• Ask Us Anything!

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 88 comments
    Aug
    17

    Discussion questions: This is a Reddit-style AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) where you’re invited to ask any writing- or non-writing-related questions of David and/or Justine — who we are, what we’re about, what kind of writing we do and why. Or about WriteByNight itself — how it was founded, its various iterations, why we do it, how we do it. Leave your questions in the comments below. 

    Note: We’re not taking requests for writing advice here. If you need some, we’d be glad to offer you a free consultation. Also, we reserve the right to ignore/remove anything we deem offensive. So it’s more like an “Ask Us (Almost) Anything”; or “Ask Us Anything (Within Reason).”

     

    I subscribe to a number of TinyLetter emails, and I’m often astounded by the openness of some of these writers, baring their souls to strangers on a weekly or monthly basis. Sometimes I come away feeling like I really know the person, even though we’ve never met.

    Same goes for those Reddit AMAs (“Ask Me Anything”), especially when the interview subject really means anything.

    I try to bring some of that spirit into my blog posts and weekly email messages, though often I feel the need to rein it in a bit because, in the end, I am running a business.

     

    In the past couple of weeks I’ve gotten some notes indicating that I could be doing a better job of putting myself out there. One of them read, “I’ve read your [posts and emails] for years but only lately do I feel like I’m getting to know who you are…..like when you talk about death.” (She was referring to this recent post.)

    In another email exchange, I mentioned to a Milwaukee writer, one we interact with regularly, that I grew up in Milwaukee, figuring she most likely already knew that. She didn’t.

     

    Next week we have something very cool to celebrate, so ahead of that, this week I’d like to give you all a chance to get to know me and Justine and WriteByNight better.

    So… ask us anything!

    Maybe you’d like to know what we write about, or what our wildest dreams are for our own writing.

    Maybe you want to know about our upbringing and families, or our plans for the future, or our deepest fears and desires.

    Maybe you merely want to know what we eat for breakfast and what TV shows we watch.

    Maybe you have a particular FMK in mind? (Or KMK, if you want to keep it cleaner.)

    Maybe you’ve always wondered how the two of us met, or how WriteByNight got its start, or something about our various WBN duties.

     

    If you’ve got any questions for us, leave ’em in the comments below. Use a pseudonym if you’re shy. And we’ll answer them throughout the week.

    But keep it clean(ish), please. Shoe size? I’ll tell you that. Athletic cup size? We don’t need to go there.

    Also, we’d prefer to stay away from writing advice questions. But know that we offer a free writing consultation, which is a great way to get such questions answered.

    Bring it on! Ask us (almost) anything!

     

    WriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is fiction editor at the Texas Observer and co-host of the Yak Babies podcast, and has written about books for the Dallas Morning News, Electric Literature, Publishing Perspectives, and others.

    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you achieve your creative potential and literary goals. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres, nationwide and worldwide. If you have a 2019 writing project that you’d like a little help with, take a look at our book coachingprivate instruction and writer’s block counseling services. Join our mailing list and get a FREE writer’s diagnostic, “Common problems and SOLUTIONS for the struggling writer.”

     

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    Sarah L

    I think you guys do a good job of getting yourself out there. But since you mention TV, I’ll ask about that. Because almost every time I watch Tv I think to myself “I should really be writing instead.” So I feel guilty, and I can’t help but wonder how much TV, if any, most real writers watch. Do you guys watch a lot? Do you ever think you should be writing instead? Do you ever watch TV like a writers, where you think about the dialogue they use or how they map out the story?

    Justine Duhr

    Hi Sarah, thanks for asking this question. I second David’s response, and also want to add that I experience that I-should-be-writing-instead guilt with a lot of activities, not just TV. Because I’ve found that that guilt doesn’t serve me (creatively or otherwise), I’ve learned to notice it, acknowledge it, and send it away. But bonus if I happen to be watching “good” TV that’s teaching me something about story, character, dialogue, etc. Two birds.

    JL

    What’s your guilty pleasure reading? You know you have some, but I never hear you talk about James Paterson or JD Robb or anything. do you have any guilty pleasure WRITING? A romance novel hidden in a drawer or a screenplay for an episode of Community or a nocelization of Caddyshack.

    david lemke

    Hey, When we were at Universal, I got a Margaritaville hat at his restaurant. I wear his shoes, I love his music and have read so far, one of his books. Don’t feel guilty!

    david lemke

    Just the romantic idea of his music and standing in the ocean to catch a concert, has a certain…Hey I missed Woodstock by a hundred miles.

