* you can find the original interviews and much more on my 'everything writing' blog (http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com), including author spotlights, guest posts, book reviews, flash fiction or poetry - new items posted 6am UK time Monday to Saturday and writing exercises at 6pm very weekday.
Sunday, 15 July 2012
Author interview no.164: Taylor Collins (revisited)
Back in October 2011, I interviewed author Taylor Collins for my WordPress blog. I hope you enjoy it...
Welcome to the one hundred and sixty-fourth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, bloggers, short story authors, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. Today’s is with poet, essayist, memoirist and note-taker Taylor Collins and whilst I say I can talk for England I think I’ve met my match with Taylor… you might like to get a large cup of something and find a comfortable chair. :)
Morgen: Hello, Taylor. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Taylor: I’ve always been attracted to the creative side of life and focused on my art and writing for about the past 25 years or so. Having worked in a rather boring bureaucratic job for many years which required a lot of traveling, I became used to journaling in my car. But I must admit, I wouldn’t recommend that for everyone. I’m the proverbial side-tracked English major who came back to writing in the eighties after being exposed to Peter Elbow’s method of stream of consciousness writing in Writing with Power. That was eye-opening. This led to Dorothea Brande’s Becoming a Writer and Brenda Uleand’s So You Want to Write. My other earliest initial discovery was almost simultaneously Sheila Bender and Natalie Goldberg. Sheila had written Writing in a New Convertible with the Top Down as well as her, The Writer’s Journal. Natalie’s book Writing Down the Bones is legendary and other huge influences that brought me back to writing were Rebecca McClanahan’s Word Painting, Alexandra Johnson’s Leaving a Trace, and quite naturally, Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way. One of my most recent current favorites is Olivia Drescher who works primarily in fraglit and the book she edited, In Pieces, is beyond inspirational. She’s an avid Tweeter in Twitter. To my way of thinking, if e e Cummings were alive he should be king of Twitter and Olivia would be queen. In the process I read most of their suggested bibliographies and hundreds, if not thousands of other books, along the way. I guess you can say I came to be a writer because I just had to and became a better writer because I am curious about what connects us all together. I feel as if I’m on a never-ending quest of some sort to know things and figure out my connection to the universe. My ultimate goal is a return to poetry but that’s a reach for any writer so at the moment I’m still in the note-taking stage. I test the waters periodically.
Morgen: Wow, what an introduction. I love your passion. :) What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Taylor: That’s an interesting question, Morgen, because I’m basically a note-taker and fragmented writing is my primary means of writing. From my journaling, I hone essays, poems, bits of story and ideas to include in my memoir. I consider myself an essayist primarily and my writing has been described as lyrical. Complex sentences are to die for – I’m much more William Least-Moon than say Hemingway.
Morgen: What have you had published to-date? If applicable, can you remember where you saw your first books on the shelves?
Taylor: The first book I was published in was a collection of day diaries edited by Joni Cole, entitled Water Cooler Diaries. (De Capo Press, 2008) It was the third book in that series in which women from around the country participated by agreeing to keep a day diary on a selected day. Of 535 entries, I was one of 35 writers selected for publication in the book. A New York firm was handling the publicity and they scheduled a conference call with a reporter and did a wonderful news article. I was in DC when the book was actually released and walked over to Borders on L Street as B&N in Georgetown was too far in rush hour. I remember typing the name into the computer to locate it was and they had two copies on the shelf. Even though my name wasn’t on the cover, I was beaming and read my entire chapter while waiting in line to check-out. It was all I could do to not jump up and down – but it was DC—so I contained myself. All I could think is – I’m in a book. I’m in a book. I’ve had poetry in a chapbook from a local museum entitled Art and Poetry. I have an essay in the book, Happy Birthday, Mr. Lincoln (Pen Woman Press, 2009). I was selected April, 2011 to read a poetry tweet on NPR’s Tell Me More hosted by Michele Martin as part of National Poetry Month and actually heard myself reading it on the radio the day it was broadcast while I was driving in my car. That was really thrilling.
Morgen: Although it’s not the same, it was weird listening to my first podcast, hearing my voice on iTunes. I listen to a variety of podcasts and NPR is one of my favourites (and Writing Excuses, Books & Authors and Litopia). How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Taylor: I am trying to brand myself at the moment. It would be most helpful if I had an idea what it is that I want to be when I grow up.
