I have once again taken advantage of our local Writer in Residence program hosted by my library. Last week, I attended a virtual presentation entitled Writing Three Dimensional Characters That Sing. It was a highly informational session. As writers we are always learning and taking the time to learn is essential in improving our writing craft.
There was an extra bonus to this year’s writer in residence as she is an acquaintance and a great writer and writing community advocate. Rayanne Haines is the author of seven books, including three poetry collections. Her artistic practice focuses on projects that look to redeem and empower women’s narratives. In addition to her writing, teaching, and festival work, she also produces/curates intersectional feminist poetry films and panels with authors across Canada. Her current work focuses on mental health and intergenerational female trauma.
Having the opportunity to access a writing mentor and their free services through this program enables local writers to gain insight into their work. The program services include individual manuscript consultations, public readings and talks, information on the publishing process and networking with the writing community.
Do you have a similar program where you live?
What devices, programs and events do you use to learn your craft?
What inspired you to write this collection of paranormal and science fiction stories? (Into the Night)
My mother was a strong influence on me growing up, and she encouraged us to consider the “what ifs” of the universe. We watched Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, and Kolchak: The Night Stalker and enjoyed talking about the possibilities of aliens, ghosts, and other things that go bump in the night. It’s a genre I’ve been drawn to my entire life.
After writing three hard-hitting nonfiction books, I needed a break. I still wanted to be creative, but I didn’t want to go through the emotional meat grinder of another true crime/criminal justice book. I was drained, so I decided to write science fiction and paranormal stories for fun. It has been a nice change of pace to create the monsters instead of writing about the real ones.
Henry was another strong influence on me as a child. I enjoy stories with a twist, and I incorporate a twist into nearly every fiction piece I write whether it is science fiction, paranormal, or general fiction. I like taking readers by surprise, and I like to make them look at items we take for granted in new ways.
Did you have these stories filed away for a while, or did you write them specifically for the collection?
Since I hadn’t decided to start writing short stories until I was needing a break from my nonfiction books, these stories are new material I wrote for the collection. I hadn’t written short stories prior to writing my books, so there were none to pull out of storage.
Do you have a favorite story in the collection, and if so, why?
Different stories appeal to me for different reasons. I incorporate a piece of myself and my life experiences into each one. Charcoal Drawings haunted me to some degree because, as a teacher, I pictured myself as the main character, Mylah Kennedy. I didn’t finish this story until 1:30 in the morning, and when I ended it and looked out at my pitch-black bedroom, it gave me the “heeby-geebies.”
4. What is your writing schedule like?
Unlike some writers, I don’t have a set schedule, nor do I believe I have to write every day in order to be a “real” writer. I’m busy with my teaching job, a long commute, my farm, and family obligations. If I don’t feel like writing, I don’t. If a story idea needs more time to develop in my mind, I let it rest until it’s ready to come out. At other times, when I have the writing bug, so to speak, I’ll write two stories in a weekend. I need to be in the right frame of mind. I know some writers feel as though they must write “x” amount of words per day, but that sounds too much like drudgery to me. I write because I enjoy the creative process, and my creative process doesn’t work well under artificial constraints like a required word count. To answer the question: I have no writing schedule
5. How do you research for your books?
My three nonfiction books deal with the criminal justice system. Bank Notes: The True Story of the Boonie Hat Bandit and Inside the Death Fences: Memoir of a Whistleblower are the real-life experiences of my husband and myself, so research wasn’t necessary. For Guilty Hearts: The World of Prison Romance, I interviewed other women who have incarcerated loved ones and their family members.
6. Where is your favorite place to write?
I like to be comfortable when I write, so I prefer to write in bed, especially at night. There are few distractions and my ideas flow more easily at night when I’m relaxed. If an idea hits me, and I’m able to jot it down, however, I’ll write anywhere.
7. When did you start writing?
I’m a high school English teacher, but I never wrote anything other than work-related items until I began my first book, Bank Notes. Over the years, people told me I should write, but I never had a purpose for writing until the story of my husband’s experiences needed to be told.
8. Do you have a blog, website, or social media links you can share?
My WordPress blog site is carolinegiammanco writes. My Twitter account is @GiammancoBook. I’m on Facebook at Caroline Giammanco Author and at Caroline Giammanco Author Fans
9. Your other books cover some controversial and powerful subjects. Can you let us know how they came about and why you chose to write them
a) Bank Notes: The True Story of the Boonie Hat Bandit:
In July 2011, I began teaching the GED program at the South Central Correctional Center in Licking, Missouri. That is a maximum-security men’s prison, and working in a prison was never on my bucket list. The Great Recession caused my school district, and many others, to cut positions, and I found myself needing a job, so I applied.
