Welcome Journalist Jane E. Dee

Please welcome Connecticut-based journalist Jane E. Dee to Write Despite. Non-fiction, done well, has a special power all its own, which Jane’s writing attests to. Read her latest essay, a touching account of her beloved father’s decline.

More from Jane:

In college I considered myself a “creative writer.” Being a reporter didn’t appeal to me. Then I began writing for a community newspaper in Hartford. My editor at the time was covering local politics. I thought “Good for him,” because I had no interest in writing about politics. Then he sent me to a mayoral nominating convention. I covered politics and local communities for the rest of my career, which was at the Hartford Courant. I’m still with the Courant, where I’ve held a number of positions. And I still consider myself a creative writer, although I approach writing with a journalist’s curiosity, focus and succinctness. Or at least I try.

1. What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

It doesn’t matter how well you write. What matters is what’s inside of you.

2. Please tell us your favorite three authors.

I just finished Meghan O’Rourke’s “The Long Goodbye” and it moved me as a reader, and taught me things as a writer. Ann Patchett and John Updike.

3. Briefly describe your journey to publication.

After writing for a about a year for the community newspaper, Courant editors noticed my work and I began working for them.

4. Advice for those now on the road to publication?

Write and submit. Rewrite and submit. Be professional and responsible in your dealings with editors. It’s a lot like applying for a job.

5.  Do you write every day?

No, but I do make time to write. Deadlines are a great motivator.

6. What are you writing now?

I’m writing a magazine article about a soldier who fought in World War 1.

Q & A—and a Book Giveaway! Welcome Author Tara Laskowski

Tara LaskowskiNeed help navigating the tricky rules of etiquette in some, shall we say, rather delicate circumstances? Tara Laskowski,  author of Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons (Matter Press 2012), has written a profoundly funny and touching guide for properly conducting yourself in situations of adultery, dementia, arson, homicide, and more.

Want a free copy of Tara’s book? Read on.

Tara is senior editor at the online flash fiction literary magazine SmokeLong Quarterly, and was their 2009 Kathy Fish Fellow and writer-in-residence. She earned a BA in English with a minor in writing from Susquehanna University and an MFA in Creative Writing from George Mason University. Her submission of short fiction won the 2010 literary awards series from the Santa Fe Writers Project, and she has work forthcoming or published in several anthologies. Her story, “Dendrochronology” won second prize and publication for the Press 53 Open Awards anthology in 2010. Her story, “Ode to the Double-Crossed Lackey in ‘Thunderball,’” was nominated for Dzanc’s Best of the Web series for 2009, and her short stories “They” and “Like Everyone Else” were recognized by storySouth as notable online stories in 2004 and 2009. Another story, “Hole to China,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. A native of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Tara currently lives and works in a suburb of Washington, D.C. with her husband Art Taylor, her son Dashiell, and their two cats.

Tara, we’re honored to feature you here on Write Despite. Thanks for answering the following.

1) Best writing advice you’ve ever received?

I’ve got a few, is that ok?

1. Have fun with it. My favorite stories are the ones that I had fun with—whether that was experimenting with form, or inserting some crazy detail or action that made me go somewhere fresh with the plot, or just enjoying my characters and what they say. My time is so limited these days that if I’m dreading returning to a story to work on it, then I should probably just drop it for a while and do something else. Now, all that said, I don’t really find writing very ‘fun’ all the time—it’s hard work, even when you are having fun. But I think just generally, doing something different, not being afraid to play, is good advice.

2. Play to your strengths. Note, this is not the same as, write what you know. By play to your strengths, I’ll give you an example from my writing challenges. For my MFA thesis at George Mason University, I attempted to write a 500-page novel that was a historical love story spanning over several decades. It’s a great story, but it didn’t work, and after more than five years of working on it I realized why—because that kind of story is not my strength. I don’t write long time periods very well. I write short. Short moments, tiny pieces of time. I would’ve done better, perhaps, working on a novel that spanned one day in the life of someone. Or maybe a month. Or a summer. But not 25 years. No, no.

