Saturday 30 June 2012

#MenageMonday and Cara Michaels

Hello! I'm happy to introduce you to another blogger with flash fiction content. Cara Michaels hosts Menage Monday every Monday and has also challenged her fellow writers to #WIP500. I was eager to ask her about these and other things happening on her site and blog. I started with the way I came to know about her and her site: Menage Monday.

What are the rules of Menage Monday?

#MenageMonday is a flash fiction challenge. Entries range between a minimum of 100 words to a max of 200 (with occasional special editions forays going a bit longer). There are three prompts that must be incorporated into the tale: a photo, a phrase, and a special judge’s prompt that changes wildly from week to week (we’ve had ‘a broken g-string’, Sherlock Holmes, a prehistoric dog, and lots of other cool stuff).

I’d already begun participating in a couple of challenges (#TuesdayTales and the now-defunct #HumpDayChallenge). One challenge used a word and picture, the other used 5 words. When I decided to start #MenageMonday, I decided I wanted a bit more length (both challenges I knew had a 100 word limit) and an extra special variable. To that end, I came up with the Judge’s Prompt. Each of my judge’s has come up with something unique to add to the challenge.

I never competed in the Hump Day Challenge, but I've interviewed Stevie McCoy about #TuesdayTales. Do you have many repeat visitors? How often does someone new join the ranks?

There are definitely some flash fiction addicts like myself out in ‘verse, so I see many names I know from week to week. Several are challenge hosts themselves. I get someone new almost every week now, and I love that! One week in June alone saw four new competitors.

Four! That's great. :) Hopefully they enjoyed it and will be back. How do you select your judges? How far in advance are they booked?

I select judges pretty randomly. I do try to get folks outside of the flash fiction world, just to change things up. Most are fellow writers, but I also like to toss in the occasional reader or publishing professional to give writers feedback from an entirely different perspective. I tend to be very forgetful about booking my judges though, so I’m often scrambling a day or two ahead of time, lol.

Sounds like me. I used to have my interviews lined up weeks in advance, but that window is shortening all the time. Where do you find your photographs and how do you select them?

With only three exceptions I can think of off the top of my head, all of the photos are mine. I had one ambitious judge choose ALL of the prompts, spotted a cool pic on Twitter one night and featured a ‘guest photographer’ that week, and took the final one from the news pics of the recent annular eclipse. Most of my photos are of random odd or amusing things I spot in my day to day travels.

I didn't realize they were taken by you. That makes a lot of sense. What have you learned in the many weeks #MenageMonday has been running? What changes have you had to make?

I haven’t made any significant changes since I started the challenge. I’ve learned some helpful tricks to help speed up the process of sending reminder Tweets, prepping the winners’ blog, etc. Some weeks will be more successful than others and you can’t take that personally. I might get 15 entries one week and 25 or 30 on another. Sometimes the prompts really jive with the writers and sometimes they’re turned off. I’ve even had a writer tell me not to bother ‘inviting’ him because my prompts are too weird and random.

The main thing I take from the challenge is the joy of helping writers develop their craft. Flash fiction is a peculiar beast and writers who truly want to improve their writing benefit from these challenges. If you pay attention, you learn very quickly how to pare your words down to the most important ones.

I can relate to your grumbler. There have been weeks I've looked at the prompts and despaired coming up with anything. I still check every week though and enter when something springs to mind. Like all things, it can just come down to bad timing. I really appreciate the format of flash fiction for paring down prose. I'm naturally a rather succinct writer and improving that is great! What social media platform is the best for bringing people to your blog?

For the challenge, I’ve gotten the most response through Twitter. Honestly, that may be the best platform for me overall. I enjoy the rapid fire interactions with writers, readers, and anyone else’s attention I catch (or who catches mine).

Agreed. I use Twitter and Facebook, but I find FB only gets my attention 1-2 times a day where I'll be checking Twitter throughout the day. For something like a blog contest, it seems the best suited. You include many other short fiction features on your blog. How do you decide which ones to participate in or post?

My fellow hosts and I dubbed ourselves the “Week in Flash Fiction.” I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I enjoy promoting my fellow hosts and offering writers more challenges to explore. We’re all different and that is definitely part of the fun.

There's is definitely some powerful cross promotion going on. Can you tell me about #WIP500?

The idea of #WIP500 was born in December 2011, following my first successful NaNoWriMo. In thinking about what had made this NaNo different from previous attempts, I recognized the impact of regular interaction via Twitter and G+ with others working toward the same goal. That factor had taken me from several past stunning failures (I think I didn’t even start a couple times), to a full-on victory. Having lots of people know my goal and be pursuing the same really held my feet to the fire. I just didn’t want to give up.

Now, I don’t know about anyone else, but I slept for most of the month following NaNo. So for #WIP500 I decided to scale back the daily goal and spread the challenge out over an entire year. It’s horribly easy to get distracted with life (and internets), so I set a manageable daily goal to keep me moving forward.

My ultimate goal is not only to kick my writing career into high gear, but to support others striving to do the same.

It seems to have caught on quite well. Thanks again for agreeing to this interview! It's nice to know all the workings behind such and excellent blog.

Cara Michaels is a dreamer of legendary proportions (just ask her about the alien pirate spaceship invasion). Her imagination is her playground and nothing is quite so much fun for her as building new characters and new worlds with at least an edge of the fantastic. She's writing whenever the opportunity presents itself and can typically be found tinkering with half a dozen projects. Occasionally all at once.

Cara is the author of the Gaea’s Chosen sci-fi romance series and has multiple shorts and novels in the works. She can be found on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.