Responsibility #3: Supporting Writers

Present word count of WIP:  49,832

(Pitiful progress, I know. I’ll try and make up for it while traveling to Utah this weekend.)

In my earlier post about a writer’s responsibilities, I listed #3 as:

We have to support our fellow writers.

What goes around comes around. That’s probably the main reason most of us who struggle to get our writing out there put effort into supporting each other.

The writing community is pretty tightly knit, in and of itself. After all, writers always seem to be on the bottom of the totem pole–whether we’re talking about movies, plays, or books. The biggest Oscars (for Best Picture) or Tonys (Best Play or Musical) go to moneymen–producers–while the creative individual(s) behind the whole story are generally ignored once the picture goes into production. At least, when it comes to awards, the publishing industry has it right. The writers are the ones recognized, not their publishers. However, too many times writers feel like they get little to no respect even in the publishing industry. So, we have to watch out for each other.

That’s why we’ve got groups like PEN American Center, which is only “one of 144 PEN centers in 101 countries that together compose International PEN.” That’s why we’ve got Romance Writers of America and the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. That’s why we’ve got a group for nearly every genre, not to mention all the online groups that help us navigate the complicated waters of getting published.

Then there are other, more specialized groups like American Night Writers Association and LDStorymakers, which are specialized to fit the needs of LDS writers and/or authors.

Yes, one of the ways we can help support each other is by joining one or more of these groups and being involved to the extent that we gain writing friends who will, hopefully, support us as we support them. There is always power in numbers.

Dave Wolverton (aka Dave Farland)

But there’s an even stronger impetus, I feel, for supporting other writers. It’s not about getting anything back for yourself. It’s about helping to grow literacy in this world. Talents always come with responsibility. If we have a gift for the written word, it’s incumbent on us to not only share it, but to spread it among others. I remember being so impressed with Dave Wolverton and the way he freely provides so much help to other writers on their way up the ladder. He doesn’t seem to see them as his competition. I think he sees them more as his legacy.

Let’s help each other freely and build a legacy of literacy.

Originally posted 2012-03-30 13:49:59.

Think of your books as souvenirs

Present word count:  25,290 (I know, I know…not enough…I promise much more next time)

Seth Godin’s Advice for Authors:

4. Understand that a non-fiction book is a souvenir, just a vessel for the ideas themselves. You don’t want the ideas to get stuck in the book… you want them to spread. Which means that you shouldn’t hoard the idea! The more you give away, the better you will do.

I think this applies equally well to fiction. We definitely want the characters, issues, and themes in our stories to spread. More than that, we want our fan base to spread out and grow. Godin is all about giving ideas away for free because he knows that, in the end, you reap what you sow.

That’s what I love about author communities like LDStorymakers and ANWA. The more we give to our fellow writers (whether it’s the benefit of our experience, or helpful critiques, or simply our attention), the more we grow and are enriched as writers. I’ve felt badly that I haven’t given more lately in either group, but my time has been crunched by both the Storymaker website and reading for the Whitneys. Still, I know that once my schedule frees up, I can make up for lost time. I don’t know if it’s the fact that 99% of us are still struggling for the audience we want… or the fact that one hit today doesn’t guarantee a lifetime of success, but for some reason, our hearts can’t help but go out to each other. Writers, as a whole, are some of the most unselfish people I know in business.

And our books truly are souvenirs for both us and our readers. They help us remember what our own lives were like as we wrote them. Depending on the content, they can help us remember people, places, or events in our lives. And they speak to our readers in similar ways, though the reading experience is unique for each person who reads our words. They meld their own memories, experiences, and ideas with ours as they read.

Sometimes, book marketing is not about sales so much as spreading your words. Think of your books as souvenirs and give some away.

Originally posted 2012-01-27 13:19:24.

Back in the Saddle

Present Word Count of WIP: 13,901

After two days and more than 3,500 words written, I can officially announce that I’m back to my writing. What a relief! I was beginning to suspect that the holidays had completely upended my routine.

It’s always difficult for me to write when my daughter comes home for a visit because she’s about ready to graduate from college and her visits home come so seldom these days. As much as I see myself as a writer, I’m a wife and mother first, so I’m still having to fight off the guilt for carving out periods of the day to shut myself off from those responsibilities. It’s easier with my son (who’s about to graduate from high school) because he still lives here and, like me, he tends to shut himself into his cave every day, not craving company. But Allison is very social. Obviously, I wasn’t very successful from Thanksgiving through Christmas.

It’s a good thing we have New Year’s Resolutions. In fact, that’s probably the only thing I like about New Year’s Eve as a holiday. This time, I’ve set myself 5 “SMART” goals, 4 of which involve writing. That’s “SMART,” as in Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic/Relevant, and Time-Specific (something I picked up from a recent QueryTracker Newsletter).

I’ll post the writing goals here so that you can all hold me accountable:

1) Write every day for at least two hours.

2) Finish first draft of SOG by February 20, 2012 (so it’s somewhat ready to pitch at the ANWA Conference). Finish final draft by April 30, 2012 (for pitching at the LDStorymakers Conference).

3) Find 20 agents who rep my kind of YA Fantasy and organize them from most to least appealing. Query top 7 by May 15, 2012.

