At the start of each year, some of us decide on goals for the year. These range from the most common ones, such as weight loss, fitness, and stopping smoking, the ‘healthy ones’ in other words. But, what of the other goals, the practical ones, so to speak? For authors this would be improving our brand, more sales, promotional opportunities, presentations or speaking engagements and more. As writers, we want to increase our word count, the number of projects completed, or receiving publicity or publishing deals.
Obviously, many of these goals go by the wayside pretty quickly, while others make it to mid-year, or possibly later. The question that arises is – why make goals in the first place? Are we swept along with the possibilities of a fresh start? Do we think we can achieve them, and stay committed to our self-inflicted goals? The excitement of a whole new year ahead of us is a powerful momentum for change. I think that is the key to our initial thinking, when it comes to annual goal making.
As we all know that momentum gets harder to maintain as the months roll by. We get off-track.
There are time constraints, health issues, family matters, work events, vacations, seasonal holidays – the list goes on. Each scenario affects how we feel, our ‘free’ time, and what we are able to accomplish. There is always some ‘distraction’ pulling us away from that initial elation of new year possibilities.
So, what is the answer? This is a difficult question to answer, as we are all experiencing life in a multitude of ways. No one person is the same as another. I think the first step is to be totally honest with yourself, when it comes to setting goals in the first place. Too many goals, too loftier a goal and the ‘good grief’ goals should be shelved before they even get ‘out the box’.
Making a goal is a very personal thing. You need to look at what your time will allow and also your personality trait. Do you have a week to week, or month to month planner or do you hope for the best? Or something in-between? Having too many goals sets you up for failure and that isn’t good for anyone. Remember we don’t have to do ALL the goals in one year – pace yourself. Put the most ‘important’ one first, then plan accordingly and stick to it. Put less pressure on yourself and accomplish one or two instead.
You can even make a ‘goal’ under the umbrella of a wider spectrum, such as ‘improvement’, whether for your health or for your writing career. Many of you saw my 2021 goal board link – it is the best board I have made in many years and I don’t think I will be changing it very much for 2022. I have goals I want to reach in the next few years and the board reflects that for me.
Realistically, a goal can take longer than a year. Accept that and work towards it at your own pace. Time constraints and deadlines are not applicable here. We all ‘work’ at different paces, make that work for you.
My latest book is a collection of short stories inspired by the time I spent in India. It’s about women and the issues faced by women living in contemporary India.
How did you come up with the title?
The title of the book, I Exist. Therefore I Am is also the title of one of the short stories in the collection. Each of my other previous books also uses one of the stories/poems as the title. I’ve done this as I wanted to have a title that exemplified what was in the whole collection.
Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
The message is that women need to be treated as equals and with dignity and the respect that is their due.
How much of the book is realistic?
Although fictionalized the stories are about real people and real lives. I’ve used examples of incidents that I came across to create my stories. The characters aren’t real but the issues these women face and the treatment they receive at the hands of society and of other women are very real.
Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
They are based on people I read or heard about from others or from newspapers. I’ve come across women who have either gone through similar experiences that my characters undergo or have known women who have.
Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?
Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone?
Yes. I’m planning on publishing a poetry collection this year. It is about the effects of conflict on people and how they live through it. As a people, we in Sri Lanka have gone through 30 years of bloody conflict that left no real winners. People from all sides lost. The poems look at what happened and speak in many voices. They discuss a variety of issues and viewpoints. I wrote it because I wanted to create a collection of voices for those in the future to understand, as well as anyone else to realize the futility of war. It’s like a documentation of what happened in verse form.
Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?
I don’t have particular favorites because I think all the characters are special and they serve a purpose in helping me tell my story.
Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?
I write both poetry and short stories. My poetry is free verse and the short stories are mostly literary fiction. I’ve also written a few stories that are fantasy or magic realism as well as a couple of children’s stories. Apart from the children’s stories the others are published in literary journals and anthologies but I don’t have enough to have a complete collection. I think it would be nice to have a complete collection of fantasy stories and also of children’s stories, but for this I need to write.
Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?
I’m mostly a seat of the pants writer, but I do plan a little. When I get an idea to write something I make a rough draft in my head. I let the sequence of the story or poem play in my mind like a movie and when I feel it is possible to sustain the story I start writing it down. But I don’t plan how the story evolves. That happens while writing.
What is your best marketing tip?
Marketing is the hardest aspect of writing and publishing. Moreover poetry and short stories are not easy to sell as there is a limited market compared to some of the popular genres. I prefer to get exposure for the book through reviews, interviews and word of mouth.
Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?
I think it’s a huge benefit because it connects us to writers and readers around the world not merely to promote our writing but also to discuss writing get help and advice and find like- minded people. I decided to self-publish because I found many writers doing this and I felt encouraged. I also learnt everything about self-publishing through other writers who were on the same journey as I am and it’s amazing how many people I’ve come to know through social media.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
I don’t know if there’s any particular aspect about writing that I like more than others. I just like to write. It’s like being able to direct my thoughts onto a blank canvas and create something beautiful out of the jumble of ideas and words that are there. Writing poetry or fiction is hugely liberating as I can express what I want or write about something that may not be possible to do as a fact. It’s like painting, but with words.
What age did you start writing stories/poems?
I wrote my first poems and short stories when I was in university as an undergraduate student. These were experimental works and I never planned on publishing them. There was a short period after my post grad study in India where I was doing nothing and I wrote some stories and poem that were better than the ones I wrote earlier. But it was really much later that I started to write seriously and this is where the bulk of my work is from.
Has your genre changed or stayed the same?
It has stayed the same for the most part, but I’ve dabbled in other genre, like fantasy. I’ve also written a couple of short stories for children but these aren’t published.
What genre are you currently reading?
Right now I’m reading contemporary romance. Sometimes reading outside the genre I write can be more relaxing.
Do you read for pleasure or research or both?
Both. Right now I’m reading for pleasure.
Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager?
My lecturer from undergrad study Dr. Lakshmi de Silva was someone who encouraged me to write even when I didn’t know I wanted to write. Through the years she has been a huge supporter of my writing and I tend to discuss my work with her. She is also the only person who first sees my writing before I send it to anyone else.
Where is your favorite writing space?
In front of my computer. It’s a mess with papers and books all over the table but that’s where I write.
Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one?
I belong to several writing groups on Facebook where we help each other with advice about writing and publishing.
If you could meet one favorite author, who would it be and why?
Alice Munro and Carolyn Forche. I like the way they write and it would be nice to just talk to them about writing.
If you could live anywhere in the world – where would it be?
Right here where I am as this is the place I’m most comfortable. But if I could travel to anywhere in the world then the list would be endless. I think travel opens up your mind and give you opportunities to learn and experience diversity in all forms and this is good not just for writing but in general too. I’d like to visit several places, like Russia, China and some parts of the US like Colorado or Alaska and spend some time there, maybe a few weeks just taking in everything. But I wouldn’t want to move anywhere.
Do you see writing as a career?
Yes. It already is.
Shirani Rajapakse is an internationally published, award winning poet and short story writer. She won the Cha “Betrayal” Poetry Contest 2013 and was a finalist in the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Awards 2013. Her collection of short stories Breaking News (Vijitha Yapa 2011) was shortlisted for the Gratiaen Award. Her critically acclaimed poetry collection Chant of a Million Women (2017) won the 2018 Kindle Book Awards. It was chosen as an “Official Selection” in the 2018 New Apple Summer eBook Awards for Excellence in Independent Publishing and received an Honorable Mention in the 2018 Readers’ Favorite Awards. Her second collection of short stories, I Exist. Therefore I Am (2018) is about women in modern India. Rajapakse’s work appears in many literary journals and anthologies worldwide. Rajapakse read for a BA in English Literature from the University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka and has a MA in International Relations from JNU, India.
