Tag Archives: Trisha Sugarek

98 Power of Dreams

The Power of a Dream with Trisha Sugarek

By MJ Moores

TrishaSugarekAs a writer, I marinate, speculate, and hibernate. ~ Trisha Sugarek

Writing is as much a part of Trisha’s being as drawing breath is to the average person. Her many accolades and achievements not only bring her a greater perspective on the craft, but inspire her to share this passion with others as a freelance writer, blogger, and videographer.

IM: It is my pleasure to chat with Trisha today about the launch of her new release Song of the Yukon. Welcome.

TS: Thanks for the opportunity, MJ.

IM: In your last Indyfest Interview, you briefly touched on how the lives of the many women in your life influence your writing. How does this muse manifest itself in your new saga Song of the Yukon?

TS: Yes, the muse for this story was my auntie LaVerne, who did indeed run away to Alaska and homestead. Alaska was her muse. She wanted to follow in poet Robert Service’s steps as she wrote her music. As I mention later, I grew up being told as many stories about my mother and her siblings as I did fairy tales. There was no TV (hard to believe, isn’t it?) so there was a lot of storytelling in our house.

IM: Wow, I couldn’t imagine doing something like that even today! Would you, personally, ever want to live off the grid—and in Alaska?

TS: Ha! If I was even twenty years younger, I would be gone! I think solar power would power up my computer and wi-fi. lol

IM: You mentioned Song of the Yukon is based off your aunt’s experiences. How much of the book is actually true? What’s been embellished?

sugarek1TS: If I were to guess, at least 85 percent is true. She ran away to Alaska, met and married Milo Robbins, and lived there for around 25 years. I remember the first time I ever met my aunt. I must have been ten or twelve when they came to Seattle for a visit. She was raw-boned, no frills, no makeup, thin as a rail. Dressed almost like a man, very homespun. But pretty, and kind to this shy teenager. Milo was there too and he was (as in the book) bigger than life; six foot five and about 275 pounds. I remember distinctly seeing a 45-speed vinyl record with a title, North to Alaska, with my aunt’s name printed there as the composer.

The adventures and way of life in Alaska are 100 percent true. The friendship with Charlie was embellished. The indigenous people who “arrived” in my story are all fictitious. When LaVerne travels to Tanana (a real village in the outback) from Fairbanks, looking for her homestead, Black-eyed Joe just appears in the village store. I was as surprised as LaVerne. The folklore and Athabascan language are all true. This book was heavily researched. How to train dogs for a sled dog team, how to build a sled out of wood, how to build a cabin… all accurate.

IM: Astounding. To be able to connect with history like this really pushes the boundaries of fiction. Could you explain a little about your process for getting inside the minds of your characters, especially real ones, like your Aunt LaVerne?

sugarek2TS: My six loyal handmaidens: What, Why, When, How, Where, Who. These are the questions I ask. Frequently, new characters will just show up (many authors that I’ve interviewed have said the same thing) and they always fit and they always enhance my tale. Black-eyed Joe, Elk-Tail, Edna, the Swensons, Ma Powers, I could go on and on. Getting inside my Aunt LaVerne’s head was easy. You see, I grew up with my mother telling me all these tales about herself and her sisters. Here’s a sample.

Excerpt from SONG of the YUKON:

It took a moment for Ivah to take in the fact that LaVerne was dressed and carrying a bag and her beloved guitar.

“What the h-e-double toothpicks is going on? You’ve got a coat on˗˗what’s in the duffle? What are you talking about?”

I’m leaving˗˗for the Yukon. Tonight.”

“Yukon? You mean in Alaska!? Are you nuts? Go back to bed. You’re sleep walking…or I am.”

Suddenly LaVerne pinched Ivah’s arm.

“Oww! What’d you do that for?”

“To prove to you that you’re awake. I’m not sleep walking and neither are you. I just wanted to say goodbye.”

“Goodb…?” Ivah turned to her other sister and shook her shoulder. “Vi, wake up this instant! LaVerne thinks she’s running away. Wake up!

Violet rolled over and glared up at her two very noisy sisters.

“What the devil is going on? LaVerne, why do you have your coat on?”

“She’s leaving, you slug. Wake up, I need your help.”

“Vernie, take your coat off and go back to bed. You’re not going anywhere. You’re the baby, remember?”

 “Shut up, Vi, and listen.” Ivah ordered.

“Who are you telling to shut up? You’re not the boss of me.”

“Please…” LaVerne whispered. “You’re going to wake up Mama. Maybe I better just go.”

“No, no!” Ivah yelled in a sotto whisper. She poked Violet with her elbow again.

“Oww˗˗stop poking me!”

“Vi, it’s obvious LaVerne has a problem. Let’s be good sisters and hear her out. What’s going on squirt?” Ivah patted the bed next to her. “Sit down, honey, and tell us all about it.”

“Yeah, spill it so we can go back to sleep.” Violet sighed. “It can’t be that bad, Vernie.”

