Interview with Abby Everett Tignor, 2nd Place Personal Essay Winner
Posted by Margo Dill at 2:00 AM
The Muffin welcomes second place winner in the Fall 2008 personal essay contest, Abby Everett Tignor. If you haven't read Abby's winning essay, "Dust Bunnies," you can do so here.
Abby states, "My most vivid memories as a child are of the local library and the stack of books I’d haul home every month, thinking that someday I’d write that great novel. I have yet to write the first word of said novel—apparently because I’ve been too busy living my life, which has provided all kinds of great material of the non-fiction sort. This is my first major contest entry, but the editors of Women in the Outdoors Magazine did actually pay me real money for an article I wrote a few years ago. So I now call myself a published author, looking for more. When I’m not putting skewed memories to paper, I go to my day job as a death claims examiner for a large insurance company. They frown on using too much creativity, humor, or dicey language in our correspondence concerning the dearly departed, so I’m forced to find my outlet elsewhere.
I live in rural Ohio with my husband of 25 years, who provides me with yet more material. We have two pretty cool sons, an ornery little granddaughter, donkey, mule and a large and grumpy Doberman. When we’re not tending to our five acres of paradise, we’re hanging at our river cabin, which attracts characters that really deserve their own book. Besides writing, I enjoy kayaking, photography, cooking and enjoying a cold beverage with friends and family as the river flows by. Please come visit me at http://abbybythepound.typepad.com/notwrite/. "
WOW!: Welcome, Abby! Thanks for taking the time to talk with us today. Congratulations on your 2nd place win! Was it easy or difficult for you to write to the prompt for WOW!'s Fall 2008 Contest? Why? Did you come up with an idea right away?
Abby: I find it easier to write to a prompt for a contest, which explains why this has been my only major entry so far- I just have a hard time narrowing down my ideas! I lean toward non-fiction, so this prompt was fairly easy for me and didn't take long to draft out.
WOW!: Well, we are glad this prompt inspired you and helped you narrow your ideas. We also hope that you will continue working on pieces and maybe entering contests or submitting your work because you obviously can write! In your winning essay, you do a great job of paralleling what was happening in your home to what was happening in your personal life. How did you get the idea to write about this subject? Abby:At first, the obvious path was to point out how my decorating affected my personal life and vice versa. After thinking it through, though, I discovered that the real story here was how I had managed to un-decorate my home and myself without realizing it. My emotional/physical state at any given time pretty much paralleled what condition the house was in!
WOW!: What a great self-realization! It makes me want to look at how I've decorated or un-decorated my house at certain points and figure out why. How do you feel about writing to a certain word count? Is it easier or harder to write a short piece or long piece?
Abby: I think it's much harder to write a short piece. As a story idea comes to mind, I never think I have enough material until I start writing. Once the words start flowing, one paragraph leads to another; and before I know it, I'm way over limit. It's a great learning tool, though, as it forces me to cut out the junk and focus on the quality and necessity of each and every word.
WOW!: I think that is something all writers struggle with--writing too much. But as you pointed out, usually when we start cutting, as painful as it may be, we produce a better, tighter piece. What do you feel are the benefits of entering a contest, (besides winning!)?
Abby: Well, the winning was sweet, of course, and totally unexpected, but that's not why I entered. I had dabbled in writing some time ago, but I didn't get serious about it until recently. I read, researched the Web, prepared myself in every way....except for the actual writing part! Fear and uncertainty kept me from putting anything to paper, so I decided that a formal contest with a deadline, prompt and word count, would be a great way to dive in head-first and get over the anxiety. It worked-- I've been writing ever since and winning second place was a huge boost. Another plus is that, unlike a book proposal, there was no direct rejection involved, which I thought was important, just starting out.
WOW!: I think one reason why contests are so important is what you said above. Contests give you a deadline, sometimes a certain genre to write in, and a word-count. If you are stuck in a writing rut, at least by entering a contest, you are producing a new piece of work. And maybe you will get that little extra boost if you win! You mentioned in your bio you want to write a novel, but you haven't started yet. What are some of your writing goals for the future?
Abby: The novel has been put on hiatus for now, as I've discovered I have more fun writing non-fiction and have a daily supply of material. I'm using my blog as a practice tool and like the contest, it's forced me to continue my writing on a regular basis-- I have a small circle of friends who happen to share my sense of humor and demand new material! In the near future, I'd like to focus on gathering some related memoir pieces for a book (with knowledge bestowed upon me during inappropriate conversation and mimosas with Hollis Gillespie and her memoir students in Atlanta-great class!) and also begin piecing together a biography on my great aunt, who was an Alaskan pioneer.
WOW!: (laughs) Any class with mimosas has to be a great class, right? I think it is great that you are listening to your inner writer and following your interests right now--an Alaskan pioneer--just the subject sounds like something I would definitely want to read! Your day job as a death claims examiner for a large insurance company sounds really interesting. Do any of your work experiences make it into your manuscripts? If not, where do you get your inspiration?
Abby: Yes, investigating death claims has been quite an experience, which I'm sure will someday inspire a book or two. We deal with so much emotion, family dynamics, murder, etc., that it's hard not to be affected at the end of each day--maybe that's why I focus so much on humor. I have yet to use any of this in my writing out of respect for the families and as a privacy issue. Some day, when I do delve into fiction, I hope to incorporate some of the more intriguing and quirky aspects of my job into a book. My inspiration at the moment comes from the simple craziness of every day life-- what makes me laugh or scratch my head and wonder, and also from my childhood memories as I had a rather interesting upbringing.
WOW!: It sounds like you have a great writing career ahead of you, Abby! Congratulations again on your 2nd place win, and we look forward to hearing your name in the literary world again.
"Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks." - Plutarch
April is National Poetry Month and if you’re looking for a way to develop or sharpen your skills, take a look at the Poem-A-Day (PAD) Challenge. Writer’sMarket.com editor Robert Lee Brewer issued this challenge for the first time last November on his Poetic Asides blog and selected participants saw their work featured in a chapbook.
For 2009, besides receiving a certificate of completion and online badge to display on their blog or website, writers of the top 50 poems of the month will see their work published as a free ebook. Even better, some well-known poets including Mark Doty, Patricia Smith, S.A. Griffin, and Dorianne Laux will serve as judges. And like last year, participation is free.
Which is the most important part of the equation? Money? Creativity? Books?
Posted by Elizabeth King Humphrey at 12:01 AM
For two weeks, I've been in the throes of working out a collaboration agreement for a nonfiction book proposal, not to mention the pitch and the proposal. At one point I spoke to a creative person/writer friend about what a collaboration agreement entails and how to shepherd the work into print. It seems every discussion of traditional publishing (which is the avenue I'm following) leads to a discussion of self-publishing (which my friend is considering). Often, it seems, financial considerations recede as a creative person "just wants to get my work into the hands of my readers." Oddly, when I've held a book to which I've contributed, it has been a thrill...but I've never actually met anyone who has read one of those books. The check for those works were maybe less thrilling and sometimes, in those books, my creativity might have taken a secondary role to my skills as a writer. Fortunately, as I spend time Twittering or blogging, I believe I am able to reach my readers and I'm able to tap into my creativity. Not having an editor can be a fabulous feeling, but I cannot physically hold my work--I've even settle for reading one of my books in a Amazon Kindle. But, then again, when I look at the analysis of the locations of blog readers, I'm amazed at how far my reach can be on the Internet. So, in the mish-mash of this post, I guess I'm trying to sort out which is most important: to keep plugging away at writing for traditional publishing? To write your heart out and self-publish to reach your audience (including writing rambling posts like this one)? To keep your eye on the financial bottom line? And where does creativity enter the equation? What are your thoughts?
