We thought now that we’re getting things underway that it was time for us to do a roundtable, a discussion of sorts for all of us. Sort of a getting to know you thing. As such, the members of the group are answering some questions in this first roundtable, sort of fill in the blank questions, about writing and what brought us together….
1. What was it that got you started in writing? How long have you been writing for yourself?
Norma: Not fair, William! On the roundtable, we were supposed to deal with one question/issue at a time, not four!
What sparked my interest in writing? An overactive imagination. I was a shy kid and spent my early years on a farm. Not many kids around. How long have I been writing? For myself, since I was about nine or ten; professionally, twenty-five years now.
Beth: My friend Leanne let me read her copy of *gasp* Twilight and I got hooked on reading. Now I read, write and review all different kinds of books of all genres.
April: I’d had a lot of things I wanted to express in, of, and about life, love, sad and good happenings and situations in life that I’d been through and seen others go through. But even drawing and painting just weren’t expressing, well enough, for me, then what I’d wanted to express. So, I’d tried my hand at writing at the age of 13 or 14, and I’ve been writing, ever since.
Eve: I’ve answered this question a lot lately and it seems weird but I really was “attempting to write” before I could speak. Much later, the journals I kept and the poems I wrote helped develop a personal understanding of myself. I knew that “knowing myself” was something that would help me deal with things in the future. Which it did. My English teachers created a monster by telling me that I was a naturally creative writer and I shouldn’t worry about commas and punctuation. “That’s what editors are for,” they kept saying over and over. I guess teaching is hard.
Mike: Writing is something I always had the intention of doing, ever since I was a teenager. It took a long time for me to feel I was ready enough to make the attempt. It’s definitely been an interesting ride
Donna: Something drove me to write since the day I learned the alphabet, probably all the stories and poems in my head trying to get out.
Erin: My father was an unapologetic storyteller, my mother an avid reader. I was doomed from birth. I have been writing and making up stories from a very young age, but have only recently decided to focus on bringing my ideas and writing to the public. It’s an adventure and one I would never give up for the world!
Mark: My father was a comic book reader; my mother bought me L. Frank Baum’s Oz books; and they were both science fiction fans. I never stood a chance of not being a reader, but from the moment I dictated a story to my mother about my own trip to Oz, before I was old enough to write (my very first Mary Sue fanfic!), I knew I wanted to tell stories of my own. That means I’ve been a writer for about four decades, now.
Karla: Two years ago, as part of my mid-life crisis, I was on the verge of an emotional meltdown that would make Chernobyl look like a leaky faucet. I quit my job and started pouring all my fears and insecurities into writing. What came out the other end was humor. My writing helped to save my sanity, although there are some who would argue the point.
Shelly: Hmm…The writing habit began for me when I was nine. No matter where I went, I brought a pad and pencil. I wrote poems. I wrote a ton of vampire stories but one day mom told me to find another career. She also told me I’d need to know someone to ever get published and only special people were privy to such things.
So I wrote in a closet for years but life got busy, crazy, and then went completely insane before I decided to write for real. A dream should always be persued no matter the odds.
Christina: I know it sounds silly, but I wanted to write since I was a toddler. I remember sitting down with a pencil and piece of paper at my mom’s coffee table and scribbling away then holding my papers up, repeatedly asking, “Does it say anything?” I’ve had stories in my head all my life that I wanted to put on paper. Throughout elementary school, whenever we had creative writing exercises, I seemed to be the only kid who loved writing. In high school I became a journalism geek and fell in love with nonfiction writing as well. In college, again I was the only English student who loved the writing exercises, and my teachers pushed me to pursue writing as a career.
Life threw me some curveballs and I ended up not finishing my journalism degree or getting my dream writing job. I always had my heart set on writing novels as well. A little over a year ago, I reached the point where I had to start seriously writing, even if it doesn’t pay off like I hope it will. That’s when I met this crazy, wonderful bunch of writers.
