Short,Sweet & To The Point

story

I have recently been stretching my narrative abilities through the medium of Short Story. This is a medium that I find very challenging. Not since High School have I really read or written any Short Stories. Last year at the RWNZ Writers’ Conference that I attended I specifically enrolled in a talk on the Short Story and on Novellas. Then this year I started looking at writing some Short Stories for competitions. This month though I am working on three Short Stories. One is for an anthology that I have been asked to contribute to. The other two are for writing competitions. So I thought today’s post would be focused on the Art Form of Short Story Writing.

What is the difference between a Short Story and a Novel?

A short story is a work of fiction that is usually written in prose, often in narrative format. This format tends to be more pointed than longer works of fiction, such as novellas (in the 20th and 21st century sense) and novels. (Wikipedia)

A short story is more concise and tight in writing than a novel. Unlike a novel where there may be a number of incidences leading to one climax; a short story usually contains one incidence.

A novel can have multiple plot lines, different settings and a variety of characters. A short story has one plot that covers a short time period in one setting and fewer characters.

A novel is very structured in the traditional 5 point structure: Plot; Exposition, Complication, Climax, Resolution and Anti-Climax. A short story on the other hand follows a much looser structure. You have a limited space to write in so often the beginning of the story is started abruptly and often in the middle of action. The Short Story still has a Climax/Crisis/Turning Point. The ending of a Short Story is abrupt and open sometimes having a moral turn to the story. Short Stories that follow a strong moral or ethical theme are called Parables or Fables.

Now we come to the Length of a Short Story. The classic definition of a Short Story dictates that it should be read in one sitting. When talking Word Count though there are varying definitions. Often the consensus is that a short story is between 7000 and 9000 words. Once a short story gets to a count of 15 000 – 20 000, it starts becoming a Novella. Stories with less than 1000 words are called Flash Fiction.

The History of The Short Story

Short Stories find their birth in oral story telling. All the ancient cultures of this world have a base in oral story telling. Stories that were told to one another to pass down truths and teach lessons. These stories were the fodder for early imaginations. As children short stories are the first stories we come to hear, read and love. Whether we call them Fairy Tales, Bedtime Stories or Fables; these are all Short Stories. Think of ghost stories you heard sitting around camp fires or the stories your parents told you to calm you when you woke from a nightmare. In contemporary times, magazines are filled with Short Stories. Radio brought another form of media to the art of Short Stories. Short pieces are pieces of fiction to wet our imaginative taste buds.

These are the points to write a successful Short Story:

  • Have a very clear theme but Beware of being Preachy
  • Have a very strong Protagonist with clear characteristics and antagonist and a maximum of 2 other characters should secondary characters be needed
  • Hook your readers with a powerful first paragraph
  • Immediately grab the reader’s attention with an action or a conflict point
  • Strong POV – Choose 1 point of view to write from
  • Stick to one tense: Either Past Tense or Present Tense
  • Decide if your Narrator is going to be subjective or objective
  • Write tight and meaningful dialogue
  • Be very concise in your setting: Include just enough detail to put your reader into the story but make sure your detail only adds to the story
  • Set up the plot very clearly before writing
  1. Beginning – Start with a situation of conflict
  2. Middle – Present the problems (Rising Action) that occur from this situation
  3. End – Solve the problem. Keep the reader’s suspense by revealing the final point as late as you can.
  • Create Conflict and Tension quickly
  • Build this Conflict/Tension to a Crisis Point/Climax
  • Find a Resolution by showing your character has learnt and will grow from the Conflict you threw them into
  • Use vivid imagery
  • Use your words like a man uses water in a desert: very sparingly and with clear intent

Below are authors that were successful at both the Art form of Short Stories and Novels:

Charles Dickens, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Nathaniel Hawthorne, Virginia Woolf, Boleslaw Prus, Rudyard Kipling, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, P.G. Wodehouse, H.P. Lovecraft and Ernest Hemingway

Like with any medium of story telling you need to immerse yourself in Short Stories to be a successful Short Story Writer. Read Short Stories. Read some fairy tales or fables. Take note of what points the various authors use to make that Short Story a success.

What have I learnt from Short Stories?

I have found that dipping my pen back into Short Story telling is teaching me to be concise and to the point in my writing. It is teaching me the value of a gripping start to a story. It is teaching me to have a very clear POV. IT is also teaching me the essential tool of having FOCUS in a story. I have even been editing one of my full length novels with all the above points in mind. I think that the lessons from writing a short story translate perfectly into a Suspense / Thriller or Adventure story. Your words and sentences have to be short and sharp. You have to connect with the reader in a very immediate way that is very visceral in impact. This is definitely a medium of writing that I am going to continue to further hone my writing craft.

Have you written any Short Stories? What challenges did you face?

Stretch your creative muscle this week by writing a Short Story. You may just find that this Art Form teaches you essential points about writing that you have missed before now.

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning

To submit or not to submit

Banned Books #4
Image by ellen.w via Flickr

“This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address.” – Barbara Kingsolver

Writing is not a job description. A great deal of it is luck. Don’t do it if you are not a gambler because a lot of people devote many years of their lives to it (for little reward). I think people become writers because they are compulsive wordsmiths.” – Margaret Atwood in The Times

Any man who keeps working is not a failure. He may not be a great writer, but if he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, he’ll eventually make some kind of career for himself as writer.
Ray Bradbury
The reason 99% of all stories written are not bought by editors is very simple. Editors never buy manuscripts that are left on the closet shelf at home.
– John Campbell
There are three difficulties in authorship: to write anything worth publishing — to find honest men to publish it — and to get sensible men to read it.
– Charles Caleb Cotton
An artist’s sensitivity to criticism is, at least in part, an effort to keep unimpaired the zest, or confidence, or arrogance, which he needs to make creation possible; or an instinct to climb through his problems in his own way as he should, and must.
Christopher Fry
I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged…I had poems which were re-written so many times I suspect it was just a way of avoiding sending them out.
– Erica Jong
You may be able to take a break from writing, but you won’t be able to take a break from being a writer…
Stephen Leigh

To submit or not to submit…that is the question of the week?

It is one thing to decide to write a story, it is another thing to finish this story and still a completely other thing to submit the story to a professional. It takes courage to do all three but I believe the greatest accomplishment and most courageous of these three is: to finish this story. Of course there is nothing stopping you from then putting your completed manuscript in a hidden drawer with the secret knowledge that you have completed a book.

Is this why you wrote your story? To hide it, unacknowledged by any but you. Perhaps this is your reason. For that I, nor anyone, can judge you. But what happens if there is a fire and your manuscript burns before you can free it? Then you would have put all that work and courage, all those tears of frustration and smiles of joy, into something that has become nothing. Soon, you will forget your story and then it will disappear like a thread on the end of a zephyr’s tail.

What is your other option? You are then faced with the quandary at the beginning of this post:

To Submit or Not to Submit

  • You have written it and rewritten it countless times.  You are at that point in the relationship where you commit or leave.
  • You commit.
  • You write a synopsis.
  • You write a query letter.
  • You find agents who accept your genre.
  • You submit your manuscript.

Now you wait. From some agents you wait for weeks, some days, some moments. But eventually answers will start trickling in. Some of them will be non-committal. Some of them will be bland refusals. Some will be harsh. Some will be filled with constructive criticism. But all these first ones, if you are like most authors both known and unknown, will be rejections.

But are they rejections?

Yes, they have refused to take your book under their wing. At first, your initial reaction will be like that of a parent being told their kid was the only kid not picked for the sports team. You will feel personal anger, even irritation. Then you will feel doubt at your own ability.

Again I ask the question, are they all rejections?

Perhaps the question should be why am I being rejected? You may get the answer to that with the rejection slip or you may never know. But you must remember one very important fact: Agents / Editors / Publishers are all human beings. This means they are fallible. They are subjective. They are emotional beings. They can make mistakes. They have personal likes and dislikes. Second important fact: As a first time submission, they do not know you personally. This is not a rejection of YOU.

Here are some important rejections you can take heart from:

Emily Dickinson: Recluse and poet Emily Dickinson is a commonly read and loved writer. Yet in her lifetime she was all but ignored, having fewer than a dozen poems published out of her almost 1,800 completed works.

Theodor Seuss Giesel: Today nearly every child has read The Cat in the Hat or Green Eggs and Ham, yet 27 different publishers rejected Dr. Seuss‘s first book To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.

Stephen King: The first book by this author, the iconic thriller Carrie, received 30 rejections, finally causing King to give up and throw it in the trash. His wife fished it out and encouraged him to resubmit it, and the rest is history, with King now having hundreds of books published the distinction of being one of the best-selling authors of all time.

J. K. Rowling: Rowling may be rolling in a lot of Harry Potter dough today, but before she published the series of novels she was nearly penniless, severely depressed, divorced, trying to raise a child on her own while attending school and writing a novel. Rowling went from depending on welfare to survive to being one of the richest women in the world in a span of only five years through her hard work and determination.

Jack London: This well-known American author wasn’t always such a success. While he would go on to publish popular novels like White Fang and The Call of the Wild, his first story received six hundred rejection slips before finally being accepted.

So the question is: After submitting and after rejection do you give up?

Do you give up after 5 rejections?

Do you give up after 25 rejections?

Jack London did not give up after 600 rejections. You may say: I am not Jack London. No. Quite correct. You are not Jack London. You are YOU. As such you have a unique story all of your own. Do you hide that ability, do you deny that story to the rest of the world just because some people do not want it? There are hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of agents and editors in this industry. The right one will come along. It may take you years. But if writing is your passion, your focus, your purpose: Do you dare give up?

Now I leave the question with you:

To submit or Not to submit?

To give up or To PERSIST?

Only you can be your guide.

– Kim


© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning.

Warrior,Writer,Historian – Amanda Paige

Today I sit and chat with Warrior of words and keen historian: Amanda Paige. Amanda hails from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA. Amanda is part of the Face Book Warriors that was formed for NaNoWriMo 2010. I have had a fascinating interview with Amanda where we discussed the importance of history, writing, the differences between non-fiction and fiction and compelling stories. As an avid fan of all things historical, I found this interview to be revealing and very interesting. Amanda is a true history buff who believes we can learn so much from history that she translates that into all her writing. She tells me about her new WIP; a compelling biography of a chickasaw woman. The little she tells me about it makes me eager to buy the book when it is published. If you love history and love reading about history, this is one interview you do not want to miss out on. Now without further ado, I will introduce you to the very knowledgeable

Amanda Paige…

girl with a quill: Firstly, Welcome to Warrior Wednesdays.