Elizabeth King Humphrey is a creativity coach and the moderator/main blogger for CoastalCarolinaMoms. She is also a freelance writer and ponders daily doses of creativity at TheWriteElizabeth. Once she shakes away all these ponderous questions about publishing, she plans on returning her focus to the book proposal. Really. Well, maybe, she might have to think about what to eat for lunch.
Today, I went out of town for a work conference, and I walked out of there with a topic to write about. One of the presentations was based on an idea a university has to get students into keeping online portfolio material from their courses. It got me thinking of an informal poll for those WOW readers who would like to help me out with this.
1) Do you have a portfolio of your work online?
2) If you do have one, what was the inspiration for you to start one? If you do not, would you?
3) For those with a portfolio online, is it on a personal website, blog, a private (password-protected) webspace, and/or another area in cyberspace?
4) Do you monitor how many views there are of the page? Ask people if they have read your work online?
5) Do you market it mainly on your resume/CV or it something you self-promote?
6) What types of advice would you have to students and/or novice writers in starting an online portfolio? What should they include/exclude? What do you wish you would have done with your papers etc. online?
Ultimately, there was only surface-level discussion of the idea, since it's only starting to come together at this particular institution. As a college student, I was given "free" webspace, and I used it first for classes where I had to upload papers and presentations, but then, also to tell people about myself, to practice web editing, to put up study abroad pictures, and then lastly, to market myself for graduate schools I applied to. For a while, I had a paid site, but I've taken it back to the baseline for now. Right now, I'm only linking to other sites featuring my work, but if given the chance, I might PDF some grad school papers etc. to show what I can do. To me, ultimately, having students do some writing with a goal of having even a hardcopy-only portfolio is better than nothing at all. Now, the question is how far can and ought online portfolios go? Final drafts only? Revised drafts to show editorial talents? Subdividers for different genres, styles, presentation types? Please enlighten us all fellow WOWers. We learn best from one another, not in isolation! I felt that especially true today at that conference.
If there's one thing I despise, it's a missed deadline. I’m definitely guilty of it, but I try my darnedest to meet them--even if that means staying up all night. The problem is, when you're tired you make more mistakes, and when you're finally finished with the project, you want to sleep for days. I think this holds true the older you get. Many of my co-workers and team members ask how I do it all. I don't have a set list of instructions, but I've had plenty of practice.
Before I started WOW!, I pulled many all-nighters for my graphic arts business. Many of my clients wanted their catalogues and ad layouts done yesterday. Being the nice person I am, I always complied with their crazy schedules. Without really realizing it, I got into the habit of donning my Wonder Woman costume and "making it happen." These marathons consisted of a week of nose to the grindstone, sleep deprivation, and lots of caffeine, and later, wine. Thing is, I'm still doing it, for a lot less pay. But when does the time come when I can just relax?
I find that the older I get, there's more need for recovery time. There's more need for vitamins and headache pills. And now, every chance I get, I like to gel in front of the TV and tune-out. Is this the life I really want to lead? I often wonder.
Sticking To My New Year's Resolution
Our team members know this, but I made a New Year's resolution that I'm trying to stick to, and have been fairly successful at--though it's a WIP (work-in-progress). I'm dolling out assignments (paying for them) and delegating more. There comes a time when you have to realize what your time is worth--even in this tough economy. You can do it all yourself, but if it's killing you and not good for your health, or your overall business, why not pay to have someone else handle the task?
Delegating More, Doing Less
This method can be applied to anyone who owns her own business or freelances--which is basically the same thing. So next time you are commissioned by a potential employer and think you can handle it all, why not try tacking on a little extra to your price and having someone else take some of the burden off of your shoulders? That's what being a businesswoman is all about: delegating and moving forward. Form a team of talent that can help when you are in need. Network with individuals in your same field. Be an agent. Never turn down a job. Say yes, find help, and charge accordingly. And lastly, get some sleep already! You don't have to take on everything yourself. Think of your health and well being, like I'm trying to do.
What is your method for working less and maximizing your time? I'd love to hear your advice.
There's no secret recipe for creating a romance, although there are some basic ingredients. If you want more than "white bread" you'll need to spice up the elements of your story and make it your own. In Part 1, we talked about: The Type of Bread…Determining the Genre; The Basic Ingredients…Characters are the Flour and Water of Romance; Don't Forget Yeast…Getting a Rise Out of Your Characters; and Adding Spices to Create Flavor with Your Setting. Now it's time to crank up the heat and bake your story.
Pop It In the Oven…Cranking up the Heat
Once you've assembled and mixed all the ingredients, you pop it into the oven to bake. For your romance, this means turning up the heat. Ask yourself what's at stake for your characters? The higher the stakes the more important the results will be to both your characters and your readers.
There are several ways of raising the stakes. Giving a character a history that is in direct conflict with what they must do to succeed is one sure way of creating tension. In the movie, Independence Day, Jeff Goldblum's character gets sick on airplanes and yet he must fly in an alien space ship in order to save the world. Putting your characters in unfamiliar locations or strange situations will help them develop and grow as they overcome the obstacles you put in their way.
Ding…Letting It Cool
You pull the bread out of the oven and it looks amazing. But before you cut into the loaf, it needs time to cool down. Once you have written your first draft, it's time to let your excitement cool down. Put the work aside for a week and then come back to it. I print out an entire copy of the book, sit in a nice comfy chair and read it all the way through as if seeing it for the first time. Pen in hand I make corrections to glaring spelling and grammar errors, jot down notes on new ideas, sometimes adding new twists and turns to the plot. I've found flaws in the plot that weren't obvious as I was writing but became glaring when I read the entire manuscript in one sitting, just a reader. Now that the excitement of finishing has cooled, I can look at my work more objectively, which helps me make that second, third and final draft the best it can be.
Time to Eat…Your Story is Ready
In the end, when the bread comes out of the oven and your friends take their first bite, if it makes them go, "mmmmm" then no one is going to ask about the ingredients or how you made the bread. All that matters is that it tastes great. When someone finishes reading a great romance novel, it should make them go, "ahhhh" and just like with your loaf of bread, most people aren't going to be dissecting the book's plot, setting, or character development. All they care about was whether or not you told an engaging story with memorable characters.
Making bread from scratch and writing a novel both involve a lot of hard work but the rewards can be delicious.
Christie Walker Bos is the editor of a trade journal for the optical industry. In her "spare time" she writes romantic comedy novels. Excerpts, reviews and links to her three published novels can be found on her Web site at http://www.ChristieWalkerBos.com
The Write Man for Her: (A Great Read) and Interview with Christie Walker Bos
Posted by Margo Dill at 3:00 AM
The Write Man For Her by Christie Walker Bos is a great read for a spring afternoon at the park with a picnic and blanket, for a summer day at the beach, or for a winter night curled up in front of a fire. This contemporary romance novel is laugh-out loud funny while also setting your heart on fire and bringing faith in love back to even the worst doubter. With a good mix of romance, love-making in the bedroom, and good-old fashioned girl time, The Write Man For Her, published by Cerridwen Press, will leave you wanting more because you fall in love with the main character, Jessica Anne Singer, and hope her love life will finally work out.
