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Corinne Demas is the award-winning author of 29 books for adults and children, including four novels, two short-story collections, a memoir, a collection of poetry, and two plays. Her most recent novels, THE WRITING CIRCLE and EVERYTHING I WAS (YA), are now out in paperback. Her new YA novel RETURNING TO SHORE will be published in spring 2014. She is Professor of English at Mount Holyoke College and a fiction editor of The Massachusetts Review. She was recently interviewed by Cheryl Malandrinos.

When did you first get bitten by the Writing Bug?

I was bitten by the Writing Bug as soon as I was old enough to write, and long before I learned how to spell. I wrote my first novel when I was six—at least I called it a novel. It was a story about about a prince, a king, and an “evil lady,” and had many chapters  (which is why I thought it was worthy of being called a novel), some of them only a sentence long. I wrote it in a black composition book (you can see a photo of it on my website) and illustrated it in crayon.

Who gave you the most encouragement early on?

I was an only child of doting parents, and they were an indulgent audience for all my early writing. I was encouraged to give my parents handmade rather than  store-bought Christmas or birthday gifts, so I would often present them with poems or stories in little home-made books. I found them all carefully preserved in my mother’s bureau drawer after she died.

The family tradition of home-made books has continued.  When my daughter was little I wrote picture books for her (illustrating them with my amateurish water colors), and when she got older she’d get chapters of a novel. Now, the week before Christmas, I’m usually frantically making books for my little granddaughters. 

Comment on the adage “Practice makes perfect” in regards to writing…

That sounds so dreary! Writing isn’t something you practice—it’s not like scales on the piano. Dexterity comes with talent and life experience.  And writing should be something you love doing—not something you feel you have to work at.

Writing tends to be a lonely enterprise. How do you balance your “writing time” with the rest of your life to keep yourself sane?eiw paper

I am fortunate to have two careers that dovetail—my writing career (which my husband calls my “cottage industry”) and my academic career, as a professor of English at Mount Holyoke. I love teaching, and I appreciate having a reason to dress in something nicer than sweatpants and get out in the world.  My writing group—which I’ve been part of for many years—provides me with the company of folks who are doing what I do. It’s been my solace and my cheering squad (and we all need that!) 

Have you ever gotten writer’s block, and how did you snap out of it?

My problem has always been that I have more things to write about than time to write.  One advantage of being a writer who dabbles in different genres is that if I’m stuck on part of a novel, I can take a break and work on a poem or a play or a picture book.

What is your latest project about (recently published or about to be), and how long had you worked on it?  Does it take the reader in a different direction than your last published work?

My new YA novel, Returning to Shore, is coming out in March.  I went back to my notes to see when I had first started writing it and discovered to my amazement that it was before 2006! Which means I’ve been thinking about it, working on it, and fussing with it for more than seven years. Stylistically it’s similar to my previous fiction, but it deals with two subjects I’ve never tackled before: a girl dealing with the fact that her father is gay, and an environmental issue (the battle between landowners and people who want to preserve the habitat of the Eastern Diamondback terrapin.)

Where can you be found on line?

My website is www.corinnedemas.com

Connect with me on twitter @corinnedemas

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Tz Author Photo-1Tzivia Gover is the author of LEARNING IN MRS. TOWNE’S HOUSE: A TEACHER, HER STUDENTS, AND THE WOMAN WHO INSPIRED THEM, and MINDFUL MOMENTS FOR STRESSFUL DAYS, among others. Her articles and essays have appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times and The Boston Globe, and over a dozen anthologies. Gover received her MFA in creative nonfiction from Columbia University. She teaches poetry to teen mothers in Holyoke. She was recently interviewed by Cheryl Malandrinos.

Why did you become a writer?

Good question! I was writing poems at age 10, and have been journaling since age 12. I don’t ever remember deciding to be a writer, it seems I just was one from the start. I became a professional writer at age 25, because I had a newborn baby to feed and I needed a job. I’d tried other things, such as being a baker and a store manager, but frankly I wasn’t any good at anything else I tried. So, writing it was! I have continued because writing helps me understand the world and my place in it. It’s pretty much how I think constructively and how I investigate my thoughts, feelings, and beliefs … and anything else that catches my curiosity.

