1. Do you have a memorable book signing experience?
I’ve actually never done a book signing. I’ve spoken to a couple of undergraduate and graduate level writing classes at Kennesaw State, I’ve done speaking through my work with the Georgia Writers Association, but a traditional book signing, nope, never.
2. Which authors have inspired you and which genres do you enjoy reading?
I have a very strong memory of being a very young girl and begging the librarian to be able to check out 50 books every two weeks. And, again in junior high, instead of taking lunch in the scary cafeteria, I spent lunch hours shelving books. I don’t know why I decided that this would be a good idea, but I attempted to read every book in that library. I graduated before I got past the H’s, but I did read every book up until that.
This means that I have a very eclectic reading esthetic. I pretty much will read anything that’s in type, so I guess that makes me a reading slut. But, I love mysteries, romance, thought books, issue books, and nonfiction books on a topic I’m learning about. I’m also a fan of well written young adult novels.
My latest book, Writing Conversations: Spend 365 with your favorite author learning the craft of writing features short, pithy, inspirational quotes from my favorite authors. I love the usual suspects:
•I read Stephen King’s On Writing book every year. I also have it on CD and love to hear him talk about his development as an author and what helped him to develop his skills.
•Anne Lamott has a terrific essay entitled “Shitty First Drafts” which really freed me from the perfectionism which plagues nearly every author when they start out.
•During grad school I was introduced during a writing exercise to Natalie Goldberg’s Wild Mind. She has some terrific writing exercises that are great to use to start the creativity juices flowing.
•Two times I’ve gone through Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way in a group of women. This workbook is a primer on living the creative life. I regularly go back to some of the exercises to hone my writing skills.
3. What’s your best advice from writer to writer?
It took me many, many years of writing to actually call myself a “writer.” It felt too good or too professional for what I was doing. But if you write, you’re a writer. Claim it. Buy yourself a great chair, because you’re going to spend long hours in it. Equip your writing place with everything you need to be a professional writer: filing cabinet, office desk, terrific computer, books such as The Chicago Manual of Style, and subscriptions to The Writer’s Market, The Writer’s Digest and The Writer Magazine. If you’re a professional writer, act like one.
Additionally, get as much training and input as you can. As an undergraduate at Kennesaw State I worked on the student newspaper for $10 an article, despite the fact that I’d been paid over $100 for the same thing in Chicago working for a “real” newspaper. Each writing project teaches me something. Don’t be afraid to try something new. I’ve blogged, written for websites, tweeted, and done every type of writing possible. I’ve learned from every new project I’ve taken on.
4. Have you ever edited works written by bilingual writers?
When I lived in Wheaton, Illinois, I was a stay-at-home mom and would often type masters or PhD theses for non-English speakers. Since the graduate students at Wheaton College came from all over the world, I worked with a graduate student from Uganda, two from Nigeria, and one from Nepal. Each used English in a different fashion and I was able to discuss the meaning and nuances of the tricky English language with them. It wasn’t a formal editing relationship, however.
5. Since you recently did a MAPW, I would like to get some advice if I should do it to and where can I get financial help to do it.
I graduated with my MAPW in 2007. Since then I’ve published two books, BackWords: a backwards word list for gamers (2009) and Writing Conversations: Spend 365 days with your favorite authors learning the craft of writing (2010). The MAPW propelled my writing to another level and was very valuable.
Most graduate programs have two types of assistance for potential students. One would be scholarships based either on need or other criteria. The Kennesaw State system has one scholarship application which is used for all of the potential scholarships. The application system opens on November 30, 2010 for admission in Fall 2011. Additionally there are many scholarships for special groups of students (single moms, returning students or Hispanic students) which might benefit you.
Secondly, the MAPW program and all of the graduate programs at Kennesaw State have Graduate Research Assistantships (GRA’s) available across campus to assist you with your tuition. GRA’s also pay a stipend of $2,000 per semester for 13 hours of work with a faculty member on research. This is a competitive system, but it does allow you to utilize your skills or add skills that you don’t already have. For example, the MAPW GRA allows you to teach undergraduate English classes as preparation for teaching English on a college level, which is the desire of many of the MAPW graduates who are taking the Comp/Rhetoric track.
