The Writer’s Handful with Carrie Etter

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Mondays + Writers = Finally something to look forward to.

After a bit of hiatus, I am so very pleased to bring you The Writer’s Handful again. And I am even more pleased to have CARRIE ETTER, a remarkable poet and sudden prose writer, join us today. You must find Carrie’s work and read it immediately. She will break your heart. She will make you laugh. She will cause you wonder. She will speak to you as though you are close, close enough to touch. And her words will touch you.

Welcome Carrie!

Did you write today? If yes, what? If no, why not?

It’s marking season, as it were, one of those times of year where I have weeks of marking to do, and I find it hard to write when I’m doing so much marking, so I probably won’t write again until after it’s done. I don’t like the situation, but I’ve learned to work with it.

What’s the first thing (story, poem, song, etc.) you remember writing, and how old were you when you wrote it?imagined_sons72_0

At age 3, on the large paper that’s half-lined, half empty space, I wrote (and drew) a story about ducks.

What are you reading right now?

Right now I’m reading four things in uneven rotation: H.P. Lovecraft’s Classic Horror Stories (a gift from a student), China Mieville’s The City and the CityDylan Thomas’s Collected Poems, and the current issue of New American Writing.

What’s the most important advice you ever received? (Writerly or otherwise.)

I can’t really think of concrete advice I’ve been given, at least broad principles, that I’ve found especially useful. I had a personal revelation while working on my PhD at the British Library. I was thinking I’d give up on writing a difficult poem, when I realized that if I faced the same situation in my PhD–an established critic whose argument directly conflicted with mine, say–I’d have to find a way through it. I had to approach writing with all the rigor I approached writing criticism. That’s since been a touchstone.

If your writing were an animal, what animal would it be? Because…

I’d aspire for my writing to be like a dolphin, intelligent and elegant.

Image from Wikipedia
Image from Wikipedia

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Originally from Normal, Illinois, Carrie Etter has lived in England since 2001 and is a senior lecturer/associate professor of creative writing at Bath Spa University. She has published three collections, The Tethers (Seren, 2009), Divining for Starters (Shearsman, 2011), and Imagined Sons (Seren, 2014), and edited Infinite Difference: Other Poetries by UK Women Poets (Shearsman, 2010). Individual poems have appeared in The Iowa Review, The New Republic, The New Statesman, The Times Literary Supplement, and elsewhere. She blogs athttp://carrieetter.blogspot.com.

Thank you Carrie Etter, for taking the time away from poem making, marking, reviewing, and blogging for this little chat. And thank you, everyone, always, for reading. – PMC

The Writer’s Handful with Patricia Skalka

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Mondays + Writers = Finally something to look forward to.

Putting together your summer reading list? Looking for a smart, tough mystery to add to it? Check out the fist in the Dave Cubiak Mystery Series, DEATH STALKS DOOR COUNTY, the debut novel by Chicago author PATRICIA SKALKA. Publishers Weekly calls this book “A tight, lyrical first novel.” High praise indeed!

Here’s the thing, though, the book has already gone into its second printing (released just weeks ago!) and if you are looking for it in Chicago bookstores, you may find that it is already sold out in many places. Hang tight, though, and place your order; more are on the way! And for those of you who live in the Chicago area, you can hear Patricia read from the book at the fabulous Tuesday Funk Reading Series at Hopleaf on Clark in Andersonville (June 3), or head out to Winnetka to The Bookstall on June 12. To hold you over for a bit before then, here’s Patricia answering a couple of questions for us.

Welcome Patricia!

Did you write today? If yes, what? If no, why not?

I try to write every day, but today I did not. Death Stalks Door County, my debut mystery novel, was recently published and I was awash in promotional details. From there I met with my critique group and then spent the rest of the afternoon answering emails. My thoughts on writing and reading, however, can be found in a guest blog post that went online recently at Buried Under Books.Skalka-Death-Stalks

What’s the first thing (story, poem, song, etc.) you remember writing, and how old were you when you wrote it?

I started at about age 7, writing stories at the kitchen table — feet dangling above the floor, printing my tales on coarse lined paper that I’d staple together into “books.”

What are you reading right now?

Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 by Francine Prose, an absolute gem both in terms of story and writing.

What’s the most important advice you ever received? (Writerly or otherwise.)

My father once told me that anything worth having was worth sacrificing for. He wasn’t talking about writing but the advice certainly applies to anyone contemplating a career as a writer.

If your writing were an animal, what animal would it be? Because…

I’d have to say “cat” because I’ve done many different kinds of writing and so, like a cat, have found it necessary to be flexible and at home just about anywhere. At any rate, my cat usually dangles her tail over the keyboard as I write, and I have no doubt that she is sprinkling essence of cat into the work.

