During the Pet Contest, I offered a small incentive for folks that voted during a specific 24 hour period, and I am happy to announce the winner for all to read about in this special Highlight: Lisa Vooght! She assisted us in our efforts to test out voting systems for future contests and deserves props for that alone, but as I found out, she is also a fairly impressive woman outside of her written works. I had a chance to interview her via email, and here that is for your reading pleasure.
1. Please, tell everyone a bit about yourself.
I was born and have lived most of my life in Southcentral PA, USA except for a short stint in McLean, Virginia. I majored in marine biology in college, switched to business, worked in several unrelated fields, and ended up in special education. A convoluted path, but I finally “found” myself. My interests are varied: snorkeling, rock climbing, heavy machinery (warbirds, steam locomotives, abandoned factories), reading, and writing. I love history and science, especially biology and medicine.
2. Next, how long have you participated in #FridayFlash?
I officially joined FFDO in August, but I had been “stalking” the site for months. The quality of writing was so high that the idea of linking my own work was intimidating. Still, as a writer one of the best ways to improve is to put your work out there for others to read and critique, so I joined up.
3. What genres do you typically write?
I have been slowly trying my hand at several different genres. I started out doing mostly “slice of life” and light romance, with the occasional experimental piece. Since then, I have tried suspense and paranormal as well. I confess to having read very little horror or sci-fi throughout my life, and so I am reluctant to take on those genres, until I have researched them more thoroughly.
4. Are you published at all, if so what, how, and when?
My first stories were published in the local newspaper for a column called “I Know A Story.” I have also had various items published by online sites and journals. The paranormal short story “Visible Signs” was recently chosen by Ethics Trading for inclusion in an anthology this fall.
5. What is your background in writing?
One of the things I regret in this modern age of technology is that letter writing has fallen by the wayside. Looking back, some of the first stories I wrote were actually long missives to my grandparents, who lived in Florida. Later, I had a pen pal in South Africa, and we exchanged detailed accounts of school activities, boyfriends, and family outings. (Somehow, I do not think Facebook status updates and texts compare.) I also had a short story rejected by a 5th grade teacher who accused me of plagiarism – that was covered in a different interview, so I will not go into it here. Writing somehow fell by the wayside until about 10 years ago, when I discovered the “I Know A Story” newspaper column and thought “why not?” I fully expected to have it rejected, and when they did not, it gave me that tiny boost of confidence I needed.
6. What are your current works in progress, and how far along are they?
I would love to say that I am working on a novel, but I am not. It is sitting in a binder on the bookshelf. After writing the first few chapters over a year ago, I realized that it was wordy, convoluted, and downright clunky in some areas. That was actually one of the catalysts for taking up flash fiction writing; I wanted to sharpen my focus and get a story or scene across without drowning the reader in unnecessary detail. I still feel like I have a lot of work to do in that area, so I intend to continue writing flash and short stories. In fact, I may never stop; I have found that it is something I really enjoy. I also maintain a writing blog which gives me a platform to post stories, snippets, and ideas and to receive feedback.
7. If you do not already have an agent/publisher, who would your ideal agent/publisher be and why?
I do not have an agent/publisher, and I really have not given any thought to it. I suppose I will not really look into it until I haul down the novel and dust it off. From what I have heard on the grapevine, it is nearly impossible to find an agent/publisher to take on a short story writer. Maybe I am discouraged too easily!
8. Who are your favorite authors/inspirations/books and why?
As far as inspiration, I believe I have taken away something from every book I have read. I like historical fiction, especially by Margaret George and Edward Rutherfurd. Authors whose works I have read over and over include Emile Zola, Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens, and Ernest Hemingway. Zola and Dickens have always been favorites, because their writing completely immerses me in a particular scene or situation. And I love Dickens’ sly wit and caricatures. I suppose my ideal would be to write with Hemingway’s spareness but with Dickens’ observant eye and attention to detail. As for FFDO, there are many fine writers here that I read and admire and have learned a lot from.
9. What is your general process for writing flash fiction?
At this point, I let the stories come to me. The few times I have seen an open submission and tried to write something to “fit the bill,” I have failed miserably. Most of my stories stem from little video trailers in my head which play while I am in the shower, mowing the lawn, or sitting around bored. For example, the story “Life” played out while I was cleaning out a closet. I remembered a childhood friend, and I playing a game of Life which went on and on. I envisioned the two of us (as children) sitting and playing while our subsequent lives took place around us, ending with us still sitting at the table, now old and decrepit and the game board still in front of us. I felt a pang and wished that I had some knowledge of film making, because I thought that it would make a neat short clip. Then I thought, can I tell this as a story and share it that way instead?
10. What are your writing plans for the rest of the year and into 2012?
I really do not have any plans as such. I love my job far too much to consider leaving and writing full time, so I suppose I will continue maintaining my blog and submitting stories from time to time. I might even self-publish a collection at some point, although my computer and formatting skills are so dreadful that it may be years down the road.
11. What is the question you hoped would be on this list, but isn’t, and what is the answer to that question?
*Grinning* I was waiting for the seemingly inevitable “Who would you like to have dinner with” or “If you could change one thing in history…” or even “Why do you write?” But I think I will tackle the “paper book or e-reader” question. And the answer will always be paper. A Kindle or other reader is terrific for traveling or for toting around when convenience is paramount. But for me, reading is about all of the senses. I like the feel of a book in my hands, from the crackle of the pages to the texture of embossed leather covers. I enjoy the smell of a book (and bookstores, for that matter). And I still find it easier to flip back to a particular chapter or passage in a book than on a gadget. Maybe it is because I’m getting old and crotchety and these newfangled inventions have me all discombobulated. On a related note, I am sorry to see Borders book chain closing, but on the other hand I am hoping that perhaps it will give the small, independent bookstores a leg up. I think that they are an important part of the community; I would hate to picture a future where there are no more books or bookstores as we know them. And somewhere, in the back of my mind, I am wondering if the day will come when I have a little folding table at the front of our local book nook, and a handful of people are waiting for me to sign a copy of my book. Only time will tell.