Amanda: Thank You for inviting me.

girl with a quill: Tell us a little about the woman Amanda Paige and the writer Amanda Paige.

Amanda: Well the woman Amanda Paige is a historian and archivist living in Little Rock, Arkansas. I am currently unemployed but volunteer at the Sequoyah National Research Center so I can stay current in my field. I process archival collections and do research related to Indian Removal (Trail of Tears) in Arkansas for the Center. I am single and a “Mom” to my four-legged children: Merlin (Terrier mix), Momma Cat, Bigguns and Baby Girl, all rescued pets by the way.

As I writer, I am just beginning with my career. So far my published writing has been nonfiction. I began writing at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock for an internship. I edited selected writings of two American Indian women, Susette LaFlesche Tibbles and Carrie LeFlore Perry. Dr. Daniel F. Littlefield, the professor I interned for, asked me to join him on a project documenting Indian Removal through Arkansas. Under that project I contributed to and wrote numerous site reports documenting Indian Removal as well as articles and conference presentations.  Last October my book Chickasaw Removal was published by the Chickasaw Press. Chickasaw Removal came from our North Little Rock site report and we just continued researching the process of removal. For the three of us, we felt Chickasaw Removal was one of if not the most compelling story to tell about removal in Arkansas. I recently contributed articles to the Encyclopedia of American Indian Removal as well. Right now my current work in progress is a biography on Susette LaFlesche Tibbles, based on my internship and what also became my master’s thesis for Public History.

On the fiction side: Last year I made a decision to begin working on my fiction writing. For years I had written down some ideas for stories and I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo using an incident from my childhood as the basis for the story. Right now I am reworking this story and beginning to plot out a series that just sort of came to me one day as I rode the bus home from the SNRC.

girl with a quill: You are a historian and archivist. Do you find that history tends to play a part in your stories?

Amanda: Oh yes. I am reworking my NaNo story to incorporate some historical incidents that will play into the plot. The other series I am working on is very much influenced by the early republic era of American history so yes I can say that history will play a role in my stories. History has been a large part of my life.

girl with a quill: Who is your biggest influence in writing and why?

Amanda: I would have to say Dr. Daniel F. Littlefield. I went back to finish my degree in January 2000 and his course on World Literature was the first course I took to ease myself back into the grind of the university as it had been awhile since I attended. Because of this course and my hard work, he offered me an internship. Any writing I hand him he will be brutally honest with me. I still remember getting back the first draft of my report on Cherokee removal; it was so marked up with red.  I think he left an “and” and a “the” untouched. At the bottom of the paper he had written good job for a first draft. He has really made me a better writer. (Brutal Honesty from someone you respect and trust is invaluable. You are lucky to have him in your corner, egging you on and pushing you to be your best.)

girl with a quill: Did you know what genre you wanted to write in from the beginning of your writing career? Or did you experiment with a few genres?

Amanda: I am wrestling with this right now actually. The two stories I am working on are completely different genres; contemporary romance for the NaNoWriMo and the other is fantasy. I tend to read a lot of Sci-fi, fantasy, contemporary romance, paranormal romance, nonfiction, mysteries (especially cozy). I have an idea for a cozy mystery and other ideas (don’t we all!) but I don’t want to overdo it right now and burn out. I have enough on my plate and need to finish the Susette LaFlesche Tibbles biography and then I plan to focus more on the fiction. I won’t completely give up on nonfiction as I have already planned to write a book on Arkansas and Indian Removal which will better explain some arguments my coauthors and I made in our site reports and Chickasaw Removal on the importance of Indian Removal in the early development of Arkansas.

girl with a quill: You are a co-author of the book “Chickasaw Removal”. Can you tell us a little about this book and what led you to co-write it?

Amanda: Well, like I said earlier it grew out of our site report on North Little Rock Arkansas for the National Parks Service to certify North Little Rock’s riverfront as a spot on the national trail. When we three looked at the tribes Cherokee, Chickasaw, Muscogee (Creek), Seminole, and Choctaw, we felt the Chickasaw Removal had the most potential for a compelling story of Indian Removal through Arkansas. And I have to say we were right. The book tells the story of the Chickasaw Nation before, during, and right after the removal process especially a lot of the financial fraud that occurred with removal at the expense of the Chickasaw Nation and their resilience as a nation through hardship and adversity.

girl with a quill: After your experience of being a co-author, what tips would you give an author who was thinking of co-authoring?

Amanda: First of all make sure you can get along with the people you are writing with. I had worked with Fuller and Dr. Littlefield closely for a few years and so that helped immensely! Also you will have to decide how you will make the different authors’ voices mesh and flow. You can’t let ego stand in the way and like I said you need to be able to get along with the people you will collaborate with.

girl with a quill: Now I understand that Chickasaw Removal is a non-fiction. Would you say it is more difficult to write a non-fiction or to write a fiction and why?

Amanda: I think they are both equally difficult. In nonfiction you still have to tell a story and it can be just as difficult as fiction. Of course in a few years my opinion might change on that as I write more fiction!!

girl with a quill: Tell us a little about your writing process…How do you start a story?

Amanda: Nonfiction:  first I decide what am I going to write about and then I just do a basic outline. Then I gather as much info on the topic that I can. From there I begin to digest the info I gathered and does it change my basic outline. Then I begin to write.

On my fiction, well that is a work in progress as you can see below!

girl with a quill: Are you a panster or a plotter?

Amanda: Both in a way. More of a plotter in nonfiction and working more on being a plotter for fiction. My NaNoWriMo story I did not have a plan and was definitely a pantsed story. I do try to have a plan when I write but you know as they say “Man plans, God laughs.” (Love that quote…so true..a bit like Murphy’s Law.)

girl with a quill: Are you working on a new writing project?

Can you tell us a bit about it?

Amanda: Well right now I am finishing up a biography of Susette LaFlesche Tibbles, an Omaha Indian woman who lived in the 19th century. She achieved notoriety in the late 1870s and early 1880s speaking out for the American Indian Reform movement. In 1890 she was the only American Indian writing for a newspaper on the events at Wounded Knee. Then in 1893 she served as the Senate correspondent for a populist newspaper. (Susette does indeed sound like a “woman of gumption and guts”…a woman that someone could look up to. This story will be a must-read!)

girl with a quill: Writers can be superstitious people. Are you superstitious when it comes to your writing? Can you give us some examples if you are?

Amanda: No I am not superstitious, sorry!

girl with a quill: Do you belong to any writing groups and do you have a critique partner? Do you think writing groups or critique partners are important for writers? Why?

Amanda:
Yes. Mine are online. Of course I belong to the Warriors and I joined a yahoo group called Roses Colored Glasses that focuses on romance writing but I lurk there. I am more active with the Warriors. I do think writing groups are important for writers. We all need support no matter what we do. The Warriors group has helped me immensely and has been a kick in the pants to get back and write when I get off track. I have met many amazing men and women who I would not have otherwise worldwide because of this group who inspire and help me everyday. It is wonderful to know you are not alone and that others have similar problems and frustrations as yourself. (I so agree…A writing group makes you feel included in a group of people just like you. People with a passion for words and a drive to write them down.)

girl with a quill: What is more important to you? Story or Character? Why?

Amanda:
Character. You need a compelling character I think to drive your story. Of course ask me this again in a few years as I write more fiction! LOL.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character that you have created and why?

Amanda: Well right now I don’t have one since I am just starting out. I could say all of them but…there was one character in my NaNo that I ended up killing off. He was intended as the heroine’s love interest but he did nothing for her or me and well off he went.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character in the literary world and why?

Amanda: Gee pick one? Well I do love Scarlett O’Hara. She had the nerve and gumption to let nothing get her down and as the Old South died she was willing to break social norms and do what was needed to survive while the Old Guard sat around whining. She is a flawed character though, as she doesn’t realize til too late she had the perfect man for her.

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 famous creative people, who would they be and why?

Amanda: Lets see Bobby Flay could cook dinner, I would love to have Vanessa Mae because she could also play some music after dinner, then I would probably just invite three of my friends because actually the friends I have tend to be very creative in their thinking and things they do! LOL.

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 of your favourite fictional characters, who would they be and why?

Amanda: Right now I can’t think of any because I have been reading a lot of paranormal and if I invited some of them they might eat me. Of course now I am thinking of writing a story where Vlad the Impaler, Dracula, and Edward Cullen meet for dinner. Hmmmm……..(Now that would be one dinner I would be terrified to join but a story that I would be “compelled” to read….Could be your next fiction Amanda?)

girl with a quill: If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the beginning of your writing career, what would it be?

Amanda: Write every day.  No matter if it is just one word, sentence, paragraph, chapter etc, any writing counts as progress towards your ultimate goal.

girl with a quill: What is the one piece of writing advice you could give your future self, 10 years from now?

Amanda: See above! Lol. No really it is so important to write every day. I find when I let a day go by where I don’t write something I find it hard to get back into my groove. So I would have to say just make sure you sit your backside in that chair and write something no matter the amount because progress is progress even if it is just a sentence. (So true Amanda.Backside in chair and one sentence is still progress.)

girl with a quill: What do you want your lasting legacy, as a writer, to be?

Amanda: Ack! This is almost like what do you want on your tombstone, ha! Lets see I guess I want people to know me as a writer who wrote well researched and compelling stories and that I stayed true to who I was.

girl with a quill: Can you tell us where we can find you on the web?