Morgen: I felt like that ever since leaving school and it was only a couple of years ago that I knew I wanted to be a writer but like you, I’m still finding my niche. :)
Taylor: I’ve marketed my own art for years and have quite a following. With poetry, I’ve given away most of what I’ve written as altered art pieces and have sold some of them. I’m actually working on self-publishing some poetry through Lulu, a print-on-demand company.
Morgen: I’ve heard good things about Lulu. Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions and do you think they help with a writer’s success?
Taylor: The NPR selection and Water Cooler Diaries were both competitions as explained above. About ten years ago I was one of 12 writers selected for a writer’s retreat by our then state poet laureate, Fleda Brown. I was thrilled when I learned later that about 25 people had applied, and it wasn’t just a fluke that I was accepted as maybe only 12 had applied in the first place. I am just now applying to several contests and am forcing myself to finish things so that I can submit them.
Morgen: Me too, I was really good, entering regularly each month last year but am only just getting going this year.
Taylor: I simply love to write. Editing is fun to a point but when it gets really tedious – like you’ve written the same sentence over 20 times and it still isn’t saying what you intended—I have a tendency to pack it in. Working on the diary piece with Joni was gruelling. I remember I worked on one paragraph for like three hours on a second or third rewrite and then she struck the whole thing. Pain. It was sheer pain to have that paragraph and all that work deleted. She thought the re-write process would take a couple of hours – it took a whole weekend and we were under a seriously tight deadline at that moment. In general, I think anything you can put on a resume or CV is critical to success. It proves you showed up if nothing else. It proves you can keep your buns in the chair.
Morgen: One of my (retired) Monday nighters, Denny, will take a week on a story. I’m less patient – three or four run-throughs is it for me but it only goes out if I’m happy. If I’m not happy by edit two or three I put it to one side and go to something else, then when I come back I usually blitz it and it’s ready. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Taylor: I need a manuscript or some semblance of a coherent work with an arc before I’ll ever think of trying to get an agent. I really feel like when I’m ready to get out there and speak about my book (the one, unfortunately, that’s still mostly in my head) an agent would be helpful. With all the changes in publishing, especially self-publishing opportunities, there is a potential for success but an agent would know the ropes of the industry better. There’s only so much time a person can spend learning to do everything. I think if you want to have more time to write, an agent would be invaluable.
Morgen: It would, I’m sure every author out there would love more time for writing (myself included). Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process?
Taylor: They will be if I go with Smashwords as I think that is a total ebook concept.
Morgen: I’m trying them first; I’m sculpting my first two books and three free short stories at the moment, then re-sculpting for Amazon. :) Do you read eBooks?
Taylor: I haven’t really gotten into reading ebooks as it’s just not a visceral enough process for me. I love the feel of books, the way the spine snaps when you first open it, the texture of the covers, the way the typeset words meld into some papers and float on others. There’s a smell of books – old and new that to me is also appealing. Of course you’re speaking with a person who’s personal library is about 4000 volumes not to mention an extensive collection of handwritten diaries and hundreds of letters. Add to that that I have hundreds of my own handwritten journals in every shape size and description, it would be a stretch if I ever gave books up. I’m certain I was a tree in another life.
Morgen: And I thought I had a lot with about half that. You’ve mentioned your lovely long list of achievements, can you remember your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Taylor: Having the poetry accepted for the writer’s retreat by the poet laureate was the most thrilled I think I’ve ever been. To be validated by a prolific strong poet gave me so much encouragement. I hadn’t written anything to “hand-in” in decades so it was great to know a goal might still be obtainable. I think in all writing – we’re in a sense coming back to poetry, to the inner desire to take intangible words and give them concrete bodies to move about in. Everything is so transitory that it’s difficult to understand what’s the point of all this except through poetry. I think poetry touches souls in a way that only metaphor can. In my winning poem, I took a look at the question of whether I would look like my mother when I was dead as during my life people had always commented about how much I looked like my mother. In death, the funeral director didn’t get her mouth “right,” which, in the poem, I speak to how no one can get it right – the mouth is just never right. I’ve re-worked it several times and Fleda did a really great poem using the same concept. I’ve since taken inspiration from her views and reworked mine. That’s the wonderful thing about creativity – every spin is different – we learn so much from each other.
