Monday, July 26, 2010

Inquiry XIV: Penny Blubaugh

Today we are joined by fellow Gang-O and fellow VCFA-er Penny Blubaugh.

Penny Blubaugh is the author of the forthcoming book, Blood and Flowers as well as the already available, Serendipity Market!
She has lived in Illinois, Colorado and Texas. She has held an assortment of jobs, of which you will see more about below, but among them were grocery checker, department store clerk, Bank person, flight instructor, librarian and most of all, writer. She has been a writer nearly all her life and is represented by the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

EEM: Did you always want to be a writer?

PB: Since about age 12. I remember being on a family car trip to the Grand Canyon and writing in the back seat. Some mystery a la Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden. But I kept putting serious writing off. (Even though one of my high school teachers seemed quite taken with my play on the discovery of malaria.) Mostly I’d try and stop and try and stop. It’s so easy to convince yourself that you can’t write and shove it off into a corner. Lucky for me I finally did realize that I was supposed to be taking the idea seriously!

EEM: When you began writing, 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?

PB: Once I decided to really write, it took a long time to get some recognition. I’m one of those MFA people from Vermont College so I got some nice comments there, and a year after I graduated I won a short story contest . A few years after that I won a poetry contest. For real publishing, though, it took about ten years. My first novel Serendipity Market came out in 2009. The next one, Blood and Flowers, is due March 1, 2011.

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

PB: The best job I’ve ever had was being a flight instructor. That was when I was still a dabble writer. The job I’ve held as a serious writer, and still hold, is as a librarian. I do reference, program planning and publicity, and Young Adult services. Being a librarian has also given me a chance to write articles about authors, and to write book reviews.

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

PB: Trust me, libraries are always strange.

EEM: What was your favorite thing about this job?

PB: Working with teens. They’re bright and interesting and just amazing.

EEM: Least Favorite?

PB: I dislike program planning, but it’s taught me some highly useful skills.

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

PB: I’m using saved vacation days to get in one writing day a week, unless I’m on a deadline. Otherwise, I think more than I do. I also lead a teen writing group at work which is good practice for critiquing – for both their work and mine.

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

PB: I’m pretty focused on that one day a week!

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

PB: Nope. And I don’t think I ever will. The ones I don’t like I try to leave at work. The others are friends and I’m not sure I could do them justice.

EEM: What are you working on now and is the process any easier than your first work?? If so, in what capacity (people noticing it, the writing itself, the confidence?)

PB: My agent (yea Erin Murphy!) has my new novel about a circus. I told her it has the Lone Ranger, Tonto, German wheels, a traveling casino shrouded in mist, a dead woman in a red corset and lots of tea. While I’m waiting to hear about that I’m thinking about secret places, decaying buildings and underwater cities. We’ll see where, if anywhere, that goes.

As for the process – each piece is its own and each one is like starting all over again. Sometimes I feel like I don’t know anything, and other times I can rely on the knowledge that it is possible to actually write a novel because I’ve done it before. People noticing is great and makes you feel wonderful. It also, in its own way, makes you even more paranoid because then you have something you have to live up to.

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

PB: I’d get serious so much earlier!

EEM: Thank you Penny! Everyone else, have a great work week....

Monday, July 12, 2010

Inquiry XIII: Peter Salomon

Today we welcome Peter Salomon.

Peter Salomon graduated Emory University in Atlanta, GA with a BA in Theater and Film Studies in 1989 and earned his CICP (Certified International Credit Professional) designation from NACM (National Association of Credit Management), FCIB (An Association of Executives in Finance, Credit and International Business) and Michigan State University in 2006. But credit consulting is not all that Peter excels at!

A member of Mensa, he has served on the Executive Committee of the Boston area chapter of Mensa as the Editor of their monthly newsletter, The Beacon. He was also a Judge for the 2006 Savannah Children’s Book Festival Young Writer’s Contest. He is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and is a serious writer who 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?

