Interview with Tara Campbell 2022 Spring Flash Fiction Runner-up

Tuesday, September 20, 2022


Tara’s Bio: 

Tara Campbell ( is a writer, teacher, Kimbilio Fellow, fiction co-editor at Barrelhouse, and graduate of American University’s MFA in Creative Writing. Her publication credits include SmokeLong Quarterly, Masters Review, Wigleaf, Booth, and CRAFT Literary. She’s the author of a novel and four multi-genre collections including her newest, Cabinet of Wrath: A Doll Collection. 

Connect with her on Twitter at @TaraCampbellCom

If you haven't read Tara's story, "The Loveliest Thing," click through and then come back to learn how she created this winning flash fiction.

-----interview with Sue Bradford Edwards-----

WOW: What was your inspiration for “The Loveliest Thing”? 

Tara: This story, as so many in the flash world, was born in a Kathy Fish workshop. I was visiting family in Seattle, sitting in a café trying to figure out what to write for the “object” prompt, when I noticed I had a view through the window of a dress I’d been tempted by in a store down the street. It had been made and worn decades ago by a friend of the shopkeeper, and if you’re wondering what it looked like, you’ll find the exact description in the story. After I wrote my first draft, I went back to the store and bought it. And true to the story, it didn’t fit, and I had no one to give it to, but for $15 it was too good to leave behind. 

WOW: How did this story change during the revision process? 

Tara: I don’t think it changed much in the revision process because most of its evolution was in the drafting process. I began with the visual image of the dress, and my longing for it even though I knew it didn’t fit. As I sat in that coffee shop, still able to see it, I knew I’d be sorry if I didn’t go back for it. That’s the emotional core I was working with: longing, regret, wanting to go back and make something ill-fated work. The parallel to the main character’s past came from those emotions. Rather than revision, per se, it was a matter of building up the layers by fleshing out the circumstances around those emotions. 

WOW: What an interesting way to build a story. Speaking of emotion, there is so much emotion in this story. As someone who also teaches writing, what instruction would you give your fellow writers on creating an emotional response in their readers? 

Tara: I encourage students to start with something that interests them, whether it’s something they’re already obsessed with, or something they don’t know that much about but have a lot of questions about. In addition to the emotions I was working with for this story, I also had questions: how had something that had taken so much time and care to create wound up sitting in a consignment shop, on sale for a pittance? I just kept thinking about what might have happened between that initial fascination of making and wearing the dress, and the later letting-go of it. 

WOW: You’ve won or placed in three WOW! flash fiction contests. What advice do you have about making sure your story is ready to enter? 

Tara: Many writers would say a story is never really finished. I’m sure we all have writing out in the world that we would tweak if we had the chance. In fact, I once watched a novelist make edits to their own work during a reading—straight into the newly-published hardcover! I rarely send a story out until it’s been through one of my writing groups—having other eyes on it is crucial. What you do with the feedback is up to you, but you have to know how other people are seeing it before you can decide whether or not it’s doing what you intended it to do. 

WOW: Being able to gage reader reaction is so important. In addition to flash, you’ve written a novel and four collections. What are you working on now? 

Tara: I’m just finishing edits on another novel, which I never thought I would say. I don’t consider myself a novelist, even though that’s what my first published book was. The first novel, TreeVolution, was fueled by questions, and this new one was born of short stories that wound up being part of a larger world. In both cases, as with my collections, books seem to be things that sneak up on me while I’m following my curiosity in another direction. 

WOW: What an interesting thought – that a piece such as a novel might sneak up on you while you are writing other things. Thank you for sharing your writing process with our readers and hopefully we’ll see more of your work soon!


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