    Barbara Mealer

    I have to ask, did that novel come with a CD in the back? Mine did and I actually got him to sign it. Love most of his work, writing or singing. He’s so down to earth. BTW, if you like Sci-fi with a good world, JD Robb is good but the do have a romance in them. Patterson has some good thrillers. One of the best endings was Invisible, but to each their own. There is a novelization of Caddyshack.

    Justine Duhr

    I like what David said: “I try not to look at any kind of reading as something that should make me ashamed/guilty.” Same for writing. I resonate with the idea of reading and writing whatever the hell we feel like with no judgment attached.

    Barbara Mealer

    Other and what you are doing now, what types of jobs have you held? What made you turn to writing and coaching?
    Okay, so that’s two questions but they are tied together.

    Barbara Mealer

    My favorite job was working as a night shift operating room trauma nurse. It was fun, full of adrenaline when you got a case. My least favorite was Case Manager. That is a job with very few perks from management, but the patients did appreciate you. As for the job I wish I’d taken but didn’t…there really isn’t one as I was adventurous and moved jobs when I got bored or the management made the job too difficult. Like you, I’ve had tons of jobs. -Short order cook and waitress as the lunch counter at WT Grant -Mixing chemicals for… Read more »

    Barbara Mealer

    The CD for Buffett’s book was “A Salty Piece of Land” it was only in the first edition hardcover. As to saying I’m an author, it feels great. I use many of my varied experiences in my books. Of course my medical background helps when it comes to wounds, treatment and other sundry things. Several books I’ve read (and TV dramas) have given me a good laugh over what they depict in the ER and OR during traumas along with the treatments. If you aren’t medical, check with someone who is if you want realistic things to happen. I can… Read more »

    Justine Duhr

    I didn’t know about some of these jobs David has held! Frozen food merchandiser?? I worked retail through graduate school and into my 20s, and also did freelance writing and editing work. When WBN took off, I committed full time to that endeavor — one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. For the past four years, alongside my work with WBN, I’ve been in psychoanalytic training and will be entering private practice as a psychotherapist within the year. Really fascinating how that training has helped me be a better writing coach… and maybe writer, as a more careful… Read more »

    Barbara Mealer

    sort of like my training as a nurse. I automatically look at people for signs and symptoms of medical issues. It’s ingrained from the years of working in hospitals. You evaluate speech, facial muscles as they talk. movement, skin color, etc. It never leaves you. (Worth it you save a friend by asking questions then telling them to go see a cardiologist ASAP) Just remember to not psychoanalyze your family and friends….they want to keep their secrets. :-)

    Justine Duhr

    And I want to keep my friends!

    Erik Carlson

    Following Barbara, do you do any freelancing and if so, how much extra income do you get from that——if you’re willing to say. I’ve been thinking about freelancing but I know it’s hard to make a living.

    Justine Duhr

    Hi Erik. I’ll just add that when I was freelancing many moons ago I was writing mostly for glossy lifestyle magazines, and the pay was a bit higher. Though I agree with David completely that the nonstop hustle and various biz demands need to be factored in.

    david lemke

    I’m going to be nosy; What are your long term life goals?
    Do you work from a home office, or do you have a long drive to work”
    You’ve seen my home office can we see your?
    Do you have kids, pets, hobbies outside of writing?
    Who are your “Teams”?
    Am I being too nosy?

    david lemke

    While there are lots of advantages to owning a house, unless your flush, you do all the maintenance yourself which is a great excuse not to write. It’s amazing how nose-blind we become when we smoke. I can smell a cigarette literally fifty feet away outside. Beagle/ridgeback! interesting mix. Always was a dog person, but Sue has cats. Cat’s are interesting people. Indy won’t let me read and Jasper who is getting needy in his old age wants to be on my lap while I try to write, which doesn’t work at all. I knew you loved and wrote about… Read more »

    david lemke

    My mistake, Sauk City. I went to several writers conferences there and had a class where we worked on our novels. My parents never offered to send me to college and I got sidetracked and got married. If wishes were fishes… Sometime I still “What if?”

