Interview with Amy DeFlavis, Runner Up in the WOW! Q2 2024 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Congratulations to Amy DeFlavis of Bucks County, Pennsylvania for her award-winning story, "Being Marketing," and to all of the other contestants and winners of the WOW! Women on Writing Quarter 2 2024 Essay Contest!

Today, I'm excited to interview Amy DeFlavis about her award-winning essay.

Amy Deflavis
Amy’s Bio: Amy DeFlavis resides and writes in a charming, bucolic town in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Her short stories and flash fiction have earned placements on Women on Writing’s extensive list and secured spots in the top twenty-five of the Writers Digest annual competition. 

Outside her corporate day job, she dedicates her time to editing her debut romance novel, refining her author website, and meticulously crafting query letters. Her moments of respite are found in renovating her historic home, planning adventures to various corners of the world, and mastering manifestation techniques to create the life of her dreams. 

Before we get to our interview, make sure you check out her essay, "Being Marketing," first. Then come on back to learn more about Amy and her writing!

Interview by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

WOW: Welcome, Amy. Thank you for writing such a riveting, important, and humorous essay! What is the take away you'd like readers to gain from "Being Marketing"? 

Amy: This one was special to me. As a woman who has worked in corporate America for the past thirty years, I've had my share of experiences. The two men at the beginning of the essay are a culmination of people I've dealt with rather than anyone in particular. Sometimes, I felt it was difficult to have my voice heard, and I learned that it was better just to keep my mouth shut altogether in some cases. I'm also small in stature (4'11"), which led me to try to prove myself in order to be taken seriously in an industry predominantly run by men. I'm happy to say all of my current coworkers are lovely people who value me and the work I do. 

But as a Gen X-er, I think some of us stayed in situations or jobs or felt stuck in places because we were afraid. At least I did. I was too afraid to take a chance on something else that might have led me down a different, more creative path in life. I was too worried about paying my mortgage, or failure, or just not having anything to fall back on. Looking back, I see where I could have taken more risks, and I wish I had. I wish I'd let myself fall in love more, or left the safety of my hometown, or walked away from people who didn't value me. I know now that I would have been just fine, and I'm trying not to beat myself up too much for taking this long to realize it. Becoming an author in mid-life and traveling around the globe, sometimes solo, made me realize that the only person who's going to get me out of the mundane, uninspiring situations, bad relationships, or toxic friendships is me. No one is coming to save me, and I don't want to end up like Sandy in my story. 

So, the takeaway for readers? Grab life when you can. It doesn't matter how old you are, and it's never too late. But most importantly, remember that there's always going to be someone who is still afraid, and they'll want you to be too. It gives them comfort and makes them feel not so alone. They'll want you to play it safe and not put your toe in the water because what lurks underneath is unknown. Don't listen to those people. 

WOW: Grab life when you can—I love that! And you're right, it's never too late. What advice would you give to others (specifically female authors) when it comes to self-care? 

Amy: This one was huge for me, and I learned it the hard way. When I wrote the first and second drafts of my novel, I was working my full-time corporate job and dealing with a parent with dementia, as well as living in a world of uncertainty due to all the fears around COVID. Writing became my outlet but quickly escalated into obsession. I would rush home from work (where I had been sitting at a desk all day) and then continue to sit again for hours—on my couch or in bed, sometimes past midnight, to get it all down. I was also trying to squeeze in time to work with my book coach, participate in writing groups, and read a book a week in my genre to keep up. There was so much to learn, and I was impatient for things to move faster. I felt behind and punished myself for not having enough hours in the day to do it all. I neglected my physical health and was tired, sluggish, and very stressed all the time. I found myself crying in the shower or the car because I was at a breaking point. 

So, one day, when I realized I was on the verge of imploding, I forced myself to take a step back. I tried to revisit all the reasons I loved writing and why I wanted to do it in the first place. I knew I needed to learn to relax, and I made a concerted effort to do that. I started running again and setting a timer for myself so that I didn't fall down the rabbit hole for hours on end when I sat down to write. I made time for friends, as well as other things besides just writing. I let myself connect with people more. I traveled and didn't bring my laptop. I started meditating again, going for monthly massages, and basically just connecting with myself again. I also set my novel aside every now and then and started writing some short stories. They helped me shift focus and also improved my writing. 

