Sixty Seconds IV with: Margaret Locke

Ten answers to ten questions in 20 words or fewer. That’s less time than it takes to burn a match*.

(*Depending on the length of the match and your tolerance for burned fingers, obviously)

Matchlight

Our newest Flash! Friday winner is Margaret Locke (four cheers for Lady Locke!!)Read her winning story here. Note that this is her FOURTH spectacular win!!! Be sure to check out her winner’s page to read her previous winning stories and interviews & then come back here to get to know her better. And yes; a four-time FF winner gets as many words as she wants!

1) What about the prompts inspired your story?

I don’t know. I looked at that photo prompt, all modern city and steel, and thought, “How the heck am I going to get a farmer into that?!” The ‘grandfather as farmer’ image came first, and then the idea of change over generations and time that wasn’t really change–for all their differences, they were the same. I ran with that.

2) This is your FOURTH win!!!!! your first three were Sept 2013, Nov 2013, and Jan 2014. Talk about that for a minute. You had just started writing flash in July 2013, and became only the 3rd person to have won three times, which is amazing! You’ve also earned countless accolades since then. But it’s been a long stretch between third and fourth wins. What’s motivated you to keep writing?

It wasn’t fun. I’d like to be able to say I don’t give a hoot about winning or mentions, but I’d be lying. I watched people who’d started writing long after I joined FF race ahead of me in their number of wins (*cough* Tamara Shoemaker and Foy Iver *cough*), and had to battle a bit of envy, I admit.

But it came back to commitment, and pleasure. Commitment, because I’d made a promise to myself to participate in FF as often as I could, to ensure that I wrote at least something new every week, even only 200 words. Pleasure, because it’s darn awesome to craft a mini-tale week after week.

On results day, I’m always a bit sad if I don’t get mentioned — must be some ego mixed in with my insecurity, after all, as embarrassing as that is to admit. The rest of the days, I realize the true prize is in the creating, in the community, in the connection with fellow writers. Frankly, with the sheer amount of staggering talent participating week after week in FF, I was completely shocked to win again. Y’all are fiercely good, peeps.

3) How has your approach to flash fiction changed since you started? Has your flash writing itself changed?

Hrm. Good question. I’d like to think I’m improving, that I’m able to write a little more outside of the photo prompt box, but I don’t know … I feel as if my style is more or less the same; I either go the humorous route (which I love, but which never wins), or I end up writing stories that, to me, are a form of prose poetry. I do think I’m a bit better at getting close to that word target from the start, instead of having to trim away two-thirds of additional story!

4) You also served a round as a judge here back in Year Two. Overall impressions? Did taking a turn as a judge impact your writing?

I was terrified to judge. Terrified. That’s why I turned Rebekah down the first time she asked – I was a newbie writer; what qualifications did *I* have to judge anything? The second time she asked, I caved. I’m glad I did. The first turn was nerve-wracking, but I gained confidence after that.

The lasting impact of judging, oddly enough, has been that it’s made me more free in my writing, because I’ve realized exactly how subjective judging is. For me as judge, after taking into account grammar and form and prompt incorporation and all that, it often came down to which story made me feel the most, which one leapt off the page into my brain and wouldn’t let go. Serving as a judge drove home the fact that just because a story didn’t win doesn’t mean it isn’t an excellent tale. Incidentally, knowing that helped ease the sting of all those agent rejections–I kept hold of the idea that just because one person didn’t click with my story didn’t mean that nobody would.

5) Has writing flash fiction changed/affected your novel writing? how has it helped? has it created any challenges?

Flash (along with Twitter!) has helped me learn to “edit” more as I go. I’m a naturally verbose person, both when I talk and when I write. Having to cut out a lot of the filler to get to the main point, because I had such a limited number of words with which to do so, has strengthened my writing as a whole.

As for challenges? The biggest one, if I can claim it stems from Flash, is that editing a novel is a much longer and more laborious chore than editing a Flash piece. When I’m staring at a story that’s 100, 200, 300 words long, it’s easier to see the whole and see where things need fixing. When it’s an entire novel, I falter in that–and get frustrated that I can’t attack the editing and be done in an hour, like I can with Flash.

6) You’ve been a huge part of FF for a long time, since it was practically still a baby. Any thoughts on how the community has changed? how flash fiction writing has changed?

The community has gotten bigger, that’s for sure. And yet, at the same time, it’s gotten tighter. Many of the people who write for FF also write for other Flash contests. They get to know each other’s writing — and each other — well. It’s like a large family. I do occasionally wonder if that’s intimidating to newbies joining, but I’d like to think not, since so many people take the time and make the effort to comment on so many stories every week. By the way, my apologies, FF community, for not being as active with that in the last few weeks–I want to read and comment much more than I am, but this novel business is sucking up all my time! 😉

7) Now to some big stuff! You just published your FIRST NOVEL (for which we got to interview you! yay!!!). Now that you are a couple of weeks in: how’s that going? what’s marketing life like? any surprises? what’s been your favorite feedback so far?

