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Interview with Erica Plouffe Lazure, The London Independent Story Prize 2nd Quarter, Highly Recommen

Can you please tell us about you? Where do you live and how is your daily life?

When I’m not sneaking writing a story into a spare ten minutes of my day, I teach literature to high school students, play my guitar, and plot adventures that are far from where I live in Exeter, New Hampshire, USA.

When did you start writing? How often do you write? We want to learn all about your writing life!

My writing life started early, with diary and journal entries, which then graduated into a career in journalism, which then launched me into an interest in fiction. I honed my fiction writing skills at East Carolina University and Bennington College, and in short, combustible bursts, take the time to write from my busy life as a boarding school teacher. The job takes a toll on my creative life, as do New England winters. So to combat the busyness and the cold, I try to spend every day in February writing a flash story inspired by a prompt given to me by one of my writer friends. We keep each other accountable daily, and don’t send another prompt until a story (no matter how short or wild) is written.

How did you feel when you learned that you were longlisted for The London Independent Story Prize? How does it feel to have your work recognised?

I was leaving the gym when I got the email about being longlisted, and let out a funny yelp on the staircase, startling the desk clerk. I was thrilled to see both of my stories were included on the list. It’s not so much the “prize” that I value as it is knowing that I’ve cast my work out into the world, and someone else reads it and recognises something of worth in it.

What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing a Flash-Fiction?

For me, the best thing is that I’m somehow able to step into a voice or attitude and let that voice control the scope of the story, leading me (the hapless writer) where it wants to go. That ability came about, I think, because I took a lot of chances in trusting myself and my voice, trusting that my subconscious knows what it’s doing, and not being so worried about the outcome. It’s a form of “play”—not having money-making, or awards as an end-goal but rather creating to see what surfaces—that I think everyone, not just artists, should engage in.

How did you come up with the idea for your LISP selected story? Is there a story behind your story? And how long have you been working on it?

These two pieces came out of my February 2018 daily writing, and in my mind’s eye, I see my hometown in Massachusetts. We had a large veterans’ memorial downtown, and it was rumored that “bad element” types tended to hang out around there. I grafted that image with another memory of walking through a park in Montreal some time ago, seeing all the teenagers hanging out, practicing acrobatics and fire arts, and a story emerged. With “How I Became an Actress” I was hoping to convey that a childhood with toys that don’t supplant your imagination can be an avenue toward nurturing your own passion and discovering what you really love.

Can you please give us a few tips about writing a 300-word flash-fiction story?

If you have a 400-word story, then you can have a 300-word story. To make it happen, you have to print out and read aloud your work, be ruthless and not in love with your sentences. “Veterans' Day” was a longer piece, and the word limit helped me to pare it down and make it even stronger, even though I felt frustrated during the editing process, picking which adjective to edit out to meet the rules. Sometimes word count constraints are good, because you constantly have to call out what of your story could be sharpened, more concise, or eliminated. My personal approach is to write longer, and then cut back.

Lastly, do you recommend the writers to give it a go on flash fiction story and LISP?

You bet! J You have to start somewhere, and if a contest gives you the context and motivation to begin or continue an engagement with the arts, then make it happen!

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