Tag Archives: Author Interviews

Tuesdays with…Mari L. McCarthy: JOURNALING


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Journal: Write: Reflect

By Mari L. McCarthy

If the world seems to be off its rocker, your friends turn on you, everybody’s pressuring you, and your mother is obviously out to ruin your life, it’s time you took up journaling.

Keeping a journal is like having a secret garden or hideaway that is always available to you. You can go there anytime, and you always come back from there with a better grip on life.

It seems like a simple thing, and it is. You just get hold of a small notebook and keep a pen with it, and have it always in your purse or back pocket. Whip it out at the mall, on the bus, between classes, at the basketball game, in the middle of the night. Make note. Observe. Reflect. Notice what you notice.

Or you can do it more formally, of course, with a nice big notebook, a selection of pens by your cozy chair at home, and an ingrained daily habit of writing every evening at 9. Whatever works. Whatever system best encourages you to reflect on your experiences and articulate your reflections.

The more you become accustomed to reflecting like this, the more you appreciate the enormity of your awareness, and the infinite number of possibilities that are open to you.

Here are a few ideas to write about, just to kickstart your practice.

  • Write about what makes your best friend special to you.
  • Recollect the best vacation you ever took. 
  • Describe your immediate family and what makes each person unique. 
  • Write about your proudest accomplishment. 
  • Describe your favorite activity or sport to do in your spare time.


Or try this: make a scrapbook snapshot. Create a mini time capsule of your life by filling a page or two with photos, magazine cutouts, drawings and writing about what you love at the moment. Include your favorite foods, books, toys, movies, hobbies, songs, hangouts and friends, and go into detail about why you like these things.

Another idea: think back to a time when you were younger. Doesn’t matter how much younger, just some event that occurred when you were appreciably less experienced than you are now. What would it be like to have a conversation with your younger self? What would you say as encouragement? How would your younger self view the person that you are now?

I love coming up with prompts for journaling, but the soul of journaling is You and Your practice and Your understanding and joy. Interacting in a friendly way with your experiences, especially your younger self, can turn up a ton of good stuff, including making you feel happier and more confident in the here and now.

Mari L. McCarthy

By Mari L. McCarthy – The Journaling Therapy Specialist, founder of Journaling for the Health of It™.  Please visit Mari’s blog at http://www.createwritenow.com/journal-writing-blog/. In 27 Days of Journaling to Health and Happiness (http://www.createwritenow.com/peace-of-mind-and-body—27-days-of-journaling-to-health–happiness/), Mari walks you through an easy process for accessing your natural inner strengths. Mari’s latest publication is titled, Who Are You? How to Use Journaling Therapy to Know and Grow Your Life. See http://www.createwritenow.com/journaling-therapy-ebook/ for details.

 *For a chance to win a FREE copy of the ebook 27 Days of Journaling to Health and Happiness, leave a comment under this post before MIDNIGHT. Winner will be randomly selected and announced Wednesday, May 18


Filed under Advice, Author Interviews, books, Give Aways

Author Interview & Book Giveaway: Joe Dungan

Joe Dungan

Joe Dungan has run into some characters in his travels, especially while living in L.A. So “nutty” are these characters, they inspired an entire book of humorous essays. Welcome Joe as he shares his method of madness and even some quips when he’s wearing his “editor’s hat.”

A native of Los Angeles, Joe Dungan has been a writer and editor for over a decade. He has written articles for publications including Games, Written By, and SkyWest Magazine. He’s acted in a number of really good plays, including “Critic’s Pick” honors from Backstage West for the one-man show White Whine with Roman Blanco, and has done improv comedy all over town. He also directed a short film that won an award at a film festival and co-wrote a feature film that didn’t.

L.A. Nuts began as a regular column for thesimon.com before being reedited and published in trade paperback. It is his first book.

He lives in the San Fernando Valley, but talks about moving elsewhere someday.

Win this book!

Leave a comment or question to be entered in the giveaway of L.A Nuts. (US addresses only, pls!)


Interview by : Mary Jo Campbell

  • Tell us about your writing background: when did you realize your sense of humor could lend to a career in writing? Do you follow a certain process for creating and developing your humor essays?


I think I was in college when I started to take the idea of a writing career seriously. But it’s been hell trying to get other people to take it seriously. In an attempt to bang down the door of the entertainment industry, I’ve written a number of scripts for film and TV. Hasn’t worked. Maybe I haven’t tried hard enough, maybe I don’t know the right people, or maybe my earlier works weren’t that good. But L.A. Nuts is actually in the hands of a few industry players at the moment.

As far as me having a career as a humorist, I’m all for it.

For creating an essay, either there is a premise that occurs to me, or I’ll just start out with something I heard, saw, or read and see where it takes me. Sometimes, I can form a point from that and back it up with similar examples or at least explain the circumstances around it. Sometimes I can’t. There were a number of L.A. Nuts essays that I started that never went anywhere. I don’t know how true that kind of wheel-spinning is for other writers, but it’s true for me.

  • L.A. Nuts proves you’ve come across some weird and wild characters in your life. Give us a typical day in the life of Joe Dungan – do you run in to these “nuts” or deliberately put yourself in situations that may result in hilarious conversations?


I kind of just run into them. There have been instances of me following someone or waiting for someone, but by and large, all I have to do is show up in life and they seek me out. I think part of it is because of my capacity for listening to people prattle away, no matter how inane or absurd they are. I’m sure eccentrics go around trying to indulge people in conversations all the time, but most people walk away.

I do believe that on a subconscious level, though, we do seek out certain people and situations in a way that can’t possibly be an accident. But that’s a conversation for Wayne Dyer’s blog.

  • L.A. Nuts is a combination of multiple essays you’ve written. Had you placed any of these essays in other publications as stand alones, prior to collecting them in this book?


It all began as an email exchange with my neighbor. We’d traded complaints and observations about a guy in our building—whom I’ve named Clyde Langtry in the book—whose monologues about UFOs and conspiracies were too rich to be believed. After my neighbor’s encouragement, I started a blog. Then the editors of thesimon.com contacted me. I’d written essays for them before, and they said they thought this would make a great column. So I wrote the column for thesimon.com for two years. After that, I decided to reedit and resequence the essays for a book, along with a few original photos.

  • It’s impressive that your self-published book has won awards and received some big name reviews! What’s your secret?


Thank you. I just did the best I could with the book until I reached a point where I didn’t know how I could improve it anymore. Then I asked everyone I knew for a prepublication review. A lot of those names were people I’d met over the years at jobs, coffeehouses, etc. and stayed in touch with them. And some were people I’d never met. One of the most enormous mistakes you can make in life is not asking for stuff. You’ll either get what you want—or more—or people will say no. No one’s going to call the cops or beat you up for asking for something.

As for the awards, here is my secret: I entered.

I don’t mean to dismiss the question with a flippant answer, but in order to get solid quotes and win awards, I had to write for a long time. There are plenty of things I’ve written over the years that will never win awards, believe me.

It’s also worth noting that when I entered L.A. Nuts in contests and asked for reviews, I had absolutely no idea what the response would be. Same with the next thing I write. I’d hope it will do as well or better, but it might be crap. There’s no surefire formula for success. That’s why I’ve learned it’s important to do something you like. If it tanks, at least you’ve enjoyed yourself while you created it.

  • Besides being an author, you’re also an editor. What is your biggest pet peeve as an editor? Are there any writing taboos you’re willing to overlook (or help the author with) if the writing itself demonstrates talent?


