While you’re waiting to hear the results of our 2014 Fiction Prize, or getting your essays ready for the November 15 opening date of our inaugural nonfiction contest, why not check our this interview with Lisa Beebe–the venerable finalist for our 2013 Fiction Prize–whose story, “Wildflowers,” appears in Indiana Review issue 36.1? Answered here are questions asked her about her piece, the benefits of being open to discovery, and using your phone to this end.
After your check out the interview, be sure to read “Wildflowers” online here.
1. What is your writing process like? Do you have any quirks or necessary requirements for your writing to occur?
I usually write my first draft in a notebook, because I think it feels less serious that way. It’s easier for me to be playful with the words. Typing things up always makes them feel more “real” to me.
Sometimes as I’m falling asleep, I try to write using my phone, and I come out with the strangest stuff. I think when I’m half asleep I’m less judgmental about what I write, and I sometimes get good story ideas from those notes. Other times, my late night writing makes no sense at all, but even the nonsensical notes make me laugh when I go back and read them.
2. Why wildflowers, specifically?
I don’t really plan my stories ahead of time, so that’s just sort of what came out. Wildflowers feel very natural to me though — they grow on their own, as opposed to plants that need to be carefully nurtured, like roses or something. I think it would be a very different story if she had roses growing out of her skin. Somehow that would feel more precious, like she should be in a hospital or museum.
3. Is the repulsion of the wildflowers growing on the narrator’s skin meant to relate to a modern insensitivity to nature?
That’s an interesting idea. I didn’t write the story with that in mind, but I think it makes a lot of sense. I grew up surrounded by nature, but I’ve spent most of my adult life in cities. I’m sure on a subconscious level I miss all the clean air and trees.
4. What was most difficult for you in writing this piece?
I’m still pretty new to writing short stories, so I struggle with the structure. I tend to just let things come out onto the page and then go back later and think about how it works as a story. I ask myself things like, “Is there enough conflict?” This story is pretty short, but it’s one of the longest ones I’ve ever written. I’m happy with how it turned out.