INTERVIEWS


by Gay Degani

Caroline Hall, Winner of String-of-Ten 6Caroline Hall, this year’s String-of-Ten Six First Place Winner with her story, “Snowman Suicide,” was raised by English majors during the Nintendo generation. Now a teacher-on-hiatus, she has attended ten schools and worked at seven. She is a compulsive hiker and a New Englander who says “wicked awesome” and used the same window fan until it caught fire.  She writes short stories and flash fiction.

[NOTE: The story appears today at Every Day Fiction.]

Gay Degani: I’d love to know what your first reaction was to the list of words: LITTER-ENTRANCE-SAFE-SPIRITUAL -SPOTLIGHT-BOOKMARK-CATASTROPHE-RAZOR-FAULTY-ULTIMATE and the aphorism: “I prefer the errors of enthusiasm to the indifference of wisdom,” from Anatole France.  How did you approach the prompt?

Caroline Hall: My immediate response was that a number of the words on the list–razor, faulty, ultimate, and catastrophe—seemed to cluster together naturally.  To my mind, they grew organically from the concepts of depression and suicide.  I also knew I wanted to use the word “spiritual” because I love it!

When I looked at the list, the word “razor” practically glowed. A few years ago, I had surgery for a bizarre and not-so-threatening cancer.  After I was declared “fine,” I got strangely depressed.  I spent a lot of time in doctors’ and therapists’ waiting rooms that year.  I wrote a poem about waiting rooms and the endless string of medical appointments.  In the poem, I described patients with eyes like pills and mouths like razor blades.  Forty or fifty drafts later, the poem still didn’t work.  But when I saw the word “razor” on the list of words for the String-of-10 competition, I knew the setting and mood of “Snowman Suicide” instantly.  I was glad to get the chance to resuscitate the image and pleased that the story was much better than the original poem.

For me, writing “Snowman Suicide” was about balancing passive and active.  As a patient, you spend a great deal of time passively waiting, and I wanted to capture that feeling.  But I’ve also met a lot of people who fight back against their illnesses and circumstances with spunk and humor.  I wanted to make sure that some of their creativity, intelligence, and strength appeared in the story.

GD: You mentioned your goals for this story included balancing passive and active, so what other elements do you keep in mind when you are working on a piece of writing?  Characters you’ve touched on, what about structure and theme?  What do you handle these?

CH: My successful stories usually begin with an object—in this case, a snowman.  Characters start out being me and evolve as they interact with the object.  They develop slowly, which makes for some embarrassing drafts.  But getting to know and—sometimes— slowly fall in love with my characters is a joy.  Sometimes, it surprises me which characters I fall in love with and how big an impact they have on my life. Workshops and readers are helpful for clarifying the conflict in stories, for finding spots that don’t make sense or feel true.

I studied English and am a closet Classics geek, and my tendency was—and still is—to write Latinate or Victorian-style prose.  My first stories were designed to be analyzed rather than read. Finally, I realized that I could have a vital message, but that didn’t matter if readers needed a pot of coffee to survive the first paragraph.

As a result, I work hard at paring stories down to their cores.  I started writing flash fiction by accident; flash fit the funny clumps of time I squirreled away for writing better than longer stories did.   It was a happy accident.  Forcing myself to adhere to strict word limits has made my sentences stronger and leaner.

GD: You mention “paring down.”  I’m wondering what you look for when you edit your work.  What are your go-to moves?

CH: I spent a few years writing terrible poetry, so my main rule is “if it sounds the way your poetry sounded, it needs to go!” I love alliteration and repetition, but I have to make sure they don’t hijack the story or become distracting.  I’ll turn clauses into phrases.  In early drafts, I tend to stack adjectives and details.  I’ll have three or four when I need one.  In the first paragraph, my snowman initially went through five different diagnoses; three was enough.

GD: As I said in my interview with Jim Harrington, what drew me to this story, was a lot of things: “The title, the first line, the humor, the surprise, its clarity. ‘Snowman Suicide,’ who wouldn’t want to read that story?”  All this makes me want to read more of your work.  Can you tell me where to find other stories of yours and what you are working on now?

CH: “Snowman Suicide” is my first published work.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Earlier, I mentioned that my friends from the mental health community—if you can call it that—inspire me constantly with their intelligence, wit, candor, and kindness.  I am proud, grateful, and honored to know them and to have a chance to represent them in this story.  I hope I’ve done them justice.