I think my biggest pet peeve is when people half-ass their way through a piece of work and then show it off to everyone they can find, waiting for the praise to roll in. For example, I volunteered for an organization for years as a screenplay reader for their competitions. Most of the entries were downright terrible: boring stories and characters; rambling, pointless dialogue and scenes…. It was clear they didn’t get any feedback from anyone before they decided they could win a contest. Some even violated basic technical things that anyone can learn before they even start, like the wrong font, poor formatting, etc. I don’t mean to focus on screenwriting, but I’m sure that applies to other kinds of writing. If a person does something in a vacuum, then he risks mistaking his work for genius.

Ultimately, the more compelling or original a piece is, the more taboos a writer can break. I’d like to think that’s true for all editors and other gatekeepers in the publishing industry, but no writer can rely on that! So leaning on the answer to the previous question, make your work as good as possible before you show it to the world: Run it by other writers for honest opinions, do extensive rewrites, and trust your instincts regarding which notes to take and which ones not to take.

  • Tell us what’s next in your writing and promotion projects!

I don’t have anything coming up immediately, but I’m sticking my fingers in a number of things, including a serialized stage play and collaborating with a friend on another book, one that isn’t very copy-heavy. It might be a pretty quick thing to write. Above all, I doubt my next project will be like L.A. Nuts. A younger, different version of me wrote L.A. Nuts, and it took a lot out of me.

I also have this urge to perform again. I’ve permanently retired from acting twice now, but my brain keeps coming up with material that begs to be spoken, not written. As it is, I’ve done “semi-readings” where I read some from L.A. Nuts and perform original material not in the book. I’d like to take that to a more theatrical level.

As for promotion, same as before: anything I can think of! For instance, doing an interview on this blog and asking readers if they know ANYONE with a blog or podcast, or works at a TV show, radio show, or magazine who’d be interested in an interview with an engaging author. Or asking readers to become a fan of me and/or join the L.A. Nuts group page on Facebook.

Or asking readers to visit:

• the book’s site: http://www.lanutsbook.com/

• or its amazon page

• or the blog: lanuts.blogspot.com

• or http://www.amazon.com, http://www.shelfari.com or http://www.goodreads.com to write a review

Like I said, always ask.

So, ask away, or just leave a comment and you will be entered to win L.A. Nuts – deadline midnight CST, 9/27/10


OK, I’ll ask: Will you please SUBSCRIBE to this blog? You’ll be alerted via email every time a new post appears – giving you the advantage in giveaways ; )


Win this book!


Filed under Advice, Author Interviews, books, Give Aways

Author interview and DOUBLE book giveaway: Bob Yehling

Another treat for my readers, cause I love you all so! Today’s guest, Bob Yehling, will share his path of writing, teaching and publishing, as well as give away two books! One commenter will be randomly selected to win The Write Time: 366 Exercises to Fulfill Your Writing Life and another will win a copy of The Hummingbird Review.

So, sit back, grab a cuppa joe and a notepad to take down some juicy tidbits and enjoy the interview!

Bob Yehling

Bob Yehling is the author of eight books, including The Write Time: 366 Exercises to Fulfill Your Writing Life and Writes of Life: Using Personal Experiences in Everything You Write, which won the 2007 Independent Publishers Book Award. He teaches fiction, poetry and non-fiction writing workshops at colleges, universities and writers conferences throughout the country. He is also a book and magazine editor, author’s consultant, three-time Boston Marathon participant, a ghostwriter of five titles, and the author of Full Flight, Shades of Green, Coyotes in Broad Daylight and The River-Fed Stone. His novel, The Voice, will be published in 2011. Bob grew up in Carlsbad, CA, and was a writer for the Blade-Tribune (now North County Times) for six years in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.

The creative brainchild of bestselling author Luis Alberto Urrea and publisher Charlie Redner, the Hummingbird Review http://www.thehummingbirdreview.com) is America’s newest literary journal. It brings together some of the nation’s finest poetry, essays, short fiction and commentary. It features contributors known and unknown; the emphasis is on clarity of voice. The Hummingbird Review launches online shortly before each print issue. The Spring-Summer issue will be released in late May 2010.

Interview by Mary Jo Campbell:

1) Tell us about your writing background: when did you realize you wanted to be a writer? Any formal training/classes?

I’ve been writing stories since I was five years old. I attended elementary school during the 1960s, which was an incredibly imaginative and creative time – astronauts flying to the Moon, the psychedelic rock scene in San Francisco, schoolteachers who could teach us possibility and vision as well as subjects. I even had a social studies teacher who was a Disney animator for 20 years, and who would spend the last 15 minutes of each class drawing with us! It was the perfect environment for a kid like me, who wanted to create. I wrote stories of up to 100 pages all through grade school.

My formal training took place in the real world – and through reading voraciously, in all genres, from the time I was very young. In 1976, when I was 16, I was hired as a sportswriter by the Blade-Tribune (now North County Times) in Oceanside, CA. My editors, Bill Missett and Steve Scholfield, were true old-schoolers: get in and out of the story, get quotes, get two independent sources to verify every fact. Accuracy and unique angles meant everything to them. And making deadlines. I use that training every day. Also, they let me write for all sections of the paper, which enabled me to become a versatile writer.

After seven years at the paper, I moved into the magazine business, where I spent the next 15 years as a writer and editor of some great periodical and commemorative titles. One was NASA’s official 25th anniversary salute to Apollo 11, One Giant Leap for Mankind, which allowed me to work with all of living moonwalkers, who told me their stories of walking on another heavenly body. One, my late friend Pete Conrad, the Apollo 12 commander, the subject of the epochal Chapter 1 of Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff and class clown among that elite club (only 12 people walked on the moon), played catch with me – with a moon rock! I went right back to the being the little kid who wrote stories about flying in space. That was a great experience … but that’s what writing can afford us.

For the last 12 years, I’ve been a book author, editor, and writing workshop teacher. I get as much of a thrill in seeing someone connect to their deeper voice and rhythm as a writer and storyteller as I do in seeing my own books get into print. I think it is vital, especially now when education is in crisis, for professional writers to get into the classrooms (whether with children or adults) and uncork the magical genie that is the story-driven writer. Groups like Dave Eggers’ 8-2-6 Valencia, George Lucas’ Edutopia and Capitol City Young Writers are really good at this.

2) What a fun learning environment you had, Bob. Now, can you please describe your writing style and process: do you begin with a prompt? A character? A setting? Do you pre-write or outline before writing the first draft? Do you revise as you go, or get the whole rough draft completed, then go back for revisions?


I always mentally percolate the idea first. Then I journal it out. I use my journal as a chemistry lab, to figure out which combinations of settings and characters will work. Then I listen for whichever character wants to come through first, and write from that point of view. Once I’ve “warmed up” in that way, I storyboard my books – both fiction and non-fiction. I’m a visual writer, so it works to borrow that approach from the film world. With fiction, I just write the first draft, sinking deeply into the story and letting the characters tell it. With non-fiction, I outline fairly extensively, making sure the major points are down and in order, while leaving room for inspiration or ideas that will visit – especially anecdotes, the little true mini-stories that, I believe, are vital to the quality and success of any good non-fiction book.

