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Lisa Johnson Mitchell, LISP 2022 Short Story Finalist by 'Reunion'

LISP 2022 Short Story Finalist 'Reunion' by Lisa Johnson Mitchell

- Can you please tell us about you and your daily life?

I work 9-5 so I write in the morning, during lunch, and after hours. That said, I always have my phone nearby to speak into if a sentence, word, or story idea pops into my head. I also find that some of my best writing isn't done at the computer. Once, an ending to a story I'd wrestled with for weeks came into my head when I was playing tennis. I dropped my racket, ran to my phone, and just started blurting. I also think of story details while driving and showering, at which point I get to a stopping place as soon as I can and dive in! So in essence, I guess I'm always writing. I also find that reading informs my writing exponentially, so I read lots of books at the same time. I firmly believe what Eudora Welty said, "Writing comes from a devotion to reading."

- When and how did you get into writing?

I started writing in journals in high school. In college, I naturally gravitated to English and journalism, but had no idea I'd enjoy "creative" writing until I took an Advanced Expository Writing Class last semester. That's when everything changed. I fell crazy in love with crafting stories and creating characters. (I knew I enjoyed reading stories, but had no idea I could generate them, such as they were.) I moved to New York City to work as an ad copywriter and after hours took a fiction class with a private teacher. From there, I began my Journey Through the Genres and explored a number of different forms in the arts besides fiction: poetry, acting, improv, and finally, playwriting. I moved back home to Dallas and entered a PEN Women contest and received an Honorable Mention. After that, I focused more on playwriting and screenwriting. Then I produced a documentary film that's on Amazon. After some years, I decided to go back to school and get my MFA so I could once and for all understand the blueprint of a story. I entered a contest and surprisingly, received an Honorable Mention from Glimmer Train. I got a few more stories published online, as well as in offline journals. And now, being selected as a Finalist for the London Independent Story Prize is one of the most precious honors of my life. I'm so very grateful! This no doubt encourages me to keep going because along the way with all the rejections, I sure wanted to quit, but when I felt this way, I channeled my inner Churchill, "Never, never, never give up."

- How often do you write? Do you have a writing routine? And what inspires you to write?

My writing routine has changed over the years. When I was just freelance copywriting, I had more time during the day to devote to writing. However, like I mentioned, I work 9-5, so I have to get creative about the use of my time. I also have had to make hard decisions about my time. Do I need to go shopping? Have that lunch out? Binge on that show? These are things that I weigh . Admittedly, I cave into momentary desires when the muse just isn’t there. It's tough. However, I find that having deadlines helps me make progress. Otherwise, I could dawdle for days!

- How does it feel to have your work recognised?

There are few things better than being recognized for my work, whether it's an award or a publication. I feel like all the hard work I've put into said story has paid off.

- What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about writing a Story?

Gosh, great question. I think that many times, it's plot. How to drop those "crumbs" along the way without giving away the next piece of action or line of dialogue. It's only in the rewriting that the story starts to take shape. I find that sometimes I overwrite, so it's deciding what to take away that makes all the difference.

- How did you develop the idea for your LISP-selected story? Is there a story behind your story? And, how long have you been working on it?

I love this question. My stepdaughter was on the drill team (dance team in other parts of the world) and performed at halftime with the band. Prior to halftime, the cheerleaders and mascot would whip the crowd into a frenzy during the game cheering on the football team, the Panthers. The day of her high school graduation, she came home with the head of the school mascot costume, a Panther head, in tow. Her friend had given it to her - he didn't want it. It was then that the story was born. I thought, "Why wouldn't her friend want this? What is UP with that?" I took an early draft to a workshop, and then worked on it for another couple years.

- Can you please give us a few tips about writing a Story?

Gosh, tips...I think for me, the most important part is to get everything out on paper first. Write a really bad draft. Then go in and try to piece it together. A playwriting teacher in New York once told me that I must "love my badness." That stuck. At the time, I was trying so hard to get everything right with the first go-around and it did nothing but paralyze me. I try not to judge in the early stages. This is where I am the most free to experiment and fail, and this is where I learn what works.

- What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about competitions?

The most challenging thing is the numbers. The odds. But I mostly just put on my blinders and charge ahead. I encourage everyone to do that. I suppose the best thing is that one might win and the worst is that one might lose. But that's a part of the landscape. When I lose or get rejected, which is often, I pick myself up and move on. It's taken years to learn how to do this.

- Lastly, do you recommend the writers submit their stories/screenplays to LISP?

Absolutely! LISP is one of the best places for writers to submit. I can't recommend it highly enough!


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