 

gay 2Gay Degani has published fiction on-line and in print including her short collection, Pomegranate Stories. She is founder of EDF’s Flash Fiction Chronicles, a staff editor at Smokelong Quarterly, and blogs at Words in Place. She’s had three stories nominated for Pushcart consideration and won the 11th Annual Glass Woman Prize. Her linked-story novella is part of Pure Slush’s 2014- A Year in Stories anthology and her her serialized novel, What Came Before, is currently online at Every Day Novels.

by Andreé Robinson-Neal

To be “taken to school,” a phrase that is perfect for March Madness basketball fans. It evokes images of one team or player being trounced by the other. In a less athletic context, to be “taken to school” suggests a new level of learning or insight gained through an unexpected opportunity.

Readers of The Fatherlands will know that Michael Trocchia has not only taken them to school but has guided them through a graduate-level study of emotions and relationships. He is kind enough to provide a few guideposts—notes about certain inspirations—but not until after the last page. Fatherlands offers 33 glimpses into 33 rooms and each is its own diorama of relationship, conflict, love, pain, confusion, joy, and life.

The man and then she turned to the two in the corner, finding one lifeless body on the floor, the string of his kite tight round his neck, and the other body waiting there, humming a tune that all but strangles the room. (“XII”)

Trocchia offers lessons about the relationships that revolve around the man, who is sometimes friend, sometimes husband, and always father.

He’d want to believe in the color of his daughter’s eyes the way he believed in hers. (“XIX”)

He is an uneven man, his speech is uneven. His walk is uneven, he leans out of windows on Sunday. He smokes a few cigarettes a week. He keeps things, such as this, from his wife. He arrives home from work in the dark part of the day and he squints to see the faces of his children. (“XXVII”)

Each piece is a snippet of life, an exhale or held breath that captures the raw and unsullied life as it orbits the father, rotates about the fatherless, and dreams of futures past.

Readers will feel wiser and older when they reach the author page at the end of The Fatherlands and will anxiously await the next opportunity to be “schooled” by Michael Trocchia. Find out more at monkeypuzzlepress.com.

____________

Andree Robinson-Neal Andreé Robinson-Neal got bit by the writing bug back in the late 1970s while watching Rod Serling and reading Ray Bradbury–both of whom are everyday inspirations; although she has worked in education for more than a quarter-century, she has never been cured of her penchant for speculative fiction. Find some of her flash fiction at starvingartist.com. She writes under the name AR Neal, who will hopefully one day be identified as a famous NaNoWriMo participant.

by Aliza Greenblatt

Audrey Kalman

Audrey Kalman has been writing and editing professionally for more than 30 years. She has published short stories, poetry, and flash fiction, as well as the literary novel Dance of Souls. She currently serves as editor of the Fault Zone anthology published by the Peninsula branch of the California Writers Club. Her blog about writing appears at http://audreykalman.wordpress.com. She lives northern California with her husband, two children, and two cats.

Aliza Greenblatt: Your blog says you’ve been writing professionally for over thirty years, but have only recently started fiction writing. What inspired you to start? Did you begin by writing novels or short stories?

Audrey Kalman: I guess I’d better edit my blog… I’ve actually been writing fiction since I was seven, when I wrote my first “novel”—a complete rip-off of My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara. I was a creative writing major in college and wrote a novella as part of my thesis. Then I took up writing professionally after getting a journalism degree. Fiction became my hobby and I switched to short stories for a while. Dance of Souls, which I published in 2011, was my fourth novel. The other three are in a desk drawer where they belong.

As for inspiration, writing is a bit of a nervous compulsion for me—I can’t not do it. I began all those years ago out of a desire to both inhabit other worlds and understand my own world better, and that’s still my motivation.

AG: Can you tell me a little about your writing process?

AK: Do you know the Longfellow poem “There Was a Little Girl?” The end goes:

When she was good,
She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid.

That’s kind of how I am with my writing process: sometimes very disciplined and sometimes not at all. To finish my last novel, I made a writing date with myself every weekday morning from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. Sometimes I’d go longer, but I always forced myself to write for at least an hour. It worked magically. Since then, my commitment has been more sporadic but I’ve still managed to complete six short stories. Also, in terms of process, I’m very much a “panster.” I don’t outline. I let the unfolding process of writing guide me. It feels a bit like sculpting—feeling my way toward the work hidden inside the stone.

AG: What were some of your favorite parts to write in Now You Are a Public Nuisance?  What were some of the more challenging?

