New parent, must write: Author toolbox post

This parenting thing is relentless and I am only 20 weeks in. Duh, right? Well, somehow I am finding time to write. It’s different now. My resolve is bound to the conviction that if I quit doing something I love … Continue reading

Q & A with Author Rain Sivertsen

In this Q and A Rain Sivertsen answers my questions. Let’s learn a little more about her.

rain

Rain Sivertsen is a 25-year-old fantasy writer currently working on her first novel, a YA fantasy she intends to self-publish by 2019/20. She is also working on a darker fantasy trilogy about vampires. Everything Rain writes takes place in a fantasy world called Hurst where she spends most of her time, while her corporeal self is located in the beautiful city of Prague –which might be the ideal home for anyone writing fantasy, with magic hiding around every corner.

 

  1. What do you write? (genre etc.)

Fantasy. Everything I write, pretty much everything I read, is fantasy. Doesn’t matter if it’s epic, urban, YA. Anything with even a sprinkle of fantasy and I am there for it.

  1. Favorite book that you think is underrated?

You couldn’t start with an easier question? J I stare at my bookshelf and there are so many wonderful books that I wish were the kind everyone knew about and talked about. Kristine Cashore’s books Graceling and Fire are beautiful stories about strong women making the best of impossible situations, with love stories I can respect and admire, which I wish I saw more of. Ash and Huntress by Melinda Lo are lovely fantasy stories with queer women. Ask was the first book I ever read with a non-straight main character. It blew my mind.

  1. Favorite book from childhood?

I don’t remember much I read from childhood – mostly Norwegian books designed specifically to get kids to read more – but there was a series of five books called “Sofie and Kathrine” by Grete Haagenrud that I would borrow from the library almost every month. It’s about two young sisters during the war when Norway was occupied by Germany. Their family is forced to flee their hometown and travel through Norway. The stories were so funny, heart-warming and heart-wrenching, and though my life was so different from Sofie, I could still relate to her and a lot of the things she went through. That might be the first series that made me properly fall in love with novels.

  1. Use three words to describe what keeps you writing and persevering?

Love, persistence and forced discipline (because discipline does not come to me naturally).

  1. Where do you draw your inspiration to keep writing?

I never really choose where I get inspiration from. Sometimes I’ll try and kick-start some inspiration by looking at beautiful digital art or reading passages in my favorite books, but really it tends to come out of nowhere. It’s really important to me that I write even when I don’t feel inspired, so I’ve trained myself to do that and then be pleasantly surprised when genuine inspiration does hit. It’s the best feeling. I guess you could say that the idea of inspiration is what inspires me. Too complicated? 🙂

  1. Do you have any tricks/tips for aspiring authors you’d like to share?

Write. Down. Your. Goals.
You can’t hit a target you can’t see. If you write down your goals – both long-term goals and the smaller milestone goals along the way – you will be more motivated to work towards them. Put them somewhere you can see them every day so you never forget that you wanted this badly enough to commit it to writing. Writing down your goals helps to turn a dream into a plan. It’s pretty much the tip that helped me start taking writing seriously.

  1. As a writer who/what is your inspiration (animal, vegetable or mineral ☺)? 

Beauty. Beauty in anything – nature, music, art, architecture. Surrounding myself with beauty in all forms is what inspires me to create, to take all that beauty and try and make something magical out of it. That’s why I listen to epic instrumental music when thinking about my writing. It’s why I enjoy long walks in the most beautiful parks in Prague. I inhale beauty and hope to absorb some of it for later use in my writing.

  1. What was one of the hardest scenes for you to write?

I’m best at writing violent things, like fight scenes and torture, or just people being miserable. For the story I’m working on now, the MC spends a lot of time figuring out clues and working on solving a mystery. I’m not very good at that, at figuring out exactly which clues to reveal at exactly the right time. It’s why I could never really write crime and detective novels like Beth Green writes so brilliantly. I love to read them, but those details and clues… I’m better with the big stuff, less so with the fine print.