    Barbara Mealer

    I lived in Wisconsin in the Racine/Kenosha/Union Grove area for 7 years and graduated from UW-Milwaukee with a BSN. The state was overrun with nurses so I ended up in FL to take care of my parents. I was a Lambeau Stadium when they were unveiling the statue on 2003 with the HOG group from Ft. Lauderdale, FL. on our way to the 100 anniversary of Harley-Davidson. I still have fond memories of living there.

    Barbara Mealer

    Maybe. The Ft. Lauderdale HOGs were honored as the largest group which rode in formation over the most miles…we rode the Blue Ridge parkway, went to Niagara Falls, through Canada west to Minnesota, through Green Bay south to Milwaukee. We may have met. I hung out with a few boozers even though I didn’t drink while riding. It was a wild party like the 75th Sturgis Rally

    Barbara Mealer

    I have been slowly adding the trip I took in 2015 to my website. I traveled for 18 months and loved it. Got to see most of the US. I should probably take some of my rides and put them out there considering a lot of them I did alone.

    Justine Duhr

    Hi David. I love nosy.

    Long-term life goals: Yup, owning a NYC apartment would be nice, also a country house, and a beach house, and a pied de terre in Barcelona (too much?). Health and happiness, for sure. I’d like to establish my private practice (I’m on the cusp now, having just completed psychoanalytic training) while continuing to grow WBN and do a hell of a lot of writing. I’ve had a short story collection brewing for some years now.

    Justine Duhr

    Oh, hobbies! I’m into yoga.

    Don Draper

    You guys have a live/work space or is WBN’s office separate building?

    Justine Duhr

    And we sometimes work in bed. Let’s be real. Pajama Fridays!

    Elissa Malcohn

    David, you seem to be the main voice of this blog, so I’m curious about Justine. Justine, where do your writing and reading styles differ from David’s, and where are they similar? What are the joys and challenges of working as a team? I’m also curious about the mechanics: is there a clear division of labor? Do you perform the same tasks but approach the work with different perspectives, a complement of strengths and weaknesses? Thanks for letting us grill you!

    Justine Duhr

    Thanks for being curious about me, Elissa! Years ago when WBN first started out, I used to manage the blog and weekly mailings, but that’s David’s realm now. I do miss it, because it’s fun to chat with you guys about writing stuff, but David’s really good at it so it feels right. I think David and I tend to have similar tastes in reading material (with the exception of baseball books — I don’t much care for those). I tease him sometimes that he’s my personal librarian because he likes to make reading lists for me. We both read… Read more »

    Barbara Mealer

    I would love to have you hang around the blog more. It’s nice having a second voice heard. It’s great that you work as a time, and yes, it isn’t easy. (Hey, let’s admit it, relationships aren’t that easy). Sound like you two have ti down to keep this going for a few more years.

    Justine Duhr

    Thanks, Barbara. Hopefully many more than a few!

    Elissa Malcohn

    Would love to read your perspective here. Thanks for answering my questions — it’s great to “meet” you.

    JohnDavid

    Justine and David, you both read a lot. What stories leave you wanting more? And what stories are oh so difficult to get through? For both, if you could narrow your reading list to the top five or ten, what would they be, and why? Do you think your writing style has changed in the last five, ten, or fifteen years? What fun conversations would you have with each other if you could go back in time six months before you started WBN – what would you say? When you travel what is easier to do read or write?

    JohnDavid

    Thanks for responding. My top five or ten – well they are history biographies. perhaps that will change when I retire. 2019 is going to be it. I started as a substitute teacher in 1984 and got my first permanent gig in 1985 a few months after Back to the Future. Much of my life, especially my teaching career is all planned out. Not writing. One day during summer school teaching I just started to jot ideas down, and turned that into a sort of outline on long yellow legal pads. I was enjoying myself and have continued to write… Read more »

    Barbara Mealer

    It is extremely difficult to turn lose of your babies and let someone else criticize them. I’m finding it a tad easier, but I always feel like nothing is ever as good as what others have written. I do my two to four edits before sending it to a copywriter. I’ve gotten to where after the copywriter goes through it, I make the corrections, then listen to it one more time and change it to sound the best I can get it. At that time, I’m done. Time to get beta readers, correct, then publish and move on.

