Writing In The Real World – Interview with Gabi

IggiandGabiStoryADay participant Gabi (and her alter ego Iggi), also known as Gabriela Pereira is a writer/teacher/entrepreneur living in New York City.  She has just graduated from an MFA Program in Creative Writing with a special focus on Writing for Children.  She writes middle grade and teen fiction, with the occasional short story for grown-ups thrown in for good measure.  She has several post-graduation schemes up her sleeve, many of which include a Do-It-Yourself MFA program.

Before you started StoryADay how would you have described your writing life?

I would say my writing life was pretty busy. I was in a full-time MFA program and my writing life was very school-centric. I was looking for something to break me out of the MFA mindset. Don’t get me wrong, the MFA was a great experience, but I saw graduation looming at the end of May and I knew I needed to shake things up or I was going to have major separation anxiety come summer.

What made you decide to do StoryADay?

I was in the middle of rewriting my thesis for the third time and I needed a break. I also needed something to propel me into life-post-MFA and StoryADay came at just the right time. I wanted to do a project that was outside of school and outside my thesis, to force me to write for myself and not for school (because that’s what post-MFA writing is all about, right?)

What did you expect to achieve? What did you actually achieve? What did you learn during the challenge?

I expected to write a whole story every day. It lasted only a week and then my thesis deadline reared its ugly head and I had to reorganize my priorities. But the great thing I realized in StoryADay is that I didn’t need school deadlines to make me write–I could motivate myself. And that lesson was probably the most valuable thing StoryADay could have taught me. This is why, even though I didn’t come close to winning the challenge, I still see this past May as a success.

How do you make time for writing?

I try not to think about it. If I think too much about writing before I actually start doing it, I tend to psych myself out. Instead I just start writing and before I know it, I’ve got a bunch of words on the page and it’s time to call it a day. Also, I find that writing “out” is much more productive. My little paper notebook doesn’t have all those pesky distractions like email and twitter and blogs. Ooh, and a little trick I’ve learned: I try to end each writing session at a cliff-hanger or in the middle of a sentence so that when I sit down the next time, I can jump right in and keep writing.

Why do you write? What keeps you motivated?

I write because if I don’t, I start missing my characters. Also, I write because I want to know what will happen next. I live for those surprise moments when the characters do something I wasn’t expecting, or those a-ha moments when some pieces of the puzzle finally come together. It’s that constant feeling of discovery that keeps me motivated.

What are your aspirations?

The realist in me has dreams of writing and teaching and being able to make a reasonable living.
The dreamer in me hopes that DIY MFA might someday take the writing world by storm.

Tell us about your DIY MFA project. It sounds fascinating.

DIY MFA stands for Do-It-Yourself MFA. The premise is that while MFAs are great for some writers, they aren’t necessarily feasible for many writers out there. Either because of logistics, or finances, or family/work responsibilities, many writers who want to do an MFA end up not doing one. The idea here is that since I did an MFA, I wanted to share what I learned and help interested writers put together their own individual writing plan. The DIY MFA method consists of 4 branches: Reading, Writing, Community and Critique, which I divided into “classes.” I posted weekly articles on my blog through the month of September, each day of the week representing a different DIY MFA class. Now in October, though the September extrabloganza is done, DIY MFA will continue in a more organic fashion. But never fear, all the DIY MFA posts and classes will still be there so writers who missed the September fun can catch up. For more information on DIY MFA, visit iggi U. We also have a DIY MFA twitter hash tag (#diymfa) and an online community: http://diymfa.spruz.com/

For more information about me and my many projects, check out my blog at: iggiandgabi.blogspot.com

You can also follow me on twitter: @iggiandgabi

Thanks, Gabi!


Becoming A “Real” Writer – Interview With Heather Muir

Heather MuirAnother inspiring interview, this time with Heather Muir, a StoryADay alumnus who made it to 31 stories and then went off to Writer’s Camp and is working on her YA novel now.

Heather says she used StoryADay to help her “make the transition from student writer to ‘Real’ writer”. Yay!

Before you started StoryADay how would you have described your writing life?