William: I’ve been writing since I was twelve or thirteen, something like that. I got into it as a creative outlet. As a child I was pretty shy and awkward, a loner, and it gave me a way to express myself. Mind you, the stuff I wrote back then was fairly atrocious…
2. What’s your genre, or style of writing? How does it fit into your work?
Norma: That’s difficult to answer, since most of my books are hybrids: romance/thriller/supernatural with a splash of humor.
Beth: I’ve written Paranormal Romance, a Fantasy Romance, a Contemporary Romance and now, a Romantic Comedy. I guess I need a little romance in my life.
April: I mainly write poetry. But, I am currently writing two books. One book is a romance novel; the other book is an autobiography.
Eve: I like various types of writing and I realize that focusing on one type is usually better for success or business. Being a creative, poetic person however, it is hard to keep me interested in one type of writing. Poetry is my outlet for pain and anger. Essay is my favorite for trying to convince. Reportorial or technical writing describes things in detail. I experiment with Haiku and I write short stories in different types of genres, even non-fiction. The novel I’m working on can be described as woman’s fiction or perhaps non-standard romance/fantasy. I just had a story published in a book called Fiction Noir and even I didn’t think I could write dark prose. Sorry for rambling, but I don’t like to be pigeon-holed or categorized. I should have just said my writing is called creative writing.
Mike: Thus far, I’ve only published one book and I’m about to publish the second of the trilogy, which is Science Fiction. Action/Adventure works into that too. I may try my hand at non-sci-fi eventually. Since I don’t have a romantic bone in my body, I probably won’t be writing a romance anytime soon.
Donna: My stories are Womens Genre with a dash of spiritualism/new age. My poetry tends towards spiritualism and positivity.
Erin: I lean toward romantic stories, with lots of explosions and action. I also dabble in the fantastical and strange. I demand strength from my characters and while they all have weaknesses they all have inner strength. I like to push their limits and throw them curveballs to see what they will do. Currently I have a romance time-travel suspense on the way and a short wild-west steampunk series in the works.
Mark: Oh, no one’s going to keep me down to one genre, no matter what it does to my career. As a kid I wrote science fiction and action adventure, and the first short stories I tried to sell were SF; for twenty years now I’ve been writing a weekly humor column, news stories and features for three small town Indiana newspapers. About fifteen years ago I wrote a column making fun of romance novels, and my then-wife challenged me to look into modern romances; I did, became hooked, and that’s how my first published novel Storm Chaser came to be a romantic comedy. I have two other completed romance manuscripts, an almost-completed YA comic mystery, plans for a novel series about a fictional fire department, and I’m just finishing up a non-fiction history of my own fire department. In addition to all that I want to get back to SF someday, and also write my own Oz book. This helps explain why my short story collection that comes out next May is a mish-mash of several genres.
Karla: I consider myself a humor writer primarily, so my first published book is a mystery. Go figure!
Shelly: At first, I thought I wrote YA/Crossover. My critters weren’t happy with my answer. So I re-evaluated my content. Okay. Women’s fiction/paranormal/horror with a splash of slapstick and humor.
No matter how serious or horrifying the content gets, humor jumps in. It makes me feel better when I’ve scared the pants off myself.
Christina: My favorite genre to read is fantasy, so naturally that is what I love to write the most. The novel I’m working on now is urban fantasy. I do love nonfiction too though. I know I shouldn’t tear myself in so many different directions but I love to write about food, fashion, travel, etc. I focus on the nonfiction with my blogs and magazine pitches. I absolutely love to cook and do food photography, so I will begin working on cookbooks next year if my cooking blog goes well.
William: I write in the espionage and counter-terrorism genre, which is a personal favourite. At the same time, I’ve got a twisted sense of humor, and that really reflects itself a lot in the kind of writing I do.
3. Tell our readers what brought you into the orbit of the group? Was it temporary insanity, or did you recognize kindred spirits?
Norma Beishir: That’s redundant. Kindred spirits for any of us would have to include some degree of insanity (and not necessarily of the temporary variety). The best thing about this group is our loyalty to each other.