Amanda: My About.me site has direct links to all my social media sites
including facebook and twitter
http://about.me/amandalpaige

Here are some links:
[Internship projects]
http://anpa.ualr.edu/digital_library/The%20Newspaper%20Writings%20of%20Susette%20La%20Flesche.htm
http://anpa.ualr.edu/digital_library/An%20Oklahoman%20Abroad%20from%20Sturm’s%20Oklahoma%20Magazine.htm
[Page with Site Reports]
http://ualr.edu/sequoyah/index.php/home/research/trail-of-tears-research/places/

girl with a quill: Thank you so much for such an interesting interview and a revealing look into history’s lens. It is so true that we can learn so much about history. I for one cannot wait for your biography to be published. Susette’s story sounds fascinating. Thank you for being part of the Wednesday Warriors series. You are indeed a worthy warrior of words.

– girl with a quill

Across ‘The Ditch’ – My interview with Sheryl Gwyther – author

A microphone
Image via Wikipedia

Across ‘The Ditch’ – an interview with Kim Koning, NZ author « Sheryl Gwyther – author.

My trip to Australia where I visited with the lovely Sheryl Gwyther. It was quite interesting being on the other side of the interview process. Sheryl had some great questions that really had me scratching my head for just the right answer.

Join me in Australia as Sheryl and I sit down for a chat on writing.

– Kim

A natter with Nicky Schmidt

Warrior Wednesday Interview Nicky Schmidt

I have been very excited to have this particular writer in my studio for a good ol’ natter. One of the reasons is that I have been following her interviews on her blog where she interviews writers on writing exceptionally well. So it was a real treat to put the interviewer in the hot seat so to speak. Another reason I have been excited about this interview is that Nicky has become a good online friend with the craziest and quirkiest sense of humour I know. With her photographer’s eye and a childlike imagination, she has a unique perspective on writing. She brought along her two writing friends, her beaded sheep and flying space duck, for the interview and as always packed her quirky sense of humour that never fails to have one smiling. Join us as we discuss squirrels, guinea fowl, photography and writing. Be warned your sense of humour will be tickled.


girl with a quill: Hi Nicky…Tell us a little about Nicky Schmidt and what made you into a writer. Well you answer, I will pour us a glass of lovely Merlot. I also have a slab of dark chocolate. I have heard you have a taste for these. Great minds think alike…

Nicky: Hi Kim, thanks for inviting me to be interviewed as a Wednesday Warrior on DragonFly Scrolls!

About me?  Well, I’m a mongrel of decidedly mixed European heritage and live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, near the southern tip of the African continent, in a garden full of trees, squirrels and an abundance of guinea fowl!

I think we can safely say that an over-active imagination is what drove me to being a writer – that, and a history of creativity in multiple forms in my genetic make-up!

girl with a quill: Did you always know that you wanted to be a writer? Do you remember your first story?

Nicky: I’ve written for as long as I can remember.  I wrote my first play when I was about nine (called Little Girl Lost), set it on roller skates (thus predating Starlight Express by a more than a decade…!) and charged the neighbourhood kids five cents to watch it!  I’m an only child and I spent my childhood living in my imagination with an assortment of imaginary friends. I think writing was an obvious outlet for too much imagination – though I do recall my mother complaining that I always killed my characters at the end of all the stories I wrote!  I wrote (and illustrated) my first children’s story when I was an art student, as part of a calligraphy project. I was in my mid twenties when I first realised that one day, if I ever grew up, I wanted to write for children. That’s what I do now, though I’m not sure about having grown up…

girl with a quill: Your blog is called Absolute Vanilla. What inspired that name? Is it a creative philosophy or a favourite treat?

Nicky:  Absolute Vanilla is the second blog I created and having learned some lessons from the first blog (a fictional blog written by an acerbic 5’4” alien chicken…), I wanted a name that was high up the alphabetic order so when it is listed it’s near the top of people’s blog rolls. (You can put this down to over 15 spent in marketing and communications!)  That aside, I love vanilla.  So a bit of juggling and Absolute Vanilla was born.

girl with a quill: You mention photography as another creative passion. Do you find your photography to be an inspiration for your writing and vice versa?

Nicky:  For me photography provides a different way of seeing the world.  When you look at life through the lens of a camera you see things in a purer and freer form, you see the beauty or the wonder of the thing you’re looking at in a highly focused way.  I find photography to be an incredibly healing art form.  Does it influence my writing?  Only insofar as I guess one could say I look at the blank page with the same kind of focus with which I see through the camera lens, and that photography has taught me to look at the world in a different way.

girl with a quill: On your blog, you have done quite a bit of interviewing yourself. What 3 lessons have you learnt from Writers on writing?


Nicky:  Read a lot!

Accept the voices living in your head and give them voice.

Be true to yourself and write the story you’re meant to write.

And a fourth one – accept that it’s very tough out there and you must have persistence and determination to succeed.


girl with a quill: Speaking of your blog, do you believe that blogging and having a social presence on the web is important to building a platform for your writing?


Nicky: Unquestionably!  Social media is fundamental to the times in which we live.  I would not be where I am if it weren’t for social media.  I started with yahoo groups, then blogging, and then moved onto Facebook, Ning groups and Twitter.  All these platforms have given me access to people and ideas without which I would not be where I am today – for example, being interviewed on your blog, or interviewing other authors with whom I’ve connected via Facebook and Twitter on my blog.  So, social media has helped me get where I am, it’s helped me create a global network of contacts and it’s got me “out there” – where I’m told I have a persona which is somewhat larger than life….  “But you’re so small!” a group of online friends exclaimed when they met me at a conference last year. “We thought you’d be so much taller!”  There you go, that’s part of the power of social networking!


girl with a quill: When you are not writing, which writers do you love to read? Why?


Nicky:  I read mostly Young Adult fiction because that’s what I write.  My favourite authors include Meg Rosoff, Kevin Brooks, Marcus Sedgwick and Gillian Philip – to name just a few.  They stand out for me because a) they write superbly well b) they’re unafraid to tackle tough issues c) they write with strong and honest voices.  For me a good story, well told, is deepened by a very real emotional voice with rich characterisation.  It’s authors like these – and others like Candy Gourlay and Keren David – who inspire my writing and my writing journey.


girl with a quill: Who is your biggest influence in writing and why?

Nicky:  Aside from what I’ve said above, I think I was inspired to write in the first instance my grandmother who was a wonderful storyteller.  Sitting with her in her Austrian-themed dining room, with a pot of Ceylon tea and a pile of anchovy toast, she would weave the most wonderful tales of her life.  In many ways, one might say she opened up the world of storytelling to me.

girl with a quill: Did you know what genre you wanted to write in from the beginning of your writing career? Or did you experiment with a few genres?

Nicky:  I’ve always leant towards the fantasy genres, though I find that more recently I’ve moved from pure fantasy to something which is based in urban reality but has fantasy, magical realism or supernatural/paranormal elements.  I guess it’s about weaving together the real with the mysterious – which is, I think, a reflection of life per se.

girl with a quill: Many writers use writing workshops and writing competitions to hone their craft. Have you attended any writing workshops / entered any writing competitions?


Nicky:  In a nutshell, no – but only because they’re not accessible to me.  I would need to travel to the US or the UK to attend the kind of courses I want to do – though, to that end, I do try to get the SCBWI-BI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators – British Isles) annual conference whenever I can and, if I lived in the UK or US, I would unquestionably attend writing workshops and seminars. The one thing I have done (because I could do it via email) is to have a manuscript assessed by a literary consultancy.  That was an incredible (and steep) learning curve and I would heartily advocate it.

girl with a quill: Tell us about the publishing process in South Africa. Do you need an agent or can you approach the publisher directly?


Nicky: I can’t tell you a huge amount about the publishing process in South Africa as I’m not looking to be published here.  This is primarily because the South African publishing industry is small – representative of the reading population – and this is especially for children’s literature (remember the vast majority of South African children are impoverished, and books, sadly, are a luxury).  Moreover, I’ve been told by the local publishers with whom I’ve been in contact that I write for an age group and in a genre and about subjects which are of no interest to South African publishers – they prefer novels that are South African based and which contain an African theme.  I suppose this is driven by the fact that local booksellers would sooner import foreign books that already have a proven sales record and are guaranteed to sell, so publishers won’t take the risk of putting money into unknown local talent.  That said, there is a reasonable market in children’s picture books and educational literature (provided it has an African theme).
As for agents, there aren’t any here that I know of – mostly because local publishers prefer not to work with an agent – they would rather deal directly with an author.


girl with a quill: Tell us a little about your writing process…How do you start a story?


Nicky: With a blank page – or a blank computer screen!  Usually I have a vague idea of what I want to write about, an idea will have come to me in some way and I will spend time letting it “compost” in my head.  When I feel I and the story and the main character are ready (which is usually when the character starts prodding my brain a little over-eagerly) – then I just sit down and write.  I often think of it as a “channelling” experience!


girl with a quill: Are you a panster or a plotter?


Nicky: I’m unquestionably a pantser!  I love the adventure of seeing where a story will take me.  I find plotting removes some of the “magic” of the creative process.  I will acknowledge, however, that this approach does mean that I have to do lots of rewrites and edits and I do keep telling myself that I really should have a go at plotting, sort of, anyway!


girl with a quill: Writers can be superstitious people. Are you superstitious when it comes to your writing? Can you give us some examples if you are?


Nicky:  Nope, not at all superstitious!  But then I also don’t believe in things like writer’s block – which I know several of my author friends will argue with me about!


girl with a quill: Many published authors say that writing needs to be treated like any other job where you work for a set time every day. Do you have a set routine for your writing? Do you have a favourite time of day for your writing?


Nicky: I would like to see it that way, but it doesn’t always work like that – sometimes life just gets in the way.  I find I write best in the morning and early evening. Unless I’m really on a roll with a story, I’m useless after lunch – so I use that time for doing other stuff – you know, all the admin related nonsense that so clutters our lives.  I don’t really have a set routine, I just try to go with the flow.  I believe that writing, like everything else, has rhythms and I try to respect those.  If I don’t feel like writing, I don’t.  If I need a break I take it.  If I want to write for seven hours flat out, I do that (though this may mean that my lovely husband doesn’t get fed!).  I’m not inclined to be rule bound but I do discipline myself.  I set myself deadlines and I meet them. I try to go to the gym two to three times a week, I try to meditate daily. I make a point of getting away from my writing when it becomes too intense.  It’s all about balance, being kind to and respecting yourself and the story and your characters.  If I go too long without moving on with a story, my characters can become downright invasive and bullying!

girl with a quill: Describe your writing space for us.