As for my process, I do not look back once I start each day. I write for four or five hours, then touch up what I wrote. The next day, I repeat this process. I find it incredibly self-defeating to continually self-edit in the middle of a writing session. It’s like giving the inner censor license to kill – which it will. It will kill your creative process. But for me, it’s important to look over what I wrote after the day is complete. When a draft is done, I rewrite it once from scratch, then move into revision and polishing edits.

3) I think many of us can agree about the creative process being killed if we edit while writing. I’m guilty of that! Share with us the stages of your writing project: “The Write Time: 366 Writing Exercises to Fulfill Your Daily Writing Life.” Take us through the idea and planning, drafting and revising and, finally, the publishing and promoting stages.


I’m a fast writer, and very impatient, so it surprised both my friends and me that I would take 10 years to compile a book. The Write Time never started as a book idea. It started as writing exercises I cooked up for the workshops that I teach around the country. One day in 2007, I sat down and realized that there were more than 250 of these exercises, all created for workshops – and, more importantly, all field-tested by the workshop participants. They liked the story-telling aspect to the exercises and the content very much, so I thought, “Why not add 116 exercises and make a one-a-day book about it?” Those last 116 exercises were by far the hardest to write.

However, they finished off a writing exercise book that simply did not exist in the marketplace – one that moves through all genres, works for writers of all abilities, presents exercises as mini-stories, and promotes both technical excellence and creative versatility. That is how we will make it as writers in this day and age; the era of the one-subject or one-genre specialist is coming to an end.

As for all the goodies on each page, I’ve always loved inspirational quotes – so I used quotes from readings, workshops, presentations and discussions, as well as some classic comments from deceased authors and thinkers in the public domain. Everyone loves sun signs, so they’re included – in the Celtic and Native American traditions as well. And everyone loves birthdays, so my assistant, Melissa Jenkins, and I gathered the most extensive author birthday list that I know of among published books.

My publisher, Paul Burt of Pen & Publish, brought out The Write Time in conjunction with a young authors’ conference of the same name – The Write Time Teens ‘N Twenties Conference. What an honor to have a book of mine associated with a conference, especially one for young authors! Now, I’m teaching workshops and appearing at writers conferences, promoting the book, guest-teaching in classrooms, and getting this new batch of exercises to as many writers as possible. Promotion is happening both online and in print.

4) The book is wonderful! I’m a  fan of inspirational quotes, as well as the sun signs of other writers and you add these to offer a book brimming with inspiration and creativity! Speaking of finding inspiration, I’m intrigued by how other writers organize their space. Can you describe your work area for us?

Sure. It’s pretty simple: I have my computer, outline or notes, and music ready to go. Files are nearby, but I rarely access them when writing drafts; the material should be in my head and heart when I write for keeps. I’ll get to the files later, during fact-checking and revision stage. I’m surrounded by my library, a couple of my Boston Marathon medals, and meaningful photos and memorabilia. Plus a lot of plants and light.

5) What tips can you offer teachers trying to share the love of creative writing with their students?

Tip numbers 1 through 10: Let them read about and write about what interests them, even if it seems dark or objectionable to you.

Tip numbers 11 through 20: Guide them into all different literatures, genres, voices and styles of authors and poets – and encourage them to embrace what speaks to them.

Young people are inherently inquisitive, curious playful and creative; in my opinion, we strip that out of them with the rigid and linear educational process, then by the time they’re in high school, a few astute teachers re-discover these falling stars and try mightily to bring them back. However, if we let them read freely, and write freely, and teachers introduce them to all genres and all forms of the genre – for example, all forms of contemporary poetry, like the works of the great Joy Harjo, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Taylor Mali, haiku master Don Eulert or the exquisite San Diego-based young poet Maggi DeRosa, and not just dead Romantic Era poets– then they will not only do better with the required course work, but will emerge with a lifelong love of learning. And writing. It’s the greatest gift we can offer kids. I know. Many of my schoolteachers did that for me – and they still hear my thanks when I talk with them on Facebook.

Sometimes, I find it best to tell kids about the experiences that writing affords, rather than the nuts and bolts of writing paragraphs and pages. One time many years ago, a middle-school student asked me, “Why do you do something as stupid as writing?” The teacher told me not to bother answering the question, but I thanked the student for asking it. Writers must be non-judgmental and open-minded. Then I gave him the answer: because of writing, I have met two Presidents, known a dozen Olympians, traveled all over the world, spent two seasons on the American Idol set, gone on adventures I never would’ve tried otherwise (like exploring the Amazon with a shaman), met many of the student’s sports heroes (and watching Shaun White finish second in a World Cup of Snowboarding event when he was 13), befriended some of the brightest and most beautiful people alive, and learned how to see and experience the greatest pleasures of the simplest things. In my answer, I never used the word “writing”. It worked; I later heard he got a B+ in his writing class.

But this is hard to pull off today, especially in the public school system. I have a friend who is an outstanding creative writing teacher in a Midwestern high school. She’s also a novelist who loves everything about the written word. She told me that she cannot introduce anything other than a tightly prescribed reading list to her kids – a list that is made up primarily of old classics, the same books I read in school 35 years ago. She also cannot assign papers other than those prescribed by a tightly written curriculum adopted by the district and school board. This is part of what is wrong with public education – they don’t educate. They don’t inspire new learning. They kill the desire to learn something new. It’s way too political and controlled by money. As I mentioned earlier, the greatest gift any adult can give a kid, besides love and respect, is the lifelong love of learning.

However, this Midwestern teacher is crafty and determined; her desire to impart her love of learning, and her knowledge, is a light that will not be turned off. She has figured out how to inspire her kids, and now, they have an after-school creative writing club. And, I predict, they will be Facebooking her (or whatever is the medium) in 35 years.

6) I work with teachers in traditional classrooms and they struggle with these issues, as well. These are valuable tips you offer. Tell us what is next in your writing and promotion projects!


I’m getting ready to co-write a book with fellow author, Verna Dreisbach, entitled The Hybrid Writer. It’s about combining more than one genre in everything from novels to magazine articles. It gets back to what I shared earlier – the more versatile we are these days, the better. When done well, it shows storytelling at its best. I just edited a novel, The Secret of Moonshine, in which author Denise Lyon Followill combined romance, suspense/thriller and fantasy. It’s brilliant. She’ll be off to the races with publishers pretty soon.

I’m also developing a series of online and video products around The Write Time and my other writing book, Writes of Life. Finally, I’m out there in the trenches, teaching workshops, talking to kids, coaching and editing writers of all genres, presenting at conferences and libraries  … whatever it takes to bring out the deepest wisest voices in each and every person with whom I come in contact, encourage them to open up their computers, journals or a pad of paper, and write their stories.

As I see it, writing, drawing, painting, sculpting, dancing and playing music are heavenly gifts that we, as humans, are uniquely privileged to possess. By expressing ourselves, we enliven and illuminate the world – one day at a time. We express the lifelong love of learning, which to me is the driving force behind a purposeful life.

Learn more about Bob and his projects:

Home Site: www.wordjourneys.com

Writing Blog: bobyehling.wordpress.com

Exercise Blog: 366writing.wordpress.com

Book Orders: www.penandpublish.com or www.amazon.com

Don’t forget to leave Bob a comment or question – you may walk away with one of his books! (Deadline to enter: Tuesday, March 23, midnight. US shipping addresses only.)


Filed under Advice, books, contests, Give Aways

2009: Which goal(s) did you meet?

“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.”