Very sporadic. Just before StoryADay started, I had graduated with a B.A. in English with a creative writing emphasis. I only wrote for deadlines in class and I occasionally wrote something on my pet project, a fantasy novel I started when I was 16 that has been reincarnated so many times I don’t know what it is anymore. I needed a challenge.

What made you decide to do StoryADay?

A few weeks before StoryADay started, I had been accepted into Orson Scott Card’s Literary Bootcamp that would start at the end of June. I knew I needed to pump up my writing muscles as much as I could before the camp and StoryADay seemed like the answer.

What did you expect to achieve? What did you actually achieve? What did you learn during the challenge?

By the time I had heard about StoryADay, May was only two days away. My goal was to write a story every day as well as come up with the story idea every day. I wanted to test my ability to come up with stories quickly and from anything and everything.

I did write a story every day. I wrote a total of 10,987 words. On a few days my stories were only a few sentences long. Some I look back on and say “What was I thinking?” Only a handful of the stories are worth keeping and working on. One of them has spawned into an idea for a middlegrade book that I am in love with. Another is going to be incorporated into the motivations of the evil queen in a retelling of a fairy tale I want to work on.

What I learned from the challenge was that I could write everyday. It was hard certainly. But it really helped me make the transition from student writer to “real” writer. I no longer had school to fall back on, giving me deadlines. StoryADay was a great way to get that deadline and prove to myself that I was a serious writer.

How do you make time for writing?

Making time for writing is easy when you don’t have a social life and you are a bit of an insomniac. 🙂 I work at a 24-hour pharmacy so I never have a consistent time to write. Usually I try to write in the time before or after work. It’s never more than an hour or two but it is enough to stay consistent.

Why do you write? What keeps you motivated?

I write because I love stories. I was the kid who loved read-a-thons and going to the library. I write because I have to. I have tried to stop. I tried to start pharmacy school, to upgrade from technician to pharmacist but I could not get the story ideas out of my head. They haunt me until I write them down. And I also learned I could never be a pharmacist because I would hate my job. I don’t even want to hate my job. I want to live the dream and create for a living.

As far as motivation, I keep in contact with other writers. I have a writing group. I attend local conferences. I listen to a great podcast, Writing Excuses. I read a lot of books and remember how much those stories mean to me, how they have changed who I am. Now it’s almost unthinkable to not write.

The desire to create is too strong to ignore.

What’s Next?

As I said, I attended OSC’s Literary Bootcamp and returned triumphant. I’m now working on a YA novel about ghosts that I started at the camp. I hope to have a full draft finished in the next 6-8 months (judging by my pace so far). I have two other novel ideas on the back burner (one of them that came from story a day) as my next projects when the current novel is being submitted.

I hope StoryADay continues to be a success. It was very helpful to me though I don’t think I’ll participate again, now that I’m working on larger projects. It is perfect for the writer who lacks the courage to write and needs that support. StoryADay helped me. I hope it helps others.

Thanks Heather!

[And one more thing: I’d love to interview you about your writing, no matter what stage you’re at or whether or not you’ve done one of these creative challenges, so leave me a comment below if you’d be willing to chat.]

Writing In The Fast Lane – Interview With AdorablyAlice

As writers we’re curious. About everything. About people, technology, history, our neighbours, everything.

I’m particularly curious about other writers and how they work, what keeps them going, why they do it.

So here’s the first in a series of interviews with writers, starting with writers who took part in the StoryADay challenge last May.

AdorablyAlice was one of our most active writers during the first challenge. In this interview she gives a lot of credit for her writing success to her secret weapon: her friend and mentor: Cid (also a StoryADay veteran). I’d love it if you’d leave a comment below, picking out one thing from this interview that stood out for you: something that sounded sooooo familiar it made you smile, or something you’d like to try in your own writing life.


Before you started StoryADay how would you have described your writing life?

I used to write a lot when I was younger. Sometime after high school, I stopped. It wasn’t until NaNoWriMo 2009 that I began writing again. So between NaNo and StADa, I was still trying to find a balance between work, school, life and writing.

What made you decide to do StoryADay?

Cid. I found out about StADa through her, and because short story is my weakest point, I thought it would be a good challenge. Plus, I thought it would help me get into the habit of writing daily.

What did you expect to achieve? What did you actually achieve? What did you learn during the challenge?

