NiFtY Author Ebony Joy Wilkins

Ebony Joy Wilkins is the author of Sellout, a young adult novel featuring an African American girl who undergoes the aching process of finding herself. It’s fantastic. You should go read it. In the meantime, learn a little bit more about Ebony and her writing.

March 9, 2011

BH: For those in our studio audience who have not read my review of your book, can you tell us a little bit about Sellout?

EJW: Sellout is the story of an African American teenage girl, NaTasha Jennings, who gets caught between two worlds: the white world she’s grown up in and the black world her grandmother wants her to embrace and experience for her own good. NaTasha gets herself into an embarrassing situation at home and flees to Harlem with her Grandmother Tilly for a few weeks to hide from her problems. Unfortunately for NaTasha there is a whole new set of problems waiting for her when she starts life with Tilly. Sellout is the story of a summer that will change the way NaTasha views her world forever.

BH: NaTasha endures some pretty intense bullying from her peers when she goes to Harlem . I thought this was horrible, naturally, but then started thinking about what NaTasha essentially puts herself through by trying to blend in with her all-white community in the suburbs. Which was the most difficult for you to write about from an emotional standpoint, and from a writing craft standpoint?

EJW: NaTasha is almost living a lie, by trying to fit into her world rather than leaving her stamp on it, like so many others feel they have to do. It was difficult for me to take a step back and allow NaTasha to navigate her own experience as an outsider, both at home and in an unfamiliar setting, without stepping in to rescue her. It was important for her to carve her own paths and I tried to remove myself in order for her to do so. This story is loosely based on my own experience, combined with stories of friends’ experiences, but reliving the feelings through NaTasha’s eyes was at times painful.

BH: Your next book is told from the point-of-view of a teenage boy. Is it hard to write from a male perspective? Do you have any tips for authors who wish to write from the perspective of the opposite sex?

EJW: I have three brothers and a host of male cousins and friends whose personalities I have stolen bits and pieces from to combine into one character, Jamal, who I love writing about so far. I started by developing a character plot at the suggestion of a former professor of mine, Sarah Weeks, and wrote down as much about Jamal as I could. At this point, I feel like I know him personally, what he thinks about and how he will react in most situations. When I sit down at my writing space, usually a comfy chair in my living room instead of my office desk, I put myself into his head as much as possible. At times it is a struggle to remove myself from his interactions with the other characters, but I feel it is going well so far. I guess we’ll see once I am ready to submit the story for publication.

BH: Tell us a little about your path to publication.

EJW: I completed an MFA in creative writing for children from New School University and Sellout started as my thesis project in the program. I worked and re-worked the story over many times, with great feedback from authors like Daphne Grab, Lisa Greenwald, Lara Saguisag, and Siobhan Vivian, who were in class with me. When I felt ready to submit, I sent the manuscript to David Levithan at Scholastic, who was a former professor of mine, and he expressed an interest in Sellout and said it was ready. In class we learned about the importance of having agent representation, and at the referral of Daphne, I found my agent Alyssa Eisner Henkin, and the rest is history!

BH: What does your workspace look like?

EJW: This is a photo of my official writing space, but I find I get more writing done in a comfy chair or lounging on a pile of pillows in my living room with the TV on mute in the background. At my desk space I have two bookcases filled with books on my to-read list, inspirational quotes, photos of family and friends who are super supportive of me, a 1960s-something typewriter that was gifted to me by my friend Claire, and all of my files that I probably don’t need to file anymore. The photo on the wall is of the NYC skyline, a.k.a. the concrete jungle where dreams are made of (Jay-Z).

BH: What are you reading now?

EJW: I read more YA lit than anything and recently finished The Hunger Games series, which honestly makes me want to bury my head in the sand –amazing storytelling! I also read my first graphic novel, Children of the Sea, which was a really interesting introduction into those types of stories. I just started The Neighborhood: Tiptoeing into poverty and finding hope by my friend, and former colleague, Leslie Alig Collins. I also am juggling many research texts, like The Handbook of Research on children’s and young adult literature, since I am back in school working on a PhD in education. My dream is to be teaching writing courses and writing full-time some day soon.