Jim Rohn 1930-2009, Author and Speaker

Did this year fly by for anyone else? Summer in Chicago was cool and mild at best, the Halloween festivities lingered in the air until it was time for Christmas shopping and now, the New Year is knocking. The weeks and months seemed to have melded together and floated off like puffs of dandelion seeds. So, when I sat down to chronicle all that I completed this year, I was doubtful my list would add up to much. Funny thing about lists, what feels repetitious and ordinary becomes quite an extraordinary display when lined up together.

Wanna see?

Little Things I accomplished in 2009 (towards my writing/teaching goals)

  •  Won 1st Place in a Fiction Writing contest, placed as Honorable Mention in two others
  • Attended 2-day AWP Conference in Chicago; had lunch with mentor, Christina Katz : )
  • Created and taught one-week Summer Writing Studio for Young Writers
  • Hosted Young Writers’ Public Reading at Downers Grove Library
  • Began FREE monthly Young Writers’ Groups at Barnes & Noble
  • Critiqued several short stories for my young writing students
  • Began writing my 3rd novel (NaNo)
  • Won numerous novels and writing reference books and a membership to an online writers’ group by blogging and posting and “tweeting”
  • Met numerous authors, editors and organization heads via the online community
  • Celebrated 1 year anniversary for both of my blogs with 60k + visitors to this blog alone!
  • Volunteered as Executive Board Member for Capitol City Young Writers (duties incl. conf calls, brainstorming and implementing new ideas)
  • Acted as Editor for Write On! (CCYW’s Qtrly Newsletter)
  • Invited to write my own column for The Motherhood Muse (first issue debuts on 1/1/2010)
  • Taught 2 Young Writers’ classes for FRoG in Winter ’09 and one in Fall ’09
  • Essay, Cravings, published in Underwired Magazine
  • Hosted Fathers’ Day essay writing contest on this blog
  • Made a valuable connection with the editors of WOW! Women on Writing and have been become a regular partner in their author blog tours
  • Created Facebook FanPage for WriteLike CRAZY
  • Taught an in-school writers’ workshop for Ms Courtright’s 4th grade class
  • Met with Mr. Casey, school principal to discuss afterschool program for young writers
  • Beginning discussions with board member of HGNA regarding journaling classes for 2010
  • Began dream of renting blue building on Maple & Main for a young writers’ studio
  • Obsession, short story, published on coloredchalk.com
  • Got caught up and came back down from Twitter addiction
  • Began plans for women writers’ retreat in Oct 2010

So, what did you all accomplish in 2009? I guarantee it’s more than you think! Share with us!


Filed under goals, Little Things, Uncategorized

Paul Martin, author of “Original Faith”: Book Blog Tour & Giveaway

PaulMartin_headshotPaul Maurice Martin’s new book, Original Faith: What Your Life Is Trying to Tell You, presents an experiential basis for faith and spiritual life without reference to doctrine. At age twenty three, the author had a spontaneous experience of the kind sought in the world’s spiritual and religious traditions of meditation and contemplative prayer. It set him on a new path that included earning a master’s in religious studies from the University of Chicago Divinity School, a master’s in counseling from the University of New Hampshire, and a twenty-three year career working in the public schools first as an English as a Second Language teacher and later as a school counselor.


Paul developed a devastating progressive illness at age thirty-seven. For eleven years he was forced to set writing aside to focus on medical research and treatment. 

OriginalFaith_coverFinally too disabled for work, Paul took up his manuscript again, completing Original Faith while losing most of his ability to stand and walk. Mostly bedridden, Paul lives by the words of enduring faith that he has written.

You can learn more about book and author at www.originalfaith.com.

Paul will be stopping in throughout the day, so please post your questions and comments for him! Plus, one lucky commenter will be randomly selected to receive a copy of Original Faith

 Interview by: Mary Jo Campbell 

Please share with us how your studying in Chicago and your studying at St. Joseph’s Abbey inspired your faith and your writing.

I went for my master’s at the University of Chicago Divinity School to find out whether the ideas that had started to come to me for a book made sense. I’d never studied religion. For all I knew, if I studied the subject then I might find that my ideas were off-base. But I left UC feeling that I was taking a look at spirituality from a fresh and valid perspective.

While I found divinity school validating, my brief stay at St. Joseph’s – it was only a three-day retreat – was a much bigger influence on my life and writing. There I learned the centering prayer, a very simple form of meditation, from Fr. Basil Pennington. This practice eventually led directly to some of Original Faith’s key insights.

Many of us go through a period of non-belief or doubt or separation from the religion or practices we learned through our childhood.  How can your book, Original Faith, help us to restore that secure feeling we once experienced?

Original Faith offers readers insights and practices that highlight faith as a fact of human experience – something that we can know directly and first hand. The book seeks to enrich the faith of believers while helping to bring nonbelievers to greater awareness of the faith dimension of their actual lived experience, which they may have rejected or minimized because of associating it with the beliefs they came to reject.

What do we have faith in? Original Faith, paraphrasing St. Paul, speaks in terms of “the One in whom we live and move and have our being.”  Readers are free to think of the One as God or as all-nature or being itself. I’m not concerned with debate over the existence of God but with the quality of our experience of life and the constructiveness of our actions – as individuals, as nations, and as a species.

To know ourselves as faith-full with full certainty, regardless of what we may or may not have believed as children, is a powerfully secure feeling. It enhances our experience of life and our ability to take positive action in the world.

 Can you tell us how your illness affected your faith?

I’m now in my sixteenth year of an incurable progressive disease that has me housebound and mostly bedridden. It began at age thirty seven, when I was already well grounded in my faith. Although its effects on my way and quality of life – and on my family’s – meant going through a great deal of grief, and, especially in relation to the health care system, anger, none of this challenged my faith or basic outlook on life.

So while the disease gave me a lot to deal with that was psychologically difficult, my faith and spiritual life are what allowed me to hang on and survive at first, and eventually learn that the direction in life that I’d undertaken in joy could be resumed with peace and integrity even in pain.

Can you tell us how your illness has helped or hindered your writing career?

The disease started when the manuscript for Original Faith was nearing completion. I set it aside for what I thought would be a few months while I recovered from a rare illness called “Myofascial Pain Syndrome,” which turned out to be a misdiagnosis. Instead of a road to recovery lasting a few months, I entered a world of rare disease research, extensive medical travel, mainstream and alternative medicine treatments, and continual battles with insurance companies. I was derailed from writing for over a decade.

Without the disease, I expect I would have been looking for a publisher in 1996. Instead, I didn’t finish the book and start looking at agents and publishers until 2004.

What advice can you offer non-fiction writers in their approach to sell their manuscript?

For nonfiction writers – and I’m told that by now it’s not much different for fiction – by far the most important factor connected with getting an agent or publisher is having a “marketing platform.” A marketing platform is a preexisting audience for your book that assures some level of sales volume, increasing the chances that your book will make money for the publisher. Without that, your manuscript won’t be considered by any reputable agent or any trade publisher, whether it’s one of the several multimedia conglomerates that now publish most of what we read under a wide variety of imprints, or one of the remaining independents.

What are some examples of marketing platforms?

Sometimes a platform is a position of prominence due to special knowledge and qualifications. For example, professors, writing teachers, journalists, and columnists have preexisting readerships or potential readerships as well as expertise in their fields. But the key is to have some degree of public prominence.

For example, a great deal of nonfiction generally and religion & spirituality in particular is published today not just by major celebrities but by minor public notables –  former Miss Americas, relatives of celebrities, business people who do regular public speaking…  What it is that publishers and therefore the agents who approach them with manuscripts are looking for in an author is a person well-positioned to sell books.

