Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, April 12-18, 2015

How K.M. Weiland uses Scrivener to outline her novels.

Katie’s Wednesday vlog discusses how to help your readers love an unlikable character.

Roz Morris shares some common errors indie authors make in their self-published work.

Therese Walsh posts about finding the time to write (part 3 of her multitasking series) on Writer Unboxed.

Suzanne Alyssa posts on Sarah Selecky’s blog on the subject of the vulnerability of submission.

A two part post from Delilah S. Dawson on self-promotion: Please shut up, and Wait, keep talking.

Delilah S. Dawson guest posts on Chuck Wendig’s Terribleminds with 25 blood-spattered tips for writing violence.

Are these filter words weakening your fiction? Write it Sideways.

Jamie Raintree asks, are artists still allowed to be neurotic? Thinking through our fingers.

Diana Gabaldon interviews Susanna Kearsley at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore.

Anne Lamott: “Everyone is screwed up, broken, clingy, and scared.” Salon.

Tim Parks on CBC Radio’s The Sunday Edition: Writing in the Margins.

Sherwood Smith offers some thoughts on Heyer and Austin.

Astrophe: The feeling of being stuck on Earth. The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.

The history behind Orphan Black. The New Yorker.

For the Outlander fans: Interview with Sam Heughan.

The real romance behind Outlander. The New York Times.

Sesame Street’s Game of Chairs:

And that’s your Writerly Goodness for the week.

See you Thursday!

Tipsday

My literary mothers and what they taught me

This post was inspired by a challenge that another friend participated in. That challenge was to write, in a short post, the influence of a single literary mother.

While I found the concept compelling, I also found it restrictive. I have many literary mothers. The gears have been working on this one for a few weeks now and this is the result.


Siobhhan Riddell

I was in grade three and I had just started to write. My first piece was a little essay about my new puppy.

Siobhan was in grade five. She was an artist and she illustrated a dragon slayer fairy tale.

The grade five class’s projects were presented to the grade three class. Siobhan’s drawings found their place in my imagination.Always Sail West

I submitted my first short story to CBC’s “Pencil Box” that year.

The next year, I wrote the Christmas play for my grade four class.

What was I reading at the time?

I was reading comics: Star Wars (for Princess Leia), Dazzler (Marvel), Huntress (DC). I was trying to find compelling female heroes. The writers and artists were men, however.

I also started reading C.S. Lewis, Lloyd Alexander, and I, again, was seeking women authors with whose stories I could connect. I tried Zilpha Keatley Snyder (The Headless Cupid, The Witches of Worm), Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (The Witch Saga), Joan Lowry Nixon (The Kidnapping of Christina Lattimore), and Lois Duncan (Summer of Fear, Stranger with My Face, and, of course, I Know What You Did Last Summer). While Naylor came close to becoming a literary mother, her work didn’t stay with me.

At the time, across the street from my house, were a convenience store (comics) and a branch of the public library. They were an almost daily stop in my routine.

Critical criteria of a literary mother: Her influence has to stay with me. I have to have continued to read or re-read her books, or remember the impact she had on my life in a concrete way.

Madeleine L’Engle and Susan Cooper

It was Madeleine L’Engle’s (then) Time Trilogy that I first connected with. Something inside me said, “This is what I want to write.” She’s technically science fantasy, but it was the first science anything that I’d read to that point.

Susan Cooper came into my life a little later, but again, through the public library. I read her The Dark is Rising series and loved her take on Arthurian legend. This spoke to the fantasy side of my writing persona.

I bought both series when I had enough money to do so. I still have both.

What else was I reading? Elfquest by Wendy and Richard Pini. A friend was, and still is, very much a fan. The same friend introduced me to Robin McKinley (The Hero and the Crown, The Blue Sword). Both of these were strong influences, though not quite in the literary matriarchy.

There were a lot of other novels I was reading, most thanks to the above-mentioned friend, whose dad had a fabulous classic SFF collection and often encouraged her to offer her patronage to The World’s Biggest Bookstore in Toronto when she visited him 😀

Her dad even set us up with our first D&D books, after which, we spent entirely too much money on the game, but spent years in geeky bliss roleplaying.