  1. What do you think helps you to become a better writer?

Setting clear goals and working my ass off to reach them. Not just big goals like “finish this novel and self-publish it”, but goals that aren’t so far away. Milestones. When I’m drafting, my goal is to write 30.000 words a month, approximately 1000 words per day, and when I’m plotting and outlining I also have a plan and try to spend at least 1-2 hours daily working on that plan. If I didn’t set these goals and have a clear, achievable plan, I would never write anything at all. I’m one of those people who think structure is a good thing, and I thrive on it.

  1. How do you think being someone else’s beta reader helps inform your own writing process? Or helps you become a better writer?

Being a beta-reader helped me better understand the research I’ve done into beta-reading, it helped me see which parts of that research I want to keep and which aren’t going to work for me. It’s also super motivating when you’re drafting, to read someone else’s nearly-finished work. It’s a reminder that not too long ago they were suffering the same way, but look! They got this amazing thing at the end!


Where to find Rain:

Website

Twitter

Creating, growing, & purposeful intention!

cup rest

Perfect cup holder!

I recently read this New York Times piece about rebranding motherhood. There were quite a few things I liked about it. One main thread is the story of the author of the piece becoming a mother, that naturally spoke to me. I have worried over this since we decided to try and get pregnant ourselves. I worried about timing and having the time to write after Baby is here (any day now!). I already have a full-time job and limited time to write. However, I make time to do the things I feel sustain me already so I’m not sure why that should change, though it could get more difficult for a time.

Overall, the piece talked about how motherhood has recently been put in a more negative light using words like sacrifice and that becoming a mother is losing a part of yourself. She also talks about how it’s a choice:

“Motherhood, parenthood, is a choice — like getting married, writing a book or choosing one city to call home — and like all those choices, it means forgoing other choices. So it’s unclear why this one choice has become synonymous with sacrifice.”

I love that. I’ve written two novels and one novella and it didn’t just happen. I had to work hard and create a schedule (not go out to brunches on weekends or hang out with friends at certain times) in order to follow through with what I most wanted to do. I feel confident in my ability to continue to prioritize and feel excited to bring a new little person into the world. These are not mutually exclusive things in my mind.

Of course, I know there will be difficult times but aren’t there those times now anyway? I mean, I was recently hit by a car as a pedestrian and had to get over that eventually. It was emotionally traumatic, to say the least. We all have difficulty in relationships from time to time, whether it is with family or friends. Even though our social media presence never shows the bad stuff, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. The last quote I’ll share from the article is this one and one that I hope to be able to articulate once I am a mother.

“The joy and fun of motherhood are so deeply personal, so intimate and so selfish, there’s no way to explain it to the world, particularly our current social media heavy world.”

I understand the need to rebrand motherhood, but not for the purpose of creating more people or mothers. My feeling is that we need to be authentic about what the whole process is like and to talk about our difficulties, but not to focus on them. I’ve had both difficulties and wonderful experiences so far getting pregnant and then being pregnant (those I’ll save for a different blog post). Once I bring a child into the world I hope to be able to talk about both the good and the bad in a productive way.

Right now, I have to finish my revisions for my current novel in progress (I am finalizing everything for the last time, I swear!).

Q and A with Aspiring Author, Karen Hugg

I love meeting new writers online and Karen is no exception. Last month I wrote about Beth Green, aspiring Crime fiction author.

Karen-HuggKaren Hugg is a writer and gardener living in the Seattle area. She is a certified ornamental horticulturalist and has an MFA from Goddard College. She’s been published in various anthologies, journals, and websites. She’s married to a very patient husband and has three kids, two dogs, and two cats. To learn more, check out her website at www.karenhugg.com.

What do you write? (genre etc)
Mainly, I write fiction. Last year I finished a literary thriller called The Forgetting Flower about a plant shop owner in Paris. This year, I wrote a New Adult novel about a young woman who can communicate with ghosts through plants. Occasionally, I write narrative nonfiction and short stories. I’m always writing for my blog, The Cultivated Life, at http://www.karenhugg.com.

Favorite book that you think is underrated?
This sounds weird but I think Les Miserables is underrated. A lot of people think it’s a boring literary book because it was written in the 1800s and is long but it’s actually a compelling thriller! Yes, Victor Hugo talks too much about politics but I encourage people to skim those parts and read the rest. It has nail-biting suspense and the most touching, sweet passages. Right now, as I think about Jean Valjean rescuing Cossette, I still get teary. He’s such a good father to her — and yet he’s hunted like an animal by the police.