Augh. The novel. Yes. It’s exciting, exhilarating, exhausting, frustrating, bewildering. I’m so painfully aware of how much I don’t know–what’s the best way as an indie author to get people to pay attention to the book, to get them to hopefully buy the book, leave a review for the book, spread the word about the book? I admit I’ve gotten swept up in it all. I thought I would stink at promo, because generally I don’t feel comfortable tooting my own horn–but here I am, blabbing about it too much, and pretty much anywhere I can. I’m giving myself grace for that, since the novel has only been out two weeks–but now it’s time to find the balance between promo, editing the next book, writing, and, well, being mom and wife. I do like having an excuse for my house looking this horrible, however.

I have been absolutely surprised and delighted by the positive response to the book itself — even from people who — *gasp* — don’t actually know me in real life, and therefore have no vested interest in sparing my feelings. Any review I get is great, but I admit, the first one that came in from a stranger was exhilarating. I was like, “Whaa? Someone I don’t know read my book, AND gave it 4 stars? My book? MINE?” Then a second person contacted me directly on my Facebook page to tell me A Man of Character was one of the best books they’d read this year. I started to cry. My book? MY book? The one no agent wanted, the one my critique group still found lacking in some ways (in my wonderful critique group’s defense, we’re all trying to find stuff to improve in each other’s work, otherwise we wouldn’t be a *critique* group, right?)? I know eventually there will be people who don’t like it. I know it’s got warts. I know it could be improved. But I’m basking in the reality that a) I actually published the book and b) at least a few people really like it. Dream accomplished.

8) What other projects are you working on right now? what’s it like, trying to balance writing and editing AND marketing??

See question 7. In the past two weeks, there’s been no balance. I’ve been working on promo, reading about promo, sketching ideas out about promo, dreaming about promo. Pathetic and silly. Luckily, I’ve got author friends to keep me grounded and to remind me this is not the end, but the beginning, and the biggest goal is to write the next book. Luckily for me, I’ve got the next two written — but they’re definitely in first draft stage and need heavy editing. So that’s the goal for the summer: edit book 2, and send it to my developmental editor by–eek–early August. I’m not planning any truly new writing (except Flash! Friday, of course), but I DID find myself taking voice memos on future plot ideas and character sketches while out walking this week. Gotta love my phone for that.

If anyone has the secret to adequately balancing writing, editing, marketing, wifeing, mothering, sleeping, cleaning, grocery shopping, exercising, and maybe doing fun stuff-ing (sorry, had to keep the -ings going), could you clue me in?

9) What’s your favorite part of the novel writing process — outlining? character sketches? research? TRIPS TO LONDON? editing? sending it to beta readers etc? What’s your least favorite part, and how do you get through that?

LONDON! LONDON! LONDON! OK, back to reality. I do enjoy sketching out the plot and particularly the exhilaration that comes from writing that first draft. I love the creative process and the rush it gives me, of writing passages that make me giggle, of figuring out where the characters and story are going, (because you can bet they veer off from the plan) of writing “The End.”

I don’t like the editing as much — I always feel lost, trying to figure out what needs to be done, where the plot holes are, how to improve this, fix that. Some people LOVE the editing process, but so far, I’m not one of them. I’m hoping, however, that the next time around, I see it in a different light, because having gone through it numerous times for this first book — including a major overhaul after consulting a developmental editor — I’m now 100% sure that the book in its current state is MUCH better than the first draft, and that all those painful hours in the chair, staring at the screen as I struggled to figure out how to fix the story, were worth it.

10) Final thoughts, anything you’d like to share with the FF community?

Keep going. Keep writing. Keep lifting each other up. When you receive critique, or get overt criticism, take what you like, what is useful–and leave the rest. Don’t quit. Don’t give up. It’s OK to mourn, to feel stung, to doubt when you get negative feedback, agent rejections, bad reviews, etc. But if your heart drives you to write, if your soul drives you to write, if you can’t imagine life without writing, don’t let anyone stop you.

Egads, that sounds preachy. As if I know what I’m doing. As if I’m not going to burst into tears the first time someone trashes my book. As if I’m not going to feel stung the next time I send something out and get it back with tons of suggestions. As if I don’t fear rejection, ridicule, failure. Lord knows I do.

The biggest thing I want to say is THANK YOU. Thank you to Rebekah, for the way she sinks her entire self into making the Flash Friday community thrive. She is ALWAYS thinking about FF, you guys, always plotting, always wanting to make it better, to encourage people. Thank you to Maggie Duncan, for awarding me an honorable mention (though she knew me not at the time) the very first week I participated, which was the first public praise of any fiction writing I’d done, and which lit the fire in me to keep coming back. Thank you to everyone who’s commented on my flash stories–and each other’s Flash stories. I love it when writers work to build each other up, rather than tear each other down.

I’m not sure I’d be where I am–a published author–without all of you. Yes, I had starting writing my novel before I found Flash! Friday, but the positive feedback I got from other writers on my Flash kept me going and made me think that maybe, just maybe, I could write.

In the words of Sister Sledge, We Are Family. And I’m so thankful to be a part of it. 

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7 thoughts on “Sixty Seconds IV with: Margaret Locke

    • Thanks, Tamara – I can’t imagine life without some of the writers I’ve met in the last couple of years, and most of them I met because of Flash Friday and/or the Shenandoah Valley Writers. A lucky lady am I!

  1. Such an encouragement! I’m so incredibly thankful to have found you, Margaret, and the SVW gang. Life-long dreams have never felt so attainable. Congratulations again, Lady Locke! 🙂

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