Ebony's 1960 Futura Typewriter

EJW: 1. Words don’t appear on the page on their own –WRITE! 2. There is no writer’s block, just excuses we put in the way of our own path 3. Write about what you know.

BH: Any words of advice to aspiring writers for keeping the hope alive?

EJW: 1. Completing a manuscript is the hardest part. Most writers come up with a lot of ideas, but ‘finishing’ and following through with a story is the key. You will have to revise a lot during and after, but if you don’t have anything to revise…keep going! 2. Put your work out there (contests, submissions, critique groups, etc.) for others to see. You can get feedback that will help push you along in the right direction. 3. Everyone has an opinion and you can’t please everyone. So, spend your time wisely and make sure you love your work first. 4. Get connected with other writers!

BH: Thank you so much, Ebony, for sharing your books and your advice on writing. I look forward to reading your next book!

For hands-down one of the best author websites I’ve seen, visit Ebony’s by clicking here.

Also, Ebony welcomes emails! –

NiFtY Author Caragh O’Brien

A few weeks ago, I read this excellent book. The first couple of chapters, though, were pure torture, and not for the reasons you might think. The eerie coincidences between the first chapter of this book, Birthmarked, and the first chapter of my own manuscript were so similar it was sickening. (To read my review, click here.)

After I got over my nausea, I really got into the story. Caragh O’Brien has crafted an excellent tale, and in the interview below, she’ll tell us a little about it, and a little about her writing in general.

Interview with Caragh M. O’Brien March 3, 2011

BH: We have a really exciting sequel to look forward to in November, but in the meantime, can you tell us a little bit about Birthmarked here (for those in our audience who haven’t already read my review)?

COB:  Sure.  Let me first say thanks, Beth, for inviting me by.  Your review made me laugh so much when I first read it.  I was completely drawn to your honesty and the awful coincidences between our books.  Birthmarked is the story of Gaia, a teen midwife who is compelled to “advance” babies into a privileged society within a walled city.  In a dystopian future after climate change, Gaia’s society is divided by the wall into haves and have-nots.  Justice is uncompromising, and Gaia spends much of the book trying to save her parents from the Enclave.  It’s a pretty dark, twisted, fun book.

BH: Tell us a little about your path to publication.

COB:  Starting when?  Ha.  The short version is that I wrote a lot, quit to become a teacher, started writing again because I couldn’t help it, and then wrote Birthmarked while I was on a leave of absence from teaching.  I sent out forty-five email queries to agents, received four offers of representation, and ended up with Kirby Kim of William Morris Endeavor.  He sent out the book, and a month later we had three offers.  The best was a three-book deal with Nancy Mercado at Roaring Brook, and I was delighted.

BH: When you wrote Birthmarked, did you plan to create a series?

COB:  No.  I thought Birthmarked was a stand-alone.  When Nan offered me a three-book deal, I discovered it was a trilogy.

BH: Your blog post about Birthmarked being translated and published in Spain is truly inspiring (click here to read it)—even more amazing is that you got to meet Eva Rubio, the woman whose blog and Facebook page started the fire. What can other writers learn from your experience here?

COB: It was such an unusual situation, and I was so fortunate to meet Eva and her friends in Salamanca.  It isn’t the sort of thing I could have ever prepared for.  I suppose it helped that I sometimes do a Google search for my book, and when reviews turn up in other languages, I’m willing to push that translate button to see what’s there.  As you know, I’ll sometimes write to express my thanks to a blogger who posts an outstanding review, and that follows for overseas bloggers, too.  I am genuinely grateful for the kind reviews Birthmarked has received.

BH: What other project ideas do you hope to pursue after the Birthmarked series is finished? (Um, not too many details please…although, what are the chances we’d have another duplicate Agnes birth scene?)

