Sunday, May 16, 2010

Inquiry V: CG Watson

This week we welcome CG Watson.

CG Watson is a writer, high school Spanish teacher, musician and songwriter from Northern California. She is represented by the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

EEM: Did you always want to be a writer? If no, what was your initial dream and what led you to writing later?

CGW: I’m pretty sure I was born holding a pencil. As a kid I wrote all kinds of crazy stories, then launched my own line of anti-war-slash-fashion magazines. J From there it was a short descent into bad poetry. When I was about twelve, I taught myself to play guitar and started songwriting, which I continued to do for the next twenty or so years. Took some time off to have kids and started writing fiction again about seven years ago.

EEM: When you began, was it instant success and riches or did you find you had to work other jobs in order to continue your dream of being a writer?

CGW: Sadly, no instant success and riches for me. I’m a high school teacher, and I’ve done that job for the last 24 years (started when I was 22!). So I’ve always had this day job, even before I became a serious writer. However, when I realized that the writing gig was for real, my husband and I looked at our expenses and paid off everything we could, which allowed me to go part time. I might regret that when I’m ready to retire, but for now, I consider it the best thing I’ve ever done. I approach my writing as a second career and take it very seriously.

EEM: What jobs have you held, current or in the past, to help sustain your writing career?

CGW: Just the teaching. It pays the bills, and I would feel like a negligent parent if I didn’t provide health care for my family.

EEM: Has your job as a teacher ever been a challenge or a strange profession for you?

CGW: Teaching is, by nature, a challenging and strange job. Every day is a different adventure. But I love teens, and I get a lot of great material off them. They don’t always love me when I make them work in class, though.

EEM: How did you come across this job? Actively seeking or by chance?

CGW: When I was a kid, it never occurred to me that I could pursue writing as a career, but I was really good at Spanish in school, so I knew from the age of 14 that I’d probably end up doing that, and I never wavered from that track. That said, I’m ready to transition from teaching to full-time writing, so now all I need is a fabulous opportunity.

EEM: I hear you on that. So what would you say is your favorite thing about teaching?

CGW: Talking to kids, picking their brains, eavesdropping on their conversations. Kids are way smarter than we give them credit for and FUNNY!

EEM: Least Favorite?

CGW: Apathy in the classroom, and politics outside the classroom. It’s a very different profession than when I first started.

EEM: Does teaching allow you to write regularly? Or do/did you have to get creative to get those word counts in?

CGW: Before I went part time, I’d have to write at creative times. But going part-time has been brilliant. I write in the morning before going to work, and I’m very disciplined about using that block of time because I consider my writing a job. But it’s a job that I love dearly, so the hard part is stopping. I also write throughout the day – when the kids are doing homework, after they’ve gone to bed. My husband doesn’t care if I’m writing instead of folding the laundry (which he washes), so there’s a perpetual pile o’ laundry in our house.

EEM: What other effects did it have on your writing?

CGW: The main impact of my day job on my writing is that it gives me a ready-made source of material and a built-in readership since I’m in contact with my target audience every day.

EEM: Any fun stories from the job(s) that inspired your stories?

CGW: Lots of funny anecdotes that I jot down for possible later use, but there was a chilling story about kids bullying each other that led me to write what became my debut novel, QUAD. That book was inspired by my observations in my own school, in fact in my own classroom, and the way certain kids figured out how to psychologically dismantle a classmate whom they considered weak. They were immune to my interventions as a teacher, parents were not helpful (because their kid would never do or say such things), and admin is often impotent unless “something happens.” So I went home every day wondering what was the worst thing that might happen to a kid who gets pushed to his emotional limit day in and day out. And then I wondered what would happen if that same kid got pushed past his breaking point. I started writing QUAD to try and process the chilling possibilities of those questions.

EEM: Have you ever based a loved protagonist or an evil villain on one of your co-workers? Wished you had?

CGW: Ha! Funny question! No, not one of my co-workers. But I’m often asked if I’ve based any of the characters in my books on specific kids at school. The answer is yes and no. I definitely look at personality types that come through my classes and borrow some of their gestures and language. I steal clothing ideas directly from kids (we have a saying that every day at my high school is Halloween, which is true). But nothing more direct than that.

EEM: Would you change anything if you could begin your writing journey over again?

CGW: Yes. I’d go back and either major or minor in the arts or creative writing – at the time, I didn’t realize that teaching wasn’t necessarily my only career option. It’s much harder to transition into a new career now, after having the same day job for nearly 25 years. But for what it’s worth, I’m ready to do the writing thing full-time.

Thanks for joining us Carrie! It was great hearing about your writing journey!


  1. Great interview. That's so awesome Carrie that you can work part time. I agree that discipline is essential when trying to work and write.

  2. Your husband sounds like a real catch. But if he washes the laundry, why doesn't he just go the extra mile and fold it too?

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