4) Blog twice a week (usually Mondays and Fridays), once on each blog.

So, yes, I decided not to wait until Friday this week because I couldn’t stand seeing my website go unchanged another day. Tomorrow, I’ll probably post on my other blog here. As for the daily writing goal, I’ve completed ten chapters now of my WIP. I’ll try and keep a running count of words written each week here, to keep myself on task.

So, what are your goals for the new year? I have a feeling that, despite the dire predictions of the Mayans, 2012 is going to be a terrific year!

Originally posted 2012-01-05 12:17:17.

My Book a Door Prize

One of my responsibilities at the recent LDStorymakers Writers Conference was to help take pictures of those who won books as door prizes. It was a real pleasure to be on the other side of the camera for this shot with Bethany Kitchen. She won my book, The Reckoning, as a door prize and I enjoyed meeting her and autographing the inside cover page. (I was a rebel by Saturday and refused to wear the colorful green sailor cap. Sorry, Liz.)

But I loved the timely, efficient way Liz coordinated all the door prizes. Let’s hear it for Liz and everyone else in charge of this year’s conference!

Originally posted 2011-05-14 13:03:41.

What a Trip! What a Conference!

I’m ready for human cloning (on a temporary basis, that is). I think writers need to have clones so that their writer self can remain at the keyboard creating while their marketing and student selves go off to conferences to learn, network, and pitch to agents and editors. (If you’re a writer, I know you agree with this.) The only drawback to the 2011 LDStorymakers Conference was that I couldn’t be in several places at the same time.

But first, the trip. Actually, it wasn’t too bad. Sure, I could have used a clone or two to help me drive for 9.5 hours straight (other than gas, food and potty stops). Still, it was great weather and at the end of the day I got to meet up with three old friends from my junior high days and compare notes over dinner. I hadn’t seen one of them since 10th grade. It was amazing to see how our lives had turned out thus far. Good fodder for a novel…but not right away or they’d get mad.

I roomed with the fabulous Liz Adair and Thursday morning was spent assembling folders and binders for the conference. Then, while everyone spent much of the day in Boot Camp, I got to drive down to Provo and have lunch with my beautiful daughter, Allison. Afterward, we lucked out and got into the Carl Bloch exhibit at BYU’s Museum of Art. He could tell an entire story with one painting or even one etching. I think my favorite altar pieces were those of Christ with the child and Christ at the Pool of Bethesda (particularly since it relates to my newest novel that I’m pitching). I arrived back in SLC that evening in time for a quick dinner and then a fun “Meet and Greet” with fellow Storymakers. The interviews conducted by Tristi Pinkston, Frank Cole, and Terri Ferran had me wiping tears from my eyes because I was laughing so much and I can’t wait to upload them to the new website. (I’ll keep you posted on that.) Stephanie Fowers and her sister were invaluable in taping the interviews. Warning: they’re in high def, so don’t be too judgmental on appearances. After all, some of these interviews were done at 10 pm after a full day of Boot Camp!

Friday and Saturday were a blur. This is when I really could have used a few clones. In between helping Liz with door prize giveaways several times each day and grabbing meals here and there, I attended great presentations by Becca Stumpf (on pitching), Marion Jensen (on Social Media…but I missed the last half because I was scheduled to pitch to Sara Megibow, a terrific agent–I don’t know how she did it, but I wasn’t nervous at all; I felt so at ease talking with her and she expressed interest in Laps), Sara Crowe (on synopsis writing, which turned out to be the pitch portion of your query letter rather than a full synopsis…not what I was expecting but still helpful), Josi Kilpack (on launching your book), Dave Wolverton twice (on habits of successful writers and on using resonance to make your writing sell), Bob Conder (on Screenwriting), and the energetic and funny Sara Megibow (on acquiring a literary agent). I also attended a speculative fiction panel featuring James Dashner, Rob Wells, Dave Wolverton, Julie Wright, and Howard Taylor. You might wonder why since my fiction thus far has been solidly grounded in reality, but about two weeks ago three fascinating ideas for novels hit me–all speculative (one YA semi-historical, and two dystopian). I know. I should have attended Rob’s on Dystopian Fiction, but hey–that would have required clones.

Anyway, the Whitney Awards Gala Dinner was terrific as always and some of my favorite people won, besides. I’d invited my daughter and a guy she’s dating, Bryan Beus, to join me since he’s an illustrator (he did the covers and illustrations for James Dashner’s first two installments in the 13th Reality series) and a soon-to-be-published author. He ended up knowing as many people there as I did!

My last comment on cloning: it might help de-stress your pet cats. Every time I go away for a short trip and then return, Peach and Anastasia have to get re-introduced to me. It’s as if they can’t believe it’s really me walking in the door. Of course, if they were to encounter more than one of me at a time, they’d probably go nuts, so that alternative won’t work…for them, anyway.

If we can’t have cloning at next year’s conference, maybe we can at least have an option to buy DVDs or CDs of the presentations we missed. What do you think?

Originally posted 2011-05-09 12:47:24.

I’m Back!

You probably thought I’d died or got lost while climbing Mt. Ranier (Hah! With my knees, I can’t even hike up Badger Mountain behind my house and it’s not really a mountain…more like an elevated hill.)…or…was secretly off on some remote location for the next episode of “Survivor.”