Jessica has a successful advertising career, but she longs to be a full-time writer. She enrolls in an on-line creative writing class for help with her romance novel, and there she meets dreamy and mysterious Professor Brant Wilson. Jessica finds her professor attractive during his teleconference lectures, but she doesn't dream of trying to meet him in person until she is strongly encouraged, actually pushed, into action by her fast-talking, hysterical friend, Cath. Jessica feels a little down on her luck since her terrible divorce and hasn't had a date in years. When Jessica and Cath's plan to meet Brant face-to-face finally works, Jessica makes an unbelievable discovery that might change her mind about Brant being a possible love interest.
Make sure to check out The Write Man For Her by Christie Walker Bos (published by Cerridwen Press ) in hard copy or e-book today.
About the Author: Christie Walker Bos is a hopeful romantic living in Big Bear Lake, California, with her soul mate Robbie Bos, who fulfilled 63 out of 65 items on her very own Man List. Having found her soul mate using a magical man list, Christie fictionalized the story and came up with her first romantic comedy, Magical Man List. In addition to writing novels, Christie has a full-time job as an editor/writer for the optical industry, is a professional photographer, and jewelry maker. She’s an activist in the areas of the environment and women’s issues, volunteering for both the Sierra Club and at a local women’s shelter. A mother of two—Erica and Brian—Christie enjoys life in the mountains, camping, music festivals and anything involving friends, family and her kids. She has had three non-fiction books published for kids on the topics of hot air ballooning, volleyball and understanding male and female roles for young adults.
MUFFIN READERS: To have a chance to win a free autographed copy of THE WRITE MAN FOR HER, leave a comment on this blog post today!
WOW: Christie, thank you for taking the time to talk with us today. Why did you choose to become a romance writer?
Christie: I’ve been a writer all my life, and since I’ve just turned 54, that’s a good long time. I started in 7th grade by writing essays for various contests, and when I actually won a couple, it really sparked my interest in writing. I began writing contemporary romance back in 2000 after taking a rather unusual route to finding my soul mate. After telling the story over and over again to friends and watching them double over with laughter, I figured I had a pretty good story to tell. I turned my real life experience of making a “man list” and creating a sacred ceremony into my first fictional novel, The Magical Man List.
WOW: What a great way to get started as a writer--using your own magical man list as a basis. I think many of us would actually like to check out that list! So, besides your own life experiences, what draws you to the genre?
Christie: When I think about what movies I like the best, my favorites are always quirky romantic comedies like Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, No Reservations, and one of my favorites…Only You with Robert Downey, Jr. and Marisa Tomei. This type of story has always captured my imagination; so when it came to writing novels, I gravitated to this genre. When it comes to reading, I love the smart-ass romantic comedies, humorous murder mysteries if you can call them that. I like my characters to be witty and have that snappy come back, not slapstick falling down laughter.
WOW: Your book definitely reminds me of that movie genre. Wouldn't it be absolutely fantastic if some (or all!) of your books could be made into movies? Every writer's dream, right? With working a "real job" too,what is your writing routine like?
Christie: Since I spend the day at the computer for my “real job”—a journalist for a trade publication in the eye wear industry—when I want to be creative I need to be anywhere other than in front of a computer. So I’ve worked out this crazy way of writing my novels. I start by writing my first draft using a pen and pad of yellow paper (easier on the eyes than white). When you are writing a 90,000 plus word novel, that will give you quite the writer’s bump. Then I put on my typist hat and type each chapter (usually as I complete each one) into the computer. Then I print out a hard copy and let it cool off like a cake. When I return to the hard copy, I find a comfortable chair and a red pen. Wearing my editor hat, I mark up the copy with corrections, additions and deletions. Back to the computer once more, I enter all the corrections and make another print out. This copy goes to three trusted readers who then mark up the manuscript again. Back to the computer once more to input corrections and make more changes. After all of this, I finally have a manuscript I can send to my editor at Cerridwen Press. If she accepts the manuscript for publication—and I’ve had three accepted and published through Cerridwen so far—then she will mark up my manuscript one more time. More corrections, more re-writes and then finally, it is done; and I have a glass, no, a bottle of wine to celebrate! The celebration is short-lived though, since by then, I’m already working on the next novel.
WOW: Obviously that system works for you, and it sounds like you have been very successful with it so far! Plus, every writer needs to celebrate with a good bottle of wine. What are some of the benefits to having your books in e-book format?
Christie: One benefit to me as an author is my novels see the light of day much faster than if they went through a print publisher, which has an extremely long wait time from the signing of the contract to the book being on the shelf. Another thing I like is my novels reach a whole new market and group of people on-line. Cerridwen actually publishes my novels twice—first as an e-book and then as a print trade paperback. This allows my novels to reach two different markets. I must say, most of the people who read my novels prefer to wait for the print version, stating that they like cuddling up with “a good book.” Of the three novels currently published by Cerridwen Press, three are available as e-books and one, The Write Man for Her, is now available in print. Another benefit of an e-book over a print book is the price. The Write Man for Her in print is $9.99 while it only costs $6.99 as an e-book.
WOW: It's really nice that your company publishes all your novels in e-book and as a hard copy! That's a great idea and nice for you to appeal to all types of readers. So, let me ask you, what makes contemporary romance different than other romance genres? Christie: I believe contemporary novels are more grounded in reality. There are no witches, shape shifters, space ships, or knights in shining armor, not that I have anything against those types of romances, but in a contemporary romance you are dealing with the here and now. When I’m writing a contemporary novel, I am mindful of what is going on in the world right now and keep the dialogue and situations very real. I do a lot of research on the location, so I can shape my characters based not only on when they live but where they live as well. I treat the location as a silent character that shapes and impacts the novel in subtle ways.
WOW: You bring up a very interesting point about the setting of your book. Since I have read one of your books, I can definitely see how setting is almost like another character for you. Your story could not happen just anywhere. In your book, The Write Man For Her, your main character, Jessica, is attracted to her creative writing professor. How much of you is in this book since you are a successful author?
Christie: Sometimes it’s hard to separate reality from fiction. I would say there is a part of me in every one of my characters, even my heroes. I’ve had friends and family read my novels and comment that a particular line was “so you.” But they also recognize themselves in certain characters as well. I borrow liberally from everyone I meet—personalities, mannerisms, ways of speaking, quirks, and even funny phases—no one is safe. I saw this wonderful t-shirt that said, “Beware, you could end up in my next novel.” That is so true.
WOW: I've seen that t-shirt before, too, and I thought I should get one of those. I'm always using my friends' names in my creative work. So, not only do you have the hero and heroine in your book, you've also got the antagonist. Simon! UGH! He's such a jerk. Is it easier for you to write about the villain or the hero in your books?