That definitely depends on what I’m writing. Some scenes flow so easily onto the paper with very little effort. My imagination sees the pictures, hears the voices, and obeys. Other times it can be emotionally harrowing. It can take me days to get over the death of a beloved character, even though I made the decision to kill her off.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Handling my own nature is the hard part for me. I tend to be very distractible and moderately obsessive. There is always that one more piece of research, a new book to read, and, Oh Look! I got a facebook mention. My mind will bounce to anything new and shiny and sometimes when it lands on a topic I find it hard to let go and get back to the writing. There is a definite benefit to this type of mind though, once I start writing and the scenes are flying, I will keep going until someone pulls me out.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I actually do write under a synonym. I work in the legal profession and was advised that it might be better not to use my real name for security purposes.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I have been so lucky! Two of the first people I met when I started to write were Rebekah Raymond and J.J. Reichenbach, they, along with several others convinced me that my ‘baboon crap’ was worth the effort and helped me get started learning the craft of writing.
Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
My original plan was three standalone books in the same world. But the story doesn’t seem to be working out that way. It looks like being a three-book series.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
In the beginning I’d say joining the Alexandra Writers Centre Society, a local writers group that runs classes on everything from writing technique, to plotting, to poetry. Once my book was underway, I hired a good editor whose knowledge of her craft and determination to present my work at its best is the reason Y’keta is a polished, professional read.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
When I was little, we had a burgundy set of children’s encyclopaedia’s and I would put on performances in the living room and insist that my family listen to the stories and legends that I read. I grew up on the stories of Robin Hood, King Arthur, and the Fae. What else could I ever be?
I love the authors who can make words dance and sentences MEAN things. This has led me to authors like Guy Gavriel Kay, and Don Dellilo. I would give my left ovary (not so dramatic a thing since at 55 those parts are hardly crucial) to sit down with either of these gentlemen, or even better their writing notes, for an afternoon!
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
That’s a hard question, there are so many good novels that go just under the popular radar. For me M.K. Wren’s Sword of the Lamb is a definite favourite. How will a government that has spanned centuries react when faced with political and social unrest? How does this affect the people born to a world that has never changed? If you enjoyed Asimov’s foundation series, you will probably like this one.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
Oh fun! I think I would take a raven as my spirit animal. They are known for being wise birds but also for having a sense of fun and mischief.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Eeep. Do I have to admit it? At least eight, there is just not enough time!
What does literary success look like to you?
For me its all about the reader’s reaction. Yes, the sales are great (PLEASE – buy the books), but if one person says to me that my words opened their eyes to a bigger world, or that I showed them the power of words and the beauty that they can bring, then I’m a success.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I originally didn’t think that I was researching to write a book when I started out to write Y’keta. About five years ago, my husband found out that he was part Cree. At that time, I went back to the indigenous legends I’d learned growing up in Northern Alberta as a way to teach my son the history and culture that my husband never learned. For more than four years I studied the language and history of several different indigenous cultures.
How many hours a day/week do you write?
When the words are flowing I write two to three hours a day. When things aren’t so easy and I’m struggling with a scene or a plot point it’s harder, but I try to keep to writing something every day. Whether poetry, or as part of my ongoing books.
How do you select the names of your characters?
I try to find names that will work within the cultures of the story taking into consideration the ‘hardness’ or ‘softness’ of certain sounds and whether they match the character. In Y’keta, I borrowed the name of a traveller that my friend met in Ontario (Y’keta) and adjusted the name of my cousin, Sian.
What was your hardest scene to write?