AK: My favorite part to write was the end, when the narrator “comes into her power,” as they say in the self-actualization circles. It felt thrilling to step outside the rigid boundaries of the suburban sidewalk with her and do something subversive. The most challenging part was getting the voice right. I don’t usually write in second person. I started writing the story that way, then rewrote the whole thing in first person before deciding that second person suited it better.

AG: There is a running theme in the story of appearances versus reality. In some ways, the wildness of the narrator’s garden was the only public thing of hers that wasn’t trim and neat. Do you think the narrator was waiting to rebel, but didn’t quite know it? Do you think she will keep on rebelling in the future?

AK: To me, the story is very much about the conflict between acceptable social constructs—conformity—and the assertion of individuality. Where and why do we draw those boundaries, and who keeps us inside them? I think the narrator knew she was not like others in her tidy neighborhood but never dreamed that she could do something so renegade. In her world, thinking outside the box is acceptable, but acting outside the box is in a different league altogether. I think her rebellion definitely surprised her.

I hadn’t thought about whether her act of defiance with the hedge trimmer was the first of many. Perhaps it will be her first step down the road toward becoming a criminal—or a social activist!

AG: The narrator seems to be looking for happiness and yet she stresses the disappointments in her life, like she stresses the words that mislabel her. Why do you think the narrator chose the wrong things and why do you think she changed?

AK: I don’t believe her choices seemed wrong to her at the time. Conformity and comfort have much to recommend them and she couldn’t quite imagine living a different kind of life. Only in retrospect does she realize those choices led her to a place she doesn’t feel comfortable inhabiting. Although we don’t know her exact age, she is somewhere near mid-life. That’s a time when engaging in retrospection is common, and regrets—no matter what choices you’ve made—are inevitable. Her act of defiance at the end is an act of hope. It’s never too late to reclaim a lost part of yourself.

AG: What other projects are you working on now? Are there other stories of yours, either upcoming or published, that you can point readers to?

AK: My novel Dance of Souls is available on Amazon. I have finished another novel that I’m shopping around to agents and small presses (alert: agents and editors, please feel free to contact me). And I’m putting together a collection of short fiction. EDF has been good to me, having published two pieces in the last couple of years. I’ve also had a short story, Tiny Shoes Dancing, published in The Sand Hill Review, and flash fiction in Punchnel’s: Forget Me, Forget Me Not.

AG: Thank you very much for taking the time to chat with us. Best of luck with all your writing endeavors.

AK: Thank you.

__________________

Aliza profile-pic-2

Aliza T. Greenblatt works in a firmly non-writing field when the sun is up and writes under a desk lamp at night.   Fueled by a sheer love of books and a tyrannical imagination, she writes the stories that appear over her morning coffee and won’t leave her alone until they are put down on paper.   She writes, raves, and blogs at http://atgreenblatt.com. and on Twitter  @AtGreenblatt

by Bonnie ZoBell 

Mike Young

Mike Young is the author of Look! Look! Feathers (stories), We Are All Good If They Try Hard Enough (poems), Sprezzatura (poems), and Who Can Make It (chapbook of poems). He edits NOÖ Journal, runs Magic Helicopter Press, and writes for HTMLGIANT. He lives in Northampton, MA.

Bonnie ZoBell:  Hey, Mike. Thanks for agreeing to give our readers some information about fiction chapbooks. Love what you say on your site about how your “paper books are collectible art items, not unlike Dale Earnhardt commemorative plates. Our ebooks are not paper books melted onto the screen but books aware of their digital space.” I’d love to hear you talk a little more about that. How are your paper books collectible art items? How are your ebooks aware of their digital space?

Mike Young: Thanks for asking me to give some info! The paper books being collectible art items is actually half tongue-in-cheek. As someone who is not a crafty person at all, someone who appreciates really messy fried potatoes way more than lime tarts, I have always felt a little skeptical about the preciousness of book art as a reaction to the evaporation of the paper book as a mass market commodity. But I respect it. Sewn bindings, hot metal plates. Our paper books aren’t really commemorative plates, but they do—I hope—look good. I just don’t want to forget that everything is transient, that the china is always one elbow away from losing its spot and cracking up.

The ebooks thing is more serious. I like thinking about how we move around in digital spaces. It’s different than paper. Our eyes even, the F-shaped text scans. Richard Chiem and Ana C’s oh no everything is wet now is maybe our most successful stab at this so far. I really want to publish something like this, though: http://www.secrettechnology.com/madethis/enemy6.html.