“I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. I’ve read gobs on Alaska and that’s the place for me. You can chase your dreams there, be whoever you want to be˗˗no one telling you what to do and what not to do…”

IM: Can you tell me about the most difficult scene for you to write and how you were able to bring it to life on the page?

sugarek3TS: It was painful to write about Charlie’s unrequited love. I liked her; she was a good friend, and I didn’t enjoy her pain. At first, I didn’t know whether my heroine would choose Charlie or Milo. I let LaVerne choose.

Excerpt from SONG of the YUKON:

When Milo had come outside he hadn’t noticed Charlie had been towing a second sled behind hers. It was not unusual for a musher to have two sleds behind the dog team, especially for larger jobs like hauling firewood or the meat from big game.

Milo stopped at the bottom of the stairs. The second sled looked new and was festooned with ribbons and shells. LaVerne stared at the sled, then at Charlie, then glanced back at Milo.

“Well, say something!” Charlie chortled. “Do you like it? I made it for you˗˗and Milo˗˗for your future dog team. It’s made of hickory, mostly, and should last you for years.”

Milo silently turned and, walking back up the steps to the porch, returned to the cabin.

LaVerne’s eyes filled with tears at the pain she was about to inflict on her friend. “Oh, Charlie, I don’t know what to say…”

“You don’t have to thank me. It was such fun building it for you.”

“And I love it but˗˗it just that˗˗well˗˗Milo˗˗he…”

“Milo what?” Charlie asked nonplussed.

“He built me a sled as a wedding present; it’s in the barn.”

Charlie’s face suffused with an embarrassed blush, “I see.” She fled back to her own sled and lifted the anchor that kept her dogs in place. She regarded Vernie with a deep agony in her eyes, “How could I have been so stupid? Of course we would think of the same gift, something you would love and can use. I’m sorry. Of course you can’t accept mine. I’ll see you later.” And with that she released the brake and yelled at her team, “Hike! Hike! For Chrissakes, go!” She screamed at her team.

IM: That is heartbreaking. The inner turmoil in a moment like that is something many readers can empathize with. In contrast, do you have a favourite moment that makes your soul sing or your heart laugh?

sugarek4TS: Always, it’s about the animals for me. So I have to say, it was, Howler, Tukoni, Moon, and the puppies that made me laugh and my soul glow. At first, I was going to have the Grizzly take one of the dogs, but I couldn’t stand the thought. (I’m so sappy.) Then, I thought, “Oh wait! I’ve got goats; the bear can kill one of them.”

Excerpt from SONG of the YUKON:

LaVerne bundled up in her coat and boots sat on the porch letting the wolf become accustomed to seeing her and having her around.

This morning there was a major breakthrough. LaVerne had gone into the chicken enclosure with grain to feed the chickens and to collect the eggs. When she stepped out of the coop the wolf was standing in the clearing about four feet from the tree line. Ears pitched forward she stood waiting.

“Well, hello, girl,” LaVerne spoke in the quiet soothing voice she always used when around the animal. “Are you hungry for breakfast?”

Turning her back on the wolf, she walked to the cabin. Leaving the door open she collected a portion of meat and went back outside. The wolf had not moved.

“We need to give you a name, girl,” she said. “How do you like Tukoni? It’s the Athabascan word for wolf. What do you think of it?” As she spoke, she walked slowly half way across the clearing and emptied the bowl of meat chunks into the snow.

The wolf watched but did not run away. “Come on, Tukoni, you have to come and get it if you want to eat,” LaVerne told her, then turned away and walked to the cabin. This time, she sat on the steps and silently watched the wolf.

Howie ran out of the trees and approached his mate. With a snarl, Tukoni ran to the food and began to wolf it down. Howie, good natured as always, ran past her and up the stairs to LaVerne’s side. Sitting at her side, tail thumping the boards, he seemed to be telling LaVerne how proud he was of his mate.

“Yes, I know, Howie. She is doing very well.” LaVerne draped her arm across her dog and rubbed his neck. “If you two talk, you must tell her that she and her pups are safe here, will you?”
Howie licked her face.

IM: What a heartwarming moment. Thank you for sharing! Have you written anything else about the Guyer family?

sugarek5TS: Yes. I wrote Wild Violets, about my mother in the 1920s in San Francisco. She was a flapper, which meant she worked all day and danced all night. She was on a semi-professional women’s basketball team, owned her own speakeasy (later to be a legit bar and restaurant) and played poker and drank whiskey with a Catholic Bishop. All true!

The first thing I wrote about my mother and her sisters was a full length play, The Guyer Girls. The fiction spun off from that.

IM: Wow! You must be so proud to be inspired to write their stories. I can’t thank you enough for joining me today to talk about Song of the Yukon and the amazing women in your family. I wish you the best as you move forward with this, and many other projects.

TS: Thank you, MJ, and IndyFest, for supporting my work.