Christie: I must admit, I love a good bad guy. You meet so many jerks in life that it’s easy to come up with plenty of examples of what you don’t want in a man. I find it far more difficult to come up with a realistic hero…someone who is basically good but not a saint. I married one of those heroes, but he was one out of the 50 jerks I dated before I found him. So I find there is plenty of “material” out there to create believable male villains and not as many examples of wonderful men. I have to be more creative in that department and rely on wishful thinking.
WOW: Another great point, which I think all women can relate to who are reading this blog post. We've all met the jerks, and I think many of them creep into our creative writing--EASILY! Every leading lady needs a sidekick, and in this book, it is the delightful best friend, Cath, and Jessica's bird, Merlin! What made you give Jessica a bird as a pet?
Christie: My kids had birds for pets when they were young. We had finches and a parakeet but our favorite was a cockatiel that we hand raised. Of all the characters in the book, Merlin the bird is the only one who is portrayed exactly feather for feather. No worries there about being sued or anything. All the other characters are composites of people, personalities, and my overactive imagination.
WOW: I'm glad to hear that Merlin is based on a real bird. I loved him in the book! So, thenhow much fun did you have writing about Cath?
Christie: Cath is that kind of person who says what other people only think. She’s always out there, in your face, making you do the very thing she’s afraid to do herself. Cath is my inner voice before my conscious mind takes over and makes me say and do the right thing. I liked her so much that I wrote a short story starring Cath. "Stakeout for Love" is a new FREE read available from Cerridwen Press, starring the aforementioned Cath. The idea of the free read is to give readers a taste of an author’s style with the hope being that they will like what they read and go onto buy one of the author’s other novels. "Stakeout for Love" debuted on March 23rd. Hopefully your readers will check it out along with my other novels at ChristieWalkerBos.com .
WOW: Christie, thank you so much for taking the time to share so much wonderful information with The Muffin today. We'll definitely have to check out your short story, "Stakeout for Love." And I hope all readers will take my advice and read The Write Man For Her. You won't be disappointed! Happy reading! Margo Dill http://www.margodill.com/ http://margodill.com/blog/
Some people think all romance novels follow a secret recipe or formula and are therefore all the same. Crafting the modern romance is like baking a loaf of bread. While there are the standard ingredients that will give you a presentable finished loaf, it's what's added to the basics that can make enough types of breads to fill a bakery.
For basic white bread you need flour, yeast, butter, salt and water. For the basic romance novel you need two people who eventually fall in love, a plot/conflict that keeps them apart for most of the novel, and then a resolution that brings them together for the happy ending. Just like with baking, if you want your story to be more than just "white bread" you'll need to add to the basic ingredients to stand out on the shelf.
Type of Bread…Determining the Genre
When you set out to bake a loaf of bread, you first need to determine what type of bread you're making in order to assemble all the necessary ingredients. With a romance novel, your first order of business will be to decide what type of romance you want to write. Romance novels come in as many varieties as bread. There's the murder mystery romance in which there will be dead bodies and the paranormal romance in which the lovers are not necessarily even alive. There are historical, contemporary and science fiction romances, suspense, fantasy and inspirational love stories. Books that cross over and back again from one genre to another are making it more difficult to pigeon hole a romance novel with a specific, limiting set of ingredients.
The Basic Ingredients…Characters are the Flour and Water of Romance
In traditional romances, boy meets girl, they fall in love and they live happily ever after. Today, you might have boy meets vampire, girl meets werewolf, boy meets boy or girl meets girl. The possibilities are as boundless as your imagination. Today's romances could involve a ghost in love with a living person (Think Patrick Swayze in Ghost) or a time traveler in love with someone from the past (Think Christopher Reeve in Somewhere in Time). Add spice to the recipe by creating characters from different ethic backgrounds, different classes, different centuries, and different worlds. These differences will cause issues to arise between the characters, which brings us to our next ingredient…yeast!
Don't Forget the Yeast…Getting a Rise Out of Your Characters
When making bread, yeast is the active ingredient that makes the bread rise. When writing a story, conflict is the active ingredient that gives rise to problems that demand a solution. Without conflict, two people meet, fall in love and live happily ever after…The End. Boring. The conflict or the reason they can’t be together is what makes "the bread rise" and the story develops around how they resolve the problems that are keeping them apart.
In my romantic comedy, Getting Back to Delaney, there are two types of conflict, internal and external. Delaney, the owner of a struggling art gallery finds herself attracted to Tyler, who turns out to be helping his brother open a competing art gallery across the street. A classic conflict arises as Delaney views Tyler as the competition out to destroy her. Think You’ve Got Mail with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Delaney's internal conflict--a deep distrust of anything in a "male package" brought on by repeated betrayals--causes her to ignore Tyler's offers of help even though she desperately needs it, causing her gallery to teeter on the brink of bankruptcy.
Add Spices…Create Flavor with Your Setting
Think of the setting of your book as more than the actual location where events take place. The setting has a personality, it provides conflict, and it adds flavor to your book like cinnamon changes white bread into a cinnamon roll. In my novel, The Write Man for Her, the story takes place in and around Santa Monica and Marina Del Rey, California. One of the characters lives on a houseboat at the marina, which provides for sunsets on the water, love scenes in rhythm with the gentle rocking of the boat, and sets the stage for the books grand finale.
The love story Slumdog Millionaire set in the slums of India has a desperate, dangerous feeling that permeates the film like the pungent smell of curry. While in The Bridges of Madison County, the pace of the film is slow and quiet like the dust caught in a beam of light coming through the farm house window. Take care when choosing your setting, understanding that the location can enrich the plot, influence the characters and increase or decrease the tension of your story.
In Part Two…Learn how to crank up the heat, let your story cool, and then enjoy the delicious results. (Come back for Part 2 on Friday, March 27th!)
Christie Walker Bos is the editor of a trade journal for the optical industry. In her "spare time" she writes romantic comedy novels. Excerpts, reviews and links to her three published novels can be found on her Web site at http://www.ChristieWalkerBos.com
Our Fall 2008 Essay Contest’s prompt was inspired by Jill Butler’s book, Create the Space You Deserve: An Artistic Journey to Expressing Yourself Through Your Home. Jill offered a favorite quote from Winston Churchill: “We create our dwelling and afterwards our dwellings create us.” She believes it runs both ways simultaneously. That is, as we create ourselves, we create our homes, and in the creating of our homes we have the opportunity to recreate ourselves.
Natalie Wendt took first place with her essay, "Going Forth and Coming Home." It's a fabulous essay, and today we'll share an interview with Natalie touching on her many adventures, as well as some tips about entering writing contests.
Natalie grew up in Idaho, graduated from College of Santa Fe in 2005, and traveled extensively Asia, Europe and North America. A former resident of Sravasti Abbey in Washington state, she now spends her days as a substitute teacher in Spokane’s elementary schools. Her writing has appeared in “Q View Northwest,” “The Fig Tree,” and “The Spokesman-Review.” This is the first contest she’s ever won.
Interviewed by: Marcia Peterson
WOW: Congratulations on winning first place in WOW!'s Fall 2008 writing contest! How do you feel?
Natalie: I’m thrilled! I’ve never won first place in anything before. It’s very exciting. I’m a regular WOW! reader and it’s wonderful to be a part of it. I’m really looking forward to the Premium Green subscription too!
