Tag Archives: writer

Laurie Gardiner – writer, mom, caregiver, Canadian

I met Laurie Gardiner in one of the most helpful online writing groups Fiction Writing. She and founder Brian Paone are fair and just administrators of a 30K+ group of supportive and sometimes raucous gang of writers. She published her first novel Tranquility through independent publisher Escargot Books and Music, and short stories in two of the group’s annual “Of Word” themed anthologies. You can find her on Facebook and her own website.

Tell me about your writing style.

I need silence and a long block of time in order to get into a good writing zone. Some days when the house is quiet I’ll write for hours; other days, life gets in the way, and I don’t write at all. My children are grown, but my house has become the family meeting place, the laundromat, and the neighbourhood diner, so quiet days without interruption are rare. And of course, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I do all my outlining longhand in a notebook, set up in sections with labeled tab dividers for setting, timeline, each character, etc. I may have a slightly compulsive grammar issue, so I’ve been training myself to stop editing as I go, because I know it’s a habit that slows down my first draft. The first thing I do when I sit down to write is to read over the last few paragraphs I wrote. This helps get my head back into the story before I continue. During this process, I often correct glaring errors or badly structured sentences, but I’m learning to leave the bulk of the editing and revising until the end. I often play scenes out in my head before I sit down to write them. My favourite time to do this is during a walk or a yoga class, or even while I do mindless, everyday chores like laundry and grocery shopping.”

Who gets to read your work first and why?

My kids are often the first to beta read a short story for me. They are all avid readers and two of them also write as a hobby. They aren’t afraid to be honest and will tell me if they think something doesn’t work. I also exchange critiques with a few fellow writers I’ve met through Fiction Writing, the Facebook group I co-administrate.”

What prompted you to write your book?

Tranquility was inspired by my work in the dementia unit of a long-term care facility. As a support worker, I spent the majority of my time providing hands-on care to residents. Because my duties were limited to resident care, I interviewed housekeeping and nursing staff in order to gain insight into their experiences and what their jobs entail.

It was also important to me that Tranquility reflect the reality of living and working in a long-term care facility in Canada. The characters represent a variety of ethnicities and I wanted to realistically depict these characters and avoid stereotypes. For instance, one character is an elderly Italian man. A close friend of mine, whose parents came to Canada from Italy, agreed to check the character’s dialogue for authenticity.

I didn’t last long working in facilities. Things are slowly changing for the better, but I didn’t enjoy my work there. It bothered me to make the residents do things even if they didn’t want to, for the sake of adhering to a routine. And I didn’t always agree with how facilities were run and how residents were treated. I found my niche working in homecare, where I could connect one-on-one with my clients and spend quality time with them. At times, it can be difficult caring for people who suffer from dementia, but it’s also very rewarding. Many of my clients were the inspiration for characters in Tranquility.”

Tranquility

Sometimes there’s a price to pay for doing the right thing.

Support worker Sarah Scott learns this the hard way when, soon after being transferred to Tranquility’s dementia unit, she uncovers a sinister secret. Doing the right thing could mean losing her job, and unemployment is not an option for the young, single mom.

Meanwhile, Sarah begins to question whether her newest resident, Edie, belongs in the nursing home’s locked unit. The feisty, Scottish woman certainly doesn’t act as though she has dementia. Sarah is determined to have her released, but her plans may be thwarted when Edie risks her own freedom to help uncover the secret.

Tranquility is a poignant story of the relationship between three generations of women as they struggle to reconcile past hurts and discover the healing power of love. It is an eye-opening, behind-the-scenes glimpse into life in a long-term care facility, and a fight for justice in the face of adversity.

Click here to purchase Tranquility on Amazon

Give a timeline for the publishing process.

Tranquility was published by Escargot Books and Music, an independent publisher out of California. The personal, collaborative publishing experience was exactly what I needed as a first-time author. The whole process of researching how to publish, searching for a publisher, writing a query letter and synopsis, and dealing with rejection, opened up a whole new world of knowledge for me.

As is the case with most independent publishers, the majority of the marketing was left to me. Months before Tranquility’s release, Escargot advised me to build my author platform. I set up a website and a Facebook page, and joined online writing communities where I could connect and network with readers and other writers.

After Tranquility’s release, the publisher set up a virtual blog tour. It was a great opportunity for me to interact with bloggers and readers, and it resulted in some much-needed book reviews.

This past summer, I had the opportunity to sell my books at a neighbourhood farmer’s market when they invited local artists to come and promote their works. I’ve also done book signings and readings at local libraries. Both were a fun way to connect with my neighbours while marketing myself and making sales.

Marketing is something I had no experience with before being published, so it has been a huge learning curve for me. I continue to research and learn more every day.”

How does your creative effort influence your daily life?

