Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The phone interview vs the E-interview

One thing a writer needs to be is flexible. Whether that flexibility extends to juggling various assignments, making the time to get some work done or writing about a variety of subjects, a writer who is able to shift gears and step out of the comfort zone is bound to make big strides in their career. As a deaf writer, I have found this requirement of being flexible to include how I interview someone. This calls for not only stepping out of my comfort zone, but because I have experience with people hanging up on relay calls or refusing to accept a relay call, but taking a gigantic leap!

For the most part, if someone agrees to be interviewed, I ask if an e-interview is okay. Ultimately, I prefer an e-interview, because it gives the interviewee a chance to review their answers before sending them to me, and it allows me to quote my interviewee verbatim. (On the other hand, even with the luxury of time to review their answers, one writer interviewed in Burning the Midnight Oil: How We Survive as Writing Parents requested in an email that I change a word in one of his answers. This, several months after the book was already published.) That said, I saw the e-interview as a win-win situation.

However, many people used to being interviewed have grown comfortable with a phone interview, and so many people have requested I interview them over the phone. Usually, if I'm on a tight deadline and MUST talk to them right away, I have no problem interviewing them over the phone. And if they have no problem accepting a relay call, and communicating via relay, then all is well. But first and foremost, I request an interview by e-mail.

Because I have indeed had to use the phone interviews to get the job done, one difference I have noticed is that the interview gets done faster. I get my questions answered then and there. With an e-interview, I have to wait one or more days to get a reply. Today, however, I noticed one other benefit of conducting a phone interview, compared to doing the interview by e-mail.

One of the things you'll get to read in my Revisions book are interviews with editors and writers on the various topics covered. I try to single out the right writer to interview for that topic and, for one chapter in one section of the book, I knew I had one. I was actually pretty excited about the prospect of including an interview with him in my book, because he has impressive writing credits (among them, work done on a popular TV show). Unfortunately, this person is one very busy man, and just when we had a possible e-interview scheduled, a load of work was dumped into his lap and he expressed doubt over our ability to continue with the interview. I was dismayed, because he was the perfect writer to interview for this chapter. And not knowing a lot of scriptwriters, I doubted my chances of finding another one! He proposed a phone interview -- and I knew that it was either that or nothing! So I bit my lip and agreed, noting that I am deaf and must use relay to communicate by phone. He seemed fine with this and actually curious about a relay call. I breathed a sigh of relief and we scheduled the interview for later in the week.

Fortunately, the phone interview went well. The site I use to make an online relay call did NOT conk out on me, we were able to talk at length, and there was no trouble in trying to save the conversation. (On another relay site I have used, I once lost an entire, hour-long interview after my failed attempts to save it!) I was really excited about this success, because my source provided very helpful and encouraging information on the chapter's topic and it went really well. It was a very pleasant and enjoyable conversation and I was very pleased to be able to talk with this man who is so busy in the TV industry for such a long time on the phone. He was very nice, very intelligent, and it is definitely one phone interview that I won't soon forget.

But it's not just how well the interview went that I was happy about. It's what was added to the interview questions, thanks to a real-time discussion. We ended up talking about a lot of things, not just the questions I had on paper next to the keyboard. More and more information and in-depth conversation was added to this interview, so that it didn't look scripted. With an e-interview, my sources just answer the questions. But with a phone interview, so much more can be added to the conversation. I backtrack and say things like "wow, that's interesting! Let's talk more about that!" or "that touches on what you mentioned earlier and I think that is a great example of how that can happen." That sort of thing.

This has made me reexamine the value of a phone interview. Getting into conversation with someone over the phone, it opens doors to more information and extra discussion on the unexpected. With an e-interview, everything is just there because the writer asked those questions. And, typically, there's no picking up on little things in the conversation or following up on certain quotes.

All the same, I prefer an e-interview, but I'm not going to ask straight out if that kind of interview can be done. From now on, I'll leave that ball in my interviewee's court. Should the phone interview be welcomed, I look forward to seeing what extra information it will lead the conversation to.

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Planning, and getting, weekly goals

I am a firm believer in the power of setting goals. Setting a goal really provides that motivation to reach for something bigger or accomplish something. But it's not just the creation of goals that needs to happen. What is important is figuring out a way to meet those goals.