Favorite book from childhood?
That’s easy. When I was ten, I read The Lord of the Rings during a summer and it blew me away. I wanted to live inside that fantastic world. It was so rich with mystery and beauty and darkness. The idea of Lothlorien, a city built among trees, was the coolest idea I’d ever heard of. At the time, I was in Chicago and Tolkien’s love of the natural world awoke my love for it too. It’s no wonder I later moved to the Pacific Northwest where we have giant trees!

Use three words to describe what keeps you writing and persevering?
Plants. Dreaming. Sharing.

Where do you draw your inspiration to keep writing?
From the natural world. I’m a professional gardener and I love plants. I want to bring the awe and wonder of plants into people’s lives. From a more practical standpoint, I draw inspiration to keep writing from husband, who truly believes I have talent, and friend-writers, who are also struggling to share their truths. I admire established writers too, especially the ones whose road to success took many years of perseverance.

Do you have any tricks/tips for aspiring authors you’d like to share?
I would encourage writers to write short pieces as well as long, and then try to get those short pieces published. You have to try again and again but when you get a hit, that small “yes” makes you feel like a million bucks. It means there is another person out there who does care about what you’re saying and thinks it’s worth publishing. It may take awhile but it’s worth the effort. Plus, it helps you build a list of publications to show off to an agent or publisher.

As a writer who/what is your inspiration (animal, vegetable or mineral ☺)?
Again, it’s plants. Plants are amazingly delicate and yet incredibly tough. They’re fascinating. They have little lives of their own and care nothing about us. They make their own food and don’t need us at all. Yet we think we rule over them. It’s a crazy dynamic. Without them, humans would be eradicated as a group.

What was one of the hardest scenes for you to write?
I’d say generally the first scene of every novel is the hardest for me to write. I’m constantly wondering if I’ve backed up the tape in this character’s life far enough or come in too late into the scene, etc. I do begin the novel just before the inciting incident but how far before is always the question. There’s a lot of pressure on a novelist to land in the exact right place.

What do you think helps you to become a better writer?
Reading beyond my comfort zone. We all have favorite writers or genres we tend to read but when I read a book that is very unlike what I would choose, I find I’m always changed by it more. My brain has expanded into a new way of thinking. I put sentences together differently. I write insights I never would have before. For instance, I love reading 20th-Century, Eastern European writers like Bruno Schulz and George Konrad. They are wild and absurd and amazing. The language travels like a scribble on a paper, going where ever the author needs to go and the result is a trippy dream.

How do you think being someone else’s beta reader helps inform your own writing process? Or helps you become a better writer?
Being someone else’s beta reader temporarily turns you into an editor and that’s a good thing. It teaches you how to nurture someone else’s vision rather than you just rewriting the book as you would have. It also teaches you how to approach a work from a distance. It helps you become a better writer because you can take the weaknesses or strengths in another’s manuscript and apply those lessons to your own writing.


Reach out to Karen:

If you like this post check out my other Q and A with aspiring author, Beth Green.


10 more minutes . . .

mika-annoyedA few days ago, I started thinking about the different types of waiting there are in life. While I waited to get inspiration for this blog post, in fact. The picture of my dog waiting for me to finish writing before her morning dog walk popped into my head. She doesn’t look too thrilled and that’s because just when she thought the wait was over . . . I asked her for ten more minutes. That’s hard for a dog who wants to get outside and go to the bathroom or sniff every blade of grass in sight.  This type of waiting I’m going to label waiting times infinity, because it feels like it will never end. I think it’s pretty common to feel this way if you are anticipating some type of payoff at the end of your wait.

Another type is waiting for the dreaded inevitable. Something big like dying from a terminal disease or well, what else is worse than that? I guess to a lesser degree having to go through surgery for a broken bone or going to the DMV. That first example though, that’s the worst kind of waiting.