After all, why would a writer stop blogging for three months? Other than my shoulder surgery and recovery, the main reason is this.

It only took about a month (and the help of a very web tech-savvy friend) to get the new Storymakers website up and running, but it’s taken another two to get little things ironed out and get comfortable enough with the routine of site maintenance so that I’m ready to delegate much of it to my committee members.

Just in time, too, because I’m hoping to meet up with all of them at the annual LDStorymakers Writers Conference next week in Salt Lake City. There, I can sit down with them and show them the ropes (if they haven’t yet figured it out from my way-too-dense instructional email).

By the way, if you’re a Storymaker and planning on attending, please don’t miss the Meet and Greet on Thursday, May 5th at 8 pm in the hotel. Not only will you be able to meet and socialize with fellow Storymakers and begin to put faces to names, but you’ll get:

  • an introduction to the Board of Directors and its various responsibilities (so that you might be more inclined to volunteer your services for certain positions, such as mine…hint, hint)
  • a brief demonstration of the new site…AND
  • a chance to be interviewed (bring a copy of your latest book, even if it’s 5+ years old) for future placement in the Featured Video section of the website’s home page.

The conference should be awesome and I can’t wait to meet a ton of fellow writers, plus agents, editors, and publishers. (I’m pitching to Sara Megibow with Nelson Literary Agency.)

In any case, no more excuses. I promise to check in at least twice a week from here on out (since I don’t foresee any other website creation in my future).

Originally posted 2011-04-26 09:24:43.

About My Quasi-Digital Sabbatical…

I had thought about taking a quasi-digital sabbatical during the month of September, just so I could focus better (without interruptions) on my writing. Well, I’m going to have to take a one-year sabbatical from that kind of sabbatical, because today I was appointed the Publicity Director for LDStorymakers and it’s imperative that I stay very hooked in and online.

There is no way I could fulfill these new responsibilities without email, blogging, web design, tweeting, you name it! Wish me luck. And if any Storymaker out there would like to serve on my committee (I’m already blessed to have two–Marion Jensen and Deanne Blackhurst)…and if they’ll allow me to have more help…you’re more than welcome!

Originally posted 2010-08-31 19:26:45.

“Wednesday Writer” – Rebecca Talley

I got to know Rebecca Talley when I served under her on the board on LDStorymakers, a guild for LDS published authors that puts on a terrific writer’s conference every spring. She’s published several other books since then and I thought it was about time I interviewed her here.

Rebecca12-profileME:  Your childhood in Santa Barbara, California near the beach sounds idyllic, but how is it you and your sister came to be raised by your maternal grandparents? And has any of that background worked its way into your fiction writing? (I’d love a picture of you at the beach.)

REBECCA:  Our parents died when my sister and I were quite young. Our maternal grandparents, in their sixties, took on the responsibility of raising a second family. Thankfully, they were willing to raise us so we didn’t have to be separated or sent to foster homes. (What a blessing! Grandparents are so important.)

DaddyandMeatBeach(Rebecca with her daddy at the beach)

Beach3

(Another great picture of her with her father)

Beach

(And here’s one of her and her sister on the beach)

My first novel, “Heaven Scent,” was inspired by my mother, who wore a very specific perfume. During particularly difficult times in my life, I have been able to smell her perfume and feel her so close to me I could almost reach out and touch her. I included this in “Heaven Scent,” as the main character loses her mother and searches for understanding about life after death.

Heaven ScentME:  What made you take up flamenco dancing as a teenager? (And I must have a picture of you performing…please.)

REBECCA:  Santa Barbara has a very strong Spanish influence in both its architecture and its history. Every year in August, SB celebrates Old Spanish Days or “Fiesta” as the locals call it, which is a huge celebration that includes horse events, flamenco dancing and traditional mariachi bands at the Court House and the Old Mission, parades, parties, and outdoor markets.

Fiesta(Rebecca and her sister all dressed up to perform in Fiesta)

As a kid, I took ballet and tap then moved on to flamenco. I loved to dance and play my castanets. I once danced for five miles along the parade route and ended up with lots of blisters. I also once danced for a large group and fell off the stage. That was embarrassing. (I’ll bet! :D)

Flamenco(And there she is ready to dance flamenco)

ME:  How did your years at BYU, and your degree in Communications, prepare you for the kind of fiction writing you do?

REBECCA:  My experience at BYU was the basis for my second novel, “Altared Plans.”

Altared Plans

I now wish I had majored in English, as I had planned when I was in high school. Communications was a good major, but I don’t think it prepared me much to be a novelist. (Hmmm…as a Communications major myself, I might argue with you on that one. It taught me to write sparely.) However, all life experiences are great fodder for writing. (I couldn’t agree more!)

ME:  Okay, you’ve lived in Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado (and did I hear you’ve now moved to Texas?). What are the best and worst things about each of those places, and which has proven to be the most inspirational in terms of your writing, and why? (I’d love to post a picture of you with your family, plus a picture of you with your llama.)

REBECCA:  I lived in Utah while going to school and I loved the college life in Provo. I had a blast there. I didn’t like the pollution in the winter and I wasn’t a big fan of the snow.