What is the most rewarding part of being a writer? The most frustrating?

The most rewarding part is the opportunity to craft a message and have it be received by an audience of one or many. I love trying to create lines of poetry or prose that are as clear, precise, and elegant as I can make them.

The most frustrating part is never feeling like I have enough time write, or to market what I’ve written—to get it out in the world.

Can you tell us about your latest release?

Sure, if you twist my arm.

My most recent book is LEARNING IN MRS. TOWNE’S HOUSE: A TEACHER, HER STUDENTS AND THE WOMAN WHO INSPIRED THEM (Levellers Press, Massachusetts). It is the story of my first year teaching poetry at The Care Center, and the tale I uncovered in our creative, colorful, and slightly chaotic school. You can learn more at http://www.learninginmrstowneshouse.com Towne_cov2

What inspired it?

In the spring of 2000, I decided to leave the world of daily journalism to teach poetry to teen mothers in Holyoke, Mass. White, suburban and Jewish, I couldn’t have felt more different from the urban, Puerto Rican students I met on that first day of class. Nor could I have anticipated the lessons I would learn from and with them.

LEARNING IN MRS. TOWNE’S HOUSE was my way of telling my students’ stories, which are otherwise only known in statistics and sensationalist takes in the media. The book was also my way to integrate all I was learning from my work with them.

You’re sitting on the Revision Panel at this year’s WriteAngles conference. Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re planning?

John Mcphee says you’re not really writing until the fourth draft. I like that. To me writing is re-writing. Revision is what it’s all about. I hear writers complain about revision, but I love the process. I’ll try to inspire others to love it, too!

What are you working on now?

What aren’t I working on? I write a couple of blogs, and I’m working on at least three different books: A collection of personal essays (I’m not sure what the book’s title will be, but the subtitle will be something about “love, sex, and solitude,” which is the theme of the essays). I’m also trying to sell at Young Adult novel about the world’s pickiest eater. I’m also a Certified Dream Therapist, and I’m working on a book to help people understand and work with their dreams.

Where can we find you online?

My web site is: http://www.tziviagover.com/I blog about dreams at: http://allthesnoozethatsfittoprint.wordpress.com/

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Channukah begins on November 28 (on Thanksgiving) and Christmas is close behind. Books by local authors make great gifts! LEARNING IN MRS. TOWNE’S HOUSE http://www.learninginmrstowneshouse.com/makes a great gift for the teacher, poet, or lover of social justice in your life, and it’s available in paperback and Kindle format. Just sayin’. 🙂

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princess cover spread.inddJoan Robb worked professionally as a singer/songwriter and as a theater director/playwright for decades before turning to writing picture books and most recently, a YA novel. She founded and toured with the musical group Caribbean for Kids and also was founder/director of the Youth Theater of Stanley Park, Westfield, Massachusetts. In the last several years she has shifted gears. Her first picture book, THERE’S A PRINCESS IN MY LIVING ROOM, was published in 2012. She was recently interviewed by Cheryl Malandrinos

Why did you become a writer?

My nature is to always have a creative project in the works, otherwise, I feel as though a piece is missing in my life. I love making my mind go to imaginary places! It’s great brain work to think sequentially. When I write I think: “What should happen first? Then what? Then What? Resolution…

What is the most rewarding part of being a writer? The most frustrating?

The most rewarding part of being a writer is coming up with a sentence, paragraph, or dialogue that you absolutely love! The most frustrating part is spending hours writing just to realize that what you’ve written is lousy or that it doesn’t make sense to the reader (or you, the writer)!

Can you tell us about your latest release?

My latest release is a picture book entitled There’s A Princess In My Living Room. The theme of this book is geared more for girls and it’s about enjoying not having to look perfect or act perfect all the time. That it’s fun to be messy and dirty and, that’s part of being a kid!

What inspired it?

I wish I knew what the inspiration behind this book. Many ideas just come to me as a passing thought!