COB:  We are doomed to write identical books no matter what we do, Beth.  I’m pondering three different ideas, all YA, but they’re inchoate at this stage.  I need to finish up a solid draft of Book 3 before I can let my mind go play in a new place.

BH: What does your workspace look like?


COB:  I have a MacBook on my lap.  Sometimes I sit on the plaid couch in the library where I can see the gerbils, and sometimes I sit on the brown couch in the living room where I can see the slope of the yard.

BH: What is your favorite book on the craft of writing?

COB:  I learned from Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft. Other than that, I read a lot of fiction so really everything is a lesson in craft.

BH: What is the best writing advice anyone has given you?

COB:  I’ve been thinking about this lately, actually.  The most important writing advice I received was from Ed Epping, an Art teacher at Williams college, when he told me “Paint only what is interesting to you.”  It freed me.  It redefined what art was supposed to be.  I never again had to waste time on what I thought was unimportant, or if I did, I understood it was an assignment for someone else, not for me.  I can still do boring work for others if I must, but there’s no room for it in my own writing, ever.  On a practical writing level, this means I skip any sentence, paragraph, scene or book that doesn’t interest me.

Thanks again, Beth, for having me by, and good luck with your own writing.

BH: Caragh, thanks for visiting, and for laughing at the sad coincidences between our books. Now that I’m not throwing up about it anymore, I can laugh with you!

To visit Caragh’s website, click here. To check out Birthmarked on Amazon, click here.

NiFtY Author: Marilyn Meredith

Whoo-hoo! First NiFtY (Not Famous…Yet) Author Interview of 2011! Meet Marilyn Meredith, author of the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries and the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series.

BH: Tell us a little about your latest book, Invisible Path.

MM: The official blurb is: The only suspect in the murder of a popular Native American is another Indian with the unlikely name of Jesus Running Bear. Once again, because of her own Indian heritage, Deputy Tempe Crabtree helps with the investigation which also leads to the discovery of hidden militia group’s camp deep in the forest. Following the killer’s trail, puts Tempe and Jesus in jeopardy. Besides being a mystery it is also about many forms of prejudice.

BH:  You write  two mystery series – are both series current, and if so, is it ever a challenge to keep the characters straight as you’re writing?

MM: In the Tempe Crabtree series, most of the story is told in close third person though the eyes, thoughts and feeling of Tempe, though in Invisible Path, the first chapter is told through Jesus Running Bear’s point-of view.

In the Rocky Bluff P.D. crimes series, though the story focuses on one or two members of the RBPD, we learn what’s going on through many others.

A new book in the RBPD series comes out in the beginning of the year and a new book in the Tempe series always comes out in the fall.

The settings for both are quite different. Tempe lives and works in the mountains, Rocky Bluff is situated in a beach community in Southern California.

BH: Tempe Crabtree sounds like a fascinating personality. Where did you get the inspiration for her character?

MM: Tempe came from three women I met over a short period of time. The first was a resident deputy working the area where I live. I interviewed her for a personality piece for the newspaper. A female police officer I did a ride-along with was the second. She was a single mom and the only woman on that department. From about 3 a.m. until 6 a.m. she had no calls and she poured her heart out to me. The third was a beautiful Indian woman I spent a couple of hours with who had grown up on the nearby reservation. Together, these women became Tempe Crabtree.

BH: Which of your characters would you say is the most like you?

MM: Since I’m a great-grandmother and never been in law enforcement none are really like me. About the only personality traits of my main female characters I can claim is independence, loyalty and a certain amount of stubbornness.

BH: This might seem like a silly question, but I’m honestly curious: why are your Deputy Tempe books written under the name Marilyn Meredith, and your Rocky Bluff books written as F. M. Meredith?

MM: Of course Marilyn Meredith is my real name. When I first started writing the Rocky Bluff series which is often from a male point-of-view, I thought using my first initials might make male readers read the books more readily. However, the first publisher of the series put my photo on the back of the book and ruined the illusion. Since I began that way, I’ve just kept it up.

BH: Tell us about your path to publication.

