Mikayla Mislak is a young writer. She recently graduated from Ithaca College and was awarded with magna cum laude. She is an editor in chief and writer at Odyssey Online.
Congratulations, Mikayla, on winning our November contest with your story, "Rotting from the Inside"! What was the inspiration for this story?
Once again, I feel honored that my piece was selected to be featured in the November contest. The inspiration for this story actually goes back to a friend that I had in high school. I have only been to her house once, and it left a lasting impression. Much of the setting that I used for this short story was inspired by her house, including the bizarre collection of fur coats in the bathtub. While Lin and Tracy are completely fictional characters as was the action that occurred in the story, that house is most certainly real. It was a shock for me to see that some people actually lived like that, in a mess and in a place completely devoid of warmth. As I grew up, I realized this wasn't as uncommon as I was led to believe. So many people live in deplorable housing situations or even without houses at all. What I still can't wrap my head around is that this house was in plain sight and no one intervened or investigated to make sure that my friend was alright. I myself did nothing to intervene. As humans, we tend to have this instinct to ignore the presence of something disturbing. We will often step past the homeless person sleeping in below freezing weather or skip past the disasters on the news. With this piece I wanted to bring the "rot on the inside" to the forefront to show that even people that appear to be happy can come from horrible backgrounds.
What does a typical writing day look like for you? Any writing rituals?
A typical writing day for me is usually an entire day I set aside to write a huge chunk of writing. Though I do try to write a little bit everyday. I have several journals and I'm always churning out a flash fiction piece or two. Occasionally, I'll even experiment a bit with poetry. I have to write with music though, usually it will be indie rock or electronic music but occasionally I'll put on some classical music or even some pop if the mood calls for it. I don't have a specific writing playlist though, like some of my writer friends. I also have to write with a glass of water or tea by my side. The more stuck I am, the more hydrated I tend to be. I also usually can't write early in the morning or late at night, as my brain is mostly offline at those times. I'm constantly taking mental or literal notes about the world around me. Everything from my dreams, snippets of conversation, or random observations and facts can be used as inspiration. As such, my desk is a perfect example of organized chaos, covered in notebooks and pieces of paper of little bits of those daily doses of inspiration. I must look like a maniac when I write though. My long stretches of feverish typing are occasionally punctuated with an outburst of excitable yelps, giggles, or even a full conversation to myself or my characters. But I suppose crazy is just part of the writing process, right?
What type of books do you like to read and who are some of your favorite authors?
Some years ago I started writing a short story. The inspiration came from my memories of first seeing my grandmother-in-law’s art studio. The story evolved as I wrote, with the studio based on reality but the characters all from my imagination. I was pleased with my effort but spent some time tweaking it. I read it out to my writing group and received very positive feedback. My tutor encouraged me to submit it to a competition.
I daydream about that ‘typical’ writing day often. Up early, four hours of serious prose, lunch, an afternoon nap, back for the editing … In reality, like most writers, my writing has to be fitted in around my money-earning job. There are days when I feel inspired (although on re-reading it’s often more like mania), and I write for hours at a stretch. But most of the time I need a bit of bullying. I belong to a group of writers who meet fortnightly to critique each others’ work.
Metal, smooth beneath fingertips. The turn of a handle, the squeak of a faucet. A stream of water flowing to life. Cold, slow to heat up, slower still to be hot. Quick to cool. A brief window. Narrower than the one on the wall, shut tight against the Colorado winter. Slipping out of a maroon sweater. Zipping out of stiff jeans. Bare feet on tile. Overgrown toenails. Pale body in motion, stirring the moonlight, mindful of windows. Neck to the left. Tongue to shoulder.