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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Take Ten with W. E. (Bill) Mueller: "Success is in the Editing"

Our latest featured Coffee and Critique group member is multi-published, award-winning writer W. E. (Bill) Mueller, who calls Chesterfield, Missouri, home. 
Bill has been a valued member of Coffee and Critique for several years. He brings his wisdom, excellent writing and critique skills, sense of humor, and big-picture sensibilities about the craft of writing to the table.  
His work has appeared in numerous publications and has won awards from The Writer Magazine, Writers Digest, St. Louis Writers Guild, Saturday Writers, the Ozarks Writers League and other places. 
Peaches and Cream, his book of short stories, was published by High Hill Press, but (he writes) it is probably out of print.
Here are Bill's answer to my take-ten questions:

1. What inspired you to become a writer?

Bill: My father was a printer at the Post-Dispatch. Ink was in my blood early on. During high school I worked Saturdays in the paper's editorial/book department. Very intellectual atmosphere--all expressed in writing.

2.  What is your writing specialty?

Bill: Short stories and an occasional essay. Readers seem to prefer my Zach Bannister (P.I.) stories. Also stray into memoir writing.

3. How would you describe your writing process?

Bill: I can only write after I have the entire story in my head. I cannot simply sit at the computer and clack-away. I need the whole structure of the story in my noggin, then write it long-hand, then onto the keyboard. Success is in the editing. Weeks and weeks of editing.

4. What is the best part of being a writer?  The worst?

Bill: The best part of writing is hearing a reader say they really like your work. Winning writing contests also helps. What we all strive for is some verification that we are writers, and writing well.

The worst part of writing is waiting for inspiration. My need to have it all in my brain causes me to shout "come on gray cells, get busy."

5. What is the best writing advice you’ve received?  The worst?

Bill: The best writing advice: write in the present tense as much as possible; use strong verbs; edit, edit, edit. The worst advice is usually from someone who doesn't understand my story and offers critique.

6.  Which books on writing can you recommend for other writers?

Bill:  John Gardner's "The Art of Fiction."  An absolute must read.

 7. How has belonging to Coffee and Critique affected you as a writer?

Bill: Tuesday mornings always humbles me. I work and work, edit and edit, rewrite and rewrite my stuff till I think it's perfect, unblemished, untouchable. The Tuesday morning crew quickly cures that illusion; they alway see stuff that slides by me, like semicolons!!! Always, always have someone read your work who is impartial and honest.

8. You’ve been published numerous times and have won many awards. Which are most special to you?

Bill: Not to toot my horn, but five awards are special to me. First, the St. Louis Writers Guild Short-Story contest First Place award in 2009. Second, first place in The Writer magazine's 2009 story contest, a nation-wide magazine and competition. Third, in Writers Digest magazine contest (2011) I won second place in the crime/mystery genre; only two places were awarded. Four, I was awarded the first President's Award by the Ozark Writers League in 2010. Five, strangely, is the third place award I received this January from the St. Louis Writers Guild. When I finished reading the story, several folks had tears and I got prolonged applause, and later was told I should have won first place.

9. What three words best describe you?

Bill: Reading. Writing. Fishing. (He writes: other descriptions are unprintable)

10. What is your writing dream?  Alternate question: If you could interview one or two famous writers or historic figures living or deceased, who would they be and what would you ask them?

Bill: Let me answer both parts. I would love to have a story published in 'Ellery Queen' magazine, or one of the notable literary journals. I would love to meet Dostoyvesky and John Updike. I'd ask 'em the same ten questions you have asked me.

Thanks, Bill, for your candid answers. I always learn something when you speak.

Your many awards and publications bear witness to your belief that success is in the editing!


Sioux said...

Donna--Great interview, and Bill, interesting answers. You are both writers that are generous with your advice and humble about your talent...

Donna Volkenannt said...

Hi Sioux,
Thanks. Bill is an inspiration to the writers who gather on Tuesdays.
And you are so kind--as well as generous with your words and time.

Alice said...

Great interview! Bill's work is always entertaining and oh so cleverly done. Naturally, some of us do have our favorite characters (I’d like to know where he comes up with those unusual names). And wen it comes to critiquing, Bill gives as good as he gets.

Karen Guccione-Englert said...

Great interview Bill and Donna! I love Bill's work. He seamlessly puts readers into every scene with his ability to use voice. People joke with Bill for "winning another one" but he works hard, dedicating time and energy to his craft. That should be rewarded. Thanks for sharing Bill and for always helping me at C&C.