Religion, Christianity, Spirituality, etc. seem to be a genre on the rise.  How were you able to distinguish your book from the masses and land an agent?

Yes, religion and spirituality have been on the rise for some years. It’s a “saturated market” – which only makes the marketing platform issue that much more critical. My experiences are a good illustration.

“If you are submitting a nonfiction book proposal without a marketing platform, you are wasting your time.” When I read this in Literary Market Place in 2004, early in my search for an agent or publisher, I not only lacked a platform but the ability to get one. By this time I’d lost the ability to drive, couldn’t walk further than about twenty yards, and was deteriorating faster than ever.

I didn’t believe it – about the absolute necessity of a platform. I didn’t know then that the proverbial “slush pile” no longer exists – that if editors and marketers take a break, they’re brainstorming marketing strategies for authors they know can move books, not searching for unrecognized talent.

I naively imagined that I had enough going for me to make up for the lack of a platform. I held two master’s degrees in fields directly related to my subject, one from one of the nation’s leading divinity schools – this made me far more qualified than most people I saw publishing in my subject area. Powerful and distinctive life experiences with direct bearing on my subject matter inform my writing. Finally, the quality of my work had exceeded my best expectations. Original Faith may have the most significant endorsements of any book you’ve never heard of. And I knew that I had the willingness to do my homework on the publishing front.

So I did. I researched book proposal writing. I carefully identified agents and publishers that worked with books similar to the one I’d written. I tailored proposals and submissions to specific agent and publisher requirements. Since I was housebound but not yet bedridden, I was often putting in more that full-time days at such activities.

It took me two years to compile and work through the list of every appropriate publisher I could find and a myriad of equally appropriate agents. I got nowhere beyond a few acknowledgments that my proposal sounded interesting and lots of “good luck” or “best wishes” with placing my manuscript.

Since being able to connect with your readers is so important, how do you connect with them while being housebound?

I really don’t. The book is reaching just the tiniest fraction of its potential readership. Self publishing is a whole other topic, but long story short is that there are lots of sharks in the waters. Although I managed to avoid these and finally chose to have Original Faith published by my sister’s small LLC – we paid the production costs ourselves – there’s no publicity, no bookstore distribution, and no marketing behind it. That would take resources of time, money, and energy that we don’t have. So what I’ve got is a book that’s been written, produced, and endorsed up to trade standards but is selling minimal copies.

Doing it yourself rarely succeeds, despite the hype generated by a self-publishing industry that earns profits not through selling books but by charging wannabe authors for worthless marketing programs. When it does succeed, it requires having the kind of available time and resources that it would take to start up a small business.

What else do you have in the works?

Original Faith is what I really wanted to say. If I’d stayed healthy, I’m sure I would have written more – but OF would still have been my main project. I expect that my writing would have focused primarily on finding additional ways to reach different audiences with the same message. I did recently add a free eBook to my site, and I have a large volume of poetry related to OF that was written concurrently with it.

I feel I’m approaching a crossroads where I’ll decide either to continue doing what little I can to foster awareness of Original Faith or use my remaining productive time to add a bit of material to the text for a second edition, but with no plans to release it. I understand that I have no way to reach the audience I originally intended or contribute to contemporary discourse about religion and spirituality.

But I’ve also learned that the same faith that unleashes our capacity for joy and creativity provides the strength and integrity to more than bear up under any kind or degree of loss. Personally, I no longer have any real worries or concerns and feel good about the life I’ve lived. We are called just to make the attempt – to do our best to participate in the labor of creation. With that, there can be no regrets. Beyond that, our faith resides with infinitely more than our own efforts.

Be sure to post your comments before midnight tonight, for a chance to win a copy of Original Faith! (U.S. Shipping addresses only.)


Filed under Author Interviews, Believe, books, Give Aways, Inspiration

Fall & Winter Author Interview Schedule!

Because I LOVE to help promote fellow writers and LOVE to add value for my readers, I am continuing a series of Author Interviews and Book Giveaways for the fall and winter.

Can’t wait? Check ’em out:

YouCantDrink_coverSept. 22: You Can’t Drink All Day If You Don’t Start in the Morning by Celia Rivenbark (Exclusive interview with this hilarious author)

This is the fifth book of humorous essays by this Southern columnist. She is a blast. Her book is full of all those things we want to say but chicken out just before they leave our mouth! Her book also has some wonderful Southern recipes and amusing stories about where she got them–her Pecan Pie recipe comes from her stint as Pecan Queen!


OriginalFaith_coverSept. 29: Original Faith by Paul Martin (Exclusive interview will discuss the topic of “What Your Life is Trying to Tell You”)

A book about the experiences that unite us as people–including love, belief, and nature.


TheSkyBeginsAtYourFeet_CoverOct. 12: The Sky Begins at Your Feet by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg (Book Giveaway & Guest Post)

An inspirational memoir about cancer, community, and connecting with nature. Caryn’s book about her battle with breast cancer is touring mainly during October which is also National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.


TheSecretoftheSacredScarab_coverNov. 3: The Secret of the Sacred Scarab by Fiona Ingram (Exclusive interview with tips for young writers and creative writing teachers)

A children’s book(ages 10-14)about two boys and how their visit to family in Eygpt becomes a wild adventure after they find a scarab. The book’s two main characters are boys and I feel The Secret of the Sacred Scarab could convince even the most reluctant of boys to enjoy reading. Fiona has an outstanding website that I think all writers could learn from.


TheHungryMirror_coverDec. 1: The Hungry Mirror by Lisa de Nikolits (Book Giveaway and special Guest Post)

A novel about a woman’s struggle with eating disorders and the myth of beauty. Lisa has some interesting guest post topics about the difficulties of incorporating real people into fictional works.

If you are an author with a book coming out, please contact me to schedule a blog book tour stop and interview here at Writers Inspired.


Filed under Advice, Author Interviews, books, Give Aways, teaching, writers

And the Winner is…

The random number generator selected a winner:


Congratulations!  You will receive a copy of Elisa Lorello’s novel, Faking It.

Please email me (mjcwriter”at”comcast”dot”net) with your shipping address  and spread the good news on Facebook and Twitter!

Thank you to all those who stopped by and commented. Elisa was quite a generous interviewee by responding with such honest, thorough answers. I hope you enjoyed!


Please come back for another guest blogger and giveaway in a few weeks! Until then, stop in for your dose of writing inspiration – – and send your friends : )


Filed under Advice, Author Interviews, contests, Give Aways

Blog Book Tour & Giveaway: Elisa Lorello, Author of “Faking It”


Today, please welcome first-time novelist, Elisa Lorello in her book blog tour for Faking It.

Originally from Long Island, NY, Elisa is a full-time instructor of academic writing at NC State University and a member of the Raleigh Write2Publish group. She has appeared on *The Artist’s Craft*, a local Raleigh television show, and is currently on a blog tour for her first novel, FAKING IT. In addition to writing and teaching, Elisa’s passions include reading, music, chocolate chip cookies, and reciting lines from *This is Spinal Tap* with her siblings.

Elisa is giving away a copy of her book Faking It to one random winner!  You must leave a comment or question (following the interview) by 12 midnight tonight for a chance to win!  Winner will be posted tomorrow!  So, kick back with your notepad, cause you’ll want to jot these tips down, then pick up a copy of Faking It for a fun summer read!