WOW: That's great, and I think you'll love Premium-Green . In your essay, you talk about the lure of an uprooted life, and how nomadic life was your dream. Why do you think you felt that way? It seems so adventurous!
Natalie: I think part of that impulse came from growing up in a small, close-knit community where I didn’t fit in. I felt claustrophobic in my hometown. Everyone had known everyone else since birth. Being a nomad seemed like the opposite way of living. I’m fortunate that my family treated my wanderlust as normal. My parents always encouraged us to experience new things and learn about the world, and they didn’t complain when we went off to see the world! My younger sister is a globetrotter too. It seems natural to me.
WOW: You've really acted on that wanderlust, traveling all around the world. How did you decide where to go? Any favorite places?
Natalie: I went to India for pilgrimage and to go to Buddhist teachings. Both of my main spiritual teachers lived in India for decades, and I was able to meet many of their teachers in India, which was very special. During my three months there, I basically went wherever His Holiness the Dalai Lama was teaching, and the traditional Buddhist holy places.
Everywhere else, I went where I found a place to stay! I didn’t really have enough money to travel as long as I did, but I do have a huge extended family and a lot of friends who live abroad. I stayed with cousins, friends of cousins, second cousins I’d never met before, my best friend from third grade, a friend’s ex-boyfriend, and my own ex-girlfriend, among other people. As a result, I ended up it places I never would have thought to go, like a Welsh college town, a suburb of Frankfurt, and a genuine Tuscan villa. The only places in Europe I went out of my way to visit were romantic Italian cities: Rome, Florence, Venice and Verona. I went for the food, the art and the atmosphere, and it was everything I hoped.
My favorite places were Dharamsala, Bodh Gaya and Bangalore in India, and Rome. Dharamsala’s the Tibetan capital-in-exile, and Bodh Gaya’s where Buddha became enlightened. Bangalore is a beautiful city in southern India, and I loved it because it was the first place I stayed on my trip. And Rome’s just irresistible.
WOW: It sounds like you've had some great adventures, Natalie! Have you always been interested in writing? What other writing have you done?
Natalie: Writing has been my passion for most of my life. When I was in high school I had a ‘zine. I constantly wrote short stories, essays, and terrible poetry. I didn’t share my writing with many people though, and I went through a long phase of not showing my work to anyone.
Last summer I started submitting my work. I’m still quite new to it, but I’ve had some success. I’ve had a handful of nonfiction articles published. My first published fiction piece will be up the Homestead Review website very soon as a runner-up for a contest.
WOW: Congratulations on your fiction contest success and published articles. Currently, you're substitute teaching at the elementary school level. How's that going? Are you interested in a career in education?
Natalie: Substitute teaching makes every day an adventure. My degree is actually in Elementary Education, and I started working in a classroom when I was barely twenty years old. I was still a student back then and at times I felt way too young to be teaching anybody. Traveling and getting more diverse life experience has helped me be a better, more confident teacher. I was recently offered a classroom of my own for next school year. It’s tentative until the education budget is worked out but I’m excited about it. Spending a day with six-year-olds is a lot like going to another country. I never know what will happen and it keeps me flexible.
WOW: That's great that you'll be getting your own class. Your students will be lucky to have you as a teacher. Are you working on any other writing projects?
Natalie: Yes! I write almost every day. Currently, I’m piecing together my notes from my trip into narrative form, and working on a young adult novel set in rural Idaho. I regularly contribute to my local gay and lesbian monthly newsmag, Q View Northwest.
WOW: You sound very busy! Finally, we have to ask (you are a first place winner, after all): Do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?
Natalie: If you’re interested in entering, go for it. Contests give you a deadline, writing guidelines, and incentive to put out your best work. It’s like writing assignments for a class, but with prizes. Contests that give you a critique are especially great because you get feedback.
Other than that, edit. For years, I tried to write things perfectly the first time. It didn’t work, and later I would read through and cringe. I’ve found that when I dedicate more time to editing than to writing, I’m happier with the end result and I’m more likely to get published. Write, edit, edit, edit, and then put it aside. Pick it up later and edit again. And good luck!
WOW: Super advice, Natalie! Thanks and best of luck with your various endeavors.
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>>> Tune in every Tuesday for more contest winner interviews!
Sybil Baker, Author of The Life Plan, Launches her Blog Tour!
Posted by WOW! at 4:46 AM
& Book Giveaway Comments Contest!
Sybil Baker spent twelve years teaching in South Korea prior to accepting a position as an assistant professor of English at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga after earning her MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. During her extensive travels throughout Asia, she became increasingly interested in the allure and alienation of American travelers and expatriates, and this has heavily influenced her writing. Her fiction and essays have appeared in numerous journals, including Upstreet, The Bitter Oleander, Paper Street, and Alehouse. Her essay on American expatriate literature appeared in AWP's The Writer's Chronicle in September 2005.
Sybil has such a great trailer for her book, The Life Plan, that we had to share it with you here! Enjoy the trailer and the interview below, and be sure to comment to be entered in the book giveaway contest!
What would you do if your carefully planned life was falling apart?
Like many women, Kat Miller dreams of having a satisfying career, a loving family, and a house of her own. But Kat has taken things further than most, documenting her dreams in a "Life Plan," so that nothing will go wrong. Yet something has: Dan, her husband of five years. Kat suspects that Dan, recently unemployed, is spending more time in yoga class with his beautiful classmate than he is looking for a job. When Dan announces that he has enrolled in a massage course in Thailand, Kat is convinced she has to go with him to save her marriage.
From the offices of Washington, DC, to the gritty streets of Bangkok to the mountain region of Chiang Mai, from the serenity of ancient Buddhist ruins to the passion of the jungle to all-night beach parties, Kat narrates her quest to have it all, only to wonder if having it all is all there is.
Click here to read the first chapter of The Life Plan.
Book Giveaway Comments Contest!
If you received our Events Newsletter, remember, we are holding a contest to win a copyof Sybil's book, The Life Plan, to those that comment. So, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, and enjoy the chat, and share your thoughts, and comments, at the end.
We will randomly choose a winner from those who comment. Enjoy!
---------------- Interview by Joanne Stacey
WOW: Hi Sybil! We are so excited to have you join us for a blog tour for you new book The Life Plan. It is such a great book in all senses: it is funny, sad, and soul searching. How long did it take you to write The Life Plan?
Sybil: I wrote this novel when I was still living in South Korea. I started it in late 2004 and had a rough draft finished by October 2005. I worked on it off and on based on friends’ feedback and in between other projects until I submitted it to Casperian in September 2007.
WOW: I am always so interested in the writing process for successful authors. I've tried writing with an outline and writing without an outline and found that with an outline, my muse never wants to stay on track, and without one, I can't stay focused. Do you outline before you write?
Sybil: I did use a basic outline for this novel, as I'm "plot challenged." I wrote scenes and ideas on index cards. The book often deviated from the outline, especially the final third, which I rewrote after I got feedback from the editors at Casperian. I expect to deviate from outlines--they're a starting point rather than a final template.
WOW: I love the term "plot challenged!" But after reading your book, I would have never guessed that. Especially since you created such colorful characters. Do you complete full character sketches so you know what each one is like?
