The Idling Marathon Writer (#MyWritingProcess Blog Tour)

The little girl waiting for school bus in the 25 below, snowy dawn of Finnish countryside in 1960s wouldn’t have believed that almost 50 years later she’d be blogging about her writing process from a sunny beach in  distant “America”. In a language she had not yet heard of.

Cold winter morning in Finland

Had she been told how she’d land in that situation, she would’ve smiled in disbelief at the woman holding the crystal ball.  But had the woman told her that writing would be an integral part of her life, she would probably have accepted that as a possibility. The bag she was clutching held a treasure, her very first essay. It was in Finnish, of course, and detailed her first  adventure in Helsinki, the capital of the world.

It’s funny how life can turn out.  Lots of twists and turns.  So here I am a million miles later, on the beach, blogging away. I felt honored when Michelle, a gifted writer at The Green Study, invited me to participate in this blog tour. True to my Myers ENFP, I accepted without hesitation.  I value interactions with other writers and have already met a few new ones through this tour.

Roaming in Bahamas
Roaming the world

I’ve been writing all my life. It all started with that first school essay, followed by college papers, newsletter writing/editing and articles in journals and newspapers. And numerous white papers about intricacies in management and organizations. A few poems here and there. This was all in Finnish and/or Swedish, before my life in English began in my early 30s. That’s when I was thrown out into the big wild world. And I’ve been roaming ever since. Writing many more white papers, board papers, research publications and a couple of professional books too. We can call those “non-fiction”, although that might be a bit generous.

Anyway, three years ago I became my own boss. Now I can write papers of whatever color I like or none at all.  Consultants have that flexibility. To make money or not to make money.

My writing companion, Bumble
My writing companion, Bumble

So having that freedom, I allocated some time for bird watching, photography, walking on the beach… and started blogging in the summer of 2012.

After a year of interacting with many writers and reading their books, I caught the bug. Writing is contagious. I signed up for NaNoWriMo and wrote my first novel at the end of last year. In close collaboration with my little poodle, I might add, and cheered on by many blogging friends. Thanks friends for your support, you know who you are!

Each writer participating in this blog tour is invited to answer four specific questions. Here are my answers:

1) What am I working on right now? After my first novel came out earlier this year, I started working on two writing projects simultaneously: a poetry collection and an Africa-themed novel. I have a suspicion that my decision will turn out to be a mistake. None of the books might get finished any time soon. There is always something that needs to get done first to ensure bread on the table. Or something else that feels much more fun to write, such as reporting from the nature reserve. Writing books is hard work, and I know I’ll need to put much greater effort into my second novel than what I did previously. The bar is somehow much higher now.

2)     How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Elephant Grass blue
Temporary cover for inspiration. Wishful thinking?

This is a difficult question to which I don’t have an answer. My first novel is a light-hearted tale of a rescue dog, told by a dog to dog lovers. And a little bit of advocacy and fund-raising for animal rescue too. It doesn’t fall neatly in any one genre. The second one will be very different. Literary fiction strongly influenced by personal experiences of the writer. But not a memoir. Unless I rewrite it from scratch. That might still happen, of course, I never know with myself. Settling into writing in one specific genre is an unlikely proposition for me.

As to my poetry, it’s only different in the sense that I try to keep it short, simple, inspirational and positive. I just can’t write dark or tragic verse.  And I’m not gifted enough to write complex forms of poetry.

3)     Why do I write what I do? I had four potential ideas when I thought about NaNoWriMo last year.  To be honest, “Confessions of a Rescue Dog” was by far the easiest story to write. I thought I might actually manage to complete that project.  Getting this first book out and interacting with readers has been a great learning experience. It has also given me a little more confidence. So now I’m working on a much more demanding story, but it’s the one I have the most passion for. Wish me luck.

My poetry and my general blog writing are products of my mood and the thoughts occupying my mind any given day. I think it’s obvious. Total lack of focus. I have accepted that I don’t fit neatly in any one pigeon-hole. I post when I have something to say and spend more time reading other blogs than writing on my own.

4)     How does my writing process work?

I am a “marathon writer”. I get my best results when I write in long focused stretches under a tight deadline, even a self-imposed one. I’m able to write almost 24/7 if need be. That goes for any type of writing I’m working on, I’ve always been like that.

Bumble book site
Illustration from “Confessions of a Rescue Dog”

I don’t produce much when I have “all the time in the world” to get it done. You see, I can always do it later, mañana My writing shoes tend to get lost in that kind of environment. My challenge is to get motivated enough to put on my writing shoes, get running and believe there’s a deadline to be met. When all that works, the writing marathon is on.

Editing is something I need to force myself to do. I do some light editing when I write, but always have to do several rounds after the main body of writing is done. I recall one particularly challenging “white paper” that had 26 versions. That’s probably my record. I did five rounds of editing on my book before it went to the editor, and a couple more after it came back to me.

Next Tour Stop. It is my pleasure to pass on the “hashtag” to two writers, one firmly established and published in several countries, and another one whose books we’ll soon be able to enjoy. They have kindly agreed to post for this tour in the week of May 19.

