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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Take Ten with Lou Turner, Co-founder of Coffee and Critique and CEO of High Hill Press

Lou Turner is an unforgettable woman who wears many hats. As co-founder of Coffee and Critique, she dispenses candid and unvarnished suggestions to help writers become better at their craft. 
In 2008 Lou and her husband Bryan started High Hill Press.

High Hill is not a self-publisher or a vanity press, but a small publishing business to offer writers a small niche between the huge New York publishing houses and the often high-priced print on demands.
Since becoming CEO, editor, and publisher of High Hill Press, Lou has nurtured scores of writers in navigating the publishing process to turn their writing dreams into reality.

Along with her team of five acquiring editors, Lou takes a personal interest in any book published by High Hill. While High Hill is a small press, it stresses quality in submissions. Only 25% of submissions are accepted for publication.
Lou took time from her busy schedule to respond to the "Take Ten" interview questions:

1. What inspired you to become a writer?

Lou: It has to be my childhood. Mystery author, Agatha Christie, said in the introduction to her autobiography, “One of the luckiest things that can happen to you in life is, I think, to have a happy childhood.” When I first started writing my parents were my only readers. I thought I was creating fiction, but every time my dad read one of my short stories, he would say, “I didn’t know you remembered that.” So between alligator wrestling Uncles, a grandpa that gambled for Al Capone, and everything in between, I’ve never had to grasp for something to write about.

2. What is your writing specialty? 

Lou: I’m not sure. I hate it when I hear an editor or agent telling people to stick to one genre. How boring would that be? I like to stretch and try new things and new styles when I write. I love the “what if” game. What if Scarlett O’Hara found her beloved Tara overrun with Zombies? Wow, that would be a great story…guess I’d better get busy on that one.

3. How would you describe your writing process?  

Lou: I used to challenge myself and sit in front of a blank screen to see if I could come up with something new, something I’d never thought of writing before. Now I just wait until an idea comes to me and head to the computer. Recently I was told to write about a specific topic. And although it was a great topic, I found it hard to work like that. My most recent essay is called The First Gray Hair, and I wrote it after a younger woman commented that older people are often behind the times. Anger, I found, is a great place to start when writing an essay about aging. The actual process is constantly changing for me. I don’t feel as though I have to write every day to accomplish what I want, but there are times when I will literarily write for 8 or 10 hours a day for days on end. I’ve worked many times right through the night.

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

Lou: Best: It’s all good. But probably just knowing each time you start a new project that your brain is still able to work is the best.

Worst: Having a great story rumbling around in your head and not finding the time to get it down before it flees.


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

Lou: Best: Just write. If you come to a dead end in one story, start another one.

Worst: I’ve probably never had any really bad advice. I can always tell when someone comments about my writing whether they’re doing it from a place of real helpfulness, or whether they’re just throwing out advice to be throwing out advice. I’ve learned to know the good advice from the bad…and I ignore the bad. I did have an editor put a zillion semi-colons in an article I’d written for a newsletter once. She didn’t discuss it with me, just plopped then in all over the place. It turned my humorous and conversational article into something unrecognizable. Which made me realize how dangerous a bad editor can be.


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

Lou: Reading is the best advice I can give you. Buy all the writing guides you can pick up off the sale table and keep them at your fingertips for when you run into a specific problem…like grammar or punctuation. But for learning how to write and develop your voice, you have to read the work of authors who did it well.

I started reading before the first grade. I grew up on Mary Shelley and Charles Dickens, and then Flannery O’Connor and Eudora Welty. I don’t read as quickly as I used to, but I keep a book with me all the time. What amazes me now is that I can read a good book and see why it’s good. I can see how the author put just the right amount of imagery in his prose. How he put suspense in just when it was needed. How his dialogue flows, or sometimes doesn’t flow. But I can see what that writer did to make his story good.

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

Lou: I think being with other writers has made me want to learn more about the craft. There’s nothing like being almost ready to take a piece in to read, and then after going over it that one last time, realizing it still needs work. Reading in front of a group will make you humble, that’s for sure. But it’ll also make you try a little harder.

8. If you’ve been published or have won awards, which are the most special to you?

Lou: All of them are special. I think the most special was the first publication, and probably that first, first place. But the last one is special too. I changed my expectations greatly after learning more about the craft. When I first started I was simply being a businesswoman and trying something new to make money. After a while I realized this wasn’t like running a gift shop, or even painting for a living. Writing was completely different. So instead of needing to make money, I changed and simply needed to be able to tell a story that could entertain, or bring about a laugh, or a tear, or make someone check the shadows before they jumped into bed at night.

9. What three words best describe you?

Lou: Eager to learn.

10. What is your writing dream? 

Lou: I’m not sure I have a writing dream. Years ago I would have told you it was to be interviewed by Charlie Rose because of my bestselling novel. But now I simply pray that I won’t run out of things to write about before I die. Or that I die with a thousand more stories yet to tell.

I don't know about you, but I hope Lou will be sharing her stories for years to come.

Friday, October 18, 2013

What's New at Coffee and Critique? Coupon Clipping and Collecting Contest Certificates

Our Coffee and Critique writers have been productive this month.

Last week Alice Muschany had another Opinion Shaper column appear in the St. Charles County Suburban Journal. "The Queen of Bargains creates line of succession" is about her family's bargain-hunting and coupon-clipping activities. As usual, Alice serves up another healthy dose of humor in her family stories.

Alice is also giving away a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope and Healing for your Breast Cancer Journey this month over on Donna's Book Pub.

For the past three years Alice has generously donated copies of books with stories about her breast cancer survival to bring awareness during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Stop by Donna's Book Pub by October 31 and leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of the book with Alice's warm and witty story, "Hats Off to Betty with Love."

Alice isn't the only writer who's been busy this month. 

Last weekend four members of Coffee and Critique were recognized for their writing talent during the annual Ozark Creative Writers Conference in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

Doyle Suit, Marcia Gaye, Sarah Angleton, and Janet Bettag combined for a total of ten wins during the awards ceremony. Click here to see what they won.

Tune in next week for more announcements about accomplishments and events of members of Coffee and Critique, including information about Jack Zerr's book launch of Noble Deeds