I am so excited to introduce a new element to this website and blog - the #WritersQuick5. Every week we are going to meet a new writer, ask them about their writing process, and what advice they have for fellow writers. Every writer will get the same five questions and they will all be archived here. We will explore all different types of writing, from books to comics to screenplays to lyrics to academic papers. Please continue to check in on this blog and on the new #WritersQuick5 homepage.
I'm SO EXCITED at the roster of writers we already have lined up and I couldn't be more thrilled at our first author up - MaryLou Driedger.
I've known MaryLou for nearly a decade and I've admired her, her writing, and her passion for writing, since day one. MaryLou has been a weekly newspaper columnist for over thirty years. Her travels and time living abroad have provided her ample content for travel pieces and websites. She's written for periodicals, magazines, educational curriculum, and has been on staff for a religious meditation magazine for twenty years. She's also authored several institutional histories and the script and lyrics for a musical. If that wasn't enough, she publishes personal stories for her grandsons.
I know her work from her amazing blog What's Next and from a book she wrote called Storylines: A History of the Hong Kong International Christian School.
Let's see what MaryLou has to say:
Question #1: Where do you write and why do you write there?
I usually write at home at my kitchen counter for convenience sake, but my latest project is a middle grade novel and I find I get the most done on that away from home at a hip coffee shop called Forth one block from my condo. All the artistic young people there working and talking about their projects inspire me.
Question #2: What is unique about writing for your particular genre?
I have been writing lots of picture books. This is a different kind of writing than I have ever done before and I am finding it very difficult. Getting traditionally published in this field is almost impossible and it is hard not to get discouraged. One of the unique things about picture book writing is that your target audience is not only the children but also their parents who will be the ones buying and reading the book to their kids. You have to hook them in as well as their children.
Question #3: What are some of your grammar or punctuation pet peeves?
One thing that drives me crazy is the overuse of the word ‘that’. Most of the time when writers use ‘that’ it just isn’t necessary. I used to be a high school composition and journalism teacher and I always told my students to read over their pieces and try leaving out every ‘that’ they had included.
Question #4: At what point in your writing process do you start to bring other people in to review your work?
Right from the start! When I wanted to start writing for children one of the first things I did was find a children’s writing group to join. They have been so incredibly helpful. We listen to each other’s work in all stages and offer feedback and suggestions. Getting together with other writers is so important. I was recently a finalist in a contest for new children’s picture books. Besides reading the manuscript many times to my writing group I also asked a children’s author and a professor of children’s literature to read it and his advice was invaluable in creating a winning entry.
Question #5: What advice would you give to a new writer about the writing process?
Network. You need to know people in the industry to learn to be a better writer and to learn how the publishing game works. I am a member of a local writers’ association as well as a national one and their newsletters, meetings, and networking opportunities have been very helpful. I lived in Hong Kong for six years and was a member of the Hong Kong Women in Publishing group. I got my work published in their anthologies and learned so much from my fellow members and from the presenters at our meetings.
Thank you to MaryLou for these wonderful answers and to you insights on writing. Follow MaryLou on twitter and read her blog, What's Next?
Stay tuned to learn more from your fellow writers and if you'd like to be considered for our #WritersQuick5 series, please contact me and use #WritersQuick5 in the subject line.