Tish Farrell writes fiction and non-fiction for young adults. In her first life she studied Prehistory, did a Masters degree in Social Anthropology and then worked in museum education, most notably at the Ironbridge Gorge Museum in Shropshire, UK, the place where the world’s industrial revolution began. In her second life, during the 1990s, she lived in Africa, mostly in Kenya but also briefly in Zambia. It was during this time that she began to write story books for the African children’s literature market, spurred on by a small, persistent fury that were too few books that reflected young Africans’ lives in their increasingly urbanised world. In Kenya at that time there was no free schooling. Parents had to pay all primary school expenses including books. Textbooks were deemed essential. Story books were not. Most African publishing houses, then and now, survive by producing textbooks not fiction. In Nairobi during the ‘90s the book shops stocked mainly dated European children’s fiction (Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew stories, Enid Blyton) together with school texts of oral traditions. There were no contemporary young African heroes to be seen here. Tish’s first children’s book, Jessicah the Mountain Slayer, and a picture book Flame Tree Market were first published by Zimbabwe Publishing House in 1995, and later also by Phoenix Publishing in Kenya. Both books won prizes at the 1996 International Zimbabwe Book Fair, and have remained in print ever since.

Tish
Tish

Next came Sea Running and Joe Sabuni P I for Macmillan Pacesetters and Heinemann Junior African Writers respectively. Joe Sabuni, a spoof detective story, has also been translated into 6 Zambian languages as part of a (belatedly realised) project that allows Zambians to learn to read in their mother tongue rather than in their second language English. Now in her third life, Tish lives in the ancient market of Much Wenlock in the English Midlands. Recent works, Mantrap and Stone Robbers for Ransom Publishing, are novelised short stories aimed at encouraging reluctant teens to read. The stories are of adult interest, but are fast-paced and brief. She has also recently self-published a Kindle book Losing Kui. This is a new edition of a novella originally published in Cicada Magazine in the U.S.

You can find Tish at http://tishfarrell.wordpress.com/ and at http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Tish+Farrell Here are a few links to blog posts I believe will be useful reading for writers: http://wp.me/pKVAM-u0 Yum Kaax to the rescue? Or how to hook reluctant readers; http://wp.me/pKVAM-gm Elephants, E-Books and reluctant readers; http://wp.me/PKVAM-aW Writing Tips – Knowing your place. Tish has many more on her blog, make sure to visit!

JLPhillips
Jackie

Jackie Phillips lives in Alberta, Canada. She’s originally from the states, Wisconsin to be exact, although she has not lived there for many years. She lived in Texas for more than 20 years – and then moved to Canada’s land of cowboys and cattle! Jackie doesn’t have cattle, but she has a dog named Sam, her buddy, and two crazy cats. Jackie loves animals of all kinds and has been known to rescue some if they need it!

Jackie is a well known coffee addict, she loves it and needs it to function, especially in the mornings. She’s on a health kick right now, walking on her treadmill that she named Trudy, every day, eating healthier and exercising!

Jackie has been writing almost her whole life, first in journals, then short stories, poems, and now novels. Some of her short stories have been published at Etherbooks.com under the name JLPhillips. She has plans for the future (which she hasn’t revealed yet, but I’m sure they are awesome) and is getting ready for that at the moment.

Jackie started blogging 2 years ago and hasn’t looked back. She says she’s met some wonderful people on WordPress. Next week she’ll tell you what she’s working on right now!

Here are a few links to her blog and to some of her favorite posts. http://tobreatheistowrite.com/2014/04/09/weekly-writing-challenge-fifty/ and http://tobreatheistowrite.com/2012/09/25/the-taxi-dancer/ and http://tobreatheistowrite.com/2014/05/12/new-story-cc-and-the-fed/ . This last one is her new serial story! Don’t miss it!

I look forward to the tour stops next week in England and Canada! I hope you do too.

24 thoughts on “The Idling Marathon Writer (#MyWritingProcess Blog Tour)”

  1. What a wonderful post, I learned so much about you and your writing..and wow, that marathon writing must be exhausting! But how exciting to be working on a new book, I look forward to reading it when it’s done!

  2. Thanks Susan! It’s a bit weird and quite tiring to write the way I do, but that’s how I do my beet work. I guess I’m easily distracted so short sprints won’t work 🙂 I hope I can finish something by the end of this year…fingers crossed I’ll find my shoes. I loved your blog tour post as well!

  3. Enjoyed this description of your writing career. I’m like you, hopping from prose to poetry and my blog shows the same lack of focus. But, to rephrase that early 60s song, “It’s my blog and I’ll hop if I want to.”

  4. Life takes us far, as long as we take those steps 🙂
    …and by the sound of it you’ve taken quite a few. Europe, Africa, America (those are the ones I’ve read about so far) and who knows where else.
    And, of course, the journey continues.

    1. Yes, life has blessed me with quite a few steps in different directions…in the flow of life. I hope I’ve not yet used all of them 🙂

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