That is where a "to do" list comes in handy. Some people use alternative methods for reaching their goals, such as dream boards, flash cards, charts, etc. But, for me, I have found that a "to do" list works best in accomplishing my goals. I use them to go through the steps of writing, revising and editing my work, and they really help to have a sort of "blueprint" to guide me from beginning to end.

But it's not just an ordinary "to do" list which I use. Rather, I rely on a weekly "to do" list. I give myself a set of tasks to do each day of the week. This helps me move a little closer to accomplishing my goals. This also helps immensely in making sense of all the many projects and assignments I will occasionally have to juggle. By putting something like "work on X book for one hour" on Monday and "Interview source for X article" on Tuesday, I will be able to work through the steps of the many projects currently on my plate.

The weekly "to do" lists aren't usually put in force when I'm working on a book, or even two different books, because I don't need them. I already know I should spend one hour working on this book each day, or one hour for one book, another hour for another book. (Sadly, an hour each day is all I can accomplish for book work at this time. But, it's better than nothing.)

This week, however, I found the need to set goals for the week. I am in the process of working on a variety of things, and so I felt that using a weekly "to do" list would be helpful. Initially, I had 9 items on my list:

1. Send Liz extra material for Spook City. (Scheduled for publication in October)
2. Write short story for anthology.
3. Write poetry for contest.
4. Write new poems for new Topiary Dreams.
5. Revise other poems for new Topiary Dreams.
6. Work on Revisions book.
7. Update Web site.
8. Book reviews.
9. Check in with agent.

Seems simple enough. So on Monday, I set to work, grabbing time to tackle my list here and there. I got items crossed off my list and started feeling confident about achieving ALL of those original 9 goals. I updated the Web site (which took 2 days!). Wrote the poems. Got work done on the Revisions book and revised poems for the new version of Topiary Dreams (set to be published in October.)

But then...other things came up. I got busy reading and editing material for the DPPi Journal (and actually ended up in a tiff with one of the editors on the editorial advisory board -- and for the record, I was NOT trying to discriminate against a WHEELCHAIR USER!). A contract for my children's book, The Yellow Rose, was offered to me and it was a matter of sending emails back and forth about the book and the contract (and it's all settled as of today -- YAY!). And I got into a conversation with an editor about her editing Topiary Dreams before it comes out (she agreed to edit the manuscript and I asked her because she has experience editing this kind of poetry).

Still, despite these other things popping up, I stuck to my list of 9 goals. Aside from accomplishing the other tasks, I managed to cross 6 goals off the list of the original 9. Two of those goals -- the book reviews and the Revisions book -- are ongoing, so I couldn't really cross them off. And I had to bump the second goal to next week. But I'm still happy I managed to accomplish so much of what I planned to do this week. Six out of nine isn't so bad.

There's always the weekend. And next week, too. The important thing is that, with the goals I set and the others that came up, I was able to manage them both.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Kid stuff

A few months ago, I submitted the manuscript for my children's book, The Yellow Rose. Today I was offered a contract for it to be published. Hooray! The book, which is written for children aged 7-10, will be published by Gypsy Shadow Publishing. As noted in a previous blog post, GSP is also the publisher of my poetry book, Love is Like a Rainbow: Poems of Love and Devotion. I'm very excited that this book will be published and look forward to seeing the book in print sometime in the near future! (No publication date has been set just yet.)

Also, today I was browsing the message board over at Static Movement. Just reading some of the threads and seeing how things are coming along with the anthologies rescued from Lame Goat Press after they shut down. I was interested in one thread in particular, about an anthology formerly titled Yams for Our Youth. It is now titled Yams for Our Children. Something just made me click on that to read more about it. Apparently, it's an anthology of PG-rated stories with a real child you know as the star of the story. Very cool! And, they are still accepting stories for this anthology! I emailed the editor and she sent me the following information about it:

"I just want fantasy stories written with a child or children you know in mind. They should be happy stories, and fun to read. No font requirements, I'm going to change that anyway. Underline for italics isn't required, just send as you would like for it to be published. In the subject line put Yarns, or Children so that I'll know which anthology it's for before opening, and send along a little bio written in first person, and include something about the child/children it's written for. The word limit should be around 3,000 tops, no min."

