Monday, June 14, 2010

Inquiry X: M. Macclesfield Read

This week we are joined by pre-published writer M. Macclesfield Read (Don't you just love the sound of that?)

Read is a writer for kids (and all those youthful) represented by Erin Murphy of Erin Murphy Literary Agency. She lives on a farm in Prince George, British Columbia, Canada, with her husband, two daughters and plenty of animals!

Michelle says: "Growing up in the Read family, I could not escape the Read effect; we had so many books in our house that they randomly fell from shelves, stopped doors from closing, slipped into the toilet and even cluttered up the fridge. It was hard for my brother and I to get anything out of our parents, like a word or a pat on the head, or dinner, because they were always absorbed in their books."

Michelle writes adventure stories, whether set in the present day or the days of myths and legends, historical or fantastical. Her heroes are always armed with heart and humor and her greatest wish is that the reader will be not only entertained, but also inspired. You can read more about M. Macclesfield Read at her website:

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

MMR: I have always wanted to be a novelist. As a kid, I read and wrote constantly. I never left home without a book to read and a notebook to write in. However, I also had a drive to be in the medical profession, so I went into physical therapy and wrote as a hobby.

EEM: As a pre-published writer, what are some of the jobs that you do to help sustain your writing passion?

MMR: I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in Physical Therapy in 1991. I worked mostly in private practice for twelve years, treating outpatients—people who are basically leading normal lives but need help with a physical problem or two. I really enjoyed the social aspect of this job, getting to chat with folks from all kinds of backgrounds with all kinds of stories to tell.

EEM: Which job was the most challenging or strange to you?

MMR: As a university student, I had a summer job at a rehabilitation center for birds of prey. The job was challenging, the boss was strange, the birds were amazing.

EEM: What was your favorite thing about this job?

MMR: I had many spectacular moments in this job. Getting to watch the secretive pair of snowy owls was very special. The snowy owl enclosure was out in the woods, and it was hoped that the pair would breed, so we had to try not to disturb them. When I did get to see them, it seemed as magical as it would be to catch sight of a pair of unicorns.

I also had the chance to try falconry with a trained red tailed hawk. The hawk had claws that could have taken my nose off, and wings that would wrap right around my head if I made the wrong move, so it was quite a rush to hold out the gloved hand and have him land on me.

But my most favorite part of the job was eating lunch every day with the barn owl who lived in the lunch room. Owls don’t have a lot of facial expression, so I always found it a little crazy, in a good way, to sit beside this flat faced fellow every lunch hour and get stared at.

EEM: Least Favorite? That would have to be feeding live chicks to the injured immature bald eagle who was terrifyingly large and aggressive.

EEM: Do/did your day job(s) allow you to write regularly? Or did you have to get creative to get those word counts in?

MMR: When I worked full time as a physical therapist, I only wrote when I was really moved or inspired. Later, when I realized that I was never going to lose the drive to write a novel, I started by writing ten minutes before bed every night. Gradually, I have eased out of physical therapy and am now at home full time, thanks to my husband who works plenty hard enough for the two of us. So I now write every morning for two or three hours, five days a week.

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

MMR: I could more than fill a book with anecdotes from my time as a physical therapist. When you get to chat with fifteen to twenty people a day, you gather a lot of material. But patient confidentiality is an important issue, so I can’t share many of these stories...yet.

My favorite work anecdote is from when I was pregnant with twins. I was wearing a light colored cotton dress and I was six months pregnant, but I was the size you’d be at nine months with one baby. So this dress described a rather large footprint. My patient looked at me as I was stretching his elbow and said, “Hey, what are you going to do with that dress after you have the babies?” I shrugged, “Why do you ask?” And he said, “I’d like to have it for a snowmobile cover!” I never wore that dress again.

Although I rarely use stories from work, I have had my eyes opened many times in dealing with patients and hearing their stories, and so have gained a broad perspective which has helped me to create more engaging characters and situations in my writing.

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

MMR: I have had several bosses that would make good villains, but my characters all seem to come out of my head. I can’t say I’ve ever based a character on a real person. I’ve taken eccentricities from people I’ve observed and fused them into a character I’ve been creating, but never taken a whole person and used them. On the other hand, it would be fun to take my most villainous boss and make a caricature out of her!

EEM: Walking toward this goal to be a writer, what is some of the hardest things you have faced?

MMR: Trying to find time to write was the hardest thing for me once I decided I really wanted to have a go at a novel. I didn’t feel I could take time away from my family. Becoming a novelist was just a dream of my own that I thought might never happen, so it was hard to justify spending hours hammering away at the computer. But now that I have an agent, it seems easier to allocate time to write.

EEM: Is it easy to keep the inspiration going?

MMR: I seem to have inspiration coming out of my ears, but at times I have trouble sitting myself down to write. I have four die-hard fans who read my work as I write it, and their enthusiastic feedback goes a long way toward helping me keep my momentum.

EEM: We’ll check back with you in one year and see how different your answers are! I am interested in this evolution!

1 comment:

  1. Great interview. I can so relate to the challenges of making time to write because I work full time. I try to squeeze it in in the morning. I'm impressed you did it before bed. I'm too pooped.
    I met Erin Murphy at a SCBWI conference. She seems like she'd be a great agent.