Interview With Fall 2023 Flash Fiction Runner Up Winner, Sara Winslow

Tuesday, May 07, 2024

Today, I'm honored to interview Sara Winslow, runner up winner in our Fall 2023 Flash Fiction contest. Read her story "Blonde" before you check out our interview.

Here's more about Sara:

Sara Winslow is a repenting (a.k.a. retired) government lawyer who is now fulfilling her lifelong dream of writing creatively. Her short stories have been published in the literary magazine Sequoia Speaks and in Fabula Press’ Nivalis 2022 anthology. She has an essay appearing in Exsolutas Press’ Thriving anthology, which is scheduled for publication in March 2024. Sara lives in San Francisco. When she’s not writing or reading, she enjoys experiencing live music with her partner, practicing and teaching yoga, and exploring the outdoors with her two dogs.

---- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: Congratulations on winning runner up! Your story has so many levels to it, I loved it. What inspired you to write this story? 

Sara: Isabel Wilkerson’s book, Caste, has had me thinking about a lot of things over the past year or two. It was a big source of inspiration for this story. I wanted to write something that might (in its own little way) help show how ludicrous racism, misogyny, and homophobia are.

WOW: You absolutely achieved that with this story. What was your revision process like?

Sara: “Blonde” started out as a more traditional short story (i.e., much longer than 750 words). But I couldn’t come up with a good ending, and I abandoned it. When I saw the WOW Flash Fiction contest, I dug up the story to see how it would work if I stripped it way down. That led to a better ending, and ultimately led to the story I entered in the contest.

WOW: What a great way to reuse old stories! How did you know you were done with your story?

Sara: I’m lucky to have a lot of people who are willing to read my stories before I finalize them: my writing group, my writing partner (see below), and numerous friends and relatives. I always learn from their comments, even if I don’t agree with all of them. Once I’ve incorporated everyone’s thoughts as best I can while staying true to my vision of the story, I review it again to see if it’s still something I would want to read. If so, I consider it done. Several people were kind enough to review and comment on earlier versions of “Blonde,” including two women I met in a virtual WOW class last year. With this particular story, some of my readers loved the early draft I sent them, others thought it was sorely lacking a plot, and still others felt it needed a bit of fine-tuning. I ended up doing fine-tuning that addressed some comments but not others, and submitted it to WOW when I myself was satisfied with it.

WOW: How wonderful to have so much support! I had to smile about your bio and you being a repenting government lawyer. Does your experience working in law inspire your writing?

Sara: I don’t often write about lawyers or the law. But I do think the discipline of legal writing (while quite different from creative writing) has given me the structure to work on fiction and creative nonfiction in retirement. For example, right after law school, I served as a clerk for an appellate judge. If I drafted an opinion for him that glossed over a sticky issue, he would send it back, insisting that I tackle the issue head on. I often remember that lesson when writing fiction – if I find myself glossing over something, I go back and think, how can I address this in a way that would satisfy Judge Steadman?

WOW: That's an awesome lesson! You live in one of my favorite cities in the world! Are you involved in the writing community there? How does that help you in your writing journey?

Sara: San Francisco is an amazing city, with numerous writing communities. I belong to the Mechanics’ Institute, a membership library in downtown San Francisco that was founded in 1854. The Institute hosts various events and groups, including a writers’ group I belong to. Everyone in my group is working on a novel. We read and critique each other’s chapters and help each other along. I also try to attend events at other writers’ communities. An author talk I attended at Page Street Writers in San Francisco led me to meet a fellow writer who introduced me to WOW and has become my writing “partner” – we read and discuss each other’s writing, and periodically get together at a café to submit our work to publications.

WOW: That must be so rewarding. You have numerous publications under your belt. What is your submission process and how do you know which literary magazines to target?

Sara: Thank you for calling my handful of publications numerous! When I have something that I think is ready to submit, I'll scour numerous places, looking for publications that are accepting submissions or holding contests, then I check out those publications to see if they seem like a good fit. For example, Poets & Writers magazine has extensive listings on its website. The Community of Literary Magazines and Presses, Chill Subs, and Duotrope also have listings. Many publications use Submittable for their submissions, and the Submittable website has a “Discover” tab that lists open calls. In addition, I subscribe to any newsletters I can find that contain such listings (including WOW, Funds for Writers, Winning Writers, and many others). It can be a very time-consuming process just to find places where you can submit your work. And then the submissions themselves can take a long time as well. It’s more fun to meet with a friend and do your submissions together over a cup of tea or glass of wine! And then you also have someone to commiserate with when the inevitable rejections start filling your inbox.

WOW: Ha, isn't that the truth! Thank you so much for chatting with me today. Best of luck on your future writing endeavors! 


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