By Kristen Miller
We have a writer in our midst.Since she was young, Washington D.C. native Kathy Flann has been writing and illustrating stories.
Flann said fiction is something she has always done.
But she said she never thought her writing would translate into a career.
“My dad told me I would starve to death,” Flann said.
Despite her natural enthusiasm for writing, Flann said it wasn’t until her college years that she realized she wanted to pursue writing as a career.
And now, 14 published stories later, Flann said it’s good for new writers to be na’ve when entering the writing business.
That mindset can help prepare a budding author for the competitive and difficult nature of the writing business.
Flann, a creative writing professor at Eastern, sticks to a writing process that, she says, starts with “some kernel of truth.”
Her latest story, Mad Dog, is based in England, where Flann spent five years teaching writing at a small college in the Northwest part of the country.
Mad Dog was one of the stories inspired by a kernel of truth.
It came about when two of her friends told Flann the same story about knowing someone who was arrested for biting someone on the butt in a pub.
Flann said the idea unraveled from there.
“(The story) takes on a life of its own and evolves into something different from the original,” she said.
Flann has written numerous stories since she started, featuring multiple characters and plot lines.
But, when asked who her favorite character is, she only scratched her head.
“I don’t think I can answer that question,” she said.
Flann said she might work on a story for months, even years, and the characters become like friends to her.
“I do get attached to them,” Flann said.
She added that she sometimes uses her stories as examples in class, and gets a nostalgic feeling, revisiting old characters and remembering the writing process.
But through all the stories and characters, she has yet to reuse a character.
“I would like to,” Flann said.
Her goal, she added, is to have a longer relationship with her characters.
But, she has yet to write the next installment of many of her stories or figure out what her characters would do next, if the stories continued.
Mad Dog is her longest piece of work, running 10-15 pages, and was published by a small publishing company after she won their writing contest.
The foreword to the book, written by the contest judge, describes Mad Dog as a combination of humor and sadness, and Flann said that’s what she aims to write about each time.
“I write about real people in real situations, regular people with regular problems,” she said.
Most of her stories are realism and defined by what they aren’t. Not fully romance, or fully detective, she said.
So what advice does Flann give to students who might hold the same writing dreams she did when she was in college?
First, she said they must have the desire and curiosity to ask questions and flesh them out into answers inside their stories.
But she also warns that writing is not always as easy as people might think.
“There’s discipline and hard work,” Flann said. “You have to apply pressure to yourself. You write alone and people don’t see everything.”
Flann compares writing to actors performing a play.
There’s a lot going on behind the scenes that people don’t see, she said, adding, “They make it look easy.”
But Flann pointed out writing can be an extensive commitment, sometimes lasting years.
In her classes, she tries to teach her students about working through every stage of the process, she said.
A professor once told Flann that the best way to show character is through gestures, not words.
If characters kick dogs, the professor said, those characters will always be known as dog-kickers, no matter what they do in the story or what happens to them, she explained.
There is no sympathy for that character, she said.
Kathy Flann isn’t a woman known for kicking the dog.
Instead, she’s the woman who, despite the financial dangers in the writing business, stuck to her path and characterized herself as a professional writer.