Blog Tour: Author, Sybil Baker

The Life Plan‘s author, Sybil Baker, joins us today on Writers Inspired to share her writing processes, experience with a small press and her history with Virginia Tech.

rockpointreadingbakerSybil Baker spent twelve years teaching in South Korea prior to accepting a position as an assistant professor of English at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga after earning her MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. During her extensive travels throughout Asia, she became increasingly interested in the allure and alienation of American travelers and expatriates, and this has heavily influenced her writing. Her novel The Life Plan was recently published by Casperian Books. Her fiction has appeared most recently in upstreet, and the anthologies And Now for a Story (Casperian Books) and Motif: Writing by Ear (MotesBooks). Her essays have recently appeared in Alehouse, Segue, A Woman’s World Again (Traveler’s Tales. In 2005, she won the Grand Prize in Seoul’s essay contest. Her essay on American expatriate literature appeared in AWP’s The Writer’s Chronicle in September 2005.


Enjoy this interview on the novel writing process and be sure to check out the very cool book trailer at the end.

Sybil will be answering your questions all day, today, Friday April 3 – so don’t be shy!

Interview by: Mary Jo Campbell


Sybil, thank you for stopping at Writers Inspired today on your book blog tour, promoting your new novel: The Life Plan.


We hope you can share some of your novel writing and publishing and marketing experiences with us.

MJC: I see from your blog and website, that you’ve been writing both fiction and non-fiction for some time.  Have you written and/or submitted previous novel drafts for publication, before The Life Plan?

SB: I submitted earlier drafts of The Life Plan to a few agents when I was living in Korea, and while I had some positive response I didn’t find an agent who was interested enough to take me on. When I moved back to the States, I thought I’d try small presses before querying agents again, and I was fortunate that Casperian wanted to publish the book. I also wrote a novel more than 15 years ago that I sent out to a few places back then—it was very different than this novel—much darker and more “literary.” Again, that novel had interest from a few places but not enough to pursue publishing. While I was living in Korea, I wrote regularly but did not submit my work for years because of the time and expense. Now that so many places take electronic submission I expect it’s easier to submit internationally, but when I lived there I had to use snail mail, purchase International Reply Coupons for return postage, and pay a lot for postage—so I spent most of my time writing instead of submitting.

MJC: Your world travels obviously influence your fiction, but can you tell us how globe-trotting helps you market yourself as an author?


SB: First, I have friends and family who live all over the world—from Italy to Afghanistan, so I have a built-in international network to promote my book. For example, in May we’re visiting family in South Africa (where my husband is from) and my mother in law is planning several parties and promotional events for my novel.


Second, as evidenced by the success of Eat, Pray, Love, I think women’s global fiction and nonfiction is gaining in popularity. My experiences living and traveling abroad have allowed me to join that niche market and help me market myself as a global fiction writer.

MJC: Do you have a regular writing schedule? Give us an example of “a day in the life of Sybil,” while writing The Life Plan. Are you a fan of outlining your fiction or just starting with an idea and seeing where it takes you?

SB: When I started The Life Plan in fall 2004 I was also working on a short story collection, and so for about nine   months I alternated between the two projects. I wrote the first draft of the novel and its revisions when I was teaching at a university in Seoul.

I usually set long-term goals and then break those down in to weekly or daily goals. So for example, I may decide to develop an outline or draft in the summer, then break that down in to shorter daily or weekly goals. During my semester breaks I’m able to work longer hours and so can increase my weekly or daily writing goals.

When I’m in full writing mode and have a complete day to myself, I usually wake up, make coffee, check email, check the news, then spend mid to late morning writing. Then I’ll go for a run, do some yoga, and write more in the afternoon. If I’m teaching or have other things going on, I try to squeeze in a few hours in the morning or evening.


I’ve become a believer in some kind of outlining or plotting before writing the first draft. Outlines are like a map to help you stay on course—of course you have the power to throw the map away or take a different road, depending on what is happening in the novel.

MJC: As writers, we tackle the sensitive topics, hoping to bring a universal truth and understanding to our readers.  I read that you are a graduate of Virginia Tech.  Do you think you would ever write about the horrific shootings that happened there either from a fiction or non-fiction view?

SB: It’s strange because not only did I graduate from Virginia Tech, but as a freshman I lived in the dorm where two of the shootings took place. Cho Seung Hui was a Korean American who grew up just a few miles where I did in Northern Virginia. I was living in Seoul at the time and the Koreans were horrified at what had happened—they were sure Americans would hate all Koreans after that.

I hadn’t thought about writing about it since I’m one of many graduates, but now that you mention it, I should write an essay about it as I’m connected to what happened in so many different ways.

MJC: What’s next for Sybil Baker? Any appearances, links or promos you’d like us to know about?

