Corina K Skentzou, LISP 4th Quarter 2020 Short Story Winner by 'Parent's Evening'
Can you please tell us about you and your daily life?
I consider myself an eternal learner. Currently, I try to learn Italian; I watch Italian movies and shows on Netflix. I adore food, especially Italian, Mexican and Thai (with not necessarily that order).
I’m a mom of a three year old boy.
I’m married with my best friend that took me a while to find.
I run a lot. I always want to run a Marathon and then I change my mind.
I read a lot.
I write but I read more than I write.
I meditate almost everyday.
I’m a psychotherapist for the last fifteen years and I have a private practice in NYC. I teach psychology. I love to travel. During the quarantine I still travel through reading and writing.
Two years ago we moved to Athens, Greece. I’m originally from Greece but I’ve spent most of my years in NYC. I have lived to LA and Philly too.
I’m a morning person. I wake up around 8-8ish and I drink a double Americano. I check emails, read, write, meditate and then I go out for a run. I work only evenings due to the time difference. This is bad and good. It’s bad because I would love to see my son more and good because I have the morning for myself while my son is in daycare.
When did you start writing? How often do you write?
I haven’t formally studied writing. I read and write from a very young age though. My mother was a devoted reader. We read books and discussed them.
My writing started as journaling in the end of the 1st grade, I suppose. I have all my journals. I was writing down whatever left an impression on me: good or bad, sad or happy and irrelevant. I will share with you one of my days when I was seven years old: Tuesday, September the 6th, 1989—Dear Diary, Today I woke up. I like eclairs. I ate two of them. I still journal. I still like eclairs but I don’t eat them that often—they have plenty of calories.
At the age of ten I wrote a play that was performed in school. At the age of fifteen I wrote a novel size story which it must have been a soap-opera crap but—retrospectively— kudos to me for the concentration and commitment.
During my twenties I stopped writing fiction. I wrote only research papers in psychology or psychology articles. Fortunately enough, I suffered from a deep existential crisis. Something important was missing from my life. I took a free creative writing class in a bookstore’s basement in Williamsburg, New York.
I felt the bees and the butterflies in my stomach.
The professor told me you’re good. More bees and butterflies in my stomach.
I haven’t stopped writing since then. I usually write short stories, novellas and novelettes.
I have three novel ideas. Let’s see what happens.
I don’t have a long resume in writing. However, I have already published two short stories in Ginosko Literary Journal; “The Boy in the Basement” (23rd Issue, 2019) and “The Hill of Monte Smith” (24th Issue, 2020). My short story “Ephemera” has been selected for publication in the Avalon Literary Review’s this Spring. Another short story “Asphyxia” was highly commended by Billy O’Callaghan— the 2019 judge of the Seán O'Faoláin Competition.
Winning the short story prize for London Independent Story Prize 2020 competition is my highest achievement and I feel ecstatic about it.
I have so much work to do with writing. I decided that I need to work more on the craft and I decided to apply for a Master in Creative Writing in the UK. Fingers crossed I will succeed.
How does it feel to have your work recognised?
It’s paramount to know that your work has an impact on someone. Recognition is food for the soul and impetus for the talent.
What’s the best thing and the hardest thing about writing a Short Story?
The best thing: the accomplishment that you feel when it ends. The sense of holism to a small piece of art.
The hardest thing: is precision and economy. You cannot babble in a short story; you have to present a person and her complexities, struggles, conflicts, actions or the absence of those in a few paragraphs.
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?
Most of my writing work has been inspired by the people that I had the honor to meet. I’ve worked with parents whose kids had learning difficulties, and developmental disorders.
Having a child with autism is tough. The grief, the thwarting of the loss could be enormous. At the same time, along with that, there is always beauty. There is always fulfillment.
Another thing that I wanted to show with this story is that even when someone is let’s say a jerk, —as my protagonist who is a nasty, critical, misogynist—has beauty in him. Yes, he’s in total denial, he’s egocentric but he is there for his child to support her and he sees her beauty and how exceptional she is regardless.
I wrote it in one morning last year. The editing and polishing took me an additional morning.
- Can you please give us a few tips about writing a short story?
I don’t have specific tips but I can share how I work on a short story.
1.When an idea comes I try to write it down immediately. I always carry a notebook with me or I write it in my cell notes. Sometimes, I just write down paragraphs with dialogues. I ave written many flash fiction pieces in the subway.
2. I meet with my protagonist: how she looks like, how old is she, what race she/he identifies with, what sexual orientation, what foods she likes, does he have any family, is she an introvert-shy-extrovert, how she wears her hair, does he come from privilege—for instance—? I wrote these down regardless if I will explicitly include these in the actual story.
3. I’m writing down the scenes and the context: How I will challenge my protagonist? How my protagonist will challenge the reader (with their thoughts, actions, inactions, the way their room looks like?).
4. If the story needs more development due to the complexity of the characters and their relationships I develop an outline.
5. Then I start brainstorming and writing nonstop. I try to finish the first draft at once (unless its a bigger story (7000 words for instance).
6. The next day, with fresh eyes I start editing and polishing. I rarely follow my outline by heart, but it gives me a sense of clarity. I always send it over friends that are writers themselves for feedback before any submission.
What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing competitions?
The best thing is the chance to be seen and the motivation to commit on a writing project. If your work gets a good ranking in the competition serves as a vital encouragement to keep going and a point of reference that your work is in a good place.
The hardest thing —that I believe must be the hardest for most writers— is the rejection of their piece. However, since you accept it and see is as an opportunity for growth you can really evolve your craft. I have been rejected so many times, I always read the winning stories. I learn form them.
Lastly, do you recommend the writers to give it a go on LISP?
Definitely! What a great incentive to write and a great chance to be seen.
Reading the stories in the LISP Writer’s Club Blog I loved the fact that so different voices of fiction share the same home. This is a brilliant thing.