This week's winner of our new "15K" contest -- which features the writer who refers the most new members each week from now until we hit 15,000 -- is MARGARET DUARTE! (WE LOVE YOU MARGARET!) SW Founder Kamy Wicoff asked her Five Questions.
Invite writers to join SW, and next week, it could be you!
Kamy Wicoff: Can you tell us about your journey as a writer? Is it something you've been doing all your life, or something you have left and returned to?
Margaret Duarte: Writing brought me welcome recognition in high school. One of my English teachers published an extra credit story I'd written in our annual school literary publication and another teacher made copies of one of my essays for every student in the junior class as an example of excellent writing. Both incidents left a lasting impression on me, though I didn't comprehend their full significance at the time. My advanced composition teacher in college also inspired my writing with encouraging comments on my work. She said she hoped to see me published one day. However, after graduation, I did what so many women of my generation did—married and became a full time wife and mother. My BA in English and my secondary teaching credential became little more than souvenirs to be stored in a safe place and forgotten, unless needed in case of an emergency.
Over the next 30 years, I helped out with the family dairy business, did some substitute teaching at the secondary level, and dabbled in an assortment of hobbies, but did little writing other than in my journal. It wasn't until after my children were grown and I'd exhausted all my hobbies that I finally returned to what my teachers had encouraged me to pursue so many years before—writing.
Don't get me wrong, those years as wife and mother were far from wasted. They taught me a lot about love and selflessness and fueled me for the years of writing that lay ahead.
Over the following ten years, I completed four novels, all the while reading every book on craft I could get my hands on. I also earned a creative writing certificate through UC Davis Extension, joined several writing organizations, attended writers' conferences, and participated in two critique groups.
Now, I'm in the process of seeking publication.
Kamy Wicoff: What do you think a more mature writer brings to her craft that adds to the quality of her work?
Margaret Duarte: Life experience helps a writer evolve, deepen, and expand in a way that no amount of "book smarts" can. The wisdom of maturity trumps the freshness of youth for tackling the complex issues that appear along one's path toward spiritual and emotional freedom. In my twenties and thirties, I would never have dealt with some of the issues I do now. They weren't part of my consciousness. Back then I was concerned with the material—finding a job, making money, building a home. Now I'm concerned with the spiritual.
Kamy Wicoff: What has been your experience with the publishing world? Do you have any lessons learned, or advice to share?
Margaret Duarte: Since I've only just started my journey toward publication, I've had little experience with the publishing world other than hearsay—which is sometimes more frightening than fact.
However, I have observed enough over the years to give some advice.
Do not submit too soon. When I finished my first novel ten years ago, I was so proud of my accomplishment that I immediately entered the prestigious William Faulkner Novel Competition. It’s one of America’s leading literary writing contests and offers a hefty first prize of $7,500, plus assistance in finding a literary agent and publisher. Oh, the innocence of the budding writer! Between the entry fee (somewhere around $20, I believe) and the postage (no electronic transmissions back then), I was a bit poorer for the experience. But I learned an important lesson: There are plenty of writers out there who have not only written novels, but have put in many more hours than I have at perfecting and polishing their craft. I heard recently that it takes approximately 10,000 hours of deep practice to get really good at something, which translates into approximately ten years, where I stand today.
Focus. Focus. Focus.
Decide on your author brand and articulate it in a one-paragraph statement. Use this as the basis for your author platform, which you must start early, before you begin submitting your work. Build an online hub, preferably a blog linked with a website, and then use social networking sites like Twitter and Face book to build relationships. And point everything back to your hub.
Take classes, enter contests (such as the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award), join critique groups, and attend writer's conferences to get feedback on your work and to learn all you can about the craft of writing.
Buckle down and never give up. You're in this for the long haul.
Kamy Wicoff: What kinds of subjects are you drawn to in your writing and why?
Margaret Duarte: Spiritual and emotional freedom
Kamy Wicoff: What are you working on now?
Margaret Duarte: I'm working on my author platform, which currently includes a blog at http://www.enterthebetween.blogspot.com that is not as focused as it should be! I plan to hire a publicist to help me build that online "hub" I mentioned earlier. And I will continue to revise my four "completed" novels until publication.
One: Between Will and Surrender (An oppressed Silicon Valley woman slowly loses her mind, and in the process, discovers her soul.)
Two: Between Darkness and Dawn (A pragmatic "seeker" experiences a crisis of faith when she confronts the spirit of her dead mother.)
Three: Between Yesterday and Tomorrow (Separated at birth, triplets Veronica, Marjorie, and Mara unite to face truths about change, transitions, and death.)
Four: Between Now and Forever (A greenhorn substitute challenges school tradition and authority to launch seven Indigos, and thereby herself, into their own life stories.)
Big thanks to Margaret for referring THE MOST NEW MEMBERS TO SHE WRITES last week. Next week it could be you! Be the one to refer the most new members for the week of May 16th to the 20th, and you will be featured in the next installment of "Five Questions for..." with She Writes founder KAMY WICOFF.