Wednesday, December 19, 2012

10 Questions: Deborah Batterman

Deborah Batterman is a fiction writer, essayist, and teaching artist. A story from her debut collection, Shoes Hair Nails, was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Her stories and essays have appeared in anthologies as well as various print and online journals, and a selection of her essays, Because my name is mother, is now available as an e-book.

Contact Links:

Twitter: @DEBatterman
#1:  First off, let me say that I was blown away by the appearance of your website. Did you design it yourself or hire a professional?

It’s a pretty clever design for a writer’s website/blog – isn’t it?  But I can’t take credit for much, except some fine-tuning.  I had originally set up my blog via Blogspot, which was fine, until I decided to raise the bar and do a more formal website where I could add a book page. So I made the switch to WordPress, and it was pure serendipity that the Scrabble template showed up in my search for something with a little oomph to it.

#2:  You've tried both the traditional and self-publish routes with your writing. What can you tell us about the experiences you've had and how the two routes differ?

Both channels are riddled with frustrations. With traditional publishing, the big hurdle is finding the right fit for your book – and not taking rejection (too) personally. With small, indie presses, like the one that published my collection, there’s the perception that you’ll get the kind of attention you don’t get with a bigger house. Maybe yes/maybe no. At the very least, you’re working with someone who has a vested interest in you, someone you can partner with every step of the way. With self-publishing, going solo multiplies the pressures. Until the digital revolution spawned the world of e-book self-publishing, there was no question about seeking traditional routes of publishing. Yes, it’s a trial by fire, but the alternative (a ‘vanity’ press) was not something most serious writers considered. That’s all changed now -- and it’s hard to argue with the notion that taking a more proactive role in the means of production and distribution is a good thing.  At the same time, the ease of publishing makes it tempting to’ just do it,’ often without the kind of critical eye good editors at traditional publishing houses pride themselves on. Maybe the best of both worlds lies somewhere betwixt and between more formal, traditional channels, with the particular kind of validation it brings (i.e., when an editor/publishing house invests in a writer) and the DIY mindset (i.e., in which all the investment in time and money is the writer’s.  Steven Pressfield’s ‘The War of Art’ very wisely reminds writers that we can’t – and maybe shouldn’t – be expected to do it all. 

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.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

10 Questions: M.H. Mead

M.H. Mead is the shared pen name of Margaret Yang and Harry R. Campion.

Margaret Yang is a full-time writer and parent who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She loves living in the modern age, and she wants to be the first person on her block to own a flying car.

Harry R. Campion is a writer, teacher, and parent who lives in Harper Woods, Michigan. He is happiest when camping in the wilderness, especially when he has a canoe and a river to explore.

Margaret and Harry have been friends and co-authors for many years.

Contact Links:
Twitter: @Margaret_Yang

#1: How did the writing duo of M.H. Mead come about?
Completely accidentally. If either of us knew what we were getting ourselves into, we never would have done it. But Margaret had this idea for a cool setting (near-future Detroit) and Harry had this idea for a cool plot (lots of mayhem and murder) and it just sort of happened. And then, because it worked so well, we did it again. And again.

#2: Does living in different cities help or hinder your writing efforts?