Q&A With Short Short Winner Lee Hubbard

In this online exclusive, WD goes in depth with the 9th Annual Short Short Story Competition winner Lee Hubbard. by Zachary Petit
Publish date:

Life story in brief:
I was reared in a Faulkner-esque corner of Southeast Arkansas. Tulane University in New Orleans, seven years. The Army. Then, several years as a criminal prosecutor. I spent three years representing indigent defendants in the California Appellate Courts. Then I discovered drama and creative writing. Since then I’ve tried to make life an art form.

Writing origins:
In 1998, I met David Milch (producer of “NYPD Blue” and “Deadwood”). David asked me to write a teleplay for “NYPD Blue.” I wrote three. He produced one of them, and I fell in love with drama.

Writing life:
I do not write for a living, but writing dominates my life as a professional dilettante. I paint (badly) in watercolor and oil, travel a good deal, hike the city for exercise and relaxation, socialize with other writers and artists, and, of course, read widely. I take tons of notes that come to me at any time, no matter what I’m doing. However, all of these things inform my writing, and my writing is what I take seriously.

Favorite short stories:
W. Somerset Maugham’s “The Letter” and “Mr. Harrington’s Washing.” Ring Lardner’s “Haircut.” Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game.”

Personal style:
Autobiographical, in a way. I almost always begin with something that has hurt me, given me joy or broken my heart. But that’s only the starting point. The characters grow out of my experience and develop their own personalities.

Writing history:
I began late and have not written a great deal. Attention Deficit Disorder has blessed me with interests all over the place. I’ve written teleplays, screenplays, a stage play and, for the past year or so, short stories.

Where my writing appears:
My teleplay, “These Shoots are Made for Joaquin,” was televised on “NYPD Blue.” My play, The Shelter, had a six-week run at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble in West Los Angels in 2006. I’ve published a bit of poetry and a short story or two on the Internet.

Best way to hook readers:
With immediate, sensory detail. Specific, concrete words create visual images, imaginary sounds and senses, and mood. Such detail, in my view, arrests the reader’s attention and induces him to read on into the story to follow the plot or join the characters in their world.

Inspiration for the winning entry:
I lived the story, or something very like it, but I wanted to dramatize the lonely anguish of soldiers facing death, perhaps, quite alone. No medals, no glory. Just death. Many professional soldiers simply do their duty or fight because they love the competition and the challenge. They love to show Hemingway’s “grace under pressure.” But many other soldiers—most, I think—would simply rather not be there. Notwithstanding duty or obligation, they simply don’t want to die. They would rather live their lives with their loved ones. My story is about that feeling.

Timeline of “We Sat in the Darkness”:
I’d thought about the experience and the questions it raised for years, but I wrote the story in a day or two. Then, when I saw the contest advertised, I spent several hours over a few days editing and polishing it.

Secret to a great short story:
The story should, in some way, give readers new insights into themselves, and into mankind in general. Readers may not come away from a short story as better persons or even different persons, but they will come away from a great short story knowing more about the human condition and, very likely, knowing more about themselves.

Best advice for a budding short story author:
Write about something that brings tears or out-loud laughing—both, if possible. Or something that makes you angry or tears your heart out. Place seat of pants in chair and write. Straight through. Next, strike out every word you can. Throw out as many adverbs (think “-ly”) as possible and put in concrete, specific words. Don’t write “man,” or “clergyman;” write “priest.” Reduce the word count again by 20 percent. You can do it.
Read it aloud. If it has rhythm, if it sings, if it makes you weep or laugh, you’ve got your heart in it. If it doesn’t, start over.

Treats himself to:
A hot cup of Earl Grey and quiet time in our solarium, sitting and gazing out at the fountain, the humming birds, the birds of paradise, the roses and the irises in season, the cymbidiums and the flowering pear trees.

Spends too much time:
Agonizing in megalomania because I cannot reorder the world as I think it should be.

Doesn’t spend enough time:
Dancing, walking in the Sierra and driving about the country and abroad talking to people I meet. I love driving through small-town America and chatting up store owners, waitresses, farmers, cops or almost anyone else.

Currently working on:
At the moment, I’m sweating blood over a screenplay. It’s a story I’m obsessed to tell about an honorable, Graham Greene kind of character, a professional woman pushed by circumstances to violate her most basic principles. At the same time, I’m working on a stage play concerning the death penalty.

Click here to read “We Sat in the Darkness” by Lee Hubbard, Los Angeles.

Click here to read more about the competition and the other finalists.

writer's digest wd presents

WDU Presents: 7 New WDU Courses, a Chance at Publication, and More!

This week, we’re excited to announce seven new WDU courses, a chance at publication, and more!

What Is a Professional Editor and Why Should Writers Use One?

What Is a Professional Editor and Why Should Writers Use One?

Editor is a very broad term in the publishing industry that can mean a variety of things. Tiffany Yates Martin reveals what a professional editor is and why writers should consider using one.

From Script

How to Find the Right Reader for Feedback, Writing Female Characters and Tapping into Emotionally Authentic Characters (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script Magazine, read film reviews from Tom Stemple, part three of writing female characters, interviews with Free Guy scribes Zak Penn and Matt Lieberman, The Eyes of Tammy Faye screenwriter Abe Sylvia, and more!

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Chasing Trends

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Chasing Trends

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so this series helps identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is chasing trends in writing and publishing.

Lessons Learned From Self-Publishing My Picture Book

Lessons Learned From Self-Publishing My Picture Book

Author Dawn Secord shares her journey toward self-publishing a picture book featuring her Irish Setter named Bling.

Poetic Forms

Crown of Sonnets: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the crown of sonnets, a form that brings together seven sonnets in a special way.

25 Ways Reflective Writing Can Help You Grow as a Writer (and as a Person)

25 Ways Reflective Writing Can Help You Grow as a Writer (And as a Person)

Reflective writing—or journaling—is a helpful practice in helping understand ourselves, and by extensions, the stories we intend to write. Author Jeanne Baker Guy offers 25 ways reflective writing can help you grow as a writer (and as a person).

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Being Followed

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Being Followed

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let your character know they're being followed.

Amanda Jayatissa: On Spiraling Out in Suspense

Amanda Jayatissa: On Spiraling Out in Suspense

Author Amanda Jayatissa discusses the fun of writing "deliciously mean" characters in her psychological thriller, My Sweet Girl.