Morgen: And that’s the great thing about writing groups like the ones I’m in, not only do they give you constructive feedback but it’s like hearing a mixed anthology on audiobook only you have the author there expressing it how it’s originally meant. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Taylor: My first rejection was actually from Paper Maiche Press. Sandra Martz was the editor of the wonderful anthologies that included Jenny Joseph’s great poem “Warning.” Sandra, in my personal, humble opinion, did more for women writers in those series of books than any other person at the time. I would have loved to have been accepted by that press. In Joseph’s case, she won the title of being the most popular post-war poet or something after appearing in Sandra’s book. The poem was originally published in 1961 and had little acclaim here in the states. It’s universal appeal probably had much to do with Sandra’s genius to title the book based upon the line “ When I’m an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple.” That had much more appeal than “Warning” as I doubt women would have flocked to a book entitled that. And the rest, they say, is history. When I met Sandra a few years later, I could not have been more thrilled. We became friends and I admire her more than any other woman I know. She will always be my “s’hero.” If you’re going to be rejected, it’s better to be rejected by the best. There’s a certain positive feel to that. Recently I’ve been rejected by Narrative, Passages, and Memoir (and).
Morgen: What are you working on at the moment / next?
Taylor: I’m so pathetic. I’m working on contest entries primarily for the next three months.
Morgen: Oh yes that sounds terrible. :) I thought you were going to say that you really WANT to be working on… but you’re doing everything else but writing, like me, although I have NaNoWriMo coming up so I’ll have no choice, which I need. Give me a deadline and I’ll write War & Peace… well, I won’t because I don’t write classics but you know… :)).
Taylor: I’m trying to hone some of my life stories that I’ve journaled about incessantly for so many years into cohesive works that can become entries in contests. I’m actually working with a coach on some pieces and hope to have a manuscript by the end of this year. My goal was to have it ready last year but I missed that mark as I took too much time on other projects. I entered NANO last November on a whim as I’ve never written fiction before. It was fun and that story is really a good one if I can just get it finalized. It would probably work best as a novella. I’m shooting more for “Waller-ese” rather than something “Sparks-esque.” I’m still working on my poetry chapbook and a friend has offered to read it for me whenever I get the final ready. It’s actually based on the poem I wrote in Twitter during national poetry month which I’ve written about in my blog. The complete original poem is posted there as well but at this point, it’s quite different.
Morgen: Maybe that could be your first eBook, which I think lend themselves perfectly to novellas (and how two of my NaNo books will be going). Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Taylor: I do write almost every day. I set an alarm for 9:00 AM and am supposed to write from 10 – 2. Of course, my career these days seems to be lunch! On Wednesdays I try to paint plein air with some friends and with the cooler weather, I hope to paint each morning from 8 – 11 which means I will have to try and write from 11 – 3. I’m a night person so I don’t know why I even bother to do anything creative during the day but I am determined to treat my writing as a job for which I must keep regular hours. The most I’ve written in one day was the day diary – I think it was 7,500 words or so. I’m a fast writer – a fast rambling writer who uses too much passive voice and not enough concrete.
Morgen: But you’re getting it written. I always think it doesn’t really doesn’t matter what a first draft is like as it’s writing not blank page – editable regardless. What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Taylor: I have never had writer’s block. I have editor’s block. There is no known cure for that as I’m sure it will be my demise and will be listed in my obituary as a footnote that she died while banging her head against a wall.
Morgen: Editing’s in my ‘least favourites’ so I’m right there with you (although I’d put cushions between our heads and the wall!). Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Taylor: I wrote a fiction story for NANO last year. I think my final word count was around 22,000 words or so. It’s a great concept and considering I didn’t start NANO until November 3 and had four days out for Thanksgiving holiday, it was pretty good for three weeks worth of writing. I signed up for an August sort of NANO project but did not follow through. The NANO piece is a good start and I really think it will be a strong little story if I can figure out plot, scene, character development, and overall arc. I think it’s best to just run with the general idea.
Morgen: I thought about doing the Camp NaNo this summer but knew I wouldn’t have time to do it justice – one 50,000+ project a year is enough for me (this’ll be my fourth). I’m just starting to plan a rough outline for this year’s but I usually just start writing and see what happens. Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Taylor: I had been concentrating on non-fiction for so long that I was surprised how much I enjoyed giving voice to actual characters.
