Guest Post: How One Single Mom Claimed Her Own Writing Space

If you know me at all, you know why this author’s guest post spoke to me. Both THE GLASS WIVES and THE GOOD NEIGHBOR feature single mom main characters who, amidst unique and universal struggles, have heart and moxie. Just like the very real author, Tracey Scott-Townsend. 

If you think you can’t find the time or space to write, read Tracey’s guest post again. Then stop kvetching and get back to work.

I did.

Amy xo

A Room of My Own

by Tracey Scott-Townsend

Rebecca Cover ontheway frontWhen I became a single parent my sons were aged nine, seven, and four. My daughter was one. My youngest son was having difficulties and I felt guilty that the marriage breakdown might have made them worse. After an initial surge of euphoria I succumbed to depression, feeling a failure for allowing my marriage to break down and maybe damaging my children. I’d never intended to be a single parent.

Swallowing my pride, I went to the doctor. Within weeks I felt better. Spring came and my kids were brilliant, we pulled together as a team. Their father visited every weekend at first, until he moved too far away, and we often still did things together as a family.

We got used to being on our own more and I was stronger than I thought. But I lived in a crowded house with my children and it curbed my creativity. For a couple of years I had to manage making artwork (I was a visual artist prior to 2010), alongside my toddler daughter, (making sure she didn’t eat too much paint!). I kept my writerly creativity going by making up stories on a nightly basis to my two youngest as I tried to get them to sleep. I also spent hours reading stories and poems to them all when things started to get out of control. It stopped us all shouting.

We moved house and I slept in a tiny room which I had to take the door off due to lack of space. There was only a curtain to hide behind. And nowhere I could leave out work or have any thinking space.

What gave me the idea to get a shed? I don’t really know, but I remember going to view a variety of them at the shed-yard. The smell of sun-warmed wood, the soft silence within the enclosed space as I closed the door. The out-letting of relaxed breath. My own little space. I can breathe now.

My shed arrived in our garden, a superb 8ft by 14ft model with three windows along one side. Somewhere to work. When my daughter was at nursery and the boys at school I constructed and planned and produced. It was hard breaking off at 3 o’clock. I collected them from school, prepared their food, helped with homework, read with them and put them to bed. Sometimes I’d go out to the shed again in the night, a magical alone-ness. It helped me think.

I had to sell the large shed and get a smaller one for the garden of the house we moved to next. 6ft by 8ft, it was barely big enough to make art in but had enough space for a desk and a lamp and a bookshelf. Electricity was run out to the shed via an insulated wire. I had an electric radiator although the shed wasn’t insulated. But I could work out there with a blanket around my shoulders and another over my knees. The kids were slightly older, I could leave them alone in the house for longer; I now had some time to really think.

Because this is the thing: so much about being a writer is to do with thinking, and you can’t do that with a bunch of kids shouting around, fighting and bickering or having noisy fun. I just needed to get out there and insulate myself from the chaos. I started to write seriously because I’d learned by now it was all about setting targets and sticking to them, within constrained time limits.

My latest shed is my forever-shed. When I move house it will go with me. The same size as the previous one; it has an apex roof and a solid front door. I laid lino tiles on the floor and covered them with a rug. It’s insulated and I have Japanese screens and hangings on the walls, and a clock, and a radio. I have a heater and two lamps, and photos of my children, three of them now grown and left. And I do all my writing in there; I set myself deadlines and meet them. It’s a proper workplace that I take as seriously as any that I’d commute to on a train or a bus.

If you have no space in your home for a room of your own, I urge you to consider a shed, it doesn’t matter how tiny, even to get in there an hour a day will really make a difference.

signingTracey Scott-Townsend spends her writing time in her much-loved shed. It’s a world of her own making, like her stories. She says that stepping inside and closing the door behind her induces a feeling like the hushed atmosphere of a church.

She is the mother of four children, three of whom have now left home: one of them particularly far away. Still, she’s sure that Australia will provide as much inspiration for her writing as Iceland has done, (another place she was introduced to by her son). She’s really hoping to witness a full show of the Northern Lights next time she is there.