Sybil: Thanks! For this novel I did do character sketches of the main characters in the book. I've also met a lot of colorful people in my life and used composites of them to create my characters.
WOW: I'm sure that through your many travels you've met very interesting people to draw from! I love your main character, Kat Miller. She is someone I definitely can relate to on so many levels. How did you decide to write The Life Plan in first person as opposed to third person?
Sybil: My short stories are often darker than this novel, and I really wanted to write something with more humor in it. I thought a first person approach would allow me to create a stronger voice and use my character's sense of humor more authentically.
WOW: There definitely are some great laugh out loud moments in your book! What really drew me in though, are the rich descriptions. They are so well written, it seems it was really effortless for you to write them. Since you lived and traveled around Asia, did you have to do much research?
Sybil: I wish it had been effortless! If you read my blog from August to October you'll know how much I complained about the rewrites and edits I had to do for this novel. I rewrote this novel on many levels many times.
I've been to Thailand five or six times and used my own experience for some of the settings, but I also did a lot of research to fill in the hazy parts of my memory. I also wrote about a few places I hadn't visited, and had to do more research on those areas. I also interviewed friends who had also been to Thailand about their experiences. Research is much easier with the Internet though.
WOW: (laughs) Yes, the Internet. What would we do without it? Can you imagine going back to the system of library card catalogs and sitting in front of those huge microfiche machines, trying to find information? And, how much more difficult it would have been to find a publisher? How did you go about getting published?
Sybil: I'd just moved back to the States and had sent the manuscript out to a few agents with some nibbles and interest but no takers. I decided that instead of querying a new batch of agents I'd try a small press. I was lucky in that Casperian was one of the first small presses I queried, and they wrote back right away.
WOW: I've heard such good things about small presses. When you were looking at them, how did you decide to query Casperian Books?
Sybil: I loved Casperian's eclectic book list--they're open to a wide variety of fiction, and I liked that about them. Also, from their website they seemed well-organized and up front about their contract and what they could/could not do regarding publicity.
I've not been disappointed. It's been a joy working with Casperian and I'd recommend the press to anyone who thinks their work might mesh with their catalogue.
WOW: What a great endorsement for Casperian! Since every publisher is different, can you tell me what Casperian's publishing process is like?
Sybil: As I mentioned earlier, I talk about the different steps of the publishing process in more detail on my blog. Basically though, there is lots and lots of editing and proofreading. With Casperian the actual publishing of the book (cover design, etc.) was a collaborative effort, which I appreciated. Since then it's been marketing--setting up readings, giving out advanced review copies, blogging, etc.
WOW: I do love the cover of your book! I know some authors have no say in any of the artistic process, so I think it's wonderful that it was a collaborative effort. And speaking of marketing, how else will you promote your book?
Sybil: First, I have a great book trailer on YouTube that I'm hoping will help get the word out (see above).
Second, I'll be reading at any place that will take me! For March and April I'll be reading a lot in the Atlanta-Chattanooga-Knoxville area. I'll be in South Africa in May, but am planning on creating my own book tour for parts of June and all of July.
In addition to this blog tour, I hope to continue to host authors on my blog (sybilbaker.blogspot.com), be a guest author on other blogs, and be active in the online community.
And finally, I've been very lucky to have a team helping me at little or no cost. My assistant, Katie Christie, has been a workhorse helping me plan and coordinate readings and other events. My husband, who happens to be an excellent web designer, maintains my website (www.sybilbaker.com). My friend Todd Bradley has his own production company and made my book trailer for free. A photographer Katie who took the author photos.
WOW: You are so together! I love the book trailer, and your blog. Best of luck to you with all your promotions! I know I enjoyed reading The Life Plan and really hope you have something new in the works so I have something to look forward to reading next.
Sybil: I'm in the final edits of a novel tentatively titled "Replay." Readers who enjoy The Life Plan will be interested in this new novel, which takes place in Washington, DC, Williamsburg, Virginia, and Los Angeles. Like The Life Plan, "Replay" has a female protagonist who is having relationship and career conflicts.
WOW: Sounds fantastic, Sybil! Maybe we'll get to see yet another book set in South Africa? Thanks a bunch for taking the time to share some insight with us as your blog tour begins. Do you have any parting gems for our WOW! readers?
Sybil: Thanks for your support of women writers by being such great readers. The best way to sell a book is by word of mouth--readers have the most power to help a book along. And if you're an aspiring writer, find your voice and keep writing.
Thanks so much for hosting me!
Want to join Sybil on her blog tour? Check out these dates and mark your calendar! You can also snag a copy of WOW's Events Calendar HERE.
MARCH 30, 2009 Monday Sybil will be stopping by Bleeding Espresso to share her experiences about being an ex-pat--a subject both Sybil and blog owner Michelle Fabio have in common! http://bleedingespresso.com/
MARCH 31, 2009 Tuesday Sybil will be stopping by Susan Johnston's blog The Urban Muse to share her best tips for organizing your writing time. I need to read this one! http://www.urbanmusewriter.com
APRIL 2, 2009 Thursday Sybil will be stopping by Liz Lewis' blog Write To Travel to share her tips about travel writing--a subject both are passionate about. http://writetotravel.blogspot.com
APRIL 6, 2009 Monday Sybil will be stopping by Joanne DeMaio's blog, Whole Latte Life, to share her thoughts on developing a life plan and fitting passion into your busy life. An inspiring and important topic! http://joannedemaio.blogspot.com/
APRIL 8, 2009 Wednesday Sybil will be stopping by Cheryl Phillips' blog, The Daily Blonde, for a surprise post and book giveaway! Be sure to stop by and comment for a chance to win a copy of Sybil's book. http://dailyblonde.blogspot.com
APRIL 9, 2009 Thursday Sybil will be stopping by Anne-Marie Nichols' blog, A Mama's Rant, to share her expert writing advice on travel writing and how to get press rates! http://www.amamasrant.com/
APRIL 14, 2009 Tuesday Sybil will be stopping by Allena Tapia's blog, GardenWall Publications, to share her expert writing advice on crafting a novel from your travels. Not to miss! http://www.gardenwallpublications.com/blog
We also have several more dates to come, so be sure to check out our Events Calendar HERE.
We hope you are as excited about the tour as we are! Mark your calendar, save these dates, and join us for this truly unique and fascinating author blog tour.
If you have a blog or website and would like to participate in Sybil Baker's blog tour, or schedule a tour of your own, please email Angela and Jodi at: email@example.com
** Please feel free to copy any portion of this post.
Interview with Doris Wright, Runner-Up for Summer2008 Flash Fiction Contest
Posted by Unknown at 5:00 AM
Born in the Canal Zone (which is where the resemblance to Sen. John McCain ends) to a Panamanian-Catholic mother and a Lithuanian American-Jewish father, Doris Wright has lived and traveled throughout the United States and the world: in the last two years she has enjoyed the beauty and diversity of China, Senegal, and Mali (including spending the better part of a day in wind-swept Timbuktu), and is just back from France and Spain.
Besides traveling, Doris and her husband Don, an African historian, enjoy gardening, exercise, and their family and friends. They love to learn and to write, respect the precision and beauty of language, and they are passionate about world equity and peace--as well as the occasional microbrewed beer.
