Archive for July, 2011

Round Two–The Writing Life

Posted in The Literateria with tags , on 07/25/2011 by Janet Fitch

The second week of my Figment residency–took questions on the Writer’s Life.  Hope I didn’t discourage anyone–luckily I refrained from inserting pictures of myself writing at four in the afternoon in my pajamas surrounded by dirty coffee cups. The questions were terrific,  also some very funny ones.  (Picard or Kirk?  Well DUH.)

Here’s the entire post:

What are you feeling when your writing has been rejected by a publisher once again, and you just want to give up and throw your pen down? You don’t want to risk getting rejected again, and you don’t see the point of doing this anymore. Well, obviously you didn’t give up! So, what is that spark that tells you to keep writing, and to never give up? Is it your fans, friends, or just willpower? (Pooja Kini)

No, rejection is the world’s reality check.  If you’re going to be a writer in a public way, as opposed to writing for yourself and your friends, you have to be willing to sustain the world’s reaction to what you’re doing.  It sure is a motive force for improving your work, if you can stand the ouch factor.  You have to risk getting rejected again and again to do creative work in this world, if you want to move into the public arena, whether you’re an actor or a singer or a writer or a sculptor or a ballet dancer or a DJ or a politician or a baseball player.  It’s a big world, but its also a bit push and shovey–you have to be able to get in there and get shoved around a little.

It’s the hardest thing about being a starting-up writer.  You don’t know what you did wrong, only that they’re saying “thanks but no thanks.” The worst day is a day you go to the mailbox and see those rejections.  You keep trying and still, more rejections! From journals nobody’s even heard of.  From agents.  (I started with short stories, so let’s say journals).  It should spur your combativeness.  I would say, “the hell with them!  Someday they’ll be begging me for work!”

But also, it takes embracing the fact that you may have further to go in the quality of the actual work. So you take classes, you exchange work with other struggling writers, you listen to what they say, you learn who to listen to and who not to.  You want to listen to the people who don’t just say “It’s great!” (though nothing wrong with that) but the people who are smart enough to notice what’s wrong with it: “Well, it starts off slow.”  ”Well, your verbs aren’t very interesting.” ” Your sentences are all the same length.” “There’s too much yackety yack.” “I can’t really SEE the place this is supposedly set in.”  ”Vince is kind of a stereotype.”

Eventually, you go from getting form rejections to the personal rejections, to the “gee, almost, do you have anything else” to the, “yes, we’d like to publish your story.” But a lot of the writer’s life is holding that faith that you will get published if you just keep learning, working and growing as a writer.  I teach creative writing, and I can usually tell who will become a professional, and who will drop out or just be a hobbyist.  It’s not the most talented person. It’s the one who wants it the most. He or she will hang in through everything–for years and years if need be–until something happens for them.  My family’s nickname (one of them) for me when I was a kid was “bulldog.”

So it’s not exactly willpower, which suggests doing something, it’s more a factor of personality–just how dogged a person you are. When you get your jaws into something, you don’t let go, for love or money.  Not being able to do anything else particularly well helps.  Knowing that people I respect think I’m good is extremely encouraging. But at bottom, writing is the way I process the world. I don’t know what I really think until I write.  It’s a way of thinking I can’t do if I’m just sitting there, thinking. I never take it far enough.

Also, I love words.  Why would I ever stop?

But a lot of it is understanding that there’s something you have to give the world that only you can give it.  There might be better writers than you (there are always people who are better than you–even James Joyce had Shakespeare to contend with. Even Tolstoy had Pushkin.) but only YOU can write your story. If you stopped, it would be lost to the world.  You have to be the best writer of YOUR stories you can be.  That knocks out the jealousy part.

Do you think it would be any better with another job, like a cook or a businessperson? Or do you think the writer’s life is the best there is? (Emma A.)

