Every Wednesday, I feature a writer and his/her workspace. My aim is to get to know fellow writers better through their workspace and writing habits, and have them share some of their writing wisdom here.
Today, I am most eager to welcome Donna Hole, author of that fun blog A Writer’s Life in Progress.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do for a living? What genre do you love to write? What are some of your hobbies or interests? Do you have a hidden talent?
Blogger Donna Hole
About three months ago I got hired in another county as a social worker for Children’s Services. Working for CPS has been a dream job for me since I was about 12 years old. Prior to that hiring, I was an eligibility worker (cash aid, food stamps and MediCal) for nearly 8 years. I discovered writing late in my life; unlike most authors it was not always my dream job. I’ve not yet settled on a preferred genre to write in. Fantasy was my first reading love, but I enjoy a good horror story – complete with gore – thrillers, sci-fi, and women’s fiction. Despite my fantasy/sci fi reading roots, my writing preference is women’s fiction and paranormal thriller. Vampires, shifters, murder and mayhem, dystopian worlds.
I’m about as eclectic in my hobbies as I am in reading/writing. I like word puzzles – word search, cryptograms, the occasional easy crossword; reading books with a great story and evocative characters and settings; crewel stichery, jig saw puzzles. I’m sure writing is more of a hobby than a career aspiration, as procrastination is my steady hidden talent.
1. Where do you do most of your writing?
At this time I do my writing from my lap-desk, sitting in my easy chair in front of the TV. The TV is not always on when I write; I’ve a tendency to ignore whatever program is on while I’m concentrating on writing, blogging, or research. Someday soon (maybe before this interview posts) I hope to be back at my desk, surrounded by my writing resources, comfortably seated in my office chair with my favorite snacks and drinks around me.
2. Where did you get your desk? How did you go about arranging your work area?
My desk was a Mother’s Day gift from my middle son. Yes, he is exactly the middle as there are two children older and two children younger than him. He not only bought the desk as a surprise, but he assembled and placed it in the space designated as my office without my knowledge, and hauled off the old monstrosity that never met my writing needs. I walked into the room one day and there it was, the dream desk I never knew I wanted until that moment. The desk sat empty for a long time, except for the basic computer and some office supplies such as stapler, tape, pens, a notepad.
One day I was looking for a writing reference book and had to search all the bookshelves in the same room, and then the several places throughout the house I stored books. I made the decision at that time to use all the shelves on the desk for writing references, and spent several hours gathering every resource book I could find. I won’t admit to going to the book store to pick up a few books I thought should be on the desk shelves.
Once I determined this would be my “writing workspace” I started collecting other things I thought I needed; inspirational quotes attached to the monitor and shelf edges; pictures I wanted to look at as I stared off into space; my elliptical exerciser – next to the desk not on it – for when I needed walking time to think; music for a play-list to fit my writing mood, or just to relax to. It took less time than I thought it would for my family to respect my privacy in my writer’s space. And sometimes, I escaped to this writing world even when I did not intend to write; but somehow just being there inspired me to write – something.
3. What are some important things on your desk? Are there specific things you need to have around you as you work?
Some of the most important things on my desk are toys. I have a plastic frog that I have no idea how it got to my office space but he makes me happy to look at so I keep him; I have a mini Rubiks cube and a star of the same concept – these are puzzles I’ll never put to right if they are disassembled and I guess it reminds me of my story concepts; I have family pictures that were left in cubbies simply because that is where I opened them; I have notepads with jottings of story titles, movies or music to associate with new writings (and phone numbers I don’t know why I keep); there is a box of Kleenix for all the reasons you’d expect to need them; and a drink coaster that sticks to the bottom of whatever glass I’m drinking from. I put things on my desk that I want to have handy when I need to remind myself of who I am. Sometimes I get a bug to be organized and clean off several things that just collect; but somehow the frog, the puzzle toys, and pictures are not things I care to remove. They are necessary distractions I suppose.
4. What do you love most about your workspace? Do you have any favorite objects on your desk, or things you use often?
I guess what I love most about my work space (the desk I had to give up, not the laptop and easy chair) is that it is all mine. Even when others use the desk, they take their “stuff” and leave mine alone. Everything on my desk has a specific purpose to me, even if it seems random. Sometimes, my children will leave things that are important to them on my desk – a good report card, a fortune cookie saying, a link to a music video, a puzzle toy I’d smile at – but they never complain if it disappears into a drawer. I guess its become a challenge to have something become a treasured object in my personal space.