PS: At one point, I thought I wanted to be a pediatrician but that passed; although even then, I was writing. It was simplistic, angstian poetry that left a great deal to be desired in the 'quality literary works of art' department. But, still, I spent all of my free time as a child either reading (anything and everything I could get my hands on) or writing. In high school is when I really started wanting to be a writer, but I didn't have a 'mentor' or anyone, really, who could guide me on that path. Today, there are so many websites and blogs and places to learn how to become a serious writer. So, I lost years that I look back on and realize how un-serious I was being, which I regret. I'm trying to make up for that now.

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

PS: At the moment I am a Certified International Credit Professional (a glorified collections agent) and that has led me to start my own consulting business for credit and collections. It is not, to say the least, the job I dreamed of having when I was a child. Actually, I have a BA in Theater and Film Studies (with a concentration in set design and construction for musical theater). I like to say that that has made me very good at Jeopardy; but, realistically, despite how much I enjoyed my time at college, it was, perhaps, not the wisest course of instruction for me. Unfortunately, the college I attended did not, at the time, have much of a creative writing program and it never occurred to me, when choosing a college, to look for that. In fact, I took one creative writing course at my college. After one session of reading our work out loud, the teacher, in front of the entire class, informed me that ,despite the fact that I was a talented writer, since I did not write historical fiction I was 1) not going to get an 'A' in his class and 2) not ever going to get published by a quality publisher. That was my one and only introduction to what passed for creative writing at my school. In addition to credit and collections, I do some freelance writing work (recently I have had an article published in Business Credit magazine and a cover story for a local newspaper).

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

PS: Since graduating college I have been a pharmacy technician, a legal assistant, Southeast Regional Administrator for a computer chain, and a cubicle dweller for various companies. For a while during the heyday of AOL in the mid-90s I worked for the Cartoon Network's section on AOL (keyword Cartoon) as both a moderator for their chat rooms and, most enjoyably, I answered viewer mail for almost a year (in character when required). That was the strangest and most challenging since it required a great deal of research sometimes to answer certain cartoon-related questions. I learned a great deal about cartoons. In addition, through countless hours watching the kids in the AOL chat rooms, keeping the peace, leading games with other moderators, and policing the chat it was a tremendous education in reaching and understanding the YA market that I write for.

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

PS: As usual for me, with all my day jobs, I have backed into them. As I mentioned, my educational background is not in Finance/Accounting. I was looking for employment back in the late 90's and a friend of my sister's was looking to hire someone to manage a small collections company he'd just purchased. I did that for a couple of years, after which I was 'qualified' to find more cubicle jobs in the Accounts Receivable field. Well, one cubicle led to another and here I am.

EEM: What was your favorite thing about this job?

PS: With the consulting I'm doing now, I'm hired by businesses to come in and help them streamline their in-house credit and collection departments, making them more efficient and more effective. I've discovered that I'm very good at this, despite the fact that, really, my heart isn't in it. Unfortunately, in today's economy, the budget to hire outside consultants has dried up across industries; which has left me relying more upon freelance writing, which, while paying far less, is, at least, far more emotionally rewarding.

EEM: Least Favorite?

PS: It is, always, difficult to collect monies owed (whether from consumers or commercial accounts) and that is doubly so in an economy such as we're currently living in. In trying to collect from consumers, it is never pleasant to be lied to or ignored or screamed at. In trying to collect from companies, while the screaming is gone, for the most part, being ignored is still part of the life.

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

PS: As a consultant, I work from home so I have the time to write far more regularly than I have had in the past when I worked in a cubicle. For instance, a few years ago I brought my laptop to work everyday and during lunch hour, I'd speed eat my food and then spend the rest of the hour in my car, writing. It averaged out to about 40 minutes a day to write. Being at home means I need to balance work/writing/kids/house/etc. but it seems to be working, though financially it is, as usual lately, less than an optimal solution.