Having lived it for a long time now, through the bad times and the good, I don’t know if I can say the writer’s life is the best–only that it suits me.  I don’t like to work with other people, I like to be in my fantasy world, I like to play with words, I like to create worlds.  But writing isn’t a job like being a lawyer or a cook.  It’s an art form.  You do your art form, whether or not you support yourself with it. An art form is like your child, not so much like a job. You don’t expect your child to support you. You support it.  So you write, but you also have a job or jobs, you write and you also might work as a cook or a businessperson.  The writer’s life has nothing to do with one’s money job.  It’s the life of the mind, all the reading and thinking and note-taking and observing and crafting of sentences, talking about literature and thinking about it, and exposing yourself to the other arts.  But the writing life, the removing yourself from the give and take of life with other people, to sit at a table and be alone with your thoughts, day after day, year after year, it’s not for everyone.

If you were offered a high-paying, beneficial job that would support you, your family, a mansion, and more, but it didn’t involve writing, would you take it and give up writing for good? (Emma A.)

I’m not a greedy person.  All I need is the peace of mind that living within my means can give me.  I’m not interested in a ‘big’ lifestyle.  I’m interested in time.  Having time to live, to think, to write.  Money is freedom and time–that’s it.  I would never give up writing for anything.  Not for love, not for money.  It’s my deepest self.

Does your writing create problems within the rest of your life? Maybe stop you from doing something else you love? (Emma A.)

Sure, anything you do for yourself, for your deepest self, requires you to say no to other people.  I’m not a hermit, i’m a very gregarious person. It’s hard for me to say no, I can’t have lunch, no, I can’t go on vacation, no, I can’t commit to an out-of-town offer.  No, I can’t teach another class.  No, I can’t write a review. No, I can’t review your book.  I say yes to the things that either help my work, or that will genuinely feed me as a person.

How has becoming an author changed your life? (Zina)

An author… the difference between a writer and an author… If you write, you’re a writer, but you have to get published to be an author. Being an author, publishing my work, has been an incredible experience, an incredible privilege.  People listen to me now, people who never ever ever listened to a word I said before.  It’s nice to be recognized, it’s nice to have readers, it’s nice to be invited to things. But it’s not necessary. What’s necessary is to love to write. Being a writer, thinking like a writer, looking at the world like a writer.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer? (Rachel H.)

I was 21 and living in England for a year on a student exchange.

Have all of the things you’ve done so far been consciously geared towards being a writer? (Sanaya P.)

No, they’re things in which I have some skill.  I like working with words, I’m curious, I’m persistent, I like art, I write well.

How do you find your opportunities? (Sanaya P.)

I read Poets and Writers’ magazine and learned about the field.

When you started out as a writer, were you ever worried about supporting yourself financially? Did you ever think that the passion wasn’t worth it if you couldn’t sustain yourself? (Sanaya P.)

It’s like having children.  You don’t have children so they’ll support you, you don’t put them on the street at three or four and say, okay kid, you’re on.  You support them, nourish them, teach them, love them. And you work a regular job to pay the bills.  I never had the slightest, merest, most fleeting illusion that my fiction would pay my bills.  What happened to me was completely out of left field.

How long did it take you from idea to last edited line did it take you to write your first novel? (Rachel H.)

Five years.

Writing can obviously be very time-consuming, yet one cannot live on writing alone. How many and what sort of compromises have you had to make to ballance your family, friends, household, other ambitions, leisure time, etc., and your writing? (Meredith Hilton)

Writing is time.  Funny, people never ask baseball players how they balance family, friends, home, leisure time and baseball.  You make it your top priority, along with close family, and the rest can go hang.

Are you jealous of any authors? (be honest please) (Cassy Blue)

People who are struggling with books and it’s not going well will always be envious of people who have finished their books, especially if the books are doing well adn praised and lauded.  You sometimes can be jealous of people whose books you don’t think are that good but are being praised and lauded.  But when people are genuinely better than you, are doing something really good–you don’t envy them, you admire them, and are inspired.