You can buy Song of the Yukon, in paperback or E-book at www.amazon.com. Find out more about Trisha Sugarek (and other like-minded writers) on her website www.writeratplay.com, and be sure to check out her Motivational Moments…for Writers! series on YouTube for a little inspiration when you need it most www.youtube.com/channel/UCHsSJDY1TQiR2ubf9u9ItOQ.

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98 Motivational Moments

More Motivational Moments…for Writers!

By Trisha Sugarek

TrishaSugarekPlot:  I am currently finishing my newest novel and I have to tell you, the loosely-built plot that I had envisioned when I began is gone by the wayside. Way, way off and into the forest, in fact. About halfway through, the characters took me on a journey, making their own decisions, loving who they wanted to love, building their homesteads their way. When this happens to me, I welcome their storyline in… They know better than I do at that point. My characters write a better story than I ever could.

“The last thing I want to do is spoil a book with plot. I think a plot is the last resort of bad writers. I’m a lot more interested in characters and situations; following where it goes. In Cujo, I was as surprised as my readers when the little kid died at the end.” 

—Stephen King

“A poem begins with a lump in the throat; a homesickness or a love-sickness. It is a reaching-out toward expression; an effort to find fulfillment. A complete poem is one where an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.” 

—Robert Frost

‘As a writer, I marinate, speculate and hibernate.’  Trisha Sugarek

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97 Motivational Moments

Motivational Moments for…Writers! #1

By Trisha Sugarek

You know a story has been rattling around in your brain. TODAY is the day you will find time to sit down and write the first sentence, the first page, even the first chapter. Don’t worry about what will follow. The story will lead you. If you are very lucky your characters will take over and tell you their story. Don’t worry about it being perfect; that’s what re-writes are for.

‘It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does.’ —William Faulkner

“Writing is a Tryst with the imagination and a love affair with words.” —Unknown

“The reader, the book lover, must meet his own needs without paying too much attention to what his neighbors say those needs should be.” —Teddy Roosevelt

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97 Remy’s Story

A Writer’s Take: An Interview with Andrew Snook

By Trisha Sugarek

snook11When Andrew Snook isn’t flying about the sky preventing asteroids from striking the Earth with his super strength, freezing bad guys in their tracks using his icy breath, and using his super vision and hearing to locate little old ladies to help cross busy streets, he spends his days as a mild-mannered writer and editor for three business-to-business magazines. Currently, he covers the forestry, bioenergy, road building, and aggregates sectors across Canada. When he’s not at work, he spends almost all of his free time with his beautiful and amazing wife Cristine, and his equally beautiful and amazing daughters, Emily and Sofia. And he writes a little fiction, too!

IM: Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

AS: Although I have an office space where I like to write fiction, it’s rarely used these days— when I’m home, my free time goes to my family. The majority of my writing is done on the road, while travelling for work. Whether I’m sitting in an airport terminal, on a plane, or on a train, I like to pop my headphones on, listen to music and bang away on the keys. I find the road really fuels my desire to write fiction and helps me come up with fun ideas for my books. My favourite place to write is while riding the rails. My dream writing space is on trains taking me all over Canada.

IM: Do you have any special rituals when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

snook10AS: My pre-children ritual was to write first thing in the morning in a pair of comfy, plaid pajama pants with a fresh coffee in my writing cup in hand. I would typically wake up around 8 am and write until noon. My favourite cup used to be a black Canada AM mug I received after winning my first writing competition in 2010, but that mug has since lost the title of Best Writing Mug to a mug made by my wife and daughters in celebration of my 500th book sale.

IM: Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

AS: I eat about 300 doughnuts a year. Seriously, I’m not exaggerating. I loves me some chocolate dips! And I only weigh 180lbs

IM: Do you have a set time each day to write or do you write only when you are feeling creative?

snook9AS: Although I used to do almost all of my fiction writing in the morning, these days, I don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing when to sit down and write. Between my family life, my work, and promoting my first book, I’m just too busy. If I’m on the road for work, my downtime is dedicated to writing. If I wake up early when I’m home, I open up the computer and try my best to put thoughts to words. I know that I have to jump on every opportunity I have to write if I want to get the second book in the Remy Delemme series written in a reasonably timely manner.

IM: What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

AS: When spare time presents itself and I find that I’m just not feeling the writing bug, I typically start my process by opening a work of fiction written by a writer that I admire and respect. I find reading a chapter or two from an author whose works I enjoy can help get my own desire to write going. For me, I typically open up a book written by Christopher Moore, Michael Connelly, or Douglas Adams.

Another way I get the juices flowing is by grabbing a coffee, sitting down, and just brainstorming random fun ideas for the book. If I come up with an idea I think will be fun for the readers I’ll just start writing about it, even if I have no idea how or when it will end up finding its way into the book—details, mere details! The key to battling procrastination is to keep writing, no matter what!