Closer to home, Tracey enjoys travelling in the bus-with-a-woodstove with her husband and their Labrador, Riley. They are always on the lookout for a scenic layby in which to sleep. Last year they spent time all over the British Isles, including the Outer Hebrides, which will be the setting for a future novel. In a few years they plan to set off on the road (by way of the sea) for an extended period of time: after all, writing can be done anywhere.

Guest Post: Author Andrea Lochen Has A New Baby AND A New Novel

IMAGINARY THINGS.9.28.14I started writing fiction when my kids were junior high and high school, therefore I marvel at the moms who write books with small kids under foot—sometimes literally. And then there’s author Andrea Lochen — who was getting ready to launch her second novel, IMAGINARY THINGS, while waiting for her first baby (I know! I know! How productive can one woman be?). 

Below, Andrea shares with us three important points to remember when you’re expecting a book baby–or honestly, this is good advice at any stage of the writing life.

I have to pay much closer attention to #2, celebrating the small moments. I don’t do it often enough. 

What about you? Share your thoughts in the comments, and please welcome Andrea Lochen to WFW!

Amy xo

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Guest Post: Advice For Debut and Aspiring Authors From Author Nicole Baart

TBD FinalToday we have Nicole Baart with us on WFW sharing her thoughts and wishes for debut authors, and after EIGHT novels, she’s an expert! I had the pleasure of reading an early copy of The Beautiful Daughters, Nicole’s latest, and found myself swept away into a world that included Africa, Iowa, love, friendships, and secrets. Big secrets. Nicole has a way of touching serious topics without making me want to look away, but stay the course with her enchanting characters.  I think my favorite bit of advice below from Nicole is “Be your own bad book self.” I think that’s key in writing, for authors, and in life, don’t you? Please welcome Nicole Baart to WFW! 

Amy xo

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The Glass Wives, A Discount, and A Teaser

It’s been almost two years (May 14th, 2013) since THE GLASS WIVES hit bookshelves. That was, and remains, quite a journey. And now as we move toward the release of THE GOOD NEIGHBOR on October 13th, look who’s poking up her pretty little head and saying DON’T FORGET ABOUT ME, MA! (Notice how St. Martin’s Press used the same font on the cover of both of my novels? That’s a little bit of branding, folks!)

And now, THE GLASS WIVES ebook is $5.99!

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If you haven’t read it, now’s a great time. I mean, look at the blue sky. It totally says IT’S SPRING SO READ ME. DRINK TEA AND READ ME. SPIKE YOUR TEA IF YOU WANT, BUT READ ME.

You can also gift ebooks and $5.99 is the right price. JUST IN TIME FOR MOTHER’S DAY!

Here’s a Kindle link: KINDLE LINK FOR THE GLASS WIVES

Here’s a Nook link: NOOK LINK FOR THE GLASS WIVES

More soon on THE GOOD NEIGHBOR and maybe more news soon on other things too. Oh my, what might that mean???

Amy xo 

Don’t have the 4-1-1 on THE GLASS WIVES or need a refresher?

Here’s the review that was featured in Shelf Awareness for Readers on May 28th, 2013.

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Author Interview: Debut Author Kristy Woodson Harvey’s Fourth Manuscript Is The One That Sold First!

9780425279984_large_Dear_CarolinaToday is launch day for Kristy Woodson Harvey’s debut novel, DEAR CAROLINA. Below, you’ll learn how Kristy mined her own life as a new mom to write this book that explores the bonds of motherhood in its many forms. 

I met Kristy through Tall Poppy Writers, a cooperative of women authors and am thrilled to help her celebrate her debut. Plus, she told me her mom’s book club read THE GLASS WIVES, and loved it (unsolicited, I swear!). 

Please help Kristy Woodson Harvey kick off her career as an author and welcome her to WFW!

Amy xo

Debut Author Kristy Woodson Harvey’s Fourth Manuscript Is The One That Sold First! 

9780425279984_large_Dear_CarolinaAmy: Was there one moment when the idea for DEAR CAROLINA came to you or was it a slow simmer of a story?

