This month, Linda shared a cyber-Latte with author and editor, Patricia Wellingham-Jones. Here's what she had to say:
Q. Patricia, please tell us a little about yourself and your website?
A. It’s http://www.snowcrest.net/pamelaj/wellinghamjones/home.htm and on it is featured my biography, with links to various journals and e’zines that use my work (as the webmaster has time to insert them) and several pages for PWJ Publishing, the small press I established in 1986 for my niche market publications in health and handwriting. Since 1992 I’ve been writing and publishing mostly poetry with some short fiction and articles. The web pages show the books PWJ Publishing has produced, with covers, sample poems and order information. I just had a book order from a police department in Scotland, so we know the website is effective. A note on establishing your own small press: If I were to do it again, I would NOT use my initials as the company name—a dead giveaway that it’s for your own work.
Q. How long have you been writing? What made you put that first story down on paper?
A. All my life, I think. At age 10 my library ran out of horse stories, so I wrote my own. Have been writing ever since.
Q. What got you started?
A. See above. But what got me started in this stage of my life was cervical spine surgery that left me with problems. I could no longer do the intensive research and writing I’d done before (as a psychology PhD/RN researcher in health and handwriting) but poems came bubbling up. Not very good ones, but I kept writing them and learning and writing more. Along the way a few stories insisted on being told, so I wrote them down too.
Q. Do you write in a particular genre? If so, what genre is it?
A. The short stories just pop out as they want to be heard. Some contemporary short shorts, some fantasy longer ones, some traditional short stories. I did write a mystery novel and the manuscript lives in a box in the attic, with good reason. But it sure was fun to write.
Q. Have you been published? What was the first story? Where was it published? How long did it take? What was the process?
A. Yes, I’ve been published but I don’t remember which story came first, or even where. I’m fortunate; many have been published, several more than once. I find anthologies valuable for this, and the small press and online ’zines have lots of good opportunities. Mostly, as I said earlier, I write poetry. I tend to be prolific and send work out often, which helps your chances of getting it published. At the beginning, of course, it took awhile to get published; now I’ve got a “track record” and have developed good working relationships with editors, so opportunities come a bit more often. In addition, I belong to an email writers’ list (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Q. Who’s your favorite author and why?
A. That’s a hard one. I’m a mystery buff and really like Marcia Muller, Margaret Maron, JA Jance, Tony Hillerman, Dick Francis, lots more. They write good tales, with plenty of action yet also character development (well, Francis not so much there). Fell in love with Anita Diamont’s The Red Tent. Likewise, Laurie R. King’s Folly. In poetry, I like many many small press contemporary poets – those who write clearly, in a common language about events and people. Not keen on navel-gazing or sentimental or abstract stuff. Plebian tastes, sigh.
Q. How did you deal with rejection letters, if you received any?
A. Of course I’ve received a bunch. I doubt there’s a writer on earth who hasn’t received rejection letters. I just figure it’s part of the game (and it IS a game). I just go about the writing and keep putting the work out there. I do not write TO a particular magazine (in terms of trying to match my style with the journal’s); I write my own way and some people like it, some people don’t. That’s OK.
Q. What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?
A. Clarity, tightness, finding just the right words for the situation, being accessible to the reader. Showing, not telling. It’s an old hackneyed phrase, but true. I’m an editor as well as a writer and I guess it shows.
Q. How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
A. No formula. What seems to happen is that a character appears and starts letting me know what’s going on with him/her/it and the story proceeds from there. I realize this isn’t what a writing instructor would say, but it’s how stories unfold for me.
Q. What do you do to unwind and relax?
A. Read. Read. Read. Plus I garden, have tea with friends, laugh with my husband, cuddle the cats, take morning walks almost without fail, go to art galleries and theater when I can (I live in the countryside so that doesn’t happen as often as I’d like).
Q. What does your family feel about your writing? Are they supportive?
A. I’m blessed with a husband who not only supports my writing (except when he thinks I’m working too hard which happens with every project, and projects leap up every week or so, it seems), he says, “You should make a book about so-and-so next.” My grown son is, I think, bemusedly proud; my sister laughs at Pat and her books; the neighbors think I sit inside and watch TV and eat bonbons all day.
