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Getting to Know Our Seventh Winner: Bill Bibo, Jr 

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Bill Bibo, Jr has just gained the title of Mash Winner with his clever noir thriller, The Last Perfect Word. But there’s another, unofficial title that should be listed under Bill’s name: Most Loyal Masher. He’s been with us since the beginning, submitted a story to every competition, and sat with his fingers crossed while he’s been shortlisted four times. He’s finally won enough judges’ votes to be crowned Winner—proving that perseverance really does pay off. Mash’s Editor-in-Chief asked him about his latest story, and about not giving up.

 

Cheryl Whittaker: Well, Bill, first of all, congratulations. It’s been some time coming, but you’ve finally won. How does it feel?

Bill Bibo, Jr: It was a very surreal start to my day. One of the great things at Mash Stories is the international make-up of the all the people behind the scenes that makes it run so smoothly. This means that a lot of things happen overnight, at least to me here in Wisconsin. When I first woke Saturday morning to walk Watson, our dog, I grabbed my phone and there on the lock screen was the announcement. I didn’t believe it at first. I thought it was a joke.  There were so many excellent stories and the longest shortlist Mash has had that I didn’t think I had a real chance at First Place. But there it was. I must have read it half a dozen times. Meanwhile Watson was sitting at my feet with his tail wagging and his legs crossed. Finally I calmed down enough to go outside with him.

Later when my wife Laurie and I were out shopping I found the coolest BBQ tongs ever. They’re shaped like a light sabre from Star Wars. She convinced me to get them as part of my celebration. Easiest convincing job ever. And they were on sale.

Cheryl: As a Mash Ambassador, you’ve often voiced your intent to never give up. Can you put the importance of that approach into words for disheartened Mashers?

Bill: Someone once said, and forgive me but I’ve forgotten who, that you can find a thousand reasons not to write, but there is only one good reason to write. That is because you want to. Let’s be honest, if I didn’t write that story it would never be missed simply because there are so many other good stories out there ready to fill that void. I write because I enjoy it and I am lucky that others enjoy reading it.

Best advice?

Listen to the feedback from the judges. This is one of the best things about Mash. It really does help. You can learn what worked and what didn’t.

Even those times when two of the judges love your story but the third one didn’t get the joke. Take their words to heart, follow them or don’t, but make that next story even better.

I turned 60 this year. I’ve always been interested in writing, but life got in the way. At least that was my excuse then. I’ve only just realized if I want to make this whole writing thing a reality I don’t have the luxury of putting it off any more. I have to grab the chances when they come. I don’t want any regrets for not trying.

I often wish I had kept at it while I was younger. But I didn’t and I have to be OK with that. Even now I’m far from being an expert but I am getting better and that only comes by doing it. I plan on doing it as long as I am able.

Cheryl: Let’s talk about The Last Perfect Word. The voice you employ is somewhat of a departure from your other Mash submissions, such as My Big Fat Mythical Greek Wedding, where the comedy is strong and the tongue is very firmly in cheek. With your winning story, though, you lay down the noir gauntlet from the outset: “She stood at the door to my office and I knew she was trouble.” What a great opening line that is! Are you using Mash as a platform for genre exploration, or did you have this fantastic noir voice waiting in the wings?

Bill: I never know where those three words are going to take me and that’s the fun part. When our son moved out of the house I turned his room into an office, something I think he’s not really forgiven me for. I think it was supposed to remain a shrine :-).

One wall I made into a floor-to-ceiling blackboard. When the new words for the next Mash Competition come out I write them at the top. Over the next few weeks I start listing things under each word. Right away I cross out the first five ideas because if they came to me right away then they’ll come to everyone else too. I look for that obscure link, something different to set me apart.