Nicky: I have a study which I designed myself with a built in desk and bookshelves. It’s painted orange (it’s supposed to be a colour that inspires and motivates!) though the walls not covered in books are covered in pinboards and paintings and photographs.  I’d describe it as a very vivid and friendly space.  That said, I’m about to build a new house on the side of the mountain and in that the study will be a bit of an eyrie with big windows looking out over valley, mountains and sea.


girl with a quill: Do you belong to any writing groups and do you have a critique partner? Do you think writing groups or critique partners are important for writers? Why?


Nicky:  I lead an online critique group which forms part of an initiative started by the SCBWI–BI chapter.  There are eight of us and we support, encourage and nurture each other on our writing journeys.  Take a look at my latest blog post by way of example!  HYPERLINK “http://absolutevanilla.blogspot.com/2011/02/thank-you-ya-critique.html” http://absolutevanilla.blogspot.com/2011/02/thank-you-ya-critique.html

Although I’ve been involved with critique groups for several years, I initially fought joining one for a long time, but I have to say it was one of the best things I ever did.  What I will say is that it is critical to find yourself the right group critique group – writers who are at the same level and better than you, people you can trust and for whom you have respect.  And if a critique group isn’t right for you, leave it and find another, there is no point in being in a group in which you are not comfortable or in which you are not learning. A good critique group will do two things – one, you will learn why your own story is or isn’t working and how to address problems, and two,  in critiquing the work of your peers you will develop your critical faculties, which you can then apply to your own work.  It’s very much a two-way street and what people put into a critique group is what they will get out of it.  But, and I can’t overstate this point; critique groups must be dominated by mutual trust and respect, and a good critique is kindly done and constructively critical – a critique should never demoralise or embarrass or hurt someone.


girl with a quill: What is more important to you: Story or Character? Why?


Nicky: Hmm, good question… I’m not really sure you can separate the two, I think both elements are critical in writing a good novel.  I like to start with a strong character, as I believe my character often drives and informs the story.  But the two work in tandem – and together with that other critical element, voice.


girl with a quill: I know that it is a bit like asking a mother who her favourite child is but, Do you have a favourite story from those you have written and can you tell us a little bit about it?


Nicky:  Every story I work on is my favourite story, I genuinely can’t say I have one that stands out from the others, though, inevitably, whatever I’m working on at the moment is the “current” favourite.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character that you have created and why?


Nicky:  I’m afraid the same sort of answer applies as above, though I did write a novel for younger children (9 – 12 years) several years ago that I’d really like to go back to because I so enjoyed the characters.  It’s a fantasy, set largely in a fantasy world which gave scope for all sorts of weird and wonderful characters including a dragon, an owl and a Great Dane – who both spoke and had more views and attitude than your average opinion poll – and a pair of incorrigible gnomes.


girl with a quill: Are you working on any story now? Can you give us a peek into it?


Nicky:  I’ve just finished a complete rewrite of an urban supernatural/magical realism novel for Young Adults.  It’s currently out on submission so forgive me if I’m a bit cagey about it.  Meanwhile, I have a new story composting in my head – so far I know the main character and the nub of the plot – for the rest there is a lot of staring out the window going on, often accompanied by frantic note taking.  I am also doing some research – quantum physics is proving interesting…

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character in the literary world and why?


Nicky: There are two: Hercule Poirot is one –  simply because Agatha Christie gave him so many characteristics and so much life that he’s vivid – although, admittedly, something of a caricature.

The other is Terry Pratchett’s Granny Weatherwax – simply put, she’s a witch after my own heart – I mean, who doesn’t want to be adept at headology and be able to borrow another creature’s mind on occasion?!

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 famous creative people, who would they be and why?


Nicky: I’m not sure I’d want a dinner party with 5 famous creative people; I suspect there would be way too much ego around the table!  Instead, I’d rather invite a huge group of my children’s writer pals to a soiree!


girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 of your favourite fictional characters, who would they be and why?


Nicky: I think the guest list would very much depend on my mood at the time and the kind of party I wanted.  But to be completely frivolous, let me say, Hercule Poirot, Granny Weatherwax, Bertie Wooster (he would of course bring Jeeves), Gandalf and Vlad Dracul.  I suspect I’d then sit back and watch the mayhem unfold.  I can tell you that already multiple creative outcomes are flitting up from my imagination!


girl with a quill: If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the beginning of your writing career, what would it be?

Nicky: Try astrophysics instead – it’s probably easier.

Accept that you’re not as good as you think you are and set to work improving.  Everyone thinks they can write (I was a copywriter and a scriptwriter in a previous life) but actually, most people can’t write and fewer people can write a really good story, especially a children’s story.

girl with a quill: What is the one piece of writing advice you could give your future self, 10 years from now?


Nicky:  Learn, always learn – observe and grow all the time – be savvy, stay in touch with the world and stay creative.


girl with a quill: What do you want your lasting legacy, as a writer, to be?


Nicky: I don’t really care about creating a lasting legacy – I just want to tell a good story and tell it well.  If it touches someone’s life, that’s wonderful.  If a legacy is created from that, great – but since I probably won’t be around to know about it, it doesn’t really matter.  To my mind, the desire to create a lasting legacy is fundamentally an ego-based illusion.  The important thing in the here and now is to honour the story – and yourself – in the process of creation.

You can find me at my blog  – Absolute Vanilla  HYPERLINK “http://www.absolutevanilla.blogspot.com” http://www.absolutevanilla.blogspot.com

Or on Twitter @NickySchmidt1  HYPERLINK “http://twitter.com/#!/NickySchmidt1” http://twitter.com/#!/NickySchmidt1

I am on Facebook but I manage my connections there quite tightly.

And you’ll find some of my photos on Flickr at  HYPERLINK “http://www.flickr.com/photos/absolutevanilla” http://www.flickr.com/photos/absolutevanilla

And a note to your readers – please don’t confuse me with the chicklit author who uses my name as her nom de plume!  Or the Danish musician, who is male.

Thank you for a truly entertaining interview Nicky. Thank you also for coming such a long way from your lovely writing place to visit with me in mine. You are welcome to visit anytime. Now it looks like we need a top up of wine and I think I have some dessert somewhere. Vanilla Ice-Cream? In honour of your visit. Excuse us readers well we adjourn to enjoy our dessert…Mmmhh Absolute Vanilla…Absolute Nicky Schmidt…

Tea, Writing & Jill Dempsey

Well it is Wednesday which means it is time for me to have a sit down chat with another warrior. The element of these interviews that I love the most is that I get to sit down and chat with a fascinating artist of words. I learn tips about the craft of writing that have been tried, tested and aced in the school of hard knocks. The other element I love is the myriad of differences and similarities between each writer I interview and myself. Some of us write full-time, some of us wish we could write full-time. Some are mothers, some are single. Today’s writer hails from the fair city of arts and culture in the land down-under: the city that is Melbourne. Join me in my living room as I sit down and chat with the energetic writer, mom, wife, and tea lover as we chat about how she blends a life of writing and creativity (helped along by a freshly brewed cup of tea) with the madness and chaos of a hospital emergency room. While we chat, I will brew us a fresh pot of tea, Jill’s muse….

Welcome Jill Dempsey

Jill: Hi Kim,
thanks for inviting me to be interviewed, I hope you enjoy the chat.

girl with a quill: Tell me a little about yourself and who you are?

 

Jill: I’m a people person who lives happily out of the box and tends to step further out and away  if I feel crowded. I live at the base of a mountain that is famous for bushfires but also for beautiful birds and marsupials, brave people who have lost again and again but keep re-building.
I work Saturday nights resuscitating people who live literally unbelievable lives of violence, panic, and drunkenness. Why? I still believe that under any mess there is a gem worth looking for. I enjoy the sounds of native birds, the kindness of unexpected people, trust and clarity. I’m a web-browser; I love spiders and usually know who is hiding in my garden.

girl with a quill: How long have you been writing?

Jill: About fifty years; I don’t remember a time when I didn’t read and write. I do remember it being disruptive to living and learning, but comfort was more important than conformity.

girl with a quill: What genre do you write in? What made you decide to become a writer in this genre?

Jill: I’ve written Children’s musicals with my husband, articles on health and parenting for years. I prefer Young Adult fiction, mostly metaphorical and speculative. I love walking out of this world to find hooks and handles in another, hoping to offer relief to people who struggle with uniqueness.

girl with a quill: Tell us about your books? Are you in Pre-publication?

Jill: Yes. I have my first fiction book on its way out. Just a few more pushes and it should breathing and smiling. This one is for the 10 – 15-year-old age group; especially those girls who feel cheated by the lack of choice, the sudden changes of periods, a morphing body and capricious emotions. Most of the books I’ve written have been about pushing through essential walls of change.

girl with a quill: Which of these books is your favourite and why?

Jill:   One that I never seem to finish. I love the journey through literacy, and the isolation that comes with choosing a path that wanders. But as often as I go back to this one, I can’t finish it 😦

girl with a quill: Are you working on a new story right now? Can you tell us anything about it?

Jill: it defines a child I knew too well, explores the panic of crowding, the tenderness of raising an eaglet, and the sanctity of voice.

girl with a quill: Being based in Australia, do you base your stories there?

Jill: Not necessarily, I try to choose universal themes. Everybody knows the same struggles, not everyone has the same choices. I don’t think geography affects the most interesting part of us. I don’t like being a tourist, because no matter how great the scenery, it’s the inner person that is more interesting, beautiful, courageous or tested.

girl with a quill: Would your stories be different if you were not in Australia and why?

Jill: No. Australia is a relatively young country, but her terrain and landscape can  be seen in other places. Maybe our culture is more eclectic than other parts of the planet, but if you scratch the surface there are still the same familiar issues of poverty, homelessness, kindness, gang wars, political uncertainty

girl with a quill: Who is your biggest influence in writing and why?

Jill: My husband. He believes in me and I trust him. I can’t say that about anybody else.

girl with a quill: Did you know what genre you wanted to write in from the beginning of your writing career? Or did you experiment with a few genres?

