What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer?
It’s important to get enough sleep. I know so many writers who will work through the night and then they are zombies for the next three days. Of course there have been times that I have stayed awake an extra hour or two just so I don’t lose momentum, but it’s so important to remember that you’re a human being with basic needs.
I also think it’s important to have hobbies outside of writing and reading. For instance, I do woodworking. A friend of mine knits. Another one gardens. It’s important to have something else you can do while you’re thinking through a scene or a new writing project.
Are there any occupational hazards to being a writer?
Poverty, caffeine addiction, cellulite, and carpal tunnel.
Do you write long-hand with pen/pencil and paper or do you write on a computer?
I do both. I have journals full of notes and starting points. When I feel like I might have something worth continuing, then I move to the computer because I can type faster than I can hand write. It’s easier for me to begin a new piece by writing long-hand because there’s no easy access to Internet rabbit holes that way.
How many drafts does it usually take to bring your manuscript to “The End” and ready to submit to your editor?
On average, I would say three drafts. The first is substantial content revision, the second is organization, and the third is diction and sentence structure.
Who are your favorite authors? Please list a few and their titles, so we can go look for them at our local library!
Circadian by Chelsey Clammer
By the Forces of Gravity by Rebecca Fish Ewan
The Unspeakable and Other Subjects of Discussion by Meghan Daum
Pain Woman Takes Your Keys and Other Essays from the Nervous System by Sonya Huber
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
The Red Parts by Maggie Nelson
Excavation by Wendy C. Ortiz
Abandon Me by Melissa Febos
My Body is a Book of Rules by Elissa Washuta
The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You by Sue William Silverman
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
Some Possible Solutions by Helen Phillips
Female Trouble by Antonya Nelson
Gutshot by Amelia Gray
I’m a school teacher. What can you offer to help me prepare 6th graders to appreciate writing, now and for the rest of their lives?
Assign them writing prompts where they can write about anything they want, and they are not graded on their grammar or spelling. I have found that grammar drills and spelling tests are what discouraged so many of my college students at an early age. Of course, grammar is important and everyone needs to learn it, but create opportunities for students to write where their grammar and sentence structure are not critiqued. Let them have their voice.
How do you react to a negative review of one of your manuscripts?
Read it, consider it, and move on. I know my writing isn’t going to be loved by everyone, and that’s okay.
Do you ever use your writing as therapy, to either work out an issue, punish a perpetrator from your real life, or fantasize about what you could have done differently? If so, give us one example of how this manifested in your manuscript.
While I know a lot of people journal as an emotional outlet, for me, writing is not therapy. When I need therapy, I go to therapy and work out my issues with a professional. When it’s time to write, I’m not held back by my own misgivings.
Print books versus e-books; do you have a preference, and why?
Print books always and forever. I love to hold them, smell them, and see them on my shelf. E-books are convenient for travel and such, but I don’t get as much joy from staring at a screen.
What is your best advice for beginning writers?
Read. I’m always shocked when I hear a writer say, “I’m more of a writer than a reader” or proclaim they don’t read at all. First of all, you are part of a community. Support that community by reading other writers. Read their books, rate them on Goodreads, post reviews on Amazon, and recommend their books to your friends. If you don’t, how can you expect anyone to read your book when it gets published? Secondly, Lidia Yuknavitch once said, “Reading is writing, too.” The more you expose yourself to good writing, the better your own writing will become. It’s science.
What’s the worst advice you ever received from another writer?
The worst advice was that I should write every day, even if that means getting up an hour early and writing every morning before work. I don’t write every day. I write when I want to and when I can. When I’m immersed in a project, I do set aside other things to focus on my writing. My little world around me tends to fall apart when I do that, so when the writing is over, I rebuild my life, clean my house, pay my bills, venture out into public spaces. If I wrote every day, I would probably lose my job, starve, and end up homeless because I would stop doing literally everything else.
I know that works for some people, but it does not work for me. I have tried it and failed and then felt pressured and guilty about it. As a result, my writing suffered. My writing regimen is mine and mine alone. It’s no better or worse than anyone else’s. Find what works for you and shut out the voices of dissent.
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