Interview by: Mary Jo Campbell

Tell us about Faking It.faking it cover 2

Thank you so much for hosting me today—it’s an honor to be here!

Faking It is a romantic comedy. Andi, a 30-something writing professor, meets Devin, a handsome, charming escort (is there another kind?) who catches her attention. She proposes an unusual arrangement: lessons in writing in exchange for lessons in how to be a better lover. When the two break the rules of their contract that forbids each other from seeing each other socially and become friends, problems ensue. I always pitch the novel as *When Harry Met Sally* meets *Sex and the City*. It’s witty and fun, but also poignant at times. The perfect summer read!

What made you decide to go the self-publishing route with your book, Faking It?

I had queried about sixty agents, and even though I received and responded to several requests for manuscripts, I wound up with all rejections, albeit encouraging ones. Looking back, I made a lot of mistakes with the querying process, including not doing enough research about prospective agents and writing queries to a specific audience as opposed to a form letter, to name two examples.

I listened to the feedback that these agents had, however, and made the necessary revisions. I always believed that the novel was worthy of publication, and I knew I had access to an audience in terms of networking, so after doing some research and weighing the pros and cons, I decided to self-publish. I was also very fortunate to catch the wave of social networking (such as Facebook and Twitter), which has been instrumental in Faking It’s success.

What steps did you take to find the “right fit” with a self-publishing vendor?

I attended many panel discussions organized by author Stacey Cochran through the Raleigh Write2Publish group about self-publishing, and did some internet research as well. I probably didn’t do as much research as I should have at the onset (mainly because I didn’t know where to look or what to look for), and know a lot more now than I did then. There’s a lot more information available now (at least it seems that way), and a lot more competition, so you have to be careful.

I chose Lulu.com because they allowed me to maintain creative control as well as the rights to my book, the technical support was very helpful (especially for a first-timer like myself), and I liked that it was a local company (they’re currently located in Raleigh, NC). And while I’m not disappointed with Lulu, some of my criteria has changed, so I’m not sure if I’ll stick with them for my second book. As I said before, I’m in a better position now to make a more informed decision.

Can you tell us about the steps of self-publishing, i.e. do they offer editing services? Marketing? Book cover design?

Great question. Lulu offers all of the above services, and has especially kicked up its services in terms of marketing and cover design. Another nice thing about Lulu is that you can pick and choose which services you want or need. If you want to hire a graphic designer outside of Lulu, for example, you can, and use your own cover art. I edit my own novels, but some people may have neither the time nor ability to do so.  Keep in mind, however, that these services cost extra, so you need to determine what’s feasible for you. But, also keep in mind that all of the above elements are crucial to the success of a book—the more professional your finished product is, the better.

Was there anything that surprised you about the writing and/or publishing process of this novel?

It took me five years before I even started writing this novel because I kept telling myself that I wasn’t a fiction writer. All of my previous attempts at writing fiction (namely short stories) were horrid, so I just kept trying to push the idea for Faking It in the back of my mind. But the idea wouldn’t go away—it needed to be born. So I finally sat down to write it and told myself that I was the only one who had to read it—thus, if it was garbage, no one would ever know! My mantra while writing it was “I wrote the book I wanted to read.” And lo and behold, it wasn’t coming out like garbage—quite the contrary, and when I showed it to people, they responded positively. Then the dam broke, and now I can’t see myself as anything but a fiction writer (or, a fiction writer who occasionally writes nonfiction essays).

The writing process can be slow and tedious at times, but I like those times because it gives me time to listen to the characters’ voices and to do a lot of mental composing.

What has surprised me about the publishing process is how time-consuming it is, especially when it comes to promotion—it never stops. Everything takes longer than I think it will take. And I’m not the most organized person (I blame this on being Italian), so I’m sure that doesn’t help.

What happens if a big publishing house now comes a-callin’ for Faking It?

Hello! Bring ‘em on! Seriously, since I own the rights to my book, that’s not a problem. If the right agent and the right publisher/publishing deal come along for Faking It, then I’ll go with it. I’m still on the lookout for a literary agent and/or a traditional publisher mainly because they have the resources to reach a much bigger audience than I do, and because, unfortunately, self-publishing still carries the stigma of being an outlet that produces poor quality works. That is perhaps the greatest obstacle to overcome. But I stand behind the integrity of my novel.

I also have more confidence now than I did when I started this whole process of getting published three years ago. I’ve learned a lot, especially from my mistakes. When my next manuscript is ready to be queried, I feel quite confident that I’ll have more success finding an agent. If not, then I’ll continue to self-publish.

Have you experienced any back-lash from authors who are “traditionally” published?  If so, can you offer any tips on how to counter these attacks.

The majority of authors and independent booksellers I’ve personally encountered have been nothing but supportive, be they traditionally published or independently published. And yet, I’ve attended panel discussions in which traditionally-published authors insist that that’s the only route to go if I want to be taken seriously. I also recently read and participated in some discussion forums in which readers were downright mean and discriminatory against indie authors. And I already know that know major retail chain booksellers won’t touch my book with a ten-foot-pole because of the aforementioned stigma (and because they don’t really make money from self-published books unless it really breaks out).

Here’s the best and worst thing about self-publishing: anyone can do it. With digital technology and POD companies like Lulu, anyone who wants to write and publish a book can do so, and make it available to the masses. That means there’s a lot of poor quality work out there and, as a result, readers are going to have to sift through all that sand to find the gold.

The best piece of advice I can give is to maintain integrity about your work and yourself as an author. If you want to be taken seriously as an author, then treat yourself like a professional, as if you’re drawing a monthly or weekly salary. Treat your work professionally. That means get feedback and be willing to accept criticism. Form a writers group so that you maintain accountability. Get an editor if you need one. Hire a graphic designer or a publishing consultant if you need to. Be a go-getter, but also know what’s appropriate and inappropriate in terms of approaching an independent bookseller or scheduling a reading or a blog tour. Know the protocols.

As for those who continue to slam all indie authors as hacks, well, they’re not people I want reading my book. Don’t waste your breath trying to convince them otherwise.

Tell us about any of your current writing and marketing events/tours/appearances and what is on the horizon for future writing projects!

Gladly! I’m currently in the middle of a 30-day blog tour for Faking It and would like to do at least one more reading at an independent bookstore to wrap up the promotional tour. I’m also in the process of getting Faking It into at least two more independent stores: one on Long Island (where I’m from), and another one in MA (where I lived for eleven years).


If you have a book club, I’m offering a special: order four or more copies of Faking It from me directly (you can email me at elisa@elisalorello.com, subject: book club) and not only will I discount the order price, but also sign the books. What’s more, if your book club is local to Raleigh, NC, I’ll attend your discussion meeting. If you have speakerphone, I’ll participate in the fun that way.

I’m also preparing to release Ordinary World, the sequel to Faking It. I was originally planning an end-of-summer release, but now I think it’s going to take longer than that. I’d like to get more of a buzz going about it first (enlist previewers, possibly give away sample chapters as teasers, etc.). Meanwhile, I’m working on a third manuscript, this time with a writing partner, which has been a fantastic experience. When that novel is finished, have us back because that is a great story! I don’t think I could collaborate with anyone else.

Faking It is currently available at Quail Ridge Books and Music in Raleigh, NC; Baker Books in N. Dartmouth, MA; Lulu.com; and on Amazon Kindle. For more information about Elisa’s blog tour and other events, go to her blog “I’ll Have What She’s Having” or www.elisalorello.com.