BZ: Do you make all your paper fiction chapbooks into ebooks? Or are they two separate animals?

MY: Separate! So far, I haven’t got my act together on the regular ebook train. When I think of ebooks, I think of something far weirder than just what you can read on your Kindle/Nook. But I don’t have anything against those things. I just like not forgetting that materials are strange, all screens are strange, whether they’re plastic or dead tree bark.

BZ: Does Magic Helicopter Press have a philosophy?

MY: I have two philosophies maybe. One about how I think the whole thing works, then a list of how to make it work.

The first is something I told my friend Pete Jurmu when he asked me a similar question a while back: “I wanted to start a press probably for the same reason I reacted to my favorite computer games as a kid by saying: cool, how do I make one? That itch-to-make plus the impulse to share, to say “hey, you gotta read this” to my friends. An invisible friendship model is how I think of writing/reading and definitely publishing. Our earliest projects were Mary Miller’s chapbook Less Shiny and Benjamin Buchholz’s chapbook Thirteen Stares, both of which I thought were doing startling things within their chosen forms, and both of which made me think of very specific potential readers.”

The second is a list I thought of when Melissa Burton asked me if I had any tips for starting a press: “Give a lot of stuff away, but don’t give everything away. Ask for help and use help wisely. Talk to everybody and then talk to more people. Do the best job possible for the fewest projects, not a Swiss cheese job for a lot of projects. Remember that it’s sometimes about the tenderness of the hands you get things into and other times it’s about getting as many hands as possible and usually it’s both, which is fine and not a paradox. Be transparent and forthright and honest about everything and ask the same of others. Find the good stuff people like Roxane Gay and Reb Livingston have written about presses. Have an aesthetic philosophy, but have it work like sculpture—you know, that whole the-statue-is-under-the-clay shit. It’s about working toward. Make sure you have kickass design. Don’t pay too much for printing. Realize the handful of things you’re really good at and gear the whole kitten toward those; creatively minimize your need for the shit you’re bad at. Don’t be a codger or a stooge or a blowhard. Try to sleep as little as humanly possible.”

BZ: What would you say your press is looking for in the way of fiction chapbook submissions?

MY: Anyone who has submitted to NOÖ can submit a manuscript to Magic Helicopter, so I guess I’m looking for a longer form version of anything in there. Anybody who’s in NOÖ, I can pretty much imagine poking their work and seeing it unfurl into a larger manuscript.

BZ: Name a few writers whose fiction chapbooks Magic Helicopter Press has published and tell us a few words about them.

MY: Well, it’s interesting, because we have published maybe three chapbooks I’d say are strictly fiction: Less Shiny by Mary Miller,  Back Tuck by Jen Gann, and Range of Motion by Meagan Cass, which is our newest! And it’s the second in the Gobble Editions, which is to reflect the fact that Tyler Gobble is actually my go-to guy for editing most of the chapbooks now, as I have started focusing more on the books. But I still design the chapbooks, exterior and interior for the most part.

Less Shiny was our first, and I learned a lot from it. Like not to do paste-on covers. It’s still maybe our most popular release, right up there with The Drunk Sonnets by Daniel Bailey. I’m proud of the fact I was the first person to ask Mary to do a chapbook (I think), way back in 2007, and now she’s got a novel out with Norton. Her stories are unlike anybody else’s. They stare at you until you stop bullshitting.

Back Tuck by Jen Gann is like if Joy Williams wrote fairy tales while relaxing in a YMCA shower room all by herself at an abandoned YMCA in a rice field. They know which clouds are listening and why.

Range of Motion is interesting to me because usually when we think of magic we think of certain moods to go along with it, but Range of Motion does this really rare thing where the magic bits of its stories make an amber light; they make the real sad realer instead of whimsical. Plus there’s foosball and Soloflex machines and greyhounds and table tennis. It’s like you don’t even need to do push-ups!

So back to what I said earlier: other chapbooks that are prose but not maybe strictly fiction are Typewriter by Jimmy Chen, We Were Eternal and Gigantic by Evelyn Hampton (a mixture of prose and poems!) and Thirteen Stares by Benjamin Buchholz, which I guess is kind of prose poems. The thing I’m saying is that the only genre I believe in is breakfast, and I could eat that all night.

BZ: Talk a little about the production of Magic Helicopter Press’s fiction chapbooks. What size are they? How are they made? Perfect bound, stapled, or? How much color do you use? What is the page range of most of them?

