Today’s story bakes up some — PUMPKIN, PUT THAT DOWN.
A Slice of (Cake) Life
[Comedy] [Slice of Life] • 1,178 words
Mrs. Cake’s life isn’t always a piece of cake. The bakery needs running, Pound and Pumpkin are always up to something, and babysitters aren’t always easy to come by.
FROM THE CURATORS: While on the surface this might seem like a modest character piece — “slice of life doesn’t get any slicier than this,” AugieDog quipped — we found that cutting this morsel open revealed a rich, sweet experience. And we weren’t the only ones. “Not only is it a brilliant use of dramatic monologue,” Horizon said in his nomination, “but it’s also an Honorable Mention in Everfree Northwest’s 2018 Iron Author competition, from an author new to FIMFiction.” Along the way to a rare unanimous approval, the story also accumulated comments such as Soge’s: “This was a great read, a perfect picture of the lovely chaos brought by children, but also so much more.”
That was largely due to delicious writing, full of ideas without feeling dense. “This one is weirdly elegant in its insanity,” FanOfMostEverything said. “It manages to pack a lot of frantic mayhem in just over a thousand words, but does so in a way that organically flows from one crisis to another. I’m quite impressed by how Epic Yarn managed to fit a complete, satisfying plot arc in such a small space.” That wasn’t the only thing it did well. “The comedy shines easily through,” Horizon said, “not just in the brilliant running gags (such as the ‘chocolate’) but also in the natural child-and-parent back-and-forth illustrated by several verbal traps late in the story.” Present Perfect added, “Like the author said, she didn’t have to dig deep to write about what having children is like, and it really shows.”
The writing style, which only reinforced that, was singled out for repeated praise. “I especially like how the stream-of-consciousness style doesn’t try to designate what might be speech and what might be thoughts,” AugieDog said. “It adds so much to the frenzied feel of the whole situation.” Add that to a laudable look at romance, and you’ve got a recipe for success: “Kudos for the portrayal of the relationship between the Cakes,” Soge said. “There is this undercurrent of mature love that shines through their interactions, which feels almost Descendant-esque, and it pays off immensely on that sweet, sweet ending.”
Read on for our author interview, in which Epic Yarn discusses minty-fresh children, interruption counting, and Rainbow Dash epiphanies.
Give us the standard biography.
I used to hate reading.
No, really, I did. I have a very distinct memory of it. When I was in second or third grade we read a short story about a little girl who wanted to be a writer when she grew up. I remember thinking “Gah, that sounds horrible! Who’d want to be a writer? You’d have to be around books all day and that’s just horrible. Books are the worst.”
Obviously, I’ve since changed my mind.
I discovered reading for pleasure in middle school when my parents cut the cable TV package. I was so bored that I picked up a book (Calling on Dragons by Patricia Wrede) out of desperation. That moment was pretty much like Rainbow Dash realizing reading was totally awesome! Unlike Rainbow Dash, however, I didn’t have a “cool status” to uphold, so I completely embraced my “egghead-edness.” It was shortly after that I decided I wanted to be a writer.
Now, I’m a mom who reads to her children every night and hope they grow up to be avid readers.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
I need to thank BlazzingInferno for that one. I don’t like sitting still and I usually have to have something in my hands to keep them occupied. Knitting is my go-to of choice when I’m not reading. So naturally I brought a couple of projects with me to EFNW so I could knit while listening to the panels.
As the Iron Author contest was drawing closer, I needed a pen name. I had been throwing a few ideas around with BlazzingInferno. He suddenly got this his smile on his face and said “Epic Yarn?” I knew I had to use it! I was really, really happy that name wasn’t already taken on FIMfic.
Who’s your favorite pony?
That’s like asking me to name my favorite child.
I like them all, and only BlazzingInferno knows which one annoys me the most on any given day.
What’s your favorite episode?
I like them all. However, the ones that stand out the most in my mind are when the CMC get their cutie marks, meeting Applejack’s parents, and the Hearth’s Warming Eve one that’s a parody of A Christmas Carol.
What do you get from the show?
For me, it started out as a cute, non-annoying kids show. Now, it is something happy and cheerful to watch — especially when life seems to be getting me down.
What do you want from life?
Good food, good writing, good traveling, and spending time with the ones that matter most.
Why do you write?