Writing is an outlet and a way of expressing myself. As a mother and a caregiver, I’ve spent the majority of my life caring for others. Writing is the one thing I do that is only for me, and I believe I am a more fulfilled, well-rounded person because of it.

I come from a family full of creative people. My mother was an artist, a writer, a singer, and a musician. She created lush gardens and laid the stone paths that wound through them. Our Christmas gifts were beautifully crafted sweaters and blankets she knit or crocheted. Many of us own one-of-a-kind rustic wood furniture pieces built by my father. They passed that creativity on to their children and grandchildren.

Unfortunately, I have trouble drawing a decent stick figure, power tools scare me, and my singing voice could be a used as a form of torture. I did inherit my father’s athleticism, and I enjoy swimming, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, and yoga.”

You can connect with Laurie on her website, Facebook, and Fiction Writing.

Purchase Tranquility  at Amazon and the “Of Words” anthologies containing her stories at Scout Media.

Brian Klems – Writer, Blogger, Humorist, Dad

In September, I attended the 34th Western Reserve Writers Conference and Workshop, driving up from NC, eager to hear the keynote speaker, Brian Klems, online editor of Writer’s Digest. The conference was fantastic, and starting in 2016, the Cuyahoga Library sponsors it to support writers. The South Euclid-Lyndhurst branch hosting the conference has a Writer Center that makes me want to live in Cleveland.

In between sessions, I chanced upon Brian and we chatted for a few minutes. He’s a super nice guy, of course, being from the Midwest, like myself. We Midwesterners are so friendly. Brian agreed to a written interview for my blog, and I promised to share links to his work and his book. He’s a pretty funny guy and in his keynote speech, he shared a few stories from his parenting book. If you’re a parent, or even if you’re not and love kids, I recommend it.

Many writers have an unusual and varied employment history. Mine includes framing / remodeling, llama husbandry, job coaching, home health care, and substitute teaching. I’ve also been a barista, a wine steward, and a personal assistant. Brian’s career climb is more logical, with surprising summers.

“During sophomore year of high school, I landed my first job bagging groceries at a local supermarket. One close friend also worked there, so we’d align our shifts to get off at the same time and hang out together after. I spent most of that money at a local Perkins and on CDs. Next, I was selected to take part in the inaugural ArtWorks Apprentice program for young writers in Cincinnati. I not only learned how to refine my writing, but also a bit of photography and film development (which I completely forget now, so thank god for iPhones and Walgreens). During college summers and breaks, I manned the desk at the Hamilton County Courthouse, retrieving daily case files for the magistrates and judges—it was divorce court, so very few were in a good mood (but the judges couldn’t have been nicer to me).

As for my professional writing career, I worked in NYC for a few months in the summer of 2000 for two sporting and health fitness business magazines. After that, I landed a job in Chicago for plumbing trade magazines. I had several editors there who took me under their wings and helped me grow as not just a writer, but as an editor. I also stepped in to oversee their websites, and it was my first real dip into the professional online world. After two years there, I itched to move back to my hometown, and applied for a job at Writer’s Digest—which I landed, and it became my professional home for the next 14 years.”

Every writer must find his / her own style to be productive. Sharing the process inspires other writers and satisfies reader curiosity. Brian offers a look into his creative style and gives some good advice.

“I like to write in chunks as opposed to writing every day. I’m constantly brainstorming and writing down my ideas on notepads and napkins and scrap paper and anything I can find when an idea hits. Then I collect them into Google Drive docs. When I feel inspired and motivated, I sit down and work through the ideas, sorting and writing scenes and essays and whatever I’m ready to write.

As for editing, I find this to be a critical part of the process. Somehow, everything I write seems to be awesome and terrible at the same time. I believe that’s true for many writers. When writing humor, I self-edit as I write. With jokes, every word matters and I have problems leaving a line until it’s perfect. When writing fiction, I attempt to power through until I’m finished and then go back and edit (though I totally get slowed down by my humor writing process, because sometimes I want to get the sentence right the first time). One of the keys for me is, once I have my “first final draft,” I have an editor give it a look. Working at Writer’s Digest, I’m lucky to know several professional editors. While I edit manuscripts professionally too, I want someone with a fresh set of thoughtful eyes who knows the industry and is a professional to let me know what works, what doesn’t, and anything else. Writing and editing is a tough process, but I love it.”

Creatives, whatever their medium, see inspiration everywhere, and often within. We must keep our wells filled in order to continue creating. On this, Brian not only tells what inspires him, but in his words is a subtle reminder to be supportive of other creatives, which also helps fill our wells.

“Reading amazing books by others always inspires me. The creativeness and thoughtfulness that goes into these epic tomes that entertain me or teach me something (or both) make me want to do the same for others. To know that I could write something that makes someone laugh or think, or makes them smile just a little bit, makes me feel good, really motivates me.

