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....


  1. This is a great interview. Thank you so much for sharing, ladies! (And, Penny, I love the premise of your new WIP, BTW. Floating casinos... it doesn't get any better. LOL!)

  2. And a dead woman in a red corset! Intrigue, indeed!

  3. Thanks, guys. Hope it all works out!

  4. Great interview. I'd so love to be a librarian for my day job.

    Penny, I met Erin Murphy at a SCBWI conference a few years ago. She sounds like a great agent.

  5. Erin is fabulous!