Tag Archives: Deadlines

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

You have the day to do as you please


Just go with me on this, OK?  You’re given the day off of work or mommyhood or housework, bills, etc.  The day to do as you please: babysitter has been arranged, meals prepared, husband’s socks found, appointments cleared, reports completed.

What would you do with this free time?

“There is never a better measure of what a person is than what he does when he’s absolutely free to choose.”

~ William M. Bulger – American Educator, Senator

Do you have  a list of to-do’s for your writing at the ready? Maybe you would grab a good cup of coffee and people watch while scribbling in your journal. Maybe there is  a writing contest deadline and 24 hours is all you need polish up that rough draft. An interview would add substance to the article you’re crafting, so call on that expert for a great quote or two.

I really don’t have the power to give you a day off of all responsibilities. *sigh* But you may get a spare 10 minutes sitting in traffic (unless you’re in Chicago, then you’ll get 65 minutes!) Or while the baby is napping or your husband is dropping off the kids at soccer practice.

Be ready for these spare moments.

Don’t check email, change your Facebook status or blog (expect to visit mine, of course.) Get to work on being YOU ~ Get busy!

Whatever you choose to do with this unexpected gift of free time, be sure it is a reflection of who you are.


Filed under Advice, Believe, emotion, Rest

Call for submissions – Women and their horse(s)

My friend and colleague, Verna Dreisbach, is collecting stories of women and their horses for an anthology.

 send-to-cheri-002Here is the website for the call for submissions. http://horsesandwomen.blogspot.com.   



Seal Press, Berkeley CA
Editor, Verna Dreisbach

Dear Friends,

Here is an exciting opportunity for you to be published in a new story collection by Seal Press. Previous anthologies of this nature by Seal Press include Cat Women and Woman’s Best Friend. The expected date of publication will be spring 2010, giving ample time to collect, choose and edit stories.

I am looking for truly inspirational stories that speak from the heart and show the unique bond between a woman and her horse. Each story should be at least 1,000 words, but no more than 2,500 words in length. Please send double-spaced versions only, in 12 point font Times New Roman as a Word Document.  NO “first horse” stories please!

Should your story be selected for inclusion in the book, you will receive two complimentary copies of the book plus $100 for the right to use the story in the anthology. Your name will appear with the story as well as the option to include a high quality photograph of you and your horse. Please consider that photographs will be printed in black and white. Do not send photographs until asked to do so.

I am accepting submissions until January 15, 2009 (EXTENDED to March 31, 2009). Please be sure to include your contact information with your submission: name, address, phone numbers and e-mail address. Send stories to: womenandhorses@gmail.com. You can read more about the progress of the book at http://horsesandwomen.blogspot.com.

Due to the volume of submissions, only finalists will be notified.

I look forward to reading your stories and thank you in advance.

Leave a comment

Filed under contests, Non Fiction, writer markets

“Perhaps the most valuable result…”

“…of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not.”

Thomas Huxley ,  1825-1895, Biologist and Educator

Raise your hand if there’s something (or many things!) on your to-do list that you’ve been procrastinating. *lowered eyes, sheepish smile*


I’ve had many things I’ve been putting off for varying reasons (returning a phone call or email; making a Dr’s appointment; planning another birthday party – this time for my oldest son.)

The trouble grows when our writer’s to-do list melts with our daily to-do list (as a parent, spouse, employee, friend, volunteer, etc.) The lack of time, money, energy and focus is much more apparent making those things that once seemed important now just  a dull nagging ache in the back of our minds. The remedy? Get them done and crossed off of our list altogether.

Last week, I settled myself into a booth at Panera Bread with a half order of their Fuji Apple Chicken Salad and a notepad.

  1. I wrote out long-hand every writing project and deadline I could think of that I had been putting off. I had two full sheets (legal pad size) filled with reminders, projects and ideas to complete.
  2. Then I took out my red pen and starred the ones that needed to be done that week, because I had already committed to their deadlines.
  3. I then prioritized the starred items by day and wrote 3-4 tasks on each day of the week in my Lotus Notes calendar. Having smaller manageable lists gives me hope and energy. I can also see if I’ve allotted enough time for each task.
  4. As I whittle my daily tasks away, my mind is clear from overload, because I know my never ending list is written down, each task waiting for their assigned day or week, so I can Let It Go.

So, what can you write down and cross off of your list of procrastinating projects?


Filed under Advice, Deadlines, emotion, procrastination, Rest

Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Happy New Year!  If you’re still spinning your wheels on the the right way to set yourself up for a successful and fulfilling 2009, read on!


When setting goals, large or small, you need to be S.M.A.R.T.  We use this method in my day job to measure our performance.

S.pecific: Don’t generalize. Write down a specific goal. i.e. I will write 500 words every afternoon when the kids are at school. Not: “I will write everyday.”

M.easurable: Put a number on it! I will send out 3 queries per month or I will blog 4x week. Referring back to the “I will write 500 words/day”, to me is more specific than “I will write for 1hour per day.” Some days we work slower than others and “writing” for an hour may melt into checking email, posting on a blog, downloading a free writing program. This way, 500 words is MEASURABLE.

A.ttainable: Your goals should be challenging, but realistic. And you should have an action plan, or steps, that help you reach that end goal. i.e. Last year my goal was to begin a young writers’ group. The steps to do this were: contact the right person in the Junior Room at the library, write a rough plan of what my classes will cover, get help from others who teach writing on ideas and lessons they learned, find resources on writing exercises for kids; examples of young published authors; bring the right attitude! Voila!

R.ealistic: Again, start small and work your way up with step-by-step directions. You can’t build a house without a blueprint. Of course we all have those WILD goals, more on that later!

T.imely: Set a deadline. Some goals will not take the entire year to reach them. Say, you want to write a column for your local paper – give yourself a deadline on when your first article will be in print and work backwards to discover where to start. For those goals that will be  a long journey, recognize the milestones as you trek along.  Reward yourself in June if you’ve consistently sent out 3 queries a month.

A few more tips:

  1. Write your goals down now, today. Don’t wait for that epiphany to hit on the perfect goals and steps to get there. It’s trial and error.
  2. Think of reasons for the inevitable “excuses” and head them off.
  3. Go in with the right attitude. Attitude is EVERYTHING! Why not write down all of your accomplishments from 2008 to give yourself a boost?
  4. Commit to it! on paper, verbally with yourself and others.
  5. Ask for help: swap babysitting to give yourself uninterrupted time to conduct that phone interview; ask your spouse to take the kids out for an afternoon so you can tap into the deep seedlings of creativity; find a writing buddy to hold you accountable and check in weekly.

Let me know your goals! I’ll post mine soon…

Leave a comment

Filed under Advice, Believe, goals


…and I’ll write if I want to!


Good thing I always (almost) want to write. I’ve been doubling up my word count goals so I can take this weekend “off.”

How do you handle deadlines in the midst of life events?


Filed under Believe, NaNoWriMo, Perseverance


I don’t know about you, but nothing sets a fire under my butt like a looming deadline.  I may be a masochist, but lately I’ve been committing to check-ins or contests or classes with only a week if not days to submit my work. I just work better under pressure and that squelches any procrastination.

So, here are a couple contests/calls for submissions (with a very tight deadline.)  

The Muse On-Line Conference, FREE!, deadline to register: Sept 1

That First Line Writing Contest, deadline: Sept 1

Unpublished Novel Competition, deadline Oct 10

Ready, Set, Write!!

Leave a comment

Filed under Deadlines