In honor of National Novel Writing Month, the folks at Webucator have asked me to respond to a few questions about writing. Although I don't participate in NaNoWriMo (November is a terrible month for me to try squeeze in extra writing time!), I thought it would be fun to answer their questions. You can read the interview below:
What were your goals when you started writing? I can't remember not writing. From the time I was old enough to read, I wrote vignettes, observations about life, snippets of overheard dialogue that intrigued me, and short stories. I wrote plays with parts for all of my stuffed animals. In the beginning, I think my primary desire was to give voice to the ideas that captured my imagination. As I grew older, my goals shifted to writing something important that people would read and remember. In high school, I became aware that words matter, that a good writer could sway opinions and touch people's emotions.
What are your goals now? My goals really changed when I became a young adult. As an undergraduate, I was an English major, and the work I read inspired me to think about writing short stories. I began submitting my work for publication in my early twenties, where I encountered a lot of rejection. But I did publish two pieces early on, an op-ed piece and a short story, and that motivated me to keep going. Later, I started work on a novel, which generated some interest from a publisher, but I never finished the book, and the project was dropped. After that, I concentrated on writing shorter pieces and have since published over 50 short stories, essays, and poems. My goals now are more evolved and complex. My debut novel, Blood of a Stone, is forthcoming from Tuscany Press in January 2015. Downloads of an Advanced Reading Copy of my novel are currently available to registered members of NetGalley for review. For years, my primary goal was to publish a novel. Now I'm working on a new novel, as well as a collection of short stories. I'm also actively pursuing awards and fellowships.
What pays the bills now? My writing has never paid the bills, but my income from writing has continued to grow and is a nice supplement to our household income. Alas, art is not highly valued in today's society, so few authors actually earn a living income from their writing. I'm fortunate to have a supportive partner who has paid the bulk of our bills while I pursued my passion. In addition to my writing, I also work part-time as a creative writing instructor and as a freelance editor.
Assuming writing doesn't pay the bills, what motivates you to keep writing? It's really about the writing, isn't it? Fame and fortune can be fleeting, but the joy of creating something imaginative and wonderful can carry you forever. I write because I love what I do. I love making the words dance on the page. I love creating interesting characters with complicated lives. My readers motivate me, too. Just last week, I received a lovely email from someone who had read my flash memoir, "My Mother's Hands," in Run to the Roundhouse, Nellie. I walked on a cloud for days. It's truly humbling to discover that your stories have touched someone and made a difference.
And optionally, what advice would you give young authors hoping to make a career out of writing? Read. Read everything in the genre you like to write and read outside of your genre. Read the classics. Read National Book Award winners, the stories in Best American Short Stories, or the essays in Best American Essays. Immerse yourself in good writing and good literature. You will learn much via osmosis. And write, write, write. Keep a journal. Write short stories, essays, poems, novels. Experiment with form and craft. Study the writers you admire and take notes: How does this one write dialogue that sounds so natural? How does that writer use metaphor and description to bring the setting to life? If you have a passion for writing, nothing will stop you from continuing to write. If you want to make a career out of writing, you need to apply the theory of P's: Practice. Persistence. Patience. Professionalism. The career will follow.