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Death Stalks Door County marks the fiction debut of award-winning, Chicago writer Patricia Skalka. A lifelong reader and writer, she turned to fiction following a successful career in nonfiction. Her many credits include: Staff Writer for Reader’s Digest, magazine editor, freelancer, ghost writer, writing instructor and book reviewer. (bio from author’s website www.PatriciaSkalka.com)

→Thanks, Patricia, for the chat, and continued good luck with your debut and the series. See you at Hopleaf. And thanks, everyone, as always, for reading. -PMc←

The Writer’s Handful with Don McNair

McNair300dpiHarrumph. Mondays. What’s to look forward to? Hey, how about a new series dedicated to brief conversations with writers of all genres, at all stages of their careers? Yes! How cool would that be? Very cool.

So welcome to THE WRITER’S HANDFUL. In this new series, a writer will answer five questions anyway they want to. The questions will stay the same each time. The writers will be different. And I will post the interviews on Mondays.

Mondays + Writers = finally something to look forward to.

Week three of The Writer’s Handful features Don McNair, a writer of journalism, fiction, and nonfiction, and a highly respected (and sought after) editor. His most recent book is Editor-Proof Your Writing: 21 Steps to the Clear Prose Publishers and Agents Crave. Full disclosure here, Don is my cousin, or second cousin, or cousin once-removed or something; however, I haven’t seen him in decades, but love to be able to share writing news and ideas with him long-distance.

Welcome Don!

Did you write today? If yes, what? If no, why not?

In a way, yes. I’m now a full-time freelance fiction editor, and spend four or more hours every day Editor-Proof Your Writing Cover(including weekends) editing for clients. I spent my forty-year career writing for magazines and public relations clients, and it’s hard to get me away from the word processor.

What’s the first thing (story, poem, song, etc.) you remember writing, and how old were you when you wrote it?

My first story was in grade school. The teacher asked us to write something about Mother’s Day, and the next day read my story to the class. A cute little girl came to me afterwards and said, “Donnie, I loved your story.” At that moment I realized I loved writing, and feared cute little girls.

What are you reading right now?

I have eclectic reading tastes, varying from cereal boxes to romance to adventure. Now I’m reading “No Easy Day,” by Mark Owen, the true story about the mission that killed Osama Bin Laden.

What’s the most important advice you ever received? (Writerly or otherwise.)

It’s hard to sift the “most important” advice from among the thousands of tidbits I’ve received. But for writing, I suppose it’s the advice to write about what I know. I’ve written ten published books—six novels, four non-fiction—and in most cases that’s what I’ve done. Research is a lot easier that way!

If your writing were an animal, what animal would it be? Because…

Boy, that’s a tough one. I could say “hound dog” because I sniff out the details, “cat” because I’m curious about so many things, or “workhorse” because I plow ahead through a confusing patch of ideas and research problems and usually end up with a smooth, fertile field. Or at least it seems that way to me. The ones who know for sure, of course, are my readers.

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Don McNair spent his working life editing magazines (eleven years), producing public relations materials for an international PR company (six years), and heading his own marketing communications firm, McNair Marketing Communications (twenty-one years). His creativity has won him three Golden Trumpets for best industrial relations programs from the Publicity Club of Chicago, a certificate of merit award for a quarterly magazine he wrote and produced, and the Public Relations Society of America’s Silver Anvil. The latter is comparable to the Emmy and Oscar in other industries.

McNair has written and placed hundreds of trade magazine articles and four published non-fiction how-to books. He considers his latest, Editor-Proof Your Writing: 21 Steps to the Clear Prose Publishers and Agents Crave, (published April 1, 2013 by Quill Driver Books) to be the cap of his forty-year writing and editing career. It’s an easy-to-use editing manual that helps writers edit, step by step, their first chapter, then use the knowledge gained to edit the rest of their work.

McNair has also written six novels; two young adults (Attack of the Killer Prom Dresses and The Long Hunter), three romantic suspenses (Mystery on Firefly Knob, Mystery at Magnolia Mansion, and co-authored Waiting for Backup!), and a romantic comedy (BJ, Milo, and the Hairdo from Heck). All are published internationally, and are available at his website, http://DonMcNair.com.

McNair, a member of Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, and the Editorial Freelancers Association, now concentrates on editing novels for others. He teaches two online editing classes.

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→Thanks, Cousin Don, for joining in our Monday conversations. And I look forward to reading your story collection The Man on The Park Bench. And thanks to you all, as always, for reading! -PMc←