Thanks again!

Be sure to leave a comment or question for Elisa for a chance to win!


Filed under Author Interviews, books, Fiction, Get Published, Novels, Platform/Marketing, writing inspiration

Book Blog Tour: Mindy Friddle, Author of Secret Keepers

mindyTALK3-797755Today, I am excited to introduce novelist, Mindy Friddle, who brings a seasoned writer’s expertise to the muddle of writing we all face.

Bio: Mindy Friddle’s first novel, The Garden Angel(St. Martin’s Press/Picador), a SIBA bestseller, was selected for Barnes and Noble’s Discover Great New Writers program in 2004, and was a National Public Radio (NPR) Morning Edition summer reading pick.Secret Keepers, her second novel, was published by St. Martin’s Press in May.She lives, writes, and gardens in Greenville, South Carolina where she directs the Writing Room, a community-based nonprofit program she founded in 2006. skeepersorder2

Mindy will be checking for your comments, it’s her “favorite part of blog touring!” So, be sure to leave a comment or question regarding Mindy’s novels, writing in general, or even gardening!(She’s a Master Gardener.)


Interview by: Mary Jo Campbell

   1. Wow, Mindy, your list of credentials are a novel in itself.  Let’s talk about your fiction awards.  Are you always on the look out for contests that suit your writing style, or is this something your agent or publisher does for you?  How do you prepare your work for a particular contest?  What about a residency contest?

Something I love about entering writing contests: the deadlines. Sounds funny, maybe, but consider two important points:
1. You have to prepare and submit something by a certain date—which can motivate you to finish or polish.
2. You’ll find out whether your manuscript made it or not within a certain time frame. Even if your work didn’t make it this time, take heart. So often when you submit a story or article for publication, you wait a loooong time to find out if it was read, much less accepted. At least in contests, you’ll know for certain if your work was considered or not. And you can move on.
Poets & Writershas an excellent calendar and listing of contests. You can find it at bookstores and also online.

 2. I, myself, sit on the board for a national non-profit for young writers and volunteer my teaching for a local non-profit organization for children.  So, your non-profit program, the Writing Room, touches my heartstrings.  Can you tell us how you founded this program, and how much time you now are able to devote to the Writing Room?  How do you seek out reliable volunteers or do they seek you out?

I talked to a local arts foundation, the Emrys Foundation here in South Carolina, that was willing to sponsor a program for writers. So I agreed to direct the program, which offers seminar and workshops to writers of all levels. I’ve recruited some terrific writing teachers, and we offer at least one seminar or class at no charge every season, as well as multi-week intense workshops (from fiction writing, flash fiction, writing for children, and screenwriting) for a range of fees. One of our goals is to eventually raise funds to offer one or two scholarships every season for folks who want to take in-depth writing workshops, but need some financial assistance. It’s a new program, which I spearheaded because I sensed we had an untapped literary community. Our mission at the Writing Room is to “build a community of writers.”


 3. Aspiring novelists are often curious how much of a platform one needs before tackling the marathon that is a novel (both the writing and publishing.) “Where to focus our energies?” Can you tell us about your fiction writing credits and platform prior to landing your first book deal for The Garden Angel?

I didn’t have much at all, as far as credits. And no platform, really. I hope aspiring novelists will take encouragement from that. You can’t go wrong with focusing your energy on the writing. Easier said, than done—I know! But a set schedule—writing several times a week no matter what—and reading a lot—that will get you far. Also helpful: attending writing conferences and forming a supportive group of fellow writers to read each other’s work.  After winning a fiction award in my state—the first contest I’d won—I attended Bread Loaf Writers Conference. There, I met Julianna Baggott, a generous writer who recommended that I send my manuscript–when I finished it–to her agent. I followed up and queried, and was fortunate to acquire my agent that way.

 4. Back to your latest novel, Secret Keepers.  Where did you get the inspiration for Emma’s character and what kind of research was needed to write from the POV of a 72-year-old woman?

After I got to know Emma—her background, her yearnings—and observed her actions (which sometimes surprised me) it wasn’t hard to get into her head. I like to think that age, gender, race, class, etc. aren’t obstacles to writers. Yeah, I know– that’s one of those Big Ideas that crops up on panel discussions: Can you really write about characters outside of your own experience/age/gender? YES. Imagination. Empathy, Curiosity. They go a long way.  Also, the omniscient point of view in Secret Keepers allows the reader access to the thoughts of a cast of characters: Emma, but also her adult children, her teenage grandson, a landscaper, and a homeless guy.  I really loved using the omniscient point of view, with a narrator who occasionally chimes in.  I hope the reader does, too.  I have more about the story behind SECRET KEEPERS on my website.


   5. On your tour post at The Muffin, you gave great bulleted tips on the process of novel writing: how to be a “weekend writer” and get through the first draft of your novel before focusing on revisions.  What method(s) do you use to keep all of your writing, research and notes organized while pummeling through that first draft? Do you outline; use note cards; have a favorite writing software?
Organize…not one of my talents. I manage piles. I don’t outline, really, but I do take notes on subsequent drafts and revisions. I use notecards to keep track of characters’ basic bios—when they were born, for example—and also to track scenes. If I think a scene is missing—a conversation between two characters that needs to explain something that will figure in later, for example—I make a note of it on a notecard. “Dora and Jake need to talk about Will’s death before we know Bobby remembers…” something like that. Occasionally, when I want to see the big picture and step back, I’ll use flip chart pages to note when things happen—sort of a crudely drawn timeline. That usually happens in revision, when I’m having to nail down details. I think you can find out what works for you as a writer—I love colors, for example. Highlighting my notecards by character is helpful, and using the “highlight” function in Word to figure out what needs to stay [green for me], what needs to be cut [pink], what needs to be moved somewhere else [yellow].  It’s always interesting to see what works for different writers. I’ve interviewed a number of authors, and this topic often comes up. The interviews are posted on my website, on the Interviews with Writerspage, and there’s more commentary on my blog here, and here. I wrote about the zen of writing– you just walk the path– at A Good Blog is Hard to Find

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and insights!  Please tell us what is on the horizon and where we can find more of your work:
I’m drafting a novel….and between drafts I sometimes turn to writing short fiction. Please feel free to visit my website and blog for more information on writing and reading, and drop me an email with questions or comments. Happy writing and reading everyone!

SECRET KEEPERS:  strong storytelling, comic touches, prickly family dynamics, and the magical power of nature.

St. Martin’s Press
Read an excerpt at www.mindyfriddle.com
On Sale: 4/27/2009
ISBN: 978-0-312-53702-9
ISBN-10: 0-312-53702-6
Also available: THE GARDEN ANGEL (St. Martin’s Press & Picador)


Filed under Advice, Author Interviews, books, characters, Fiction, Get Published, goals, Inspiration, Novels, Organization, Perseverance, Platform/Marketing, writer markets, writers, writing inspiration

Book Blog Tour: Danette Haworth, Author of Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightening

Tour #2 on the Summer Book Blog Tour presents an Author Interview with Danette Haworth: author of Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightening

Danette Haworth webshotDanette Haworth was first published at six-years-old, when she created a comic book series starring Peter Pan. These marvelous adventures usually ended with a defeated Captain Hook raising his sword, shouting, “I’ll get you, Pan!” Her mother still has the first edition, so carefully colored and stapled all those years ago.