Morgen: And that’s in my ‘most favourites’. :)
Taylor: And all the detail that you need to fill in is quite unusual if you are to give any sense of place. I’d been trying to do the writing prompts that you post on Twitter, Morgen – changing voice and viewpoint, etc.
Morgen: Oh great!
Taylor: I’ve really fallen off as I was bogged down in the Art House Fiction Project and was ill for a few weeks this past winter. Never again will I miss a flu shot!
Morgen: Oh dear.
Taylor: The art / fiction project is actually an original book in a cahier moleskin and is part of the permanent collection of the Brooklyn Library. I consider this sort of my storyboard for a manuscript I’ve been working on regarding names. I included the original work of two friends and some of friend, Fleda Brown who was mentioned earlier. I submitted a short story and named the antagonist after a friend I’m seeing. Not sure what that means, but I’m sure it means something.
Morgen: Antagonist? Oh dear, hopefully a nice friend though. :) Who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to?
Taylor: With poetry, I’ll read to anyone who will listen. I’m in an on-line poetry group but they aren’t into critiquing but do tell you if they like something. I take silent to mean disapproval for some reason.
Morgen: Not very helpful. In my critique group I have two poets and two writers who write prose and poetry so, unless anything leaps out to comment on, I tend to leave it to them to thrash it out, although they’re such seasoned writers that there’s little thrashing to be done. :)
Taylor: A friend who’s a wonderful poet is going to read my poetry chapbook and her opinion is very valuable to me. I’ve given some handwritten poems to a friend that I’m seeing and jokingly tell him that he’s my “Fannie Brawne.” He’s a biker-sort of guy so I’m not sure he fully appreciates my compliment, especially since I’m no Keats. I recently discovered cinquains and they are the perfect vehicle for describing our relationship. I’m sure he must think me quite daft some days. I guess it comes with the cougar territory that I find myself in.
Morgen: As I said to Katie Fforde (who’s judging our H.E. Bates Short Story Competition :)) recently it’s in a writer’s job description. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Taylor: My best fragment writing is fully formed when I think and write it. Sometimes it only takes a change to a word or two to really have something improve. Other times I think I’ve ruined some wonderful pieces by overworking when I try to get it ready to submit.
Morgen: I mentioned Denny earlier and she says the same, that sometimes she just can’t leave a piece alone. I wonder sometimes if I’m not picky enough but if I’ve left it for a while and can only change a word or two when I return then I think it’s cooked.
Taylor: I find, too, that you should get as much editing done as soon as possible as you’re only in that place for a little while. To come back later and try to rework something – especially in poetry—you’re not the same you and you’re no longer there in a sense.
Morgen: I think you’re probably right. Sometimes I’ve had a wonderful idea, written it down then when I’ve gone back to it it’s lost it’s magic. :(
Taylor: I find it best to edit intensely for as long as possible before you move on to the next place. In trying to do this chapbook, it’s nerve-wracking as I’ve reworked it many times and it’s been months now. I’ve had to do some research as a lot of references existed that I didn’t realize as some of it was based on dream states and there are so many connectors that need to be plugged in.
Morgen: What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
Taylor: My creative process is chaotic. I follow no rules. I do ring a little bell that has a wonderful resonance to it and that helps calm my mind a little.
Morgen: Ah, how lovely. :) I wonder what my dog would think to that. My equivalent is blitzing emails, doesn’t have quite the same… er, ring to it does it?
Taylor: So, you’ve rung your bell, what happens next? I start writing about life in general and after about fifteen minutes, I think you do get in flow with the universe and some of what comes out is surprising. I’ve been combing my journals for things to enter and two projects within them take a lot of my attention some days. Most of my journals are not in order except for two sets which I refer to as the Books of Michael and A Modern Day Love Story. It may be that these will just be published as journals one day – which will certainly be more fun for readers than reading Samuel Pepys! There are days when I feel that my only writing that will ever be bid upon and published will be my journals. The Books of Michael are quite complicated and since it’s ongoing it just gets more confusing as I try to write about him. And A Modern Day Love Story is the same way – a sage is difficult to write when you’re involved in living it. I’m always happy on those days where my thoughts don’t lead down those two paths. It was helpful to start keeping the separate journals about these two aspects of my thoughts as I’m trying to focus on ideas that will actually materialize into finished pieces.