IM: Where/when do you first discover your characters?

snook7AS: Remy, the main character, actually came from a dream I had several years before I wrote Remy’s Dilemma. I was attending university in Wolfville, Nova Scotia and had a silly dream about a man causing chaos in a car dealership. I hadn’t written fictional stories since I was a child, but something about that dream sparked my desire to write. I jumped out of bed, turned on my computer, and just started pounding the keys. I wrote about the dream, and then continued writing about Remy’s adventures for the rest of the day. My first session writing about Remy lasted about 12 hours. As for his name, I’ve liked it ever since I was introduced to Gambit of the X-Men as a young boy. He’s always been one of my favourite comic book characters.

IM: What first inspired you to write your stories?

AS: After I had my first big session writing about Remy, I found myself constantly thinking about more fun adventures for him to have. I didn’t know anyone when I moved to Wolfville, and I didn’t find my classes took up a ton of my time, so I ended up having a lot of idle time on my hands. Over the next eight months, I wrote my first poorly-written novella, Wasted Days. That novella was where I got the skeleton to write my first novel, Remy’s Dilemma.

IM: What comes first to you? The characters or the situation?

snook6AS: Remy doesn’t stick around any one place for too long—you can’t sit around when the world is coming to an end! That said, I only have Remy travel into places across Canada where I have traveled myself. So, even though the books are fiction, the towns I visit and the people I speak with definitely have a degree of influence in how Remy interacts with people. In Remy’s Dilemma, Remy runs amok in Ontario and Quebec. In the second book of the series, which I’m currently writing, he travels to Western Canada, and in the third book of the series he will be running around Atlantic Canada.

IM: Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

AS: All the time. I’m a born daydreamer, so I don’t find it that difficult.

IM: Who or what is your “muse” at the moment?

AS: I don’t think I have one particular person or thing that inspires me to write fiction. I always feel a desire to write. It’s my happy addiction.

IM: When did you begin to write seriously?

snook5AS: Although I wrote a rough novella about Remy while in school, my first serious effort to turn his adventures into a full-length novel came in 2010. I had moved to the Ottawa area to go back to school to become a journalist. I was working as a full-time reporter for community newspapers, when I came across my old novella in a box of junk. I decided to open it up, gave it a read, and quickly became mortified at what I saw. Although the novella was extremely rough, I still thought the general premise for the story was fun, so I decided I would try and turn it into a full-length book. The writing process took about three-and-a-half years.

IM: How long after that were you published?

AS: After I wrote the first draft of Remy’s Dilemma, I racked my brain about the best route to take for publishing the book. During the editing process, I researched different methods for trying to secure a traditional publisher. The method that kept coming up as the best option for a new author to be published was hybrid publishing, where the author takes on all the costs associated with publishing the first book, markets the book themselves, and creates all the relationships with fans and bookstores. They then take those results to traditional publishers and agents. I decided to go this route and ended up releasing Remy’s Dilemma in April 2015, after 15 months of editing that included hiring two proofreaders, a professional line critiquer, a design and formatting team, and a local artist. The editing process took a significant amount of time, because it was extremely important to me that the book offered readers the same level of quality as any traditionally published book. To date, the book has been received well by bookstores and has received positive reviews from readers— including a strong review from the judges of Writer’s Digest’s Self-Published Book Awards (I posted the judge’s results and comments on my website: www.snookbooks.com).

Around the two-year release mark of the first book in early 2017, I plan on shopping the Remy Delemme series around to agents and publishers, while sharing the sales results of this first book.

IM: What makes a writer great?

snook3AS: A writer’s ability to eat 300 doughnuts? No? Damn, I’m stumped!

IM: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

AS: I think creating a good book for a reader is a lot like good sex. You start off with a bunch of raw emotions and some fun and dirty ideas, mix ‘em together over long, sweaty nights, and only end when you think all parties are satisfied.

IM: How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

AS: I only write about Remy entering an area of Canada once I’ve been there myself, so my life experiences definitely have an influence on my writing. Quality

IM: Have you (or do you want to) write in another genre`?

AS: I would like to write a few books for my kids if I’m able to keep the content age-appropriate. No promises, though.

IM: Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?

snook2AS: I love receiving feedback about my book, so I invite anyone with questions about writing, self-publishing, or Remy’s Dilemma to contact me at [email protected]. Also, I’m currently writing Book II of the Remy Delemme series and hope to have the first draft complete by the end of 2016.

Happy reading and writing everyone!

Website: www.snookbooks.com

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/snookbooks/

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Click on each cover to get a copy of the full PDF of each version of this, the “Big Summer Issue”. Additional PDF-Only content: Keeper of the Gates #1 and The Few and the Cursed #1 Sneak Peeks, and the Review Section…19 publications reviewed!!!

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95 Novel Talk

Interview with Melissa Grunow by Trisha Sugarek

MelissaGrunow-4IM: Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

MG: I have a home office set up in my basement with a large desk, reading chair, bookshelves, a bulletin board, and an endless supply of Post-It notes. I have a laptop and an additional computer screen that is a tremendous help, as I often have multiple windows open as I write and revise. The floor is covered with a large colorful rug that brightens up the space, and more often than not, my husky Duke can found stretched out across the middle of it. One of his favorite things to do is to keep me company while I work.