BYU Days(Rebecca in jeans with some of her BYU friends)

We lived in Provo for a few years after we got married then moved to NM for a job. I had a great experience in Farmington, NM. I loved the people and the small town feel. I had to get used to the dry desert and the lack of services and goods offered because it was such a small town, but I loved living there.

We decided to move to Colorado to purchase land and live a more rural lifestyle. I loved the peace and quiet and the beauty of living in a rural area. The mountains in Colorado are gorgeous and there’s an abundance of wildlife.

CO(Rebecca and her husband in Colorado not far from their house)

The best part was that my sister and her family (now 12 kids) lived right across the street from us. (Are you two competing for largest family or something?) We had lots and lots of great fun together. I didn’t love the very cold temperatures in the winter (in January it hovered at zero degrees) and I didn’t love when the snow made it impossible to get out of my driveway. It was also hard living on a well with so many kids, especially in the dry years. Most years in August we had to start choosing between doing dishes, taking showers, or doing laundry. But I loved the wide open spaces and having horses, cows, dogs, cats, rabbits, goats, sheep, and pigs. Actually, I didn’t love having pigs. (How come you didn’t mention the llama?)

Talley Family

(Rebecca’s large gorgeous family)

We now live in a suburb of Houston, Texas and love it. There are some wonderful people here and we love where we live. We are so close to everything and the kids especially love having a pool. For me, each place has been its own inspiration and has been a great place for me at that time of my life. I think you can find inspiration anywhere. I just love to be with my family, so wherever they are, I am happy and can find inspiration.

Beach2(Rebecca and her family at the beach)

Courthouse

(The author with her daughters and daughter-in-law in front of the courthouse in Santa Barbara where she used to perform)

ME:  What are some of the common themes in all of your fiction, or are no two books alike? Why or why not?

REBECCA:  I think some of the common themes are that you can’t plan everything. You have to let go and trust God that things will work out. I am such a control freak and I’ve had to realize that I can’t control everything—well, actually, I really can’t control anything, except how I react to what happens. I make my characters struggle with hard questions, some of which have no real answers.

(That makes for good fiction.)

ME:  How would you define LDS fiction as opposed to fiction written by LDS authors, or is there a difference?

REBECCA:  I think LDS fiction deals directly with LDS themes, while fiction written by LDS authors deal with more general themes. LDS fiction generally has LDS subjects and characters within the story and doesn’t include profanity, sex scenes, or explicit violence. Fiction written by LDS authors for a general audience may have sex scenes, violence, profanity, and very mature themes.

There is currently a group of LDS authors who are writing for a general audience but with LDS standards—clean fiction, if you will. These books can range from light romance to fantasy to serious drama, but don’t include much profanity, if any, no sex scenes and no graphic violence. (I’m glad you mentioned that.)

I think there are three categories for readers: if they want to read a story with LDS characters dealing with LDS subjects, or if they want to read general stories that have LDS standards but not LDS characters or themes, or if they are simply looking for a story without LDS characters, themes, or standards.

Books

(Rebecca and a few of her author friends displaying some of her books)

ME:  Tell us about the first novel you ever wrote and compare it with your latest, IMPERFECT LOVE. What have you noticed in terms of your progression as a writer?

Imperfect LoveREBECCA:  My first novel was pretty rough. I didn’t understand the evolution of a story, or the structure, as well as I (hopefully) do now. I just had a story I wanted to tell and that was it. Now, I understand that there are certain elements of story that must be present and a framework underneath the prose. I think I understand the mechanics better and, hopefully, my language use is better. (I’m sure it is. Practice can’t help but make you better.)

ME:  What was the most difficult novel you ever wrote, and why? And which was the most personal?

REBECCA:  My YA paranormal, AURA, was the most difficult for me to write because it’s an urban fantasy with some magic in it. I’m not much into fantasy, so it was difficult for me to get this one right. I learned after writing that book that I’m much more comfortable writing realistic fiction.

Aura

My first three books all had personal ties. HEAVEN SCENT was inspired by my mom and losing her. ALTARED PLANS was inspired by my courtship with my husband and has some true experiences in it. THE UPSIDE OF DOWN was probably the most personal because it delved into a woman learning she has a child with Down syndrome, and I wrote it while my own feelings about having a child with Down syndrome were still very raw. I felt like part of my soul was on those pages.

The Upside of Down

ME:  What are you working on now and how would you describe your writing process?

REBECCA:  I am currently in the brainstorming phase for several novel ideas. I’m going to see which one grabs me the most and work on that next.

I generally do some pre-writing, like outlining some scenes, writing character sketches, finding photos of my characters, freewriting. After I feel like I know enough, I write a rough draft in a month or so. After I let it sit, I go back and rewrite and work on it for a few months then turn it over to my critique partners to shred it. After I rewrite it with their suggestions, I let other readers go through it. I have hired professional editors to also go through my books.

(Never a bad choice.)

ME:  Finally, with such a large household, where do you retreat to write? If you have a favorite writing space, please detail five things about it that makes it different from every other author’s writing space. (And I must have a picture.)