SB: After this blog tour I’ll be in South Africa for a month then will be back in the States—I’m planning on reading this summer at any place or anyone that will have me, and I’d love to work with any book club that is interested in the novel. If the book club is within driving distance, I’ll make a personal appearance; otherwise, I’ll be happy to appear via Skype. There’s a book club page on my website for any groups who are interested. And please check my blog or Facebook for updates on readings and blog visits.

Here are my links:


For book clubs:

My blog:


Book trailer:

Thanks so much for having me!


Filed under Advice, Author Interviews, books, characters, Fiction, Get Published, Inspiration, Novels, Perseverance

13 responses to “Blog Tour: Author, Sybil Baker

  1. Thanks Mary Jo for having me!

  2. Liz

    Thanks for a great interview, Mary Jo! After graduating from college, I spent three years living and teaching in Japan, so I’m very intrigued by your book, Sybil. Much of my writing, both fiction and essays, comes out of that experience. What made you decide to seek an MFA program? How did you select the program at Vermont College? I look forward to reading your book!

  3. Joanna


    I look forward to reading your book. I love anything international. On that note, I’m curious what your take on the women’s travel memoir niche is and whether/how that’s changed (if it has). Travel writing is popular but also difficult to get published because it’s such a popular genre. Or so it seems.

  4. Thanks for the interview. It sure makes me glad for electronic submissions!
    I just read “Almost French”, about an Austrailian journalist living in France and the adjustment of that whole experience. And of course Eat, Pray, Love. I felt like each chapter written was almost like a mini adventure, that was then weaved into one. Was that your process? And how did you choose which ones to write about?
    The book sounds very fascinating.
    Thank you!

  5. Julie S

    Sybil–I can’t wait to read your book. Although I lived in Okinawa for three years, I never made it to Thailand. However, lots of my friends did. I look forward to introducing this to the book club I am leading, as well as the one I hope to find after we relocate this summer.

    Thanks for the informative interview!

  6. Raven

    Thank you for this opportunity. Could you tell me, please, how you handle distractions? I have all of the time in the world to write now, and I begin every day as you describe, but then, I quickly become distracted by the net, by new recipes to be tried, by errands, by almost anything. I’ve never kept to my own schedule before. Any suggestions? Thanks.

  7. Thanks everyone for your comments!
    Liz–I decided to go for an MFA when I was in Korea and felt I needed more constructive feedback on my work. I was feeling isolated from a writing community and wanted to get back in that. I loved Vermont College’s program–it’s a low residency program so I could stay in Korea and go to Vermont twice a year for the residency. Please email me or put up a post on Amazon after you read the book–would love to hear from you!

  8. Joanna–thanks for writing !

    I think the topic chose me rather than the other way around. Since I lived abroad for 12 years, that’s the only experience I have to draw on.

    I think that women and travel is a growing area, that is becoming more popular instead of less. It may be hard to get published in that area if you write what everyone else has already written (e.g. your holiday in Venice), but if you put a new spin on a place, then you have a chance of getting published.

    I think EAT, PRAY, LOVE has opened the women’s travel memoir field up by combining travel with self help/fulfillment. It will be interesting to see if that book was a “one off” or that other memoirs of that type will also be successful.

    Thanks Joanna–hope you enjoy the book!

  9. Dear Luci,

    I’ve never read “Almost French” but will have to add that to my list of books to read this summer. I agree that Eat, Pray, Love was written with small arcs within each chapter and one big arc, much like a novel, which I suspect is one reason it was so successful.

    I wanted to write about Thailand because it’s such a wonderful country and is considered “exotic” to a lot of Americans. While I loved living in S. Korea, it doesn’t have the same allure to Westerners. Thailand I figured was a great place for adventures, so I pretty much just plopped my character in Bangkok and then set up adventures/obstacles for her along the way.

    If you read the book, please email me and let me know your thoughts!

  10. Julie,

    One of my best friends lived in Okinawa for almost five and just moved about a year ago, and I was never able to make it there–I suspect that would be a fun place to set the book.

    I think The Life Plan makes a great book club book–a pretty fast read with lots of topics/questions. I’ll be happy to visit your book club via Skype if you want or answer any questions they have by email or “live.”

    Please keep in touch with me and we can work out some giveaways for you book club as well.

    Cheers, Sybil

  11. Hi Raven,

    I just wrote a post the other day on this topic (see

    My biggest advice is to unplug/turn off the internet. You have to physically do it. Then set goals and rewards. Let’s say you can’t run your errand until you’ve written 200 words. Make writing your priority–do it first thing, make your goals, then allow yourself the reward of a recipe or doing errands. Good luck!

  12. Pingback: UTC Creative Writing Professor Gets Published, Does Blog Tour : The Loop

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