more of the tell-all interview
March 27, 2009
Deborah Bouziden: What is the most difficult thing about being a writer? What is the most rewarding?
SW: The most difficult? The competitiveness of some writers and no, I’m not naming names. You learn, sometimes, that not everybody is your friend. Not everybody wishes you well. I try to avoid people who are negative, especially those who are constantly critiquing other writers’ careers and declaring themselves superior. The negative energy stresses me out, so I tend to hang with people who are positive, supportive and kind. When I was a teacher, I used to tell my students, “You don’t have to blow out somebody else’s candle to make yours burn brighter.” Some writers need to learn that, too.
By the same token, the most rewarding thing is hanging out with writer friends, dealing with people in the business, and readers. I’ve met some of the most delightful, unforgettable people life has to offer–readers who have become close friends. My agent and editor are like girlfriends. And my writers’ groups–lifelong friendships have formed. Some writers have questioned why I recommend my friends’ books on my blog. They ask, “Why would you want to divert the reader’s attention away from your books?” One newspaper book critic mentioned this in what turned out to be a negative review! I didn’t feel bad about the review because she was so nice about my blog.
DB: What do you enjoy most about the writing process? What do you not like?
SW: I love creating the first draft, and watching the story emerge and take shape. That’s probably my favorite. I don’t like entering editorial changes from the hard copy to the computer. Tedious!
DB: Do you ever see yourself doing anything else?
SW: Skydiving, re-learning my French, learning to speak Italian, volunteering in a prison literacy program, getting my PhD in comparative lit, becoming a world-class grandmother (but please, after my daughter gets married next summer), celebrating my golden anniversary, spending every February skiing, founding a nonprofit for literacy, taking lessons in haute cuisine, beating my son-in-law-to-be at Scrabble, studying photography, losing weight, spending a whole season in a villa in Ravello (Italy), ballroom dancing, climbing Mt. Rainier. To name a few.
DB: What is the greatest obstacle you’ve faced in your writing career?
SW: Myself. I am my own biggest fan and harshest critic. Whenever I’ve had trouble with a book or with the business, it’s usually because I’m standing in my own way.
DB: What advice can you give to struggling writers?
SW: To accept–no, embrace–the struggle. Did you think it would be easy? A smooth ride all the way? If it was easy, everyone would be a bestselling writer. Also, smack me for saying “bestselling.” Every writer has the right to choose her own standard of success. For one writer, it might be a literary accomplishment. Or simply finishing a book she’s been dying to write. For another, it might be a level of popularity or sales. So my advice? Define success for yourself and make sure you put your passion on the page.