Lisa McLean is a freelance writer and communications professional specializing in agriculture. Her short fiction has appeared in The Antigonish Review and This Magazine. She lives in Guelph, Ontario with her husband and three young children.
ROOM: First of all, congratulations on winning! How does it feel to be selected by Fiction judge Saleema Nawaz as first prize?
LM: Thank you! Writing fiction is so solitary. I spent a lot of my spare time working on fiction and I started sending work out in 2010. I’m thrilled to have a piece recognized in this way.
ROOM: Have you won a prize for your writing before? If so, how does this experience compare?
LM: I’ve won a couple of writing prizes before, but this is my first win in the Canadian literary magazine realm.
ROOM: Where can the Room audience read more of your work?
LM: I’ve had short fiction published in This Magazine and The Antigonish Review.
ROOM: “Clenched” was the name of your short story. What was the inspiration for the piece?
LM: I’m a classic Type-A personality, and I often internalize stress by clenching my jaw. I wanted to write a story in which the character was dealing with some difficult events in her domestic life, with less grace than she would like. It’s kind of a coming-of-age story about someone dealing with some heavy “grown-up problems,” perhaps for the first time.
ROOM: Are you currently working on a manuscript?
LM: I’m working on a series of linked short stories that I would like to publish eventually.
ROOM: Is the short story your genre of choice?
LM: For now, yes. I have three young children (ages 3, 6 and 8) and a full-time freelance career. At this point in my life short stories are the most achievable way to fulfill my creative needs and bring projects to completion. My longer-term plan includes taking a crack at writing the great Canadian novel though.
ROOM: Can you describe your writing process and how you got this piece to the prize-winning draft it is now?
LM: I make time for creative writing almost every week—it appears on my to-do list alongside every other task. When I don’t feel like I can add anything more to a piece, I share it with a circle of friends and other writers for critiques. I also take breaks between drafts to gain some new perspective and revisit drafts with fresh eyes.
ROOM: Do you have any advice for writers wanting to submit to contests?
LM: Contests are subjective—don’t let rejection get you down. I’ve only had a handful of publications or contest wins—but in every case the winning piece has been declined by another publication or contest first. Sometimes a story is just not the right fit. Sometimes it is.