a Women Writers' Showcase
Hi, Joanna!  Congratulations on winning our "I Love My Country" Contest.  We're all anxious to learn more about you.  Let's get started.

Q. What, Joanna, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

When reading what I consider good writing, I often fall in love over and again with the weave of words across the page.  The manner in which the language has been effected by the writer can turn an evanescent moment spent reading into a mighty and lasting impression across one’s reckoning, an experience I feel inheres in the best writing.

Q. How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?

I have no formula.  For me, writing happens in sparks of notion – those instances I feel driven to press into page-permanence a transient thought.  More than most of my stories have generated from these seeds of conception – traces of impression from the footprints of fancy, or wisps of recollection from the edge of memory – each finding its way in some form to the nearest pad of paper, notebook, napkin, skin-surface or such, including my shoes (once, with charcoal).

Q. What would you like our readers to know about you?

I am delighted and grateful for their time and interest in reading this interview; I marvel at the way words can inexplicably connect, sometimes across time and culture, writer and reader in a fugitive sharing of sorts – an elusive encounter that still-and-all howbeit, forever links the two.

Q. What do you do to unwind and relax?

I laugh.  I tap.  I play with our houseful of strays.  I write, read, sing (loud and not well), endeavor not to crash-dive my bicycle once more for the third time, partake in hootenannies, lose at poker, win at pitch, hatch-up recipe-less recipes, celebrate the mystery of life’s grace, and pretend I can handle my whiskey.

Q. What does your family feel about your writing? Are they supportive?

My family, boundless in number and affection, has graced my life with abundance.  Their support is as bountiful as their love, and I consider both among life’s best gifts.

Q. What inspires you? Who inspires you?

Wonder inspires me.

Other writers inspire me.  At any given time, I’m usually somewhere in the middle of a mess of books.  The quantity of quality writing in this world is downright inspiring. 

Poets inspire me, especially the ones the world doesn’t know but ought: Chad Baldwin, Dakin Dalpoas, David Logan, and Amy Sayre-Roberts.

Q. Are you working on any projects right now? If so, what are they?

I recently completed a manuscript and have written a handful of things in the last month or so – mainly short stories and poems.  I’m presently teaching three classes at the University of Illinois in Springfield and am delighted to see so many students enthused about writing. 

Q. Do you ever get Writer’s Block? If so, what do you do about it?

I’ve never had Writer’s Block, thank all deities known.  If ever I had Writer’s Block, I may call upon those deities – or curse them.

Q. What is most frustrating about writing?

That my mama doesn’t do more of it. 

Q. Do you have any kind of writing schedule? Can you tell us about it?

I write every day, but I don’t have a set writing schedule.  Breathing and heartbeating are the only things in my life that appear to operate with any kind of fixed procedural rigidity, and I’m grateful beyond yonder for their persistent daily routine.  

Q. Do you have any links you’d like to share with our readers?

Among heaps of great writing links and terrific sources, one wholly unrelated link was the first that came to mind upon reading this question.

It’s old, trite, and perhaps inane; but for reasons beyond the drop edge of understanding, the original hamster dance slays me every time: http://www.oceanbluepools.com/hamster/ .

Q. What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given as a writer? What’s the worst?

Best: Read unending.

Worst: Plan each story before you begin it.

Q.  Have you written any books?  Do you have a personal website?

This past month, a manuscript I completed for the requirements of my graduate degree, was awarded Thesis of the Year by the English Program at the University of Illinois in Springfield.  I am presently seeking publication of the manuscript, which is entitled Roamin’ Catholics and encompasses the journey of two, down-home wanderlusters: a sprightly, inquisitive seeker and her more graceful, pensive counterpart.  Raised deep in the Shawnee Hills amid hogback bluffs, a roundabout river, and unending family, the sisters share a colorful journey through childhood in a place both blessed and cursed by the hybrid footprints of the Appalachia and Ozark regions surrounding it.  Catechized Catholic in the midst of Baptist brimstone, back porch fiddle-fire, and backwoods corn shine – and heavily influenced by the lowercased catholic beliefs of their fiery French granny – the sisters gradually come to understand that the sheltered bluffs of their youth are vastly removed from the broad ground beyond. 

Portions of Roamin’ Catholics have been published and/or have received writing awards.  Most recently, a chapter from the manuscript was awarded first prize in The Alsop Review Fiction Contest.  Additionally, one chapter from the manuscript was a finalist in Glimmer Train’s Fiction Award for New Writers (fall 2003) and was accepted for presentation at the Twentieth-Century Literature Conference in Louisville, Kentucky (February 2004).  Another short work that appears in the manuscript was awarded honorable mention in the 2004 Ray Bradbury Creative Writing Contest.  Two additional chapters were accepted for presentation at the annual Illinois Philological Society’s conference (April 2003) and published in AIMS Magazine, respectively.  I have also published in Reiki Magazine International, Beyond Mainstream (clips available at www.beyondmainstream.com), and The SangaMensan.

Q. If I were sitting down to write my very first story, what would your advice be?

Stand yourself right back up.  But this is only because to me, stories aren’t planned; they happen spontaneously.  Of course, this could very well turn out to be the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given.  To each her own.

Q. What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

Read unending.

Q. Any last comments or advice?

Thank you for the opportunity to share words with your readers.