Second Career Author – Donna Croy Wright

Donna Croy Wright has recently launched The Scattering of Stones. She lives in the Sierra Nevada Foothills southeast of Yosemite and in addition to writing is an amateur genealogist and historian. Here’s Donna’s take on being a second career author.

What sort of career did you have before becoming a writer?

My life has been a series of reinventions. First, in my twenties, I was a dancer and artist. Next, in my thirties, I was a mother (still am). Then, in my forties and fifties I was an elementary school teacher and principal. When I retired, everyone asked me what I would to do next, and I always replied, “I’m going to reinvent myself.” I didn’t know how at the time. Now I do.

Was there a triggering event that prompted you to begin writing?

The usual answer to this question is: “I’ve always written.” It’s not so different for me. As a preteen I wrote Little House on the Prairie/Little Women knockoffs. My parents owned a dictionary with a list of boys and girls names in the back. I underlined and starred a host of names (in ink), a testament to my name research for the characters in my stories. I wrote in my Anais Nin style diaries incessantly during the college angst years. As a curriculum specialist, I focused on language arts and history, and my career as an educator required extensive writing. Then, while reinventing myself in retirement, I delved deep into genealogy and wrote an ancestral history for my family. I kept wondering about the emotion behind the lives I discovered, beyond birth and death dates on a page. So I included my imaginings in the book, using italics to separate them from fact. When my son told me he liked my imaginings most and thought I should write a book, I did. Then I wrote another and another.

Do you now write full time or part time?

I’m obsessive. With research, blog, fiction, and non-fiction, I “work” about 35 hours a week. My husband demands an equitable amount of attention.

What parts of the writing career do you enjoy the most/the least?

Taking a few factoids about everyday humans, pulling them up from the reaches of the past, and depositing them in the world of my imagination? That fills me with joy. Having these characters take over my being and write their stories? How exciting is that! Researching a time and a place? Traveling to that place, and meeting people who have the same passion? A world of learning has opened to me. (I haven’t figured out the time travel thing yet, except in my mind.)

I’ve even come to appreciate the tedious: blocking out the story, editing, editing again, waiting for publication, editing again, and waiting some more. While “appreciate” might be too strong a word, I see the importance of these tasks. However, because I started writing late in life, waiting for query replies, editor timelines, and publishing opportunities is, well, frustrating.

The hardest thing, though, is promotion—selling both my book and myself. I was the mom who bought all the See’s Candy my child had to sell rather than help them with sales—a version of task avoidance. I just don’t have the hard-sell gene.

What parts of your former career do you miss/not miss?

Which former career? Life is a journey. I love the places I hang my hat.

Do you have any regrets?

Of course, but they have nothing to do with my various career renditions of myself and are not for public consumption.

What advice would you offer other second career writers?

Beyond watching out for too many ellipses and the corralling of commas? Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. If you are thinking it, don’t beat around the proverbial bush. ASK! Ask for help. Ask for a different typeset. Ask for that review. And definitely ask for feedback. Listen to it, prepare yourself to be hurt by it, don’t take it too seriously (yeh, right), and then digest it and learn from it. If you are doing what you love, as with any reinvention of your life, you will grow into your dream.

Many thanks for sharing your story, Donna. I can certainly identify with being obsessed as well as the frustration of watching time pass in the querying and publishing game.

Visit www.croywright.com to read her blog and follow her on facebook at @croywright or twitter @CroyWright.

The Scattering of Stones by Donna Croy Wright – Two women, each living in a different time and space, yet something inexplicable binds them. Maggie Carter Smith researches her ancestors’ lives from the comfort of her 21st century California home. But beyond births and death written on a page, Maggie chronicles souls. Mary Hutton and her family arrived at Wills Creek when treaty lines prohibited settlement. A marriage to Jacob Carter, orphaned, raised and then abandoned by the Shawnee, offers Mary freedom from a father’s reach and protection on the 18th century frontier. But prejudice and intrigue intervene, throwing tragedy, treachery, and murder in their path. One thing is clear, from choices made in a heart’s breath moment, whole lives will unfold.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

From Ph. D in History to author

C.L.R. (Colleen) Peterson’s debut historical novel, Lucia’s Renaissance, takes place in late sixteenth-century Italy. She loves to shine a spotlight on little-known heroes from the past. “The first time I gazed up at the ceiling of Rome’s Sistine Chapel, the Renaissance cast its spell on me through Michelangelo’s painting of the full-bodied, emotional figures of God and Adam.”

What sort of career did you have before becoming a writer?

I earned my Ph.D. in European History and taught at the college level. Later, as my children were growing up, I began tutoring English as a Second Language.

Was there a triggering event that prompted you to begin writing?

During my years in graduate school, a law-student friend suggested I write a novel based on my dissertation topic. At that point, I had written only academic papers (a far cry from page-turning fiction). Fast forward to years later, when I had an opportunity to take a course about writing and finishing a novel. My journey was launched!

Do you now write full time or part time?

I write ¾ time, when I’m not tutoring or spending time with family.

What parts of the writing career do you enjoy the most/the least?

I always look forward to traveling to Italy (both mentally and physically)—researching details of life in the late Renaissance, imagining and writing my stories. Gathering with other writers renews my energy, and I always learn something. Marketing is a mixed bag; I enjoy sharing my novel and research with live audiences, but the administrative details of marketing steal time away from the creative world.

What parts of your former career do you miss/not miss?

I’m grateful to be the master of my own schedule, but miss daily social interaction with students and co-workers.

Do you have any regrets?

I hesitated far too long before publishing my first novel. I wish I had sought expert feedback earlier about whether my book was ready to see the light of day.

What advice would you offer other second career writers?

