Next up is Pat Wahler, one of Coffee and Critique's original members. Pat attended C&C sessions when the group met in the evenings at Barnes and Noble. Because of the change to daytime meetings only and Pat's work schedule, she is unable to attend C&C regularly, but she still attends when her schedule permits, and she supports the group with her writing.
Her humorous essay, "High Maintenance Woman," appears in the first Coffee and Critique Anthology.
Pat is a grant writer by day and writer of fiction and essays by night. Her work appears in many publications including the series anthologies Cup of Comfort, Not Your Mother's Book, and Chicken Soup. Pat, a life-long animal lover, ponders critters, writing, and life's little mysteries at http://www.critteralley.blogspot.com/
Here are Pat's answers to the "Take Ten" interview questions:
1. What or who inspired you to become a writer?
I think anyone who is an avid reader dreams about the possibility of writing. My early efforts consisted of composing 10 page letters to friends and family. Then one day I sent an anecdote to the Reader's Digest "All in a Day's Work" feature. I couldn't have been more shocked when they mailed me a check for $300 along with a bumper sticker that read: I found money, fame, and glory. Reader's Digest bought my story!
H'mmm. Maybe I really can write.
2. What is your writing specialty?
Fiction is fabulous. I love the freedom of creating a character and taking him/her on a journey of my own choosing. However, I write more personal essays than anything else. Essays are tougher because you must work with a specific situation, peel back the layers to examine them, and then figure out what it all meant. It's kind of like being your own analyst.
3. How would you describe your writing process?
I need structure. I start with a general outline and jot ideas as they come to me. The outline helps keep me on track, although I've been known to stray if the story leads me in another direction.
4. What is the best part of being a writer? The worst part?
There's an old Peanuts cartoon of Snoopy typing away on a story while thinking: It's exciting when you've written something that you know is good! That about sums up the best part. Of course, having a piece accepted for publication isn't too shabby, either.
The worst part is the amount of self-discipline it takes to be a writer. Self-discipline is not one of my strongest qualities.
5. What is the best writing advice you’ve received? The worst?
The whole NaNoWriMo experience taught me there's no such thing as writer's block. Just sit down and start typing. Once you do that, the words will come like crazy, and they don't need to be perfect. You can edit that lousy first draft later.
I can't say anyone has ever given me bad advice about writing. I may not always agree with everything I hear, but that doesn't mean there isn't value to be found in the opinion of others.
6. Which books on writing you can recommend for other writers?
I love reading books about writing. A few of the many I've found helpful are:
Bird by Bird -Anne Lamott
Getting the Words Right - Theodore A. Rees Cheney
Between the Lines - Jessica Page Morrell
Naked, Drunk, and Writing - Adair Lara
7. How has belonging to Coffee and Critique benefited you?
I started with C&C at the beginning, when we met in the evening. It was my first experience with a critique group and I worried my manuscript would be torn to shreds by people with much more experience than me. But I soon learned that C&C members were talented, generous, and helpful. Fresh eyes saw things I hadn't noticed and the suggestions definitely strengthened my writing.
When C&C started meeting in the mornings, a few of us tried to keep the evening sessions going. Unfortunately we didn't have enough people to make that happen. But when retirement comes my way, I plan to be back!
8. If you’ve been published or have won awards, which are the most special to you?
Writing is a lonely pursuit, so anything that validates what I do is special to me.
For example, the first time one of my essays was selected for a national publication, Cup of Comfort for Cat Lovers, I couldn't have been more excited. I got to sign my first contract and received a nice check for the story. Sheer bliss!
9. What three words best describe you?
10. What are you working on now, and/or what is your writing dream?
I have three very rough manuscripts produced from prior NaNoWriMo years. I'd like to begin doing something with them. One manuscript particularly calls me. It's an historical fiction piece told from the POV of a famous outlaw's wife.
Bonus 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?
My hands down favorite novelist is Harper Lee. Her writing is vivid, poignant, and true. If a writer only produces one novel in a lifetime, let it be one like To Kill a Mockingbird. I want to learn how to do that.
My favorite essayist is Anne Lamott. It would be a wonderful experience to find out how she can turn an everyday experience into a lyrical one.
Finally, is there anything you’d like to add?
I really had to think hard about some of these questions. Thanks for the opportunity, Donna!