Danette’s degree in English landed her a job as a technical writer, which was a fun position because she got to play in tank simulators and explain to scientists that possessive its does not have an apostrophe. She later worked as travel writer and a freelance writer/editor.

VioletRaines-coverHer debut novel, Violet Raines Almost Got Struck By Lightning, was published by Walker Books for Young Readers, Fall 2008 and will be followed by The Hotel of Blueberry Goodness (2010) and Me and Jack (2011).

Danette will be popping in throughout the day, so feel free to leave a comment or ask her a question or two!

Interview by Mary Jo Campbell

MJC: I love your “About Me” page on your website.  Readers can really get a sense of your good nature and humor.  Have you always written light-hearted humorous pieces?  What kind of advice can you give those of us who take ourselves (and our writing) too seriously?

DN: Thank you! When I write, I take on the mood of whatever I’m writing, so light-hearted pieces are great to work with. One thing I liked about Violet Raines was being able to be stubborn and feisty through her character. She’s so bold!

On taking one’s self too seriously—I don’t have any advice! I tend to take things seriously myself, especially things I’ve poured my heart into. My mother can let things roll off her back; not me, I feel every bit of it. I really do believe creative people are sensitive—that’s our weakness and our strength. Sure, maybe we take things too seriously, but we also pick up on nuances that others might miss. We’re a bit more raw in that area, but as I said before, it’s actually a strength and a gift. I would never trade it in!

MJC: Good point. I wouldn’t trade my sensitivity for anything, either! The book video produced by Scholastic Books is exciting!  Can you tell us how you became involved with Scholastic Books for your book, Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning?

DN: I received an email from my editor asking me if Scholastic reps could visit and film me for their video. I was like Yeah! Of course! When the crew of three arrived, I felt relaxed, eager. They’d read my book, and I’d read some of the books written by authors they were set to record. The sun shone, birds chirped, and my hair turned out well. Then they turned the cameras on and my mouth went totally dry!

Larry Decker, Scott Bennett, Juan Cruz were professional and nice. They wanted to see the Econlockhatchee River, which was the inspiration for the setting of Violet Raines. I couldn’t wait to take them there. Larry thought it was beautiful, and it is. Oaks and palms hang over the river, forming a canopy in places. Egrets and other fishing birds wade in the shallows for lunch. We didn’t see any alligators that day—I think Scott was hoping for at least one!—but I was relieved, being the smallest and probably the slowest in the bunch.

They filmed for several hours and somehow, in editing, took out all my um, uh, what was the question? They made me look good and I LOVED the lightning effects they added to the sequence. They did a great job!

(Check out the book video here!)

MJC: You said in a recent interview, that Violet just “walked into” your head one day. Did the rest of the story “write itself” or did the characters stump your flow or theme you were trying to follow?  What was your novel writing process in regards to outlining; rough draft writing; research for setting/characters; revision, etc?

DN: When I got a hold of Violet, she was so complete, so real, I could have dropped her into any situation and I would have known exactly how she would react. Boy, was she feisty! I wanted to come up with a story that would be a match for her.

I wrote a brief outline before drafting detailed character sketches, which then led to a full outline taking me all the way to the end of the book. Having an outline keeps me immersed in the book. I know what I have to accomplish today, and when I’m done writing, my mind wanders down the path of where I’ll go tomorrow.

Sometimes a character will pop with something not on the outline, and I follow that new direction to see where it goes. Who knows? There might be something exciting down that way! I never feel dictated to by the outline; I look at it as more of a guide.

As far as research, it’s true you should always research, even if you’re writing about your own backyard. For as well as I know the Central Florida area, I still researched things like lovebugs (When do they swarm? Lovebug—is it two words, one word, or hyphenated?); Detroit and its monorail system; alligators; and, of course, lightning!

MJC: Like myself, many writers have full-time day jobs that take us out of the house, but wish to make that leap to full-time writer.  Can you tell us what steps you took to make the transition and was there anything you wish you knew then?

DN: The transition for me took place when we started having a family; I always wanted to be home when I had kids. But I still wanted to keep my foot in the door, so I took on freelance editing and writing assignments, doing what I liked (and getting paid for it!) while babies took naps.

The main change for me was giving up work I could count on to taking the risk on my dream: writing a novel. I’m so glad I did!

The only thing I wish I knew then is relax! After I sold Violet Raines and the final draft was accepted, I’d never been through a copyedit before or any of the proofreading rounds. I pored over the pages when these things came through; it seemed as if the entire success of the book depended on if I kept this comma or deleted it! I went through the pages with a red pencil, and when I tried to copy the manuscript, none of my marks were visible! So I sharpened my pencil and pressed hard over all of my marks to make sure they’d show up. By the time I got done, the manuscript looked like a toddler had been through it with a red crayon! How embarrassing!

MJC: I’ve read that you are working on a second novel, The Hotel of Blueberry Goodness (another great title!)  Can you tell us a bit about this upcoming novel? Is your writing process with this book similar or different to the process used for Violet Raines?

DN: Thanks for your compliment on the title! The Hotel of Blueberry Goodness is set in north Central Florida, in the hills (Yes! Florida has hills!) near a freshwater spring. In Blueberry Goodness, a girl who lives in a dilapidating, antebellum hotel meets an eclectic group of friends, including a teenage runaway.

My process for this book was different from every other piece of writing I’ve ever approached. I knew the characters; I knew the beginning, I knew the climax, the denouement, but for the life of me, I couldn’t draft the full outline. For weeks, I struggled with trying to format the story arc so I’d have an outline for support. I knew what I wanted to happen in the story, but I was blocked as far as getting it down in outline form, which scared me—I’m used to having that guide.

Finally, I said Forget it! I started writing. Staying on course without the outline was easier than I thought it would be. I still explored new paths when they popped up, but it was easy to recognize directions that were purely tangential. At the end of each writing session, I’d scribble some notes to myself about what I just wrote, what needed to be adjusted, and what needed to happen tomorrow. So instead of having one big outline, I had guidance in bits and pieces, and it worked.

MJC: That is fabulous! You experienced novel success working both with and without an outline.  What advice do you have for young writers who aspire to be published in fiction?

DN: My advice to young writers is to look now for opportunities! With the explosion of online magazines, there are more venues now than ever before for young writers. Do your research; don’t worry (at first) about the paycheck, but look at the quality of the stories being published and make sure you’d be proud to have your story there.

Don’t forget about opportunities close to home: class newsletter, community newsletter, contests or columns for young people in the local paper, yearbook, school blog, etc. All these places provide the experience of writing, being edited, meeting deadlines, and the best one—having other people read and enjoy your writing!

MJC: What else is next for Danette Haworth? Please let us know about your tours, appearances, etc!

DN: The biggest thing for me is finishing up Blueberry Goodness and then moving on to revisions for my third book, Me and Jack, which comes out with Walker in 2011.

I recently filmed a short video for Mom’s Homeroom on encouraging and keeping your children interested in reading. Later this year, I’ll be in Philadelphia to speak at the National Council of Teachers of English conference; next April, I fly to Chicago to participate in the 2010 International Reading Association conference.

In the meantime, I’ll be blogging and updating my website! Please come visit me at Summer Friend or my website, Danette Haworth.

Thank you so much for having me, Mary Jo! It was fun!

Be sure to check out Danette’s website for dates and places of her continuing blog tour…


Filed under Author Interviews, books, characters, Fiction, Get Published, Inspiration, Novels, Platform/Marketing, writing inspiration