Jill: I knew that I wanted to write fiction, probably for children or emerging adults. I mostly wrote on health and parenting because I’m a critical care nurse and knew the territory well. I don’t particularly enjoy non-fiction, but I felt wanted there and it kept me working in writing for a few years. I would love to become established as  YA fiction writer, but I’m still finding my way.

girl with a quill: You are a mother with a part-time job and writer? Do you tend to have your children be your beta readers?

Jill: I work night duty in a public Hospital Emergency department, and have three High School children. My children do read my work and often pick up inconsistencies in colloquial language, or depth of conversation. However I also like to have the opinion of experienced editors/authors for technical problems with balance/style etc.

girl with a quill: In your day job you are a shift worker, do you find that it is harder to find time to write? Do you have set writing times?

Jill: I do set myself times to write/edit during the day but also love flashes of inspiration that come during sleep, at odd moments during my usual chaotic life. I don’t find that writing creatively can be worked into planned spaces, it tends to land unexpectedly. I leave notes everywhere; sentences, runaway tangents that appear away from my chosen work space.

girl with a quill: You participated in NaNoWriMo 2010 and you were a winner? What did you take away from that experience that is valuable to your writing?

Jill: I loved the excuse to have to write. I had previously considered writing an option, a loved option but not one that had enough definition. Nano pushed me to create hours in a day when I’d put on my nano shirt, buy a new teapot, sort out a ritual that became and has remained a beautiful place. I loved listening to other writer’s discuss their struggles, and vulnerabilities. Previously I hadn’t had feedback that was friendly. It was constructive but less intimate, and I believe more grows within the place of vulnerability and intimacy. Not just in writing.

girl with a quill: For NaNoWriMo the challenge is to write down the story without editing. Is this how you usually write?

Jill: Yes, I love runaway writing, or stream of consciousness. Maybe it seems less didactic and rehearsed, less forced.

girl with a quill: Tell us a little about your writing process…How do you start a story?

Jill: I have so many possible plots waiting in a queue in that writing room in my head. I haven’t experienced writer’s block, I could write for days if real life didn’t interrupt me. I recently destroyed a manuscript I had worked on for 5 years because I’d had so much pain in the rewrites.

girl with a quill: Are you a panster or a plotter?

Jill: Definitely a panster. I don’t like confinement and my characters’ journey is happier when birthed and grown organically than under the restrictions of timelines, plots and maps. I have software for mind mapping but it seems so restrictive, it hurts. In my personal life, I don’t like clocks, maps, diaries because they preach at me. In y writing life I need the freedom to dangle a possibility ad allow it to brew. That was why I bought a new teapot for Nano; it was symbolic of brewing and tasting something in a beautiful vessel, , choosing the depth and savouring the outcome.

girl with a quill: Writers can be superstitious people. Are you superstitious when it comes to your writing? Can you give us some examples if you are?

Jill: I don’t think I am superstitious. I wouldn’t want my thought life to be defined by events. Life takes unexpected turns and not all of it needs understanding or reason.

girl with a quill: Do you belong to any writing groups and do you have a critique partner? Do you think writing groups or critique partners are important for writers? Why?

Jill: Only this on-line group. Nano helped me listen to other writers, but I’m not very good with too many people. I tried a couple of writer’s groups, but felt crowded. I love having one to appraise my words, but not several.

girl with a quill: What is more important to you: Story or Character? Why?

Jill: The character. I love people. I work in an Emergency Department because I love the variety and unexpected changes. All of  life is woven with stories but can be boring if the character is not someone you care about. People matter more to me than events. I love metaphors and allegories because they have the chance to unearth the complexity of the heart of people.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character that you have created and why?

Jill: A boy who couldn’t read, had cheated and manipulated people to find a way through the system. He reminds me of so many teenage boys I know, covering frailties by unconsciously trapping people to help them find a path.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character in the literary world and why?

Jill: The Cat in the Hat; he loved mess and always pulled solutions and possibilities out of nowhere.

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 famous creative people, who would they be and why?

Jill: 1;Dr Seuss because he told children that life would have its pains, pleasures and paradoxes, and that the journey is beautiful.
2; AA Milne; I loved his stories, but after reading his son’s biographies, I was very distressed about Christopher Robin’s parenting. I have so many questions to ask Mr Milne Sr.
3; Simon French; I have re-read all his books so many times, he has a beautiful insight, into injustice in common society.
4;Marilynne Robinson, because she writes those moments of wit, warmth and pain that make you shiver.
5; Robert Frost. He was rejected within his own country because his metaphorical writing wasn’t understood, but he still believed in himself enough to pursue his own style. He seemed to be so sensitive, secure and persistent.

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 of your favourite fictional characters, who would they be and why?

Jill: None of them. I have a house full of teenagers, and all their friends. My bravest moment was having 13 13-year-old boys for a 24 hour sleep-over. It was the noisiest, smelliest time I’ve ever had. My characters can stay on the pages.

girl with a quill: If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the beginning of your writing career, what would it be?

Jill: Accept technical advice, but allow room for your teachers to have opinions that are not necessarily insightful.

girl with a quill: What is the one piece of writing advice you could give your future self, 10 years from now?

Jill: No matter how many times you decide you’ve failed, the fire of a dream will not be extinguished.

girl with a quill: What do you want your lasting legacy, as a writer, to be?

Jill: To find a few sentences that melt the reader’s sobriety and sadness.

girl with a quill: Where can we find you?

I am on Facebook, twitter; @jilldempsey and have a blog that is still waking slowly.
________

thejillquill.blogspot.com

 

Preview
What a fascinating chat and what a fascinating lady. Thank you for coming in today Jill. Now if I am not mistaken, you must be parched and the tea must be brewed. Shall I pour us each a cup while I excuse the readers?

Remember writers wield your quills with care for…

The Quill is swifter than the Rapier

and Ink imbrues deeper than Blood….


~ girl with a quill

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning

 

Cutting the stone into a diamond

A scattering of "brilliant" cut diam...
Image via Wikipedia

I have just finished reading the full first draft of my critique partner’s MS. The story had me riveted and I finished it in an afternoon’s setting. I realised how much work and energy goes into a first draft and how close a writer can be to that first draft. It takes great courage to release that first draft from your safe hand to the hands of a critique partner or beta reader. I think it must feel something like dropping off your child at nursery school or hiring a baby sitter to look after your child for the first time. We writers have the same attachment to our stories as a mother to a child. There is that same protective streak and a sense of pride and love when we think of our WIP. This is even more the case with the first draft.

Why?

I think the first draft is the closest to the writer’s heart because it is written not only with ink but with emotional angst, blood, sweat and tears. It is written alone and maybe even in secret. It is actually just like a secret. The writer may have spent months with it, maybe even years, and then the point comes that someone else has to read it. At this point I am sure there are writers out there that fail to show it to someone else, instead they keep this first draft a secret. But for those who do need someone to read it to tell them if it is any good, it takes the courage of a warrior to take that first step and let someone else read it and then judge both them as a writer and the work on its own merit.

So if you are a writer who has just finished their first draft or perhaps you have buried it for a while; take it out and air it. Remember why you wrote this first draft in the first place. What drove you? Was this story begging to be told? Now you could bury it right back again but then you would not know whether your first draft was the bones of a great story that needed to be told or whether it is indeed just a story.

For me writing a story in first draft is like deciding to mine some soil. You don’t know whether there is anything under that soil. You could just dig deep down and find nothing but sand. But you could dig and find a vein of gold or silver. You could dig deep and find oil or water. You could dig deep down and find precious stones. You could dig deep down and find that most precious of gems: a diamond in the rough. The point is that you do not know what you are going to find, you know only that you have to dig. So you spend every precious moment you can spare to dig and dig, all the while writing down the bones of something that is becoming bigger than just a faint idea. Everyone around you at this point may be cheering for you or you may be doing it furtively. You could be that miner who is going out in the dark of night digging up the land behind your house and then covering your tracks. You might be that miner who is digging in plain sight of all your neighbours and friends and people are tut-tutting at the suspicion that you may be mentally unstable at the worst or fanciful with your head in the clouds at best. Either way, you keep on digging. Slowly you start striking a few things, you decide you have to write further and dig deeper to find out if there is a treasure at the end of all your digging. You get to the end of your first draft and you have struck something. You peer at it intently and wonder if this is it, you dug and dug for a dirty stone?

Now you are faced with a choice: You can either decide this was pointless and re-bury the stone, fill up the mine again and walk away. Or you can decide to see if there is something more to this stone, maybe it just needs to be washed clean of its crust of dirt?

If you take the second option, you take your stone and go to wash it. It still looks like a stone. You look at it under a magnifying glass. You cannot see anything but then again you are not an expert miner. What would you know? This is when you need to have some advice or another set of eyes. So you take it to someone you trust. It has to be someone you trust because in your heart of hearts you are hoping that they will tell you, “Job well done. Wow You have found a true diamond.” and all your work will not be in vain.

You find your person you trust. This may be a partner, a friend, a writing partner or a beta reader. You ask them politely and with your heart in your hand that they read this and give you their honest opinion. Is this just a stone or could it be a diamond in the rough? You ask for them to be gentle with it as you have spent months maybe even years mining at it.

You wait anxiously as they read your precious first draft. You know that they will try to be gentle but that they will be honest. It is this honesty that you fear the most. Will everyone be right, are you mentally unstable and just fooling yourself? Or even worse what if it is a diamond, what do you do then, the pressure would increase exponentially?

Finally they come back to you with the read story in hand. They look at you and give you their opinion. They tell you that they enjoyed the story but that there are some issues. They don’t understand certain things and some parts you put too much detail in and lost their interest. With each of these words, you feel like something is piercing you. You now know you were hoping they would say it was perfect. It is a diamond already cut, shaped and gleaming. Instead they are telling you it needs more work. Then you realise that this may not be a bad thing. They are saying this is a diamond but it has to be cut into a shape. The cuts may shave quite a lot from the stone, it may even cut it to half its shape. Then it needs to be polished. After all a diamond in the rough looks just like a dirty misshapen stone. You listen and then thank them because you realise they are trying to help you. They have taken time to critique your find, your work. You need to take the time to listen.