Doris recalls beginning her first story on a manual typewriter at age six, and writing steadily through high school and Spring Hill College, where she majored in English. She was a teacher and a newspaper reporter/feature writer before marrying, and then writing took a back seat while she raised her three sons. In the last few years Doris has taken graduate courses in English and participated in the Algonkian Novel Workshop, the New York State Summer Writers Institute at Skidmore College, and Colgate University’s summer writer’s novel workshop.
In addition to writing short stories and poetry, Doris recently has finished a draft of her first novel, “Cabbagehead.”
Today, I was given the wonderful privilege of sitting down with one of our fabulous runners-up for the 2008 Summer Flash Fiction writing contest. She is the author of As if I could forget. Please read her touching story and see for yourself why we chose Doris as one of our top 10.
Interviewed by Carrie Hulce
WOW: Doris, Congratulations, and thank you for sitting down with us today to talk about your wonderful story, As if I could forget. How does it feel to have placed in the WOW Summer 2008 Flash Fiction contest?
Doris: It feels wonderful! Though I've had good feedback in the past, this was my first contest "win." It came at a good time--it is hard not to get discouraged, as most fledgling writers must know--and added a boost to my will to keep going.
WOW: We agree, it is difficult to keep going, but we're so happy that you did and hope that you continue writing--you have a talent that should not be hidden away. Have you entered in any other writing contests recently?
Doris: Yes, I have entered other contests recently. I entered the Glimmer Train competition in the "Family Matters" contest in the fall of 2008, but was not successful.
WOW: It's great that you continue to enter into contests, and we hope that you continue to do so. You have a great writing style. What is your biggest inspiration for your stories?
Doris: I would have to say that the biggest inspiration for my stories is my own life experience, followed by the books I read and enjoy, and my take on life--that it is an experience where all things are possible and not everything can be explained. Thus, most of the things I write are a combination of mundane events with a bit of the bizarre or unexpected woven in (perhaps Anne Tyler with visitations from Franz Kafka?--in feeling, though not in quality).
WOW: Bizarre and unexpected is what keeps things fresh and original. Was your story based off of something that happened in your life?
Doris: In As If I Could Forget, the character Henry is suffering from dementia, without realizing it--his wife though has the full and painful realization and the loss of his love and companionship. Both of my parents, now deceased, had dementia, and, especially in my mother's case, I felt that I had lost my mother, long before her death.
WOW: You've woven your story so eloquently and with so much care. We are sorry about the loss of your parents. In the future, I hope that they will find a cure for this illness and help us all to understand it better. What genre do you typically write?
Doris: Mostly short stories. I also write poetry and am almost finished with revisions of a novel, "Cabbagehead."
WOW: That was going to be my next question! Please tell us about your novel.
Doris:Cabbagehead, is about Bradley, a 50 year old man, who has lived his life, careful not to be noticed or engaged; he has retreated to an uninspiring, interior life, finding his only contentment in gardening...until the day a plant, looking much like a giant cabbage, speaks to him…and everything changes. His new friend, in conversations both humorous and profound, has much to teach Bradley about life, the world, ecology, friendship and love; and sends him off on a mission to connect with his family, and, incidentally, to save the planet from global disaster. It's written in the tone I described above in question 3--my hope is that readers will find it subtly amusing and touching with characters they get to know and care about.
WOW: That sounds like a wonderful story. It almost sounds along the lines of the author Douglas Adams with his trilogy Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy--one of his books entitled, So long and thanks for all the fish. But, the description of your story, sounds so much more captivating. I hope it is a success and I personally can't wait to read it. How long have you been working on your novel?
Doris: For about four years--most of the work on it has been in the last two years.
WOW: I also noticed from your bio you've traveled quite a bit. Out of all the places you've been, where would you say is your favorite place to visit?
Doris: My first impulse was to answer Africa (though I realize that it's a continent, not a country), because of the unique, stimulating feel of it--the vivid colors, the smoky, rich smells, the unique geography, all the while experiencing the reality of desperate poverty and difficult living among people who are generally generous and happy and full of life. It seems impossible to be there without experiencing an increased concern for the others of this world and a change in your attitude about acquisition, and needs versus wants. And then there's Italy…ah, Italy!
WOW: Thank you for sharing that with us. It is amazing how different each country is, and there is so much to learn from each one. Have you ever written anything about Africa?
Doris: I have written a short story in an African setting, a piece much more lyrical and descriptive than what I usually write. On our recent trip, I began another short story set in Africa about western academics traveling by bus to a conference and beset with difficulties--it's based on an actual experience.
WOW: Traveling is such a great way to gain material for writing! I bet you have a lot of interesting stories to tell. If you could choose one valuable lesson to pass on to new writers, what would it be?
Doris: To overcome my fear of writing, I had to accept that I was not going to write the great American novel--having such high expectations freezes one into non-action--nor was I the world's worst writer (terrible! vile! horrid!), another action freezer. It's okay to be okay and enjoy yourself. I would also suggest reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and putting this Latin phrase in a prominent spot near your computer: Begun is half done.
WOW: Doris, that is wonderful. We are sure it will help inspire writers all over the globe to strive for their dreams. Thank you for spending time with us and sharing your wonderful knowledge.
Last week, fellow WOW! woman Marcia Peterson’s encouraging post, ‘Top 10 Fears of Writers’, couldn’t have come at a better time for me. Allow me to elaborate.
Recently, a writing site sent out an announcement that they would be conducting a week of daily challenges for its members to tackle, where the winner would receive writing software as the prize offered for a specific day. Entrants had to become a member of the site and only had 24 hours to submit their pieces.
I got over to the site to sign up and read through the guidelines for my chosen challenge. Then I got to work on my 150-word entry.
The result? I tied for runner-up with another person and we were told that there was only one point separating us from first place. The next day, Marcia’s post appeared online and I chuckled as I read through and paused at number four: that I'll get stuck and nothing will come out. This time around, that certainly wasn’t the case as I saw the words jump to the screen!
Some opportunities for writers to challenge themselves appear below:
With Script Frenzy, you write 100 pages of scripted material (including screenplays, stage plays, TV shows, short films, radio, graphic novels, etc.) in the month of April.
There's even National November Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), where bloggers post every day for a month, no word limit. This one's year round, and in November, participants can look forward to a random prize drawing.
I may not have won the contest I entered, but I rose to the challenge. That’s what we writers must do to overcome our fears, and meet our goals. It’s all part of the process to become a better writer.
All of the stories and this opportunity to publish your work are two reasons why I'm writing about The Summerset Review today, but the other is this really cool contest they have going on that everyone should enter! Get your pencils and keyboards ready. It's called the Fifty-For-Fifty contest, and it's free! Here's a blurb from their website about the contest:
"Anyone is invited to submit comments on literary material (excluding photo essays) appearing in the current issue of The Summerset Review. We award at least fifty dollars and a copy of a print issue to the person contributing the best entry over fifty words, and will include the comment in our next issue, along with the reader’s name and home town."
Now, this is cool. You get to read stories and comment on one that really touches you and possibly get paid $50 for your comment of over 50 words. That's almost $1.00 a word for your opinion! You can't pass this up. For all the details, you can check out the Fifty-for-Fifty contest link above.
