A Fun Interview

 

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Recently, my author friend, Jen Cary, interviewed me for her monthly newsletter. Some of the questions she asked got some buzz, so I thought perhaps you would find them interesting, too. I am including a few of them here:

Question 1:  Tell us something about yourself we don’t know.

My husband and I have  renovated 26 homes in 28 years. We also built our own log cabin. We are not flippers. We actually live in each home. At about the one year mark, with the work completed, we get the itch to find another house that “needs us.”

Question 2:  When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

I think I was born wanting to write. I sidelined my love of writing to become an elementary school teacher. After retiring, I revisited my dream of writing a book. Runaways: The Long Journey Home, was published in 2015. So far, I have written seven others (three are Interactive Picture Books for Alzheimer’s patients).

Question 3:  If you could be anything—except a writer—what would it be?

I would love the chance to do a variety of jobs I find interesting. I think it would be fun to be a restaurant owner and walk around mingling with guests. I’d also like to be a cashier, a receptionist, a watercolor artist, a photographer, work at a carwash (yes, really), or work at the White House or other famous site as a tour guide.

Question 4:  What is the funniest thing to happen to you as an author?

Last year, when shopping at Goodwill with my sister, I ran across a copy of Runaways. I guess you’ve made it big if you find one of your books on their shelves. My sis bought the copy. (She’d loaned hers to a friend and it hadn’t been returned). We had our picture taken with the book in the store. I’m sure other shoppers wondered what these two crazy ladies were doing…

Question 5:  What do you do for relaxation?

I enjoy movies, shopping, and eating out. But my real passion is reading. I read a couple of books each week. I taught myself to read before I was old enough to attend school.

Question 6:  Cheetos, fried or baked?

Ah, a trick question. Fried, of course! (Tip: try them crumbled as a crunchy topping on scalloped potatoes or baked macaroni and cheese.)

 

 

Can YOU Feel It?

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This week I was asked how a writer can know if they have written a “good” book.

I paused for a moment. Trick question?

No, she was serious. 

So, I began my answer by stating the obvious:

Your Beta Readers love it.

Your editor thinks it’s a winner.

Your initial sales are good.

Your reviews are stellar.

But here’s the not-so-obvious answer: You’ll know it in your gut.

That’s right. Authors want to produce emotional reactions in their readers.

If you write romance, for example, you should feel the electricity between the couple. You should find yourself cheering for them to get together. When they have a blow up and all seems lost, you should feel upset, too.

YOU, the writer, is the YOU I’m talking about.

If you write chilling suspense/mystery/horror/thriller, then you should be looking under your own bed at night!

I’m guessing that those of you who write fantasy and humor want your readers to feel a release of emotions and uplifting of their spirits.

The genre doesn’t matter. But, you must write it to evoke an emotional response in YOURSELF.

Because you are the best person to judge whether you have written a “good” book or not.

My theory is that if YOU feel it, your reading audience will, too.

 

Flourish

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Several years ago, driving back home from visiting relatives in Las Vegas, I pulled out a yellow legal pad and began writing as my husband drove us back to Phoenix.

The next day, I sat down at the computer, pulled up a blank document, and typed in all six thousand words. I intended to get back to the story someday, but needed to focus on my work already in progress.

I didn’t give the story another thought until…

Fast forward to this morning.

Looking for something previously written to possibly rewrite into a short story for an anthology, I remembered the long-forgotten document.

And, now I sit here, crying my eyes out as I read the emotional story. 

Will I use it for the short story project?

Probably not. 

I now realize it has the potential for becoming “the book I always wanted to write.”

So, here is my point: Don’t throw out anything. I mean anything. Keep a file of stories… paragraphs…even sentences that you like. You never know when you’ll need them or when a situation will arise where you can use them.

Let yourself be inspired by your own writing. Be wowed by your own skill. 

Just as plants germinate, so does the written word…

Looking for that perfect day to push through fertile soil and flourish!

The Value of Reading Reviews

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Last week, I wrote about the value in writing reviews. This week, I’d like to focus on the value of reading reviews.

The obvious benefit is that we get the opinions of others who have bought a specific product, read a certain book, and so on.

But for writers, there is an added benefit. 

Reviews can help us do a better job of writing in the future. 

As we contemplate the reactions/opinions of those who have read those books/articles/blogs, we can use that information to ask ourselves how we can improve our craft, especially if multiple sources mention the same things.

Instead of being defensive, we need to take a deep breath and see what value we can take away from the entire “review” experience. 

More than just a “LIKE,” certain number of “STARS” or “HAPPY FACES,” honest  reviews just may be the key to writing that next great novel.

 

Writing Reviews

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I am part of a writing group that is currently compiling an anthology of short stories. 

Never having written one before, I thought it would be a difficult task since the word count is so low. 

How would I ever tell a complete story in such a few words?

However, it turned out to be fairly easy and this is why I believe it was the case:

I read A LOT and, as an author, I know the importance of book reviews. So, I faithfully write a one for each book I read. 