Now, I feel like I have more balance. I know I couldn't have kept going the way I was before. I would have completely burned out. I think, as women, we often forget how important it is to put ourselves first. I don't have a family, but I can't imagine how hard this concept must be for women who do. I guess I would say to them, do what works for you, no matter how small that thing may be. Getting a manicure or going out in nature for a ten-minute walk. Or just screaming into a pillow. (I did that, too, and it felt surprisingly good.) Whatever you can fit into your schedule, do it. Feed your soul however you can. I go at a steadier and more balanced pace now. There are still bumps in the road where I have writer's block or imposter syndrome, but I try to ride them out and let the feelings pass in their own time. They always do. And I know now that everything will take as long as it takes. It's not a race. The biggest take-away I would give female writers is that you are your biggest asset, and if you're not healthy and happy, your body, your mind, and your writing will suffer. Make sure you make yourself a priority from the beginning because no one else will do it for you. 

WOW: It's so important to find that balance! We have to keep working at it, and it's not a race. I'm glad those shifts helped improve your writing. So, what’s next for you? What are your writing goals for the rest of 2024 and beyond? 

Amy: I've just started the third draft of my romantic suspense. My goal for 2024 is to have it out to Beta readers by the summer and then start pitching agents in the fall. I'm also halfway through my second book, a contemporary romance, and would like to try to finish that first draft by the end of the year. In between, I'm going to keep submitting flash fiction and creative nonfiction to outlets like WOW. I keep saying I'm going to get an author's website up and running, and I think this is the year to try to do that, too. In between massages, of course! 

WOW: Massages, of course! Those are excellent goals, Amy, and I'm thrilled to hear you're writing a romantic suspense! What is your history with writing contests? Tell us what prompted you to submit to this particular contest? What would you like to tell other authors concerning contests and submitting their work? 

Amy: I started submitting to writing contests about two years ago. The results were dismal! I look back at some of those initial works and cringe at how forced they were. I hadn't found my voice yet. But I knew I had stories to tell, and once I started interweaving some of my own experiences into those stories, that's when things really got going. I made WOW's long list with a flash fiction piece and then placed in the Writer's Digest competition. I was shocked. I couldn't believe it. I started writing more, and they just poured out of me. That's what led me to write "Being Marketing." I think I wrote it in one night and then tweaked it for about a week before knowing it was ready. It started with one thought. Someone in a job, years ago, patted me on the head. It was a joke, and I didn't take it personally. People were always making fun of my height or leaning an arm on my head or shoulder. But that's what prompted the story. It rose up out of me—all those years of trying to prove myself, and before I knew it, the finished work stared up at me, and I thought, "Yes, this is what I've wanted to say for so long. This is how I feel." 

I try to infuse humor into most of my pieces because I think that makes them relatable. They're funny because we've all been through similar situations. I feel my most free when I'm writing flash fiction, short stories, or creative nonfiction. They all truly feel like a piece of me that I'm putting out into the world. They come to life in my mind and then float down onto the page, seemingly with as little effort as it takes to breathe. It wasn't always that way. I struggled, and my earlier works are a testament to how little I knew myself. But finding my groove has been really liberating, and I look forward to submitting more pieces soon. 

For anyone who wants to try their hand at it, I would say, pull your ideas from your own experiences. That's where the gold is. And also, always pay for the critique! That's really important feedback and will help you. I do that with every piece. One of my earlier works didn't make the long list, but I took the feedback, reworked the story a little bit, and resubmitted it to the next contest. That one placed! Keep going, don't let rejection get you down (it's part of life and something we all have to deal with), and look back at your older works to remind yourself how far you've come. 

WOW: Congratulations on the Writer's Digest competition! You are so great at writing humor. Also, thank you for your kind words about WOW's contests. It's been a pleasure chatting with you today, Amy, and I hope to do it again soon. Good luck on your novel!


Interviewed by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto who just keeps on keeping on and can be found blogging and sharing on social media hashtag #raisingkidsandcattle #shelovesgodandsheridesgoodhorses #thankfulgratefulblessed 

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