I wanted to write something every day, and I wanted to get stronger at writing short stories. I did write everyday, but I think I’m still weak in writing short stories. I learned about Twitter fiction, which intrigued me, and I actually wrote a few TwitFic pieces.

How do you make time for writing?

This is a good question. And when I have an answer that doesn’t involve neglecting chores/cooking, I’ll let you know.

Why do you write? What keeps you motivated?

I am most productive on #writersdatenight (yes, I have to include the Twitter hashtag). Once a week a group of five writers (including myself) meet at McAllister’s to eat, socialize a little and write. Because the other four ladies have been writing longer than I have, I feel motivated to write a lot when I’m around them. The sound every one typing is motivating. I’ve tried other writing groups, but they’ve been more socializing than writing, so I don’t enjoy them as much. Lately, Cid has been setting goals for me. Write 5K and get a book. Write 5K and have a Glee marathon. It works. She’s awesome.

What are your aspirations?

Well, I’d love to be published and that’ s definitely a long term goal, but more short term…I’d like to finish a story. Well, I’ve finished a few, but I don’t revise. So a good aspiration would be to go back and revise…lol

Do you have a project or website you’d like to tell people about?

Well, there’s Book-Addicts. There are four of us (Cid’s one of them) and we basically review books across all genres, interview authors, have guest blog spots and book giveaways. It’s a pretty awesome place for people who are as addicted to reading as we are. www.book-addicts.com – get your fix!

I also have my personal website, www.adorablyalice.com, I keep up with how I’m doing as a writer, offering the lessons I learn as I delve into the mysterious ways of The Writer.

Thanks, Alice! (And you can read more about Alice’s experiences with her writers’ groups and productivity in this blog post – which features a fun cartoon from my own writing friend and secret mentor, Debbie Ohi.)

[And one more thing: I’d love to interview you about your writing, no matter what stage you’re at or whether or not you’ve done one of these creative challenges, so leave me a comment below if you’d be willing to chat.]

An Interview NaBloPoMo Creator, Eden Kennedy

National Blog Posting MonthIn 2006 Eden Kennedy, of fussy.org, inspired by National Novel Writing Month started her own ‘month’: National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo). For those of us who can’t possibly hope to carve out the time to writ a novel in a month, NaBloPoMo was a great alternative: commit to posting something every day, and see what happened.

I tried it and was pleasantly surprised to come away with both new friends and an increased sense of creativity, as I viewed my world in terms of potential creative writing opportunities.

Now, NaBloPoMo is a year-round event, with hundreds of people posting daily.

NaBloPoMo was a big inspiration for StoryADay.org, so I emailed Eden to ask her a few questions:

How long has NaBloPoMo been running?

[EDEN] I started it in November of 2006, running it off my own site, fussy.org. It was basically just a blogroll and a list of prizes people kept donating for me to hand out to random people who managed to post every day that month. A lot of people liked it because it was an alternative to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), where you write like 6,000 words a day. I, like many others, failed at my NaNo attempt, so it’s like we started a little underachievers club by doing NaBloPoMo. I moved everything over to nablopomo.com in November 2007 so it could become more of a social network, and thousands of new people signed up, to my surprise. Eventually so many people were asking if I could make more events throughout the year, and not just in November, that I decided to just go monthly.

Do you participate every month?

[EDEN] I only participate in November. It’s the original month, and still the month we get the most traffic for, two or three thousand people. The rest of the year we get maybe 400 or 500 people each month.

What have other writers told you they get out of it?

[EDEN] A real sense of satisfaction at having come up with something to say thirty days in a row. Sometimes you have to dig deep to find the will to write something that’s actually worth reading, and not just phone it in or post a YouTube video or something. For most people, one month is enough, but there are several die-hards who go on to post every day for a year or more.

Any tips for keeping going in the middle of the month when the enthusiasm wanes?

[EDEN] Photos. Posting a photo can either be a great writing prompt, because readers will be interested in whatever the story behind it is, or else it can stand by itself as a post and give you the day off. Nothing wrong with that!


Thanks, Eden!

Interesting point about the photos. Who says your Story A Day story couldn’t be a comic strip, a photo essay, a particularly evocative picture?