R.A. MacAvoy, Susanna Kearsley, Ursula K. Le Guin, and O.R. Melling

When I went to university (Guelph, the first time), I met, through my roommate, her sister, Sue Reynolds, who wrote Strandia. This book was influential on me because it was one of the first ones that didn’t involve a romance in the happily ever after of its protagonist. There were romantic aspects to the plot, but the protagonist chose wholeness for herself rather than her beloved’s proposal in the end.

Also through my roommate, I was introduced to Welwyn Wilton Katz. I read just about everything Katz wrote for a few years and she was well on the way to becoming a literary mother, but I didn’t stick with her, or rather, her books didn’t stick with me as much.

I was drafting the story that would evolve into Initiate of Stone during those years. I started keeping a journal, and aside from my course reading, I was heavily influenced by Guy Gavriel Kay. Mary Brown was also a discovery during this period. I loved her ugly duckling retellings.

I left Guelph after two unremarkable years and got a job at the Coles store in Yorkdale mall. Part of me was in heaven and buying up books like mad with my staff discount. The other part of me was unhappy because, in all other respects, the job was an epic fail on my part.

One of my discoveries during this time was R.A. MacAvoy. I started with her Damiano series, progressed with her Black Dragon series, and fell in love with her quirky Lens of the World series. I read several of her standalone novels as well. She was the first author who reflected my ancestry in her characters (Sara the Fenwoman), and the first who wasn’t afraid to introduce cultural diversity in her characters.

I keep going back to Lens of the World periodically, because that series was also written in first person, present, point of view (POV). It was a challenging POV to use, and it’s still a learning tool for me. I haven’t felt brave enough to tackle anything so ambitious myself.

I also discovered O.R. Melling about this time, but I’ll come back to her in a little bit.

After a couple of years of living in and around Toronto, two other potential careers, a couple of failed relationships, and the realization that I needed to finish my degree if I was going to be able to progress as a writer, I returned to Sudbury to finish my BA at Laurentian University.

Susanna KearsleyIt was during this time that my SFF/D&D buddy, after helping me to connect with Mr. Science and both of us marrying our partners, moved away with her husband. She emailed me and said that Susanna Kearsley, author of Marianna, and recent winner of the Catherine Cookson Award, was giving a workshop for the local writer’s group.

Of course, I hopped down for a visit with my friend and took in the workshop. I read Marianna, Splendour Falls, and The Shadowy Horses.

A couple of years ago, I reconnected with her at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference (SiWC). Her influence on me has been to introduce me to a different genre. When I first met her, it was grouped under gothic, but Susanna’s stories are more paranormal in nature and while romance does feature, it’s not the main focus of her novels.

I took a creative writing course with Dr. John Riddell (Shiobhan’s father) and started to get my stories published.

I also took a course in science fiction and was introduced to Ursula K. Le Guin. The Dispossessed blew me away not only because it was SF written by a woman, but also because of its story structure. I’ve since read the Earthsea series, The Left Hand of Darkness, collections of her short fiction, other shorter novels (Rocannon’s World), some of her YA novels (The Beginning Place), and one of her books on writing craft (The Wave in the Mind).

I keep on picking up her work and reading it. The diversity of her work and the longevity of her career have been what inspire me most about Le Guin.

Finally, toward the end on my degree, I was working on my undergraduate thesis on the YA and MG novels of Welwyn Wilton Katz, Michael Bedard, and O.R. Melling.

I had discovered Melling when I was working at Coles, and kept picking up her books. Mostly, they dealt with magical time travel and Celtic legend. In the series that she had just started (at that time), Celtic legend blended with Native Canadian.

It was the first time I’d seen someone so effortlessly intertwining mythologies in this way. It made me think thoughts. It still does.

Sheri S. Tepper and Diana Gabaldon

I started reading Sheri S. Tepper during my Laurentian years as well. I now have most of her books, even some of the mysteries written under her pen names.

What fascinates me about Tepper’s work is the complexity of her plots and the strength of her protagonists. I never cease to be surprised or amazed at some point in her novels.

Her SF would be characterized as “soft” because of the sociological focus, but I still look to her body of work as an exemplar of what can be done within the genre.

She also writes from feminist and social justice perspectives. Tepper just rocks.Diana Gabaldon

Diana Gabaldon came a little later yet. I started reading her Outlander series after Voyager was published. I’m a little over the moon that her books have finally made it to the small screen.

I’ve now read all of her Outlander books and several of the off-series, but related, Lord John Grey books.

One thing I picked up from her was playing with POV. In a novel with several POV characters, I’ve used the same technique that she does, and I use first person, past, for my protagonist and close third person for everyone else.