REBECCA:  My writing place isn’t anything special. It’s a big recliner in the corner of my bedroom. It is my own space, and my kids know not to get into my “writing stuff.” I’d love to say I have a large walnut desk overlooking the ocean, but I don’t. My bedroom window does look out to the pool, if that counts.

(Hey, pools always count in my book…literally, if you’ve read A Night on Moon Hill. :D)

WritingArea(And here’s Rebecca’s comfy chair)

If you want to learn more about Rebecca and her books, or even just follow her blog, check out her website. Her books are all available on Amazon.

I’ll be talking with romance author Susan Aylworth next week, so be sure to check back!

Susan Aylworth

Originally posted 2014-03-19 06:00:53.

“Wednesday Writer” – Pauline Hansen

If you were happily married but gradually your family became hostage to the growing paranoid schizophrenia of your husband, would you stay married? And would you write about it?

Pauline Hansen chose to do both, telling her story in her memoir, A PATCHWORK REALITY: HAPPILY MARRIED TO A SCHIZOPHRENIC.

Pauline-Hansen-170x255

ME:  You say you grew up in a small town, one to which you’ve now returned, but exactly how tiny is it? Please give us a clear picture of what your childhood and youth was like there (plus a picture or two of you growing up). And is it any different for your own kids, or are they all grown up?

PAULINE:  The town I grew up in and have now returned to is indeed tiny. It has remained, throughout the years, at about 150 people. We like to joke that there are probably more dogs than people : )

Life growing up in my hometown was typical of country life. We weren’t farmers or ranchers, so we didn’t have cattle or fields of hay, but other than that, we did many of the other things well known to country life: in the warm months, we grew a massive garden, played in the ditch as children, ran everywhere barefoot, climbed the surrounding rocks and mountains, went on picnics and went camping, then in the winter, we’d build snowmen, go sledding and snowmobiling, and hunt for a fresh Christmas tree every year.

Pauline age 10(Pauline at 10)

My own children, two of which were still school-aged when we moved here, do some of the same things – mostly the climbing and hiking and such, but they were 13 and 15 years old, so they didn’t have near the country life experience that I did while growing up.

Pauline 1985

(Pauline as a senior)

ME:  How old were you when you first dreamed to one day become an author, and which book exactly prompted that dream?

PAULINE:  I remember when I’d read as a youth, sometimes a book a day, I would be in awe of anyone that could actually write a book. It was something of a miracle to me back then. I remember wishing that maybe someday, I could write a book, but that’s all it was – a fanciful wish.

(So, it sounds as if it was no particular book, just books in general.)

ME:  What kind of book did you imagine yourself writing when you grew up and how did that differ from what you ended up producing?

PAULINE:  As a youth, when I dreamed of writing a book someday, I always wanted to write a romance, and I planned to include every spine-tingling, heart-racing, breath-taking romantic thing I could think of. I have, in fact, written a romance, but as it stands, it needs a lot of work, so when the thought occurred to me that I should write my memoir and publish it, I figured that was the best idea to go with first. I’m still revising the romance, though!

(Great! Then we know what to expect next.)

ME:  Since your book, PATCHWORK REALITY: HAPPILY MARRIED TO A SCHIZOPHRENIC, details your husband’s descent into paranoid schizophrenia in his mid-thirties and its effect on you and the children, please tell us how you met and what your relationship with him was like before those nine years of extreme psychological stress. (I’d love to post a picture of you and the family from those earlier years.)

PAULINE:  Curtis and I met at a dance at Dixie College. My roommate was the girlfriend of Curtis’s best friend, so that helped to bring us together, but once we did meet, there was no turning back. Although I had had numerous boyfriends in the past, I knew my relationship with Curtis was special and lasting, almost from the start. It didn’t take us long to want to date exclusively, then we were engaged after only 4 months, and married 3 months after that.

The book describes what the first fourteen years of our marriage were like, and in a nutshell, we had it all–laughter, babies, vacations, and ball games. Life was good, with your typical ups and downs, arguments over disciplining the kids and the finances, lots of expenses that come with raising five children, and lots of love and good times.

Hansens 1997(Pauline, Curtis, and the kids in the good times)

ME:  How did you come to the decision to write your story?

PAULINE:  One day in February of 2012, I felt the greatest urge to write something. It was a desire I couldn’t shake, but everything I attempted to write just didn’t feel quite right. Then one morning as I lay in bed contemplating, it occurred to me that I had a story to tell, one that would be different than anything anyone had ever read. And maybe, just maybe, someone would gain some insight when they read it, or realize there’s hope amidst difficult trials, or as my husband so eloquently put it, realize that marriage is worth fighting for.

patchwork-reality-happily-married-to-a-schizophrenic-pauline-hansen-9781462113644cover-360x540

ME:  How did your husband and children feel about the book?

PAULINE:  I admit at first I worried that my husband wouldn’t want me to write our story, since it would be so personal and put him in an awkward light. But all he kept repeating whenever I would ask him if he was SURE he was okay with me writing it was, “Of course I’m sure. After what I put you through, I have to let you do what you feel you need to.”

He must have known it would be rather therapeutic for me to write, plus I think he feels, too, that shedding some light on such a mysterious illness would be a good thing in the long run.