Do you write in your pajamas? (Zara Olympia)
Yeah, mostly.

How many hours do you write? (Zara Olympia)
No more than four at a stretch. it’s pretty intense work. After four I’m mostly played. But I might come back for a second round at night.  For me, night writing is different than morning writing, it’s easier to blot out the world.

Do you like to listen to music while you write? (Zara Olympia)
Generally not, unless I want it for something specific, some specific mood.

Do you dream about your stories? Do your characters come from dreams? (Zara Olympia)
Very, very rarely.

I am wondering what books you would suggest young writers to read? (Zara Olympia)

Read everything, but make sure to read books that are hard enough for you.  If you don’t have to look up any words, you’re reading books that are too easy.

Do you ever get so behind in housework, because you are writing, that you are afraid to have company over? (Cassy Blue)
Yes and no.  Yes, things get to be a terrible mess, but no, I”m never afraid to have my friends over. I just tidy up.

In college were you an english major? Or did you just stumble into writing? Did you go to college? Where did you go to college? (Cassy Blue)

I went to Reed College in Portland, Oregon, where I was a history major.  I thought I wanted to be an historian–but what is history but stories?  A big whacking epic, with huge, dramatic characters and amazing conflict.  Writing history, you learn to draw people into your world, you learn how to make it real. It was great training for fiction. I think I was always a secret novelist, but didn’t know that until I was 21.

Did you get rejected from different publishers? If so how many?If so how’d you get over it and continue on? (Cassy Blue)

When I sold my first book, a young adult novel called Kicks, I had a party and I put my rejections on the walls of my living room.  Including the hundreds of short story rejections I’d gotten over the years, and those from a book that never sold, as well as the book that did, they reached from the floorboards to up over my head on all four walls. I look at rejections as a badge of honor. Until you have your first hundred, you’re not even a real writer.

Is it ever hard to tear yourself away from a book and live in the real world? How do you make that jump? (Ali Renee)

Very hard. I’m always late and often distracted.  My daughter has learned to identify that certain tone of my voice that tells her I’m listening but not listening. She’ll say, “Mom, can I jump off a cliff?”

What is your day like? Do you get up early or late and so on. Do you play a sport for fun or have a hobby? Does your hobby help you come up with story ideas? (Cassy Blue)

Get up seven-ish. Take a good long time to get started, coffee, breakfast, read a while. Then I clear out e-mails and start writing.  Often I’ll read poetry out loud for a while so I can get that music in my ears.  I start the day by rewriting what I wrote the day before, and then continue until I have a stopping place–and if i’m lucky, an idea of what I’m going to write next.  I like to walk, I take dance classes. But I never get ideas unless I’m actually sitting at my computer working.  Even if I do, they’re no good.

What books do you think would inspire young writers? (Zara Olympia)

Everybody’s different.

What books are an example of good writing? (Zara Olympia)

Look at the offerings of a ‘Great Books’ course.  Check out a paragraph of Melville.

What is your favorite dessert? (Zara Olympia)

A coffee ice cream hot fudge sundae in a meringue cup with butterscotch sprinkles.

Do you write about characters the same age as you? (Hannah ED)

Sure. But also young people and old people. I like young people because they’re most apt to make important mistakes in their lives and then have to figure out what they think and what’s true and fight their way through.

When you get an idea for a book, how do you start out writing it? (Kennedy Lang)

I don’t write from ideas.  A book might take four or five years out of my life.  I would never just start out writing a novel.  My books start from short stories.  If I get an idea, I’ll write a short story and see what it’s all about. And very occasionally, I’ll have a short story with more energy and substance, that it hasn’t been exhausted by the story, there’s more to tell. That’s a good sign of a novel wanting to be written.

How terrifying was it for you, honestly? To write that first novel and send it in to the editor? (Kareena Oner)

Not as terrifying as being rejected over and over again and thinking I’ll never publish anything as long as I lived.  The second novel, in some ways, was scarier than the first.