A friend of the family recently passed away. She was in her early 40’s. We all knew it was coming, but it doesn’t make it any easier. I want to be better at this, holding space for grief and caring for those going through it in their own way. Feeling like it is okay to grieve is still somewhat of a struggle for me and probably for a lot of people. There is something irrational about it. Just move on. By its very nature, a definition of that thing locked in our throats and hearts is so inconsequential. I do not need to define it, it just is. It’s easy to give in to feeling hopeless, but that isn’t what grieving is either. I’ve read about the stages of grief, but not everyone goes through each of them. Really, I think the only way to talk about it is in the way you are feeling and sometimes that also involves a physical reaction. Everyone has their way and every way is the right way. And not everyone wants to talk about it. When it comes to emotions (unless you feel like harming someone) leaning into it and doing it your way is okay.

And just to lighten up this post a little, I saved the best type of waiting for last. Waiting isn’t all bad, is it? Waiting for the good thing (expected or unexpected) like a free drink at a coffee shop because someone decided to pay for yours, or when you have enough punches on your punch card at your favorite donut shop and you get a free one! Last weekend I went to see my husband’s band play at a local bar. Unexpectedly, I felt a surge of joy at how grateful I am to be able to go into this bar, see our friends supporting him and his music, and getting to pet the cutest bar dog, Ghengis. That simple. All I had to do was wait for the show to start.

What kinds of waiting have you experienced lately?

Book Event: Oregon Book Awards

IMG_8760Last week, the Oregon Book Awards sponsored by Oregon Literary Arts doled out checks and drink tickets to the winners. This year I knew one of the nominees and had read three of the books nominated, two of which, won their awards. The three books I read were The Last to Die – a young adult novel by Kelly Garrett, The Fish Market – nonfiction book by Lee Van Der Voo (she subbed on my co-ed soccer team a few years ago!) and Strange the

IMG_8757Dreamer – a young adult novel by Laini Taylor. The latter two won in their category. I highly recommend all three books depending on your mood. Each one was well-written and immersive. After sitting through the list of nominees and reading their book descriptions, I have a few more books to add to my “to read” list.

This year, I truly felt part of the writing community. Over the past few years, I’ve gotten more involved in readings, workshops, and writerly events. What that means is, I recognize or have had interactions with many of the writers in the Oregon community. I’ve also put myself out there to meet new people. It’s fun to see some of them out in the world and getting nominated for awards, receiving fellowships (Yay, Jacob Aiello!), or enjoying an event.

The night started out with vegan gluten-free pizza with two friends (Erin and Erica) who I met through a writing workshop at The Attic Institue. We’ve been friends now for a few years. We met up with Kelly and her husband to celebrate her accomplishment as a nominee for the Oregon Book awards. I was a little off that night due to getting hit by a car as a pedestrian in a crosswalk two days before, but I wanted to be there. The whole getting hit by a car story is one for another day, or maybe I’ll turn it into a short story or a scene in my next novel! I’m doing okay after a few days of limping, a bandaged hand, and some emotional trauma that is ongoing. I don’t recommend this experience. My advice: wear a fluorescent jumpsuit at all times and be aware of your surroundings at all times!

Anyway, we ate and headed to the event where we sat up in the balcony. A few minutes after I sat down, I looked to my left and noticed I was sitting next to another writer, Mo Daviau, who I had recently met at a happy hour I hosted! She also wrote a fantastic book called Every Anxious Wave about a wormhole that allows people to go back in time to see their favorite band play. There’s more to it than that, but check it out. It’s a small community once you start putting yourself out there and meeting others around town. On our way out, I saw my friend Hillary an awesome librarian (and someone who is always smiling) who said she and her staff chose the adult novel, American War by Omar El Akkad, and highly recommends it. I’ve already added that to my reading list.

What’s on your reading list?