As far as the children go, they’ve been immensely supportive throughout the process of having me write and publish our experience. They knew very little of what went on, and yet even when they read the nitty gritty parts, not one of them has judged me or their dad for it.

ME:  What prompted your move back to your tiny hometown, and did it have anything to do with your husband’s condition?

PAULINE:  My husband’s condition had everything to do with moving back to my tiny hometown. He was jobless and did not play to look for a job anytime soon, which was very rare for him. He had always been a very hard worker and very dedicated to his job. We were at our rope’s end and needed a place to go, so we moved in with my parents temporarily until we could decide what our next move was.

We loved it here so much we decided to stay, and it’s a good thing, because the lower stress, slower pace of life, no traffic, and very few people have been a huge factor in my husband’s recovery.

Cannonville UTaerialview(An aerial view of their isolated town in Utah)

ME:  Tell us about the writing process you followed in creating this book, including beta readers and/or critique groups. And did you seek out any experts in schizophrenia?

PAULINE:  I had already been attending writer’s conferences before I even knew of my husband’s condition (and decided to write about it), and once I knew I wanted to write our story, I went to even more conferences with the intention of finding other authors that I could connect with and ask advice of. I only used one beta reader, and her advice was invaluable. (That’s a big YES for beta readers!)

I joined ANWA, American Night Writers Association, where I could post any question I had about the writing or publishing process on their Yahoo group sites. They’ve been a huge help and I’ve made some wonderful friends! (That’s a big YES for ANWA too!)

As far as seeking experts on schizophrenia, my intention was never to write a book as a resource for those seeking help about mental illness. The Internet is a wealth of knowledge for that, and I would just muddy the waters if I attempted to give any advice.

ME:  What are you working on now, or what do you plan to write next, and why?

PAULINE:  I am once again attempting to work on the first novel I wrote, a romance based in my own little hometown. We’ll see if it ends up publish-worthy. :D I also have a rough outline and quite a few pages of ideas for a dramatic romance I would love to write some time, plus I have a children’s book series in mind that begs to be written, but that concept is definitely in its infancy.

I don’t always feel an extreme urge to write, but when that urge hits, I obey. I love to read, and I love the written word, and the stories in my head will, at the right time, break free and land on the page.

ME:  Finally, please describe your writing space—the room or place you used most in writing PATCHWORK REALITY—and tell us what makes it your own. (And I must have a picture.)

PAULINE:  Our home is small, but still, I claim a lot of our overcrowded space as my own when I’m in the middle of a project. When I wrote PATCHWORK REALITY, we only had one computer that the whole family shared, but if I needed it everyone else knew they had to let me use it. It is centrally located, in the living room, so although I was often engrossed in my work, I was still out amongst the family if they needed me.

At the time, my husband rarely got on the computer. He was just learning how to use one back then. Now, though, he’s on the family computer a lot more, so it was a huge blessing when my children gave me a laptop for Christmas last year.

My Writing Space(Pauline’s work space)

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(And here’s Pauline, Curtis, and their kids today)

Pauline’s memoir is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at Books & Things. If you want to learn more about the author and her work, check out her website.

On tap for next Wednesday is Rebecca Talley, a former president of LDStorymakers and author of two LDS novels and a children’s picture book.

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Originally posted 2014-03-12 06:00:46.

“Wednesday Writer” – Carole Thayne Warburton

(NOTE:  I’m afraid my postings may be a bit sparse for the next couple of months since I’m in the throes of reading Whitney Finalists, but if you’re a writer and would like to be interviewed as part of my “Wednesday Writer” series, please let me know in a comment below.)

I’ve wanted to get to know Carole better for some time now because I could sense she was a kindred spirit through some of her blog posts and comments in the LDStorymakers email loop. The fact that she has a new book out–POACHING DAISIES–gave me the perfect opportunity. I’m happy to say she provided me with lots of great pictures, too!

Carole Thayne WarburtonME:  What were some of the most formative events from your childhood, the ones that made you the person and writer you are today? (And I’d love a picture of you as a child to share with readers.)

CAROLE:  It’s easy for me to look back and see the turning points that sparked my interest in writing. My mother took a creative writing course through the mail and I remember her typing her stories and reading them to us. She also was a reporter for the Orem Geneva Times. She was a member of the League of Utah Writers and attended Round-up several times. She took me with her to hear Louis L’Amour when I was in junior high (What a wonderful opportunity!) and I took third place in the youth division for fiction.

hp_scanDS_811261412028(That’s Carole with her mother and brother. She says that for most of her childhood, she thought the table arrangement behind her was her hair. :D)

Several of my teachers through the years told me I was a good writer. I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a writer. It wasn’t until I was in high school that the creative dream expanded to include pottery. I was the youngest of five and the only girl in our family. Life at our house was chaotic. I would often seek a quiet spot in the house or my room to read or to write. My imagination was always huge and when I played with my friends, I was the one who was constantly coming up with the pretend scenarios.  In college, I took creative writing classes along with my art classes. I never could choose one over the other, so years after graduating in art, I went back to college and got a degree in English. (Congratulations and good for you!)

ME:  If you had to choose between pottery and writing, which would you choose and why?

