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Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Interview with Karen Arnold, First Place Winner of WOW! Spring 2022 Flash Fiction Contest

Karen Arnold is a writer, child psychotherapist and visiting lecturer in psychoanalytic theory. She has worked in the field of child and adolescent mental health for over 35 years retiring from full time clinical work 2 years ago. She is fascinated by the many ways in which we use story, symbol and metaphor to understand and communicate our experience of internal and external worlds.

interview by Marcia Peterson

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

Karen: Since retiring from full time clinical work a couple of years ago, I’ve begun to do much more writing, but the real turning point was joining Writer’s HQ and taking part in their regular “ Flash Face Off” event. The feedback from this story was so encouraging, and one of the hosts let me know about WOW, which led to me entering the competition.

WOW:  Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, “This Women’s Work?” It’s a quietly powerful piece, and the first and last paragraphs are especially poetic.

KarenThere are a number of different things that came together to give me the idea for the story. Its essentially set in an Island community off the coast of rural Ireland, which is a place I love very much and been visiting for several years, so the first part of the inspiration was landscape, language and place. The second aspect was an account given by a friend of a friend, of their journey back to the island they born on for a relative’s funeral. The first line came from a memory of my some of my experiences as a student nurse in laying out bodies (truly no experience is wasted for a writer!) The last paragraph really is about the elemental power of women’s work, and trying to depict the strength and wildness of that and the way it is so often minimized.

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

KarenOne of the things I enjoy most about writing flash fiction is the way that it can occupy a liminal space between prose and poetry. You can experiment and play joyfully with rich and expressive language, but at the same time you have to work within the constraint of providing a strong narrative arc, it has to tell a story, not just be a beautiful description.

WOW:  Are you working on any writing projects right now? What’s next for you?

KarenSince entering the competition, I have continued to write flash fiction and short stories, several of which have been accepted for publication in other publications and which has been incredibly encouraging! The big project on which I am currently working was actually inspired by this piece of flash fiction, and I am working on the first draft of novel that tells more of the central character’s story.

WOW:  Congratulations on your acceptances, and best of luck on your novel draft! Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Karen. Before you go, do you have a favorite writing tip or piece of advice you can share?

KarenI think my first tip would be that the stories are all there waiting to be told, and the key thing is not to get in our own way as writers, by being unhelpfully self critical or listening to unhelpful internal voices that tell us we are "not proper writers."

The second thing is to be brave and let your stories out into the world, whether that is through submitting them or by letting someone else hear them, stories need a listener to become all they can be, and I truly believe that thinking of ourselves as story tellers can be really liberating .


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

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