5. What’s your writing beverage? What do you love to drink while you’re writing?
I have two favorite beverages; Diet Pepsi and blush wine. I drink wine in the evenings, but my true addictive passion is Diet Pepsi. Nothing but Diet Pepsi will do for my writing adventures – or anything else I do at my desk. *cough* You want to bribe or reward me with something? Send me Diet Pepsi – in a can.
1. Who is your favorite author? Who inspired you to write?
I have a hard time saying who my favorite author is. Anne McCaffrey was the first author I read that I wanted to read an entire series. I read The White Dragon, and had to read every book she wrote before and after that novel. My alter ego is Lessa, but my teenaged heart belongs to Jaxom, and Ruth. If you’ve read the series you’ll understand the references; if not, never mind, I’d write a novel just to explain. But I think Stephen King is the author that inspired me to write, despite the fact my first novel is a women’s fiction. It is the characters and settings that consistently draw me as a reader and writer this author. Mr King writes of ordinary people in extraordinary situations. Even his paranormal/fantasy settings – Dead Zone, Lizzy’s Story, Rose Madder, Langoliers, Talisman – his characters are not specialists escaping some moment of epiphany and later drawn back into the life they abandoned; these characters could be our neighbors, or ourselves. I don’t care that he can be the-master-of-the-run-on-sentence, or that at times his publishers do not edit his material before publishing it; the man has a gift for story telling, and I want to tell stories like that. I want people to be afraid to pick up a cell phone, or start the car, or go on a writer’s retreat. I want to write stories that make the ordinary, extraordinary.
2. What’s your typical day as a writer like? Do you have any writing related rituals or quirks?
I wish I could say I have a typical writing day. When I was unemployed, I wrote 10 – 12 hours a day and completed a trilogy of over 100k words each in less than 18 months. I’ve been editing and revising, and occasionally submitting the first novel, for about five years. In between, I’ve written and submitted several short stories, and have five publications. I write when I can spare the time, and sometimes I’ll take sick or vacation days to complete a WIP when the mood hits me. Once I dedicate a time period to a short story, I write until it is complete, including self editing, until it is done enough to submit to critique partners. Then I stress, eat (Ruffles) potato chips and drink too much Diet Pepsi (or wine) until the crit responses come in. I’m not a pretty sight when I’m actually writing, and so anti-social even my family wants to abandon me. DO NOT DISTURB THE BEAR is probably a good sign to hang around my neck when I take that two or three times a year to immerse into a story.
3. Do you write every day? How many hours a day do you spend writing? What are some of your worst writing distractions?
No, I don’t write every day. As mentioned above, when I write it is obsessive. I’m the worlds worst (or best) procrastinator. I let games- Zuma’s revenge, solitaire, bingo – day job, TV, everything keep my butt out of the chair. I liked writing when I had nothing else to do, but honestly my day job is my biggest distraction. If I’m not actually at work, I’m probably thinking about work. And then I blog; reading posts, responding to comments; signing up for blogfests. I spend more time writing for blogfests than for publication.
4. Why do you write?
I was watching my son ride his bike, and a story idea around this started forming. I embarrassed my family when I was very young by aspiring to be a writer, and stopped writing when I was in high school because my family teased me about the passion. Now I write because it feels good to write again. I create worlds and characters that make sense to me, even the dark and bloody themes. I probably delete more than I save, but it is an outlet to cope with the ever-changing world.
5. Any writing tips or techniques or words of wisdom you want to share with us? How about a favorite writing quote?
I don’t have a favorite writing quote, or any tips/techniques. I suppose that is what keeps me in the hobby-writer realm as opposed to an author who intends to make their mark in the world by publishing the next great novel. I take inspiration from many sources, including casual comments from fellow bloggers and quotes from novels or movie lines. I suppose one of the quotes that has inspired me in life, work and writing came from Master Yoda and went something like: There is no try, there is only do. I don’t take this quote to mean a person has to succeed at everything they attempt; but you have to make the attempt with every intention to succeed. Whatever you do in live, be it writing or anything else, put your whole being into the endeavor and let fate determine if it is a success.
Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your writing life, Donna!
Wednesday Writer’s Workspace is an ongoing series, and if you’re interested in being featured here, simply leave me a message in the comment box, and I’ll be sure to email you.
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