IM: Do you have any special rituals when you sit down to write?

MG: I don’t have any consistent writing rituals. Sometimes I listen to music, sometimes not. Sometimes I have to clean my entire office before I can begin, sometimes I just dive right in despite the mess. Since I’m often working on multiple projects, I usually will reread the piece a few times before I get started, just so I can put myself in the mindset of that specific draft. Oh, and I need to be wearing slippers. I can’t concentrate if my feet are cold.

IM: Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

MelissaGrunow-3MG: I am a die-hard obsessive fan of The Walking Dead. It’s the best television series since M*A*S*H. I love it, because it embodies all of the characteristics of canonical literature. The Walking Dead has awakened in me an obsession with the zombie apocalypse, and has even inspired me to incorporate references into my lectures and develop zombie-themed activities in my classes. My students, for the most part, tolerate my soapbox-like rants, because they are helpful in memorizing literary terms. One of them even bought me a lanyard with The Walking Dead on it that she’d found at Target, to hold my campus ID!

Furthermore, it’s essential we all have some kind of contingency plan for survival. It’s just good common sense. Even the U.S. government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have detailed information on their website for preparing zombie apocalypse survival kits. This is serious business, folks.

IM: Do you have a set time each day to write, or do you write only when you are feeling creative?

MelissaGrunow-6MG: My writing time is inconsistent, though I don’t wait until I’m inspired. I see writing as a lot like going to the gym. If I don’t do it frequently, I feel out of shape—or rusty—when I do. So I often force myself to write, even when I don’t feel like I can put sentences together. Even if I just get a page, or a paragraph, it’s more than I had before I sat down to write. Every new word is a victory.

IM: What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

MG: Procrastination is usually a result of fear, so ask yourself, “What are you afraid of? What are the nagging thoughts that are holding you back?” Your fear is lying to you. Confront it, tell it off, and start writing.

IM: Where/when do you first discover your characters?

MG: Since I write memoir and personal essays, my characters all come from my life. I never know who or what I’m going to write about, though, until it actually happens.

IM: What inspired you to write a memoir?

MelissaGrunow-5MG: I always knew I would write a book titled Brick Walls. In fact, I wrote the first two-thirds of a heavily autobiographical novel when I was a teenager. I never finished it, though, because I didn’t know how to end it. To this day, endings are my kryptonite. It’s a terribly-written book, and it will probably always stay hidden on my hard drive, but I can’t bring myself to delete it.

Writing Realizing River City has a kind of unknown origin. I had the impulse to write about relationships, but it didn’t start out as a memoir. I just kept drafting and drafting and revising and drafting, until it finally started to take shape as a book about learning to love oneself in the aftermath of apparent failure when it comes to loving others.

IM: Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

MG: I’m more likely to get lost in other people’s writing. I can tune out the whole world when I read a good book, but writing requires a tremendous amount of concentration. Even the smallest distraction can derail me.

IM: Who or what is your “muse” at the moment?

MG: Anything that triggers a vivid memory. It can be a spoken phrase, a distinctive scent, a song, anything!

IM: When did you begin to write seriously?

MelissaGrunow-2MG: I started writing seriously in college, but my writing didn’t really go anywhere. I amassed a hefty stack of rejection letters. I wrote fiction exclusively then, which was part of the issue. My fiction-writing skills are mediocre, in my opinion. Although I’ve had a few short stories published, I haven’t generated any new fiction that wasn’t heavily autobiographical in probably fifteen years.

IM: How long after that were you published?

MG: Although I wrote seriously in college and graduate school, I took a ten-year break from writing in 2001. I finished my first new piece in 2012, and it was published a few months later. Since then, I’ve been widely published in journals and anthologies. Though I didn’t physically produce new work for a long time, I honestly think I needed those ten years to live. Once I started writing again, I had no shortage of material.

IM: What makes a writer great?

MG: A great writer produces great writing, and great writing starts with clear, strong diction and well-written sentences. It’s easy to find beauty in the beautiful, but much more interesting to find beauty in the mundane. So many beginning writers desire to write a book, but they ignore the basics of good paragraphing, because they’re so focused on a surprising plot. It’s rare that I remember (or care) what actually happens in a story. What I care about is how the characters respond to their circumstances. Start with short pieces to focus on fascinating characters. Don’t let dialogue do all your work for you. Spend a day on a single sentence until it flies off the page and smacks the reader in the face because it’s so good. Killer openings are essential, and there needs to be some shift in the piece from the beginning to the end. Don’t be compelled to answer every question the piece raises. Let the piece end, but never let it be over. Otherwise, what will your readers talk about?