What can writers attending this workshop glean from my panel contribution?Princess pag 1 with text.indd

For this panel I plan to share and discuss the “morphing” process from one genre to another, for instance;

What factor(s) were the impetus for easing into a new genre.

What steps I took/take to learn about that genre.

The (often painful) learning curve that accompanies an acquired understanding and proficiency in a genre other than the one you are comfortable/familiar with.

Learning about how to market yourself in each genre.

The fact that by the time you are ready to market the “new you” the industry standards and demands may have shifted.

How can conferees apply what you’ve learned to their own work?

I think patience with yourself as you explore a different genre is very important. The learning curve is usually a long, slow one, years perhaps until you hone your “newly acquired” skills. Also, study! Read lots of materials written by authors of the same genre you’re working in and try to analyze their approach. Practice! Good chance it won’t be right the first time, so don’t expect that your first novel, picture book, screenplay, or whatever is going to be a best seller unless you’re an incredible genius ( which I’m not!)

What are you working on now?

I am working actively on three different projects right now; a picture book entitled Stage Fright about the fear of performing in front of an audience; another picture book entitled KUGELICIOUS which addresses the importance of community and working together, and my first YA novel entitle DISS-Connected about a 16-year-old girl adopted from Guatemala into a white family. She searches for her identity.

Where can we find you online?

You can find my book There’s A Princess In My Living Room on the Levellers Press website! Also, find There’s A Princess in My Living Room on Facebook! Be sure to “like” us!

Happy Writing!

Joan Robb

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janice

Janice Beetle is a long-time writer and editor for various publications in the Western Massachusetts area as well as the owner of Beetle Press. She was recently interviewed by Cheryl Malandrinos.

Why did you become a writer?

I have always been a big reader, and I think loving to write stems from knowing that I can create interesting stories for other people to read and enjoy. I get a kick out of entertaining people, and stories entertain.

My passion for storytelling traces back to my mother, Evelyn Beetle, who can turn anything into a tale – a conversation she overheard at the grocery store, an interaction at the bank, an afternoon at the bridge table. All of life is good fodder for her stories, which are rich in detail and told to evoke laughter, shared indignation or sympathy.

I like to think the tales I produce are as entertaining as my mother’s, and my stories tend to educate as well.

What is the most rewarding part of being a writer? The most frustrating?

The most rewarding? When people tell me they read something I wrote. That always surprises me still. They don’t often know what they read or where they read it, but they can always articulate why they remembered it – because it taught them something or made them laugh or made them cry.

The most frustrating? Not having the time to write about the things that dance inside my head because I need to write about the things that allow me to pay my mortgage.

Can you tell us about your latest release?

My first book, Divine Renovations: A Carpenter, His Soul Mate and Their Story of Love and Loss. This book is about my late husband, Ed Godleski, and is a poignant love story full of irony and transformation.

The book tells the story of falling in love with Ed and losing him only eight short years later to metastatic lung cancer. It is raw and personal and shows what a grief journey can look like.

What inspired it?

Ed’s death was the first real loss I experienced, and it completely undid me. In the months afterward, I could not put my hands on a book that helped me to recognize what grief looks like. I found books that told me about grief, but not books that showed me what grief looks like in a person’s life. I decided I would write the book I wished I could find. I wanted to help others. I wanted to offer hope. divine-renovations-front-cover-only_edited-1

You’re sitting on the Jumping Genres panel at this year’s WriteAngles Conference. Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re planning?

I’m planning to talk about my work as a journalist and my jump into PR and then my later jump into creative nonfiction.

I will also talk about what it’s like to jump genres on a daily basis as a business owner, freelance journalist and blogger and the fact that I am considering yet another jump – into fiction.

What are you working on now?

A series of blogs on leaders in the Pioneer Valley that I hope will evolve into a book.

Where can we find you online?

JaniceBeetle.com and BeetlePress.com

LinkedIn

And on Facebook at Janice Beetle Author and Beetle Press

Is there anything you would like to add?

I wish I could spend every day in the warm dunes of a beach, reading and writing.

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Kristan Higgins is the author of several romance novels including, ALL I EVER WANTED, THE NEXT BEST THING, and the 2010 RITA Award-winning TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE.