Now the hard work begins. You need to cut at the stone to get its true shape. There are a few external flaws that even you can see and then there are finer flaws that your expert pointed out. So you begin the process of the second draft and this is the cutting, the shaping. You know this will also not be the end. You will need to polish once you have the stone cut. Then you will have your true reward: a diamond. Sparkling, precious, flawless and a stone to be admired and coveted.

Remember the choice you had after finding the stone: if you are still at that crossroads, I urge you to not re-bury the stone. You may just have a stone in the end but you may also have a diamond. If your courage fails you and you don’t show it to someone else and don’t do a second draft, you will never know. Many writers have tried and tried many times and failed many times before their first success. But think if these writers had not made the choice to take the stone from the ground. Their diamonds, the books and stories we now love and learn from, would be lost forever. That would be a tragedy. So take courage. Remember why you wanted or needed to write this story or start digging in the first place. Let’s see if you have found a stone or a diamond mine?

– Kim

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning.


 

Perfectionism is the great Oppressor

Train tracks HDR edit
Image by Zach Bonnell via Flickr

I am the daughter of a german mother. This means that I cook and bake well. But it also means that I have the roots of perfectionism planted into my foundations. Now usually most people who are not perfectionists would think that being a perfectionist is something that will push you higher and higher along the ladder of success.

Perfectionism is a gift and a curse. It is also unattainable. But for a perfectionist this very unattainability makes it the apple in the Garden of Eden. You just want to bite into it.

As a perfectionist my competition and my critic and judge is myself. This perfectionism also has another word in my world: procrastination by perfectionism.

For me there is always the hunt for the perfect story then building the perfect character then writing the perfect first line then writing the perfect ending. I can sit for hours breaking apart every word, throwing it out, twisting it into origami and then putting it back in. I will not even go into the area of Grammar. That would take up 10 blog posts. I am sure you get the picture.

However there is one form of my writing where I do not have the gloom of perfectionism hanging over my shoulder. That is my poetry. When I write my poetry, it is visceral and primal. My mind and thoughts do not come into any of my poems. It is the seat of my soul, my heart and my emotions. It is the base instincts that make me, me which is at the heart of my poetry.

This has led me to an epiphany today: a true A-Ha moment.

If my poetry and my thoughts are two parallel tracks at a train station, then I need to switch tracks when working on my prose or fiction. I need to switch tracks because the conductor of my poetry train is not a perfectionist. This conductor is the inner workings of me before cynicism and realism took hold. This conductor is my 6-year-old self who is wide-eyed and curious at everything new and always full of questions. She has two black pig tails slightly skew because she is learning to put her own hair  up in the mornings. She has wide green eyes that seem to swallow in the world and everything she looks at. She is dressed in jeans and a red t-shirt. She has slight smudges on her hands from climbing her favourite tree and reading her favourite book, her dog waiting faithfully at the foot of the tree. Her favourite word is Hoppergrass. This is her name for grasshoppers because sometimes when she squints her eyes just right a hopping grasshopper looks like a piece of hopping grass. This child is not concerned with finding what is wrong. She is just concerned with “finding”.

The conductor of my fiction train has had too much control over my writing. He is a grumpy old man dressed in a pin stripe suit and starched white shirt. His hair is flattened and smoothed to an inch within its life. There are no laugh lines around his mouth but his temple has become a road map of discontent and disapproval. He goes only by the title of professor. He has rimless round spectacles that are always perched on the bridge of his nose. He talks in a clipped german accent and all that he says is that he expects more, I could have done better, it is not good enough and worst crime of all it is not yet perfect therefore not yet ready.

So today I have decided that I am switching trains and taking a different track with my WIP. I have been letting Professor Perfect be the conductor of my words. I need to let the 6-year-old child, Kimmi, be the new conductor. I need to write without stopping to think. When I stop to think during writing, I do not get very far beyond going over and over trying to make things perfect for the Professor. I need to allow the peals of  6-year-old Kimmi’s laughter to drown out the words and thoughts of Professor Perfect. I will need him at the end of this draft when I need to edit. But for now, he needs to go and bother someone else and take the train on the parallel track from me.

So from today, Professor Perfect gets to clip someone else’s ticket stub. I am boarding the train conducted by my 6-year-old self and I am taking the track of emotion. This WIP is a difficult one for me to write but I realise now in the light of today’s epiphany that it has only been difficult because I was over-thinking Professor Perfect’s thoughts. Instead I need to let the child of emotion run riot. She needs to play cowboys and indians and hide and seek. She needs to ask questions all the time. She needs to remind me that the purest part of me, the most elemental core is what will make this writing fluid. This is a WIP where I need to feel, experience, question, go off kilter, climb trees, laugh out loud and weep crocodile tears.

Eureka!

The Road not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost


© All rights reserved Kim Koning.

Musing on writing ~ Mina Witteman

Today’s writer is an eloquent lady with a lovely turn of phrase hailing from the Netherlands. I met her through the Warriors Facebook group that I belong to and have enjoyed all her wise posts. She may not post as often on the group as I know she is busy on her latest story, but when she does post or post a link through to her blog, I always take note of what she says. She is a writer that not only knows about her craft and has succeeded at having a career in writing but also has a vast resume of writing related paths from being an intern at a top publishing house to editing to ghost-writing. If you think that you find it impossible to just find enough time to write for a hour every day, Mina adds one more item to her resume by being a teacher of creative writing at schools. She started off wanting to be an architect but in the end decided to follow the path of destiny and followed the way of the words to become a writer. They say everything happens for a reason and I am glad that destiny changed her pathway from architecture to writing. Otherwise we would have missed out on enjoying her talent and her wisdom.

Now without further ado, I will let Mina tell you and I a little more about herself as she lets us into the world of:

Mina Witteman – Writer

Welcome Mina…I know it is a long way from home but I hope you enjoy your short visit with me on Dragonfly Scrolls…Take a seat in the comfy couch. The kettle is on and the readers are waiting…

girl with a quill: Tell us a little about you.

Mina: I was born and grew up in a small village in the south of the Netherlands. My dad was an architect and for a long time I thought I was destined to be one as well, as I inherited his math genes. But I hadn’t counted on my mom’s genes. She had a great imagination and she was a storyteller pur sang. She planted the storytelling seed in me. It took its time to grow, even after I found out that my favorite subject in school was… detention. Detention meant writing essays and I loved writing essays even more than I loved math, physics and chemistry.

I did study architecture, but never finished it. After dropping out of polytechnic, I wandered around for quite some years until I couldn’t ignore the need to get all the stories out anymore. I followed some courses creative writing and the four-year course Writing Prose For Children. I also did the editor’s minor at the University of Amsterdam and an internship at one of the major publishing houses in the Netherlands. By now I’m not only a writer, but also a seasoned freelance copy-editor. In addition to writing and editing, I write reviews for Booktunes, the site that brings your favorite books and music together and I occasionally teach creative writing to high school students.

girl with a quill: Do you remember the moment you wanted to become a writer?

Mina: After my son was born and I, again, got hold of all those exciting books I used to read when I was young, books taking you with them on adventures you couldn’t even dream of. I realized I had to do more than read. I signed up for some creative writing classes (I’m a bit of a perfectionist) and at one of the classes, Writing for Children, everything suddenly fitted, like finding your true vocation.

girl with a quill: What inspires you to write and why?

Mina: Every day inspires me to write. Even the tiniest event can light the fire, because behind every event, every single step you take in life there is a whole world of stories. What if you didn’t take that step? What if you went into the other direction? What you see is what you get, people often say, but what if it’s not?

girl with a quill: Where do you do write?

Mina: Home is where I write. I have an office on the second floor where I’m surrounded by paintings and books. From my window I look at one of Amsterdam’s main canals, lined with trees and beautiful 18th century houses. A great view if you have to sit and think, which is what writers do a lot.

girl with a quill: How do your stories find you? Are they character-driven or story-driven?

Mina: I think most of the stories are already in me. They just need to find their way out. Others come to me when I travel, like THE SUN SPIRIT. That one hit me when I was traveling through Arizona and the Navajo Nation: the thunderstorms, the flash floods, the intriguingly mysterious red monoliths. You could feel the adventure in every breath of air, in every grain of sand, in every sudden shadow that darkened the world for a moment.

Most of my stories are a mix of character- and story-driven. The story, the adventure is the main pillar on which a telling is built, but every story needs strong characters, too.

girl with a quill: Once you have your story, take us through your preparation stage. Tell us a little about your writing process.

Mina: The preparation stage is usually a long one, as the story first needs to form in my head. As soon as the basic shape is there, as soon as I’m well acquainted with my protagonist, I can start writing. First a draw a blueprint on the whiteboard next to my desk, next I start writing the manuscript. I am a linear writer, and I usually write a book from the beginning to the end in one go (don’t worry, I do go to sleep at night J). Only my debut, DEEDEE’S REVENGE, was written differently. Circumstances forced me to write some of the individual scenes first and “weld” them together in a later stage. I can still see those seams. They might be invisible for the reader, but they are there. When writing THE SUN SPIRIT I found my preferred modus operandi, so… linear it is.

When I’m done writing I put the manuscript away for a week or so to let it all sink in. Then I read it and start revising the first time. After the first revision I give it to my proofreader. She is a friend of my son’s (16 by now). She wants to be a writer herself and she is a very strict and uncompromising editor, and she’s able to single out most of the flaws. I find it invaluable to have a target reader as my proofreader. With her reader’s report at hand I revise the manuscript for the second time. After that, and only when I am truly satisfied with the end result, I hand the manuscript in.

girl with a quill: You write YA. What led you into this form of writing?

Mina: I know YA is the name, but I see my stories more as coming-of-age stories. Sometimes my protagonist is 10 or 12, sometimes he is a little older, like the one in the new book I’m working on. He’s 16. What they all have in common is that they go through an adventure that will change their lives forever.

YA is the major part of what I write, but I also write thrillers for adults and short read-aloud stories for the very young. The thrillers are a logic continuation of writing YA – or at least it feels that way. The short stories work as etudes. Writing them hones my craft and keeps me on my toes if it comes to keeping the “fanning out” in check. Short stories force you to be brief and to the point, but at the same time every sentence, every word needs to be in flow with the next sentence and the next word.

girl with a quill: Do you have a favourite out of your stories or your books? Can you tell us why?

