Monday, August 16, 2010

Inquiry XVII: Erin Dionne

Today I am excited to welcome Erin Dionne to The Day Job.

Erin Dionne is a writer who lives in New England that I had the pleasure of meeting at the first Kinship Writers Association Literary Festival. She is the author of Models Don't Eat Chocolate Cookies and The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet. She is currently working on a new Middle Grade novel
ELSIE WYATT HATES LOVES MARCHING BAND. When Erin isn't writing her fabulous stories, she is busy outside of Boston with her husband, daughter and dog named Grafton. She roots for the Red Sox, teaches English at an art college and sometimes eats chocolate cookies. To read more about Erin Dionne and her books you can visit her on the web at

EEM: Did you always want to be a writer?

ED: I have a memory book that my grandmother gave me when I was in kindergarten. It has a page for each school year K-12, and there’s a place for a photo, a few lines about what you want to be when you grow up, best friends, favorite color, etc. In first grade, in my big, scrawly handwriting, I filled in the blank “When I grow up, I want to be AN AUTHOR.” So…yeah. Basically, ever since I could read, I wanted to be a writer.

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?

ED: Ha! I’m still working at other jobs! I think instant success and riches comes to very few writers—it’s a marathon, not a sprint. And, really, if you’re in publishing for the money, you’re in for a rough ride.

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

ED: Before I published any fiction, I worked as a marketing assistant in a publishing company. I learned about the industry (I was in the college math textbook division, but it still taught me a lot!) and its cyclical nature. I also worked in journalism as both a magazine editor and a freelance newspaper writer (I wrote for the real estate section in a small local paper). This helped me learn how to work with deadlines and work with editors. Now, I’m a college English teacher. It’s a job I love and it gives me time to write and be with my family. Oh, I also worked at a bookstore, which was really enlightening!

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

ED: Being an editor was definitely challenging. Our magazine was published monthly, and we had several months of lead time, so we’d be developing the December issue in September. I had to come up with stories for each issue, assign them to writers, field pitches from freelancers, and write my own pieces. I was the multitasking queen!

EEM: What was your favorite thing about this job?

ED: Seeing an issue come together was pretty amazing, and I got to do cool stuff like interview Adam Sandler and Matt Stone and Trey Parker (the creators of South Park).

EEM: Least Favorite?

It was super stressful; the magazine launched right before the dot-com bubble burst. It lost funding, everyone lost their jobs, and the whole thing crashed and burned in a spectacular fashion.

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

ED: My day job of teaching gives me a lot of flexible time that I can use for writing. Although, being the mom of a toddler eats into most of that flexible time! I rely on a strong family support system so that I can work and mom and teach.

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

ED: Being a professor and talking about writing all the time really helps me to evaluate my own work and push myself as a writer. It also means I’m comfortable speaking in front of an audience, which—believe it or not—can be a major part of a writer’s life. I do school visits, talk to library and parent groups, and present at conferences. So those teacher skills come in to play a lot.

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

ED: I haven’t based anyone on a colleague, although I always look to my teacher friends for advice and will name the teachers in my book after them.

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?)

ED: Right now I’m in the middle of edits on my third tween/middle grade novel, ELSIE WYATT HATES LOVES MARCHING BAND. I’ve heard that every time you write a book, it’s like you’ve never written anything before in your life—and I’m definitely finding it true in this case. I have different expectations of myself, my work, and my goals. Plus, there are new external pressures that come with following up published works. So it’s been nerve-wracking and stressful. I just keep reminding myself that I’ve done this before and gotten through it…and I keep a lot of chocolate on hand.

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

ED: Part of me wants to say that I should have started regularly submitting work two or three years before I actually did (does that make sense?), but in retrospect, the nearly ten years it took me to get published were valuable ones. I honed my voice and discovered what types of stories spoke to me. So, no. I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve learned so much along the way; every step has been valuable.

EEM: It has been a pleasure! Thanks so much for dropping by!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing. I have an idea I'll be a 10 year to publication person. I'm glad I'm not alone in doing that or working and writing.