3. This one speaks more to process: You don’t have to write every day. (Sorry, I know that’s the point of your whole blog). But for me, who doesn’t write every day, who cannot write every day, this was a freeing moment. Now, that said, I do try to check in every day, even if that’s just thinking about my characters before bed. I do think it’s extremely important to keep your head in the game, even if you aren’t physically sitting down every day and writing something. So maybe I would just expand that one a little: Write in the schedule that works for you. If it’s every day, amazing. If it’s all weekend, great. Write in the morning? Go for it. Late at night? Sweet. Point is, figure out a schedule that works for you, and to hell with the way everyone else does it. Artists work in different ways, and there is no one formula for success. Just find what works for you and write. Above all, just keep writing.

2) Favorite three authors?

In all of the world? Living or dead? How cruel are you?? I wish I was Jennifer Egan. Does that count? I probably wouldn’t be a writer without J.D. Salinger, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Virginia Woolf, or John Updike. I’m already past my three. I suck at following directions.

3) Briefly describe your journey to publication. (How were you first published and how has that led to where you are now?)
Laskowski-bookI used to write in high school and got a few things published in the literary magazine there. I honestly cannot remember the very first publication I got. I know in college and even grad school there were a few hard-earned publications. In 2009, I won a writing fellowship at SmokeLong Quarterly, and that for me was a huge turning point. I started publishing a lot online and meeting a lot of really amazing and talented people, and after my fellowship was over I became an editor there, and now the senior editor. Being a part of the community in this way has really improved my writing and editing skills, and I am forever grateful for it. Last October, I published my first collection of stories, Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons.

4) Advice for those now on the road to publication?

The same ole, same ole: Read the publications that you are sending to. Please. Why would you want to be published somewhere that you don’t read? Also, every publication has a style, has a vibe about it, and once you start reading it, you kind of get it. It makes your acceptance rate go through the roof if you actually send editors the kind of stuff they like. Sounds crazy, but it’s true!

I think the same holds true for novelists. Researching agents, reading the books they place, is key. Otherwise you’ll never stand out from the slush pile.

5) Do you write every day?

No way. I wish I did. But I do think about writing every day, and I’ve become much more skilled at writing in my head. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/01/the-art-of-being-still/

6) What are you writing now? (If nothing, what are you reading now?)

I’m working on another collection of short stories, tentatively called BYSTANDERS, which is slow going. I’m reading The Magus by John Fowles, which I just started so I can’t tell you if I love it yet. But I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

YOU COULD SNAG A FREE COPY OF TARA’S BOOK, MODERN MANNERS FOR YOUR INNER DEMONS. JUST TELL US WHY YOU’D LIKE TO OWN THIS AMAZING COLLECTION OF STORIES BY POSTING YOUR COMMENT HERE. WE’LL PICK A WINNER BY AUGUST 1!

Welcome Author Leanne Dyck

LeanneJPGLeanne Dyck’s stories are about strong women and the challenges they face. Leanne’s writing has appeared in the Island Writer, Kaleidoscope and Canadian Stories literary journals. In 2011 Decadent Publishing released her dark thriller The Sweater Curse as an ebook. Follow Leanne’s author journey by visiting her blog: http://sweatercursed.blogspot.com

Leanne, welcome to Write Despite and thanks for taking the time to chat with us.

 1)    What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

‘If you keep writing you’ll be published’ –Julia Cameron, The Right to Write
I’ve also benefited from advice gleamed from Steven King’s On Writing and Nancy Lamb’s The Art and Craft of Storytelling.

 2)    Please tell us your favorite three authors.

I have so many. Let’s see, today I’ll choose Will Ferguson, Jane Urquhart and Mary Sharratt.

 3)    Briefly describe your journey to publication.