MM:  It was a rocky path full of pit holes and blocked by boulders. My first book, an historical family saga, was rejected nearly thirty times before it was accepted. (Believe me, I rewrote it several times between rejections.) From there it was one thing after another. To make a long story shorter, I’ve dealt with a couple of crooked publishers, had two publishers die, one decided not to be in the business any longer, five different agents who were unable to sell my books, and finally I started looking for publishers on my own.

BH: That is a rocky path! Do you have a set writing schedule?

MM: I write in the morning, that’s when my brain works the best. I think about whatever I’m writing off and on during the day. I usually do editing and promoting in the afternoon and evenings.

BH: What is your favorite book on the craft of writing?

MM: I’ve had many over the years, but the one that I enjoyed the most was Stephen King’s On Writing.

BH: Any words on advice to aspiring writers for keeping the hope alive?

MM: Don’t ever give up. Go to writing conferences, read books on writing, join a critique group, and most of all write, write, write.

BH: Thank you, Marilyn, for answering our questions and giving us some insights into your writing life!

If you’d like more information on Marilyn Meredith and her books, you can visit her website here, and her blog here. Here’s a link for her latest book, Invisible Path.

NiFtY Author: Cindy Sample

Cindy Sample doesn’t quite fit the mold for my typical, Not-Famous-Yet author interview. For one, she’s jumped ahead of the rest of us and actually published her book, and two, she’s a romance/mystery writer. She’s also funny – much funnier than I am – so without further blather, here’s the interview!

BH: So, published! How does it feel?

CS:  It feels wonderful.  Sort of like giving birth to my children.  It just took longer.

BH: Tell us a little about your book, Dying for a Date.

CS:  Dying for a Date is a humorous romantic mystery about a single mom who gets talked into joining a matchmaking service called “The Love Club,” the safe alternative to on-line dating. I discuss the trials of dating as a single mom, and throw in a few dead bodies just to keep it entertaining.

BH: Laurel McKay, the heroine in Dying for a Date, sounds funny, charming, and feisty. Is she based on anyone you know in real life?

CS:  There is a slight possibility that my protagonist is based on me twenty years ago.  I was 39 and a newly single working Mom as well.

BH: What was the greatest challenge in finishing Dying for a Date and getting it ready for publication?

CS:   The hardest part was letting it go and knowing I could never revise one more word again.

BH: Can you tell us a little about your path to publication? Did you get an agent first, or did you go directly to a publisher?

CS:  I did get an agent and we had great responses from NY publishers but February 2009 was not a great time to sell a mystery series from a debut author.  I ended up receiving offers from two smaller publishers.  I liked the feedback that I received from the other authors published with L&L Dreamspell and chose to go with them. It’s been a great experience working with my publisher. They did a great job of editing and I love the cover they designed.

BH: Where do you get most of your ideas and inspiration?

CS:  I seem to have an incredibly fertile imagination. Right now I have more plot concepts than I would ever have time to complete in this lifetime. An example would be one time when I was in a spa and they asked if I was allergic to shellfish.  Minutes later I had concocted a plot where I killed someone allergic to shellfish with a seaweed wrap.  Yes, I know I’m kind of strange but they say mystery authors are very well balanced because we just off the people who annoy us on paper.

BH: Are you currently working on another project, or are you focusing more on publicity for Dying for a Date, or something else entirely?

CS:  Right now I’m marketing and writing.  I’ve been planning events all over the 4 county area.  I’ll be visiting several local libraries in the area and giving presentations along with several other authors from Capitol Crimes, the Sacramento chapter of Sisters in Crime.  We’re a group of mystery writers (published and pre-published) as well as mystery fans. I’m also attempting to squeeze in time to complete the sequel, Dying for a Dance, a murder mystery that takes place in the glamorous world of competition ballroom dancing.

BH: Do you have a set writing schedule, or are you more of a “when the mood hits” kind of girl?