Do you ever travel for references or inspiration when writing? (Charlotte Donaghue)

Not for writing inspiration per se, but just to refresh me as a person, change the oxygen in the fishtank.  To see something new, to clean my eyes, to wake my senses. All input, all life experience, is good for writing.  But travel is also disruptive if you’re working on a long project, it’s harder to keep that vision steady over long periods of time when you keep breaking it up to go traveling. I don’t write–at least not my novels–when I’m traveling, so it’s all time off.

When you walk into a bookstore, do you look for your book on the shelves and then grin hugely at the sight of it? (Aea Varfis-van Warmelo)

Absolutely. Worse is when it’s not there.  Which is what usually happens if you’re looking for it.  Like a kick in the stomach.  You learn not to look.

If you don’t find it do you tell the owner about the “great new book that came out” and that they need to get? (Aea Varfis-van Warmelo)

No–you slink out of the store feeling like slime.

After you’ve found it do you stand there and tell every single person that crosses your path “That’s my book!” and force them to buy it? (Aea Varfis-van Warmelo)

No–though sometimes you turn it face outwards.  Or you might bring it to the counter and sign the copies for the store.

Do your friends get bored when you talk to them about your writing? (Aea Varfis-van Warmelo)

No, I mostly talk to other writers about my writing, and spare my other friends.

Do you hate your friends that get bored when you talk to them about your writing? (Aea Varfis-van Warmelo)

This is why I only talk to other writers about my writing.  If civilians ask, I just give a very brief summary. It’s like someone asks you “how’re you doing?” they don’t want a blow by blow of all the problems in your life and what you ate yesterday.

Were you encouraged? (Sam, King of Fiction)

No. Nobody cares whether you write or not.

Do you take breaks while writing or do you write for a block of time and rest when you are done? (Julliah Randolph)

I take a lot of breaks when it’s not going well.  I work like the demon when it’s moving.

If you do take breaks, what do you do? (Julliah Randolph)

Look in the fridge. Read a bit of someone else’s book.  Check email.  Make some more coffee. If it’s going really badly, I might even take a nap.

What is the best thing to do when you get a new story idea? (Zara Olympia)

Write a short short.

If you have reached the ending of the story you’re writing, but you don’t know how to end it, what do you do?

I keep trying different things until I get the one that feels right.

Do you ever feel bad if you kill off a character? Do you give them a funeral? (Zara Olympia)

Of course I feel bad, if I liked them.  I only give them a funeral if it’s important to the story.

Do you like Star Trek, if so who do you like better Kirk or Picard? Sorry, had to slip in the nerd question. (Cassy Blue)

Picard. WAY Picard.

Do you think writing YA fiction is like being in high school again, but you can control it? (Cassy Blue)

Hmm.  Not sure.  With YA fiction, you can take things to their logical conclusion.  In high school you tried not to.

How much research goes into your stories? (Cassy Blue)

I research after I write to make sure I got it right and pick up details.

Which genre are you best with? Which is the easiest to blend in and create a story with? (For me it’s fantasy.) (The Real Tibor Haskett)

Literary fiction.

When you write a character, do you put a little bit of yourself into them? (Cassy Blue)

More than a little, but only certain aspects of myself.

Do you prefer editing a chapter after it’s been finished or waiting for the whole story to be done first? (Jaxx Capta)

No, I edit every day, I start working in the morning by rewriting what I wrote the day before. So, I may have edited the same piece ten or twenty times before I get to the end, and then I start over–maybe 3 complete drafts.

How many books do you read per week? Do you know your librarians well? (Cassy Blue)

One, usually, but often I have more than one going at a time.  And yes, I know the librarians very well.  I was even an LA City Library Commissioner for a time.  My whole family are library nuts.

How do you get agents for your books you actually want to publish? (Maria L. Henderson)

This is a long process. The best piece ever written on the subject is in Poet’s and Writer’s book The Practical Writer.