MY: Our chapbooks tend to be printed at a local place humbly called Paradise Copies. They are saddle stitched (AKA stapled) with full color covers, nice thick 60# interior stock, and colored endpapers. I have gone through love/hate phases with Paradise Copies, but currently I am very fond of them. There’s a curly-headed dude there who seems like a funny stoner from a 90s movie (I wrote 70s, then I wrote 80s, before finally settling on 90s), and there is a chill baseball cap wearer who reminds me of my quietly creative college friends. There used to be a great person named Candace who worked there, but I think she became a farmer and then a world traveler, which seems like the right trajectory for a great person.

BZ: Is Magic Helicopter Press interested in fiction chapbooks from new writers who haven’t had books or chapbooks published before?

MY: Sure, definitely! Anyone who has published in NOÖ! So if you’re interested in having a chapbook or book through us, send me something for NOÖ when it’s open.

BZ: How many stories in the chapbooks submitted to you do you like to see already published?

MY: It really doesn’t matter to me at all. I like compendiums, sort of best-ofs from people who have published a lot, and I also like putting a totally new thing into the world.

BZ: Is there anything you’d like to say to fiction chapbook writers that I haven’t asked you here?

MY: Fiction readers and writers should embrace the chapbook as a form the way poets have. A fiction chapbook might not be the world’s best curated candy box the way a poetry chapbook is, but it’s something like one of those mini-hamburger appetizers. And we’re always eating boxes of those, so why not boxes of fiction chapbooks?

BZ: Thanks so much for all this, Mike. Did anyone ever tell you you’re a good writer?

 ___________

BZoBell

Bonnie ZoBell’s new connected collection with Press 53, What Happened Here, is on pre-order here, where it will then go on regular sale. Her fiction chapbook, The Whack-Job Girls, was published by Monkey Puzzle Press in March 2013. She’s received an NEA fellowship, the Capricorn Novel Award, and others and is currently working on a novel. Visit her at www.bonniezobell.com.

 

string-of-10-6logo Congratulations to CAROLINE HALL, whose story, “Snowman Suicide,” was selected by Guest Judge Gay Degani as the FIRST PLACE WINNER of the String-of-10 SIX Flash Fiction Contest.

“Private Lessons” by John Towler and “Foreigner” by Alexis Lerner placed second and third, respectively.  “The Maybe Baby” by Alison McBain was selected by the FFC staff as this year’s Patricia McFarland Memorial Prize winner.

The first place story will appear at Every Day Fiction in early April, accompanied by an author interview at Flash Fiction Chronicles on the same day. The other winning stories will appear at Flash Fiction Chronicles in subsequent weeks, along with author interviews. Winning authors will be contacted by members of the FFC staff shortly to distribute the prizes and begin the interview process.

Below is a complete list of winners and finalists (in alphabetical order by title).

Winners

1st Place: “Snowman Suicide” by Caroline Hall
2nd Place: “Private Lessons” by John Towler
3rd Place: “Foreigner” by Alexis Lerner
Patricia McFarland Memorial Prize: “The Maybe Baby” by Alison McBain

Honorable Mention

“Doge Coefficient” by Stewart C. Baker
“Pa Don’t Like Kittens” by Lindsay Fisher
“SuperMegaMan” by Elizabeth Wright

Other Finalists

“Amor Fati” by Jesi Bender
“Blueberry Bookmark” by Russell Scarola
“Catastrophe at Blossburg No. 1” by Matthew Barbour
“Michael” by Kurt Newton
“October Visit to the Three-Legged Fox” by Deirdre Gregg
“The Ultimate Delusion” by Ginna Wilkerson
“Wormwood” by John Mannone

Thanks to everyone who participated in this year’s contest. We at FFC are already looking forward to next year’s event.

Q&A With Gay

Gay Degani

Jim Harrington: You organized this contest and ran it for five years. How was the experience different this year being the final judge?

Gay Degani: I’ve always looked forward to this contest, interesting to see how writers handle the string of ten prompt words and exciting when the judging is over to see who won, since we read blind!! However, I have to admit, reading only the finalists as guest judge is a lot easier than reading every entry!

JH: I suppose this is backwards. My first question should have been how did you come up with the idea for the String-of-10 contest in the first place? How long do you see it running?