CS:  I am a very social person so the most difficult part of writing for me is to sit my butt down in my chair.  What I’ve discovered works best is to block out an entire week and just write.  On those weeks I can start at 8 AM and work until midnight almost every day.  One of my friends refers to my rather unusual technique as binge writing.

BH: Binge writing – I love it. What does your writing workspace look like?

CS:  I have a beautiful office overlooking Folsom Lake.  The walls are crammed with books and photos.  But where I write is usually in the kitchen just because it’s cozy.  Plus it’s closer to my coffeepot.

BH: You’re the first mystery writer I’ve interviewed. Can you share anything that’s unique to the mystery-writing process?

CS:  A friend of mine who has authored over 40 non-fiction books and is working on her first novel says mysteries are by far the most complex books to write. You have to ensure that your clues are subtle yet give the reader the ability to guess who the villain is, along with red herrings to lead them astray.

BH: Who is your favorite author?

CS:   Too many to choose from.  Of the greats I think Leon Uris and James Clavell.  In the mystery/thriller spectrum, I enjoy Michael Connolly, Lisa Scottoline, and Robert Crais. In Women’s fiction Jennifer Crusie, Claire Cook and Jennifer Weiner are my favorites.

BH: How about your favorite book on the writing craft?

CS:   I have two full shelves of books on the craft of writing, particularly mysteries.  I think my favorite is Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass.

BH: I’m already drawing comparisons between your novel and Janet Evanovich’s writing. Have you read her books? What do you think of them?

CS:  I love her Stephanie Plum series, at least most of the books. When I was pitching my book I used the pitch that my protagonist, Laurel McKay, was like Stephanie Plum as a soccer mom.

BH: One of your strengths as a writer is your sense of humor. Do you have any tips for other writers on how to develop humor in their writing?

CS:  For some reason whatever can go wrong normally does go wrong in my life and I learned years ago that the most annoying mishaps can usually be turned into a wonderfully funny anecdote. It’s rare for anything to bother me because I know that it will become an entertaining story down the road. Many writers keep daily journals. If you’re interested in incorporating humor in your work, jot down those things that strike you as funny during the course of a normal day.  You’ll be surprised how much material you end up with.

BH: What is the best advice anyone has given you with regards to your writing?

CS:   The three P’s which are persistence, persistence, persistence. My first version of Dying for a Date was at best, mediocre.  But after taking classes and attending mystery conferences, reading every recommended book on fiction, reading and analyzing the work of my favorite authors, and being persistent with my own numerous revisions, I’m thrilled with the published version.  It is an enormous amount of work to publish a novel but the joy it brings is unparalleled. Follow your passion, be patient, and definitely be persistent.

It sounds like there are two alternate P’s there: passion and patience.

Thank you so much, Cindy, for joining me for an interview. Free t-shirts to the studio audience! (Um, there is no studio audience. And no t-shirts.)

For more information on Cindy and her writing, as well as Where To Buy Her Book (so cool!), you can visit her website.

NiFtY Interview with Darryl Varner

Darryl Varner, organizer of the Sacramento Writers Group, is prolific,  funny, and…published. After a negative experience with the “traditional” publishing route (i.e. literary agent and publishing company), Darryl started self-publishing his books.

I met Darryl when I joined the Sacramento Writers Group last year, and have been impressed with not only his writing and his ideas, but his persistence in keeping the group going. Without further blah blah, I give you…Darryl!

BH: Tell me a little about your writing. How many books have you written?

DV:  Officially, I’ve done five novels. Unofficially, I couldn’t even hazard a guess as to how many books I’ve written over the years. The first published book, Tracker, was co-written with a buddy, John McLean. It was a lot of fun having someone to share ideas and work out plot twists, but, due to our schedules, it actually took us over five years to finish it. I won’t go that route again. We did a couple of book signings and speaking appearances, which, again, was a lot of fun. John and I have personalities that naturally “clicked” in front of a group. We were kind of the Abbot and Costellos of bookdom.

BH: What did you learn from Tracker?

