Mackenzie Littledale’s short story collection Explorations of Freedom is a clever, and often heartfelt, look at the meaning of “freedom” in a variety of scenarios. Each story takes the reader to a new setting where they are enveloped in the trials and tribulations of the protagonists.
This is an exceptionally-crafted group of stories with a little something for every reader!
Now, onto what Mackenzie had to say:
Jenn: How did your journey as a writer begin?
Mackenzie: I’ve been writing for my personal enjoyment and self-reflection since I was quite young. My first story was “My Ride With Esmerelda” in Ms. Robson’s 3rd-grade class. I’d been thinking about writing for an audience, and in 2017, my job slowed down due to a hurricane. Suddenly, I had the time I’d asked God for, so I took a chance and hired someone to coach me. Six months later I had a first draft for “This Darkness is Mine.” I kept refining it, got accepted into Pitchwars mentor program 2019, and June 2020 PitMad on Twitter, I finally got agented.
J: It takes a particular type of writer to excel at short stories as you do. What drew you to the genre?
M: During the 2020 pandemic lockdown, I was close to despair. I reached out to my closest friends in the Twitter writing community and asked if they were as antsy as I was. They said they were. So every week we got together virtually to socialize, discuss our creative projects, and pair up throughout the week to keep each other going. I did not have the mental bandwidth to concentrate on long-form, so I sought out writing prompts and short story contests for inspiration. I just ran with it. A tutorial on Writers Digest’s website helped with learning how short story structure works.
J: The story “Prison Break” is filled with such interesting twists. What was the inspiration for this story?
M: A photo prompt on @vsspic by Jenny Hayut looked like the viewer was trapped out or trapped in and staring at a locked gate. It inspired the human desire for freedom. Another prompt was a forgotten beach house piling up with windswept sand. Those inspired Part I and a potential ending. The next photo prompt was a woman in the passenger side of an old convertible with her arm out the window. That inspired Part II. The last image was of a woman looking into a brandy snifter, but it resembled a crystal ball and I finagled that inspiration into Part III.
J: I have to admit that “Emily’s Advanced Guide to Marriage” is one of my favorites in the collection. It’s really relatable as a woman and also speaks to the (often) insane expectations that we humans, in general, tend to place on ourselves. Would you share the inspiration for this story as well?
M: I belong to a writers group at a library. The theme for one week was “silence”. I racked my brain trying to describe the absence of sound, and decided I’d have to peel back the layers of sound to arrive at it. The second half of Emily’s story came from another of the group’s themes, which was “role play”. I decided Emily was the perfect character to give it a go with her husband and give me a chance to write something unusual so I’d stretch my writing muscles.
J: It’s so neat to see that “Freedom 500” and “It was an Accident” both won short story contests! What was it like preparing for and ultimately learning that you won the contest?
M: Prepping to write on the topic of “freedom” for Gestalt Media’s contest that month required turning to my Twitter writing circle. I asked, “Who deserves freedom but it’s been denied?” An innocent child. “What’s trapping her?” “How does she break free?” With that, I just started writing until I needed a villain to introduce conflict and tension. I was utterly delighted when the stories won.
J: Do you have any marketing advice that you would share with new authors?
M: Marketing and sales are primarily numbers games. Talent matters, but it’s tenacity and endurance that ultimately win the day. Be prepared financially, mentally and emotionally to go the long distance. For example, a sales and marketing campaign that yields a 3% capture rate is considered successful. So if your goal is to sell 300 copies of your book, you must reach 10,000 people with 11 points of contact before they even remember your name. That can ring up a big bill, so get creative and execute on a thoughtful plan.
J: What are you working on now?
M: This Darkness is Mine is my only long-form manuscript. I sent back the latest version to my agent at Serendipity Literary so I’m waiting for the constructive feedback so we can go back on sub. I have ideas for more novels addressing a Littledale ancestor in St Vincent and the Grenadines in the 1800s, one addressing the opioid crisis, and a third addressing the planet’s water crisis.
J: What are you reading now?
M: I recently finished Natalie Richards’s Seven Dirty Secrets, and I’m about to finish Terri McMillan’s Who Asked You? Next, I have to decide whether to read more fiction or go back to nonfiction for a bit.
And that’s all for now. Have a wonderful day, everyone!