Kristy: It was definitely a moment! I wrote DEAR CAROLINA right after my son was born. My parents were staying with us, helping us get some sleep, and I could hear my son crying. So I got up, and, the second my dad handed him to me, he quit. I was holding him and we were staring at each other and I just remember having this moment and thinking, “I am a mother. I am someone’s mother. This is my child.” And then I remember thinking, “What would have to happen in your life for you to be able to give this person up? What would it be like to give away the most important part of yourself? And, on the flip side of that, what would it be like to adopt a baby knowing that your child would always have this deep biological connection with another woman.

The characters of Jodi and Khaki came to me then, and, as weird as it sounds, in those couple of seconds, I just knew what this whole story was. It was sort of like how people talk about their life flashing before their eyes, and it’s just an instant but they see the entirety of it laid out before them. That’s what the idea for this book was like.

I knew two things then: One, that making the decision to give up your child is the most selfless act and the greatest gift that one woman could give another. And two, I knew that that feeling a deep and almost heart-breaking love for your child didn’t have to do with giving birth. It came from that passionate knowledge that you would do anything to protect this person forever. And those two thoughts really drove the writing of this novel.

Amy: Some of my characters arrive with their names. For others I have to find the right name. How did you decide on the name Khaki?

Kristy: I love it! Thank you so much! Khaki is a fairly common nickname for Katherine, I guess, but I thought of this nickname in a more literal sense. (And her real name is Frances, not Katherine anyway!) We have several good friends who are farmers and a lot of them wear all-khaki outfits when they’re working. I could just picture this tiny girl, thinking her father hung the moon, riding around with him on the tractor in her all-khaki get-up too. And, since she and Graham have known each other for a long time, it seemed like it would be right for him to give her that name that stuck with her forever.

Amy: What’s your writing style? Do you outline? Wing it? Has your method changed since writing your debut novel?

Kristy: DEAR CAROLINA is my debut novel, but actually my fourth manuscript. I’ve never outlined. Even in school, I would write the essay first and then go back and make an outline to go with it when we had to turn one in! That doesn’t work for me because, so often, the characters end up doing things totally differently than I would have originally thought once I get to “know” them! My first two “practice” manuscripts that I never did anything with were written in third person because I read a writing book somewhere that said first-time authors should always write in third person. But, I wrote my third manuscript in first person, and in that one, I felt like I had really found my voice as a writer. I queried that one and ended up signing with an agent for that third manuscript, which is a bit of a prequel to DEAR CAROLINA, but DEAR CAROLINA ended up selling first. I generally start writing with those scenes that won’t let me sleep at night, no matter where they are in the book. I write big “chunks” of a manuscript, piece them together in a way that makes sense and then add chapters that make the book flow. It’s a little nuts, but it works for me!

Amy: Have you been surprised by anything in the publishing process—whether positive or negative? What has your biggest lesson been so far?

Kristy: One, you have to be crazy, crazy patient. Unbelievably patient! It’s a long, slow process. But I think the biggest surprise has been the way that people have reached out and really helped me, especially during the promotion process. Amazing bloggers like you, Amy, who have taken the time to share my book with your readers, random people I’ve never met who will email to say they asked their bookstore to carry DEAR CAROLINA, early readers who have shared very personal stories with me about the impact this book had on them… I’m an eternal optimist, but, even if I wasn’t, I think it has really affirmed my faith in the goodness of people! It has been a huge gift.

Amy: What’s your best advice for aspiring authors of women’s fiction?

Kristy: I found my editor through a writing contest, which was something I never expected. I say you have to be at the right place at the right time, which means you need to be a lot of places! I had never been to a writing conference when I got my book deal, simply because I was pregnant and then nursing, so it wasn’t practical. But, now I’ve seen that the connections you can make there are so invaluable, at any point in your career. If there’s something you can feasibly do to get your work in front of the right people, do it! No one else is going to care as much about your writing as you do. And, also, keep writing. Even after I’d signed with an agent for my third manuscript, I was working feverishly on my next book, not waiting around for him to sell it. And that was great because DEAR CAROLINA ended up selling first!

Harvey Port 02 retKristy Woodson Harvey holds a degree in journalism and mass communications from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a master’s in English from East Carolina University. She writes about interior design and loves connecting with readers. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and three-year-old son. Dear Carolina is her first novel.