It was Gabaldon’s genre mashing goodness that hooked me and the quality of her storytelling that has kept me. I was able to attend some of her sessions at SiWC and she is a lovely person as well as a great writer.


I’ve read and met many other women authors, several of them Canadian, and while I’ve enjoyed reading and learned from each of them, no one else has quite made it into the literary matriarchy yet.

I read a lot of male authors as well, but that’s not what I’m writing about here, now, is it 😉

The women I’ve listed in the section headings are the ones I consider to be my literary mothers. These are the women through whom I trace my development as a reader and as an author.

Who are your literary mothers?

Muse-inks

Bestseller Banter Panel

First, a wee note: I have embarked on my first NaNoWriMo, and because I had to finish a couple of writing tasks before the end of October, I haven’t been able to blog daily and complete my report of the fabulous Surrey International Writers’ Conference.

I have, so far, managed to make my NaNo quota though (joy!).

And I’m trying to finish up some outstanding critiquing.

So I will post today and tomorrow, but then I will be going on a brief trip to visit a friend for a few days.  I will resume the bloggage after that.  Once I’ve caught up with the SiWC reporting, however, I’m returning to my usual one or two posts on the weekend gig.

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Picture of the author Diana Gabaldon during a ...

Picture of the author Diana Gabaldon during a book signing held in Fergus, Ontario (during the Scottish Festival) on August 11, 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The bestseller banter panel was moderated by Chris (CC) Humphreys and was composed of:  Michael Slade, Diana Gabaldon, Jane Porter, and Susanna Kearsley

Q: What was your first book on the bestseller list?

SK: The Winter Sea made the New York Times bestseller list as an ebook.

JP: Lifetime made a movie of my book Flirting with Forty.

DG: I was away on a book tour for three weeks for Voyager. My husband told me when he picked me up at the airport.  I was too tired to react.  More recently Starz is making an Outlander series.  This is the fourth time Outlander has been optioned.  When the deal was struck, I was sworn to secrecy, but I was attending BEA at the time and word got out.  I ended up telling everyone.

MS: My first novel became a bestseller because of my rep got me up at 3 am to speak

Susanna Kearsley Photo by Ashleigh Bonang

Susanna Kearsley
Photo by Ashleigh Bonang

with the book distributors.  That week, Stephen King’s The Shining hit the shelves as well.  The distributors looked at both books and decided to give top billing to the man who came out to talk to them.  That’s how my book beat out Stephen King’s to become number one in Vancouver.

Q: What pressures did you experience after your books had such great success?

SK: I didn’t feel any pressure from others, but I had something I’d never had to deal with before: deadlines.  It didn’t affect my writing.  I placed pressure on myself, however, to prove that I could get on the bestseller list again. Firebird was on the NYT mass market paperback list.

JP: Producers wanted to make movies of more of my books, but they wanted Flirting with Forty again, and I was writing something else.  I had to get out of a bad deal.  Marketing took over.  They kept asking for changes.

DG: Fans clamour for the next book in the series all the time, but I don’t let it bother me.  My sole duty is to the book.

MS: My first book was written while I was still very busy as a criminal lawyer.  Headhunter was successful and I did feel the pressure to write something at least as good.  I decided to write a thriller set in the rock ‘n’ roll world.  My rep got us tickets to Alice Cooper and he really liked Headhunter.  He invited me to send him my next novel.  I did and he wrote back: I don’t know if this will help.  “This book was terrifying.  I couldn’t put it down.” – Alice Cooper.  That endorsement sold the second book.

Q: Does the thrill remain?

DG: Absolutely.  I get a little thrill every time someone responds positively to my daily lines on Facebook.

CCH: Good reviews become reassuring friends in times of torment.

SK: Every time I finish a manuscript, I print it out and drop it on the table.  There’s something satisfying about the “thump.”  When the finished product arrives, there’s nothing like the smell of a new book.

JP: There were times when I was afraid everything I’d worked for would be taken away from me.  I was a single mother.  I feared being poor.

MS: It used to be that you had a 1 in 20,000 chance of success in publishing.  You never know when you’re going to make it big, or how.

SK: Persistence is the key. Download Headley’s “Anything” and listen to it repeatedly. Flaubert said, “Talent is a long patience…”  You have to think about the long game.

