Tag Archives: guest bloggers

Guest Blogger, LJ Cohen

I introduced myself to LJ Cohen when I realized we share the same agent and are both writing YA. I’ve since discovered we have a number of things in common, including our first name and decade of birth. (Lisa was quite popular in the sixties. Of course, we could just as easily have been named Moonbeam or Rainbow.)

Her debut novel, THE BETWEEN, released last week, and it’s as delightful as she is. Please join me in welcoming her to Black Ink, White Paper.

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Thank you for inviting me to pen a guest post for Black Ink, White Paper. One of the absolute blessings of the rise of social media over the past few years has been the chance to meet fellow travelers on the writing road. The life of a writer can be so utterly solitary. We spend a lot of time living in our heads while story ideas, characters, and intriguing turns of phrase chase one another around and around. Even if we have supportive significant others in our lives (and I am quite fortunate, indeed, to have an utterly devoted spouse), they don’t really understand how the writer’s brain works.

My husband will often tease me and ask what my characters have whispered in my ear lately. That’s not exactly how it works and when I try to explain it to him, his eyes glaze over in the same way mine do when he’s showing me video of himself on the race track and he tries to explain the physics of the apex of a turn. (His midlife crisis was to start high-performance driving and he is now an instructor. Mine was to write novels.) In reality, my characters don’t so much as talk to me as talk to one another while I get to eavesdrop. On good days, they’ll give me much needed clues. On bad days, I have to blunder my way through scenes with the liberal application of the backspace button.

Conventional wisdom talks about two kinds of writers: plotters and pantsers. I’m not sure I’m either. Or maybe I’m a weird hybrid of both. It’s a balancing act for me: too much pre-planning and the story feels stale once I sit down to write. Either that, or the narrative line veers away from my orderly outline and I’m off the map again. Yet, sitting down to write without any pre-planning feels too much like dancing on the high-wire without a net. It’s too easy for me to write myself into dead ends and lose whatever control I have over the process.

Maybe this messy method of mine has its roots in my truly awful sense of direction. I may be one of the few people on this lovely planet who can still get lost using a GPS device. (Or as I call it, ‘the nice lady who tells me where to go.’) Before GPS became an essential three-letter-acronym in my life, I would often sit in my car and try to visualize where I wanted to go, only to completely draw a blank. I knew where I was and I knew the destination, but I couldn’t connect the dots between the two. So I would call my husband and ask him for help. At first, he would be incredulous that I couldn’t find my way somewhere I had been hundreds of times. His brain, I am certain, has a GPS implant. Either that, or he has homing pigeon genes spliced into his DNA. It did take some time, but he finally came to understand that I needed him to help me lay a breadcrumb trail. Sometimes all it took was for him to give me a single landmark between points A and B. Then the proverbial lightbulb would go off and I could see the whole trip.

I think my writing is very much like that. I have a starting point. I have a finish line. Sometimes I can draw a line between the two and have a story unfolding in front of me like the waypoints on my GPS. Other times, the breadcrumb trail is missing too many crumbs and I need help finding a crucial landmark.

Having other writer friends with whom I can brainstorm and who respect my process has made the difference between my head exploding and finished novels.

I used to worry that the way I wrote wasn’t right. I have a shelf full of craft books that tell me so. They tell me that I shouldn’t edit while I write. (I do.) Or I need to create a complete outline. (I don’t.) Or I need to get the first draft down in a red hot fury of writing. (I don’t.) That I should never go back to revise earlier chapters until the story is finished. (I do.) All that advice is likely well-intentioned, but perhaps a bit limiting. After completing 6 novels, a dozen short stories, and hundreds of poems in 7 years, I think I have made peace with my writing process. Just don’t take away my GPS.


LJ Cohen is the writing persona of Lisa Janice Cohen, poet, novelist, blogger, local food enthusiast, Doctor Who fan, and relentless optimist. Lisa lives just outside of Boston with her family, two dogs (only one of which actually ever listens to her) and the occasional international student. In love with words since early childhood, Lisa filled dozens of notebooks with her scribbles long before there were such a thing as word processors.

After a 25 year hiatus writing professional articles, text book chapters, assessments and progress notes for her physical therapy practice, Lisa returned to fiction seven years ago. Her first novel was written to answer her husband’s challenge to write something better than the book he had thrown across the room in disgust. Six novels later, she is still writing. She also writes the occasional op/ed piece for her local paper and has maintained the Once in a Blue Muse blog for many years.

Lisa is represented by Nephele Tempest of The Knight Agency. When not doing battle with a stubborn Jack Russell Terrier mix, Lisa is hard at work on her seventh novel, a ghost story. THE BETWEEN is her publishing debut.