I’ve always written. When I was in elementary school one of my poems was published in my school’s newspaper. In middle school one of my short stories was published in the community newspaper. All through school and after graduation, I continued to write but mainly for my own enjoyment. After opening a knitwear design business in 2002, I began to write articles for craft magazines. I enjoyed working with editors and was thrilled to see my writing published. Desiring to learn more about the publishing business I decided to self-publish. From 2006 to 2009, I self-published paperbacks, ebooks and an audio book. Self-publishing was fun but I’m a team player so I decided to submit my writing to publishing houses. In 2011, Decadent Publishing released my novella-length thriller—The Sweater Curse—as an ebook.

TheSweaterCurse-BONOReaders wrote:
Stitch by colorful stitch, Leanne Dyck knits a tale of intrigue’ –Laurie Buchanan
‘Leanne Dyck has crafted a tale of exotic and existential as Danish author Isak Dinesen’s’ –Lou Allin

After reading those reviews, I closed my design business and began to write full-time. I’m now seeking a publisher for five manuscripts—this includes The Sweater Curse (which is now novel-length).

4)    Advice for those now on the road to publication?

Believe in the power of your words.
Read, write and submit.
Keep writing fun.

 5)    Do you write every day?

Yes. Some days I work on a new project; other days I work on revisions and some days I just write for fun.

6)    What are you writing now?

As a rule I usually work on at least two projects at a time. Right now I’m working on two book-length manuscripts:  a non-fiction and a general fiction.

 7)    What are you reading now?

In Calamity’s Wake, by Natalee Caple.

Welcome Author Susan Schoenberger

watershedyear-200x300Connecticut author Susan Schoenberger’s first novel, A Watershed Year, was published in March 2011 following, as she puts it, “many years of writing and editing and many rounds of publisher submissions.” On her website, Susan says the novelat its heart, is a love story, and a story about all the ways that we interconnect in this world of both too much and too little communication.”

Hard at work on her second novel, The Virtues of Oxygen, Susan took a few minutes to share her thoughts on writing and the reality of the publishing business. Susan has been a writer, editor and copy editor at various newspapers, including The News and Observer, The Baltimore Sun and The Hartford Courant. She’s done all this while raising three kids, a feat we at Write Despite (with three kids between us) truly admire.

Please welcome Susan Schoenberger to Write Despite.

1. What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

I’ve received no shortage of writing advice, but the best nugget was something Richard Ford said about his own work. He described his process of re-reading his entire manuscript with an eye toward strengthening the verbs in each and every sentence. Now I do the same thing.

2. Please tell us your favorite three authors

Richard Ford (obviously), Don Delillo, and Ann Patchett

3. Briefly describe your journey to publication.

I wrote a novel that didn’t go anywhere, then attended the Wesleyan Writers Conference in 2001 and began focusing on craft. I had several short stories published over the next few years, then attempted a novel again. This one — now called A Watershed Year — won the William Faulkner-William Wisdom prize in 2006, which helped me get an agent in 2007. My agent finally sold the book to a small publisher and it was published in 2011. Luckily, the same editor who bought the book moved to Amazon Publishing and convinced them to re-release it and buy my next book. A Watershed Year will be re-released on Nov. 26, 2013, and my next novel, The Virtues of Oxygen, is due out in the summer of 2014.

4. Advice for those now on the road to publication?

We all want to believe that the “ready for publication” standard for submitting to agents means that the book is actually ready for publication. In my case, anyway, I needed to do major rewriting and editing before the book sold and then more rewriting after it sold. It was painful, but in the end, the book was better for it.

5.  Do you write every day?

With a full-time job (and two kids in college plus one in high school), I don’t get to write every day. But I think about my story and my characters every day.

6. What are you writing now?

I’m working on the manuscript for The Virtues of Oxygen, which is due to Amazon in October. Having a deadline is a big motivator.

SusanSchoenbergerbirches1-300x199

A Watershed Year will be re-released in November by Amazon. You can pre-order a copy here: http://www.amazon.com/A-Watershed-Year-Susan-Schoenberger/dp/1477848010/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1371477953&sr=8-4&keywords=a+watershed+year