IM: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

MelissaGrunow-1MG: I just started writing personal essays. If there was a relationship that I learned something from, or I grew somehow, or was I defeated in some way, I wrote about it. Originally, Realizing River City was going to be a collection of essays titled Epilogues, in which I explored how I started over after my divorce when I was twenty-five. However, it felt inauthentic, because being single at twenty-five made far more sense in my life than being married. I wasn’t sure where to take it, so I just kept writing essays, trying to find a thread and a purpose. Much like the maudlin novel I wrote as a teenager, I got seventy-five percent finished with the book and couldn’t continue, so I thought it was done. The very next day, I had an experience on the river, where I was thrown from my tube, which eventually became the prologue of the book.

I went to a writing conference and had a group session with an agent who read my book proposal and told me to scrap the ‘memoir-in-essays’ structure, find a connective tissue, and reshape it as a memoir. I felt both overwhelmed and energized by the idea.

Around that time, I was coming up on my second and final year of my MFA, and the newly-shaped memoir became my thesis project. I owe so much to Amina Cain, my thesis advisor at National University, because she was so incisive in articulating what the book was actually doing and the potential that it had, in a way that I couldn’t get a handle on.

After I graduated, I shopped the book around, was systematically rejected by small presses and lost a handful of book competitions. A publisher offered to share the reviewer’s feedback with me, and that feedback—while harsh—put me back in the chair for another heavy round of revisions. I clipped the stray narrative threads, worked to make the narrative voice more appealing, and cut the scenes that were irrelevant and weighing down the text. I sent it out again, and within months, I was offered three book contracts. As a friend of mine says, Realizing River City was an overnight success three years in the making.

IM: How have your life experiences influenced your writing/stories?

MG: As a memoirist, my life experiences are my stories. Everything is potential material for a new piece.

IM: Have you, or do you want to write in another genre?

MG: I’ve written (and published) fiction and poetry. I would consider writing a novel, if I could come up with a sustainable premise for one. Poetry is a bit of a struggle for me. Ironically, I don’t think I’m a very creative person, and fiction and poetry require far more imagination than I have.

IM: Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?

MG: I appreciate every reader who gives his or her time to my writing. Authors are nothing without their readers, so thank you.

IM: Thank you.

Follow up with Melissa at: http://www.melissagrunow.com/

Trisha Sugarek *** Writer at Play ** www.writeratplay.com

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93 Writing Mystery

Characters1A Writer at Play: Talking with Trisha Sugarek

By Ellen Fleischer

Trisha Sugarek has been writing for four decades. Her works include plays, mysteries, children’s books, general fiction, and poetry. She has thirty years of experience in the theater, both as an actor and a director. These days, she is a fulltime writer, blogger, and frequent contributor to Indyfest Magazine. This month, Trisha moves to the other side of the interview process and talks with us about her experience, her writing process, and her latest ten-minute play for the classroom, The Trans-G Kid.

IM: How long have you been writing professionally?
TS: Since 1996.

IM: Is this something that you’d always planned on doing, or did you have different goals when you were starting out?
TS: I never planned on being a playwright or writer. After thirty years in theatre as an actor/director, I was then drawn to try my hand at writing a stage play. It seemed a natural transition.

93-Sugarek-3IM: To what degree would you say that the techniques you picked up as an actor have helped you in your writing?
TS: Writing a stage play, solely with dialogue, was so easy. Must have been those thousands of scripts I had read over three decades. My experience as an actor taught me that, when writing, you have to ‘see’ the stage. For example, if the actor exits on the right side, needs a costume change and enters on the left a few moments later, have you written that window of time into the play with the other actors?

IM: Have you found that it’s easier to get under a character’s skin, for example?
TS: Absolutely. A competent actor studies their character not only in the timeframe of the play but explores what experiences they have before, and even after the play ends.

IM: You’ve also sat in the director’s chair on more than one occasion. How has that experience informed your writing?
TS: Directing is all about ‘control’. When and why the actors should move: is the ‘picture’ on stage pleasing or discordant with regard to the dialogue? Is the actor giving the director the emotion (whatever it is) that the director needs? Does the lighting enhance what is going on and not distract? I’ve often joked that directing actors is like herding a bunch of chickens. It takes a strong, steady hand. Writing, for me, is the opposite. You will have a better story in the end, if you give up control. I am a writer whose characters almost always take control of their own stories leaving me to become the typist. In interviewing other bestselling authors, I am not unique. It happens to others as well.

93-Sugarek-4IM: Could you describe your writing process to us? How do you go from inspiration to publication?
TS: I marinate, speculate and hibernate. I will write for days in my head. And not just when I am quietly sitting at home. Sometimes, while driving, I will quickly call my voicemail to make a note about an idea, a piece of dialogue, or a plot twist. I go from inspiration to publication by, what I call, ‘slamming out the first draft’. Then it’s re-write, re-write, re-write, and then, re-write some more. I go through the manuscript over and over. I try to have a couple of trusted friends read it and give me honest feedback. In recent years, I have hired a professional editor to go over the last draft. It has resulted in much-needed editing and always given me two or more new chapters. Sometimes, I have more than one manuscript going. Don’t be afraid to let your work ‘rest’. Write something else. I find writing my blog re-energizes me.

