Linda visited with Gwendolyn Joyce Mintz and learned all sorts of good stuff! We've really enjoyed publishing some of Gwen's work.
Thanks so much for taking time from your busy schedule to share thoughts on your success with our readers. Let's get started.
Q. Could you tell us a little about yourself?
I juggle roles as a mom, writer, teddy bear artist and comedienne/actress.
Now that my children are adults and teenagers, I more often define myself as a writer because that's what I always wanted to be, though I didn't follow that route until recently.
I graduated from college with a degree in Journalism and Mass Communications, though I never really wanted to be a journalist. A New York Times byline I wanted, yes, but that was the extent of it. As a graduate student, I began a degree in Secondary Education, in Language Arts. My practicum experience was not a good one, so I changed my major and started a different master's degree. I was interested in the therapeutic aspects of writing and planned to become a bibliotherapist. I completed my coursework but delayed finishing my thesis until my children were older. When the time came that I could return to school, the degree I was working on had been dropped from the college. I took that as a sign that I should finally just become the creative writer I'd dreamed of being.
I'm also an assistant fiction editor for Small Spiral Notebook and an editor for Scrivener's Pen Literary Journal.
Q. How long have you been writing? What made you put that first story down on paper?
I've been writing off and on all of my life. Only recently, in 2000,did I become disciplined, working at it consistently and whole-heartedly. My earliest memory is writing a very long poem for Halloween when I was in the third grade and my teacher posted it on the outside door for all to read. I continued to write throughout elementary school and junior high, then occasionally during high school. My first story, as all of my work, was put down on paper because I thought I might have something important to say about something and I wanted to share that.
Q. Do you write in a particular genre? If so, what genre is it?
I write for adults, poetry, fiction and essays. It's primarily mainstream/literary, though I have an interest in humor and erotica. I just wrote a horror story and I'd like to try writing a western. I've also begun to write for children, though at a recent book festival I attended, I learned that I'm not "up" on what's being published for them.
Q. Have you been published? What was the first story? Where was it >published? How long did it take? What was the process?
I am approaching my 100th story acceptance, although many are flash and micro fiction pieces as well as reprints.
A work called "Weathering" might be my first story publication, although it published as a prose poem. It appeared in Puerto del Sol, the literary magazine, which comes from New Mexico State University in the early90's.I was in high school when I learned that you could send your work to magazines for publication consideration. I quickly began to send off work inappropriate for certain magazines, work that was undeveloped or work that mirrored a story just published. I was, of course, rejected.
Then I sent a poem to "Seventeen" and it was accepted. I was a teenager with a publication credit from a national magazine and I got paid for it. When I went to college, I enrolled in poetry workshops, wrote a lot of poetry, some which appeared in the undergraduate literary magazine.
I had very ambiguous feelings about my fiction though. When I was young, my father, home from the Army, said he'd read my stories, which he didn't. I was devastated because I wanted him to delight in my creativity and when it appeared that he didn't, I tore the stories up and threw them away.
Fiction was a hit-or-miss kind of thing. I'd either write a good story or I'd write one that was undeveloped. In an independent study fiction course (at that time, I couldn't bear the thought of sharing my fiction with others) I wrote one really good piece and the professor, who was an editor, asked me to format it for submission and send it to him for a magazine. I didn't.
Later I took another class with him and wrote a story that again he suggested I send out. Again, I didn't because I truly believed that my stories weren't important enough to share. It was years later that I finally sent that story out. It was accepted and published in the Spring 2001 issue of River Sedge, the literary magazine from University of Texas-Pan American. So that was my first full-length story publication. It took 14 years for my first publication and it probably shouldn't've taken that long. But I had to grow into the idea that what I had to say was worthy of being shared and that others would respond, and in a positive manner, as a result.
Q. Who's your favorite author and why?
I don't have any one favorite author. I enjoy any writer who takes me someplace as a result of his/he work.
Q. How did you deal with rejection letters, if you received any?
Received any? Ha ha ha. I'm past 200 rejections. I stopped counting at 173 this time around, but all total I'm sure it's over 200, if not close to 250.
Sometimes I take it personal. Sometimes I don't.
