In April 2016, the United Authors Association published Obvious Things, an anthology of the winning pieces of its 2015 Short Story and Flash Fiction contests. Michelle Stoddard, a member of the UAA’s Utah Valley Writer’s chapter, won third place for her short story “The Patent Man,” a historical fiction piece with a crisp pace. Michelle shares with some of her background and thoughts about being a writer, as part of our new “getting to know you” series.
A: That’s a complicated question! I’ve always had a story in my head, usually two or three of them, for as long as I can remember. I think “The Moment” my writing journey started, though, was when I was 13 and found a book on writing and publishing fiction that my mom had bought in the late 70’s (she’s a writer as well). I don’t know why, but something about that book grabbed me and I decided then and there that I was going to be a writer. The book said good writers write every day, so I tried to do that. Met with various levels of success on that front, but it’s gotten me through 7 manuscripts (a few of the early ones unfinished) and who-knows-how-many short stories.
A: Oh my gosh, I start shaking just thinking about that moment. I’d been writing for almost 13 years at that point (half my life!) and “The Patent Man” was the first fiction piece I really felt was good enough to submit for publication. I felt really good about that story, but had no idea if I stood any chance at all. Mostly I had just entered because I knew it was time to get my work “out there.” If I hadn’t placed at all I would have still been proud of myself. But then at the award ceremony they called my name and handed me a check. I was in so much shock that I just stumbled back to my seat, turned to Daphne Higbee (who had also just placed), and said “We’re professional writers! WE’RE GOING TO BE PUBLISHED!” One of the highlights of my life. Right there.
A: Publish a novel! I’m currently neck deep in the revisions stage of a historical adventure and I’m pretty excited about it. Working with beta readers right now and I’m shooting to be submitting it by the first half of 2017.
A: Commit to finishing things. Early on I would do the typical “Start a novel, get bored, start another one, get bored” cycle. I only began to develop as a writer when I started forcing myself to finish any story I started. It was miserable and horrible sometimes, but I learned how to develop a complete story arc and that sometimes the real story doesn’t make itself apparent until long after you wanted to quit. There were a few stories I was convinced were a lost cause (*ahem* “The Patent Man”), but looking back I learned important things from each of them. And the funny thing is, sometimes it’s the most doomed, lackluster stories that end up cleaning up the best.