JP: Support is so important.  My ex never understood.  My current partner is a surfer and he feels the same way about the ocean as I do about writing.

DG: I have a fan club, the Ladies of Lallybrock, and they like to get together and have a fabulous time.

Q: Are there any downsides?

SK: I had a stalker.

JP: I received creepy letters from convicts.

Q: Do any of you have to content with JK Rowling’s issue?  She has so many people trying to hand her novels and scripts based on Harry Potter that she has someone who collects them all for her.

DG: I always tell people, sorry, I have an agreement with my publisher.

Q: Do you have a pen name picked out?

SK: No.

JP: Lauren Lyles

DG: No.

MS: Michael Slade is a pen name.  When I was trying to come up with it, I was thinking Declerque.  My wife said, very sensibly, no, you want a name with Biblical significance.  Michael.  Slade gives you some hard-boiled cred.  And so I became Michael Slade.  My wife created Michael Slade, and she knows copyright law.

Research panel

This panel was a question and answer session.

Panelists: Anthony Dalton, Jack Whyte, Anne Perry, Diana Gabaldon, Susanna Kearsley

Q: Is it okay to use unusual names? e.g. in a historical novel set in Poland, the names are strangely spelled and not pronounced how a North American audience would be familiar with.

JW: If it’s appropriate to the historical setting, keep them.

DG: Find out how the names are treated in the time and culture you’re writing about.  e.g. Black Brian, or Mac Dubh.  Use nicknames or short forms.

AP: Are they named by profession, by an attribute?

SK: Have an outsider character learn how to pronounce the name.  Readers will remember after.

Q: How do you organize your research?

DG: I’ll have sticky tabs in the books I use for research and refer to them when necessary.

AP: I do much the same.

SK: I get documents from the archives (note: Susanna Kearsley used to be a museum curator) and organize them into binders, probably because I’m the daughter of an engineer.

AP: I find that most of the research I use in a first draft is later redacted.

JW: I recommend Scrivener (about $40).  It’s excellent for organizing your research, though it does fall down a bit in the final formatting of a manuscript.  Simply export to MS Word.

Q: How do you get translations?

SK: Try French translators, call your local university, see if they have a translation department, etc.

AD: French immersion teachers are also a good resource.

DG: Is it critical to the story?

AP: Don’t tell people what they don’t need to know.

Q: What gets questioned?

DG: Once you are immersed in the time period, you know what is likely to have happened.

AP: Research is often borne out.  In some cases, my educated guesses have later turned out to be correct.

SK: Historians can leave holes – they are bound by facts, or the lack of them.  Writers have to fill in the holes.

JW: Historians cannot speculate.

Q: Would it be okay to spell Welsh phonetically?

SK: Have an outsider character to help interpret.

DG: Language consists of three things: accent, dialect, and idiom.  For the Outlander series, they are conducting Gaelic classes.

AP: In practice, though signs might have Gaelic and English, few people actually speak Gaelic anymore.

JW: Rhythm is important.  Cadence.

AD: I researched an ocean crossing and read three accounts by three London travellers.  They were all different in spelling, etc.

Q: How do you pick out the pertinent bits?

SK: History is curated.  People save what they think is beautiful, or what has value to them.  Go back to the contemporary record, if possible.

The Daughter of TimeJosephine Tey.

Q: What if you’re dealing with several different languages?

DG: You bring in a translator.

SK: You use a dictionary, or you bring in an outsider.

JW: Tarzan of the Apes is an excellent interpretation of what it might be like to teach oneself a language.

SK: Another great example is The 13th Warrior.  There is a campfire scene where the camera pans around the Vikings and Antonio Banderas’s character catches a few words each round until suddenly, he understands what they’re saying.

Q: Who is the most interesting person you’ve researched that you haven’t written about?

AP: Torquemada.

SK: John Thomson.  He almost bankrupted Britain in the 1700s.  He told everyone a different story about what happened.

DG: Joseph Brant.

JW: William Paterson.  Founded the Bank of England and a Panamanian colony for the Scottish.  The colony was blockaded and eventually disappeared, though there is a native group who still paint themselves in tartan patterns.

Q: Whose diary would you like to fictionalize?

JW: Casca, the first man to stab Caesar.

AP: Faucher (?) He had albino genes. French Revolution.  The Butcher of Nantes.

DG: Thomas Paine.

SK: Geoffrey Plantagenet.

AD: Sir John Franklin.