Do you think that your writings represent you as a person? If I am not a very efficient speller then should I just use easier words? I have trouble finishing books- any advice? (Amy Rose Azeltine)

My writing is the inner me.  If you’re a bad speller, challenge yourself.  Trouble finishing books? Meaning writing them or reading them?  If it’s the latter, get some librarian help in finding books you may like better.  If it’s the former, maybe try short stories instead.

What do you think of e-books? (Jullia Randolph)

I think they’re the future, but I don’t use them yet because I want to buy all my books from my local independent bookstore.  When I can buy e-books from my fantastic local bookstore, then I might consider it.

What do you do when your characters don’t do what you want them to? I don’t mean writers block, but like if your character is supposed to run away, but you know s/he would never do something like that, but it’s essential to the story. It would change the character and be an OOC move for them, but it has to be done and your character is already established with a personality and if you change that, it changes the whole book. (LilyFire)

OOC–don’t we all do things that are out of character for ourselves from time to time?  If it’s essential to your story that you have a character that has to run away, you have to create a character who will do that, under pressure.  Under certain circumstances.  I would never kill anyone, for example. But put me in a war, with training and a gun in my hands, I guess I would.  Put me in a scary situation, armed, and I might do just that.  It’s about the pressure you put them under.

What do you do when your editor wants you to completely turn the story around? (Joshua LF Mitchell)

My editor is personally someone I trust a great deal and respect and admire. If he felt I needed to completely turn the story around, I’d think long and hard about it.


Young Writers Get Answers About Writing

Posted in The Literateria with tags , , , on 07/18/2011 by Janet Fitch

For the month of July, I’m doing a  guest spot on Figment, a website for young writers, answering a slew of questions–I was only supposed to pick one, but all of them dealt with interesting issues, so I tried to answer them all. This week, the questions centered on technical issues, such as character development and orchestration and how much information to reveal, how to handle landscape–I was impressed!

Here’s the whole post:

When you develop a character, do you prefer to have it all planned out or have the basics down and discover more about the character along the way? For example, do you make the character react to situations based on what you have decided on the character, or do you have the character react however and that now becomes what the character is like? (Annie)

The latter.  I never have much planned out when I start writing, I learn about the people as I go along. I usually start with a character or a situation that has some energy to it–that works like a spring or an engine.  You wind it up and let it go. In the case of Paint it Black, I started with a character and a situation, a girl whose boyfriend has committed suicide, and whose mother blames her for the death.  In the case of White Oleander, I started with the character of Ingrid Magnussen, a very particular person I knew would cause a lot of problems for herself and the people around her.  Then I discover more about them as the story unfolds.

But sometimes you have to adjust the characters–because sometimes they have to things you need them to do for the sake of the story, so that they can hold their place, dramatically.  For instance,  in Paint it Black, Josie Tyrell began as a much quieter, more vulnerable character, but it just felt wrong, more wrong as time went on–and she wasn’t able to stand up to Michael’s mother.  She just collapsed. I needed her to be stronger so she could hold own better.

Often I write for a while and find I’ve exhausted what I know about the person, then I go back and ask myself a number of questions about them, their lives, their families, their dreams, their quirks.  Physical details, like illnesses in childhood, scars, colorblindness, allergies… Psychological details, like phobias and favorite classes in high school, hobbies and books and politics, their sexuality, … and sociological details like the kinds of families they come from, their work, and what kind of workers they are, if theyr’e clean or messy, things like that.

I’ll even sometimes have a conversation with the character and ask them questions about themselves.  ”Why do you hate Jenny?”  ”What was your worst birthday?”  I’m nutty enough that I really believe they talk to me.  For instance, in White Oleander, I couldn’t figure out what Astrid’s problem was. I could see through her eyes, but I couldn’t see her.  I talked to her and asked her what her problem was… we sat on a park bench together, and she put her head in my lap and said, “Janet, I am so lonely.”

My characters are more real to me than a lot of the people I know.