Morgen: I suspect I know the answer to this given what you’ve said so far but do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?
Taylor: I usually freewrite by hand and do all my primary writing by hand in bound journals. I transcribe whole journal entries and notes sometimes as my handwriting is atrocious.
Morgen: I’ve had quite a number of interviewees say that. Mine’s not too bad but so slow… not suited for a fast prose brain. :)
Taylor: I can only edit well on the computer. I find it very difficult to edit from a printed page. Marginalia drives me crazy and notes get so jumbled that I find myself too confused. It’s much easier to edit on the fly at the computer. Usually I’ll pick a selected passage and start writing from that point – when something starts to gel I get to the computer.
Morgen: I’m usually the opposite and print out the first draft then edit on paper. It is easier by screen but I miss more. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
Taylor: I’ve been trying to pull a memoir together for ages so enjoy first person. I’ve used several of your exercises and find the process interesting when you tell the same story from the different viewpoints. As I get more into story-telling, I feel most comfortable with a third person point of view. As stated before, in the NANO story I was trying for more of a Waller feel.
Morgen: Do you use prologues / epilogues? What do you think of the use of them?
Taylor: I think they’re invaluable because they offer a little further insight. Not everyone is a scholar and for the average, non-academic reader, anything that can shed a little extra light can be a real help. I’m sure I’ll use them if I ever get the manuscript written.
Morgen: Well NaNo starts in a week and a bit. :) Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Taylor: I actually think my journals will be my legacy even though they probably won’t see the light of day during my lifetime.
Morgen: That would be a shame.
Taylor: I think they can serve as a great source into the creative process as the struggle, the notes, the thoughts, the ideas are scattered around in them. The two important sets I referred to earlier, the Books of Michael and A Modern Day Love Story, actually merge at times and I think they will be a very interesting read for all the voyeur-types who love reading diaries and journals. I’ve tried to live as interesting a life as I could in my particular circumstances and have recorded a good deal of it in random fashion. From all the published and unpublished diaries that I’ve read over the years, I would stack mine up against anyone’s. Of course, what Pepys ate will always hold some appeal. I think in the diary / journal world, there will always be some interest into the inner workings of someone’s life. Living an interesting life naturally leads to more interesting facts about that life. I include so much literary referencing that I will offer insight into how an artist seeks the connections that weave all creative people together in one way or another. Few vacuums exist in the creative world and it’s amazing how many links can be discovered if you allow your mind to follow unknown, unsearched, or re-discovered paths.
Morgen: I’ve mentioned some of mine already, but what’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Taylor: The least favourite - It’s the fact that you can’t stop writing. It’s not like you reach a certain age and stop thinking. Well, I suppose some people are capable of doing that, but as a writer you are constantly examining things and taking words to build the perfect house that won’t fall down upon scrutiny, looking for the perfect lamp to shed light into the darkest recess. It’s doubly worse when you’re a visual artist as well as your eye is constantly seeking the light in the visual world, how it falls across a lover’s face in early morning light or turns sand purple in the early morning mist or snow blue in shadowed drifts. But that’s the same reason you love it all as well. You are never bored. You are never alone. You are always with yourself – not looking but truly seeing. And then you get to play God. You get to create something that didn’t exist before – for better or worse—it’s your turn to try your hand at the impossible.
Morgen: And I love that, not knowing what’s going to come out. :) If anything, what has been your biggest surprise about writing?
Taylor: The biggest surprise is what comes out sometimes. When you really get in the flow, the synapses make connections that are absolutely uncanny. There are a lot of weird connections in that cranial noggin we all tote around—that spillage is what we all just die for or for the lack thereof in many cases.
Morgen: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Taylor: Write. Write daily. Write often. The only way you can be a writer is by writing. Next I would read. Read daily. Read often. The only way you can be a good writer is by reading. Then, live. Live daily. Live often. The only way you can be a good writer is to live in complete awareness that you are alive. I think Wayne Dyer may have said it best – We are a soul with a body, not a body with a soul. You owe it to your soul, to keep your body in as good of a condition as possible so that you can spend as much time as possible enjoying this short life span you’re given. Share with us what you learn. Share with us what you know. Share with us your vision of the next new thing or the oldest old thing. Only you can do that for us. Only you can show us your unique vision of the world.