Beth Muscat: I was at the WD forum asking questions about finding an agent, query letters and publishing when Norma and William asked me to join some of their groups. It was the best thing I ever did. They “found” me, seeing something in me that I didn’t see…and yeah, I think we’re all crazy kindred spirits…a family of sorts.
April Morone: Kinship/friendship with kind spirits brought me to this group.
Eve Gaal: I live in the desert where writing groups are rare. Writers of Mass Distraction sounded like a group of experienced writers who had a sense of humor, as well as the desire to be supportive for those of us attempting something new. Writing a novel is probably not easy for anyone, and “supportive” is very important. The fact that the members are fun-loving and seriously talented only makes things better! If they feel I am a kindred spirit then I am honored.
Mike: Crazy is a societal term to restrict free thinking and creative action. I seek fellow crazy people. “Seek and ye shall find” is definitely true here. In addition to being crazy like me, they are a bright bunch of talented writers and I’m honored to be a part of the group.
Donna: I felt a bond of kinship. I just drew closer to certain people who turned out in the end to be this group. Besides, Norma and William adopted me. Who would say no to that?
Erin: I am still trying to figure this one out. I am keen to blame serendipity. Honestly, I was drawn to these people because of their kindness, support, and irreverence. They gave a sense of community to a world that is often quite lonely. I couldn’t be happier to be associated with such wonderful writers.
Mark: I seem to recall being in on the ground floor when this whole thing started to gel, but I might be wrong about that — sometimes my mind plays tricks on me once I’ve slept after an event. And I have slept, once or twice. Although I haven’t been all that active, this is the group of people I wish had been around during my formative years, when I sometimes thought I was the only fiction writer in existence … or at least, the only unpublished one.
Karla: I figured that if I could hang out with other writers, some of it might rub off on me. I fell in with this group quite by accident, and have found a level of mutual respect and support that I never could have imagined.
Shelly: I believe I knew almost everyone here in a past life. It’s easy to be your writerly self around these peeps and say what’s on your mind. They’re pretty much like family.
Christina: Good grief! I’m getting teary-eyed reading over everyone else’s answers. I blame it on having kids! All those hormones. There, that proves my insanity. Well, when I decided to really start pursuing writing again, something kept pushing me to get back on Writer’s Digest. Then I started trying to find other people my age who might be encouraging or friendly. I was a bit intimidated by some of the “know-it-alls” on WD. Then I remember seeing William’s profile and thinking, “Well, he looks normal.” Come to find out he’s just as crazy as the rest of us. Then I noticed Norma’s profile everywhere that I was commenting and found that she was a successful published author. And I noticed how funny William was. I don’t know, I just gravitated towards them. Then Norma was afraid I might be an internet prowler, trying to hit on poor William. Lol. That only brought Norma and me closer. After she did a background check on me, I was invited to the Humorists group, and that is where I met everyone else. Oh, except for Eve. I remember meeting her in a blogging group. She was having technical difficulties, and me with my desperate need to help people, I pounced on her!
William: Like Erin says, serendipity. I think it’s that we were generally in the right place at the right time, and that’s what drew the lot of us together. We recognize fellow warped sensibilities when we see it.
Norma: Christina, did I ever apologize for that one? William is a nut magnet, so we spent a lot of time chasing them away….
4. It can be tempting for creative personalities to get carried away from time to time with their own success. What keeps you grounded? How do you keep your head on a level course? Has being published, or knowing you’re going to be published, had negative or positive effects?
Norma Beishir: Creative people are especially susceptible to believing their own publicity, so to speak. It’s how we deal with it that makes the difference.
When I sold my first novel, I fell victim to Demon Ego myself. I started out believing I would sell the manuscript, but I was expecting at best a $2,500 advance and a midlist spot on the publisher’s schedule. What actually happened was beyond my wildest dreams: $25,000 advance, a lead title spot, second only to the likes of Robin Cook, a major promotional push–and two more books under contract for a six-figure advance before the first was even in the stores. I was treated like a star–and before long, I started acting like one. I was an unholy terror. It took a while for me to see the error of my ways, but fortunately, my eyes were opened.