How do you know how much information to give the reader to make him/her think but not enough to make him/her bored? I enjoy books where the author gives little clues or foreshadowing, forcing me to figure things out, yet when I try this in my writing, most of my readers tell me I need to add more detail. Where is the line between a poor reader and a great writer? (Erin McLaughlin)

This is a matter of taste, and i don’t mean that lightly–I mean as a writer you have to develop a sense of taste.  You want to give people enough information that they can understand what’s happening in the scene, but only that much. You want them to lean forward, so to speak, to catch the next clue. It’s like the person who sits next to you on the plane and starts telling you his life story. It’s interesting for the first five minutes, and then you want to know less… and less… and less, until you put on your headphones and pretend you’re asleep.

On the other hand, I hate the purposeful withholding of details, usually for the sake of a “big” reveal. It’s a terrible idea–because in holding back that one detail, you often stopper up your own imagination.

In general, if your readers ask for more detail, that’s a good clue. Sometimes we go overboard in trying to be subtle… every writer’s different this way.

Sentence and word variation is generally considered desirable if not downright esential for a good story/poem. On the other hand, many good stories contain motifs or other recurring images or words that pop up throughout the story. How do you include meaningful themes and motifs in your stories without compromising it’s pace through repetition? (Meredith Hilton)

Good, interesting sentences and use of motifs don’t necessarily slow anything down.  What I, as a reader, love best is the double pleasure–of wanting to race forward to know what HAPPENS and also wanting to linger and reread that sentence again because it was so glorious.  That creates a tension that’s the most delicious reading of all.  Repetition–again, it’s a matter of taste, and I mean the writer has to develop a sense of taste, when too much is too much.

What genre do you think is best to write when you are in a silly mood? (As in, feeling like painting your face green, wearing a yellow suit and going crazy.) (Violet 11)

I’d probably go for a fairy tale.

Do you think it makes a writing more interesting to combine styles and genres within characters/books? (Emma A.)

I don’t mind genre-bending, but all good writing is interesting, I don’t think genre-bending makes anything more or less interesting, just different.

What different genres have you played with in the past? Are there any genres that you would like to explore in future stories? (Jordan the Boa)

I’ve written screenplay, I stink.  Generally, I write long fiction, but also short short stories  like the ones in my blog, and poetry.  I don’t write drama but I always think of my stories in terms of drama, in terms of scene.  I’ve done a few sci fi stories, fantasy… I’m pretty happy with that assortment.

In your opinion, is it possible to hook people in with a dark writing style, or do you think this scares too many people off? (Maekir Vilemist)

I always write in a dark style, except in short fiction.  I think the trick is, to have a little humor in there too, so people have a moment to breathe out–so there’s some dimension, or what painters call ‘chiaroscuro’, which means light and dark. But scaring people off… what people?  Not everyone likes chocolate either. The important thing is to make a chocolate bar that people who like chocolate will adore.

What style of writing is best; third person, second person, or first person? (Zara Olympia)

It depends–third person lets you look around more. First person brings you in close, feels very immediate. Third is more sophisticated. First is more urgent. Second is sort of a novelty item.  I wrote White Oleander in first because the character had a  fine vocabulary from her poet mother. I wrote Paint it Black in third because, although Josie Tyrell was a bright and observant thinker, she was also a high school dropout, and her vocabulary wouldn’t have been able to express the interesting thoughts she had.

Where do you get most of your ideas? Like do you visit certain places and get inspired? Or was it other writers? (Ariel G. Martinez)

Out of the blue.  It was like people asked Chekhov what he was going to write next. He picked up an ashtray and said…”Hmm, maybe I’ll write about this.”  YOur stories are inside you. Start anywhere. On my blog, I use an exercise called The Word as a basis for my short shorts. Most of my writing has come out of one of these exercises.  Sometimes I”ll write from a photograph or a piece of music… but the ideas are inside–the exercises are just a way to get to them.

