Saturday, June 16, 2012

Interview with Cristena Rehn, 2nd place winner of the May Flash Fiction (MFF) Contest

I'm very happy to have Cristina Rehn here today in the hot seat. Her second place MFF entry was entitled "Banished", and you can read it here:

MFF#6: Banished by Cristena Rehn

Cristina is a fantastic writer I met through Writer's Village University's F2K program, a free six-week writing workshop. For more information about it, click HERE.

Have a seat, Cristina and tell us what you do when you're not writing.

I’ve worked full-time at a non-profit member association representing municipal public health departments for the last eighteen years.  My work is varied and includes quite a bit of writing.  Other than my lengthy commute, I love it.  My non-paid work hours include the usual family things: cooking on the nights my mom doesn’t, pretending I care marginally about housework enough to ensure we all have clean clothes and dishes, running around to my daughter’s activities, snatching a few romantic moments with my husband, and dealing with my stalker cats.

Your blog is called Quiet Content. I've heard rumors that you are a lover of quiet, as is the rest of your family. So am I, but with three kids at my house, it's a rare commodity. Is quiet something you've had to work hard at maintaining, or are you all naturally inclined toward silence?

Having only one shy girl keeps the noise level down, for sure!  My husband, daughter are all introverts, to varying degrees, so we’re all inclined towards silence - though we have our chatty periods too.   My mom lives with us and is an extrovert, but gives us our space.  I also come from a family of ministers (Step-dad, Sis and Mom – I think it’s the world’s most thankless profession), so there were always quiet periods at home needed to recharge.  Being single into my mid-thirties, and living alone much of that time, also acclimated me to long hours of quiet time.  I still crave it and carve some out each day.

What genres of books do you enjoy reading, and which works/authors have inspired your writing?

I’m all over the map with genres. I like satirical novels, literary novels, mysteries, YA, sci-fi, adventure, fantasy, romance.  I love history and read a good amount of non-fiction, particularly anything about Theodore Roosevelt, a fascinating character!  My writing to date is YA focused. John Green, Holly Black, Barry Lyga and Libba Bray are favorites who inspire my work in that genre.  I’ve also read all the works of Christopher Moore, James Thurber and Stephen Fry because they make me laugh out loud.  The older I get, the more I prefer books that entertain me, rather than those with weighty and sad deep truths.  There’s enough of that in real life.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think you've participated in NaNoWriMo. It seems like every writer but me has done it. Can you tell those of us who haven't heard of it or haven't participated, exactly what that is and what you like/dislike about it?

Click HERE to check out NaNoWriMo!
NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month.  The challenge is to write a 50,000 (or more if you’re prolific) word novel in the month of November.  You validate your word count, but they do not keep any records of your work, and there are cool prizes (generally discounts to writing related products and services).  They also hold Camp NaNoWriMo – two sessions this year in June and August, and Script Frenzy for script writers.  November 2011 was my first NaNo and I won!  

I liked the challenge of a goal that forced me to keep writing even when inspiration waned. It’s also a great opportunity to interact with other writers, with its “We’re all in it together” vibe. People across the world participate, and although I didn’t attend any, many places set-up local in-person write-ins to meet and work with others in your locale. My daughter participated with me in the Young Writer’s Program, where she could set her own word count. She’s nine and she ended up with a 5,000 word story, dictated to typist Mom.

The hardest part for me was not editing as I wrote. I tend to churn out a few chapters, then spend some time editing what I’ve written before moving on to the next part of the story. You can’t afford to do that when you’re doing NaNo, if you want to make your goal. Another challenge was that my family supported me until the reality of the benign neglect of them that NaNo requires hit. Support waned rapidly by the second week of November.

Are you working on any novels/stories now, and can you tell us about them?

