Getting to Know our 8th Winner, Sarah Hausman
by Cheryl Whittaker Views: 606
Mash’s 8th Competition Winner, Sarah Hausman, claims she’s not really a writer, but we beg to differ—we voted her the winner, after all! Here our Chief Editor asks Sarah a few questions about how she wrote her winning story, Passing Go.
Cheryl Whittaker: “Passing Go” is such a simple snapshot of a moment between a mother and her son, yet you manage to fit a lot of information between the lines. How did you strike the balance between the subtle and the too-obvious? Did the story go through a lot of drafts?
Sarah Hausman: You know, I had to go back and re-read the story to see if I could figure out how I did that and I still don’t know how to answer this. I’m not really a writer, so describing technique is beyond me. I do try to stick with the “show, don’t tell” rule, so that probably helped.
The very first draft is the one in my head. I think about a story until it seems like something that really happened, then I write it down.
Usually I write a first draft slowly, editing as I go, and call it good. If I get a chance to have someone read it, then I usually go back and do another draft based on feedback. For “Passing Go” I had a peer group review it, so I probably made some changes after that. So two drafts, maybe? I can’t actually remember. And I suppose the very first draft is the one in my head. I think about a story until it seems like something that really happened, then I write it down.
Cheryl: Your writing in this piece is very empathetic, and it makes me think of the writing rule “know 70% more about your characters than you put in the story”. How did you achieve such a sensitive tone?
Sarah: I definitely knew more about Jack and his mom than what made it into the 500-word cut. Again, I’m not able to say “how” I did it, or even if sensitivity was my intent. I was just thinking about how people that do “bad” things can still be good people. They still play with their kids and tuck them into bed at night.
Cheryl: You’re becoming quite a Mash regular, and one with a good track record: a number of shortlisted stories as well as a win. Can you tell us a bit about how Mash Stories, the Mash Community and the Mash Competition’s concept help you in your writing?
Sarah: I love Mash! I struggle with finding ideas and time for writing. Mash’s format solves those problems by giving me three inspirational words and a very achievable word count. “Passing Go” wouldn’t have happened without “vinegar”. My current shortlisted story Of Crows and Corn was written when I wasn’t really writing much, but knowing that I only had to come up with 500 words made me feel like I had no excuses not to complete something. That got me motivated to hit the keyboard again. The feedback is also wonderful. So far, I’ve been lucky with Mash and it’s given me the confidence to keep writing.
Cheryl: Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
Sarah: I used to be a parole officer and you meet a lot of interesting people that way. Now, due to a strange and unpredicted chain of events, I work at a wig shop. You meet a lot of interesting people that way, too. Sometimes I just see people and wonder about them. Like the guy in the motorized wheelchair that hangs out and watches traffic every day by the gas station. What’s his story? Or sometimes I wonder about things like the cushioned toilet seat at that same gas station. Who thought that would be nice?
Online, Duotrope is also great. It’s where I found Mash and I can find endless prompts there.
Cheryl: Do you have any particular favourite authors or influences?
Sarah: I’m not very well read, so not really. I do like how Stephen King builds his characters, though. They always seem like real people to me. I listened to On Writing in the car one time, so I guess he has given me all of my formal training on writing.
Cheryl: thank you, Sarah, for such a candid interview. It’s not often aspiring writers feel they can be truly honest about their process, for fear of not being taken seriously, but it’s refreshing for other aspiring writers reading this to see the fallible side of their fellow authors. Mashers, Sarah’s stories will no doubt continue to appear on Mash, given her track record so far, so look out for future shortlisted submissions!
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