Q: How do you find your research?

JW: Get to know the librarian in charge of the humanities section of your local public or university library, and ingratiate yourself shamelessly.

SK: Google Books.

Q: What are your favourite books to read?

SK: Diana Gabaldon and Nevil Shute.

JW: Roger Zelazny.  Really, it depends on how I feel when I get up in the morning.

AP: G. K. Chesterton’s poetry or crime writers like Michael Connelly.

DG: Celtic crime writers like Ian Rankin and Phil Rickman.

The Willing Suspension of Disbelief: Susanna Kearsley

One thing that I must comment upon with a traditional writing conference like SiWC (this is their 21st year) is the frustration of concurrent sessions.  I don’t think there was a time where I didn’t want to attend at least two of the sessions.

This is SO a first world problem, as Chuck Wendig would say.

RT's Giant Book Fair

RT’s Giant Book Fair (Photo credit: rtbookreviews)

So I got over my bad self and made some decisions.  My first one was to attend Susanna Kearsley’s session on writing supernatural aspects of stories convincingly.  Though my stories are all either straight out fantasy or science fiction, it’s always good to have a few more tools in the toolbox.

I’ve been a fan of Susanna since I took a workshop with her in Port Elgin in 1994 (possibly 1995?).  She’d just won the Catherine Cookson Award for her novel Mariana.

Here are my notes:

The mechanics

  • It starts with character.  You must have a likeable, trustworthy, relatable protagonist.
  • The protagonist can be the character who possesses supernatural skill, or they could be the biggest skeptic in the book.
  • Work on the principle of Ockham’s Razor first.  Stated succinctly, the simplest explanation is often the most correct.  People tend to rationalize the unknown.
  • Transition to deductive reasoning.  Think Sherlock Holmes: after every other possibility has been eliminated, what is left, no matter how unlikely, is the truth.
  • Respect both sides of the argument – believers and skeptics.
  • Time travel – paradox.  If you travel into the past and accidentally kill your grandfather, do you cease to exist?
  • Acknowledge accepted beliefs.
  • Research.  All psychology departments usually have parapsychology sub-departments.
  • Seek verisimilitude.
  • Your protagonist’s acceptance of the supernatural should be a gradual process.
  • You need a supporting character, someone who can help or guide your protagonist.  A true believer, or other expert in the area (professor, priest, exorcist, shaman, etc.)
  • Also, you need someone who is an even bigger skeptic than the protagonist.  As the protagonist proves to her or himself and the other skeptic that the supernatural is the only ‘rational’ explanation, he or she is also proving it to the reader.
  • Be aware of the difference between your characters and normal people.  Think of the bit of Eddie Murphy’s RAW of years ago: in the Amityville Horror, the family hears a voice say ‘get out’ and dismisses it, remaining to be assailed by the evil spirits resident in the house.  Murphy said that if the father in that story was a man of colour, he’d tell his family, “Nice place, sorry we can’t stay.  Pack your things, we’re leaving.”  Of course, there was more swearage involved 😉
  • In the handout – two accounts of a UFO sighting.  One from an air force pilot who went through the deductive reasoning process and eliminated all other reasonable alternatives until he was left with a UFO, the other from a man on LSD.  Which would you believe?  Make your protagonist reliable, unless that’s part of her or his journey, to prove what they saw despite obvious reasons not to.
  • Canadian psychic – George McMullen.  Psychometry.
  • Keep your world real, working by the rules you have established.  Naomi Novik made dragons believable.
  • Be consistent.
  • Don’t over-explain.
  • Be aware of our current level of understanding of the supernatural aspect you use in your novel.
  • Choose one thing.  Too much will overwhelm.
  • Stephen King uses wounded heroes.  They are more sympathetic.
  • No coincidence, contrivance, or anything too convenient.
  • We have been raised on nursery rhymes, fairy tales, myths, and legends – we are taught to accept the existence of magic.
  • Where/when we expect to find magic: isolated places and buildings, the woods, old houses, night time, fog or mist, the sea, transitional places like the shore, twilight, dawn, the witching hour.
  • Play with expectations, or play against them.  Against may be the more powerful technique, but it’s also the more difficult to pull off.
  • Avoid cliché.
  • Be aware of cultural biases.
  • Voice is important.  Communication is the goal of writing.  Aim for the grade eight level reader to reach the widest audience.
  • Genres: magic realism, modern gothic, paranormal, paranormal romance, historical.
  • Donald Maass has predicted that eventually, genre will be irrelevant.  It’s a marketing construct.
  • You can cross genres, but do not transcend them!
  • In historical fiction, there will be other explanations for things than there will be in a contemporary novel.
  • The outsider is a powerful thing.  Use this character to explain, gain perspective, but resist the urge to over-explain.
  • There are resources for research in the hand out:
  • http://www.parapsych.org
  • http://www.rhine.org
  • Also check out the Koestler institute of parapsychology.
  • GoogleBooks is a great resource for historical records.
  • Jstore is where you can obtain information from academic journals online.

