Chats With Contributors: Christine Kendall
Written by: Katya Cummins

I’m pleased to welcome Christine Kendall to Niche  Features. I want to take this opportunity to thank her again for conducting an interview about her micro, “Finishing Up” which has appeared in the latest issue of Niche.

NICHE: Could you tell us a little bit about how you began writing?

CHRISTINE KENDALL: I was raised in a family of artists where I was surrounded by a lot of creative energy so I began writing as a child. I have a very active imagination and stories have always been in my head even though there was a long period of time when I didn’t commit them to paper or otherwise record them. Then, about ten years ago I started spending a lot of time in nature and that inspired me to write the stories down again. Maybe it was the peacefulness that gave me the space in which to write. At any rate, I’m fortunate  to now  have the luxury of writing full-time.

NICHE: Short form writing, such as micros, flash fiction and flash nonfiction, has risen in the literary community as a viable art form. Most micros straddle the line between poetry and prose-poetry. Your micro, “Finishing Up,” however, takes after the realist tradition, which some might now call “irregular.” Can you talk a little bit about how you go about spotting a story or condensing a narrative story?

CHRISTINE KENDALL: “Finishing Up” was originally a short story, but it wasn’t a very good one. It was clogged with too many characters and an awful lot of backstory. I’d lost my way with it until I decided to focus on brevity. Brevity of form and language. I cut everything away except the one crucial scene where each of the three central characters are revealed. That approach worked for me with this story but its not my only way into a piece of very short fiction. My stories are almost always character driven and sometimes I just want to paint a picture of a character in one specific moment and that’s how the piece comes into being.

NICHE: What attracts you to short-form writing? Do you like it better than writing longer short stories? That is, how is the process of writing a micros and short stories differ? Do you find one former easier or harder than the other? 

CHRISTINE KENDALL:  I’ve always been attracted to short-form writing particularly children’s picture books. I studied and tried to write them before I moved on to longer forms. Picture books are very difficult because, besides having word count limitations, you have to move the story forward without replicating what is going to be shown in the illustrations. I think struggling with picture books was good preparation for writing flash fiction where economy of words is the key. I’ve discovered that I also like to write novels but that is an entirely different writing experience. With novels you have much more time and space in which to unfold the story. All forms are fun to write and they all present a unique set of challenges so I can’t say that any one form is any easier than another.

NICHE: I know readers would be interested in hearing about the Bread Loaf Writing Conference.  What can you tell readers about your experiences there? Who did you get to work with? Was the experience beneficial?

CHRISTINE KENDALL: Attending the Bread Loaf Writers Conference was a magical experience. It was totally immersive and a bit overwhelming—ten days of eating, sleeping, drinking writing. I had the opportunity to study with the wonderful Margot Livesey who may be best known for her novels, but she’s also written short stories and essays. I was there in 2014 and most of the other participants were much more experienced writers. For instance, there were several creative writing instructors in my fiction workshop and that ended up being extremely beneficial for me. The level of writing was so high that I learned something from every single person I met as well as from the workshop leader.

NICHE: What can you tell us about the novel and the collection of short stories that you’re working on now?

CHRISTINE KENDALL: Scholastic is publishing my debut novel, Riding Chance, in the fall of 2016. It’s a coming-of-age story about an urban teen’s redemption through horses and the game of polo. It was inspired by a real mentoring program in Philadelphia that gives kids an opportunity to work with horses and play the game. I’m also working on a collection of linked short stories and, of course, I’m still struggling with my picture books..

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Christine Kendall is a writer living in Philadelphia. She has attended the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and studied children’s literature at the Southampton Writers’ Conference. Christine was named a semi-finalist in the 2014 River Styx Micro-Fiction Contest. She is currently working on a novel and a collection of short stories.