In my work-in-progress, D’vhan, there is a scene where a young child dies. Writing it was emotionally crippling and took me to some very dark areas of my past. It was a necessary part of the story, but very very hard.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
I write fantasy because the words are my way of exploring a world I can’t see. I’m a mythmaker, there is nothing that gives me more creative juice than asking a question and then building a world to find the answer. Myths and fantasy give us the opportunity to look at ourselves in new and often unusual ways, to play a huge game of ‘what if’ and see where the answers will fall. I find the basic understanding is the same when I’m working on romance books, except that you are now playing what if with relationships and feelings.
How long have you been writing?
According to my mum I have always written stories and poems. I wrote my first ‘official’ poem in Grade four and had my first work published in a school magazine in 1977.
What inspires you?
There are so many people that inspire me, whether they are historical figures or literary ones. I think the common thread in all of them is that they had the opportunity to quit, every reason to say I’m too old, too tired, it’s just easier to let it be someone else’s problem. This kind of hero, unwilling, often flawed, yet willing to step up, gets me every time.
How do you find or make time to write?
Finding time to write is an ongoing issue for me. I have started to take myself on writing dates, the people at the local Starbucks know my name and how I want my coffee, they don’t ask anymore. I also have a great group of writer friends that hold sleepovers now and then. Much laughter, much wine, and many words have come from these weekends.
What projects are you working on at the present?
I’ve got three projects on the go at the moment, with a never empty folder of ideas on the backburner.
The next book in the Sky Road Trilogy, D’vhan, is in the ‘necklace’ stage of drafting. I’ve got several pearls but I’m missing the chain of story movement that will tie them together.
I am working on a romance that will be part of an upcoming series of novellas with my contribution, Peace Out, slated for May 2018.
There is also a chapbook of poetry in the works, although at the moment the prose has centre stage.
Romance novella, Peace Out releases on May 4th. Video.
I am plotting a YA Fantasy based on a world where the center of the earth is molten magic and drilling is creating imbalance and magic quakes – Geomages! I’ve also got poetry,plans for a darker themed adult fantasy about a dying world that even the gods have abandoned, two other romance novels and a space opera. So much to do! It’s going to be fun.
Thank you, Swati for your nomination and for following my blog.
I must answer six Super Sweet questions – see below.
I must include the Super Sweet Blogging Award pic in my blog post – done.
I must nominate a baker’s dozen of deserving bloggers see below.
I must notify my nominees on their blogs – done!
Cookies or cake? My preference would always be cake. (You get more!)
Chocolate or vanilla? I’m not a big chocolate lover and everything goes with vanilla.
Favorite sweet treat? Now I will contradict myself and say white chocolate but good Swiss white chocolate. English scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream. Anything with caramel.
Favorite memory of eating sweets: I over indulged at secondary (high) school with the tuck shop. Sitting on the lawn munching my way through was pretty good. At that time wagon wheels and sherbet dips were favorite. A friend introduced me to her Aunt’s homemade Gulab jamun, which were absolutely divine and addictive. My mother’s Lemon meringue pie and apple pie with cloves, reminds me of Sunday dinner.
When do you crave sweet things the most? I don’t have much of a sweet tooth but just occasionally a craving hits me. There is no rhyme or reason when or why.
Super sweet nickname? Haven’t had a sweet nickname ever. Mostly plays on my names, Mandy and Eve. Although my husband calls me Blodwen!
Propaganda – definition: information, ideas, or rumours widely spread
An award I’m so pleased to receive. I endeavor to encourage and support other writers here. We are a community like no other. So thank you EyE (before) E for nominating me. http://eyedancers.wordpress.com/
The rules for the Most Influential Blogger Award are as follows . . .
Display the award logo on your blog.
Link back to the person who nominated you.
Answer seven questions.
Nominate (no limit on the number of nominations)
Notify those bloggers of the nomination and the award requirements.
The questions are:
1. If you could create your own planet what would it look like?
It would be similar to Earth but all animals (including humans) would live in harmony utilizing the natural resources.
2.If you could visit one nation you have never visited before. What nation would that be?