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Liner Notes with...Yael van der Wouden

Yael van der Wouden's story "In the Other Room" was the second-place winner for our Summer Mixtape Flash Contest. Here, she tells us how the playlist influenced her process and her work.

1. How did the playlist inspire you?

The playlist was THE inspiration! This story wasn't there before the playlist, not even a bud of an idea - it all came from the playlist. I think the moment I saw the prompt I saved the playlist and started walking around listening to it on repeat for a few solid days. I was on vacation and this was no fun for the people I was with, but hey I was having a blast. It's a good playlist.

2. Was there a particular song that spoke to you?

They all did in one way or another, but I think it's the way that some themes came back in different songs that really shaped the story. Frankie Sinatra has this amazing video - with this strange magical poison plot - and Maligno has these gorgeous lyrics about love as a poisonous invader. This, I guess, concocted in my head into a character named Frankie who accidentally drinks a magical poison that binds her ghost to an old lover's. Then We Can't Have Nice Things seemed to echo parts of Dolly Parton's Guitar in creating this ex-lover's personality who acts tortured and charming but in essence wasn't the nicest person, wasn't very memorable either. Anyway! Point is! Every single song participated in shaping one part of the story, in one way or another. It's just such a good playlist. Did I mention I think it's a good playlist?

3. How did you engage with the music as you were writing? / 4. Did the playlist/prompt change your writing process at all?

Yeees. Perhaps to an embarrassing degree? I'm a big big playlist geek and especially when it comes to making playlists to fit with stories. I used to do versions of this prompt in my teens. I was this dramatic romantic without actual romance in her life so I used to - honest to god - I used to make elaborate playlists to go with the romantic narrative arcs of my favourite characters in. Hermione had like 14 different playlists between 2003 - 2005 I swear. So! when I saw the prompt for this competition something in me just went 'we have trained for this, WE HAVE TO DO THIS.'

So after I felt I'd properly internalised the playlist I sat down and wrote out an umm, an overview of each song and its a) major themes, b) lyrics that stood out, and c) a paragraph of its general atmosphere. I am INFP that's my only explanation for this behaviour. But that's how I ended up with that 90s John Cusack type bit - that's the paragraph I got from Kelly Hogan's We Can’t Have Nice Things.

5. Do you normally write to music? If so, what what have you been writing to lately?

Always! Lately it's been a lot of Big Thief and Rachel Portman's soundtracks. I'm also working on a playlist titled 'Soundtrack to sad spooky lovestory' and that one's been playing a lot these past few days - it's weepy pop standards and sad French music. If you're interested please DM me. I will gladly share with anyone.


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