Homepage: http://www.ljcohen.net/
Blog: http://ljcbluemuse.blogspot.com/
Mailing List: http://www.ljcohen.net/mailinglist/mail.cgi/list/bluemusings
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ljcohen
Twitter: @lisajanicecohen
Tumblr: http://www.ljcohen.tumblr.com
Google+: http://gplus.to/ljcohen
email LJ: lisa@ljcohen.net

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Guest Blogger Ana Ramsey

(the header photo is the Trifid Nebula. Image Credit: NASA, HST, WFPC2, J. Hester (Arizona St. U) et al. See NASA terms of use)

I met Ana a few months ago through some mutual friends of ours. Quite by accident, though as it turns out our friends had wanted to introduce us for a while. *laughs* For good reason, it seems, because I’ve found her to be a kindred spirit. Not in the least because she’s as crazy as I am! *grins and winks* But in part because she also loves Harry Potter and trust me, she writes some awesome urban fantasy!

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When K.B. asked if I would be willing to write a guest post for Black Ink, White Paper, I was both overjoyed and extremely nervous. I have my own blog (http://anaquana.blogspot.com/), but I rarely ever post to it because I never know what to write or if people even care about what I’m writing. In light of that, I cheesed out and asked K.B. to simply send me the interview questions. But then, as I was hard at work answering said questions, I realized I was going about it all wrong.

I’ve only just met K.B., but in the short time I’ve known her, I’ve come to see that she is the embodiment of pushing one’s self to the limit and beyond. So, I’m borrowing a bit of her spirit today and pushing past my comfort zone and writing an actual post instead of just answering a few questions.

Two weeks ago, I watched the live-stream of the red carpet premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and I bawled my eyes out. Partly because I’m a sap and this wonderful franchise which has shaped my life in so many ways for the last decade has reached a grand finale. It’s thanks to the Harry Potter fandom that I’m writing this guest blog. If not for a mutual friend whom I met through the Harry Potter slash-fiction community, I would probably never have met K.B. She is only one of numerous blessings bestowed upon me because of my love of Harry Potter.

The other reason I was so moved to tears was because of my own feelings of inadequacy. I watched as these masses of people screamed and cried and rejoiced in the presence of J.K. Rowling and the actors who portrayed her characters, and I despaired of ever being good enough to write something that has touched the lives of so many people.

I don’t care about the fame and fortune. In all honesty, I’m far too shy to be comfortable with the idea of book signings and being on panels at conventions. No, what I want to do is make a difference in somebody’s life through my writing. Is that the height of hubris? Maybe, but that’s the reason I write and strive so hard to be published.

That is until that Friday. That Friday I thought very long and very hard about giving up. I thought about packing up my pens and notebooks and deleting all of my Word documents. Because really? What was the point of continuing if I was never going to accomplish what I set out to do?

I know all of you who are reading this are probably shaking your heads and tsking at me, but here’s the thing: it was important that I let myself experience those feelings of inadequacy and failure. I needed to internalize them, sort through them, and let my inner-self decide in its own time that those feelings weren’t worthy of me. Because, while my head is smart enough to know that, of course, I’ll never succeed if I give up before the end, my inner-self is like a small, whiny child that knows no sense of reason. And it’s going to throw a tantrum whether it’s the sensible thing to do or not. Once my inner-self was done with its pity-party, I got right back to writing.

Sometimes we just need to give in and have ourselves a good old-fashioned pity-party complete with cake, ice cream, balloons, and most important of all, a piñata. Have yourself a cry. Chuck your notebooks into a (clean) garbage can. Move your writing files to the recycling bin (please, dear reader, do NOT empty it). Let your inner-self live the reality of giving up if even for just a little while. I bet you anything the little brat’ll wise up and shut up real fast. Then you can retrieve your notebooks and restore your files and balance will be restored.

Ana Ramsey* is a crazy cat lady cum author repped by the fabulous Cameron McClure of the Donald Maass Literary Agency. She just recently finished rewrites on her first novel. Where Demons Fear to Tread is the first in an urban fantasy series set in a world populated by all manner of Fey creatures, vampires, shapeshifters, and demons. She can usually be found lurking on Twitter (@anaquana) or gallivanting around the world from the comfort of her chair.

*Name changed to protect the guilty

Guest Blogger Gae Polisner

Earlier this summer, when I posted my list of vacation reads and mentioned loving young adult literature, Eden suggested I check out Gae Polisner’s The Pull of Gravity. One look at the premise – and the story’s inclusion of Of Mice and Men and Yoda – and I was sold. I adored the book and I’m delighted to have the chance to introduce you to the author, who in addition to being a terrific writer is also fun, friendly and interesting. In short, just the kind of person we love hosting here at Black Ink, White Paper.

