Interview with Rich Smith
We recently sat down to talk with the winner of our December Short Story Contest. In this interview, Rich Smith talks with us about winning NaNoWriMo, terrible pun-based comics, and defeating writer’s block with a fork (sort of).
Upliterate: Tell us a bit about yourself.
Rich Smith: I’m just a college kid hoping to get a job as a writer. I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I’m always glad to write — and to help any other aspiring writers out there.
U: What got you started writing?
I’ve technically been writing since I was a kid. However, I really got interested when I first started my blog in December of 2013. I blogged on and off — mostly off — for about a year. At the end of October 2014, I heard about this little thing called National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write a 50,000+ word novella in a month. I had never undertaken a task like that, but I wanted to try. I’ve won every NaNoWriMo since then, and I don’t plan on stopping.
U: What are you writing these days?
Almost everything I write is fiction. When I was blogging, I would write about the little wonders I had observed in day-to-day life, or things that fascinated me. I would also write movie reviews, as well as short stories. I would even throw up a comic every once in a while (they were terrible, and almost exclusively pun-based). Since coming to college, I’ve put my blog on hiatus. I’m focusing on writing short stories right now, as well as schoolwork.
U: Why do you write?
I write because I like to think I’m good at it. That may or may not be true, and I certainly have room for improvement. But when I was a really little kid, I would write little comics. I was also really into video games, and looked into being a game designer during my middle school/early high school days. But I soon found out that I wasn’t cut out for that task — the games I made weren’t very high quality. Sure, it was fun, but not something I would try and make a living at. This is mostly because of my lack of artistic talent — I almost never put cover photos on my stories. That’s because I personally am strongly against using stock photos, but I don’t have the skill to come up with a cover of my own. Anyway, that’s a long-winded way of saying that everything I’ve tried to do in life had writing in it in some form or another, so I decided to focus on that.
U: What writing advice can you give our users?
Tons. I love giving out writing advice, and I love to see people enjoy writing. I’ll just give one piece of advice for now, and it goes to anyone who has trouble starting a story, or people who do an incredible amount of planning and never actually sit down and write anything. Out of all the writers I’ve talked to, this seems to be a fairly common problem, so I’ll try to address it.
Imagine that words are water for a moment, and you’re standing next to a dam. You have a fork, and your goal is to get the lake on the other side of the dam into the river on your side. It seems impossible, doesn’t it? So you spend your time looking at the lake, and making blueprints to improve your fork. Or you simply play in the lake all day, but never actually make an effort to tear down the dam.
The best thing to do is to just start chipping away. If you can get even a small hole in the dam, then the water will do the rest of the work. Erosion and the force of water will cause the hole to widen, and the flow will be much greater than it was when you first made the hole.
If you want a story, you need to make an effort. Just that little starting bit is all you really need. After that, the words flow naturally. More and more story ideas pop up. If that doesn’t happen after days, weeks, months, and you’re still making an effort, then maybe you aren’t a writer. Or maybe you have a really big lake to share with the world. I can’t answer that for you, but I would love to read your lake sometime.
U: In “Special Delivery”, you combined two seemingly unrelated concepts — the stress of childbirth and parenthood, and the thrill of illegal street racing. What was the inspiration behind your story?
For “Special Delivery,” I honestly didn’t know what to do with the prompt. It took me a while to come up with a good idea. My original plan was to have a little girl wait for a package as the entire world collapsed around her. However, I didn’t really like that story, so I scrapped it. All of a sudden, one day, the idea of a pregnant woman who is 4–6 weeks away from delivering her child popped into my head. I thought it was a pretty unique concept, so I tried to write it. I thought it had been a while since I had written a good high-octane story, so I wrote the most stressful part of having a baby — the drive to the hospital. (Well, that’s how I imagine it is from a husband’s perspective, at any rate.) In order to escalate it even further, I figured that street racing would be a good excuse to get some good action into the story.
The inspiration was really just luck with the idea of a pregnant woman — the street racing part came after that. It just seemed to fit.
U: What do you hope readers will take away from “Special Delivery”?
My goal with “Special Delivery” was to write a really crazy, out-there, bombastic story. Just an utterly ridiculous and impossible scenario. But also one that is (hopefully) just as fun to read. Obviously, there is no way this story would ever happen in real life (I certainly hope not, at least!). But I think that’s what made it kind of fun. I wasn’t trying to do a deep, philosophical piece. Just a fun, shallow story that would be exiting to read.
U: Where do you want your writing to take you? Any long-term goals in writing?
As far as stories go, I don’t really care if they take me anywhere or not. I would very much like it if they took my readers places — fantastic worlds, epic space voyages, or stressful drives to the hospital to deliver a baby. As far as a writing career goes, I hope to get a job in advertising or television. While that’s happening, I want to write and sell books, and if all goes well, “retire” early and focus on just writing books that I want to write. Now, obviously, I have no idea what the future holds for me. But I’m pretty sure that I’ll figure something out along the way.