As writers and authors, learning new skills, keeping ahead of genre evolution, trope changes and writing methods is vital for our continued improvement as a wordsmith. With the industry changing so quickly, we need to be ahead of the game.
The best ways to do this are:
Join a writing group
Read articles on the book industry
Take courses and workshops
Attend writing conferences
Subscribe to industry newsletters
How do you keep current with the writing industry?
This past weekend, I virtually attended When Words Collide and attended as many sessions as I could, while also being a co-presenter and panelist. Although, there was information I already knew, there were also those little nuggets of wisdom, insights and knowledge that made each session a gem. My notes were prolific and my follow up to action each gem will take several weeks.
There is always something to learn, whether you are just starting out on your writing career or have years of experience. We can have tunnel vision and ease into a ‘comfort zone’ so easily, when there are so many other calls on our time.
Some things can be scheduled monthly, such as updating your website or blog with current information. We don’t want a visitor to read upcoming events from 2018! Modify your bio to include your latest book, current WIP progression and appearances etc. Don’t leave your blog stagnant – post content regularly. (This can be once weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or even quarterly – just a known routine, so followers will know when to expect you to post).
We all have several social media accounts, so make sure they reflect the latest news, images etc. so they are in line with your current activities. This makes your author platform current. Also check links to ensure they are working properly or direct to a new site, if a change occurred. Refresh content and images so your platform doesn’t look dated or tired. Renew your copyright dates for all content across platforms on 1st January each year – this is one that can be missed very easily.
Can you share tips on what you do to stay updated and improve your writing skills?
Urban fantasy is my favourite genre to read and so if felt natural to write it as well. I’m especially drawn to stories where the supernatural walk among us. I think that’s because I would love to possess those supernatural abilities—oh, to be able to fly! And when supernatural beings hide within everyday society, then maybe—just maybe—they really exist. That feeling of possibility is what I want to create in my writing. It’s escapism, and we could all use a little more of that.
2. Do the characters come to you fully formed or do they emerge the more you write about them?
They definitely emerge as I put them through their paces. Character motivation, in particular, is often something that comes out later when a character’s past comes into play.
3. Are your characters based on real people?
Not wholly, but pieces of real people are found in my characters. It might be unruly hair, or the way someone walks. It could be a piece of clothing or a conversation I overheard in a coffee shop.
4. Is there something in your background that plays into your writing?
I’ve always had a vivid imagination, and the paranormal and magic have fascinated me since I was a child. Even as a young girl, I remember running into the wind with my arms widespread, hoping to lift off and fly.
5. Where does your inspiration come from for a new story?
Books and music are a great source of inspiration. It’s not always the content, but how the material makes me feel. I enjoy recreating emotions like wonder, elation, anger, etc. Frequently, a news story will spark my imagination, like the recent discovery of a giant cave in BC, or the discovery that the Easter Island Heads have hidden bodies. An old horror story I heard around a campfire when I was a Girl Guide inspired my latest short story titled Scaredy Cat.
6. Did you plan to write your series?
Not at all. I thought I was writing a one-off book. It was a personal challenge. But when I finished it, I missed the characters, and I missed writing. I also knew that the world I’d created had bandwidth to expand and explore. The series is now complete at seven books.
7. Why did you choose an urban setting for the Gift Legacy?
The characters in the books can fly, and I needed the possibility they might get caught. A big city provided that tension. The city setting also lends itself to more places for the characters to interact.
8. Where did the name Emelynn come from?
Emelynn is the name of a woman I met briefly when I lived in Vancouver. I always loved her name.
9. Do you have a current writing project? Can you tell us a little about it?
Yes! My new project is a book titled Blood Mark. It’s the story of a young woman who bears a chain of scarlet birthmarks. She is thrilled when, one by one, the disfiguring marks begin to disappear—until she learns that the hated marks protect her from a mysterious and homicidal enemy. Now, she is in a race against time to find this dangerous enemy before her last mark vanishes.
10. Are you a planner or a pantser?
I started off as a pantser but learned the value of outlining when I got further into my series and found it too difficult to keep track of all the story and character threads. I now outline regularly, but I’m not dogged about it—if the story doesn’t fit the outline, I’ll rewrite the outline, not the story.
11. When did you start writing?
In my day-job work life, I wrote a lot of non-fiction in the form of procedure manuals and job descriptions. That writing wasn’t nearly as fun as the fiction writing that I started in 2010.
12. Do you have a study or writing space?
I have two spaces. One is a corner of the dining room that has a view of the ocean. It’s there that I am at my most creative. I also have a chair in the living room where I tend to the business side of writing. Oddly enough, I rarely use the office in the back of the house. It has a “work” vibe and no view.