Morgen: You’ve just mentioned reading, what do you like to read?
Taylor: I have read non-fiction mostly for the past 20 years or so. I’m very eclectic and read everything from bios to collected works with a particular bent towards poetry. I used to love fiction the most but at a certain point, I became more attuned to poetry. I still love Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried the most from many standpoints. It’s what I would call real-life fiction and once heard him state that writers should stick to fiction because then you won’t end up quibbling over some minor point – or words to that effect. By doing this, it allows the writing to move where it needs to. I also love the little true-life-love story that he plops down in the middle of it and how the book is not structured (physically I mean) like most other works of fiction. And how O’Brien even speaks directly to the reader that he’s made up his first soulmate’s name and explains how he came to be a writer and we see little Timmy is now that man. I hated everything about the senseless Vietnam non-War but that’s got to be one of the best little books that’s ever been written about it or war for that matter.
Morgen: I’ve heard of it but not read it but as a short story reader, “little book” appeals. :) You’ve mentioned a lot of books already but are there any writing-related websites and/or other books that you find useful and would recommend?
Taylor: I love http://WritingItReal.com Sheila’s articles on craft and being a writer are so helpful. I’ve had the opportunity to study with her both in person and on-line. And I have an article in her magazine on a braided poem I participated in. I can’t start the day without Garrison Keillor on Writer’s Almanac.
Morgen: That’s another I listen to and because it’s listed on my iTunes page as ‘APM…’ it’s the first one that my iPod starts with whenever I select ‘podcasts’.
Taylor: The email that arrives each morning is packed with much historical information and ideas galore on what to write and think about.
Morgen: It is, and each week day instalment is only five minutes so can be fitted in anywhere.
Taylor: I listed the books earlier that I found most helpful in the developing craft. I love Atwood’s Negotiating with the Dead which makes so many connections with myths and King’s On Writing which are available on-line.
Morgen: ‘On Writing’ has been mentioned a few times and I think every time I say that I have it and must read it – one of the many ‘I will’s for post-day job next year. :)
Taylor: Writers today have almost too much available as the sources are unlimited.
Morgen: And it’s where a lot of our time goes…
Taylor: I think Oxford’s Thesaurus for Writers is a necessary tool as well as good dictionaries. I also subscribe to the NY Times and feel all writers should subscribe to one of the larger newspapers as there’s a goldmine of ideas in the news every day.
Morgen: I have a dozen or so display books full of newspaper cuttings, I’ll certainly never run out of ideas. In which country are you based and do you find this a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?
Taylor: I’m in the USA. With the internet, it’s almost impossible for your work not to be found sooner or later. The key is to develop good, consistent content and eventually you’ll find your audience. You are a good example of that Morgen. You are generous with your time and talents and everyone can benefit by following you.
Morgen: Ah, thank you. I’m loving every minute (which I’ll have more of come Christmas… yay!). Can you tell I’m looking forward to ‘retiring’. :) Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how invaluable do you find them?
Taylor: I think it’s imperative that everyone have a blog or website. My blog is a work in process and my website is mainly for art at this point but I haven’t updated it in a while. I love all the social media sites like Facebook, Twitter but haven’t used LinkedIn to any effect yet. I can be found on those sites at ntaylorcollins. It seems that there’s just too much of everything and everybody is trying to be the next new-new thing. I’m a member of SheWrites but haven’t posted anything there yet. I’m still trying to build a following in all of these. It takes time and a lot of work to build a following.
Morgen: It does, sometimes too much but it is marketing and it has to be done but I’m so guilty of not prioritising my time well enough… and I know I’m not the only one… but it’s sometimes just too fun! :)
Taylor: Again, content is key and the sites are completely different so you’ll need different approaches to use each one effectively.
Morgen: I have a website too but it just points to this blog but then this blog makes up for it. I started this at the end of March and dabbled a bit. I was then invited to a couple of interviews which I love so started reciprocating and here we are 164 interviews, 200+ other posts and 18,000+ visits later. It would be such a different blog without you and the other interviewees and contributors… and I wouldn't be having so much fun. :) So you have a blog and a website, which should anyone reading this interview start with?
