Tag Archives: Organized Writer

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)

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

Plow through the paper piles

It started with a dining room set…doesn’t it always?

With the stipend I earned for my teaching and speaking engagements, I bought a few inexpensive but efficient pieces of furniture for my dining room.  That purchase resulted in switching around the living room, my bedroom and my boys’ room. Nice and tidy, everything seemed to have its place.

paperpile

Except the piles of paper, file folders, binders and notebooks which looked even more overwhelming in a “cleaner” space.  I’m a saver. But I needed to purge. So, I used this system, which will be evolving as I tweak and grow with it.

  1. PREP: I moved my desk chair to another part of the room and aimed all lamps to the floor, desk and bookcase I would be organizing. Grabbed a big garbage bag and tall cool drink (water, the wine comes later when the job is done.)
  2. BABY STEPS: My writing and teaching opportunities have grown quickly in the last few months, and with them, the paperwork.  So, I started with one lil’ pile at a time.
  3. CODE IT: I used 4 colored Sharpies (love those babies!) to create an organizing system: code and zone each item properly.  Blue: teaching items; Green: markets for my writing; Yellow: books/resources; Pink: CCYW, the nonprofit organization I volunteer with.
  4. PRIORITIZE: As I color-coded, I sorted out the items I knew needed immediate action (or within the next week) These items were later looked over and given a deadline date and a day on my weekly to-do list with a big green “A” circled on the front for “Action”
  5. FILE: Sorting each item to its coordinating colored “zone”, I used my other favorite office tool: the Dymo label maker, to name and file items simply for easy retrieval later. (i.e. Teaching items were sorted under “Lessons Plans” either as workshops I did or want to borrow from; Resources were those loose post-its and note cards I wrote book recommendations on or links to cool, helpful sites. These were then filed in one big red folder labeled: “Research on-line”)
  6. DIRTY LITTLE DRAWERS: I emptied the two small side drawers and the pull-out keyboard drawer of my desk. I restocked the right hand drawer with post-its, 3×5 note cards, a stapler, Dymo Label Maker and 2 colored highlighters, all for easy reach when I’m in the middle of working.  My left-side drawer holds a big Websters Dictionary and small Thesaurus, my business cards and cute Mary Engelbreit note cards w/envelopes.  The keyboard pull-out drawer holds two piles:  the Action pile and a pile of almost full spiral notebooks, each opened to stories, essays or fillers I need to type up and find markets for. This way, my to-do’s are right where I need them without appearing overwhelming and messy.
  7. AT MY FINGERTIPS: I have  a portable plastic file organizer where I keep my most referenced files. Currently those have to do with my young writers workshops and projects and the Capitol City Young Writers organization which I board (tracking meeting minutes and editing the qtrly newsletter.) I keep this close to me and clear of clutter, so there’s no excuse not to replace a file.  If I seem to get a few paper items all pertaining to a similar topic, it gets a file folder named (i.e. Board Meeting Notes, Events, My Education, Teaching Characterization, Setting, etc.)
  8. BOOK ME: With my  growing library of writing books, I now have a small, cheap but efficient bookcase near my desk to house all of these resources. I no longer have to dig behind my husband’s Dean R Koontz paperbacks to find Writing Down the Bones for quick inspiration.
  9. WORK IT: As my writing goals and schedule changes, so will my set-up. But for now, I can write, read and research in an organized environment. Now, my only time-waster will be Facebook!

Do you have any organization or spring cleaning tips to share?

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Filed under Advice, emotion, Organization, Writing Space

Progress!

As a full-time working mom of two, finding time to write, organize and submit is a challenge.  I know many of you can relate. 

In one of the writer groups I belong to a fellow “writing mom” posed the question: how do you find time to write?

My suggestions are:

  1.  Set realistic goals. If you have two kids under the age of three, maybe sending out two queries a week isn’t possible.  I use the “Sidetracked Writer’s Planner” found here to help keep me organized, focused and forward moving. Or just jot down your goals, be specific: i.e. write an essay for Skirt! Magazine following their theme list and deadline.
  2. Get a support team: talk to your spouse or partner about your goals and the uninterrupted time you need to accomplish them. Switch off dinner duty or the bedtime routine. Last night my dear husband had a movie night with the boys. I locked the bedroom door, turned on the fan for white noise and had a solid 90 minutes to write a rough draft and organize my calendar and deadlines.
  3. Some great tips are being posted on Christina Katz’s Writer Mama Blog, not to mention her inspiring and realistic advice given in her book: Writer Mama (Writers Digest Books.) I used the tips given in her book to sell my two first articles!
  4. Be selfish. OK, maybe “selfish” is too harsh a word. But I am a firm believer that I can only be a better mom, wife, friend, person if I am pursuing my passions. I am more pleasant to be around. I am practicing what I preach to my children: “Never give up!”

 

One month Challenge update:Progress! I completed 6 project sheets, with action steps needed to complete each project; I found three contests with October deadlines and mapped out a time table to write and rewrite; I transferred all the floating pages, note cards, etc. of ideas into the binder under Idea Inventory; I labeled the covers of my notebooks to better sort my writing according to genre: Essays, Fiction, Non-Fiction Articles (so far!)

What’s on your to do list? How are you accomplishing your goals?

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Filed under Advice, Believe, Deadlines, Organization, Perseverance, procrastination, Writing Space

The One Month Challenge

Kind of a weird date to start a month long challenge, but regardless.  I have been preoccupying myself with all kinds of busy work: blogging, surfing other blogs and sites, bookmarking contests, markets and cool tools for writers.

But I have not been writing! Well, not as much as I’d like. So, I’m using one of the resources I stumbled upon and I’m challenging you to do the same.

The Organized Writer site offers great help in focus, streamlining the mundane tasks and sorting all the loose ends of a writing business: assembling a binder to hold all of your “stuff” so there is one central place to go to for ideas, submission tracker, query tracker, accounting, weekly goals, deadlines, etc.

Last night, while watching the Democratic Convention, I assembled my Organized Writer binder (subscribe to Julie Hood’s free newsletter and get the ebook “The Sidetracked Writer’s Planner” for free!) And today begins Day One of the challenge: to get my writing mind, space and files organized which will allow more free time for the actual writing.

I will keep a daily word counter here. Why don’t you join me in the challenge to get organized and get writing? It’s a great back-to-school commitment you can make to yourself!

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