Throughout all of your adventures, while wearig a cape and the such, how do you find what you want to write in the time you have to do it? (including inspirations, incentives, etc.) (Roberta Shapiro)

The thing that’s funny is that a writer’s life is actually pretty quiet.  I sit down and work every day, it’s just what I do.

How do you like to describe the setting? A giant description of it is kind of boring, so would you kind of sprinkle some details in when they seem fit and slowly develop it like that? (Annie)

Yes, exactly. You sprinkle it in. Think of the landscape as a spell you’re casting, a spell that starts to dissolve as soon as you you cast it. So you have to keep creating it, keeping it vivid and in front of the reader. you have to find various ways to describe the same things, or other details about the same landscape, to keep that spell going. Great question.

Have you ever worked with poetry? And if so, do you prefer more descriptive and showy poetry or basic clear language in poetry? (Annie)

Yes, I always work with poetry.  As a reader–my favorite poets are Dylan Thomas, TS Eliot, Anne Sexton, but I love Anne Carson (Beauty of the Husband) , Carl Sandberg (The People Yes), Allen Ginsberg (Howl), Joseph Brodsky (To Urania), Diane Wakoski (The King of Spain), Howard Nemerov, James Merrill, Blaise Cendrars…

How do you create your characters? Do you people watch? Are they inspired by the looks/personalities of the people around you? (Tori Scott)

Usually my characters are like people in a dream–they’re all pieces of myself.  I’m working something out by setting them loose in interaction with each other.  But I use the looks and personalities of people I know for the forms they take, gestures and way of speaking, often I find pictures of people who remind me of–that’s what Michael looks like, and that’s Ingrid.

If you had/have children would you/do you alter your writing style to something they would read? (Tori Scott)

I do have a daughter.  And no, I would not alter my writing style. This is who I am.  I need to say what I need to say.

Do you have any tips for writing a good action scene? Also, what are some things that should be avoided when writing an action scene? (Dashiell Graci)

Not too much interiority in an action scene.  People think when their hands are less full.  Also, an action scene is still a scene–something has to happen, where the character can’t ever go back to the way things were before.

What are your thoughts on writing scenes that interest you most at the time, instead of in chronological order? (I mean skipping over less important scenes and then coming back to them.) (Krista Ogilvie)

I do that all the time.  I think its brilliant. Often you find you don’t need the other things at all.  You don’t have to have the character wake up in the morning, the reader can figure that for himself.

Do you write daily and, if so, how do you keep it up? (Alex Loomis)

I do, even if it’s just 15 minutes, to keep it alive. I do it because I have a hunger to express myself.  I do it because I love the puzzle of it.  Because I’m compulsive.

What do you generally think of stream-of-conciousness stories? What tips do you have for those who write them? (Meredith Hilton)

I love them.  the tip is–the more interesting the mind, the better, the more memories, the more variety of thought.

Which genre do you think is most likely the easiest to write? (Regie Lavon)

Depends on the writer. I find the short short story easiest, also bad poetry.

First of all, I absolutely adore both White Oleander and Paint it Black! *Ahem* Anyway, now that I’ve got that out of my system. One thing I’ve noticed when reading both books is that there doesn’t seem to be an antagonist, of course there’s someone who is the root of the problem but there isn’t an outright enemy. Is this intentional or does it just sort of happen that way? (Charlotte Donaghue)

The thing to remember is that nobody’s a villain to themselves. We all have reasons from our own point of view. Be fair to your villains and you’ll have a really interesting story, because sometimes your protagonist will see their point of view.  Just before they attack.

What inspires you to write your stories? (Aly Lovegood Harris)

The greatness of other writers.

What specifically made you want to become a writer? When did you first start taking an interest? And what would/do you do outside of writing? (Michel Momeyer)

I’ve been a lifelong reader, but I didn’t decide to be a writer until I was 21.  But I lived more in my books than I lived in my life, and my sense of what was “real” was never very firm.  Outside of writing, I read, I love a great intellectual conversation, I love to travel, I love printmaking and graphic arts, collage, artists books.  I’m always interested in people.  For work, I’ve done a lot of publishing related jobs, and jobs in the graphic arts.  I’ve been a manpower temp, I’ve done a lot of journalism.