Mina: That is a hard question. I love DEEDEE’S REVENGE (DE WRAAK VAN DEEDEE), not only because it was my debut, but it also because it is a bit about me. DEEDEE’S REVENGE is about Deedee and her pesky brother Matthias. One day Matthias crosses the line with one of his pranks and Deedee swears she will get back at him. It’s a bit about me getting back at my brother, at last, for one of the pranks he pulled on me when I was young. It’s also the only book I’ve written that has a female protagonist.

girl with a quill: Do you have a favourite character from your books?

Can you tell us who/what and why?

Mina: I think Tom, my protagonist in the Warriors Of The Sun series, is my favorite character. He’s been with me for three books now (of which two have been published so far). I love him and the way he carefully treads through life, getting bolder and more confident with every book.

girl with a quill: Do you find that all of your stories are smoothly written once started or have some of them been challenging?

Mina: So far it has been easy “writes”, if there is anything like an easy “write”. In a way every manuscript is a challenge, as you never know beforehand if it will work out, but most of the time the writing is smooth. It’s the editing and revising part that bothers me more. That part compels a lot of self-discipline as you have to be able to be ruthless in killing your darlings.

girl with a quill: Have you ever written in any other genre? If you haven’t, would you want to and what genre would you choose?

Mina: Up till now I have written short read-aloud stories for the very young, adventure (low) fantasy for MG/YA and I just finished the revision of my first thriller for adults. You might think that is different genres, but it’s not. All my stories are spine-chilling adventures, even the short stories (although those aren’t as scary as the stories for my older audience). I don’t think I will ever divert from this adventure genre. It fits me like glove.

girl with a quill: You have published your books in Dutch. Have you had your books translated into English?

Mina: Three of my books and about 30 short stories have been published in Dutch, none of them have been translated. Yet!

girl with a quill: What is your opinion on books being translated?

Do you find that it is a positive or a negative to the story?

Does anything get “lost in translation?

Mina: In the Netherlands we grow up with translated literature. Our publishers have a long tradition of bringing translated books to the public. Partly because there are a lot of good books out there that should be read, but also because of our traders’ mentality: why shouldn’t you publish a book that is successful abroad here as well and make some money in the process?

For the story it’s not always a blessing. As an editor I have copy-edited quite some translations, and yes, things can definitely get lost in translation. It takes an outstanding translator to capture not only the story, but also the voice of the author and even then it’s inevitable that some things get lost in translation because of the mere fact that one language isn’t the other.

Dutch books are less often translated into other languages. I suspect that it being such a small language area and the corresponding lack of translators from Dutch might be responsible for that, as it makes the translation process a rather costly matter.

girl with a quill: Tell us about the process of publication in the Netherlands? Do you have to have an agent or do you work directly with a publisher?

Mina: The agent system is slowly gaining ground here, but only for adult literature. Writers usually deal directly with the publishers. That might also be due to the smaller market. The sales figures for midlist writers a not spectacular and if you have to split the already proceeds with an agent… But I’m very much for an agent system. Most writers are not sales people, agents are. It pays to have someone dedicated to your books deal for you. I have an agent (Paul Sebes of Sebes & Van Gelderen Literary Agency) for my thriller.

girl with a quill: Have you / Would you submit to any US publishers or UK publishers?

Mina: I have not submitted to US publishers or UK publishers. Again: yet! I have signed a contract with literary agent Erzsi Deàk of the Hen & Ink. She will handle all rights for my children’s books, not only the ones that have been published in the Netherlands, but the future ones, too. I am very, very happy with Erzsi. She gives me the opportunity to spread my wings and to become true member of our ever-globalizing world.

girl with a quill: Considering the boom of the e-book industry,

Would you consider publishing in E-book format?

Mina: I am totally addicted to my e-reader. I love the concept and the possibilities it offers to both reader and writer. Thankfully, the Netherlands is slowly but surely picking up the advantages of the e-reader.

girl with a quill: Are you working on a new story right now?

Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Mina: Yes, I am working on a new story. This time it’s a YA-thriller that keeps me glued to my desk. It’s about 16-year old Dorian who desperately wants to be independent. He has two important features that keep him from being independent: he’s 16 and he has a growing disorder, burdening him with the body of a 10-year old. While skipping school Dorian meets a group of hackers who live in a former squat house. As hacking doesn’t make you a living, they rent out a floor to a group of criminals who turned the floor into a pot growing plant. It sparks off some ideas in Dorian. Lucrative but dangerous ideas, as it turns out…

girl with a quill: You have a website, a blog and a twitter id.

Do you find social network platforms important to a writer’s platform? If so, why and how?

Mina: I have mixed feelings about social network platforms. Yes, they are important as they give you a more direct way of interacting with your audience and with your peer group. It keeps you informed. One of the earlier Warriors you interviewed aptly named Facebook ‘her water cooler’. That is exactly how I feel about it. Writing can be a very lonely business. It’s good to meet your peers and your audience at the ‘water cooler’ every now and again.

The downside, of course, is that it takes away time from your core business: writing. You have to exercise quite some discipline to keep the every now and again really every now and again and not all the time.

girl with a quill: If you could choose 5 famous creative people to have dinner with, who would you choose and why?

Mina: I would love to have dinner with Jennifer Donnelly, Frank Lloyd Wright, Panamarenko, Yukio Mishima and Harper Lee. Jennifer wrote this intense YA-novel REVOLUTION and I would love to talk about to her our craft and the agony it causes us sometimes and how to overcome that. Frank Lloyd Wright is on the list, because designed the most beautiful houses in the world, houses that – to me – are like stories. I wish he could tell me about the lines he sees and how he was able to put those lines down on paper and shape them into houses. Panamarenko is a Belgian artist. Every single piece of art he makes is a novel in itself. During dinner I would have him tell me everything about how math can marry art. John Irving is one of my favorite writers. I wish he would tell me all about the construction of a story. Finally Harper Lee, the writer of my all-time favorite novel. She only wrote one and I wish she could tell me why.

girl with a quill: If you could have a dinner party with 5 of your favourite fictional characters? Who would they be and why would you invite them?

Mina: Mizoguchi, the deeply troubled acolyte from Yukio Mishima’s THE TEMPLE OF THE GOLDEN PAVILION, Scout (Jean Louise Finch) from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, Bod Pa, the old shaman in the Dutch coming-of-age novel HET BOEK VAN BOD PA (Bod Pa’s Book) by Anton Quintana, Pepto Bismo, Panamarenko’s statue of a modern day Icarus, and Begochiddy, messengers of the Navajo spirits. I would love to meet them, because they all are out of the ordinary, the stand out in loneliness, in strength, in being different. Somehow they all feel as kindred spirits (I’m not going to burn a temple, though J).

girl with a quill: Who has had the greatest influence on you as a writer?

Mina: That would be Anton Quintana, a Dutch writer of children’s books and thrillers. His children’s books are the ones I admire most. They all have that extra in them, that thing that tells you that there is more to this world than meets the eye.

girl with a quill: What is your favourite classic book? And why?

Mina: My favorite classic is TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee. I know I’m not alone here, but the book is so intense. It reached right into my soul, it questioned my values and it left me with the rather desolate feeling that in the end we’re all alone.

girl with a quill: What is your favourite contemporary book? And why?

Mina: That is another hard question. There are so many good books coming out. For now, I’ll go with Jennifer Donnelly’s REVOLUTION. It is just as intense as Harper Lee’s book, but on a different level. Donnelly has accomplished, that if you read it, you almost literally can feel the pain of the protagonist, Andi Alpers, whose life was shattered after the death of her younger brother.

girl with a quill: What is the one piece of writing advice you would give to yourself as a young writer?

Mina: Have faith!

girl with a quill: What in the one piece of writing advice you would give to yourself 10 years from now?

Mina: Keep honing your craft.

girl with a quill: What do you want your lasting legacy as a writer to be?

Mina: I hope people will read my books.

girl with a quill: Can you tell us where we can find on the Web?

Mina:

my reviews: booktunes.net

Thank you Mina for that look into your life as a writer. Now it looks like you are just about ready for another cuppa. Tell me more about the adventures that Dorian gets up to in your latest thriller…Readers if you want to know more you will just have to wait for the book.
Remember wield your quill with wit and wisdom for

 

 

The Quill is swifter than the Rapier,
Ink imbrues deeper than Blood…

~ girl with a quill
© All rights reserved Kim Koning

 

 

Warrior Wednesday~Dee White

Close-up with Dee White

Hi Dee. Before we continue with the meaty part of this interview, allow me to give you a little drum roll to my readers. I guess the first thing I would have to mention is that we met through a wonderful Facebook group called Word Warriors. All the writers in this group were from around the globe in every corner, nook and cranny however we were united by one lofty goal: to write a 50 000 word in 1 month in November 2010. From the first I felt a kindred spirit in Dee. Yes, we are neighbours (across the ditch between New Zealand and Australia) but more than that this is a person who impressed me from the first with her gentle positivity and quirky sense of down-to-earth humor. Over the last 3 months I have grown to genuinely like, respect and admire Dee as an extraordinary person, a talented writer and a person who I am proud to call a friend. Dee and I have not met in person yet but it feels like I have known her for longer than a mere 3 months. I am looking forward to meeting up with Dee next month and I know that the chatter will be easy and flowing. I have since started following and subscribing to Dee’s wonderful blog devoted to all aspects of writing where she gives good advice to all who have the writing bug. Now, I know that my readers are eager to jump into the meaty part of this Close Up Interview, so without further ado…..

Welcome Dee…


girl with  a quill: Tell me a little about yourself and who you are?

Dee: I’m a children’s and YA author who loves being a mum to two amazing boys. I’m married to my soul mate (25 years this year) and I live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. I’m a sucker for a homeless animal (we even have a stray rabbit) and I live in a town that has more kangaroos than people. I have ALWAYS wanted to be a writer and am so lucky to be living my dream.

girl with a quill: How long have you been writing?

Dee: Since I was seven years old and I wrote a poem about a tree and was asked to read it at school assembly.

girl with a quill: You write YA and children’s books. What made you decide to become a writer in this genre?

