NYC MIDNIGHT: Congratulations on winning the Creative Writing Championships 2008. This was the first year involving flash fiction and the competition format was much different than our previous writing challenges. Why did you enter the Creative Writing Championships 2008 and what did you hope to get out of it?
Chelsea: I needed something that would force me to write and I'd never tried flash fiction before, so it was great motivation and challenging.
NYC MIDNIGHT: What was the most difficult aspect of the writing challenges for you: the deadline, the required genre, location and object assignments, or the 1,000 word limit?
Chelsea: Plotting a compelling narrative in under 1,000 words was definitely the hardest part—I'd barely get started and then suddenly find myself out of space.
NYC MIDNIGHT: You received the genres of Fantasy, Horror, Open and Romance. What genres do you prefer writing and which assignments proved to be the most difficult?
Chelsea: I'm a huge fantasy and sci-fi dork, but the Fantasy assignment almost killed me. I couldn't reconcile my high fantasy preferences (apocalyptic prophecies, unwitting children of noble/magical/preordained birth, grizzled old wizards, etc) with the given setting (a pool hall) and object (a DVD player). There isn't necessarily a genre I prefer to write because I find that each story becomes its own entity, regardless of the given category.
NYC MIDNIGHT: The point system used to advance writers into further rounds and determine overall winners was also much different than our previous competitions. Did you follow the overall point standings closely as the competition unfolded and the results were announced from each challenge?
Chelsea: I was honestly more interested in the other contestants' stories and feedback than with the overall standings. I enjoyed all of the pieces that people wrote and was so impressed with the quality of each submission, especially considering the constraints of each challenge.
NYC MIDNIGHT: How did you get started as a writer? Where are you now in your writing career and what are your goals?
Chelsea: I work as a freelance writer and book critic, but I've always wanted to write fiction myself. During this contest I decided to pursue those creative writing aspirations further, and in a twist of impossibly amazing luck was accepted to Johns Hopkins' masters program for fiction the same week I got the results for the final challenge.
NYC MIDNIGHT: Do you write on a regular basis? What is your general approach for writing a story, from idea to final draft?
Chelsea: I'm a great starter and a terrible finisher. I currently have a dozen or so stories in the works along with notebooks full of ideas and rambling outlines. I also suffer from obsessive self-editing syndrome and can easily spend hours tweaking a single paragraph. This contest showed me how much better I write when given a little discipline—especially when not given the time to procrastinate.
NYC MIDNIGHT: Have you done any rewrites on your stories since the competition has ended?
Chelsea: I reworked "Still Life with Blue Dress" and added some length to it. I also want to expand "Dispatch from Earth by Dr. Aldous Godot" into a longer piece. The story is written as an academic article by a robot archaeologist excavating remnants of the Am'rikaan civilization on Earth, and would be fun to elaborate into a longer satirical piece.
NYC MIDNIGHT: We included a dedicated review forum where writers could share their stories from the competition with each other and provide/receive feedback. Did you participate in the forums and/or get a chance to check out some of the stories that were posted? If so, what were some of your favorites?
Chelsea: This was by far my favorite part of the contest. In fact, the forum made me forget about the competition itself since there was such overwhelming camaraderie and support from everyone who participated. It's hard to single out specific pieces given the impressive quality of the submissions, but stories like "Sympathy for the Devil," "Unzipped," and "Burn" really struck me as interesting, beautifully crafted works of art.
NYC MIDNIGHT: Do you have any ongoing or upcoming projects you would like to discuss?
Chelsea: I run a blog called Dorkscape, which covers everything from comic books to science fiction, monsters, anime, and video games—but from a dorkette's point of view, rather than from the traditional fanboy angle. Check it out at: http://dorkscape.wordpress.com.
I also just started writing an interactive mystery—it's a choose-your-own-adventure format that progresses based on reader suggestions and input. To read or participate, go to: http://thedevonshireivoryincident.wordpress.com.
NYC MIDNIGHT: What advice do you have for aspiring writers looking to improve their storytelling, whether it be flash fiction or novels?
Chelsea: Write everyday! It's the most annoying advice to hear, but I've begrudgingly accepted that it's the only way to get better.
NYC MIDNIGHT: Will you be back to defend your title in 2009?
Stories by Chelsea Bauch (Created for the Creative Writing Championships 2008)
Challenge #1 (Fantasy / A pool hall / A DVD player)
''Playing for Keeps'' Synopsis - A pool hall serves as the playing ground for a tournament between the forces of chaos and the forces of order.
Challenge #2 (Horror / A library / A cell phone)
''Among the Dead'' Synopsis - A student barricades himself in the university library during a deadly outbreak.
Challenge #3 (Open / A garbage dump / A Laptop)
''Dispatch from Earth by Dr. Aldous Godot, The Robotic Times'' Synopsis - A robot archaeologist of the future writes a dispatch for a popular magazine about his excavation of the Am'rikaa Empire.
Challenge #4 (Romance / A Laundromat / A Hammer)
''Still Life With Blue Dress'' Synopsis - A lonely dry cleaner fantasizes about the imaginary women whose dresses he cleans.
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