CAROLE:  That is a really hard question. (Sorry…) I honestly can’t imagine having to give up either one. I used to tell people that giving up pottery would be like cutting off my arm. It’s so much fun. Writing is a different kind of outlet and a different kind of energy. I go through phases where one has to take over and become more important. In the summer, it’s all pottery. But when I’m editing and re-writing, I have little time for pottery.

Since you insist on choosing, I will go with pottery, mainly because it never lets me down. There is rejection in the process of getting in shows and things, but the rejection doesn’t feel as personal or as painful as getting a rejection on a book. Writing is a great way to work through problems, but it often leaves me feeling raw and sometimes drained of energy when I write about a difficult situation in my life. The pottery energizes my soul and doesn’t leave me feeling depleted. I feel happier when I’m making pottery. On the other hand, I only have a couple of good potter friends, but I’ve made dozens of friends through my writing. I would never want to give up the friendships I’ve made. So what a hard choice!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(And we can understand why when we see the fruits of her gift…I’d love a dinner set!)

ME:  Why do you write? What are you striving for with each book or story, and what are you hoping the reader comes away with?

CAROLE:  So far, my books have been for fun. I like to tell stories. I like to listen to stories. I like to read stories. I’m the one who is listening in on conversations in restaurants hoping to glean a nugget I can use in a story. (So that was you the other night, eh?) I am a great observer.. So what I hope is that I’m successful in getting the reader to escape, to laugh, and to think.

A recurring theme (hopefully not too overt) in all my novels is that people aren’t always what they seem. The kindest person in town may not be the most successful. I love small towns and I think that’s reflected in all my stories too. Other than my novels, I do write a lot of personal reflection essays. Some of these have made their way to blogs, but some are too personal even for that. That kind of writing is the way I deal with the more difficult aspects of life and religion. I used to be a great “letter to the editor” writer, but ever since blogging came along, I’ve found I can get most of what I need to say out and only contribute to the newspaper occasionally.

ME:  What are the similarities and differences between creating a good ceramic piece and creating a good story? (And I’d love a picture of you at work doing each.)

CAROLE:  Creating something that wasn’t there before. Always doing your best, whether or not you are creating an essay, blog post, novel, bowl, mug, or vase. The first idea that comes is often cliché, so take that idea and make it better. The ideas come similarly. For writing, an idea will come and it develops in the process. In pottery, the ideas come more quickly because the process is so much faster from start to finish–unless it’s a short writing piece.

at work on potphoto

There is art and crafting in each skill. There is something about continuing to learn and develop. Both arts need a consumer for the process to be complete. Writing can be just for the person, but it’s so much better if the writing can be shared and experienced by many.

vase on potters wheel

The differences are in the product and function. I can sell a book to someone I will never see and often never hear from. But usually when I sell pottery, I will have some personal contact with the person. I often can see them hold my pottery and I can imagine them using it. I get to see how my work affects them. But each piece is usually only enjoyed by one person or family. With writing, it may be enjoyed by thousands of people, but I only occasionally get feedback from the reader. My writing can convey ideas. My pottery is meant for function and beauty.

(Very well put.)

ME:  Okay, this next line of questioning is a little out there so let’s see if I can phrase it well enough to get my meaning across. As one “liberal” to another, how much of a struggle is it to keep politics and social views out of your fiction, or do you throw caution to the wind and risk alienating half of your readers by letting it all in? Do you even feel that tension as you write, and how does it affect what you write and the way you write?

CAROLE:  I don’t know how much people notice the liberal themes in my books. No one has complained to me personally yet. I don’t like anything that is hard sell myself, so I try to be subtle. There are always liberal characters in my books; environmentalists, being the easiest to write about comfortably, are generally the main characters. I like to pair this character with one who makes a living doing something counter to the more liberal person’s point of view. Usually these two opposing characters find a way to compromise and get along. (If only our Congress could follow suit!)

I try to show the humor in extreme views. I did have one reader/writer take offense to Iris, an extreme environmentalist, in POACHING DAISIES. I said, you are supposed to think she’s over-the-top. Once she knew that, she was okay with Iris’s view. Another character is a gun-toting conservative and the two of them have some pretty humorous arguments. In other words, I don’t keep politics out of it, but I want people to lighten up and try to work together.

There are other social views I have that I haven’t included in my fiction. Someday! I do worry about alienating my readers, but also realize that some of the best fiction is not always comfortable. (True.) Think of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. That story creeped me out. (Good example.)

ME:  Tell us more about your recently released novel, POACHING DAISIES, and what led you to write it.

Poaching Daisies CAROLE:  I write about places where I have a very strong connection. The setting is very important in each of my novels. POACHING DAISIES was set in the small tourist town of Silver Gate where my grandma and grandpa built a cabin in 1960. The town is one mile outside of Yellowstone.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(Here’s a picture of the town)

Several years ago, when we were visiting, they had a town meeting about eradicating the oxeye daisy, an invasive species. At the time, it was very popular to plant this flower in your summer yard. The problem is the problem-free flower would take over native grasses. The “environmentalists” took the task of eradicating it very seriously. A story began to brew in my mind. Then I brought in another problem that had been in the news and that was poaching bears and harvesting certain organs for “medicinal” purposes. I found the two a pretty fun match for a suspense novel set in the park. (It does sound fun!)

