Welcome to week twenty three of the #WritersQuick5 series - where we learn about writing from fellow writers.
I am so pleased to bring you the work and responses of Joyce Burns Zeiss. Joyce is a fellow Chicago Writers Association member and the author of Out of the Dragon’s Mouth, a young adult fiction novel about a fourteen year old girl who escapes Vietnam in the hold of a fishing trawler after the fall of Saigon. Published in 2015, this novel was a passion project for Joyce and is fueled by her experiences resettling a Chinese Cambodian refugee family in 1979 and her subsequent trips to work in refugee camps in Africa. All of the royalties from her book are donated to Refugee Relief.
Let’s see what Joyce has to say…
Question #1 - Where do you write and why do you write there?
I write on a laptop in my living room, a bright sunny place, sitting in a maroon colored easy chair. I tried writing upstairs at a desk, but this is much more comfortable and I can sit here for longer periods of time. Without children in the house anymore, this spot has become much more private so fewer interruptions except for my husband who will often sit and work on his computer too.
Question #2 - What is unique about writing for your particular genre?
Historical fiction demands research so I spend a lot of time reading about the period and fact-checking. And writing for young adults requires a certain pacing that keeps the younger reader interested. Unlike literary fiction, I try not to dwell in my character's minds too long or describe a lot. But no matter what the genre, good writing is essential.
Question #3 - What are some of your grammar or punctuation pet peeves?
As a former English teacher, I have many pet peeves, but the biggest is using its and it's incorrectly. When I see this on a large sign outside a store, I want to sneak back at night and correct it.
Question #4 - At what point in your writing process do you start to bring other people in to review your work?
I am in a couple of critique groups so my writing is reviewed as I go. When I wrote my first novel, I didn't really know what I was doing, so being in a novel group where we studied writers and critiqued each other's writing with the guidance of a professional moderator was very helpful. Now I am writing the sequel to Out of the Dragon's Mouth, and I find it very helpful to be critiqued every couple of chapters even though the temptation is to polish rather than plunge ahead and get the novel done. Maybe that's why it takes me so long.
Question #5 - What advice would you give to a new writer about the writing process?
The first thing I had to develop was a thick skin. I was terrified to have my writing read aloud and critiqued. I'm way over that now. The most important advice I would give a new writer is to join a writing community. Writing is a lonely occupation and you will find great support and help from other writers. I would not have written my novel or sold my book if I hadn't had those contacts. And writers are very nice people. We all know how difficult it can be to write.
Joyce, thank you for these lovely answers. When you said, “Writing is a lonely occupation and you will find great support and help from other writers,” that really resonated with me. It has been so important for me to collaborate with fellow writers throughout my writing processes as well.
Please check out Joyce’s website and buy her book. Thank you Joyce for all that you do!
If you would like to be featured as a writer in the #WritersQuick5 series, please just reach out and let me know. I’d love to promote your work as well!
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