Interview with Wayne Scheer, Runner Up in Q3 2019 Creative Nonfiction Contest
Wayne Scheer has been nominated for four Pushcart Prizes and a Best of the Net. He’s published numerous stories, poems and essays in print and online, including Revealing Moments, a collection of flash stories. His short story, “Zen and the Art of House Painting” has been made into a short film.
Wayne, originally from New York, lives with his wife in Atlanta, Georgia.
interview by Marcia Peterson
WOW: Congratulations on your top ten win in our Q3 2019 Creative Nonfiction essay competition! What prompted you to enter the contest?
Wayne: Honestly? The chance to win some money. I thought “A Quiet Man” was a pretty good essay and I believed it had a chance of breaking the top three. I guess not. I subbed a short story to the WOW fiction contest a while back, “Blind Date,” and it won Second Place, so I thought I had a pretty good chance. (I won’t mention the stories I sent that never made the cut at all.)
WOW: : In your entry, “A Quiet Man” you’ve captured the universal in your specifics, and your writing is wonderful. What inspired you to write this essay?
Wayne: Firstly, thanks. I appreciate compliments about my writing.
I read a poem by Beverly Head which employs the image of an orderly cemetery with all the crosses and tombstones neatly arranged in contrast to the chaos of real life. The image stayed with me and it turned into a nonfiction essay about my father. As I was writing, long suppressed memories rose to the surface, some involving tears. That’s how I knew I was on to something. I’ve written and rewritten this piece a number of times.
When I began writing, I doubt I thought it would be a nonfictional account of my father and my relationship. I tend to use real people as starting off points and fictionalize from there. This time, something inside me said to stay honest. Mostly. My son wants people to know his hair wasn’t really specked with white when I wrote this story originally. I took poetic license to show the passing of time. I figure that’s the creative part of creative nonfiction. (His beard is now showing specks of white.)
WOW: You’ve written fiction and nonfiction in various forms and lengths. Do you find one more challenging than the others? Are you drawn to one form more than the others?
Wayne: I believe the best of my fiction is mostly true, if not factually so, and the best of my nonfiction, though factually true, embroiders the edges of reality, as Mark Twain might have said, to pretty it up. So I don’t necessarily distinguish between truth from fiction. That’s a journalist’s job. When I write, I’m focused on the truth of the characters and their situation. If I have to employ fictional techniques to get at the truth, so be it.
My writing has become shorter and shorter through the years, to the point where I now write mostly poetry. I like the short form because it forces me to think in terms of specific details and images to show my characters or tell their stories. Which means any plans I may have had to write a novel are on hold.
Since I mentioned Twain earlier let me refer to something he reportedly wrote, although I’ve seen the gist of this attributed to others. At the end of a long letter to a friend, he supposedly apologized for the letter’s length, explaining if he had more time he would have made the letter shorter.
WOW: Can you tell us what writing projects are you currently working on? What can we plan on seeing from you in the future?
Wayne: I’m nearing 74, so I don’t make long-term plans. My goal right now is to keep writing, whether it’s poetry or fiction or nonfiction. I’ve also been spending a lot of time reviewing old stuff and revising. Fortunately, my next meal doesn’t depend upon me selling a story, so I can just have fun playing with words.
What can you plan on seeing from me in the future? When I see it, you’ll see it. But chances are it will be a revision of a first draft I wrote ten or fifteen years ago.
WOW: Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Wayne. Before you go, can you share a favorite writing tip or piece of advice with our readers?
Wayne: This comes from Jack Kerouac’s novel, Big Sur. “Always pull back—and see how silly we look to God.”
For more information about our quarterly Flash Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Essay contests, visit our contest page here.
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