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
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?
ED: 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!