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The Writing Routine of Co-Authors
Written by
She Writes
November 2018
Written by
She Writes
November 2018

Holly Blake and Melissa Ooten are the authors of Audacious Voices: Profiles in Intersectional Feminism. Holly and Melissa have worked for more than thirty years, collectively, with WILL*, a program that connects women, gender, and sexuality studies with feminist leadership and activism, at the University of Richmond.

Share your writing routine.

Holly:  Ideally, I like to have uninterrupted time when I sit down to write which is most often in the evening.  I usually begin by throwing out my ideas and then I rework and reorganize them.  Depending on what I am writing, deadlines help me.

Melissa:  I try to write first thing in the morning a couple of days most weeks. I also have a partner who writes, so on certain weekends, we will block off an afternoon to spend writing at our favorite coffee shop. Sometimes, it may only be for an hour, but even a short writing window helps me keep my head in the various writing projects I’m working on at any given time.

Holly and Melissa:  As co-authors/editors of Audacious Voices, we developed, over time, an effective and enjoyable process of writing and working together. We had many brainstorming sessions throughout the process as we formed and reformed the book.  We thought through big picture questions as well as small details and then carved up our mutually created “to do” list.  We then worked independently, sticking to fairly firm timelines and meeting dates when we would get together to discuss what we had written -- and to think together about the big picture and small details once again. Writing and creating independently then coming back together to discuss our efforts collaboratively not only strengthened the final product, but it also allowed us to work in ways that built off of each other’s strongest independent work.

Describe your writing style in three words.

Accessible. Direct. Succinct.

What is the first thing you can remember writing?

Holly:  When I was around seven, I remember writing a story about planting what I insisted was a seed, even though everyone else thought it was a rock. The next morning, my seed had grown into a huge tree with pretzels and cheez-its hanging from its branches ready to pick and eat! 

Melissa:  I’ve been writing for as long as I’ve known how. The first thing I remember writing outside of school was a poem that I submitted as a very young elementary school student to the children’s magazine Highlights. They didn’t publish it, but they sent a very affirming rejection letter!

When did you start to feel like a writer?

Holly:  I’ve always written, though it has never been the way I identify.  I wrote a lot in graduate school, though it was a bit of a slog. I write my best when it’s something I am passionate about and believe in – when I believe what I am writing will make a difference in some way.

Melissa:  I’ve always felt like a writer, not in terms of a professional writer but as someone who wrote as an extension of thinking and working through a lot of life experiences. I remember getting a short story published during my middle school years and again in high school, and then receiving a lot of affirming feedback as a writer in college. It’s not a term I usually use to describe myself or my work, but the process of writing has always been very important to me. 

Was there something about the publishing experience that surprised you?

Holly:  Working with She Writes Press was lovely, exciting, and easy!  My last publishing experience was difficult so this was a welcome contrast.  We had great communication with She Writes Press throughout and everything that She Writes suggested made our book better.  We especially enjoyed the cover design part of the process. And we learned a great deal about the process of publication, which is both interesting and useful. 

Melissa:  For Audacious Voices, I don’t know that anything surprised me, but a lot of the publishing experience was new to me. From marketing to remainders, I learned a lot of incredibly useful information about how the publishing industry works today. And I would credit She Writes Press with making sure that its authors are well-informed about the publishing side of the business; that strikes me as an educational and professional experience unique to publishing with She Writes Press.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Holly:  Do what feels right and authentic for you.

Melissa:  Put in the time. Creating a fairly inflexible writing routine that you don’t let other plans or life circumstances intrude upon has helped me complete a number of writing projects over the years.

What do you do to help develop your craft?

Holly:  Read lots and listen to people. Write, rewrite and ask for feedback.

Melissa:  I read voraciously. I’m almost always reading at least one fiction and one non-fiction book alongside the latest issue of magazines in the vein of the New Yorker. Reading well-crafted sentences and arguments not only helps me think through how to improve my own writing, but it also keeps me connected to why I do it – because I personally still get so excited every time I find beautifully crafted and meaningful pieces of writing.

What methods are you using to market your book?

Holly and Melissa:  We are being as diverse as possible in terms of marketing our book. Since it is tied to an academic program that we administer, we are doing a lot of work internally at our university to get the word out, which includes hosting an alumni gathering in part to celebrate the book’s launch. We also are highlighting it at a workshop we are leading at our field’s major academic conference, and we’ve worked to publicize it in a variety of ways while we are there.


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