In late March 2012, I hired Donald Keith Giammanco to work as a tutor in my classroom. Each of the ten classrooms had two tutors who assisted the teachers. I didn’t realize that Keith was The Boonie Hat Bandit for a few weeks after I’d hired him, but he had been upfront at the interview and told me he had robbed banks in the St. Louis area using notes. Keith and my other tutor were enrolled in a college business class at the time, and I would proofread their papers. Keith is intelligent, but spelling isn’t his strong suit, so I told him one day that if he ever wrote a book or screenplay, he might want to have me edit it first. We laughed, but it was an idea we stuck with. Over time, it went from me editing his story to helping him write it. Together we collaborated to let the world know what the criminal justice system looks like as experienced by a middle-class adult who went down the wrong path. It’s a world most citizens don’t see, and the corruption we witnessed each day needed to be brought to light.
b) Guilty Hearts: The World of Prison Romance:
After I wrote Bank Notes, I took part in dozens of Barnes and Noble book signings around the country. Each time, I was met with people who were incredulous that I was involved with an inmate. “You don’t look like someone who would marry an inmate” was a common thread. After talking with me for a while, or after they read my book, they would change their mind and say something along the lines of, “Well, you and Keith are okay, but those other women…”
By this time, I knew several families with incarcerated loved ones, and they weren’t the stereotype at all. They were hard-working, middle-class, upstanding people who happened to love someone who made mistakes. I felt it was important to share their stories in hopes some of the stigma could be taken away. I chose Guilty Hearts for the name of the book because too often anyone who is related to or loves an inmate is painted with the same guilt as the incarcerated person. We are not second-class citizens
c) Inside the Death Fences: Memoir of a Whistleblower:
Now that I had told my husband’s story, and the stories of a dozen other families, I decided the time was right to tell my own experiences working inside the Missouri prison system, including what I saw, the death threats, and my activism to change a terribly flawed system that leaves none of us any safer.
10. As a teacher, do you encourage your students to write their stories?
I believe it is important to help students find their voices. Every class I teach has a writing component, and I teach a course called Creative Writing.
11. Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction when you read and why?
Ever since I was a young child, I prefer nonfiction. Real people and real places have always fascinated me. I enjoy good fiction works, but nonfiction is a mainstay for me.
12. Does your location inspire you to write and how?
I grew up on an eighty-acre farm in the Missouri Ozark Mountains, and the love of the country has never left me. After I graduated high school, I moved to Tucson, Arizona to attend the University of Arizona. I ended up living in Arizona and New Mexico for over twenty years before returning to rural southern Missouri in 2006.
Each place I have lived has left an imprint on me, and I draw from those places whenever I write. In addition to science fiction, paranormal, and general fiction, I also write westerns that are heavily influenced by my time out West.
Caroline Giammanco is an author and high school English teacher. She grew up in Douglas County, Missouri and moved to Arizona to attend the University of Arizona where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science with an English minor. She lives on her sixty-acre farm in southern Missouri. Caroline is married to the love of her life, Keith Giammanco.
Caroline’s previous published works are nonfiction and deal with the criminal justice system: Bank Notes: The True Story of the Boonie Hat Bandit; Guilty Hearts: The World of Prison Romances; and Inside the Death Fences: Memoir of a Whistleblower.
I am once again committing to a blog schedule for the upcoming year.
As last year’s topics and posting days proved to be popular, I am going to keep the same schedule for this year. There will be weekly posts divided between writing topics on Tuesday’s, when I will be delving into my writing (and reading) life.
The posting days will continue as Tuesday and Thursday of each week as follows:
Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday
Stories behind my published books and also from works in progress.
Update on events I will be attending – if possible physically, if not virtually in 2022
Glimpses at my current writing project.
Sharing short stories or poem’s I have written from prompts or workshops.
My book reviews
Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday
Special Interviews with authors from Creative Edge
Author Interviews for Creative Edge Publicity
Also I am happy to host an author interview for anyone interested in doing so.
I welcome your suggestions for inclusion of a topic or a theme, so please comment below.
I will continue with my monthly newsletter, so please sign up when prompted. I hope we can develop a great relationship with this new venture – Sneek Peeks & Glimpses. Thank you in anticipation.
Wishing everyone a wonderful, healthy and fiction filled Christmas and New Year.
I found a holiday project to do in the week between Christmas and New Year. A small model of a library (although the label says Sam’s Study). I, of course, opened it when it arrived with excitement, but this was short lived when I realized each component – shelves, cabinets, etc. – were not separated, but all mixed together! So my first job was to find the pieces for each item and put them together. The other ‘surprise’ was how fiddly this is going to be! Oh my goodness – frustration beckons, I do believe. Maybe it will not be the relaxing little craft project after all. Time will tell.
I have not planned a word count for the holiday’s, but will utilize some time to continuing writing the second book in my detective trilogy, The Tainted Search. I have over 50,000 words from NaNoWriMo already so another twenty or so is achievable without full time work getting in the way.
We all know that the holiday’s tend to reek havoc on our writing schedule, but there are ways of grabbing writing time. There are always lulls in activities, whether it’s traveling time, the lethargic atmosphere after a meal, or solitary early mornings. You can find somewhere to ‘hide’ away, even if its only for half an hour or so. Here are a few tips to try.
Relax your normal rigorous writing timetable – take time to chill and observe.
Keep track of the number of words you write instead of how long you wrote.
Make the most of “un-scheduled” time – waiting for a flight or sitting in a vehicle en route to a function, at children’s rehearsals, a break for coffee during shopping.
Wake up earlier (or stay up later) than usual to ensure that you spend some time writing.
Decide on a specific amount of time to write and block that time.
Use the time to track your progress on a current project.
Feel comfortable to reflect on your writing plans or current project.
Experiment with prompts, a new genre or a short story.
You’re going to be around a lot of people so pay attention to the interactions and conversations use it as research.
A new location can inspire an new idea or inclusion in a current work.
Always carry a notebook and pen.
Refuse to feel guilty when you remove yourself to write.
Remember it is okay to rest and enjoy the celebrations.
How do you find time to writing during the holidays?