I didn’t expect to see this kind of star mentality in self-published authors, but surprisingly, I have. I’ve seen it in newly-published authors who happened to have a degree of success right out of the gate, and I’ve seen it in new authors who are a star only in their own minds, with poorly-written books that aren’t exactly bestseller-bound. This sort of ego trip serves no one, especially the one with the overinflated ego.
Beth Muscat: I haven’t reached bestseller status, and maybe I never will. But, I’ve written my books to the best of my ability and I think I’ve improved with each one. I would hope that if I ever made bestseller status, that I would remain the same person that I am now.
April Morone: I feel a positive result, in that I am happy to be published and have my poems out there for the world to see everything as I have seen, felt, and thought about the world and events that I and others have gone through about which I’d written.
Eve Gaal: Walk into a library and you will immediately feel grounded. All that knowledge just waiting to be read. I could become the greatest novelist of all time and I would still know that there are millions of things I will never understand. Fortunately, I make a distinction between the business side of life and the writing side. A true artist doesn’t mind rejection. I might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but since I’m creative I will try to find you something else to drink–and if you still don’t like it well that’s okay too.
Mike: Eve said it great. Walk into a library. Walk into a bookstore. Log on to Amazon. We’re swimming in an ocean that grows by the thousands every year. Very little will keep you more grounded than that. The thing is, I write because I like it, because it frees my mind. If I make money, great, if not, oh well. No matter what, I can at least have the knowledge that I did what I set out to do years ago.
Donna: I believe this is a gift given to me by my Maker. Becoming arrogant means I think I did it all myself; and none of us do. I just say my gratitude every day for this talent. It’s all been a positive journey so far.
Erin: I don’t know what you are talking about. I’m brilliant. <grin> I jest. The truth is, there is a fine line between confidence and delusion. You have to have a bit of over confidence to believe in the impossible. But, maintaining a sense of humble gratitude and understanding that learning is constant and there is always room to grow helps to keep the dangers of arrogance down.
Norma: We’re fortunate to have the kind of support we get from each other here at WMD. We keep each other grounded, we play cheerleaders for each other, and we know how to have fun!
Mark: I’ve never been a self-confident person, and probably never will be. It took me thirty years of steady writing before I could acknowledge to myself that I was actually a good writer, and now that I’m published, with each new step I see still more challenges ahead. I’ve set a goal of someday being able to make a living as a writer, but I have a feeling that even when that time comes, I’ll still never feel as though I’ve “arrived”.
Karla: It’s a little premature for me to start getting a big head, only a few weeks after my book has been released. I like to amuse myself by imagining the paparazzi are following me around. Nothing keeps you humble like knowing that someone is snapping your picture while you’re picking up dog poop from the backyard.
Shelly: The last time I looked in the mirror, my head didn’t look any more swollen than it did when I started my writing adventure. Right now, I’m in the throes of getting my first novel ready for publishing. But I plan on staying ME. I never want someone to get a bad taste in their mouth because I said or did something conceited. We’re all made out of the same stuff. Flesh and blood. And, a small amount of meaness really does hurt. In fact, I still remember all the mean kids from highschool on a first name basis.
Christina: Well, the fact that I am NOT successful keeps me grounded. Lol. Well, actually The Blog Entourage is starting to go pretty well. The better it gets, I simply feel thankful because there are so many other people out there trying to do the same thing. Hopefully if I ever have any success with my novels, I’ll feel the same exact way.
William: I think what’ll keep me grounded as time goes on is knowing what it feels like to be at a really bad place, personally. I think that kind of experience marks itself on you, and it’s handy every once in awhile to keep it in mind. I’m only really starting out, finishing my first novel (two, counting my collaborative effort). And while I’m thinking long term, I don’t see myself letting my ego get the best of me.
Norma: Karla, I’d pay to see a pic of you picking up dog poop!
And with that, we bring ourselves to the end of our first group round table. Yes, it can get a little silly here among the Writers of Mass Distraction. It turns out that we like it that way.