When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I never actually thought of myself as a “writer” or “author” until I’d been published for years. It seemed like such an official title and I really didn’t feel like I earned that title. But, after being a newspaper columnist, writing a column called “Kidding Around” for almost eight years, AND earning a paycheck, I decided that I really was an author.
I think we have in our mind that a “REAL” author published a book or has accomplished some lofty thing, when it really is the person who writes a blog or a newspaper column, or a newsletter for their church, or someone who writes magazine articles. And, you don’t always have to be paid for all of those writing tasks.
How did you “learn” to write?
My best teacher for being a writer was to read thousands of books. I was the kid who went to the library in the summer and checked out 50 books, because I would read at least that many in two weeks, and then I’d turn around and check out the next 50 books. After you consume so many genres and versions of books, you internalize what makes a good story. And, you very quickly learn what doesn’t work, too.
The more you write, the more you try new things and you find what works for your audience, the better you get as a writer. The first ten years I wrote I was willing to try newspaper articles, covering events in my community, writing for children, writing for women, a fiction book for young adults, just about anything. That’s when I figured out what I was really best at writing, which was humorous essays.
Why did you pursue a degree in writing? (as opposed to being a “self-taught” writer) Would you recommend it?
When I was writing for the newspaper, I felt like I really didn’t know what I was doing. The other writers on the paper had journalism degrees and understood things like using the AP Style Guide for their writing. I had a very sweet editor that taught me what a lead was and where it should come in my writing. I did the beginner’s mistake of burying my lead in most of my articles.
I took college classes on Grammar, because I felt very weak in that area. I also took courses in Media Law and Nonfiction writing, because those were things I felt I really needed to have as tools for my writing craft.
What was the most valuable aspect of the MAPW program?
The MAPW program taught me to network and also instilled a work ethic. For one of my classes (Advanced Creative Nonfiction with Dr. Linda Niemann), the assignment was to write ten pages a week. That writing discipline and the ability to create something from nothing was invaluable training.
Another invaluable aspect was the networking with my fellow students. All are professionals in their field and many have gone on to teach in other universities, or have moved overseas. I’ve kept up with a majority of my classmates which has enriched my writing life.
How do you incorporate your MAPW skills in your current job as program coordinator?
I was an Applied Track MAPWer and worked on public relations and corporate communication, more than the Creative Track. I learned much from Dr. Beth Gidden’s class on corporate communications. In my current job I create website content, write press releases, and designed a communication/marketing plan for a brand-new MA degree at Kennesaw State – the MA in American Studies. I also executed that plan, which has brought a greater visibility to the program, which attracts students.
Your husband is also a writer. How do two writers co-habitate peacefully? How do you negotiate space and time in a household with two writers and seven sons?
When there are two writers in one household and we’re both working on books and other projects, we’ve learned to let our standards of certain things, like cleaning the house pretty much go. It’s healthy enough to live there, but not spotless. I guess what I’m saying is that we’ve prioritized our writing and have given each other permission to spend hours and hours on our writing, realizing that we’re going to have to let things like watching television go by the wayside. I think it’s been at least 15 years since I actually sat down and watched a show. And, Steve’s the same way. I prioritize reading and writing over entertainment. Which actually means that we both overwork when we’re home.
My husband is the author of two books and he’s working on his next book project (scheduled for Feb. 2011). He also has three blogs that he cares for and two websites that he creates content for, so he’s a full-time writer.
The Contemporary Christian Music Debate (1993) Tyndale House, Wheaton, IL
Enjoy Your Money: How to Make it, Save it, Invest it, and Give it (2008) Wisdom Creek Press, Acworth, GA
I have two books out:
BackWords: A backwards word list for Gamers (2009) Wisdom Creek Press, Acworth, GA and Writing Conversations: Spend 365 days with your favorite authors learning the craft of writing.