Meet the winner of WD’s Short Short Story contest, and check out her take on the makings of successful--but brief--fiction

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Happy Friday, everyone. We're on Cloud 9 because we just signed off on the May/June issue of WD today, which includes (among other stimulating things, such as a genre writing package and a great cover story author) a piece about the winner of our 10th Annual Short Short Story Competition, Wendi Christner. Her story “Throwing Stones” took home the top flash-fiction honors this year, and I interviewed her for the mini profile in the magazine. Here are a few excerpts from our chat on shorts, followed by a sharp (apologies for the pun) weekend prompt. For more about Wendi, check out the May/June WD when it hits newsstands in April (it will also include a link to the winning story), and visit her website here.

(Christner photo from wendichristner.com)

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What’s your life story in brief?

Wow, talk about a short, short story. How’s this? I grew up in the north Florida Panhandle 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.

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’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 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 contests?
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.

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WRITING PROMPT: He Got His Wish
Feel free to take the following prompt home or post your response (500
words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below.
By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our occasional
around-the-office swag drawings. If you’re having trouble with the
captcha code sticking, e-mail your story to me at
writersdigest@fwmedia.com, with “Promptly” in the subject line, and I’ll
make sure it gets up.

He always wanted a straight razor shave, so he went to get one on his birthday. After being led to a chair and leaning his neck back, he spotted the barber for the first time.

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here to check the March/April 2010 issue of WD out.