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

PS: I'd like to say there's little crossover between finance and writing, but really I've managed to find some, such as the article I wrote for Business Credit back in April. Other than that, though, I tend to look at my credit/collections work life and my writing life as separate entities, though I have spoke with some marketing professionals who have recommended I not do that, since the ability to write is a tremendous asset in the business world.

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

PS: Fun collection stories? While, yes, I do actually have some, most are either 'confidential' or relatively meaningless. Back when I was collecting on consumer accounts I received a Christmas card from a debtor who wanted to thank me for treating her so kindly. I still have that card, it meant that much. But it's not really inspirational on a writing basis.

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

PS: Oh I have had some villains in some jobs. But, other than perhaps a scenario or two, it hasn't translated to my writing. I would think that is a greater reflection of the market I write for: Young Adult. I tend to use conglomerations of high school/college scenes or people more than adults for inspiration as that is what the market is.

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

PS: Those moments working a day job where you realize 'I haven't written anything in days' and have no time to do so anytime soon. Free time is a tremendous luxury and not to be squandered. And time 'wasted' in a job you don't love is a difficult thing to deal with as it seems almost to be a personal insult, of sorts, on the writing aspect of my life.

EEM: Is it easy to keep the inspiration going?

PS: I've been writing since I was seven. I've written poems on napkins aat diners. I wrote a poem on a discarded prescription that someone left on a plane (I still have that one; it was entertaining to realize, years later when I became a pharmacy technician, that I wrote a poem on a birth control prescription...). Inspiration has never been the problem. Time, dedication, determination, consistency, voice: those have been, over the years, the problem.

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

PS: Yes, but perhaps even if I'd had the teaching and mentoring and education I most needed it still would have taken 4 practice books to find my voice enough to write the manuscript that finally resulted in signing with my agent. I wish I knew then what I know now, but that is a familiar lament to most people. If anything, I wish I had ended up in a career path that my day job would have included writing in some aspect but I've enough regrets as is to add to the list. The journey's led here: agented, working on revisions for a publishing house and writing each and every day. And isn't that the definition of writing happiness?

Well, at least it'll do until the book sells...

Awesome! Thanks Peter!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Inquiry XII: Rose Kent

Today we are joined by author Rose Kent.

Originally from Long Island, Rose spent much of her childhood writing poems and stories in Kings Park and in a cabin in Maine. Straight out of high school Rose entered the Navy. Later she honed her writing skills as a freelance journalist. She found her way into writing for kids after she adopted her own son Connor. To hear more about Rose Kent and her work go to

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

RK: I dreamed of many different grownup me’s. I wanted to be Batgirl, a firefighter, a pediatrician, an Olympic gymnast like Nadia Comaneci, and – believe it or not – a backup singer to Bobby Sherman. (He was that ‘70s heartthrob-singer whose face was always on Tiger Beat magazine.) I wrote about all of my dreams. Writing was the way I expressed these young girl wishes, the constant in my childhood, going back to when I first learned to form letters. It was also how I entertained myself and escaped.

EEM: When you began writing, 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?

RK: I didn’t start my early professional life as a writer so I didn’t encounter instant success or juggling jobs. I attended the U.S. Naval Academy and, upon graduation, took a commission as a naval officer for five years. That was a tremendous learning experience – about the Navy and life. From there I entered corporate America and worked in public relations at Kraft General Foods, the folks who make blue box Macaroni and Cheese and Velveeta. Later, I did freelance writing for corporations and universities. Throughout these years, though, I always wrote stories and poetry on the side. It was after I started a family that I began working hard at the goal of publishing a novel for children.

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

RK: I’ve found challenge, satisfaction, and quirks in all the work I’ve done. Being on active duty in the Navy and spending some time aboard a ship was challenging. I can recall spending the summer during my senior (First Class) year as a midshipman at the Naval Academy aboard an amphibious assault ship. The ship was about to deploy so the crew spent weeks conducting readiness drills. It’s an enormous task to get a ship seaworthy, and I was so impressed with the crew’s dedication, both officers and enlisted. There was a drill for everything and a right and wrong way to do things. I remember we had to practice putting on a protective mask very quickly, in case there was a chemical weapon attack. It had to be put on my face precisely, in less than ten seconds, so the seal wasn’t broken. This was a humbling experience. It took me several attempts before I got mine on and secured. Thank goodness some seasoned sailors gave me extra help.