I have a few “finished” first drafts that I’m ignoring until I’m ready to start the revision process.  For now, I signed up for June’s Camp NaNoWriMo just for fun.  I’m way behind and unlikely to reach the magical 50,000 word count, but I’m working on a YA story called Camp Vamp.  I’m doing this one seat of the pants, no outline or plan.  The story: Two friends enroll in a summer camp for night-owls: gamers, would be astronomers, future lounge lizards.  In case the title hasn’t clued you in, it turns out that the counselors and other campers like the night for more sinister reasons.  Expect Vamps, Weres and Ghosts.   I suspect zombies to pop up at some point too.  For my August Camp NaNo, I plan to turn a story I wrote for the Writers Village University F2K Fiction course (when we were classmates!) into a novel.  It’s a novel that revolves around the setting and circumstances of a major flood that devastates a rural community - which happened in my community last August.  I’m working on the outline and character sketches now.

Don't look now, but here's a random question: What's the best costume you've ever worn?

It’s a toss-up between Bunsen Honeydew of the Muppets (w/ a friend as Beaker) in 7th grade, and The Jolly Green Giant and Sprout with my tall husband taking the lead role as the JGG and short me as Sprout.  We hope to do the Heat Miser and Cold Miser this coming Halloween.

Finally, would you like to share an excerpt from one of your projects? 

Sure!  I already sent off my first page critique prize and received great feedback, so I’ll share an excerpt from that.  This is from my November 2011 NaNoWriMo project, titled “Take the Consequences”:

Of all the things in life to be late for, a funeral has to be the worst. Miri sighed and scanned the grassy fields along the roadway for hidden hazards. Driveways.  Squirrels. Errant cows.

Seemed like she was always late.  Late learning her ex-boyfriend, Daniel, was a cheating bastard. Late getting the hell away from her control- freak mom. Late realizing that those two things were not unrelated. Her life-long bent towards compliance finally snapped - too late.

But late to her aunt’s funeral topped the rest, though she'd never met Aunt Aga, her last living relative on the Oneiros side of the family.  Not living anymore, dummy.  You’re it. 

Miri meant to visit - once she turned eighteen and Mom could no longer tell her what to do.  Her mom’s lifetime of lies replayed in her head:  They were horrible after your dad died, sweetie.  Thought we weren’t good enough for them.  They don’t care about us at all.

Maybe it some of it was true.  Miri had just turned two when he died.  True or not, she believed Mom, until she intercepted the mail on her sixteenth birthday and discovered that Aunt Aga sent her a birthday letter and gift each year, without fail, along with an invitation to visit.  An invitation Miri swore she’d accept when she was old enough to be out from under Mom’s thumb.

So much for good intentions.  I'm freaking nineteen now, it's my first trip to Auburn, and Aga's dead.  Miri gave herself a mental smack. 

The endless fields morphed into a blacktopped rollercoaster of twisty hills and curves.   Miri jerked her steering wheel and her brain back on track as the lane made a hard left. 

This better be the right road.

Thanks so much for stopping in, Cristena! I wish you the best of luck in all your writing goals!

Cristina Rehn lives in Upstate NY with her husband, daughter and mother.  A full-time job, a full-time family  and two demanding cats don't leave much time for writing, so it's still a hobby.  She hopes someday she'll shine and polish up something enough to be published, but for now she just enjoys learning from other writers about both the craft and the business.  Her hobbies are writing and reading, and eking out as much solitude and silence as she can to do both.  Her daughter banished her from birthday parties years ago. 


  1. Wow! Great excerpt. Sounds like the beginning of a fantastic story! Guess I'd better get my interview in, since I'm the only one left. ;) It's not hard to tell that I was always the last to turn in assignments in school, huh? Great interview, Mysti!

  2. Hi Cristena, a great interview. Your story sounds like a winner to me. I remember your work from F2K; you're a very good writer.

    Best wishes.


***NOTICE*** Thanks to a spam bot infestation, every comment must now be subjected to a full-body search. If you pass, you can skip the anal probing...maybe.