Dee: I think you write for the age that you are in your head – so I guess that means I never matured beyond my teen years:) Having kids in this age group also helps but I think one of the things I particularly like about writing YA is that teen readers want truth. They want to know what’s happening and why and they don’t want you to sugar-coat it. I feel like I can be honest and true to myself in YA writing.

girl with a quill: How many books have you published?

Dee: Four

girl with a quill: Which of these books is your favourite and why?

Dee: They’re all favourites in different ways. I loved writing a Duel of Words because it’s about an important time in Australia’s history. Hope for Hanna was also special to me because I know it has inspired kids in Australia to raise money for villages in Uganda where the story is set. Harry’s Goldfield Adventure is one of the first stories I ever wrote (even though it’s the most recent one to be published) and it features my cat, Charlie.

But I’d have to say my absolute favourite up to now is Letters to Leonardo. I loved the idea of the story as soon as it came into my head and it was great to be able to incorporate Leonardo da Vinci and his works in my novel because I have been fascinated with him for as long as I can remember. The other thing about Letters to Leonardo was that it took a good dose of determination and belief in my story to get it to publication – over 10 years, more than 30 drafts and over 1 million words on paper.


girl with a quill: Are you working on a new story now? Can you tell us anything about it?

Dee: I’m one of those people who is always working on something new. When I finish a draft I put it away for a month and work on something else so then I can go back to the original manuscript with fresh eyes and I seem to pick up lots of things that need editing. At the moment I am working on a YA thriller and an MG humorous adventure series about a junior scientist whose experiments always go badly wrong. My YA novels are always set in the real world and are usually fairly intense so it’s good to have something funny to be working on at the same time.

girl with a quill: Being based in Australia, do you base your stories there?

Dee: I suppose I write with an Australian voice because that’s where I’ve grown up, but most of my settings are generic except for Hope for Hanna which is set in Uganda.

girl with a quill: Would your stories be different if you were not in Australia and why?

Dee: I don’t think my stories would be different but I suppose my experiences would be. Most of my books are character and plot based so they could happen anywhere in the western world.

girl with a quill: Being a YA writer, do you have any famous influences that you look to in this genre? If you do, Who is your biggest influence and why?

Dee: John Marsden (author of Tomorrow When the War Began and many other great books) would have to have been my biggest influence initially. I loved that he wasn’t afraid to tackle serious issues that teens face – and he also taught me the importance of having an authentic teen voice.  I’m also inspired by the amazing works of Ellen Hopkins and Laurie Halse Anderson.

girl with a quill: Would you say that it is more difficult or easier to write for young people as opposed to writing for adults?

Dee: I think it really depends on who you are and who you are at heart – that’s where your writing voice comes from. I think at heart I might really be a 15-year-old boy. Not sure how that happened:) There are usually fewer words in books for young people but in some ways the readership is more discerning and you are competing with the electronic age so the writing has to be tighter.

girl with a quill: Did you know what genre you wanted to write in from the beginning of your writing career? Or did you experiment with a few genres?

Dee: When my kids were really small I wrote picture books and as they got older, the age of my readership has changed too. I think I’ve always had two kinds of books – the ones I write for me (usually YA) and the stories I write for my kids (these are appropriate to their age and stage in development). Some of my books for younger readers are set in the fantasy world but all of my YA are based on real events and are set in contemporary times.

girl with a quill: I know from our many online chats, that you are a mother as well as a writer. Do you tend to have your children be your beta readers?

Dee:  Both my boys are great beta readers. They pick up all sort of voice and language inconsistencies, ‘boring bits’, plot issues etc (as well as typos). They are both quite good writers themselves and my youngest (aged 12) is currently on the second draft of a novel that will probably be around 20,000 words when it’s finished.

girl with a quill: You have a website and a blog. Do you think it is important for authors to build a public platform on the web? And Why?

Dee:  A public platform on the web is a great way to connect with your readers from all over the world. It also showcases your work to prospective agents, publishers and readers and gives them a sense of who you are. I did a fourteen day blog tour with Letters to Leonardo and when I launched it at Byron Bay Writer’s festival people bought the book because they had followed my blog tour and it made them want to read the book. So I think that having an online presence helps with direct sales too.

girl with a quill: Being a steady blogger, do you find that your blogging helps you in your writing skills and how?

Dee: Blogging is good for getting an idea across within a limited number of words, and these skills are useful in writing query letters and pitches. These skills are also helpful to a writer in identifying the important things in their own story. I also review books at my blog and I learn a lot about writing from reading other people’s work. Reviewing makes me delve deeper and look at how and why an author has written the book that way and what I like or don’t like about their methods and the end result. It helps me to be more analytical about my own writing.

girl with a quill: What would be the 3 pieces of advice you could give to an aspiring author for young people?

Dee: Read as much as you can, write as much as you can, don’t give up.

girl with a quill: Tell us a little about your writing process…How do you start a story?

Dee: For me a story idea tends to pop into my head and then the main character comes next. For example this is the idea that came to me for Letters to Leonardo – what if a boy received a letter on his fifteenth birthday from the mother he thought was dead? Next I started thinking about this fifteen year-old boy and how he would feel and respond to this event. He became Matt Hudson. I ‘interviewed’ Matt to find out more about him and the story kind of evolved from there. His behaviour was the catalyst for events that followed.

girl with a quill: Are you a panster or a plotter?

Dee: Definitely a plotter – or maybe I’m both. Often the creation of the story line is a fluid, free thinking process then once I know who is in the story and what is going to happen to them, I put the plot points in place. I guess this article at my blog best describes how I work:) http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/2010/04/26/how-to-mind-map-your-story-tuesday-writing-tip/

 

 

girl with a quill:

You took part in NaNoWriMo2010. Was this your first NaNoWriMo? What if anything did you learn from your NaNoWriMo experience?

Dee:  it was my first NaNoWriMo. I learnt how motivating it is to work alongside other writers and how much fun it is to be part of an international writing community and chat group so there’s always someone online 24/7.

girl with a quill: Writers can be superstitious people. Are you superstitious when it comes to your writing? Can you give us some examples if you are?

Dee: I don’t think so. Although I don’t write under ladders. I used to get my kids to kiss the envelopes before I posted them but I gave up on that after a while.

girl with a quill: You often hear of “Muses” in the same context with creative people. Do you have a Muse? If you do, can you tell us about your Muse? Who or What is it?

Dee: Okay, now you’re probably going to think this strange, but my muse is a goat called Molly. My study looks out over her paddock and all is right with the world when she’s there grazing or sitting on a rock looking out towards the river. In the mornings, she likes to break out of her paddock and come to the front door to say hello. I guess she embodies the qualities you need to be a writer – kindness (she is particularly loving to the dog and likes to give her a massage), determination (If I haven’t said good morning to her she breaks out of the paddock and comes to see me), a sense of adventure, fearlessness (she comes for a walk with the dog up and down the road) and a love of life and everybody in it.

girl with a quill: What is more important to you: Story or Character? Why?

Dee:  This is just the way I write, but characters and how they respond to events are what drive my stories. I become very attached to my characters and they ‘live’ in my house, my head and my heart. Particularly with YA novels, I think it’s the character that readers engage with.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character that you have created and why?

Dee: People who have read Letters to Leonardo might be surprised to hear me say this, but it would have to be Troy, Matt’s best friend. Troy is everything I wanted in a best friend when I was fifteen.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character in the literary world and why?

Dee: This is a completely impossible question to answer:) I think that Harry Potter is a great character because he engages the reader and makes them care about him so much. I loved Mrs Danvers in Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca because even though she didn’t appear in the story much I felt like I knew exactly who she was. I also really loved Ed Kennedy in Markus Zusak’s, The Messenger. Ed is pretty hopeless at most things but he is a deceptively complex character.

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 famous creative people, who would they be and why?

Dee:  John Marsden, Ellen Hopkins, Laurie Halse Anderson, Meg Rosoff and Jacqueline Wilson. So then we could talk about my favourite subject, great YA books.

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 of your favourite fictional characters, who would they be and why?

Dee: I’m not a posh dinner party kind of girl so I’d probably go for a Roald Dahl Dinner Party with Fantastic Mr Fox (and Mrs Fox), The Big Friendly Giant, Matilda and Willie Wonker and the dinner party would have to be in a chocolate factory (and that means I’d have to invite my boys as well).

girl with a quill: If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the beginning of your writing career, what would it be?

Dee:  Don’t submit things until they’re ready.

girl with a quill: What is the one piece of writing advice you could give your future self, 10 years from now?

Dee:  Be patient (even more than you already are:)

girl with a quill: What do you want your lasting legacy, as a writer, to be?

Dee:  That my writing has meant something to be people – been inspirational – maybe even changed lives.

Dee White
Author


Out now:   Letters to Leonardo
Harry’s Goldfield Adventure
twitter@DeeScribe
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Thank you Dee for taking us through a fascinating close up of your life, your inspirations and your process of writing. I know I speak on behalf  of my readers to say that this has indeed been a fascinating interview. I look forward to your books reaching ever widening audiences throughout the globe.
Remember wield your quill with wit and wisdom for…
The Quill is swifter than the rapier,
Ink imbrues deeper than blood…

~ girl with a quill

Warrior Wednesday Drum Roll

Announcing my 3rd interview in the new series: Warrior Wednesdays.

This evening I will be posting the successful interview I had with YA and Children’s author Dee White. This is one not to be missed. I met Dee through Word Warriors – the online FB group started for NaNoWriMo20101 – and Scribblerati – the writing ning I belong to. I have gotten to know Dee very well through both these groups. From a stranger who writes as well, to a colleague and finally to a friend.

She is an avid supporter of any writers both published and pre-published. Dee herself is a published author. She blogs regularly with very useful writing tips.

I will not tell you anymore about Dee but watch this space for the interview. She will tell you more about herself as we sit down and have a cyber chat.

In this interview you will learn why I admire Dee so much. You will also learn the tricks and tools of being a YA and Children’s author. You will be as charmed and disarmed by Dee’s honesty and humility as I have been. This is one talented lady and more than that: a true Warrior of Words.

Join me in a few hours for our interview.

girl with a quill…