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A conversation with Voima Oy

I found Voima Oy on Twitter about a year ago, and have a soft spot for the world she creates in her stories. She is a writer of #microfiction, #flashfiction and #micropoetry, which can encompass many different types of poetry, the most famous probably being the haiku. Since around 2016, Voima has been participating in the daily prompt activity called #vss365 on X, formerly known as Twitter. CAMILA I recently discover that Voima in Finnish is a noun and verb that means:

  1. power, strength, force, might

  2. (physics) force mikä matkassa hävitään, se voimassa voitetaan (mnemonic on levers) ― what one loses in distance, one gains in force

  3. (religion) power (rank of angel)

There is also a Finnish power company called Voima Oy. Could you talk about your pseudonym?

VOIMA How Voima Oy became my pen name—Many years ago I worked in the proofreading department of a corporate law firm in downtown Chicago. We worked on bond issues and loan agreements, among other things. Once there was this big loan agreement involving environmental upgrades for a Finnish power company, and I liked the name of it. It reminded me of Bjork and punk bands at the time. I liked the idea of a pen name; it is a facet of me, like my characters.

CAMILA I love Bjork’s early work. I still have her first album in my shuffle. And yes, anything in our environments can strike our fancy and be endowed with new meanings. Oy means limited, so the English translation for the company name is Power, Ltd. :) You grew up in LaSalle County, Illinois, and seem to be very environmentally conscious. Have your surroundings had an affect on your writing?

VOIMA Yes, I suppose I have always tried to live simply, in harmony with the world. I love nature and weather, the countryside, woods and corn fields. All the wild animals, snakes, frogs, foxes, raccoons. We lived with cats and dogs when I was a kid. It was all part of my life. When I got out of college, I moved with friends to Chicago, near Lake Michigan, riding the elevated trains, working downtown. I loved the city! This was in the 80s. I went to clubs, museums and art gallery openings. I wrote on the trains in a notebook. Things I saw, people, etc. I really didn’t think about publishing; I just liked to write. In Twitter, now X, I found the Vss community—I think online communities are great for learning and boosting your writing. They’re generally friendly and welcoming. #vss365 is such a gift!

CAMILA Yeah. It’s had a huge impact on me. That and the #WritingCommunity are surprisingly cohesive and long-lived groups. Meeting up with other writers and finding out about books I hadn’t read before has been fun too. Did you read a lot as a child? What were your favorite stories?

VOIMA Oh yes! I read myths, fables and fairy tales, adventures, history, science fiction and fantasy, too: Grimm’s Fairy Tales. The Dance of Shiva (Indian Myths) A Wrinkle in Time were some of my favorites. My work has the simplicity of something written for children, it’s part of my style. At one time, I did use more words, but I have since then learned to use less to say more.

A woman with very long hair who seems to be screaming while perched on a tower. Bats fly into the nightime sky.

CAMILA As a child, I had an old edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, with very spooky drawings. I remember them to this day! I know what you mean about being more economical. Writing microfiction is beneficial to any writer, even when writing longer forms of fiction. When did you start writing?

VOIMA Maybe as soon as I learne how to write. I wrote stories, and so did my friends at school. We shared them, too. Sometimes we made up stories about the people who used to live in my neighborhood. I think it was about connecting with the world through sharing stories, but sometimes they were inspired by TV shows too, like Bonanza and Star Trek.

CAMILA Ha! That’s funny. When my friends and I were around 11 or 12, we all wanted to form a rock band based on what we saw on MTV, so yeah, I’ve had that experience too, of how media can be so influential. What kind of stories do you write? What do you like about very short stories?

VOIMA They are fantasy and speculative stories. Sometimes they are surreal, like dreams. But they have an element of real life. I like to write about the moon. I try to keep my pieces simple and short. For me, that is a sense of accomplishment, to be able to finish something in 75 or 100 or 250 words—and there are places that you can send your stories to. Paragraph Planet is always looking for 75-word stories.

CAMILA You evoke a situation and mood with so little.

Time's arrow moves #forward with the river, said the fox-girl. The eye in my hand has a short memory. But I remember.

VOIMA When Twitter only had a 140 character limit, it was a challenge as an art form, a real discipline. I have always enjoyed writing short forms–haiku and prose poetry. There’s something exhilarating about capturing a single moment perfectly. I think it’s something to aspire to.

CAMILA I agree…There’s another website called Five Minutes, where you have only 100 words to describe five minutes in your life. It’s not as easy to do well as you might think. You have to be aware of every denotation, connotation, sound and rhythm to make it work. Music figures often in your stories. Can you talk about that?

VOIMA Yes, Groundfog is the spirit of music. I imagine him as a kind of Totoro-like creature, elusive as fog. He plays a magic flute. The music evokes a mood, like Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, or lyrics like The Call Up echo a theme. If people want, they can search for the songs, too.

What manner of creature are you, the #ocelot asked Groundfog. Are you some kind of bear? A giant sloth perhaps... That's Groundfog! said the baby badgers.

CAMILA Also, as if your VSS were little plays, you have an charming cast of characters who regularly appear. The Fox-girl, the Little Ghost Belle, the Ronin, the Librarian, and among others, my favorite, the Rock with Teeth. Can you talk about them?

VOIMA Yes, they are recurring characters, kind of like a comic strip. Sometimes they are inspired by the #vss365 prompt words. The fox-girl was the start of it all, in the alley feeding the crows. They left her a glass eye, which is kind of like a mobile phone, or an oracle… The little ghost Belle was inspired by a prompt word. She keeps growing and telling her story. The rock with teeth was inspired by a photo on Twitter, a rock found on a beach. The baby badgers were inspired by the prompt word “badge.” I didn’t set out to do a continuing story, but it just keeps going and growing. I don’t know what will happen next. Thank You to everyone who reads along.

CAMILA Thanks for your time and words, Voima! SELECTED VSS If butterflies dream of flowers and milkweeds, do caterpillars dream of green? said the little ghost Belle. Do they dream of leaves, said the rusty spotted cat. And the shadows of the leaves on the ground * Groundfog played "First There is a Mountain" Oh, the snow! cried the baby badgers. And the snail, a magic #sigil on the gate, said the ronin. Is it raining, said the bobcat. * Under the leaves, life is like a blanket, said the rock with teeth. Let's get #cozy and tell stories, said the fox-girl. Stories, please! said the baby badgers. I know one, said the ronin. Let me tell you about a man who fell in love with a mountain. * King or party, the squabbling doesn't stop, said the little ghost Belle. They talk about the people, their #beloved country. The names change, said the fox-girl. And the maps, said the Librarian. But the mountains, the rivers, the bobcat said. * Tombs and monuments, the Ronin said. History is not dead, but we don't have to repeat it. It is written and re-written, the Librarian said. What about the future? said the Fox-girl... You can follow Voima Oy on Twitter–@voimaoy #TankaThursday #SciFiFri and #vss365. I am also on Mastodon – and Bluesky— View draft history

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Simon Kellow
Simon Kellow
Oct 22, 2023

The discipline of brevity, indeed, tempted to try this VSS you speak of! Also might become a fan of Groundfog.

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