Lisa

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        Interview with Gae Polisner

1. What is your day like? On a good working day? On a bad working day? And how do you cope with the bad ones?

Because I wear a lot of hats, my days can look very different. I try to write every day (except for the breaks I take in between manuscripts). I also try to swim almost every day which is a part of my writing process. Seriously, my creative juices need to be activated by water. Because I have kids who have busy lives too, and because I have a part-time “day job” I still engage in (as a divorce law mediator), there is also a lot of juggling of those hats. Also, my writing life has been a bit different since right before, during and so far immediately after the launch of TPoG because now I spend such a good deal of time writing blog posts (like this!) and trying to get the name of my little book out there in the world. On a good working day, I’ve written something new (or revised something) I love and am so excited about I want to post a little snippet on my blog or on my facebook page. On a bad day, I swim and swim and swim. Because in addition to the creative flow of the water, the endorphins keep me happy and sane (ok, almost sane). And, yes, there are days I just stay under water.

2. Tell us a little bit about your workspace.

It’s a little faux, drop-down writing desk in my “piano room” where I sit with my laptop. For mother’s day this year, I got a little shiatsu roller chair pad that’s awesome too, so I often have that turned on. On top of my desk are a few trinkets that are writing related including a Yoda sculpture made for me by my younger son. Above my desk on the wall, is a beautiful little landscape painting by my mom.

3. If you had a perfect day, what would it be?

My kids happy, my writing flowing, an amazing open water swim, then sushi with my husband and vegging in front of Mad Men or Entourage with some Red Mango or tropical fruit, or, if you insisted, a really decadent piece of yellow cake with frosting.

4. Who do you most admire in your field (or in general) and why?

In my field, oh man, the list is ever growing. First and foremost, I admire my editor, Frances Foster. She’s amazing, a legend in the business, and at near-80 still totally on her game. She blows me away. A few YA writer names: Francisco X. Stork, David Levithan, K.L. Going. . . seriously, that list could just go on and on. Also, in general, I admire people who get off their asses and do. Not talk, do. I admire people who hang in there. Who feel the fear and do it anyway. And who help other people in the process. I try hard to be one of those people. Sometimes I fail. But the older I get the closer I get to succeeding.

5. If you weren’t a lawyer and a writer what would you be?

Job-wise, not sure. But I wish I were a better dancer and a better cook. Those who know me know that it’s one of my life goals to be able to shake my ass like Shakira. I mean really isolate each lower part of me and shake it. Er. But, have you seen how she can?

6. What is one thing you want to do before you die?

Dying is scary. There are things I just want to do. Period. Now. Soon. Eventually. Some of them (in no particular order) are: write a picture book; get my women’s fiction published; swim a 5-mile or more swim in the open water; return to Italy where I honeymooned but this time stay at the Hotel Ill San Pietro at Positano, set in the cliffs overlooking the Bay of Positano; learn how to shake my ass like Shakira. I might have mentioned that one already.

7. What is your favorite saying/quote/mantra?

Ever since I got published, I’ve found “Keep your eyes on your own paper,” useful. Meaning, some people will get more glory, have more books, get better reviews, sell more copies, etc. than I will. And some will do worse. I just need to focus on what I’ve done and what I can do in the future.

8. What’s the one thing that drives you crazy? At work? At home? In general?

People who crack their gum or chew loudly with their mouths open. At work, at home, and in general. 🙂

9. What’s your favorite book? Movie? Painting?

YA: Marcelo in the Real World.

Movie? Oh man,The Graduate, Swingers,The Princess Bride, to name a few.

Painting? Lately, I have a newfound love for Van Gogh partly because I’m working on a ms that has a lot of references to Van Gogh. But of all time, the painting that sticks with me always is Paris: A Rainy Day by Gustave Caillebotte. I know the painting from the old board game Masterpiece I played ad nauseum with my sister as a kid. I would bid on it even if I knew it was a fraud because I wanted it in my collection. Also, Monet’s Water Lilies. I mean, really, is there anything more beautiful than that?

10. Where’s your favorite place in the world?

I’m sure you can guess this at this point, but the answer is under water. In my crystal clear pool in the sunlight, with the water and light playing in reticulated patterns as I swim. Or, in the open waters of Long Island with the waves tossing me in an exhilarating, breathless swim. Although, lying on a lounge chair in my backyard in the sun staring at clear blue sky, with a profusion of roses blooming all around me, isn’t a bad place to find myself either.

Gae Polisner is a wife, mother, and family law attorney/mediator by trade, but a writer by calling. The Pull of Gravity is her first novel. You can find Gae at http://www.gaepolisner.com or http://thepullofgravity.com or follow her on Twitter @gaepol.