There is always a lot of organization and planning behind any writing conference, and this weekend’s conference is no exception. A committed voluntary Board has secured elite presenters for this Saturday’s conference in Sherwood Park, Alberta.
From initial concept to title and theme, to the booking of a venue, and finding presenters and then promotion, there is a lot of time spent creating the event.
Any writer, or author, is welcome to gain valuable information, and network.
I write and produce picture books. I call them that because they are not necessarily for children. My slogan is ‘for kids aged between 6 & 99yrs old!” I’m interested in stimulating a dialogue between adults and children about their experience. I hope that’s what my books make the readers want to do. Talk and discuss and reflect on their own experience. I love art and literature so picture books are the perfect medium for me. Some of my books are not even ‘stories’ rather than concepts.
2. Do you draw from your English background and upbringing?
I guess I do, but almost inadvertently, so not directly. However, Spaceball uses the city of Manchester England as a theme for location and Old Trafford is mentioned. Perhaps in the way I express myself in the books. I do have another book planned which is based in London England.
3.Where did the idea for Spaceball come from?
I wanted to write an exciting book using the dynamic themes of soccer and space. I think all ideas just come from challenging your own understanding. i was reading about Einstein and gravity and i thought this might be a cool way of understanding an aspect of gravitational force, amongst other things. The book is actually about how we understand our own histories and the ‘forces’ that influence that aswell.
4. What message does the book give children?
See question 3 above. I’m interested in bringing the reader to a point where they want to consider their place in history and how their social history differs from other cultural perspectives. The whole book pivots on the expression ‘the history of everything’. The child telling the story stops to consider what that means.
5. How long did the process of writing Spaceball take?
About a month. Not long at all once I knew what I wanted to do. I let the planets guide me! The illustrations took longer but it was so much fun to do, and I wanted to create images that especially children would feel were organic, to encourage them to make their own books with collage and crayon and whatever they can get their hands on.
6.How does writing a book, short stories and writing poetry differ?
For me with picture books there’s always an idea you’re developing and revising constantly, editing while writing but also afterwards, going back to it again and again is important, checking for fluency, ‘sense’ and whether what you’ve done honours your intention. Projects can change a lot as well. The research phase is always very interesting and so much of the spontaneity of my writing happens when I’m reading around. I think it’s not so much genre but authors that have different processes. Books have personally taken me longer to produce though. A short story can be 500words. I don’t write much poetry but when I do it’s almost like a wave of energy, so it’s quite quick for me. Whether it’s any ‘good’ is another matter!
7.Where do you get ideas from?
From Walmart. 🙂 They have them on special right now. Just kidding. I think you can train your mind to be receptive. Ideas are everywhere I think, it’s not difficult for me. I have a to-do list on my wall of the next ten picture books I want to do, but there are loads of ideas on scraps and memos in various places. I think you have to have a type of curiosity that isn’t easily satisfied if that makes sense, and a willingness to take a ‘fact’ and explore what might have been or what another perspective might bring. I think the imagination is a way of connecting and exploring one’s understanding and associations from different perspectives and perhaps extending that understanding. I have ideas that are years old and I like to leave them in my head for a while, pickling and marinating! I think you can tell I like cooking 🙂
8.Do you have a project(s) in progress?
Yes I think I answered this in question 7 above. More specifically I’m just completing a picture book now called ‘What’s your favourite colour’ illustrated by Stella Avolio. Another project has been planned and will start soon called ‘Farewell’ with a different illustrator and I have a book I really want to do, the London-based one I referred to above, but I want to both write and illustrate that myself.
9.What is your view on reading and writing for children?
Reading for children is very important. I was read to as a child and I loved the experience. I haven’t done an audio book yet but I’d love to get round to it. It’s great to have a book animated by real voices.
As I said (if I understand your question) I don’t write for children necessarily, but more for the social interaction between generations, to generate discussion between adults and children.
10.Where can readers find you and your books?
All my books are online. Google Matthew Bennett Young and you will see!
It is my pleasure to welcome back a fellow author to my blog. Verna has been here before, but today we celebrate her newest novel, The Bastard Sorceress.
Since your last interview, how has your writing life changed? I’ve learned to go with the flow. I’ve survived and found new publishers for my fantasy novels when my previous publishers stopped publishing. It’s happened to me more than once too! But I’ve been lucky to find new publishers willing to take me on. It’s a tough business, and small presses suffer the most. Other than that, I’m still a mad writer who drinks pots of tea and keeps a package of emergency cookies on hand when I create my tales. I’m focused in details of story, world, and characters. I put together book bibles for each novel that are very detailed about every aspect of story, world, and people in in. I still have plans on becoming the next princess of heroic fantasy. Just give me time.
What have you learned about your craft of writing? I learned I have a knack for three things-creating good dialogue, great characters, and giving my characters good names. It’s a gift I’m grateful for.