And, I think that the graduate programs at Kennesaw State are a terrific bargain. I believe my entire graduate program cost under $12,000. My sister in Wisconsin used to pay $3,000 per credit for her graduate program – KSU only charges $675 for a 3 credit class. What a deal!
6. Do you have a favorite cookbook?
I have a very large family, which is unusual in this day and age. My husband, Steve, who’s also an author and I blended our families (now there’s a love story)! He was a widower in Atlanta raising his four boys and I was living in Chicago and raising my three sons. We married in June 2001 and blended our family so it now consists of seven sons. So, I cook filling dishes, like lasagna to be able to make large quantities of food.
We like to cookout with the boys this summer, especially after we built a new deck which extends our living space to the outdoors. The boys are old enough now that they have terrific grilling skills.
7. Do you play a musical instrument?
When I was a girl I was dying to learn the violin. My dad had a friend at work that had a clarinet for sale, so I ended up getting that instrument instead. Needless to say, I wasn’t ever very good at it. My sisters all took piano lessons, but I was never very much into playing music.
My husband is an excellent keyboardist and guitarist, which makes for wonderful Sunday afternoons when he spends time playing music.
8. What’s your writing process like?
I am a quick and dirty writer, which means I gravitate to the short writing projects. For eight years I wrote a weekly newspaper column called “Kidding Around.” I also interviewed and wrote articles for the newspaper as a stringer. I also write magazine articles on different topics.
I currently write for my own blog called www.Pet-Peeves.org. The tag line is: My pets annoy me, how about yours? I like to research a topic, for example, on pet obesity, and write a humorous look at the topic, while providing good information for my audience of pet lovers. I recently wrote a post entitled “Does This Fur Make Me Look Fat?” on this topic. Humor is my absolutely favorite type of writing and I’ve found that the blog allows me to utilize humor on a regular basis.
9. Which authors would you like to meet and why?
Through my involvement on the Board of the Georgia Writers Association for the past four years, I’ve met a tremendous number of authors, which has been fun. I’ve really learned from Philip Depoy, Jessica Handler, Collin Kelly, Tony Grooms, Linda Niemann, LeeAnn Lands, and other Atlanta area authors.
I’m not an author groupie, I guess. Meeting someone doesn’t excite me as much as reading what they’ve written. For instance, I paid over $100 to buy the book How to Write Best Selling Fiction, which is now out of print. It was written by Dean Koontz back in the 1980’s. I learned so much reading that book; it’d be hard to get to all of those details in a face-to-face meeting with him.
10. What would you like to read in my book about authors?
I enjoy understanding the different writing processes people use to produce the work. For example, in my research for Writing Conversations I found out that Fannie Flagg, who’s famous for writing Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café has a very unique process. She writes scenes for her books and then pins them up on a clothesline in her hallway. That way she can move them around and create new plot lines. Wonderful!
Also, Anne Lamott uses a lily pad approach. Her plot is up on the wall with several lily pads and she has to write from one lily pad to another.
Authors are so unique and it’s terrific to hear that this one outlines heavily and that one just writes off the top of their head. Because I’ve learned this, I’ve also discovered there’s not ONE right way to write.
11. Do you think it might be possible for me to attend one of your classes at KSU?
I work in the MA in American Studies Program. Would you like to sit in on an introductory class or a subject level class? Right now I have: Human Rights, American Studies Scholarship, Public History and Memory and Greater Mexico classes going on right now.
Are you thinking of sitting in on a writing class? I know some of the professors there and if there’s one that interests you, I might be able to arrange a visit to one of those classes. I know Tony Grooms, who teaches Fiction Writing, Linda Niemann, who teaches Creative Nonfiction, and Margaret Walters, who’s teaching the intro class for the MAPW program. Let me know which class falls closest to your interest area.