Interview with Traci Mullins, The London Independent Story Prize 2nd Quarter 2018, Highly Recommende
- Can you please tell us about you? Where do you live and how is your daily life?
I grew up in Oregon and have lived in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for more than thirty years. I have my own freelance book editing business and have edited and collaborated on hundreds of non-fiction books over the past three decades. I love working on other people's books and helping them make their dreams of good writing and publication come true. It is an honor to enter other people's stories and draw out their best. I am delighted to be honoring my own stories now as well.
- When did you start writing? How often do you write? We want to learn all about your writing life!
I started writing little stories when I was a small child and still have many of them fifty years later! Unfortunately, when I got caught up in academics, I abandoned my inner storyteller and eventually planted myself in the non-fiction world, supporting other authors. In the past few years I have worked on several memoirs and been captivated again by the power of story. I have been wanting to get back to writing fiction for decades, and just five months ago I did. I discovered, quite by accident, the genre of flash fiction while poking around on the internet. I was hooked after my first story--which was published in Flash Fiction Magazine--and I've been writing flash ever since. Because I work full time, I don't have nearly the time I'd like to devote to my writing, but I try to write at least one story a week and submit it. So far I have had eight stories published, and I have a number of others in the submission process.
- 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 shocked! And so honored. The story that was chosen has been rejected by some other publications, so I didn't know if I needed to go back to the drawing board on it or not. I am delighted that the LISP team appreciated it for what it is.
- What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing a Flash-Fiction?
The best thing is being able to finish stories quickly, to have only one small idea to explore and express and to be forced to choose every word carefully. I also love the challenge of telling a whole story in a very small space. The hardest thing for me is coming up with ideas for my stories. I am only beginning to tap into my imagination and voice, but I am enlisting my inner eight-year-old in that process and hoping that she will lead me to imaginary places I haven't yet conceived.
- 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?
In addition to being a book editor, I am a hospice nurse. In that capacity I have cared for many patients with Alzheimer's and been both saddened and delighted by their interactions with life as they now know it. The inspiration for "On a Mission" came from an experience common to many dementia patients: that of thinking they need to take care of something in their lives that is actually far in the past. I appreciate how they retain their distant memories and try to inhabit them. I wrote the story quickly once I had the idea.
- Can you please give us a few tips about writing a 300-word flash-fiction story?
I think the key is to choose just a few moments in time from which a timeless message can be drawn. You have to get your character from point A to B very quickly, yet show enough about how she gets there to give the reader insight about her inner world. There has to be a climax and resolution, so the parameters of the story need to be very narrow. Fiction of less than 500 words is my favorite genre because pulling all of this off is a fun challenge!
- What's the best thing about writing competitions? Having a deadline, a motivation to finish the story, the chance of winning, getting recognised by a professional organisation, communicating with other writers or a networking opportunity to meet with like-minded people?
All of the above, but especially the impetus to finish a story by a certain date. This forces me to spend enough time with one idea to let it take root and flower. It doesn't always work, but I appreciate the motivation contests provide to put on my thinking cap and see what comes into my mind. Writing stories based on a specific prompt is especially motivating and challenging.
-Lastly, do you recommend the writers to give it a go on flash fiction story and LISP?
Absolutely! I honestly think that every writer should write flash because it forces one to sharpen skills related to the basic ingredients of all fiction, i.e., character, plot, climax, resolution. Plus, it's lots of FUN! And even though entering contests can feel intimidating, you really have nothing to lose. When I do so, it's like validating myself for my efforts and giving myself a pat on the back. Whether or not I am recognized is secondary.