Interview With Sally O'Grady, Spring 2022 Flash Fiction Runner-Up

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

I'm excited to interview Sally O'Grady, one of our spring 2022 flash fiction runner-up winners in our writing contest. Be sure you read her story Today is Different then come on back and read our interview.

First, a bit about Sally:

Sally O’Grady has explored her lifelong love of writing in many formats but only recently has she begun sharing with a wider audience. She contributes weekly to her blog, Act 3 Unscripted which includes essays and short stories exploring her observations on life, social justice issues, and the shared human experience. Recently, her short story, ‘After the Storm’ was recommended by Edge of Humanity Magazine. Sally is also working on her first novel which she hopes to complete by the end of this year. In addition to her love of writing, Sally also enjoys reading, traveling, music, art, and cooking for her friends and family. Sally lives with her partner in their home on the traditional, ancestral, unceded territory of the Syilx/Okanagan people in Lake Country, British Columbia.

---- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: Your story touched me, and I love how you used the second person as if you were talking about the reader. What inspired this story?

Sally: Thank you so much! I was a young mother and although I never faced homelessness, I did rely on social assistance for a period of time. It affected me deeply that I could be so close to losing a place to live and how precarious housing is for so many. Many years later I worked at a Women's Centre offering programs, counselling, and services to marginalized and immigrant women. Social justice has always been important to me but it was my time at the Centre that gave me a better perspective of what it was like to be a person who our society can so often look down upon solely because of their circumstance. I wrote the story in second person to try to draw the reader into the life of this unhoused person, and feel what it may be like to be ignored by the people you see every day; it then becomes a conversation between two humans rather than an observation that can be more easily ignored. 

WOW: How profound when our own circumstances inspire incredible creativity. When you first started this story, did you know how it would end?

Sally: Yes, I had it in mind to connect the two characters in some way, ideally in a manner that left the character being observed understanding what it may be like for the main character. I wanted to illustrate how easy it can be to shift our own thinking when it comes to unhoused people.

WOW: That's very true! It's possible we can change how we see those that struggle the most in our society. What is your rewriting and revising technique after you've written the first draft?

Sally: I usually start with using the 'Read Aloud' function in Word (where I do most of my writing). I like it because it removes the context, intonation etc. that I presume as I re-read a draft and it quickly points out where the flow of a story isn't what I had imagined. I then usually work paragraph by paragraph or scene by scene making edits and then re-read again. It's a long process and I always leave time in between sessions on any one piece. I find I gain different perspectives, my voice can change, and new ideas come, hopefully making the piece better. 

WOW: What a thorough approach! What are you currently working on that you can tell us a bit about?

Sally: I'm working on a book about one woman's life as observed by her partners. I feel if any of us ask our former partners to describe us, we may end up with wildly different images of who we believe ourselves to be, depending on time, age, personalities, pressures etc. This book is an attempt to explore those diverse views of one human and how she, in turn, views herself.

WOW: That sounds incredible! What surrounds you when you write?

Sally: I do most of my writing in my office in the basement of our house. It looks out over Lake Okanagan and the hills beyond but I face away from the view while I write and turn back to it to contemplate my work. I have an old, Victorian windowpane that I use as a whiteboard for my book as well as art (mostly by female artists) that I've collected throughout the years on travels and from friends on the walls. A clothing patch given to me by my youngest son is on my desk; it says "Be Optimistic." And I have books that have truly inspired me on my windowsills. 

WOW: I love that setting! What does a typical day of writing look like for you?

Sally: I'm definitely an early writer, preferring to write before 10:00am until whenever my well of ideas for the day seems to dry up. I edit and do revisions in the afternoon. It's not often that I write in the evenings or at night but on a rare occasion, it has happened.

WOW: That sounds like a set schedule that's been successful! Thank you so much for your time and I look forward to seeing what you have coming up next. 


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