Q&A with folklorist Flora Winters

Folklorist Flora Winters couldn’t help but become a writer. Find out why in this down-to-earth Q&A. 

Q: What sparked you to become a writer? How did your literary journey begin?

 My mom is an avid reader, and I grew up so deeply embedded in the world of books that story is my mother tongue. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a writer.

 Q: What are some other things you’re passionate about?

I firmly believe that a writer should try to live interestingly in order to have things to write about, so I let myself be passionate about every passing whim just to see where it leads me. 

This is why I spent eight years in college studying creative writing, psychology, English literature, medieval studies, anthropology, and Scandinavian studies until I finally graduated with a degree in folklore because it was a large enough umbrella to cover most of the things I wanted to learn.

Have you ever struggled to write something, or are there certain genres or forms of writing you just don’t like or feel confident in?

With the exception of a few rude and unexpected house calls from the Muse, I have struggled to write everything I have ever written, in one way or another. 

If a first draft comes out in a burst of frantic inspiration, the editing is a slog. If a first draft comes out almost polished enough to put in the mail as-is, I have to drag each word out, kicking and screaming, past my gate-keeping analytical brain. 

There is some amount of planning and some amount of discovery involved in writing any story, and it always takes a lot of fine-tuning to resolve the cognitive dissonance between the two.

How do you deal with writers’ block and/or the urge to do anything else but sit down and write?

 It’s easy to let writing be the last thing to get done on the to-do list, the thing that falls off at the end when I’m out of time and energy from doing things that are so much less important than writing. So here’s what you do:

  1. Write your to-do list.
  2. Ask yourself, “How many masterpieces have been lost to polished floors?”
  3. Crumple up the to-do list and take your writing implements of choice to a place where you can’t see the dirty dishes piling up in your sink anymore – a coffee shop, the library, a studio or coworking space, etc.

 How do you describe your teaching style?

My teaching style embodies the Wordcrafters motto: Don’t be a writer, be writing. 

Story is a language of its own, and to learn a language, you have to speak it. There will be plenty of writing time in class. We will take a tool from our writing toolbox, play with it, break it, tape it back together, share the uses we found for it, and see how it can be combined with other tools.

Can you share an example of how your experience shapes the way you teach?

Nothing has been more harmful to my writing practice than over-thinking whether my writing was “marketable.” The market is fickle and publishing cycles are slow. Those extrinsic rewards are largely out of our control, and focusing on them leads to a state of learned helplessness. 

What I try to unearth for my students is how they can write the kind of story they want to read, while experiencing the intrinsic rewards of creative expression along the way.

Who should take your class?

Anyone whose idea of a good time is playing with words. 

Whether your goal is to solve a specific challenge in your writing, to find community and accountability in the company of other writers, or to try something new to spark your creativity, there’s room for you at the table.

Can you share a piece of advice that has helped you as a writer?

“Writing is the choice between a perfect idea and an imperfect reality.” 

This quote from V.E. Schwab lives on my bulletin board of inspiration to remind me that I shouldn’t put off writing a story because I’m not a good enough writer to do it justice; writing the story is what will teach me to write it well, and perfection isn’t an achievable aim. 

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