With this story it was “congress” that became the go word. Doing some research I saw the term “a congress of salamanders”. I thought, how great is that? I had heard of a murder of crows. What other odd collective nouns are there? It was quite a strange list I found. Who thinks of these things? That was when the idea of a collective agency popped up. Maybe it was the rhyming sound with “detective”, maybe it was watching old episodes of “Veronica Mars” with my wife that gave me the idea, maybe it was the novel I’m working on, maybe it was the crows. Whichever, it just felt right.

Who knows where the next story will come from or what direction it will take me? I certainly don’t. And that’s exciting.

Cheryl: Having discussed your ventures outside Mash with you on various platforms, the Mash team is aware that you’re currently hot stuff out there, with publishers demanding stories from you. Has it been hard work to get to that point—have you been applying your never-give-up attitude outside of Mash to achieve such popularity?

Bill: Careful now, I’m a long way from quitting my day job. (By the way, I’m an architect specializing in healthcare. Anybody needing a new hospital or clinic, drop me a line.)

Many years ago I began a short story for a proposed anthology that was going to be called “Monster Mash”, funnily enough. They wanted tales featuring a mash-up of two monster types. I came up with the idea of teaming Ramses II, the reanimated mummy of an Egyptian pharaoh, and Bernie Clayberg, a golem. They would be detectives working for Mythical Crime Scene Investigations. In a world where mythical creatures live and interact with humans any crime involving mythics would be handled by MCSI. That first story involved death by unicorn. The anthology bought it and then subsequently crashed.

Meanwhile I had grown to really like these characters, too much to let them sit in a drawer. So I polished it up, titled it “The Wrong Side of the Rainbow”, and sent it to Stupefying Stories. They loved it and published it as part of an e-book anthology. Later they published a second one, “Death Bites”, online, and recently they bought a third, “The Reluctant Minotaur”. Now they want more and want to do a small anthology just of Ramses and Bernie stories. A dream come true but also a nightmare because I have lots of ideas but no completed stories. Most are in the “what if” stage. What if Ramses and Bernie did this? What if they did that?

I am also in the process of writing a novel with these characters. I have a terrible and incomplete first draft done.

I’m a long way from “popular” but more and more people are reading me and seemingly enjoying it. I’m getting serious looks from many publishers. That’s enough to encourage me on. Hopefully the dollars will follow. And maybe movie rights. I’d like movie rights. My only stipulation is that I get to be an extra in it.

Cheryl: One final question. Will you be resting on your laurels now you’ve won, or can we expect to read more from Bill Bibo, Jr on this platform in the near future?

Bill: If you’ve ever tried resting on laurels, your own or someone else’s, you’ll find very quickly that laurels aren’t very comfortable. There’s always a twig or pointy stick poking in places you don’t want poked. No, if it’s okay I’ll keep at it here awhile. Is it okay for winners to keep entering? I love this competition. It’s fun, and at 500 words, great practice.

Recently I conducted an interview with Adam Fletcher for the Mash Blog, and I found I quite enjoyed that. I think we have more of those planned in the not-too-distant future. It is quite weird being on the other side of the questions today.

I would like to thank everyone in the Mash Stories family. You’ve all been very encouraging. As a Mash Ambassador I hope to do what I can to make this one of the best literary sites on the web. If anyone has any comments, ideas, or suggestions on the competition, the website, the state of all things Mash, feel free to contact me or anyone here.

And as always, thanks for reading me.

 

Cheryl: Congratulations again to Bill Bibo, Jr for finally placing first in a Mash competition. For Tweety snippets follow Bill @bbibojr, or for longer insights visit his blog. Good luck with your ventures outside of Mash and enjoy yourself while you continue to be a Mash Ambassador!

 

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Our Chief Editor, Cheryl, has been with MASH since day one. Her poetry has appeared in Riot Angel magazine, and one of her short stories was published in This Is It. Cheryl’s creative streak also reaches to art, craft and photography, and her favourite way to combine all these passions is in art journaling and mixed media. You can view Cheryl’s work by visiting her website: www.cswhittaker.com

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