GD: When I took on the responsibility for Every Day Fiction’s blog, I thought it would be a place for writers to discuss their work, ask advice, and offer help, and I’d monitor it like a forum. It didn’t take me long to realize no one was using it and I began to write articles and solicit from others. This worked better, but our following was small. I got the “I want more clicks” bug since we were offering good stuff. A free contest seemed like the best way to do that. That first year, I held one in February and one in October—I may have those dates wrong—but it was too much work. I decided to stick with the once a year model.

JH: The String-of-10 stories are limited to 250 words or fewer. What do you look for in these short-short-shorts? Are your expectations different than with say a 750-1000 word piece?

GD: My expectations don’t revolve around length, they revolve around story, character, and language, though I hate to put it that way because people always think PLOT in the conventional basic-action way. “Story” doesn’t have to contain huge change or flashy events, but it needs to have meaning through realization, impression, thought. The characters don’t need full-on description, but must feel real, and this is done through deftly placed details and meaningful dialogue. The language must be clear and spare with every word necessary in some way. But then, these elements are valued whether a story is 25 words or 25,000, aren’t they?

JH: In general, what stood out about this year’s winning story? Of course, we don’t want to give away too much. :)

GD: Many things drew me to this story. The title, the first line, the humor, the surprise, its clarity. “Snowman Suicide,” who wouldn’t want to read that story, a title so rich? The idea that a snowman could commit suicide is appealing. As a reader, I wondered how and why this might happen. Not by the sun, I hoped. Then the juxtaposition of the two words appeals. Snowmen are associated with children, fun, smiles with corncob pipes, but suicide is serious and sad. I also liked the resonance of the double “s.” The title is filled with promise of something different, something surprising, and then the first line delivered, “Joe and I get out of the psych ward the same day.” It told me this writer knows her story and I felt I wouldn’t be let down. I wasn’t.

JH: You liked all of our finalist stories this year, but felt a couple were missing something to make them stand out. Could you expand on this?

GD: Some stories had terrific concepts, but the execution needed more thought while others were well written, but contained intriguing characters caught in expected plots. The other problem is often clarity. While language can and should be original, the thread of meaning should not be completely lost in imagery. Readers need some kind of anchor to hold them to a piece of writing, and while the balance between language, structure, and character doesn’t need to be equal, one of those elements has to be so strong, a reader is willing to read the piece more than once if they don’t comprehend the whole meaning the first time through.

JH: What advice would you like to pass on to those submitting a story to next year’s contest—or any contest, for that matter?

GD: Contests are a great way to get work done because of the deadline, hone craft because of the competition, and get recognition if you are long- or shortlisted, an honorable mention, a semi-finalist, a finalist, or the BIG WINNER. Here’s what I’ve learned.

  • Read the guidelines thoroughly and understand what the sponsors of the contest are asking you to do.
  • Start early. Even if all you do is brainstorm in a kind of trance, do it. Almost all dashed off entries will fail to move forward no matter how much confidence you feel when you click the send button.
  • Force yourself to write a full draft as quickly as you can to see what kind of juice is in your idea. See where it takes you and give yourself time to mull over possibilities.
  • Realize that in a contest like the String-of-10 which uses a prompt, many other entrants will have the exact first thoughts about the prompt as you do. Explore the words. Find out all their different meanings and usages. Be original. Surprise yourself and the judges.
  • The old saw is “Writing is rewriting,” and that is the very best advice I have to give. Rewrite and reedit your work. This is difficult when you are very new (and later too) because of that first excitement of “the idea” and all those “new word combinations” that show up. But you can do better. You can find stronger active verbs. You can use adjectives instead of prepositional phrases. You can search for the most perfectly matched word for the image in your head.
  • Get someone else to read it. Believe in their comments. Don’t believe in their solutions. First readers point out where there might be a problem. Consider what tripped them up but only you can figure out the best solution.
  • Proof-read. If a story is totally wonderful and you’ve misspelled a word, most judges will overlook it because it happens, but if there are numerous errors in spelling, punctuation, and grammar that don’t serve the story in some way, it will be passed over. It’s like showing up at your own wedding in your pjs because you were too lazy.

JH: If I were to look into my crystal ball, what would I see in Gay Degani’s future?

GD: Every Day Novels released my serialized suspense novel on March 3! I feel like Charles Dickens! What Came Before is the story of Abbie Palmer, who gets embroiled in the murder of a woman who might be her half-sister. It’s told in seventy 1000-word chapters. I’m also finishing up a collection of short stories, mostly flash, but a few longer pieces too. I’m still an editor at Smokelong Quarterly and an active member of the wonder online writing community.

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