DV: The finished novel won a “best book” award when it came out in 2003 and was picked up for the permanent collection of the San Diego City Library. So, on one hand, it really was a shame we weren’t able to work things out to do a sequel. On the flipside, though, there were compromises which I still regret. I think it’s much better in the long run for a writer to work alone or, if you have the resources, to work with a paid staff where you can call the shots and have others do some of the heavy lifting. There’s a lot to be said for that approach for anyone who’s trying to develop a franchise in this business.

BH: After Tracker, you wrote the Methridia Chronicles, right?

DV: Yes. It was about five years later that I started writing a book entitled Globesplitter. I really enjoyed this one. It was a story that pretty much wrote itself. All I had to do was find time to sit down at the computer and whack it out. It’s set in the 1890s with a main character ala the Jules Verne/Edgar Rice Burroughs mold. A wealthy British “tinker”, Jonas Christianson, builds a machine that drills deep into the earth’s crust, breaking through to an ancient underground civilization. I just let my imagination run with it. Lots of action. It was fun inventing a hidden culture. That book took me, maybe, six weeks at the max to finish. Almost immediately, I did a sequel, King of the Moon in about the same length of time. A couple of months after that, I wrote a third novel which is entitled Wizard at the Gate. So, in essence, within a few months I’d done a complete trilogy. Not quite a year after wrapping up Wizard I woke up one morning with an idea for a fourth book and about a month and a half later, I’d finished The Third Gate. I decided to wrap them all under a blanket title of The Methridia Chronicles, named for the underground kingdom where they took place. One thing that I found especially satisfying was that these stories could be read by any age group. I’m certainly no prude, but this confirmed my opinion that it’s quite possible to write a LOT without including a single four-letter word or gratuitous sex scene.

BH: Do you think you will ever publish an e-book? Or have you already, and I just don’t know about it?

DV: I have put all publication on hold for the moment. Right now, I’m working out the “best” way for me to market my stuff and I’m not in any hurry to jump the gun. I will say, though, that there’s a lot to be appreciated by going the e-book route, not the least is the ratio of royalties to publishing expenses. Through electronic publishing it’s quite possible for an author to bring in a very respectable profit without having to have his audience spend an arm and a leg to purchase the book.

BH: What benefits do you see in self-publishing?

DV: In a word: control. Simple as that. Providing that an author is able to work out distribution – which is always an issue, regardless of how a book’s published – it can be a very good way to go. Before the Internet, “self-published” was pretty much synonymous with “vanity press”. That’s not necessarily the case today.

BH: Can you share a little bit with us about your current work-in-progress?

DV: At present, I have so many stories started that I don’t really know which one to develop. I “like” them all, but it’s similar to dating several women at the same time. Making the commitment to one is the hard part. Sooner or later, something will strike my fancy and I’ll do it. Likely as not, it will end up being a complete surprise to me when it comes along.

BH: When did you realize that you were a writer?

DV: In ninth grade. I “forgot” about a poetry assignment until I walked into my 3rd period English class on the morning when it was due.

“Wow, I completely forgot to bring it. Is it okay if I go back home and get it?”

Well, apparently the request didn’t sound unreasonable, so my teacher said it was okay and, as long as I got back before the class ended, she’d accept it. So, I wrote a poem in my head on the walk home, typed it out as soon as I got there, and was back at school in time to turn it in. Ain’t I a stinker?

BH: Where do you get most of your ideas and inspiration?

DV: I plagiarize Stephen King and Tom Clancy. 🙂 Not really. Dreams are a very frequent resource. Also, I’m constantly tuning into snatches of random conversations when I’m out and about. I write Sherlock Holmes stories because I read everything Doyle wrote and I wanted more. Doyle certainly wasn’t up to putting anything new out, so I decided I’d have to take it on as a do-it-yourself project. Ideas are never a problem. Finding time to get them on paper’s another issue, unfortunately.

BH: Do you have a set writing schedule, or do you wait for inspiration?

