Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Writing Life Episode 10 with Ramzy Sweis

Writing is a business. Like any successful business the business of writing takes more than passion, desire and talent.  Finding the right balance is up to you. Each week I interview writers about how they craft a career with their words. In Episode 10, comedian, novelist, screen play writer and teacher Ramzy Sweis shares insight on pitching, promoting and getting results.

Listen in.

What's your writing life? Please share your stories below. Questions you want me to ask my next guest? I'm just a comment away.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

After thoughts: Reflections on My Interview with Writer P.A. Chawla

How cool is it to wake up one morning and decide to leave your job and write full time?

Well, without planning, a solid foundation, and a strong support team, quitting your day job might seem cool but it won't pay the bills.

Talking with writer P.A. Chawla helped me put a few things into perspective. I want to make a living with my words not be a starving artist. My children need to eat. I analyze options before I make decisions. Before making any major decision, I outline the main characters of the situation (story), review motivations and consider possible tension and plots. Because I want to make a living, I'm more likely to plan, organize and save before deciding to drop everything and write.

According to Chawla, I'm on to something. In a candid interview, writer P.A. Chawla shares her route to the Writing Life.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Writing Life goes Live: A Discussion About Making a Living as a Writer

I’m pursuing a Creative Writing PhD.

“What are you going to do with that?” People ask.

It’s not what some consider a logical degree choice.  Logical choices translate from degree to bank account; from dollars in cost to dollars in revenue. Logical degree choices don’t just make sense; they make cents—a lot of them.

I am a writer.

What other degree allows me to write and research engaging topics that interest, love and inspire me? Who would I be if I didn’t follow my passion? And what will I be if I don’t apply logic to passion?


It is not logical to assume I will graduate and no matter how engaging my writing, tumble in to a full-time Creative Writing faculty position. Despite my modern degree, chances are I will have to earn my position the old fashioned way: one best seller at a time.

Each conversation I have with either an established or emerging writer shows me that it is possible to craft a career as a writer, as long as I keep a day job and a steady stream of projects and possibilities. I have to market, promote and network; I have to establish relationships. I have to treat writing as a business if I want to be in the business of writing.

In two weeks I am hosting my first live event. The discussion is a panel of writers, including award winning writer Carys Davies and lecturer, writer George Green, who will share information, tips and advice about their writing lives: when they knew they could afford to quit day jobs (if they have); advice for new writers; what they worry about most.

Each story I hear brings me closer to my goal; each story I share ensures others will reach theirs. 

Join us for the Writing Life Live Discussion on Saturday at Lancaster University’s Campus in the City at St. Nicholas Arcades (near Costa Coffee). The discussion is free; the information, invaluable. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Classroom is not the Front Line

Over the past four years I have taught “traditional” college-aged students in their late teens to early twenties, as well as “adult learners” and “mature students”; these are all labels that don’t necessarily seem to translate inside the classroom: they are all students.

My students are individuals with a drive for individual success, a sense of responsibility and a set of needs that lead to expectations that I hope to meet and exceed if not the first class, by the last.  Not all of my students are happy about being in a classroom; they don't all want to be there. But the battle is not between them and I; it is not personal.  And so I will teach them--but I won't fight them. I don't picture myself forcibly injecting knowledge or administering academic CPR.

Though I struggle with names, I hope to build relationships with each student and learn their personalities, goals and needs in ways that make sense to me: I learn about people through their words, mainly through their writing. As an instructor in various forms of writing, I teach students to write effectively to reach not just me, but their target audience in whatever arena they are in.

I’ve been reading a lot about mental health in education; about students feeling isolated, depressed and lost.

A few weeks ago my daughter saw a young woman step in front of a bus: grades had just been released.

A reminder to my academic colleagues: give students the grades they earn and help them work through them. Give constructive, positive feedback and be available to provide assistance, an ear, a light. If academia is a battleground for you, if this is your opportunity to “weed out the weak”—consider another line of work. My job is to provide tools and to teach students how to think critically and creatively; to build up a generation of thinkers.

Am I asking you to be a therapist, a psychologist, a friend?

It doesn’t matter what name you put on it be a human.

Backstory: Reflections on this Month's Theme for Stories at the Storey

Meeting deadlines is as soothing to me as a creamy cup of flavoured coffee. Checking a project off of my mental to-do list settles me. ...