EEM: How did you come across this job?

RK: Remember that Village People song popular in the early 1980s that went,

“We want you, we want you, in the Navy?” I decided I wanted them too! Attending the Naval Academy and later serving in the Navy was a terrific experience. I was in one of the first classes with women and this presented unique challenges, but I’m grateful for it all. I learned so much about staying strong and focused. These were lessons that have served me well in writing novels, too.

EEM: What was your favorite thing about this job?

RK: I loved the esprit de corps, working with men and women who took such pride in their work and sacrificed so much for their country. Working with them made me a better officer, and I believe, a diehard patriot.

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

RK: It was tough getting word counts in during my Navy days since I worked days and I was getting a master’s degree at night. I kept a journal – even when I was aboard ship. That way even if I didn’t have enough time to write stories I would capture the story ideas for a future time. I also believe that reflecting time – when you are actively thinking about your writing, whether it is scenes, dialogue, plot – also counts and I did that when I was working other jobs.

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

RK: Serving in the Navy and working for a major food corporation both influenced my work. My time at Kraft General Foods made me appreciate the role that food plays in all our lives, not only the obvious in terms of nourishing our bodies but also nourishing our spirits. My first book, Kimchi & Calamari (HarperCollins publishers) is about a wise-cracking Korean adopted boy in an Italian-American family who jokes that he feels like a combo platter of kimchi and calamari, which is Korean and Italian food, so you can see the influence. And as a naval officer I got to work with many terrific senior enlisted personnel who held the rank “Chief.” Some could come across as crotchety and gruff, but underneath it they were always rooting for the sailors, and they were always dedicated to the mission. In tribute to them, I have a retired Navy chief in my newest book, Rocky Road (Knopf Books), which is about a girl who moves to upstate NY with her family to open an ice cream shop with the last of their savings. Here is the Rocky Road book trailer:

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

RK: I think some of my characters are composites of people I have known but never one real person. I’ve always felt like I couldn’t take the soul of a real person and replicate it in fiction because I couldn’t completely understand their ways or inner workings, and I need to do that when I create a character.

EEM: What are you working on now and is the process any easier than your first work? If so, in what capacity (people noticing it, the writing itself, the confidence?)

RK: I’m in the midst of writing a middle-grade novel about eleven-year-old Mimi, a petite stubborn redhead who longs to be good at something and decides to set a world record. I’m having a ball writing this because this character is quite unpredictable and unconventional. I’d love to boast that the writing process has gotten easier, but the truth is, each story is a mountain to climb. There are comfortable, even pleasant, stretches of writing along the way, and there are steep ascents when the words don’t come or plot problems set in. I liken it to raising children: no two are the same, you lose sleep from all of them, it’s hard work, and it is worth every bit of the effort.

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

RK: I think we are all passengers on our writing journeys, not necessarily driving them. To change the past significantly would change the writing that we produce, and I wouldn’t want to do that. I will say that I wish I had done more of what I try to do now: to celebrate each small success. Sometimes that means finishing a chapter, getting through a first draft, sending a manuscript off to an editor, whatever. Toast the glass or have some chocolate! We all get caught up in the worry mill. What if I can’t finish this draft? What if an editor doesn’t like it? Will it get good reviews? Will I market it enough? Worry never helps create writing. It’s like adding a fifty-pound pack on our backs as we climb the mountain.

EEM: Thank you for taking the time to answer these interview questions!

RK: Thank you, Erin! I believe we learn so much from listening to fellow writers, and your blog allows us to do this. It takes a village to raise a writer too, so thanks to all in this village. And to those looking for inspiration to finish that chapter, that first draft, or to finally send something out to an editor, I say go for it. Believe!