You can read more about it here.

I thought it was interesting that I came across this, because recently, I was working in the garage with my oldest child, and I said something to her that caught the attention of my muse. I laughed and said, "That would be a good title for a story." Now I'm putting that together with this call for stories, where such a story would fit quite well, and I'm thinking of writing it up and sending it in. Given that I found this call for stories the same week I thought up that idea for a story, I think it's a sign I should give it a shot. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Lame Goat Press is no more

Earlier this year, I had a short story accepted for publication in an anthology. No publication date was given and I assumed that I would be notified when the anthology came out. This was something I'd experienced with other anthology editors/publishers, so I didn't think much on it. Shortly after I signed the contract, a couple of other anthologies created by this publisher, Lame Goat Press, came out. I remained hopeful that soon the anthology with my story in it was next. That didn't happen.

At first, my thinking was that stuff was just going on. Maybe there was no money to bring out the next books. Maybe the editors were all quarreling with each other. Maybe computers had crashed and files had been lost. (Which did actually happen with one of the guest editors.) Or maybe they just didn't have their hearts in it anymore.

After some months passed, I got tired of waiting and not receiving any replies. As it was, another anthology with a story of mine in it was also pending publication, and at least the main editor touched base with the writers involved to let us know he was working on the books. But nothing came from Lame Goat Press. And I started to worry.

I eventually got around to visiting the LGP Web site. I went to the message board and sort of posted there asking "what's going on?" The writers there let me know that Christopher Jacobsmeyer, the man behind Lame Goat Press, was on a sabbatical. Confused, I dug around and read other messages. Turns out they were right. He was indeed taking a sabbatical from LGP. And as it turned out, it ended up being a permanent sabbatical.

I kept tabs on the posts on that board, lurking here and there. Pretty much keeping my thoughts and disappointment to myself. I agreed with some of the writers voicing their opinions, and worried about others saying they were pulling out. I wasn't surprised when this disaster earned Lame Goat Press a negative report on Preditors & Editors.

Eventually, one of the guest editors took matters into her own hands. Chris Bartholomew of Static Movement let everybody know she was planning to work with them on getting their work published through her own efforts, in working with the cover artists and talking with editors to see where they stood on getting the books published through their own companies. Her announcement that Christopher Jacobsmeyer is walking away from Lame Goat Press and releasing all writers from their contracts (most all of them with an 18-month hold on rights) soon followed. Cheers and appreciation sounded from the writers and a wave of relief is now felt by all that this matter has finally been resolved and things are moving forward with getting the other anthologies into print.

You can read more about it here and here.

I must admit I was angry and disappointed that Mr. Jacobsmeyer was acting so selfish and that he let down a lot of writers, but life goes on. Don't think I'll be doing business with him in the future, though.

Big thanks to Chris Bartholomew for stepping up and taking over where LGP left off.

I'm just glad the anthologies will soon be in print and that I and the other writers, as well as the editors, will finally see all of our work and hard efforts be fulfilled when the books come out.

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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

First book regrets

Recently, I saw a query in HARO for authors who wanted to share their first book regrets. Since I had a story to share, I sent mine in. Days passed and I never got a reply. I shrugged it off, thinking that maybe mine was not an item to be included, and just moved on. However, yesterday I was contacted with a notification that my experience WAS included! Yay!

You can read my "first book regrets" here:

How To Move Your Book Away From Your Ankles and 30+ Other Publishing Horror Nuggets

Note: You'll have to scroll down a bit to find it.

After reading the other stories, I must say that I feel some degree of comfort knowing that I am not the only writer who thinks her first book could have used some serious editing/revising before going to print. Oh, sure, I could chalk it all up to being young and having more dreams and ambition than wisdom and caution, but that in itself is no excuse. With the Internet having so much to offer as far as knowledge, research and checking background is concerned, and with so many teens on the Internet so often, it's a little hard to not be exposed to some message of how important it is to know these things.

I'm also seeing how some authors wished they had obtained ISBNs for their books. I can relate. One of my poetry books does not have an ISBN and that has limited how much I can get the book reviewed and where it can be sold. I hope to rectify this when the new version of this book comes out in October.

Special thank you to Issamar Ginzberg for including my story.

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