I write because I can’t imagine myself not writing. Writing is how I deal with “the heavy stuff” of life. It just makes me feel better. I’ve written a few personal essays and shared them with others going through the similar hardships. I love connecting that way with others.
I write to feel less alone and to let others know they’re not alone.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Don’t stop writing.
I know. “Don’t stop writing” is advice a lot of writers hear. That’s because it’s completely true. Good writing takes time, whether because it takes time to hone skills or because editing takes longer than actual writing.
I like to think of becoming a writer like someone becoming a doctor. We don’t question the fact that doctors need decades of schooling, interning, and experience to be a great doctor. Yet as writers, we expect greatness from the start. When we’re not, we become discouraged and say, “I can’t do this, I’m just not good enough.” Instead, think of writing as a degree. At minimum, it’s going to take four years to get really, really good at it. Any year after that is another year towards a “Ph.D”. You need to keep writing to get good at writing.
A more specific piece of advice (that was given to me by another writer) is “Honor your circumstances.” Don’t get down on yourself if you can’t write two hours every day. Do what you can. If your life is such that you only have half an hour a day to write or can only work on the weekends, then do that. Don’t feel like you have to fit into the mold other writers have set out. There will be some periods of your life when writing time is scarce and that’s okay! As long as you jump back into writing as soon as your circumstances change, then don’t worry about it so much.
Was it a specific incident or just childhood mayhem in general that inspired “A Slice of (Cake) Life”?
Definitely just childhood mayhem. Being a mom myself, I didn’t have to dig too deep to find Mrs. Cake’s voice or the chaos that comes from dealing with kids. The lines she said, I’ve said on more than one occasion. Thankfully, I’ve never had “please let that be chocolate” moments. However, there was an incident that involved a full, new tube of toothpaste all over EVERYTHING. The child in question smelled “minty fresh” for some time.
Why choose to tell the story strictly as a monologue?
The simple answer is: I read a similar scene in a book, thought it was cool, and decided to try it.
The deeper, more complicated answer is: One of the hardest aspects of parenting is the feeling that your voice disappears in the face of kids’ wants and needs. Kids really don’t listen well in general — whether it’s asking the same question three times in a row, or just not listening when you tell them “no.” There are also constant interruptions.
A friend of mine had a researcher come to her house to observe her work. She left the private sector when she had her first child and now runs a successful podcast. The researcher just sat and observed how she managed working at home while her oldest was a toddler and she was pregnant with her second. This researcher tallied out how many times my friend was interrupted by her family. The researcher counted 140 times that my friend had been interrupted while working. One hundred and forty times. A hundred and forty times my friend had to put her work on hold to answer a question, get a toy, put on a movie, or grab a snack. My friend thought the researcher was lying, but the researcher wasn’t.
If you notice, Mrs. Cake gets interrupted a lot. It was an easy way to build tension, but that’s not why I did it. It just felt natural to have her interrupted almost constantly. Thoughts and words get lost in the tangle of chaos when you deal with kids. I actually had to scale it back a bit because I started feeling bad for her.
Doing the scene from Mrs. Cake’s perspective meant someone had to listen to her. In order to understand what is going on, the reader has to understand what she is saying. If I had done the same scene from the twins’ perspective, Mrs. Cake’s frustration would’ve been lost. The fact that she says “good night” around five times wouldn’t have come across because the twins didn’t register that she had said it.
I guess I chose to do this type of scene as a way of giving another mother her voice back. In a way, it helped me recognize my own voice.
Do you find things like the prompt and time limit of the Everfree Northwest Iron Author contest to be helpful to your creative process?
Yes. It seems contradictory, but having rules or limits does increase creativity. A prompt means finding a solution around a problem or sparking an idea into full flame. A time limit means not getting hung up on small details so I’m forced to find an ending. My best work has happened because I was given a deadline.
Has working with another writer as a pre-reader caused you to look at your own writing differently?
Absolutely! Reading, in general, helps with writing. Being a pre-reader means taking a step above just reading and actually analyzing story mechanics. If something doesn’t work for me, I can’t just say “nope, try again.” I have to vocalize and explain my position. Being able to understand why something doesn’t work for me, in turn, make me a better storyteller because I can more easily identify what doesn’t work in my own stories.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
This has been a really fun interview. Thank you!