Hi Marlene, thanks for taking the time to share your writing world with us. Let's start by your telling us a little about yourself.
A: I have been a professional freelance writer for over 10 years. I’ve been published in both national and international magazines, local papers, and on the Internet. My first book, Hunting For Mr. Good Bargain was published in 2002. I am a member of Willamette Writers, past member of their board, and past coordinator of their annual Kay Snow Writing Contest.
I am also the founder and creator of NorthWestWriters.com http://www.northwestwriters.com), a website created to feature and promote books by the authors of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Alaska & BC, Canada.
Q. What made you put that first story down on paper?
A: I’ve been putting stories on paper since childhood but never considered myself to be a “writer.” It wasn’t until a friend saw an article I wrote and challenged me to take it to our local paper that I even considered it. When the article was accepted and published I sought the advice of several professionals before I decided to pursue it seriously.
Q. What types of stories do you write?
A: I love doing profiles. I like interviewing people and drawing their stories out of them, and I like writing nostalgic and historical articles.
Q. What do your family/friends think about your writing? Are they supportive?
A: They think it’s wonderful. My family is very supportive, and my daughter is good at editing my stuff.
Q. For you, what is most frustrating about writing? Most rewarding?
A: Most frustrating for me is trying to fit into “Editors” molds. It just irritates me. The most rewarding thing for me is to fit into my own mold and write in a way that makes me feel good and proud of the words I’ve put on paper.
Q. Do you read much? What kinds of books inspire you to write- if any? Favorite authors?
A: I read everything from book to bottle labels, although I must confess that I have not been reading many books except the ones listed on my web site. I have not had time. One of my favorite authors (aside from the authors on my site) is John Grisham. His writing style can grab me on the first page and hold me until the last. And J.K. Rowling! Mercy, that woman can write.
Q. How do you handle rejection letters? Any hints?
A: I learned a long time ago not to let rejection letters bother me because it goes with the territory. Just because they don’t want it today doesn’t mean they won’t want it tomorrow. Anyone who can’t deal with the rejection should not be in the Arts.
Q. If I were sitting down today to write my very first story, what would your advice be?
A: Don’t think about it, just do it. If I had known how much work writing a book is I may never had done it. Now, with one book published and two others in re-writes, it doesn’t bother me. I sit down and write it, then re-write it, then re-write it and eventually, it gets to publication.
Q. Do you take most of your ideas from life? Or your imagination? A mix? (Do you hate when people ask this?)
A: I write nonfiction so my ideas come from real life. I’ve tried writing fiction but it doesn’t work for me. I seem to kill everyone off. Not a good thing! Nonfiction is a challenge for me because I have to take real events, with real thoughts and real feelings and formulate the words in such a way that the reader is transported into and experiencing that event, those thoughts and those feelings. I love it!
No, I don’t mind people asking me that question because different writers get inspiration from different things, but that doesn’t mean that they all come to fruition.
Q. Do you have days when the words won’t flow? What do you do?
A: I seldom have days like that. I have days when I’m tired of writing. I’m tired of the computer, I’m tired of authors, I’m just tired. When a day like that hits, I go shopping, or to a movie, or run errands, have lunch with a friend or anything to clear my mind and put myself into a different atmosphere.
Q. What’s a typical writing day like for you? Do you have a schedule? How do you keep from procrastinating?
A: Lately, a typical day has been tackling the challenges of web site remodeling, conferencing with my web masters, working on changes to our newsletter, getting new promotional materials, and learning new programs. Since that takes up most of my week, my weekends are spent tending to other tasks such as this interview, and listing my author interviews, book reviews, and writing information on my other sites.
But when it comes to my own writing (book or article), I can always tell when I’m getting ready for a lot of writing because I clean house. Just before I sat down to do this interview I read the questions, then scrubbed my kitchen floor. It cleared my mind while formulating some of the answers to your questions in the back of my mind.
I do not have a schedule. I may begin working at 5 a.m. or not until 2 p.m. I may work all day, or part of the day, or I may work for days and take a day off. I go with my inner flow because that works for me and that’s when I am the most productive. Ex: I got up at 4 a.m. this morning, did my exercises, washed my hair, made coffee, turned the computer on and developed a new tracking method for my listers. Now, I’m going over these interview questions once more and after this, I will work until about 10 a.m., then I will spend the rest of the day running errands and doing non-computer projects.
Q. What do you do to unwind and relax?
A: I love shopping. I don’t have to buy anything; I can just walk around the stores and spend time looking. Going to a grocery store at 8 or 9 a.m. is amazing because not many people are in the store and I always find new things on the shelves that I miss otherwise.