Would you ever write in another genre? I love fantasy, but would love to dive into science fiction, especially some space opera.
What inspired you to write about Sabine Fable in your latest novel? A new character I’ve never done before. I love my heroines, and they always lead my tales. With Sabine Fable, I wanted to explore a character who suffered a rough home life and poverty, but was determined to rise above what society dictated. I added real human elements in this tale of magic, and created flesh and blood characters with more depth.
What characteristics does she have that make her a force to be reckoned with? A tough upbringing can make a tough character. Her heart is good, but she is fierce and protective of those she loves. She does not trust easily. She champions the underdog because she is one of them. Her family once had magic, but mage fever took that away. She was a bastard, and judged for her low birth. Magic is currency in her world, and mages rule. Even humble charm caste has respect. She had none. Sabine is hungry for more than magic. She wants justice and to be treated with respect. She wants people to see her. And yet she would never betray a friend or family member for what she desires.
Which author would you most like to meet and why? There are so many! Many of my favorites have passed (Ray Bradbury, Tanith Lee, Robert E. Howard, Patricia McKillip). Neil Gaiman is one of many on my list. I did have the joy of meeting Tanya Huff (so awesome), Kevin J., Anderson, and the great Larry Niven at conventions. I would love to meet Jennifer Roberson someday. At least she is my Facebook friend. As are you, Mandy.
With several series of books, are you planning more? Yes, but with publishers rising and falling around me over the years, I plan to be more careful. Even if I plan a series, I will do each novel as a stand-alone. I am working on the second novel to Bardess of Rhulon, called War Poet. But I am writing my novels from that perspective.
Has a movie or TV show inspired any of your stories? Some of the actors in favorite shows or movies I may be inspired by. Some of my characters are drawn from well-known actors.
What aspect of writing do you like the most? The power to create my own worlds and stories. Yes, I am a goddess who rules her worlds.
Where can readers find your books? Amazon has all my novels, available in both print and Kindle. My books are also on Barnes& Noble online. And my new publisher (for Bardess of Rhulon & The Bastard Sorceress) TANSTAAFL Press.
Verna McKinnon is a fantasy author of adventurous heroines. She is the author of the novels, The Bastard Sorceress, The Bardess of Rhulon, Gate of Souls & Tree of Bones. Fantasy is her genre of choice, though she has some science fiction in the works. Check in with her at her website. You can also read some of her previously published short stories at her website http:// vernamckinnon.com. Stay in touch by subscribing to email list at http://vernamckinnon.com/newsletter.html for her quarterly newsletter for news & updates. Follow Verna on Instagram @ vernamckinnon.author & Facebook for the latest on her writing life as a fantasy author, animal lover, and how she stays sane despite the odds. Chocolate helps.
As we enter the last week of NaNoWriMo, I thought I would share my experience of the challenge and share some tips.
National Novel Writing month is a crazy experience, whether it is your first attempt or one of many. We all tend to become rather manic as we write to our daily goal of 1667 words (or more if possible). I remember my first NaNoWriMo was back in 2009. At the time my writing experience was minimal, and my longest piece of writing was maybe three paragraphs long, substantially less than fifty thousand words.
The panic I felt at the mind-blowing word count and the deadline date made me completely obsessed. I would race home from work to write, threw the easiest meals together for my family and ignored household chores, for the most part. This was my focus. Now, after twelve years of the challenge, I have become more relaxed knowing I am capable of writing at least 1667 words in an evening. My average daily word count fluctuates between 1700 and 1900 words this year. That is not to say I do not experience some anxiety; I just know how to handle the challenge better now. As with everything – practice makes perfect, or in this case ‘bum in seat’ makes an achievable word count.
Here are a few tips I found worked for me:
Cultivate your story idea before NaNo starts. It may be a character, a location or even a whole scene that propels you into the story.
Jot down notes for plot, character names & personalities, anything that you see being included in your narrative.
Find a time and a quiet place to write that works for you and your family. Designate a time, if that helps.
Don’t make excuses – write first then watch TV or scroll social media.
Use unexpected spare/free time to write, even if it’s only a paragraph. Every word counts.
Try writing bursts – time yourself to write a certain number of words in an allocated amount of time.
Aim to write over the daily word count of 1667 this helps you stay ahead. So, any unforeseen circumstances are not so drastic to your end goal.
Let the words flow – leave editing and revision for later.
Use the word count tracker on the website, it helps you stay on goal.
Mark or highlight a sentence if fact checking is required. This stops you going down internet rabbit holes.
Believe in yourself, your story and your success.
Celebrate the smaller victories – hitting a sprint goal, writing a smashing paragraph, learning a new word.
Make sure you rest, exercise and eat.
Enjoy the process of immersing yourself into creating a world of your imagination.
