MUSED
BellaOnline Literary Review
Fish Arrival by Leslie Tribolet

Interviews


Lori Bernard

In Her Own Words

Lori Bernard
It’s been exactly one year since I began writing fictional short stories for publication. It amazes me that I am what people would label as an “author.” Although I created little books throughout my childhood, I didn’t think that fiction writing would become an integral part of my adult life. In fact, writing wasn’t (and still isn’t sometimes) entirely easy for me. It’s taken me my whole life to get to this point—where creative writing is a chosen pleasure. It’s not my job, but it’s more than just a hobby. It defines me; it’s part of the answer to the questions “what do you do?” and “who are you?” It’s been a journey, to say the least, one where my inspiration and creativity start at the very beginning.

At the age of five, I was more than just an author. I was an illustrator, book-binder, and cover designer. I created little “books” from scratch, starting with a piece of cardboard from a cereal box. In middle school, I wrote what I considered to be my first “real” book. It was typed in Microsoft Word and printed through a program that automatically aligned the pages when folded in half. It didn’t have illustrations like my childhood books and was my longest story to date, an accomplished one-thousand words. But that story, about a broken friendship repaired through parental advice, made my little sister cry. Her tears were a confirmation to me that I could actually evoke emotion through my words, what I perceived as one of the more important skills of a good writer. That story originated my style of writing, its core meaning and significance parallel to what I would always chose to write about—the inner workings of people, their mind’s behavior through turmoil and resolution.

I give a lot credit to my high school English teachers for giving me a chance to develop my writing skills in artistic ways. I enjoyed completing those “dreaded” projects that required endless amounts of originality. I spent countless hours working on these assignments, mostly because I was having so much fun, and partly due to my obsessive detail-oriented nature. I was a perfectionist, and it was the biggest obstacle in my path on the road to writing fiction. It made writing difficult, as I was unable to write freely. In college, with a major of International Business, writing was technical, consisting of business case studies and research reports. Each course required several written assignments, and I would start weeks in advance to complete papers on time. As I wrote, each sentence had to be perfect before moving on to the next one.

To write creative fiction, I needed to reach a point where writing was less of a thought and more of an emotion. Through a difficult time in my life, the key that I needed to unlock my writing potential surfaced. Five months after I graduated from college, I had a child. The first year of his life required more mental, physical, and emotional energy than I have ever concentrated in one place and on one thing. But being a mom changed my personality for the better—among many things I became more easy going, and finally, I became free of my perfectionist ways. He is the reason I am able to write.

Soon after my son turned one, I chose to write my first “fit-for-publication” short story. I don’t know what I was looking for exactly—possibly an escape, an outlet, a personal challenge, a way to contribute financially, or even something that I could call my own. My Google Internet searching began with “writing contests,” and ended with a promising online magazine, Mused. The deadline was only days away, and so I began to write. I wrote carefully, yet fluently, visualizing each part of the story as I typed it out. I submitted it, hoping for publication, and learned a week later that it was accepted. That was a turning moment in my life.

Since my first publication, I have continued to write, submitting four more pieces to Mused, each accepted for publication. With each story, I hoped to connect the reader with the mind of the character, making the reader “feel” the world from the character’s viewpoint. I believe there’s nothing more influential than real life, and that’s where my story ideas come from. I take excerpts from people’s lives, such as their chaotic situations and profound gifts, and combine it with my own personal experiences to develop an emotional situation that many people can relate to. Then I evolve it, making it unique, haunting, and just plain real. It’s how I can offer such an intense emotional connection, because typical human conflicts and their resolutions can convey so much depth into reality. Often my stories delve beyond reality into my imagination, as I create story lines with a slice of fantasy that can provide an extra dimension to promote the meaning of the story.

When I think of an idea, I write it down in a nutshell, two sentences at most. I either save it for later or use it now. When I’m ready to use that thought, I write out the entire story, carefully playing it out in my mind and really trying to sense how each character would feel or what he or she would say. How does their heart react to hearing news of unemployment, how do their eyes focus on an object of their desire, how do they become self-conscious in an awkward situation? After I have my entire first draft written out, I go back and edit it, adding more detail into every aspect so I can bring it to vivid life. It’s important to me to include situations that are perceived by the five senses in order for the reader to be a part of the sensation that the character is experiencing. It’s a journey that the reader and character take together.

Because I am newer to the fictional writing world, I like to try out different styles. Some stories are in first person, some are in third; some are longer focusing on a single conversation, some are shorter and span several months; some are sadder and will make you think, some are happier and will make you cry; some have that “ah-ha” moment, and some have an unexpected twist. Sometimes it will take me a couple hours to write a story beginning to end with only little editing needed, and other times it will take me weeks to write a story with months of difficult editing. I don’t plan out my story, and because of that, it always ends up differently than I anticipated. But it’s always better than what I expected it to be in the first place. It evolves in my mind as I write it, and I follow it there.

The folder on my laptop labeled “Stories & Poetry” is small, only containing a handful of stories, most of which have already been published with Mused. But I am still working on it, developing my style and techniques, and I will be writing many more stories in the future that make life creative, dramatic, and meaningful.

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