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Interview with Rochelle Williams : Q3 2020 Creative Nonfiction Essay Runner Up

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Rochelle Williams lives in southern New Mexico. Her fiction, poetry and visual art have appeared in Lunarosity, Chokecherries, Desert Exposure, Lifeboat: A Journal of Memoir, Earthships: A New Mecca Poetry Collection, and Menacing Hedge. Her fiction has won a number of awards, including two Southwest Writers Workshop competitions and Recursos de Santa Fe’s Discovery Reading Series. She holds an MFA in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is working on a novel about the French early modernist painter, Pierre Bonnard.

interview by Marcia Peterson 

WOW: Congratulations your first place win in our Spring 2020 competition! What inspired you to enter the contest?

Rochelle: I was looking at a friend’s blog. She posts writing opportunities weekly. Her name is Jeanne Gassman and we were classmates in the low-residency MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. I saw the WOW listing and decided to give it a shot. As I read around on the Women on Writing site, I saw that Jeanne was a first-place winner in 2012. So, thank you, Jeanne, and thank you, Women on Writing for such a providing such a great platform for women to publish and share their writing.

WOW:  Can you tell us the inspiration for your story, “That Day?” 

Rochelle: This story really began as a backstory or character sketch for a character in some writing I did on a first novel. I was musing about the impact over time of losing a child, and what Maggie might be feeling years after the accident that killed Jacob. After a long hiatus, I’ve recently returned to writing and unearthed this piece from my files. It felt powerful to me, so I worked to shape it into a cogent short narrative, a process I very much enjoyed.

WOW: What do you enjoy about flash fiction writing versus the other kinds of writing that you do?

Rochelle: This was my first flash fiction piece. It was challenging in such a stimulating way it made me want to work in this form a lot more. I’ve written short stories and worked on two novels. To convey what you want to say in so few words really concentrates everything–language, rhythm, structure–and it also mysteriously concentrates the pleasure of the writing. This was a big surprise to me.

WOW: Well done on your first flash piece! What can you tell us about the novel you’re working on, and how the process is going?

Rochelle: The novel I’m working on now is called Eye of Desire: Letters to a Dead Painter. In it, a woman art historian and conservator finds herself writing letters to Pierre Bonnard because she is so moved by his art. She uses this “conversation” with the dead painter to come to terms with a tragedy in her life and recover her own artistic journey, which she abandoned out of grief. I am about mid-way through and hope to complete a first draft in the next six months.

WOW:  Good luck with the draft! Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Rochelle. Before you go, do you have any advice for beginning flash fiction writers?

Rochelle: Since I’m new to flash fiction, I don’t really have any resources to recommend specifically about fiction. However, I’ve found Dinty Moore’s Rose Metal Press A Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction really helpful in terms of understanding short forms in general.

For more information about our quarterly Flash Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Essay contests, visit our contest page here.

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Visit WOW! Women On Writing for lively interviews and how-tos. Check out WOW!‘s Classroom and learn something new. Enter the Quarterly Writing Contests. Open Now!

Never Stale! The Muffin provides daily writing tips, inspiration, and news from the bakers of WOW! Women On Writing.


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