Recently I spoke with someone who seemed amazed that I can write as much as I do and be the mother of three. Some of the amazement, I think, comes from people who don't feel comfortable writing wondering how those of us who do feel comfortable can spend our time writing. Certainly I can look at people in other careers and wonder how they do what they do for hours at a time.
There are weeks I don't feel nearly as productive as others, including this past week which was consumed by pitches, queries, marketing activities...and caring for my family. But today, when I had time between picking up the kids and scheduled interviews, I realized how different my writing schedule may seem from other writers. Some carve out large chunks of time and my writing professors always seemed to recommend big blocks of time to write.
But for me, I find that often I am firing forth during pockets of time when my kids are occupied with naps or homework. When I do have stretches of time, I tend to flit about on different projects within those chunks of time. Oddly, this works for me. Even when working on an article, I'm able to pull away and return without losing too much of the thread. (Or so I like to think!)
What is your writing work habit? Is it developed from a necessity or is it the way you have always done things?
Ever have one of those weeks that just seems so surreal...
...because it is going better than a week typically goes?
I know weird, but that seems to be how it is this week. I came back from Missouri to literally dozens of emails, piles of work, and yet, somehow, everything just seems to fall together.
That includes a few opportunities (mixed in with some good luck) in the writing realm. One of my articles for my history internship made its last round of revisions last night, and will hit the Internet come Monday. Considering the editor and I made it out with a final humorous banter of emails, I think it was a good first experience of working with a professional editing my work. The article still sounds like me, and if anything, I learned a lot too. It was the first time I had an editor come to me and propose an idea for an article, and I survived and had an easier time starting from scratch than I thought I would. Honestly, sometimes it is fun to handle control off to someone else (smiles).
Another fortuitous thing was a professional science organization I belong to finally took me up on my volunteering offers of writing and editing for their newsletter. I have tried for positions with them and two times answered solicitations for assistance, and then, it puttered out, without any work getting sent my way. However, a really wise individual told me that not only patience but also persistence both would pay off eventually. Sure enough, they emailed a column for me, and I returned a draft to the organization complete with editorial comments in less than 24 hours turn-around. One thing I learned from this particular editing experience is that some science writers struggle with passive sentence construction, yet write at such an advanced level of thought and tightly organized/structured thought at that. I hope the writer likes the suggestion of a title and appreciates the beauty of an actively-written piece, like I appreciated the opportunity to read her work and help remedy the problems with the draft.
That said, the writing world is of editing and being edited, and I could not have been a happier person this week getting the experience to do both. If any of you knew how long I had been trying, you'd gain some hope too even if you're in a dry spell. The main lessons are that: 1) editing is not as bad as one may think, 2) being edited likewise can be an enjoyable experience and a learning one at that, and 3) trying different avenues to get things to do that make you happy (such as writing) do eventually work out if you keep trying. Happy writing, editing, and being edited!
Interview with WOW! Runner-Up Julie Donner Andersen
Posted by Anne Greenawalt at 5:00 AM
Julie grew up in rural Ohio where she graduated from the University of Toledo and married shortly thereafter. The stay-at-home mother's writing career started nearly two decades later when, faced with divorce and life as a single parent in 1996, she chose a job with a political action committee as a speech writer. This stint lead to becoming a lobbyist for parental rights at the Ohio state capital, which occasionally took her to Washington DC. Her political networking skills helped to hone her freelance writing career. While researching information about chat rooms for a Christian publication, Julie met her present husband in a chat room for Canadian widows and widowers. After marrying, Julie moved with her two children to Ontario, Canada. At age 40, Julie and her husband welcomed a new baby to their family, and "The Brady Bunch Bonus Family" became a happily blended group of five.
At present, Julie's works can be read on over 200 websites internationally. She has continued her freelance writing career enthusiastically, with published articles and stories appearing in print publications such as Metro Seven (Australia), Family Digest, and Golden Living magazines. Julie is currently working on her next humour book, entitled Lance Romance In His Underpants: A Girls' Guide to 'Guy Things' as well as a tear-jerker book of letters from a mother to her daughter spanning 30 years, entitled I'll Always Be With You: Memoirs Of A Mother's Love. This is her second writing contest win.
If you have not done so already, read Julie's runner-up entry here.
Interveiwed by: Anne Greenawalt
WOW: Congratulations on placing in the WOW! Fall 2008 Personal Essay Contest! When you saw the topic for WOW’s Fall 2008 contest, did you know immediately what you wanted to write about, or did you need time to mull it over?
Julie: Being that I usually write about my life experiences, I have a library of ideas always floating around in my head, ripe for the picking. Drawing on my early childhood home, as well as my life as a wife of a former widower, helped me pen the two winning articles I submitted for the contest.
WOW: That's right--not only did your essay "Lady of the House?" earn the runner-up prize, but your other essay "Country Fried City Girl" earned an honorable mention. Your writing resume doesn't end there, either. Which of your many writing accomplishments makes you most proud?
Julie: I have written two books of which I am extremely proud. My first book, "PAST: Perfect! PRESENT: Tense! Insights From One Woman's Journey as the Wife of a Widower" has been one of my publisher's best sellers, and continues to help women deal with their relationships and resulting issues. Because of this book's popularity, I have been able to open a message board for wives and girlfriends of widowers, where they can find support, advice, encouragement, and hope among their fellow "sisters."
My second book, "Parentally Insane: Insights From The Edge of Midlife" is an illustrated humour book. After years of researching grief information for the first book, "Parentally Insane" was a breath of fresh air. Penning it allowed me to stretch my skills as a writer. I had a lot of fun with it, and it's nice to hear from female readers who not only appreciate the humour that can be found in aging, but who can also relate to the serious physical and emotional ups and downs of parenting in their 30's , 40's, and beyond.
WOW: It sounds like you have experience writing and publishing in different genres. Do you have a preference between writing fiction and non-fiction?
Julie: As someone who wears her heart on her sleeve and writes from life experience, non-fiction is my genre of choice only because it seems to come easier to me than fiction. Although "Parentally Insane" is fictional, many of the ideas came from life with my own insane family (but don't tell them!).
WOW: Don’t worry--my lips are sealed! Did you enjoy your time as a speech writer? How does speech writing compare to other types of writing?
Julie: Oh yes, I thoroughly enjoyed speechwriting because it gave me personal, intimate insight into the political process. It also gave me a chance to express some of my own political opinions through someone else! I am terrified of public speaking, so translating a like-minded politician's views into my own words gave voice to my deeply held beliefs while, at the same time, remaining true to the politican(s) and constituents whom my speech represented. It is thrilling when the speech you write snags a sound bite by the media, but even more exciting when your speech brings a crowd to tears...or to their feet! To me, that is what writing is all about: moving people emotionally and/or giving them food for thought.
WOW: It must be quite an experience to watch others' reactions to your writing. Eliciting an emotional response in your readers/listeners is definitely motivation to keep writing. What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
Julie: "Write what you know and love." This piece of advice has never failed me. Also, my grade school English teachers deserve a nod for how they demanded proper grammar and correct spelling from their charges. There is nothing more off-putting than reading something chock full of grammatical errors, which brings me to my second best piece of advice: editing is key. I edit my works at least fifty times before submitting. It's amazing just what you can catch, even on the fiftieth edit!