Short Short Story Competition Winner: Wendi Christner, full-time writer, Tampa, Fla.
What’s your life story in brief?
Wow, talk about a short, short story. How’s this? I grew up in the north Florida Pan-handle near the Gulf Coast. My rural and coastal roots influence every part of my life and my writing. I’m sort of the female Kenny Chesney, minus the guitar, singing voice and fame.
How long have you been writing?
I decided to make writing my career about five years ago, but I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I think my parents still have the only copy of “My Marvelous Mammal, Tut,” circa fourth grade.
What are your favorite books?
Gone With the Wind is my all-time favorite. Contemporary Southern novels like The Secret Life of Bees and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood speak to my soul. Ernest Hemingway and Ray Bradbury have to be on my short list, and I’m also a fan of romances with complex female characters, like Betina Krahn and Susan Elizabeth Phillips write.
What are your favorite short stories?
I lean toward the Southern writers like Eudora Welty and Alice Walker. And I especially enjoy discovering old less-known fairytales and fables.
What do you treat yourself to?
I run toward palm trees and sea breezes every chance I get. But it’s also a real treat for me to get lost in the library section of an antique store. Just the smell of old books makes my heart sing. Point me to an antique bookstore on the beach and I’ll be in heaven.
How do you describe your writing style?
My style has a Southern twist, and with that usually comes some grit. Even my lighter pieces tend to contain elements that rub a little against the senses.
What’s your typical writing routine?
I try to write every day. Other than that, I keep my routine flexible. I want to be available for all of life’s surprises and to have time for the people who are important to me.
What’s your main type of writing, and what other forms do you work in?
I prefer to write novels. Some of my work has a literary slant, some is genre romance, and most falls somewhere between the two.
Where has your writing appeared?
My novel The Water Bearer is published with BookStrand, and I regularly write erotic romance as Wendi Darlin.
Can you sum up your winning story “Throwing Stones” in 140 characters or less, new media style?
Yes! I knew my Twitter addiction would come in handy one day. “Throwing Stones” is the story of a young grieving mother who lets go of her deceased child the only way she can.
What’s your inspiration for the piece?
There’s a line in the story: “Hold it between the ditches.” My grandma, who never learned to drive, used to say those words every time she got in a car. That memory somehow evoked a vision of [my protagonist] riding along, looking for her baby near the riverbank. The magic that sparks a story from a random memory or observation is a great mystery to me, but I love to be a part of the process.
What themes did you try to convey within the piece?
I didn’t consciously attempt to convey any themes. I let the emotions and the characters lead this story. I prefer to discover the themes when the story is complete.
How long did it take to produce the piece?
It’s hard to say. I wrote the first draft a couple of years ago and took it out from time to time to “fiddle with it,” as Grandma would say.
What’s the secret to a great short story?
I think the secret to a great story of any length is to engage the reader’s emotions.
What about the short form appeals to you?
I like the challenge of trying to fit all the story pieces into only a few words. I imagine it’s like building a ship in a bottle—but I’ve never tried that.
How do you capture a reader with a short story?
I try to start strong and let every word carry its weight, even more so than in a novel. Scenes have to make their point quickly but poignantly, and transitions need to move like lightning.
What’s the best advice you can give a budding short story author?
Write what’s in your heart. Study your craft. Learn the industry and become part of a writing community.
Do you enter many competitions, and what’s your advice concerning writing
I used to enter romance contests and did well in those. If a contest offers feedback from the judges, always consider that the judge may be “right,” but never forget how subjective this business is.
What are you currently working on, and what’s next for you?
I’m currently working on three books: a literary novel set in the deep South with a Ray Bradbury influence; the first installment of a contemporary mainstream series with paranormal elements; and a cowboy romance. What’s next? I hope to continue writing what’s in my soul and finding people who enjoy reading what I write.