Taylor: My blog is the best place. I’m eventually going to drive everything to my blog and link to the other sites off of that. Since I write and paint, the blog seems the best place to be able to direct people to the commercial aspects of my work. I also think a blog is where you can express yourself the most freely and let people know about you as a person (or brand if that’s your approach). I’m a people person and enjoy interaction and hope that eventually more people will comment directly on the blog rather than in emails.
Morgen: I couldn’t see a link to your blog on your website or vice versa, unless I wasn’t looking hard enough. :) What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Taylor: There will always be a need for writers—especially ones who can write well since written communication is more vital now than ever. I think the problem is to garner a living wage. There’s so much free on-line writing – much of which is deplorable beyond words. I’m so sick of seeing passive voice and simple sentences that I just want to puke some days. I have a terrible habit of journaling in passive voice and really have to think when I’m writing creatively to use concrete words and concise descriptions. I think there will always be a demand for high quality journalism, well-crafted fiction in many genres, and poetry. Poetry will always have an audience as I truly feel that is what writing always aspires to be. Technical and copywriting will always have their place as well. Technology still relies on readable content—I dread the day we’ll all become just talking heads.
Morgen: These are hot topics for discussion on LinkedIn and the general consensus is that readers will get fussier and those writing dross will have to up their game or get out. I think as far as sales go, good reviews will be the decider – a bad writer can only have so many friends and family. :) Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Taylor: Thanks so much for asking me to share these comments, Morgen. You are so generous and kind to work so diligently on helping writers help each other. Your suggestions and information are so insightful. I only wish I had more time to keep up with you postings.
Morgen: Thank you Taylor. And thank you for being my first ‘I enjoyed your podcast’ all those months ago – I’m still so grateful. :) I don’t think anyone can be expected to keep up with my postings (I barely do :)), just dip in and out of ones that appeal or go to the relevant menus and pick the relevant ones.
I then invited Taylor to provide an extract of her writing:
Journal Entry: August 19
Finishing material for tomorrow’s presentation. Most helpful if last weekend was spent on this instead of with Sean. Ended an email to Sean today with lament:
Forty-seven people will listen to me telling them how to examine and record the stories of their lives. I will begin — “What the hell do I know? I’ve been journaling for 25 years and don’t have a frigging clue.” Or words to that effect…
Or maybe not. Maybe I’ll just say – “You begin by looking into the eyes of someone you know and try to decide how deep you can delve into that soul through the small portal of what appears to be an endless sea.”
I’ll tell them—“You try to describe the blueness of those eyes in sunlight; how they change from sapphire to cobalt and back again always dependent upon how much available light is shed upon them. You record how they twinkle when warmed by the sun. And you end your days of writing by realizing that you can never explore all those depths. You realize you will never know what all of this means. But you are positive, absolutely sure, that it all means something.”
August 19th, that’s so funny (my birthday – she didn’t know!).
Taylor Collins writes and paints in The Annex, her studio located next to her home in Delaware (USA). She spends her days in creative pursuits in art and writing and is working on two poetry collections as well as a memoir. She enters writing contests on a regular basis and has gotten to the point of receiving personal rejections instead of just the database updates she's used to seeing. She recently started working with a writing coach. She was one of 35 diarists (selected from 525) published in Water Cooler Diaries, Da Capo Press, 2008 available at Amazon and other on-line distributors. A recent on-line publication Taylor was accepted in is The Write Place At The Write Time which includes her essay, "Notes from the Field: Online Dating – It's Not Just a Job—It's an Adventure."
She journals incessantly and a sample of a journal can be seen on-line at http://www.arthousecoop.com/users/TaylorCollins/artwork. She was selected to read her poetry tweet on the National Public Radio (NPR) show “Tell Me More” in April, 2011 as part of National Poetry Month. Taylor is also available for speaking and participates in panels and workshops. She can be reached at email@example.com. As she mentioned earlier her blog on living creatively is http://taylorspeak.wordpress.com and Taylor has also just started a series of YouTube videos on writing and the first is on journalling. Do take a look (she's so delightful :)).
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the questions. You complete them, I tweak them where appropriate (if necessary to reflect the blog ‘clean and light’ rating) and then they get posted. When that’s done, I email you with the link so you can share it with your corner of the literary world. And if you have a writing-related blog / podcast and would like to interview me… let me know.
You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords, Sony Reader Store, Barnes & Noble, iTunes Bookstore, Kobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me. I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.
Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) :) on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.