DV: I write 1) when I’m in the mood and 2) when I have time. The “set” part of my schedule is that I write a minimum of at least one complete scene – generally a chapter – whenever I write. If I start a second or a third chapter, I’ll almost always finish it before I call it quits. I do a little spot revision as I’m working, but generally most of my stuff ends up pretty much as I wrote it in draft form.

BH: Which of your characters do you think is most like you?

DV: I don’t write about boring characters. Can’t say any of them are much like me.

BH: Aww. Not true. What does your writing workspace look like?

Darryl's Office

DV: Here are a few snapshots of where I write when I’m home. I wander between my library/AV room and my office. I think it’s important to have everything I need within reach, so my printer’s close at hand in the office and “the world’s best critic”, a heavy duty shredder, is a few steps away in the library. I have a great sound system, too. For me, I find that I often work best when I have music playing in the background. Generally, I listen to light classical stuff. I love rock, of course, but I can get sidetracked by listening to the lyrics, so I almost never play it while I’m writing.

When I want to get out of the house, I tend to head to either Barnes & Noble or Panera Bread. Lately, I’ve been favoring Panera because they have more variety on the menu. Now, if I could only get them to take my Barnes & Noble membership card, I’d really be a happy camper. When the weather’s nice I’ll often drag my laptop out to my deck. That’s where my photo was taken, as a matter of fact.

BH: You started the Sacramento Writers Group in 2009, right? Where do you see the group going in the future?

DV: Super Bowl. No question about it. We just gotta get our defensive squad in shape.

Actually, that’s a difficult question to answer. I’ve been disappointed that it’s been pretty much impossible to develop a core group of writers who will turn up faithfully month after month. That sort of on-going input is what’s really helpful for a writer who’s seeking meaningful help with a project. I hope it will eventually happen, but, honestly, I don’t have a clue how to make sure that it will ever come about. I find that odd, too, since I had a group in southern California that worked for years with the same group of writers showing up like clockwork.

BH: What are some of the problems or issues that go with being a group organizer?

DV: Developing a true membership is at the top of the list. Too many “joiners” and not enough “show-uppers”. I’ve gotten very jaded as to the intros of people who are joining via the Internet, too. As soon as I see the word “passionate” in someone’s bio (as in “I’m very passionate about blah-blah-blah) I figure I’ll maybe see that person at one meeting and that will be the end of it. Maybe it’s like relationships in general. Passion will carry things along only for so long. I suspect a lot of people would prefer to find a new source of inspiration rather than put out the time and effort it takes to actually develop a talent to the point where it’s actually worth something. Then again, there are a lot of “groups” in the area. Maybe a lot of people are just looking for cheap entertainment. Who knows?

BH: What is your favorite book on the writing craft?

DV: The Elements of Style.

Darryl's Library

BH: You mentioned writing Sherlock Holmes stories. I read one that I would love to see published. Do you ever submit your shorter pieces to journals or magazines?

DV: To be truthful, Beth, I’ve never submitted anything to magazines. There’s just not enough of me to go around. I’ve thought about getting an assistant to help me with that sort of thing but so far I haven’t been able to justify the expense. Maybe one of these days, though.

BH: Not only do you run the Sacramento Writers Group, but you’re the organizer for at least two others, is that correct? Where do you find the time for all these pursuits, in addition to your own photography and writing?

DV: I don’t sleep and I strap a feedbag to my face so I can eat while I’m on the run.

BH: What is the best advice anyone has given you with regards to your writing?

DV: Don’t quit your day job.

BH: At first I wanted to write off that advice as totally useless. But then I realized: this writing thing isn’t easy. If you’re filthy rich, go ahead and quit, live off your saved money in a sweet villa on the Mediterranean, and write your little heart out. But if you’re like the rest of us? Work, and then write. Go to sleep. Get up. Repeat.

Darryl, thank you so much for the interview. It was a pleasure!

Blog business note: no post on Monday, as I’ll be in the beautiful eastern Sierras, editing Savage Autumn and critiquing other fabulous pieces of writing for my writer’s groups. Oh, and relaxing with family, hiking, and trying not to get attacked by crazy insects. 🙂