13. Where can readers find you on social media/blog?
My hub is my website at jpmcleanauthor.com. I’m also on Twitter @jpmcleanauthor and on Facebook at JPMcLeanBooks.
14. What would you like your readers to know?
How much I appreciate their support, how important their reviews are, and how much I enjoy their messages and comments.
J.P. McleanJo-Anne holds a Bachelor of Commerce Degree from the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, is a certified scuba diver, an avid gardener, and a voracious reader. She had a successful career in Human Resources before turning her attention to writing. JP lives on Denman Island, nestled between the coast of British Columbia and Vancouver Island. Raised in Toronto, Ontario, JP has lived in various parts of North America from Mexico and Arizona to Alberta and Ontario before settling on Canada’s west coast.
You can reach her through her website at jpmcleanauthor.com.
I wrote this book as a way to help people beyond what I share in a one-hour seminar or coaching session. The book takes a deeper dive into so many areas of nutrition and wellness. I have been a dietitian for over 24 years, and have a lot of nutrition tips and stories to share. Other books have motivated me to write my own. The Blue Zones books by Dan Buettner give wellness tips, along with vivid stories of his visits to some of the oldest and healthiest people in the world. I am fascinated by longevity, and when I read my first Blue Zones book, I loved that the book wasn’t just telling you what to do. The helpful wellness tips were woven into the stories that were shared. In my book, I wrote about a 102 year old man who is still driving and enjoying life. Another story is about a man I met who is now 98 and is still cooking for his daughter. When I first met him after a seminar I presented at a senior center, he appeared to be in his low 80’s, if not younger. I found out he was 95 at the time, and it was a surreal moment. I was just finishing up doing a presentation on the Mediterranean diet, and here in front of me was a living example of how this way of eating and living surely does lend itself to longevity. We have become friends. I’ve called him periodically during the Covid shutdowns to make sure he is okay, and we have exchanged fun gifts for holidays and birthdays. His friendship is the best gift of all. My mission is to learn and then share what I’ve learned in fun and meaningful ways to help others improve their lives. My book is one way to do this.
Is there a specific age group the book is geared towards?
I had adults in mind when I wrote the book. I have noticed that the book especially resonates for those 50 and up.
Do you feel nutrition should be taught in all grades of schools?
The first review of my book that came in mentioned how the information should be shared in schools. I wholeheartedly agree that nutrition should be taught in schools and for all grades. When I worked in school food service, I applied for grants that provided nutrition education in creative ways. One way was that I arranged for an entire elementary school grade to go on a hike, with healthy lunch provided, plus a nutrition talk for the kids during the day. Another way was to have a chef join the school food service staff to promote healthy meals to teenagers. I think that nutrition can be fun and taught in creative ways that appeal to all ages. I always liked show-and-tell as a kid, and my model of teaching for adults is show-and-tell model. I use lots of props and fun demonstrations. My virtual seminars have been a hit, as I have shown a lot of shocking things that make people think about their food consumption, such as all the sugar in one seasonal frozen coffee drink. It has more sugar than an entire container of ice cream!
Can you share a tip on how to eat a balanced diet?
I developed a plate to emphasize balance. It’s based on studying what people eat across the world to stay healthy. I call it the NuTricia’s Plate. See the graphic below. Half of the plate is vegetables. A great way to mimic this plate is to make sure that you vegetables cover half of your plate at lunch and dinner, and hopefully some vegetables during snacks, and maybe even breakfast, too. A quarter of your plate should be a small portion of healthy starchy carbohydrates such as whole grains (for example, brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat pasta), or potatoes, or corn. A quarter of the plate should be a protein rich food such as beans, fish, chicken, or turkey. People should consider having at least 3 small servings of fruit a day, and healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, avocados, and extra virgin olive oil as parts of meals and snacks. Water should be consumed throughout the day.
How can someone with physical restrictions improve their movement?
If you have physical restrictions, then focus on what you can do. Ask your doctor for guidance, and see a physical therapist. Physical therapists can help solve or lessen many pain problems. They are such a great resource. I have gone through many rounds of physical therapy over the years for different injuries and conditions, and some of the results have been pretty miraculous! Focusing on what you can do can have huge positive mental and physical benefits. Many fantastic exercises stretching and strengthening exercises can be done from a chair.
6. Did your parents encourage your healthy lifestyle? Somewhat. There was the good the bad, and the downright ugly. The good was that there were lots of health books and magazines around the house, and my mom made very balanced dinners. The bad was that the lunches I brought to school were often cold cut sandwiches on white rolls with no veggies or fruit. The ugly was that my family would have weekend “pig-outs” (junk food binges) that I think was at the root of my overweight status as a kid.