Writing book and/or product reviews can be an effective way to help authors, sellers and fellow consumers. It’s also an excellent way to hone our own writing skills.

Even though our first objective in writing reviews is to help others, I recently realized how much practice it is giving me as an author.

When there is a word limit, I must write concisely and offer examples—all within the confines of a text box.

I am challenged to use humor, creative skills, and colorful vocabulary.

Every word must have a purpose. And, collectively, they must draw interest. 

Do you write book and/or product reviews? Do you feel it has helped you sharpen your writing skills?

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

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I worked hard all day. So, why, at 5 p.m. did I feel like such a failure?

It actually didn’t take me very long to come up with the answer.

My father’s words echoed through my brain: “…never bite off more than you can chew.”

Whereas I usually can write and polish four to five scenes, today I pushed myself to write an entire chapter. I had gone for length, pushed past a comfortable pace, and ended my day frustrated because the quality I expected from myself just wasn’t there.

Each of us come to know what we are capable of (many of you can easily write a chapter or more) and when we push ourselves past it, we end up feeling defeated.

I guess I just wanted to see if I could do it.

I learned a lesson.

Everyone has their limits.

Don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t as prolific as others you know. If you’re like me, remind yourself that, like the turtle, “slow and steady wins the race.”

If you’re capable of writing more, go for it. You’ll write two or three books to my one.

But if we keep at it, we’ll both cross the finish line. 

D.I.Y. for Writers

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For the past five years, the subject matter for my blogs has come from my own “need-to-know” at the time.

When I required information on “show, don’t tell” I shared what I discovered.

The same with point-of-view, internal thoughts, conversation, verb choice, book cover creation, and so on.

They say you learn best by teaching someone else. So, don’t forget to share what you learn with your fellow writers.

You can find my previously-written blogs on all kinds of subjects by going to www.brendapoulosauthor.org and selecting ARCHIVES. 

Some blog posts are more technical. Others are meant for encouragement. I hope you find something helpful by scrolling through the listings.

Just a little tidbit of information today for those of you self-publishing. 

I have always had my covers designed and have also paid for formatting on the Kindle and paperback. However, as I loaded my latest book, Tug of War, onto the Amazon site last week, I noticed that there is both a formatting tool and a Cover Creator that are absolutely FREE. 

If you are comfortable on the computer and have the time to devote to doing these two aspects of publishing yourself, it is a great way to save money. I have writer friends that have turned out some really great looking books.

Happy Writing!

Brenda

 

Linking

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NETWORKING. LINKING. MAKING CONNECTIONS.

That’s the name of the game.

Five years ago, I was told I needed to blog. 

Give content. Encourage.

I got in the habit of writing once a week on each of my websites, www.brendapoulosauthor.org and www.spiritualsnippets.com

That is a lot of writing. I learned to get as much “mileage” as I could from everything I wrote.

One simple way was linking my websites with Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. Every time I write on one of my blogs, the content automatically goes to these three other social media avenues.

All I had to do was set and forget.

Authors have more and more to think about nowadays. As many things as we can set up like this, the easier we make it on ourselves.

That means more time for doing what we love—

Writing!

Tug of War

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My fifth novel, Tug of War, just hit Amazon yesterday. It’s the third book in a series of four.

But, before it got to that point, I visualized it in my hands. I saw the cover, I turned its pages—even before I wrote the first word—and then I got to work.

Months of writing. Working with a critique group and beta readers. Editing. Rewriting. Cover design. Formatting.

Yes, a lot of work. And when the writing was difficult and things took a lot longer than expected, I always thought back to that moment when my book was nothing more than a concept. An idea. A dream.

I remembered what it felt like to hold the fruits of my labor in my hands…

The smoothness of its cover, the smell of new print, the weight of its pages, my name in bold type—all of these reminded me that it would be worth it.

And, it is.

Writers and the Pandemic

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Recently, many people who have been laid off or are out of work, have learned to work from home. 

Most often, I hear stories about the challenges of scheduling uninterrupted time so the day’s work can be accomplished.  

For years, we writers have dealt with that problem—and many others: Back/neck pain, snacking/overeating, lack of exercise, trouble focusing, reduced income, sleep deprivation, family issues, lowered self-esteem due to unproductiveness and social isolation. 

So, fellow authors, our professional lives really haven’t changed too drastically. 

Low self-esteem can be the worst result. Especially if we tie our self-worth to our success as authors.

We need to write because that gives us pleasure or because we have a message we want to share. And that has to be enough.

If money and fame are the reason for doing anything, we are just setting ourselves up for hurt and disappointment.

But, here are things we can do, right now, that have lasting effects–new ways of helping others in the midst of our world crisis:

Write stories about disasters, memoirs, the triumphant human spirit. Craft devotionals, idea books for parents, songs and games for children. The list is endless.

We can use the creativity we possess as writers to encourage and inspire our readers.

What has the pandemic taught you about yourself? About others? How has it changed your life? Has it altered your thinking…your priorities…your faith…your writing?