Finding awesomeness at Laurentian University

It was a brave new world and I had a newfound dedication to my studies.

Phil didn’t turn out to be a distraction at all, but facilitated my work with his support, and by providing me with a computer on which to write my many essays.  Soon I was spending a lot of time at his place, locked up in the basement with his 286.  I had a computer too, thanks to one of my correspondence courses, but it wasn’t even that powerful.  Seriously.  My mind boggles when I try to remember what life was like back then.

In any event, my renewed academic career was full of B’s, B+’s, A-‘s, and A’s.  I started entering writing contests … and won third place in one.  I wrote a column for Lambda, the Laurentian University Student Newspaper.  My essays began to be featured in the English Literature Society’s annual academic conference, and a couple were recognized by the English department as among the best of the year.  I entered the President’s Award Essay Writing Contest and received and honourable mention.  I also participated in a colloquium on the future of the university.

Enter great teacher of my life number three, Dr. Susan Dobra.  She was from California and ended up returning there after a few years.  While she was at LU, I considered her to be my most significant influence and one of the reasons why I excelled.

Unfortunately, my appreciation of her approached the stalker-ish.  I do hope she’ll forgive me 🙂

Another reason was Dr. Hoyt Greeson, with whom I studied Old English and Chaucer.  I and several of my fellow students joined him on a road trip to Kalamazoo, MI for an academic conference in medieval literature.  It was a great experience to be exposed to the theses and dissertations being written by some of the best and brightest in the field.

A third positive influence and support was Dr. Laurence Steven.  Through him, I entered a program whereby I became a writing assistant.  I essentially taught the composition portion of the first year English literature survey course for a couple of years.  Yes, as an undergrad.  I also tutored through the Writing Across the Curriculum Program.  Laurie was my advisor for my honours thesis project as well, which received the departmental award for best honours project that year.

Honestly, I can’t think of any professor I had at LU that wasn’t a great influence on me.  There was one I didn’t see eye to eye with, but I still benefitted from his class.

I also gained a couple of special friends on the way, Yana and Kim.  Yana was (and remains) a wunderkind.  Yana knew what she wanted from the first: to be a teacher.  Everything she did was focused on that goal and she was a brilliant student.  She also had an interest in writing science fiction.  She was president of the English Literature Society the year I joined.  Through Yana, I started working at the Huntington music library.  It was a student job that would see me through several years.

Kim is a poet and in many ways, a kindred spirit.  We were TA’s and tutors together.

All of us participated in several ELS events including a particularly memorable poetry sweatshop in competition with the professors.  Together we had some grand adventures, becoming groupies of Great Big Sea and following them around the province for a summer.

With Yana, I took karate lessons, and for myself, I joined the Bel Canto Chorus.  Creativity is fed in different ways.

Phil proposed, and we were married July 15, 1994.

Margaret, though she had moved to Port Elgin with her spouse, continued to keep in touch and keep tabs on my creative efforts.  She invited me down to Port Elgin for a workshop with Susanna Kearsley, author of the recently published Mariana and winner of the Catherine Cookson Award.

I took a creative writing course with Dr. John Riddell–Siobhan’s father; don’t you love synchronicity?–and had one of my stories published in an anthology as a result.  I started participating in writers’ groups and became ELS president in my last year of study.  I wrote a short article for Slin Roller magazine.  Thanks to my short story prize and publication, I was invited to write a science fiction story for the flagship issue of Parsec Magazine.  By the time I graduated cum laude in 1995, I was on my way.

Focus is a wonderful thing.  Sometimes it doesn’t happen in school, but at work, or at home.  When you have a particular goal in mind, it’s amazing what you can accomplish.  When and where did the pieces of your creative puzzle first come together in awesomeness?