Even if you don’t achieve 50,000 words you have managed to write a fair amount – that is success. Remember this challenge is only the beginning of your narrative’s journey. The editing and revisions come later.
A little bit of both. When I’m really into a chapter and it’s practically writing itself, I get pumped and full of energy. When I’m having trouble with a chapter or scene that isn’t coming easily to me, I end up at the computer working on it for hours. That is exhausting.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Sometimes a little too much narrative. I can go overboard with detailed descriptions. I end up taking a lot out when I edit.
What are your writing strengths?
I’m a good storyteller and I’m good with dialogue. Dialogue can make or break a story. It moves the story along and shows how the characters relate to one another.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
No. I’d get too confused.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I’ve been in a few writing groups and have formed friendships with several authors. I was the founder and facilitator of a group of women writers for 9 years. I currently belong to a group of men and women writers at a local library. We all help each other. I have a writing buddy who also writes romance books. We critique each other’s work on a regular basis. This is a great motivator. I highly recommend it to other writers, especially aspiring ones.
Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I write my books to stand alone. I am working on a series called Tucker’s Landing. LOVING DANIEL and LASTING IMPRESSIONS have many of the same characters and they both take place mainly in Tucker’s Landing, but each book can stand alone.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
Probably when I started writing for newspapers. I did travel and feature stories for a while. It always amazed me when people came up to me and asked questions about a story of mine they’d read and wanted to know more about what I thought.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
At least two half-finished and a couple more only in the early idea stages.
What does literary success look like to you?
My favorite authors: Nora Roberts, Anita Shreve, Barbara Delinksy, Debbie Macomber. That’s success. To me personally, it’s getting my stories and books out there and having them read. If I can do that, I’ve achieved success.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I rarely do much research before beginning a book. I do my research as I’m writing it. Certain things that I need to know come up in the process. That’s when I look things up. Research is not a part of writing I like doing, but it has to be done. You have to be accurate.
How many hours a day/week do you write?
It varies, depending on what else is going on in my life. I try to do a couple of hours a day. When I’m deep into a chapter, I can spend several hours on it.
How do you select the names of your characters?
I often drive myself crazy trying to come up with the “perfect” name for a character. In LOVING DANIEL, I wanted to use my grandmother’s family name of McRae. I researched names to go with it and used Aidan because I liked it. When I was looking for a name for my hero in LASTING IMPRESSIONS, I told my ten-year-old granddaughter I needed a name for a male character. (She likes to write.) She thought about it for only a minute or two and said, “Dylan.” Just like that. Kids don’t hesitate. Dylan Granger was born.
What was your hardest scene to write?
My first love scene. I wanted it to be hot, but not too hot and I didn’t want it to be explicit. I brought it to my writing group for critiquing and was too embarrassed to read it out loud myself. I had to have someone else read it.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
I liked writing essays and personal stories and found I had a knack for writing nostalgia. I loved doing that, but always wanted to write fiction. Now that I have more time, I’m into the fiction writing and loving it. I balance them by writing whatever I’m in the mood for or whatever my muse tells me.
How long have you been writing?
For as long as I can remember, which is a long time. I used to make up stories when I was a child. I wrote a short piece with a couple of other kids in the fifth grade that was published in a yearbook. I think that was my first published piece. I still have the yearbook.
What inspires you?
A lot of things. I never know where it’s going to come from. Even the smallest of every day events and happenings can create a spark for a story or a scene. Observing people often inspires a character. Listening to conversations in restaurants, at the hairdresser or in line at the supermarket.
How do you find or make time to write?
It’s much easier to find time for writing now that I’m retired. I do a lot of my writing in the morning. If a chapter is working for me and I’m on a roll, I just ignore everything else and write for hours.
What projects are you working on at the present?
Book Two of my Tucker’s Landing Series, Lasting Impressions. I’m hoping to have it out in late February or early March of 2018.
What do your plans for future projects include?
Definitely another romance novel. Most likely, book three of the Tucker’s Landing Series, Worth Waiting For. It was supposed to be book two, but it wasn’t working for me at the time so I made Lasting Impressions the next one. I’d like to write another Carousel Kisses book of nostalgia. It’s one of the half-finished books I mentioned. Maybe putting together a book of short stories. I’m also working on a presentation on self-publishing that I’d like to do at local bookstores or libraries or writing groups.
Lina Rehal is a self-published author who writes nostalgia, memoirs, slice of life stories and contemporary romance. Her first book, Carousel Kisses, is a collection of nostalgic stories, personal essays and poems about growing up in the late ‘50’s and early ‘60’s.
She combines her passion for fiction and love of storytelling in her contemporary romance novels. Her two seasoned romance books, October In New York and Loving Daniel, Book One of her Tucker’s Landing Series, are available on Amazon.com in both print and Kindle formats.