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A WINNER HAS BEEN CHOSEN! Madeeha Hashmi has emerged victorious, becoming The Indie Writer’s Deathmatch 2016 grand champ! She recently stopped by the Broken Pencil office and took the time to answer a few questions. You can check out Madeeha’s winning story, Moulting, in Broken Pencil Magazine Issue 71. Read more of Madeeha’s work on her blog, Paper Bags & Napkins.

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Where did you hear about the Indie Writer’s Deathmatch and what prompted you to enter?
I used to volunteer at the Toronto Public Library and I told someone there that I liked to write. They recommended that I check out Broken Pencil and the Deathmatch. So, I did submit back in 2009 and it didn’t get chosen, but I got some really good feedback about my writing. I kept the contest in mind, worked on my writing, and this year I felt that I had written a story that was really good for the contest. So, I entered.

What was the Inspiration for your winning story Moulding?
It started out as a much shorter piece about a girl who comes over to stay at her friend’s house and never leaves. At the time, I was thinking about relationships, but specifically a relationship between women who spend a lot of time together. I wanted to take that idea to it’s extreme and I really wanted to explore what happens when two people really connect in every aspect of their personal lives.

Did you find anything in your exploration?
It became a lot darker than I expected it to be. When I started writing, I didn’t intend it to be anything sinister, but I was surprised at the images I felt were appropriate for the story. These kinds of committed relationships are something many people desire and we celebrate and value these relationships. When we push it to the extreme, it’s not necessarily beautiful and all good. Codependency can be so dangerous and it’s something that can happen to anyone if you spend enough time with somebody and you’re really connected to them.

What was it like competing in the Deathmatch?
For me, it was my first time putting my work into a competitive arena. As a writer, you always want to hear feedback, but I’ve never seen it where it’s not just about the story but in comparison to other great writers who wrote such great stories. It was something I’d never experienced before, but I was expecting it based on what the Deathmatch has been like in the past. So I expected there to be people who were more critical, but I think that’s what makes it entertaining and engaging. I don’t think it would be the Deathmatch if there wasn’t somebody saying something that you didn’t agree with. It still pushes you to think about your work differently.

Any comments stand out?
I don’t know who it was that said it, but somebody did mention that while the story was good, it made use of the same techniques, the same imagery, and it was repetitive. I thought about it and realized that I do use a lot of the same surreal imagery. Someone else had suggested that I might want to break that up with something like dialogue or maybe changing the pacing. That’s something I want to work on for sure.

Is there anything in particular you plan on asking the Indie Publishing Makeover folks?
I’m very interested in short fiction. It’s my favourite form and I want to ask them what the best way to work with this form is, what is possibly changing in short fiction, and if there are any trends a writer like me should be aware of. I feel like we’re in a time where people are reading shorter and shorter pieces, at least online, and I’m curious to hear the perspective from people who have been in the publishing industry for so long as to which direct it’s going to go.

Got any tips for future Deathmatch competitors?
Be prepared for the amount of effort it takes. When I first got selected, I was excited but it really took over my life for those four weeks. I would also say prepare early and if you just keep in mind that you’re going to have to devote a lot of time if you want to keep up with what’s going on in the comments. So keep in mind that even if you have other stuff going on in your life, you’re still going to have to be really committed.