Virginia Lee Wood’s 100 word microfiction, “Mom Saw a Snake Ghost Once, Too”, will appear in the fourth issue of The Centifictionist (Vol. 2, Issue 2, Fall/Winter 2021). Virginia graciously answered a few brief questions for us. Read the interview below.
1. What inspired the story “Mom Saw a Snake Ghost Once, Too”?
I have always used fiction as a space to process and ask questions — a space to take the pieces and images from lived experience and put them together in different ways. Will I be able to find words for the unexplainable or unspeakable? Something to carry with me to comfort and create meaning in the darknesses of grief or trauma? A new story that might be able to create space for others in language, too? This story is part of that work — taking separate pieces and fitting them together in a fiction. Within the little alcoves of experience, there are so many snakes. So many ghosts.
2. What inspires you and your writing?
I’m always looking for the stories that others are telling, the ones that are written close to the bone. These are not always stories of pain or reckoning — often, comedy and tragedy are coming from the same places. Feeling seen or understood in others’ stories is a healing place, and I am lucky to have found peers in the writing community whose work pushes me to dig deeper, too.
3. What keeps you going when experiencing times of misery and despair?
I feel like it’s OK to take things minute by minute. To just get through the minutes. Try to eat deliciously, if not well. Take that shower if you have the strength. Try to forgive yourself for the anxiety and shame you can feel for being overwhelmed and needing time. I believe that grace is a muscle, and learning to give it to oneself is exercising that muscle.
4. What advice do you have for microfiction writers?
Microfiction is a work that puts pressure on the material — forces it to become flexible and to find language in different places. I tend to write long, and the work of microfiction puts pressure on habits and shortcuts and brings out the new. Feeling uncomfortable or confined is normal — it’s evidence of doing the work well, of the possibility of growth beyond those feelings that produces new ways of seeing. I view microfiction as a way to help me look at my work newly. To help me find new kinds of language.
5. Is there anything else that you would like people to know about you and/or your writing?
I think of my work in writing as creating a space to grieve, process, and find the words. As a teacher, my students bring home to me again and again how powerful finding language and form for what you thought isolated you and made you different can be. There is an urgency in the idea that needful work for the writer can become needful reading for the reader in surprising ways. Sometimes, when the work feels impossible and the dark parts too deep, that thought of the reader’s work is quietly saving me. Thank you to the reader for your willingness to experience the work on your own terms, and for bringing your work to it, too. When there is little, at least there is language we can share.
Virginia Lee Wood is a Korean American writer who holds a Doctorate in Creative Writing from the University of North Texas, and an MFA from Hollins University. Her work appears most recently in The Southern Review, Hobart, PANK, Pleiades, and elsewhere. She is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at West Chester University. Twitter: @TheWoodJung.