Also, my family feeds my writing life. Since I write a lot of creative nonfiction about fatherhood, they feed my stories with life lessons and humor that I couldn’t even make up. It works out perfectly for me, as I’m built really for two things: to be a writer and be a dad. Knowing I can merge both to do something that entertains others is just icing on the cake.

I don’t keep a journal, just a running Google Doc of ideas, jokes and lines that I save and, if I’m lucky, turn into something of value one day.

As for who sees my work before it’s finished, it usually goes through two sets of eyes—an editor and my wife. I send it through an editor for the reason mentioned earlier, and I send it through my wife because she knows me better than anyone and can be brutally honest. Plus, I don’t want to accidentally write something about our family that would bother her (that rarely happens, but I’m smart enough to use her as a buffer to make sure I never publish something that I shouldn’t).”

When Brian became a father, his life changed dramatically, and he  desired to share his experience in his humorous book “Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters” and parenting blog Parenting Blog.

“Like I said, I’m cut out to be a dad—I love everything about it. The hugs and cuddles. The coaching their sports. The reading on the couch before bedtime. The helping them with their school work. The bringing their lunchbox up to school when they forget it. The dirty diapers (OK, so that I could have lived without, though thankfully, those we retired years ago). My wife and I make a great team and being a dad is the best job that I have.

The way that parenting changed my writing process is that I do so much more writing at night after the kids are in bed than I do during the day. I don’t want to miss time with them while they’re young and still like hanging out with me. I’m hopeful they’ll break the stereotypes and still want to (sometimes) spend time with me even in their teenage years, but I’m not banking on it. So spending as much time as I can with them now is what I do.”

Many writers have various interests that come out in different genres and are creative in multiple ways, resulting in blogs, vlogs, non-fiction, fiction, etc. Beyond his editing position and humorous parenting work, Brian has other projects in the works. He shares his wisdom in the truism of gratitude.

“Aside from parenting essays and my book, I’m working on a Young Adult novel right now. It’s the biggest challenge facing me, as novel writing is so eye-opening. In fiction you have endless choices, and I like to debate each one to find the best scenarios I can for my characters. It’s moving slowly, as my fiction writing always does, but I’m making progress.

As far as snail mail or poetry, I don’t write much of either. I wrote poems to my wife when we were still young lovebirds in college, but now I win her affection by cleaning the dishes and keeping the grass cut lower than our neighbors.

And one of the best parts of being a writer is all the fan mail I get, especially from parents who have read my blog or my book. I’ve also received hundreds of kind letters from folks who have read my blog on writing or have seen me speak at an event. Interacting in person with writers is one of my favorite non-writing things that I do. It gives me an opportunity to share what I’ve learned and help other writers navigate and find success in this difficult business. After all, the writing community is the best and most supportive community around. And for that, I am forever grateful to be a part of it.”

He’s a funny guy who loves his kids tremendously and can find the humor in their everday actions. Buy his humorous parenting book “Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters” and read his parenting blog The Life of Dad.

Find valuable information on his professional website Brian Klems and follow him on Twitter @BrianKlems.

Thank you, Brian Klems, for favoring a new blogger with an industry professional interview. I appreciate your online advice, humor, and especially your support of other writers.

Brian Barr — science fiction / horror writer & punk rock musician

Science fiction and horror writer Brian Barr was my first writer Facebook friend. He sent me a friend request after reading my story in Storyteller, an online literary magazine that has accepted much of his work, and he invited me to follow Dark Chapter Press, who held contests that I entered. I didn’t win any of the contests, but I was welcomed into a supportive group of creatives, several of whom are also now Facebook friends. Brian’s friendliness and positivity launched me fully into an online writerly mindset, and now I’m in several writers’ groups on multiple social media. He inspires fellow writers online by being himself, with his personality shining forth gloriously. He also happens to be a brilliant storyteller. Check out the links, like this one The Head: Book 1 of the 3 H’s Trilogy, to his work and collaborative projects, such as Empress with Chuck Amadori, throughout this blog! Here’s his Amazon Author Page.

All writers must find a sustainable writing process of their own, learning from others for enlightenment and guidance. Brian Barr’s is straightforward, “I type nearly everything, though I may jot notes from time to time as ideas come to me throughout the day. I basically sit down and type in documents, then revise when I’m done and a little as I go along. I’m pretty free-flowing when it comes to writing, and though I have ideas that are planned and notes I reserve for my stories, I’m not a huge outliner or anything like that. So my writing approach is not rigid and I mostly like to have fun and enjoy what I’m writing. If my heart isn’t in it, then I let it go. I like to get invested in what I’m creating.”

