2019 Writer's Games Winner
Individual Portion 2
The Writer's Workout conducted the following interview with RH Berry in November, 2019. The Writer's Workout is represented as "WW" and RH is represented as "RH". Interview responses are published as received.
WW: What made you want to participate in the Writer's Games this year?
RH: As an aspiring novelist, I’m always on the hunt for quality critique. I had heard about The Writer’s Games through my subscription to Free Online Writing Events, and couldn’t sign up fast enough. My first pass was during Portion 1, and I gobbled up the feedback like it was my last meal. When I got the alert for Portion 2 sign-ups, I knew I had to try applying what I’d learned.
WW: Was there anything you were worried or nervous about coming into this year's Games?
RH: My biggest worry as I approached the Writer’s Games had to do with my living situation. I was between apartments at the time, and a recent parent. My partner was away for one month – the entire first half of the Games – so I was essentially single-parenting, as well. I wasn’t sure I’d have many opportunities to write.
WW: What kept you motivated to participate in each Event?
RH: Writing isn’t just my career; it’s who I am. Committing to the Games was my way of doing something ‘for me’ amidst a whirlwind of circumstances beyond my control.
WW: Did life ever get in the way during the Games? How did that affect your writing?
RH: As you might have guessed, life got plenty in the way! While we technically had a deadline of 72 hours for each prompt, I gave myself a much narrower time limit to write within, while my baby slept. I would check the prompt, muse on the story I was going to write while getting my baby ready for bed, and then power-write! I knew that if I didn’t get it done before I went to bed, it just plain wouldn’t get done.
WW: What was your favorite Event and why?
RH: My favourite event was the ‘Fake Truth’ memoir we wrote, for Event 3. Strangely enough, it was the event I didn’t place in the Top 5 in, but still provided the most entertaining challenge! I experimented with narrative voice in a way I hadn’t before, and wrote in a style I was only vaguely familiar with (I’ve read maybe one or two memoirs before, tops). I think I took away some great writing lessons from that one!
WW: Was there an Event that was more challenging for you than the others?
RH: The Practice Event to warm us up for the Writer’s Games challenged me greatly, and nearly did me in. It was my first ever attempt at writing Historical Fiction. I loved doing the research and coming up with a unique character to fit in my chosen time and era, but when it came time to write the actual story... I must have erased those first few paragraphs a dozen times before I finally found my narrative thread. Thankfully it was just the practice round!
WW: Which genre do you normally write? How did that help or hurt you during the Games?
RH: I have a background in writing comedy, but nowadays I mostly stick to fantasy and horror. I don’t think I was a stellar comedy writer, but that experience definitely helped me with the banter in ‘You Can Be My Wingman’ for the Dialogue Only event. I draw a lot of inspiration from fairy tales, which was also an asset for my final entry, ‘One More Star in the Sky’, and I think I blended the irreverent tone of my comedy writing with my horror background in ‘Wicked Souls’.
WW: What first inspired you to start writing?
RH: When I was roughly ten years old, I wrote a 450 page novel about pirates and harpies. I’d been telling stories since I learned how to talk, but we’d just bought a family computer and I spent all the time I could bargain for writing this book. I became completely addicted to the feeling I got from writing the words ‘The End’; I wrote several more books, all lacking in quality, and finally started officially querying literary agents in 2017.
WW: Whose work do you find most inspiring? Why?
RH: I find a myriad of works and mediums inspiring – for example, I love games, podcasts, and musicals – but my literary idol is Neil Gaiman. I find he’s incredibly skilled at blending creepy imagery and subjects with the magic of fantasy.
WW: What is the best writing advice you've ever gotten and who said it?
RH: The best advice I’ve ever heard wasn’t specifically about writing. It was Griffin McElroy (a popular podcaster and media luminary) giving a talk at Florida State University; he stressed to his audience that part of being successful was knowing the value of hard work. No, not in the ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ way, but in the sense of properly valuing the work you do. Being a full-time writer, I often feel like I haven’t worked enough in a day unless I’ve been glued to my keyboard from dusk until dawn. It’s easy to forget to take care of yourself or be proud of what you’ve done. Knowing the value of work means commending yourself for what you’ve managed to do, and respecting your physical and mental limits.
WW: What advice would you give to people thinking about participating in next year's Games?
RH: If you’re anything like me, you might find that writing is your eye of the storm. The Games are not a strict commitment; they’re a promise to yourself that you’ll make time to write amidst the chaos of your busy life. So make that promise!
It is the policy of The Writer's Workout to publish interview responses as received.