Have fun with your writing! Enjoy the adventure. Immerse yourself in the time and place you write about—writing is a great excuse for travel, even via the internet.

Don’t expect instant success. Learn the craft: join a writing group, go to conferences.

Be bold: swallow your pride, ask for feedback from other writers and weigh it seriously.

Lucia’s Renaissance by C.L.R. Peterson – Heresy is fatal in late sixteenth-century Italy, so only a fool or suicidal zealot would so much as whisper the name of Martin Luther. But after Luther’s ideas ignite a young girl’s faith, she can’t set them aside. In Lucia’s Renaissance, plague, death, and the Inquisition test the faith of this precocious teen.

Many thanks, Colleen and best wishes for Lucia’s Renaissance. You can reach Colleen on her website on at her Facebook page.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

From English teacher to author

Deb Peterson has been a Facebook friend for quite some time and has been on the blog before as Delaney Green (more about that in a moment). She is the author of the Jem books, about a girl with Second Sight who grows up in the years between the Seven Years’ War and the American War of Independence. Today she shares her path to becoming an author.

You asked why I write under a pseudonym.

I write under a pseudonym because, first, my given name is rather common, and I wanted it to be easier for readers to Google me. Second, I wanted a division between my public and private life, especially on social media, so I could keep writerly stuff on my writer sites and personal stuff on my personal site. Last—and how’s this for hubris?—I assumed I’d be so well known one day that crazy fans would seek me out, and I didn’t want to have to move to a secluded house in the country away from my current neighbors and a neighborhood I enjoy, especially after spending 20 years rehabbing my house until it’s just the way I like it.

What sort of career did you have before becoming a writer?

I’ve had a lot of jobs—newspaper reporter, copy editor, professional actress, Broadway theater concessions manager, adjunct professor, farm laborer—but my career for 25 years was high school English teacher. That job was a privilege. It was a marathon. I didn’t much care for all the grading I had to do (one year of work at home for every year I spent at school, and I’m not even kidding—I did the math), but you do what you have to do so kids learn. Teaching was excellent training for what I do now:

  • You have to be disciplined enough to do your work consistently and well, because you face people every single day who need you to be there for them with your A game.
  • As a teacher, you have to know where you’re going and plan, just as you do with a novel.
  • You have to figure out multiple ways to get a student from point A to point B, as a writer must do with both plot and character development.
  • Teachers have to be able to explain why they’re doing what they’re doing in the classroom to parents, principals, peers, and students—again, an aid to crafting plot.
  • A teacher experiences humans in triumph and in crisis, another aid to character development.
  • On top of that, I taught literature: Dante’s Inferno, The Iliad and The Odyssey, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Of Mice and Men, Shakespeare—it was a 25-year deep dive into classic literature. Invaluable.

Was there a triggering event that prompted you to begin writing?

Before I knew how to read and write, I was drawing pictures, and every picture had a story. As soon as I learned to read, I read every book on the shelf. I never thought a regular person like me could/would be allowed to write an actual story, but I wrote and illustrated one anyway in grade four. I had a poem published in a national magazine in grade seven. I wrote a ton in high school and started a creative writing magazine. I didn’t really have a triggering event. I have always invented stories. But I will say that I simply could not write when I was a single mom teaching full time, rehabbing our house, and directing the theater program at my school. I had to sleep in my spare time!

Do you now write full time or part time?

Normally, I get up every morning and write for four or five hours, so that’s only 30-ish hours a week—not really full time. I also coach writers at a local college about eight hours a week. And I still sub in the local schools once in a while because I still need a kid fix now and again. Right now, I have been waiting five months for my editor in London to finish editing my latest novel in the Jem series (Jem, a Foreigner in Philadelphia), so I have been working on a mystery novel, a novel about trolls, and on short stories. I’m delighted to report that I just had two stories accepted for publication, one by Black Dandy (New Zealand) and one by New Myths.com. A third story made the long list in an inaugural competition sponsored by The Woolf of Switzerland—I’ll hear about that one in early February.

What parts of the writing career do you enjoy the most/the least?

In the last two years before I retired, I got up two hours before work to write—but I always had to quit and get ready for school. Now, it’s an immense joy to be able to get up and go straight to my desk with a cup of coffee and work without having to stop. Honestly, I don’t dislike anything: I love the research, I love crafting a story, and I love editing. I feel so blessed to be able to do what I do.

What parts of your former career do you miss/not miss?

I miss the kids. As I said, I still sub now and again because kids are refreshing—and I fall right back into “I truly see and appreciate you” mode when I’m with them. Kids know if you really care about them or not. I do care. I always will.

I do not miss the incredible amounts of time I spent grading papers. I do not miss interacting with difficult parents who apparently birthed little gods and goddesses rather than human children. I do not miss being demonized in the press and the resultant political crippling of my profession.

Do you have any regrets?

I regret not getting up at 4 a.m. years earlier.

What advice would you offer other second career writers?

My advice is simple: START. Just start. Don’t spend weeks or months looking for the perfect pen, perfect office chair, perfect time of day, perfect routine, perfect time of life. Don’t say, “I’ll start tomorrow” because you may not get tomorrow. If you want to write, write NOW. I wonder what I might have produced if I had developed those hundreds of story ideas I had over the years that I jotted down on bits of paper I subsequently lost. Or the stories I made up for my son on the fly at bedtime; one year, I made up a 24-chapter story about an elf whose adventures led up to Christmas Day. Oh, how I wish I’d written down that story! What other marvelous stories never got written, and never will get written, because I didn’t put them down on paper? Please, dear reader, pick up one of your slips of paper and WRITE THAT STORY TODAY.

Many thanks, Deb. Wish I had the exposure to classics that you’ve had – although I doubt I could have handled a group of high school students! Wishing you success with your next Jem novel.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.