7. Who are your health gurus? I have several. Deepak Chopra kicked off my love of meditation. He periodically offers free 21-day meditation programs that are a fantastic way to implement or sustain a meditation habit. Dr. Andrew Weil’s book 8 Weeks to Optimum Health was very eye-opening to me. Elian Haan is a mind/body/trauma coach who teaches yoga and tai-chi at an addiction facility. I met her at an SCW Fitness Conference and have learned so much from her about the healing effects of mindfulness and mindful movement. Dr. Walt Willet is one of my favorite nutritionists. I love what I learned in the books, Healthy at 100 by John Robbins, and the China Study by T. Colin Campbell. These books have become guiding lights for me.
8. What part of your background do you feel had the biggest impact on your life? My dad’s work ethic and the Mediterranean way of living that my grandparents role modeled. My dad is an entrepreneur and a serial hard worker. My dad has been working long hours each day, mostly 7 days a week for over 50 years. Through his example, I learned that hard work pays off. I also learned key business skills that have helped me in my own entrepreneurial journey. My grandparents grew fruit in their yard, and went shopping almost daily for fresh vegetables. There were salads and raw veggies on the table at the beginning of the meal followed by tasty meals that included greens such as spinach and broccoli rabe sautéed in garlic and extra virgin olive oil.
9. Is there an age limit to creating a healthy lifestyle?
Never. it’s never too late to change your habits. Life is one long learning opportunity. There’s always room for learning and change.
10. What do you do to relax?
During the times of the Covid shutdowns, meditation has helped me tremendously. My favorite meditation app is Insight Timer. I use it a lot. It has helped me gain focus and improve my productivity, as well as helped me enhance my mood, and deal with stress. I have been working on earning my yoga certification over the last year, and learning new-to-me yoga poses has been invaluable. Two of my favorite poses are corpse pose (also known as shavasana—it’s when you are lying down at the end of a yoga session) or legs up the wall. Legs up the wall is what is sounds like. You are lying down on the floor, and your legs are resting up against a wall. I feel especially relaxed after doing this pose, and that effect lasts for hours.
11. Are you planning on writing anther book?
Yes, I have a lot of books in me, and will be focusing on the creative process over the next few weeks to get the next book moving along. It’s important to schedule creative days in your calendar. I have a few coming up, and am looking forward to it.
12. Is there a message you would like to send to your readers? Put the past behind you and make healthy choices going forward. Ruminating about the past can get in your way. Dream about your future, and create a vision of where you want to be, then live in the NOW. Make good choices in the NOW, to achieve your vision of the future
13. Where can readers find your book? My book, Healthy Dividends: Investments in Nutrition, Movement, and Healthy Habits that Pay Off can be found on Amazon.
Tricia has been a fitness and nutrition enthusiast, since she was a child. She is a registered and licensed dietitian, certified wellness coach, fitness instructor (certified as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor), and smoking cessation facilitator.She graduated with Summa Cum Laude honors with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Dietetics from the State University of New York and completed her dietetic internship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She graduated with honors from the Babson College MBA program.
She has extensive nutrition education experience including time spent as the director of nutrition for the prestigious Canyon Ranch Health Resort in the Berkshires. During her employment at Boston Public Schools, she taught nutrition and was responsible for the operations of over 20 school nutrition meal sites which employed over 100 people. Her vast school nutrition experience also includes three years as the director of food services at Watertown Public Schools where she was responsible for operations and developed and implemented innovative nutrition education opportunities for the students. She has been educating clients and groups through her business for many years.
A lot of us are in the midst of writing new (or completing old) projects for the challenging NaNoWriMo month. Some find it too challenging, others a great way to write to a deadline, while others utilize the month for beginning or finishing a project. No matter why you participate, the structure gives us all a commitment to write at least 1667 words a day.
Obviously, there are other commitments – work, home & family – but making time to write is a bonus. We have the ‘excuse’ that we must write in order to achieve the goal of 50,000 words. Once our family understands your need for this writing time, why not carry it on after November?
With a full month of specified ‘writing time’ becoming the ‘norm’ for those around you, why drop it after November. If the family can accommodate you for one month, why not twelve?
Writing is our passion. We need to write. So make the time to do it. Wake up earlier, go to bed later, write while waiting for children’s activities to finish or write a scene in a small notebook in your purse waiting at appointments. There are always opportunities to allow your Muse to create. You may have to be creative in how we work it out, but it is worth investing in your writing time. It is a writing commitment.