Cleaning. Cleaning frees my mind and allows my sub-conscious to work on new ideas and projects.
Walking. I live in Portland, Oregon, and I love walking around this town.
A good movie is relaxing, doing my nails, going to my hairdresser, cooking, washing dishes. Just about anything that changes my scenery and mind concentration is relaxing to me.
Q. Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and started writing? Do dreams inspire you?
A: 2 a.m., 4 a.m., written from 7 a.m. until 2 a.m. the next morning. What writer hasn’t been there? Losing oneself for hours, in words, is a wonderful way to spend time.
Dreams do not inspire me. Most of the time I don’t even remember dreams.
Q. Do you have a ‘golden rule’ of writing that almost always works for you?
A: Don’t force it. Just let it come. I cannot sit down and force anything out of myself. My writing just appears in front of my eyes while I’m bathing, washing dishes, shopping, walking. As soon as I work out the opening paragraph in my mind, the rest flows.
Q. What’s your opinion on “How-to” books on writing? Helpful, a waste of money?
A: I love “How-To” books! I became an avid fan years ago. “How-To” books have helped me through some hard times, answered writing questions, health questions, and shown me alternative ways of thinking and living. “How-To” books on writing today provide valuable, speak-from-experience information that every writer looking to have a successful writing career must know.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given as a writer? What’s the worst?
A: The best advice was “Don’t take rejection letters seriously. Each rejection letter is a step closer to acceptance.” The worst is negative criticism instead of positive critiquing. I won’t even listen to negative criticism.
Q. Did we forget anything? What would you like to add? Any upcoming publications or links for our readers? Current projects we should watch for?
A: My latest projects have been developing sites for my own author interviews, book reviews, vendor interviews and a new group for writers to network and share information. I just set up the group this weekend for writers of the Pacific Northwest and I’m looking for writers to join. Go to: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/pacificnorthwestwriters
Q. You have a web site, NorthWestWriters.com. Where did the idea for this come from?
A: I was working at a company part-time and writing part-time when the company went through a hostile take-over. I had been there long enough to have a retention package from the company, so what money I did not have to rollover, I used to start NorthWestWriters.com.
Q. What made you decide to specialize in writers from the Pacific Northwest (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Alaska and British Columbia, Canada)?
A: I knew that there was no web site around that specialized in authors of the Pacific Northwest, especially new and self-published authors. I was blessed enough to see the need.
Q. Do you see yourself expanding in the future, perhaps into California and the neighboring states?
A: That’s my plan. I have the URL’s set aside already and I have a team of web masters in place that have the capabilities to develop and maintain the sites.
Q. How do you select the books shown on your site?
A: I decided to focus on books by the new and self-published authors of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Alaska & B.C., Canada.
Q. If I’m an author with a book, what will you do for me? How much would you charge to list my book?
A new author has the choice of listing 2 books for either 6 months or 12 months. The listings include book cover photos, book synopsis, and links to their personal sites as well as purchase sites. The costs of $39.95 & $69.95 are affordable enough for new and self-published authors along with struggling illustrators and smaller vendors looking to make their services known to authors. Most sites on the Internet charge nothing to list your book, but they charge as high as 45% of the sale of each book. That’s because they hold large houses of inventory. I don’t. I know what it’s like to be a new author just starting out with no money, that’s why I have made NorthWestWriters.com so affordable.
Authors listing for 12 months are interviewed and their interview goes into our newsletter and on other posting sites. Both listing periods have book reviews, and announcements in our newsletter and are encouraged to post their appearances on our Events Calendar.
Q. Are there any kinds of books you won’t sell on your site?
Q. How long has NorthWestWriters.com been in existence? Do you have a way of measuring book sales (per month or year, for example)?
A: NorthWestWriters.com became a concept in December of 2003. Since the idea came to mind, I have been through 2 web masters, and numerous changes. I now have a team of web masters, and the site has become more informational and promotionally effective.
I don’t measure book sales because I have no inventory. What I do have is satisfied authors and return authors. That tells me all I need to know.
Q. You have a newsletter accompanying your site. Can you tell me about that?
A: The NorthWestWriters.com Newsletter has author interviews, and information about meetings, conferences and events around the Pacific Northwest. It’s a newsletter that is always open for submissions from readers, and suggestions for making it better.
Q. Is there anything else we should know about NorthWestWriters.com?
A: NorthWestWriters.com is a web site that is growing and changing all the time to accommodate the needs of its listers, be it authors, links exchangers or advertisers. We strive to give personal service to each lister and to always be open to new ideas.