Q. What inspires you? Who inspires you?
A. People who live their lives the way they want to and enjoy themselves inspire me. Also people who are masters at what they do, no matter what field of work or area of life. In terms of what triggers a poem, it’s usually something I see or hear or smell right then and there. Last week I had to stop beside the freeway four times on my way to a city at an hour’s distance to snatch little poems out of the air before they got away.
Q. Are you working on any projects right now? If so, what are they?
A. Just today I took my newest book to press (well, the copy center, who runs the book off the CD and prints it out, including photos. Amazing!). It’s called Wenonah: Growing Up in the ’40s & ’50s, and is a 56 page chapbook of poems about my first 20 years in a small New Jersey town. I’m donating 100 copies to the Historical Society there to be used as a fundraiser and, to my delight, they are delighted. The project just before that was a collection requested by an art gallery owner in Redding, CA called California: Mountain & Stream Suite which accompanies an exhibit of oils and photos of the same name. And the one that came out in time for Christmas give was Bags, poems about purses, bags, knapsacks, and the people who use them. Great fun collecting those stories. Plus, I’m always writing and sending out poetry.
Q. Do you ever get Writer’s Block? If so, what do you do about it?
A. No, I don’t. I get periods of a few weeks when I’m not writing much or nothing comes but in this long life of wielding a pen I’ve learned not to worry. The mind needs a fallow period, just as the land does. When the words start appearing again—they always do—the work is fresh and good. I used to fret, now I know the words will be back, so I just go about living and enjoy my days.
Q. What is most frustrating about writing? Most rewarding?
A. Most frustrating: dealing with computer breakdowns. Aargh! Also, having to quit when I’m really rolling because it’s dinnertime and family needs care and attention, or the body wants to crash. Most rewarding? Losing myself in that world of creation: writing, having words spill, wrestling with a rewrite, poking around an idea, making a book. Just DOING it.
Q. Do you have any kind of writing schedule? Can you tell us about it?
A. The only schedule I have is that my energy is greatest in the morning so I try to work then. Poems (and stories, for that matter) come whenever they feel like it, day or night. Pretty hard to read my writing some mornings after a night’s wake-up idea.
Q. What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given as a writer? What’s the worst?
A. “Show, don’t tell” was the best, still is the best. Can’t think of a ‘worst’ – there are plenty of silly ideas out there and every teacher wants to say something memorable, some of it bizarre.
Q. If I were sitting down to write my very first story, what would your advice be?
A. Let the character tell you what happens to him and write it down. Or, if you have a burning desire to write about something specific, do it. The other thing I tell people at lectures and workshops is write it down fast, all of it, no matter how strange or awful. The revision comes later; the first draft is where you capture ideas, color, action, energy. You fine-tune the writing afterwards. Don’t let the editor in on that first time around.
Q. What advice would you give to writers just starting out?
A. Don’t talk about writing. DO IT! Put pen on paper, finger to keyboard, and keep going. Worry about fixing it, submitting it, getting published later. Just write. Also, keep your day job. You probably aren’t going to make much money, but you’re going to have a very rich life.
[See below for 2 sample poems from the new Wenonah book]
Adventure Starts Early
Pink thumb in rosebud mouth
she trailed the big boys
out of town, hid while they
ravished the woods with their voices.
She hunkered on a log, scared
turtles into the lake,
hummed her baby songs
to robins and bluegills.
She knew nothing
of fire trucks, police cars
or one petrified mother,
gasped when a huge hand
snatched her back to land.
A quick swat on the bottom,
arms circling in relief,
she made the promise demanded
In my white strapless bodice
help up by prayer,
scarlet sash around my waist spilling
a long red trail to the hemline behind,
the puff of white tulle, floaty
skirt almost to my ankles
and high red heels
I stepped with cautious tread
down the stair. My father’s eyes
grew large at this suddenly grown-up
daughter who came close to wrecking
her make-up—my date was late.
Apologies accepted, white orchid
strapped to my wrist (I hinted early on
he should not buy purple),
we went to the Prom, did the Prom things
with our friends.
Forty years later I stared,
dismay battled with laughter,
at my dream gown wrapping a dummy
in the window of a California shop