Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Interview with Dawn Maria

Hello everyone! Grab a seat and get comfy because today we're having a chat with Dawn Maria of Scottsdale, Arizona.

Welcome to We Do Write, Dawn. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I'm married (just celebrated our 20 year anniversary), have two teen boys (17 & 14, which means I'm drinking more) and am a proud pet owner (one cat, two dogs, everything I own is covered with pet hair). By day I work for the school district as a Para-Educator. I'm a one-on-one aide to a special needs student. I love my day job. I've been writing since I was a kid. I taught myself to type on my grandparents' Smith Corona, which sits in my office today. I've always wanted to be a writer, but finally got serious about it five years ago when I started taking Creative Writing classes at Phoenix College. I graduated from their Creative Writing Program in December 2008.

And you're actually a published writer. I read you've had some of your work published in magazines, and you've got a short story coming out this spring. Can you tell us about that?

I'm just beginning to see more of my work get accepted in the last year. One of the goals I set for myself was so make sure I send out at least one submission a month. It's a realistic goal for my lifestyle (day job, family and writing life) and keeps me moving toward my dream of getting my novel published. It feels good to have something out there too. I always feel hopeful when I submit. Rejections can be tough, but the more you send stuff out, the more likely you'll get something accepted.

That's good advice. And now you're writing a novel! What is the name and genre of your manuscript?

The book is called WHERE ARE THEY NOW? and it's Chick Lit (I'm not ashamed to say, though the new moniker I keep seeing is Upmarket Women's Fiction). The book explores the distance between what we think we want from life and what we actually have through the adventures of four women who used to know each other in the 80's and are brought back into each other's lives unexpectedly.

Sounds like something I'd like to read. Is your manuscript complete or still a work in progress?

I finished my book, but I'm in another round of revision, so I guess it's correct to say WIP.

Do you have a word count goal, and how far along are you at this point?

This round of revision should add another 25,000 words to the current 58,000. I'm getting deeper into the characters in this revision and slowing down the pace. I missed a lot of great opportunities in the current draft.

What is your next step when you're done with revisions?

Once I'm done, the next step is finding an agent. I submitted to about fifteen last year and had a few requests for partials, but not a full. I made the typical emerging writer mistake of submitting before the MS was really at its best.

I've read that happens to a lot of aspiring writers. We're so anxious to get our material out there that we jump off the diving board before the pool is filled. Another good tip for everyone out there - make sure your work is actually ready. So, do you have a critique group or beta readers, or do you self-edit?

I have a former classmate who reads for me, but I'm hoping to get connected with a novel writing group. I have a wonderful accountability partner, Deni, whom I met on Twitter, and we check in daily to motivate each other. I'm getting better and better at self-editing each year, but there is no substitute for fresh eyes looking at your work.

That's true. What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

Right now finding the time to sit down and write is the hardest part. During the summer, when I'm off work, I've attended writer's residencies and retreats, usually for two weeks. That time made all the difference. The point I'm at in my revision requires that kind of concentrated time and I don't have it. I write during my break at work and before and after work when I can. The problem with after work is that's when I'm in mom-mode. Life with teens is as busy as it was with babies and toddlers, which has been a real shock.

I'm not good at staying up until midnight, so I feel very frustrated. Spring Break hits in a couple of weeks and I will likely sequester myself in my office. I find that once I sit down, getting to work comes easily.

Any tips you’ve learned about writing you’d like to share?

I think it's important to understand what your creative process is and work with it. Often writers go to conferences and hear about other people's processes and then walk away feeling they're doing something wrong. Trust your process. I don't write everyday and that's okay. I write Monday through Friday. Often I do end up writing on the weekend, and if so, that's bonus time. I think frequency is more important than quantity. However, the more time you spend writing, the more work you'll produce. Know what you own demons are. My big one is time management, so I focus on getting my butt in the seat, even if it's brief.

I have a notepad that has the days of the week on it. I try to sit down every Sunday and map out what I hope to get done M-F. Because my time is so limited, this helps ensure I don't forget something and quiets the to-do list voice in my head.

Who are your inspirations?

If I had to pick one book that has inspired and taught me the most about craft, I'd have to say Tim O'Brien's THE THINGS THEY CARRIED. I'm drawn to unusual structure and that book turns structure on its ear. It's fiction that reads like non-fiction, a novel that reads like short stories. A novel really is a blank canvas that you can fill how you want. That's so cool! We get to make those choices and that part of the process is exciting to me.

Anne Lamott's BIRD BY BIRD is a resource I return to again and again. It's the best reference out there.

In my reading life, I'm a huge Jane Austen fan. I also read everything Jane Green and Claire Cook put out. They're two women's fiction writers whose work and careers inspire me.

Let’s get to know you on a deeper level. Can you name three things about yourself people may not know (or maybe they do know but they are special traits/hobbies/quirks)?

1.      Well, even though I read and write Chick Lit, I'm a huge Science Fiction geek. Star Wars, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, I love them all and am very active in a fantastic online community, Galactic Watercooler (GWC). I have a couple geek quotes in my novel and will likely have a geek character in the next one. Who knows, maybe one day I'll try and write a Sci-Fi novel.
2.      I am one of those obsessive scrapbook moms. Please don't hate me because my sons' baby books are done! I love scrapbooking and get out to special events to crop whenever I can. A photo album scrapbook is the story of your real life.
3.      Quirks? I am very anal about how the dishwasher is loaded. What's weird about this is that I'm a complete slob. The kitchen (or the entire house for that matter) can be a mess, but I'll make sure the dishwasher is loaded efficiently. I think it has something to do with being a visual person. It drives my husband and sons crazy because I always redo their work.

Hehehe, that is kind of quirky, but endearing. Here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Who would you like to give a shout out to?

My husband and sons are very supportive. They all understand what "I'm working!" means now (though it took a while). They also provide great material for my blog.

I have to give a shout out to my BFF, Kathryn, because she comments on every blog post I write, God bless her. My friends from GWC are also incredibly supportive. It means so much to me when people take time out of their busy schedule and read my blog.

And finally, where can people find you online?

First there's my website and blog- Method to the Madness

I love Twitter and am on it all the time. Please say hello to me @DawnMariaAZ

I've avoided Face Book, but will probably join in the summer when I'm on break from work. I am so distracted by Twitter, I'm scared to add another website to play around in!

Yes, I know what you mean. But I'm glad you took the time to be distracted by this interview, because it's been great getting to know you. Thank you so much for chatting, and I wish you much success with your novel! Keep us up to date with any developments!


Gina said...

Great interview! Sounds as if she's identified the first round mistakes well for other aspiring authors out there....I mean because really, experience (whether on your own or from another) is the best teacher. Best of luck on the WIP and thanks for sharing a bit about yourself! =0)

Annie McMahon said...

I love reading author interviews. This one was no exception. I was just going to take a look at it, since I'm at work, but I ended up reading the whole thing!

Good luck with publishing your book. The plot seems interesting. I want to read it!!