Thursday, December 13, 2012

10 Questions: Janet Nodar

Janet Nodar


Janet Shirley Nodar writes, edits and plans programs for Breakbulk Magazine and Events, an events company and trade publication dedicated to a niche of the global shipping industry. She travels extensively for work. Before Breakbulk, she was a freelance writer and an English teacher. She has been a writer, and an obsessive reader, all of her life.

Janet was born on Guam, grew up in Washington State and New Mexico, and now lives in Mobile, Alabama. She is married and has two adult children. 

Book Blurb:

In 2011, Janet collected several of her short stories and other pieces in an e-book called “Trumpet Field and Other Stories.” In 2012, the collection was published as a physical book by Mod Mobilian, a local press. 

Several of the stories had been published previously, in magazines ranging from GSU Review to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, and a few had been anthologized. “Of course, once they were published they kind of disappeared into the ether. Putting them together in an e-book collection seemed like a  nice way to bring them back to life,” Janet said.  

She wrote a new story for a recurring character, Kristal Gibson Jaramillo, when Mod Mobilian decided to bring out a physical book.

About The Photo:

The photo of Janet was taken Oct 31, 2012. Her husband had been invited to go skydiving at the Navy base in Pensacola. She drove over with him to keep him company, and ended up being invited to jump, too. (Tandem jumping, of course!) They watched an earlier round of novice jumpers go through the experience and saw how exhilarated they were. She decided to go for it, despite the 8-page legal release she had to sign. They jumped at 13,500 feet. It really was shockingly non-frightening, no doubt because she had complete faith in the guy she was jumping with. The picture was taken during freefall.

Contact Links:

#1:  When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

I loved reading from early childhood, and I started writing almost immediately. One flowed from the other. I have never wanted to be anything other than a writer.

#2:  You tried the traditional publishing route but never broke through. If you were just starting out now, with all the opportunities available, what would you do different?

Writing fiction is a difficult way to make a living. I don’t think that will ever change. It’s easier to get into the market now -- there are fewer hoops to jump through, fewer gatekeepers -- but ultimately whether or not you succeed is up to your drive and to your readers. You have to keep writing, you have to find your voice, and you have to find your audience.

If I could somehow reach back and speak to my younger self, I’d say “work harder and have more faith in yourself.”

#3:  Where have you published short stories, and did that success boost your confidence that you would someday break through with a novel?

I’ve published in a few literary magazines and in commercial publications such as Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. That, and having several stories anthologized, boosted my confidence. But I don’t know that publishing short stories ‘proves’ that one will someday publish a novel. They are such different animals. 

#4: Tell us a little about your freelance work. Do you think it helped hone your writing skills when it comes to fiction?

Teaching composition and rhetoric at a local university for five years is what truly honed my writing skills, for fiction and for non-fiction. I learned more about writing from that than I did earning my masters. And writing on deadline has forced me to be professional. I do not have time to agonize over every sentence. However, freelancing and then becoming a reporter and editor has dramatically squeezed down the time I have for creative work.

#5: You make your living (mostly) writing for a business publication, yet you told me it frustrates you to not have much time for fiction. What is it about writing fiction, versus non-fiction, that appeals so much to you.

The non-fiction editing and writing that I do is very fact-driven and linear, if you will. Fiction is more associative, much more creative and subjective. It’s far more mysterious. In fiction, you don’t know what the parts are going to add up to. I do not use that part of my writing mind in my daily work, and I miss it.

#6:  You do a lot of work in China and Africa. What type of work do you do there and how much traveling is involved?

When I travel for work I am in places such as Shanghai or Cape Town for only a week or so at a time. My company publishes a magazine and puts on conferences related to a specialized niche of the global shipping industry. I edit and write for the magazine, and I help develop the programs that take place during our events (really this is almost another strain of reporting and editing, with some crossover into teaching) and then help produce the programs on-site.

During 2012 I went to China, Belgium, South Africa, Houston, Turkey and India for work. I also went to South Korea, but that was to see my daughter, who was teaching school there.

#7:  One of the hardest things for me, as a writer, to learn to do was to allow myself to break some of those rules I learned in English classes. You have a masters in English. Do you break some of those rules and, if so, is it something you had to learn to do?

Sure, I break rules. I think it’s fine if it serves a purpose in your writing, but it’s important to understand the rules first. I will say that at this point I have the ‘rules’ internalized. I do not have to think about them, and I rarely doubt myself.

Not that I don’t need to be edited -- I make mistakes. But for me that is just part of the process.

I am assuming the kind of rule-breaking you are talking about applies to creative work. I do not break rules when I’m reporting and editing. There, it’s important to adhere to a certain style, and clarity is everything.

#8:  Do you have any plans to self-publish the novels you've written?

Hm. Maybe. If I ever have time to rewrite them so that they are the way I want them to be.

#9:  Tell us about your work with Southern Delta Literary Magazine. It was one of your associates there, Kat Kennedy, who initially contacted me about interviewing you. Kat called you "super talented", by the way.

I just became involved with that group over the summer, and the magazine hasn’t really come together yet. Kat is one of the go-getters of the group. She has recently published a book herself. She’s a talented writer, very southern and very funny.

#10:  Let's do something different. There has to be a question you were hoping I would or wouldn't ask. Ask yourself that question (please let us see the question), then answer it.

Hm, okay.
Janet, you struggle with finding the time and mental energy to write fiction. This is not a dilemma that’s going to go away anytime soon. How are you going to solve this problem -- if it really is a problem? I mean, how important is it that you write creatively? Why?

Well, first, it’s not ‘important’ in any real sense; the only person it matters to is me. Like all writers, I’m self-selected, and it’s up to me to keep the job. The fact is that I can’t bear not to write. I can’t imagine myself as ‘not a writer.’

I find it difficult to work on long-form creative projects (i.e. novels, which are what I keep assigning myself) whilst handling a demanding day job. My frustration is real, but on the other hand it’s not like I’m willing to get up at 4 a.m. to write the great American novel before I start work. 

Going back to poetry -- which I wrote a great deal of when I was young, much of it awful -- is an idea that just recently began simmering in me. I think that might be my path forward, for now.


  1. Another stellar interview, Carl. Janet's book is grand. A great read. She is definitely one to follow in the coming years.

    1. Thanks, Kat. I just noticed that I failed to hyperlink your name in question #9. Fixed it.