Check out DEAR CAROLINA online at B&N or Amazon or at your local independent bookstore.

Twitter: @kristywharvey
Instagram: @kristywharvey

If you’d like to learn more about the authors and books of Tall Poppy Writers, click here.

Guest Post: Author Kathryn Craft Asks “Are Likable Characters Important In Women’s Fiction?”

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EDITED TO ADD: THERE’S A GREAT CONVERSATION GOING ON IN THE COMMENTS! CHECK IT OUT!

Today on WFW, my friend, author Kathryn Craft, poses a question that has attracted a lot of attention in recent writerly media. IS IT IMPORTANT TO HAVE LIKABLE CHARACTERS? Even moreso, in women’s fiction (because that’s why we’re here) is it important for you to wish you could be friends with the characters in the book? This is a question I know the answer to for me. It’s not imperative — but my favorite books always end up being the ones I wish I could step inside, that I wish didn’t end, and the ones where I wish I could have coffee with the main character. That doesn’t mean the book has to be always happy or offer an HEA ending, it just means I have to like the main character and wish I could know her better. I also have loved some books where this isn’t the case, but when I think back on old and new favorites, that’s the prevalent theme. I’ll share some of my personal list in the comments. 

Below, you’ll learn Kathryn thoughts on the subject (a little different from my own), as well as about her new, compelling book, THE FAR END OF HAPPY, which was inspired by real-life events. Kathryn is a brave and talented author. And a real advocate for her author friends (I should know). 

Please welcome Kathryn Craft to WFW—and share your thoughts and favorite women’s fiction books in the comments!

Amy xo

Do You Seek Friends in Women’s Fiction?

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About Face—What I See (And What I Don’t See) When I Write

girl in nature

I have no clue what my characters look like.

Okay, not 100% true. Just almost. I have no idea what their whole faces look like.

I do not clip pictures from magazines and glue stick them into a scrapbook, or have a Pinterest board filled with head shots. I don’t picture old neighbors or cousins or superstars when I write. I see beings, an aura, a movement.  It’s as if the characters are traveling to fast for me to get a good look, or maybe I’m just so polite that I don’t want to stop them to stare. Even in a serious and intense scene, I don’t see faces.

Kinda creepy, now that I think of it.

I can glimpse the hair and see it messy or or coiffed. I know the color and style. I’m familiar with the character’s gait, shoulder width,and height. I certainly know if there’s a bump on a nose or a cleft in the chin. I define fashion sense. And sometimes I know eye color.

But I still don’t see faces.

When asked who would play my characters in a movie, I freeze. I don’t see my “people” on a screen, I see them on a page. Not that I’d reject a movie deal should Hollywood come to call, but I’d be more likely to say who I think could “pull off” the character rather than who looks like her.

When you meet Izzy Lane (for which I cannot wait!!) my main character in The Good Neighbor, you’ll know early on that her hair is short because her ex-husband always liked it long. I wrote Izzy tall (five-foot-nine) because that’s how I pictured her, with a gracefulness that I envision comes with long limbs. I don’t think I ever described the face of Izzy’s next-door-neighbor, Mrs. Feldman. She’s eighty-five. She’s spry. She speaks her mind. And she is also scared of a long-held secret. So, picture her as you want her to look. Like your favorite teacher, a grandmother, aunt or friend. Or leave her face peacefully blank, or always turned slightly away, filled in by story and emotion, not features.

In my work-in-progress, there’s a twelve-year-old girl. She is gangly in the way you know will turn into gracefulness in a few years, maybe more. She has long red hair and a tentative smile. I watched and recorded several cooking shows that featured kids, because I don’t have any twelve-year-old girls in my life and there were a few on the shows. One had just the right smile. Another was a little too grown up, but that was good to see. Another seemed a little too young. I noticed unplucked eyebrows and braces. Whimsy. Big smiles. Bigger tears. Those are the elements of a character to me, much more so than a portrait.

I write for myself, but my novels are published for my readers. I trust them to take good care of the characters, to allow the people on the page to be who the readers need them to be for that story—to look the part and be perfect for that reader only.

Do you picture faces when you read? Famous faces or everyday faces?  If you’re a writer, who do you see when you write your own stories?