn’t believe in writer’s block, it is just that the writer has used up all the ideas in their head, and they need to go back out into the world to gather more inspiration. I’m not sure I entirely agree with her that writer’s block doesn’t exist, because I certainly have periods of self-doubt which get in the way of creativity, but I wonder if she is talking about something a little different here – namely that it is okay to do things other than actual writing in the service of the art. Basically she has given me license to eavesdrop and people watch (thanks Ann).

I really want to thank WOW and Hannah Andrade for this opportunity. I’ve really enjoyed the process. And I’d really like to encourage anyone who might be sitting on a piece to dust it off and submit. Stay safe and well everyone. Om Shanti.

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

1 comments:

Renee Roberson said...

Congratulations, Sumitra! This is such a beautiful and moving piece and I'm glad you decided to submit it to WOW! Obviously the judges thought so, too! I'm also glad you stressed the benefits of joining a writing group.

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