IM: You’re a blogger, an interviewer, an author and a playwright, and you’ve written in a variety of genres, which include fiction, poetry, mystery, juvenile, and theatre. Can you describe some of the elements/incidents/events that have inspired you? (Feel free to discuss some of your earlier works in detail).
TS: Most of my stories have come to me; picked me. I like to tell the story of sitting in a prison waiting room (yep! I said prison) one Sunday morning, in the countryside of Illinois. Waiting to visit a convicted murderer whom I had written a play about (Cook County Justice). The room was filled with women and children of all ages. Sisters, wives, and mothers, they sat, docile as sheep from years of this routine, come to visit their men. They all had their shoes untied. Their eyes pleaded with me, figuratively, to write their stories. These were not women who were wacky enough to have a jail house romance and/or marry a convicted felon. No, these were women you meet every day, who had children and families and normal lives, until one day, their husband made a stupid mistake. I couldn’t wait to get out of there and begin my research and write a play about these brave women. (Women Outside the Walls).

Years later, fans of the stage play begged me to write the rest of their story. (Remember the time restrictions of a play mentioned above.) So, one day, I sat down and stared at a blank screen which represented page one of a 350-page novel. I was terrified! Next came a biographical novel (Wild Violets) of my mother’s days as a flapper and entrepreneur during the roaring twenties, in San Francisco.

A similar experience gave birth to my mystery series, The World of Murder. I had written a ten-minute play (for the classroom) which was a murder mystery. Again, fans and friends told me, ‘we love your detectives; please write a story.’ The Art of Murder became book one, and I am currently writing book six of the series. Funny how these things happen!

93-Sugarek-2IM: Do you have any tips or tricks for getting through periods when the creative juices aren’t flowing as easily?
TS: Writers, don’t beat yourself up. Don’t add pressure to an already scary place. Creative juices tend to ebb and flow. I am revitalized and energized by reading another author. Other good writers tend to inspire me. I interview bestselling authors on my blog and the stories about their writing processes always stimulate me. I’ll write a ten-minute play or a piece of poetry to ‘re-boot’ myself.

IM: Recently, you’ve written The Trans-G Kid, a one-act play about a transgendered teen. What can you share with us about this work?
TS: Celebrity transgendered people have been in the news and I was struck by the staggering statistics about transgender teens’ suicide rates. It is horrifying. The Trans-G Kid was a perfect addition to my collection of ten-minute plays for the classroom. Perhaps the play will save just one kid. I can only hope.

IM: How did you go about researching the issues before you started the writing process?
TS: As an example, I’ll tell you about a saga I am still writing (it is currently resting). Song of the Yukon is about my auntie, a musician who, at age 17, ran away from home and, disguised as a boy, hired onto a steamer bound for Alaska, eventually homesteading outside of Tanana. The only problem I had was that it was 1920. Fairbanks was a single-building trading post. Transportation was by sled and dogs, riverboat, or foot. Thank the stars for Google! My research was extensive as I wanted, of course, to be as accurate as I could be. Who knew that surface gold is only found in the bend of a creek or stream that has black sand as part of its riverbed? What was a barn raising? How was meat preserved in those days? What were the riverboats like that transported people and supplies? How could you chink a log cabin using sphagnum moss? I was about half way through my manuscript when all the ‘Alaska reality’ shows hit the airways. Great stuff and really helpful with my research!

IM: Were there any surprises along the way? (Research causing you to revise plot points, characters running with the story and taking it in a different direction from what you’d originally envisioned, encountering support where you’d expected to meet resistance or vice-versa, etc.)
TS: Surprise is a good day! I know I’m really doing a good job if my characters tell me, in no uncertain terms, that it’s time for them to take over. I love my role as the typist! I won’t tell you much about Charlie (the protagonist in Women Outside the Walls) taking my story and turning it upside down. I wouldn’t want it to be a spoiler! But suffice it to say, Charlie took charge and caused me a four-month delay, while I researched the situation he threw at me. And Arnold Miller, a quirky actor, (The Act of Murder) who sauntered off the elevator, at the Food Network Building, in The Taste of Murder and nearly mowed down my two detectives. Where’d he come from?

Wild Violets is about my mother raising two kids during the roaring twenties. She was a force: played on a semi-professional women’s basketball team, owned her own bar and grill, worked all day and danced all night. This novel started out based on the stories my mother told me while growing up but eventually the fictional Violet took over, telling me she could tell her own story.

IM: How are you handling the marketing and promotion angle?
TS: After three years my blog has finally gotten traction. I have grown my readership on social media to seven million plus. I faithfully post twice a week and that’s a tough thing to maintain. Thinking up subjects, (always about writing) that maybe my readers will enjoy. I interview bestselling authors and that gets people to my web site where, hopefully, they will look at my books. I have give-aways, free audio book promotions, and ask people to review my books on Amazon.