Do you have any tips to help us writers? (Zina)

Sure. I didn’t come to writing knowing what I was doing. I had to learn almost everything. I try to help other writers so it won’t take them as long as it took me.

What made you want to write the kind of books you do? (Zina)

Reading. Some of the greatest pleasures of my life have been lying there on the couch reading something so vivid and emotional and real, my real life just disappears.

When did you discover your love of writing? (Zina)

I learned to read when I was four.  I guess you could say that’s when I started.

How did you emotionally handle the idea of another author adapting your work for film? Several people have expressed interest in adapting my work for the screen, but I have grave concerns for how it will be interpreted. (Arianna Sexton-Hughes)

Once your work is written, nobody can change that.  So it’s not like they can really screw anything up.  I look at a movie as being another person’s work of art–based on something I’ve written, but it doesn’t have to be the same. It just has to hold together on its own terms.

What are some of your most uncanny inspirations? (Holly Blackwood)

It’s all sort of uncanny. That you can, say with The Word exercises, take a word like CANE, think about it, and then end up with an entire little world.

Where are your favorite places to write? (Holly Blackwood)

I write at home normally. If I’m stuck I’ll take my computer to a coffee house where there’s no INTERNET!!

In general, what advice would you give to teenage writers (if you could travel back in time, what would you tell yourself)? (Holly Blackwood)

/I would say, write a LOT.  And don’t imitate movies or TV.  I would say, read great books. If you know all the words in a book you’re reading, if you don’t have to look up anything, you’re reading books that are too easy for you.  You should come across at least one unfamiliar word every few pages.

How do you know when your manuscript is done? Not simply finished, but edited and revised? (Erin McLaughlin)

That’s a great question.  When you change things and change them back, you’re done.  When you change things and they’re no better, just different, you’re done.  When you’ve let a couple of people you really trust and respect read the work and listen to their critique and do the edits, then you’re done.

In your opinion is it more important to be a very good dialogue writer or a description writer? They are both key elements to a story but which should be stronger? (Ali Renee)

Have to do both.  Which is more important, your left leg or your right?

Do you ever think back after a book is published and think about what you might have changed? (Holly Blackwood)

Mostly sentences, rather than scenes.  When I read my books in public, I always edit them.

Taco shells: hard or soft?
^this is a ligit question, as I’m asking which INSPIRES you to write more? See how it all fits in? xD (thefrankie)

Soft.  Flour.

What do you think are the most important qualities a writer should develop and why? (The Oak Tree)


Do you do this completely organized version of writing a book with a whole plot diagram, or is it more spontaneous? (The Oak Tree)

Spontaneous. Though when I’m rewriting, I sometimes diagram to get more a grip on the proportions of what I’ve done.

Do you think it’s easier to write short stories or novels? (Holly Blackwood)

Different for different people. I’m a novelist who sometimes writes short stories. I know people who are short story writers who sometimes write novels.  Gene Kelly was a pretty good singer for a dancer.

Have you ever been discouraged about writing and wanted to quit? If so, what do you do to get past that? (Kayla M.)

No.  I get discouraged but quitting was never in the cards.

Do you ever have a specific type of music you have to listen to when writing or thinking of an idea? It seems rather hilarious, but I find myself listening to Selena Gomez. I find it helps me think of the most interesting ideas! I’d love to know what you prefer! Is it Classical, Rock, Pop, just wondering! :) (Pooja Kini)

I listen to things that pertain to what I’m writing. Right now I’m listening to Russians reading poetry in Russian, just for the sound of it. Sometimes Russian men’s choruses.  In Paint It Black, I listened to some very sad songs, because sometimes I was in a cheery mood and had to write a very sad scene!