Interview with Casey Liston, First Place Winner in the Spring 2023 WOW! Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Casey Liston is a writer of personal essays and flash fiction. She is inspired by the weird, the campy, and the queer. She is a writer in both her personal and professional lives. Casey recently received an honorable mention in WOW! Women on Writing’s creative nonfiction contest. She is currently embarking on writing her first novel. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts with her wife and two adorable cats. Connect with Casey on Instagram at @_caseywrites.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on winning first place in our Spring 2023 Flash Fiction competition. I was told that this is your first published piece and first fiction, which is amazing! What prompted you to enter the contest?

Casey: Honestly, I entered the contest primarily to get a critique of my piece! You're correct that "Omakase" is the first piece of fiction I had written since childhood. I've received helpful critiques through WOW's creative nonfiction contest, so I knew submitting to the flash fiction contest could be a great way to get another set of eyes on my story, in addition to the notes I already had from friends and my writing group. I didn't have any aspirations of advancing in the contest but thought it would be a good experience to start submitting my fiction writing from the get-go. It was such a pleasant surprise to see "Omakase" move forward!

WOW: Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, “Omakase?” I had to look up that phrase, which apparently means “I leave it up to you,” and is most commonly used when dining at Japanese restaurants where the customer leaves it up to the chef to select and serve seasonal specialties. Your story really takes that concept to quite an interesting and disturbing place.

Casey: This story came from a generative exercise in a speculative fiction workshop: take a real memory, then make one element of it fantastical, magical, or supernatural in some way. I was inspired by my own experiences with endometriosis (which affects 1 in 10 people with uteruses globally) and the occasional desire to just remove the painful parts of my body altogether. I chose the body-parts-as-sushi element at random because it felt so silly and surreal. But when I began writing, the story no longer had the lightness to it I had originally planned. I found a dark power in the idea of not just carving up a body that had not served my narrator well, but serving it to the very medical professionals who had too often ignored her suffering, only to have her pain and sacrifice glossed over once again. "Omakase" describes the experience too many people who suffer from endometriosis and other chronic pain conditions seek so desperately: to regain autonomy over their bodies, by any means necessary.

WOW: Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

Casey: I enjoy writing flash fiction because the limited word count provides a creative challenge. There isn't room for many extra details, world building, or exposition. I am a concise writer by nature, so I really enjoy boiling an idea down to its most essential elements and finding a way to deliver the reader an engaging story within those constraints. Flash demands the ability to suspend disbelief and jump right in to a character's world, which I find exciting as both a writer and reader.

WOW: What advice would you give to someone wanting to try writing flash fiction for the first time?

Casey: My biggest piece of advice is to have fun. I love seeing the incredible and innovative things writers can do in under 1,000 words. Viewing the shorter length as an opportunity rather than a limitation is key to my love of the format.

WOW:  Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Casey. Before you go, do you have a favorite writing tip or piece of advice you can share?

Casey: Finding community with other writers is essential to my process and growth as a writer. I'm part of a weekly virtual writing group that has known me since my very first personal essays and is now seeing me through the early stages of writing my first novel. Their feedback, encouragement, and expertise are invaluable and I feel so fortunate to be part of that community. If you don't have other writers in your life to talk about process and share work, I encourage you to seek out a partner or group you with whom you can share in this often-solitary work!



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