But I know it's really just business. When I became an editor, I learned what it's like on the other side and that helped me, as a writer,become more understanding about rejection. Though sometimes I still cry in frustration.
Q. What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?
Good writing has to do something for the reader, change him/her in some way. An honest voice and a compelling story (one that connects with the reader in a variety of emotional ways) -those are the most important elements, I think.
Q. How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
I have no set formula, although I never start a story until I have the last line. Once I know where the story is going to go, I let ideas incubate for however long they must. When the story begins to crystallize, I sit down and write whatever comes to me that moves the work to that final destination, that last line I've used to define what the work is to be about. I'm often surprised as to what the characters do and say as I step back and let them live.
Q. What do you do to unwind and relax?
I love to dance, especially belly dancing. I draw and paint, read, garden. >I play with my dog and raise turtles. I love to run--I can go on and on >for miles, just lose myself in the jogging.
Q. What does your family feel about your writing? Are they supportive?
I've learned that it doesn't matter to me what others feel about what I do. I'm true to my talents and, while it's nice when others are encouraging and supportive, it's not something I look for or base my work on.
Q. What inspires you? Who inspires you?
The opportunity to share stories, to give voice to some idea, some cause, that i
Q. Are you working on any projects right now?
I'm revising (very slowly) a novel called "The Teacher," researching and outlining another called "These Hearts Don't Cry" which takes place, in part, in South Africa where I will be going later this year.
I was invited to submit two chapbooks to a press, although I only got one completed ("Jumpin' and Shoutin' and Carryin' On") and I'm waiting for an answer regarding it. Other chapbooks I'm working on are: "Going To Hell With My Eyes Wide Open," stories about the Harlem Renaissance; "Where I'll Be If I'm Not There," general fiction about black life and culture; "Wicked Love &Other Distractions," erotic fiction; "What I Share With You," general poetry and "Heat," erotic poetry.
I have a bilingual children's picture book called "Amigo Means Friend," which a friend illustrated and I'm hoping to self-publish that this year.
Q. How do you handle Writer’s Block?
I think writer's block is like being overdrawn at the bank. An artist has to make "deposits" into his/her creative bank. Take walks, observe and note the world around you. Go to art shows and museums. Welcome all experiences and then you have something to draw from when you want to create.
Q. What is most frustrating about writing? Most rewarding?
I don't find anything frustrating about writing. I'm very open and willing to learn from the process. I'm only frustrated by the ways I sabotage myself and waste time and opportunities that could be spent in further creation.
The most rewarding thing about writing is having someone connect to your work.
Q. How do you write? Long hand, computer, tape recorder, etc?
A. Ideas for stories incubate until they're fairly formed in the shape of a story (a beginning, the climax, the end-and I never start a story until I know the last line of the work), then I start typing the lines I have into the computer. I lay the story out in the order I see things happening and then I write those parts in long-hand, yellow pads and very sharpened pencils.
If an idea or line hits me, I'll jot it down on whatever I find nearby, a napkin, a sale flyer, but when I'm engaged in the process of writing a story, I always use yellow pads and pencils. I cut and paste pages together a lot. As I complete a segment, I then type it into the appropriate place in the story saved on disc.
I type at the computer, I write in long-hand.
Q. Do you have any kind of writing schedule?
No. I don't find I have to write every day nor do I want to. But I do write often because writing is a skill, which improves with practice.
Q. What is the best piece of advice you've been given as a writer? What's the worst?
I especially like the quote by Natalie Goldberg, which is "Finally, one has to shut up, sit down, and write." Writers write. You become by doing. Simple as that.
I don't know that I've received any bad advice although I know there are mindsets (like you have to have an agent, that you can't make money from writing, etc.), which make it a more difficult process. I try hardto ignore those ideas.
Q. If I were sitting down to write my very first story, what would your advice be?
Don't worry about grammatical rules-that's not writing. Ask your heart what you want to share, bring all that you are to that work and then take that risk.
Q. What advice would you give to writers just starting out?
Read and read and read. Cultivate faith in yourself as well as humility. Remember that what you're doing is important, but it's not brain surgery. Have fun. Strive for uniqueness and originality.