ME:  I have to be honest and say that I’ve been struck by the seriousness of some of your blog postings of late. It makes me wonder if you might have a deeper, more serious novel working its way up in you–something beyond genre fiction. How do you respond to that?

CAROLE:  I wondered if anyone noticed the seriousness of my posts. I’ve had a difficult year emotionally. Just when we start to feel comfortable, things shift–beliefs shift–leaving us feeling wobbly at times. Issues and difficulties in life literally keep me awake at night. I’ve found that if I can write about it, I can go to sleep. For me, writing in a journal doesn’t work. I like the idea that someone else might benefit, relate, or think about something I have to say.

I was raised in a home of strongly opinionated people. We didn’t discuss, we argued. (Me too!) As I grew up and developed my own beliefs, I found those clashing with my family and with many of my friends and neighbors in Utah. Something I’ve grown to feel passionate about is that, as a society and as a church, we’ve left some people without options. Four years ago I witnessed the tragic death of a young man. Since that time, my heart has felt more deeply than it ever had before. I never stop thinking about the fragility of life. I ache with the thought of the mother and father whose son never came home again. And yet I’ve heard of some parents turning their backs on a child because he or she is gay or because they left their faith. I don’t know how anyone recovers from losing a child, but choosing to lose a child because they aren’t what you think they should be breaks my heart.

I do know that, as writers, we take all of the stuff around us and it will come out in some way in our writing. But letting ourselves feel, really feel what’s happening or could happen is painful. I’ve been helping a friend to write her story. She came out as a Lesbian to her husband of sixteen years and that is one of the biggest reasons her marriage ended. She has a story to tell and I’d like to help her get it out. The seriousness of the subject is something that requires a lot of skill and grace. I hope to be up to the challenge. Creative non-fiction is my favorite kind of writing.

ME:  I know you’re a hiker. Looking back on all the hiking/camping trips you’ve taken, which has been your favorite and why? (And please provide pictures, if possible.) Also, have you ever gotten a good idea for a novel out of one of your hikes?

CAROLE:  Choosing a favorite hike might be as hard as choosing a favorite novel or child. When I was in high school I had a good friend who lived up Provo Canyon. She really got me into hiking. We hiked lots of trails in the canyon and hiked to the top of Mount Timpanogas several times every summer. It’s about a 15-mile roundtrip hike and has a lot of wildflowers. I was lucky enough to marry a man who loves to hike as much as I do. Together we hike all the trails in Logan canyon and around us. One of our favorites is to Jardine Juniper, a barely alive gnarly tree that is 3200 years old.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(Carole with her husband above on a hike near Silver Gate–setting of POACHING DAISIES…and with her daughter below on the Crimson Trail in Logan Canyon)

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(With members of her writing group at Jardine Juniper for a birthday hike)

In Yellowstone, we like to do several hikes each trip and always try to find one we haven’t done yet. Our children and grandchildren all hike. It’s part of being in our family. Everyone knows I do an annual birthday hike. Anyone can come and it’s a way I’ve learned to deal with growing older. (Sounds like a terrific tradition, as long as you stay in shape.)

I haven’t gotten a specific idea for a novel, but Poaching Daisies includes several of the hikes I’ve done in the Yellowstone area. The opening scene with a dead bear and gunshot takes place on a hike that I have done several times.

ME:  Please describe your writing space and what makes it uniquely fit with you.

CAROLE:  My friend, whose story I want to write, gave me a lovely desk to thank me for the efforts I’d made in helping her. The desk fits perfectly in our new upstairs. I take turns writing at the desk with the spectacular view behind me, or I sit on a recliner and write on my laptop and look out at another mountain view.

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(Riding her bike near her home in Avon, Utah)

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(Springtime in Avon)

I love to write outside on our wrap-around porch, but can’t deal with the glare, so I usually end up coming inside. I wrote most of my novels in the house we lived in in Paradise at the kitchen table. I love the flexibility of a laptop and honestly don’t think I would enjoy writing a novel on a desktop again.

ME:  Finally, what are you working on now both in pottery and writing, and how would you describe your writing process?

CAROLE:  I’m not actively writing anything right now. I’ve started my memoirs, which are mostly just for fun, although I hope, at some point, some part of it can become marketable. I am trying to get back with my friend and help her write her story. I keep thinking about novel ideas and love some of my characters that I would like to meet up with again. I keep thinking about how Sunny Day from my book FALSE PRETENSES of a decade ago would love to meet Iris MacAfee from POACHING DAISIES. I hear new stories from friends in Grouse Creek, and that makes me want to write another novel set there. The town is down to only about 70 people and the school has only about seven students. That is a lot smaller than when my husband and I taught there twenty years ago. It’s such a unique setting that the story ideas are easily mined.

As far as my pottery, I love functional pottery. I love that small pieces of art are gracing the homes of typical families. Because it’s such an affordable art to own, so many more people can enjoy it. I’m working at building and marketing my business. And of course ideas are always coming to change designs and styles.

If you’d like to read more from Carole or see more examples of her pottery, check out her blog. POACHING DAISIES is currently available on Amazon.

Originally posted 2013-03-13 06:00:33.