He’s open in his social media use, mixing professional and personal on his Facebook account. He has professional sites for readers: www.facebook.com/brianbarrbooksdotcom and www.brianbarrbooks.com. He says, “I use social media to interact with other writers and readers. A few I know IRl. There are my local friends and a few I’ve grown up with. Most of the people I’ve met on social media are either creators or supporters of books and comics that I haven’t met in person. I also use social media to promote my work and let people know about my books. It’s a way that I can keep tabs on my favorite authors and buy their works as well. That’s the main thing I use it for. There are a lot of Facebook groups that have been supportive from Colors in Darkness to Grimdark Readers and Writers. The two groups I mentioned are my favorite groups at the moment. There is also Queer Sci Fi, which has done a lot to promote Carolina Daemonic [Brian’s dystopian alternative timeline fiction published by J. Ellington Ashton), and various horror groups that have allowed me to share my horror work.”

Independent and ambitious, Brian explains his working style, “I’ve done a few writing workshops here and there, but they’re not my thing. Whenever I’m at one, I feel I could be at home writing, or that it’s time I could use to do other things, like walking, going somewhere, visiting friends, etc. So writing is a very solitary and personal, intimate experience for me. I feel like people at writer’s workshops can be helpful, but it can also become a way that other people tell you how to write to the point that you lose your own voice, so on a personal level, it’s been a balancing act for me to avoid those groups and do my own thing. The last time I joined a writer’s group, I acted on someone else’s advice, and I’ve been learning to respect people’s opinions, but do what’s right for me. I always felt restricted in groups when it comes to my creativity, like it would make me waste time on unneeded rewrites to please other people instead of pleasing myself and whoever would like the stories as I genuinely write them, so I’m solitary when it comes to writing stories.”

When asked his preference for self-publishing, he states, “I publish with presses along with self-publishing, so I don’t do self-publishing exclusively. I have books published by presses. With self-publishing, I can hire my own editors and cover artists, then release work when I choose. So I like the independence more. I guess that’s also why I’m not a big proponent of writing groups and stuff like that. I like to see people create on their own and put their own experiences and individuality into their own work. I’m self publishing the next books though. They were accepted for publishing, but they wanted me to use in-house artists. I have a certain way I want all my covers to look now, and they use stock photos, so I pulled them. My friends I usually commission are doing the covers and editing. Sullivan Suad and Zilson Costa are my favorite artists. For the first edition of Carolina Daemonic, a few people told me they saw the photo in other places. I want to have original art for all my books. I appreciate the publisher for accepting my work, but as I’ve been self publishing, I found I like it more. I get all the royalties and like the people I work with. It’s just been better for me.”

A highly creative individual, Brian is also a musician in a band called Pig Head Dog. Punk fans can listen to samples and follow the band on www.reverbnation.com/pigheaddog2 and www.facebook.com/pigheaddog. When asked about a connection between his band and writing, he tells me, “Not at this time. Music for now is a collaboration between friends, and I’m thankful to my friends for bringing me into my band. It’s a fun experience for all of us. I’ve written my own songs before in other projects, and I do come up with basslines for songs in this current band, but I’m not the singer or songwriter for the band I’m currently in. Bubbs Ruebella is the singer and songwriter of Pig Head Dog, and the band is his creation. I’m the newest member, and also pretty new to bass playing, which is what I do in the band. We practice on Thursday nights, or Saturdays. We’ll usually meet for 2-3 hours and work on either a set list or, most often, the newer songs we need to get down. I think we’re all fast learners and good collaborators, so after we get a song down, it’s drilled in our memory. Other than our weekly schedule, we do shows from time to time. I’ve only been playing bass for less than a year, so it’s all pretty new to me.”

With optimism, Brian says he’s doing, “pretty good. I’ve just been focused on my creative projects and freelance writing, recharging for the fall, and getting rested. I’ve been reading a lot, since I wrote so much this summer, though I’m still working on stories as well. For fun, he likes to, “write, make music, and travel. I like to watch movies, read books, and I like anything artistic or creative. So I like to look at art, interact with artists, things of that nature. I also like learning, and I study Japanese. I’ve always had a strong interest in Japanese culture, since I grew up in Hawaii, and there were a lot of Asian influences there.”

I haven’t met Brian Barr in person, but online, he’s a super nice guy, positive, and always supportive of other writers and artists. Follow him on his Facebook page www.facebook.com/brianbarrbooksdotcom and website www.brianbarrbooks.com. Feel free to ask him questions about his work, any upcoming projects, or his professional life. His illustrators, Sullivan Suad and Zilson Costa, are also open for commission, so please do inquire if you need cover art. Even if you’re not hooked on his genres, I highly recommend reading Brian Barr’s work, as it transcends those genres due to his storytelling talent.