Interview with Wendy Cooper: Spring 2023 Flash Fiction Contest Third Place Winner

Tuesday, October 10, 2023
Wendy’s Bio:
Wendy was born and raised in England but now resides in Vancouver, BC. She is autistic and co-founder of the Autistic Writers' Group, a safe space for people on the spectrum to share, learn and receive feedback on their writing. Wendy loves to write in the genres of fantasy, horror, and comedy. When she’s not writing fiction Wendy spends her spare time writing articles for a not-for-profit art foundation. 

If you haven't done so already, check out Wendy's award-winning story "The Joy in My Life" and then return here for a chat with the author. 

WOW: Congratulations on placing third in the Spring 2023 Flash Fiction Contest! What excited you most about writing this story? 

Wendy: I was excited to write about the realities of anxiety. I struggle with anxiety and I think a lot of people don't understand how difficult life can be with severe anxiety, that even the grocery store is a huge challenge for some. But I also know there are plenty of people who can relate to that challenge and other simple things about daily life that most people don’t concern themselves with. So, it was fun to include an aspect of my life and write a piece that perhaps others who struggle with anxiety can relate to. 

WOW: What did you learn about yourself or your writing while crafting this piece? 

Wendy: Before I wrote this piece, I typically used to write short stories between 2,000 and 5,000 words. To complete a story in so few words was a new experience and one I really enjoyed. I realized I didn’t need to write such long stories. Since this piece, I've begun writing microfiction. It's been great fun, plus a great way to improve my writing, having to create a story in just 100 words. 

WOW: I love that creating this piece has allowed you to expand your writing genres! Enjoy the microfiction! I understand that you co-founded the Autistic Writers’ Group. What motivated you to co-found this group, and how has it affected your writing practice? 

Wendy: I have tried a few different writing groups and they've been fine but as an autistic you often feel socially awkward. I was discussing this with an autistic friend, who happens to be a professional editor, and she suggested we start our own writing group for autistics. One quick conversation suddenly turned into a long-term group. It's great because none of the social conventions that non-autistics live by, such as eye contact, exist in our group. We can just do as we please and no one minds because you know it's a safe space where you can be yourself. It's a lot less stressful being surrounded by like-minded people. 

The group has significantly helped my writing practice. It helps hold me accountable for completing pieces because I have to have something to present. Secondly, the support, feedback and criticism are invaluable. I've learned so much. I think writing groups, whether autistic or not, happen to be the place I've learned the most and have helped me grow as a writer. Even listening to other people's pieces and hearing feedback on their work is incredibly interesting and educational. My writing has dramatically improved because of all the writing groups I've attended and I personally think it's the best way to improve your writing. 

WOW: Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with writing groups and how beneficial they have been. And that is wonderful that you’ve created a more accessible writing space for like-minded people. That’s inspiration for others looking for a writing community but haven’t found the right fit yet. What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it? 

Wendy: I’m currently reading The Best Mystery Stories of The Year. It is an anthology of short stories that comes out every year. I chose to read it because I love reading a variety of different authors and short stories in one place. It is both educational and enjoyable. There are so many publications out there, so I love it when someone else creates a collection with such broad variety across so many genres all in one place. 

WOW: If you could give your younger self one piece of writing advice, what would it be and why? 

Wendy: To have more self-belief and just go for it. I often used to tell myself I'd never be good enough to do this. It became an excuse not to try. I really enjoy the writing process so all that time spent thinking I couldn’t do this feels like a waste because I enjoy writing regardless of any success. I'm glad I now have the confidence to complete work and submit, it feels so much better, even if there are plenty of rejections and criticism along the way it is still an enjoyable process. 

WOW: Thank you for sharing that advice, and it’s great to hear that you’re enjoying the process! Anything else you’d like to add? 

Wendy: Thank you so much to all the WOW team and also to Kaitlyn Katsoupis, the guest judge. It has been really exciting to be a part of this contest. It feels validating that I'm on the right track with my writing. Secondly, I love reading all of the stories on your website, with so many different styles and genres in one place; it's very inspirational. 

WOW: Thank you for sharing your story and your inspiring responses with us. Happy writing! 

Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, founder and editor-in-chief of Sport Stories Press, which publishes sports books by, for, and about sportswomen and amateur athletes and offers developmental editing and ghostwriting services to partially fund the press. Connect on Twitter @greenmachine459.


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