Aspiring Writer Q and A Series, Edition I: Beth Green, Crime Fiction Author

I had the pleasure of interviewing Beth Green, freelance writer and aspiring novelist, for the first edition of the title of this post! I first met Beth through one of the Manuscript Wishlist (MSWL) holiday party Google Hangouts in 2016. Lot’s of great resources for aspiring authors there too. Anyway, we chatted and offered to help each other with beta reading. It was so great to have feedback from her and to get to know her over the past year or so. Thank you to MSWL for having such fun online events. Okay, onto the actual Q and A. First, let’s learn a little more about Beth…

Beth

Beth Green grew up on a sailboat but these days is most often found ashore—currently in Prague, Czech Republic. Beth is a former reporter, English teacher and travel blogger; she is now a full-time freelance writer. When not writing for clients or plotting international crimes to take place in her fiction, Beth enjoys reading, scuba diving, and the art of slow travel.


What do you write? (genre etc)

I write crime fiction because I am fascinated by the darker side of the human psyche and I love both reading and writing stories where the world is torn apart and then set to rights.

Favorite book that you think is underrated?

Ooh, tough question! I am not always sure how the books I read are viewed—I am pretty much an opportunist when it comes to reading, so I don’t always check out reviews before I dive into the book. That said, I know that I love the fantasy and dystopian books by fellow Prague expat author Sonya Lano and that she doesn’t have the readership she deserves. Her book The Ever Spirits is dark and beautiful and immersive and her ongoing Heiress series (Heiress of Healing, Heiress of Magic) is captivating!

Favorite book from childhood?

Oh, so many! I am an only child who was homeschooled on a boat (that’s another long story…) and I read ALL. THE. TIME. A few children’s titles that I read and re-read were classics: The Princess and the Goblin, the Narnia books, Harriet the Spy. I also read a lot of adult fiction even when I was a kid (a lot of it went over my head, I’m sure!) with favorites that I still re-read regularly: The Valley of Horses by Jean M. Auel (hence my current pre-historical projects!), The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy, Jurassic Park. I also went through a phase at 10 or 11 when I scared myself silly reading Dean Koontz and Stephen King late at night.

Use three words to describe what keeps you writing and persevering?

The story wants to be told. (That’s not 3 words, sorry. I’m not good at word limits…)

Where do you draw your inspiration to keep writing?

From travel and meeting people and questioning everything.

Do you have any tricks/tips for aspiring authors you’d like to share?

Try new things! I switch up what I do and how I do it all the time. Some stuff works, other stuff doesn’t, but trying new stuff always helps me—whether I’m looking for motivation or inspiration or to level up on craft.

As a writer who/what is your muse/familiar?

If I were a witch I’d 100% choose a jaguar as a familiar. But the Pottermore test told me my Patronus is an orangutan or something else ridiculous, so IDK. How well do we really know ourselves?

What was one of the hardest scenes for you to write?

Generally, for me, it seems that if a scene is difficult in the first draft, I have missed the mark somewhere—in my plotting, in my assessment of the character motives. Usually, it’s a sign that I need to go back into the planning phase and rejig it until I can get in the zone and make it just flow. In my current project (a thriller set in Europe), I am stuck on the transition between the second and third acts for one of the POV characters. I’ve tried to write it about ten times and keep coming up on a wall. I have been avoiding getting back to the outline phase and ripping stuff up, but I know I will have to do it before I can move on!

What do you think helps you to become a better writer?

Reading. Reading lots. Getting over the fear of having other people read your work and owning your style, including its flaws.

How do you think being someone else’s beta reader helps inform your own writing process? Or helps you become a better writer?

Being someone’s beta reader is so helpful! (Like yours, Christi!) It’s helpful on several levels. First, on a craft level, it’s important to train yourself to look for the things that a reader responds to in a work in progress and to ask yourself, “Why?” Why did the author choose to do this? Why does it work or not work? Why does it seem out of place or unpolished or effortless or deft? Why does it produce an emotional response? You can do this of course with a published book too, but when you’re in the beta process you’re at a place where you might be able to get a dialogue going with the writer. Then, on a more emotional level, it helps build up the expectation of criticism. Getting feedback on something you’ve written and poured so much of yourself into can be distressing. Putting myself in another writer’s shoes, trying to couch feedback so it’s helpful but not devastating, helps me put the feedback I get on my own work in perspective. Plus, it’s just so cool to see books that are on their way to the world!

Thank you, Beth, for sharing your insights!


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You can also connect with her on Twitter @bethverde, Facebook.com/bethgreenwritesor Instagram @bethtravel.