IM: Was it always your intention to self-publish your work?
TS: Funny you should ask. No. I tried for years to get a publishing house to represent me. All the writers out there will confirm this when I tell you that it’s a hamster wheel! Publisher: Do you have a literary agent? Agent: Do you have a publisher? Publisher: Do you have an agent? When I started self-publishing, it was a dirty word. You were accused of writing a ‘vanity book’. You had to warehouse 20,000 books and schlep them everywhere. Then print on-demand was born and self-publishing platforms/programs were offered and that was a turning point for me. I am both actually; four of my plays are published by Samuel French, Inc., the biggest and best script publisher in the world, and I am so grateful to them. But they rejected forty of my other plays… and I was tired of waiting. It wasn’t that my work was no good; it was that it was not commercial enough. So I self-published and never looked back. My bestsellers are The Bullies, a ten-minute play for the classroom (one of 27), my journal/handbook, The Creative Writer’s Journal, and Ten Minutes to Curtain (a collection of ten-minute plays).

IM: What’s next on the horizon for you?
TS: Working on unfinished manuscripts. Book 6, (Beneath) The Bridge of Murder in my World of Murder series is about finished. It is about the serial killings of the homeless of NYC. This series has been a real joy to write. Contemporary true crime. Featuring my two murder cops, who are great partners, but couldn’t be more different from each other.

IM: Finally, where can our readers find your works and how can they stay on top of what you’re up to?
TS: Web Site: http://www.writeratplay.com/
Blog: http://www.writeratplay.com/category/a-writers-take/
Twitter: @writeratplay4
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/writeratplay
Purchasing: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=trisha+sugarek&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Atrisha+sugarek
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/trisha+sugarek?_requestid=297859
Audio-Books: http://www.audible.com/search/ref=a_hp_tseft?advsearchKeywords=Trisha+sugarek&filterby=field-keywords&x=7&y=12

 

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ALSO IN THE ISSUE: 3 great Sneak Peek features you can only see in the actual PDF, Sepulchre #1, Bang Bang Lucita #1, and Shaman’s Destiny #1…ALSO – a listing of most recent additions to our Marketplace.

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The Driving Force – Editorial – by Ian Shires

 Dead Man’s Party – Jeff Marsick – by Louise Cochran-Mason

Aces and Eights – Frank Mula & Sal Brucculeri – by Steven Pennella

A Mystery Writer’s Mind – Nanci M. Pattenden – by M.J. Moores

A Written View – by Douglas Owen

Odds and Ends – Bob Moyer – by Ellen Fleischer

Walking the Path – Mark Koning – by Trisha Sugarek
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91 Inspiration Article

Characters1Inspiration…Take it Wherever You Find It!

By Trisha Sugarek

I was sitting in my car recently, on a freeway, (or should I say a parking lot?), stuck in traffic, not moving.  To while away the time, I was reading the bumper stickers and signs in the back windows of other automobiles around me.  While wondering if I’d ever get home, it suddenly struck me; the parallels between totems and talismans, and these stickers, magnets, and pasted-on emblems that modern man posts on his steel steed to declare his beliefs.

Why, as a species, do we need to declare our stand on issues? You don’t see dogs waving signs reading ‘Down with Cats’ or ‘I Love Treats’. You don’t see gorillas posting signs saying ‘I Love Bananas’ or ‘Stop Killing our Mothers!’. Or a dolphin bearing a sign on his tail: ‘Stop Tuna Fishing.’

But, back to my inspiration. Grabbing scraps of paper from the floorboards—lest I forget my words—I scribbled frantically on a restaurant napkin, an old receipt, the back of a discarded grocery list. All the while, watching the cars in front of me creep down the road.

Here is the poetry that was born while trapped in my car, impatiently sitting in traffic. 

Totem and Talisman ©Trisha Sugarek

Totem. Storyteller of the tribe’s history and lore,
felled and carved in reverence, from the tree centuries old sculpted in living wood;
a face, a fish, a spirit, a bear, the sun, the moon

Totems live on as statuary in today’s garden; a wooden rooster tops the mail box.
A mural brushed upon a barn wall; the flag of a beloved country, the star of a lone state.

The Native People painted their sturdy, brave little horses before battle…
a circle of paint about the eye for truer vision, hand prints on shoulder and flank to ward off the spear

Today’s tribes paint their vehicles with bumper stickers, magnetic ribbons,
and window decals. All proclaiming some truth, totems to tell other tribes what they believe.

Support this, hate that, down with this, up with that.
Proud to be a redneck,

a woman, a boater, a Christian,
a Viet Nam vet,
proud to be a farmer,

a republican, a parent, a fisherman. 
Prouder still to be a soldier,

a grandpa, a boy scout, a sailor, a golfer, an Irishman, a lover of guns.

IM91-Zad1Keep yourself open to inspiration… eyes, ears, brain and heart.  You will be inspired by strange and wonderful things and you will write strange and wonderful things. You will leave totems for following generations to read.

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