Let’s get started by having you tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
The truth is, I’m about as normal a person as you can find. Mother of two, wife of one, live in my hometown, like to bake cookies and watch movies. I’ve never been in a coma, didn’t have a secret baby at age 16, am not aware of a half-brother about to get out of jail. And that’s too bad, because it would be great fodder … but unfortunately, no. I’m pretty normal.

When did you decide to embark upon a career in writing? Did someone or some event influence your choice in any way?
I would say Margaret Mitchell is to blame. I read Gone With the Wind at age 14 and fully expected Scarlett and Rhett to live happily ever after. I was crushed by that ending. Crushed, I tell you. Spent far too much of my adolescence imagining Scarlett and Rhett finding their way back to each other. It was probably then that I became a writer, though it would be another 20 years before I gave writing fiction a real try. I decided to try writing romance for a couple of reasons. I’d always been a professional writer, having worked in PR and advertising most of my career. But I became a stay-at-home mom when my daughter was born and really enjoyed it. When my son started nursery school, I figured I’d try to write a book so that I could do something while the kids were off at school and still be home when they got home. Worked out pretty well. I sold my first book the day before my son started kindergarten and have been writing full time ever since.

The tagline on your website says, “Real life, true love & lots of laughs…” How did you come up with that line?
Well, when I decided to write a book, I took a look around, discovered that most romances were not about normal people. Most seemed to involve extraordinary people – she was the most beautiful woman in all of England, and he was the knight sworn to protect her … or, she was the beautiful daughter of a billionaire, and he was the ex-Navy Seal Army Ranger sworn to protect her. Or, she was the beautiful vampire queen, and he was the Werewolf sworn to kill her. If the books weren’t about extraordinary people, they seemed to be about extraordinary circumstances – kidnapings, comas, secret agents, special forces, amnesia, zombies. For the record, I’ve never been kidnaped, haven’t been in a coma, am not a secret agent or a zombie, and the only time I had amnesia was when my husband asked how that dent got in my car bumper. I do love to read some of those “extraordinary” types of romance, but it seemed to me that there weren’t enough stories about us regular people. My goal was (and is) to write a big, memorable romance about regular people. Something that could actually happen.

What was it like to learn that Too Good To Be True earned the RITA award this year? Did you do anything special to celebrate?
It was such a happy shock! It was my second RITA, and I was sure that one of the other extremely worthy authors was going to take home the statue this year. I was thrilled to be wrong, of course! To celebrate, my agent took my writer friends and me out for late-night dinner and drinks, at the end of which I made good on a bet and went in the fountain with my statue.

Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re planning for Write Angles?
The three of us are so excited to speak at the conference this year (and to meet some of the other fabulous authors who’ll be there. Elinor Lipman, I’m talking to you!). We’ll be talking about the building blocks of a great story, and my focus will be on character development. So many people have a preconceived notion about romance – we hope to show the diversity, excitement and fun the genre holds. Knowing the other two authors pretty well, I can promise it will be a lot of fun.

What are you working on now?
I just finished a manuscript about a divorced couple forced into a road trip together after 12 years of separation (MY ONE & ONLY, April 2011). That was a lot of fun to write. And I’m working on another manuscript now, currently called UNTITLED, as so many of my books are when they start out. It’s set in a small town in New Hampshire and focuses a lot on family roles and how they define us.

Can you tell our readers where they can find you online?
I have a website; I also blog with a bunch of fabulous authors; and of course, I’m on Facebook.

[Thanks to Cheryl Malandrinos for conducting this interview.]

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Guess who is interviewed in the September 2010 issue of The Writer’s Chronicle? Our keynoter Andre Dubus III, that’s who.

The piece, titled “Letting in ‘the Other,'” is by Laura McCullough.

In the interview Dubus makes striking observations such as “I try not to say anything with fiction, I try to find something,” and, “I’ve thrown away far more novels than I’ve kept, and really, the four books I’ve written are phoenixes that have risen out of the mountains of ashes of what’s failed.”

We’re confident he will give a wonderful keynote speech.

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