    JohnDavid

    I am okay with any critical, eye as long as its constructive. I have a very strong ego, difficult to be bruised. having said that, I am always open to different perspectives. My stories are very complex. Clarity is what I need to work on. And of course more showing vs telling. Which is more difficult in the structure I’ve created. Narrator has lived nine million years. And he is telling his story from a point of his birth, influence of evil and righteous aliens on all of his experiences. And most of the re-telling is about teen David Sagacious… Read more »

    Justine Duhr

    Thanks for this, John. I’m having trouble thinking of a kind of story that leaves me wanting more, but I can think of a few books I couldn’t get through: Little Women; Shantaram; Portnoy’s Complaint. Top-few reading list (at the moment): -Home, Marilynne Robinson -Stoner, John Williams -The Lover, Marguerite Duras -almost anything Paul Auster (there have been a few duds) And I’ll include what I’m reading right now because I’m excited about it: White Teeth, Zadie Smith. It’s been on my list for years, and it’s not disappointing. I do think my writing style has changed over the years,… Read more »

    Angela Webber

    Are you two ever competitive over each other’s writing? Do you share your writing with each other? Do you ever write at the same time?

    Angela Webber

    Oh yeah, and who asked whom out? :)

    Kenneth Harris

    Did Justine tamp down neon-lit misgivings, swallow her pride, ignore her parent’s hand wringing and marry you any way? (That’s what my wife did. It worked-as of this writing).

    Kenneth Harris

    It did work to a degree-wife knows I have to be chained to tasks to finish them before calendar turns. I managed to finish a short story and now working on a compilation of short stories soon to be a sought after door stop. Sure, it looks odd, logging chains drooping from arms and shoulders, but a dawdler’s gotta do what a dawdler’s gotta do.

    Justine Duhr

    Hey Angela. I’m not aware of feeling competitive with David’s writing, though I have felt jealous in the past few years because his output has been significantly more than mine. It probably helps, too, that we tend to be working on different kinds of things at any given time. I might be working on a short story, for example, while he’s elbow-deep in a book review, or I’m writing a psychoanalytic paper while he’s drafting the next chapter of his novel. It differentiates our respective writing lives. I almost always share my drafts with David, regardless of the genre/form. He’s… Read more »

    Justine Duhr

    Oh, and David totally asked me out first.

    Hans De Leo

    Okay, you said ask you anything. Well, I’ve heard about fan mail, hate mail, and strange mail. So here’s my question: What’s the strangest mail you’ve gotten?

    Hans De Leo

    Interesting…. In answer to you wondering if I’ve gotten some weird mail lately, the answer is no. The question comes from reading a blog on the subject some time ago (I can’t remember when or where). It talked about some of the responses to published authors, making special note of the “strange” mail category. A little off-beat, but it got me thinking about what might await me it I ever got popular enough for that to happen. By the way, I’m not sure I’d mind the kind of weird you described. Hey, a free set of noise-canceling headphones? That would… Read more »

    Justine Duhr

    David is by far the strangest male I’ve gotten. (I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

    Hans De Leo

    Hi Justine. You made me smile this morning. :)
    And for the record, my wife feels the same way about me.
    BTW: Great to see you on the blog.

    Anon A. Moose

    Ever had a near-death experience, and if so did it show up in your writing? What was your painful death, and did you write about it?

    Anon A. Moose

    Sorry, your *most* painful death. I mean like friend or family. Death on the mind today.

    Justine Duhr

    This question reminds me of the question we would open our Florida writing workshops with: “What is your most shameful experience?” Close to the bone. I was hospitalized in my early adolescence and a few times in the years following for a complicated medical issue that required several painful surgeries. These experiences were terrifying for me and, especially as a young teen, I worried that I would die. This theme constantly appears in my writing, in both overt and covert ways. Most painful death? I’m not sure. But this piece in the now-defunct Fringe Magazine might answer your question better… Read more »

    Mary Beth

    I haven’t seen this question posted yet, so forgive me if it’s a repeat, but what is the story of you and Justine meeting? … and out of curiosity, why did you leave Texas to return to (or come to) New York?

    Mary Beth

    Cool. That’s really neat. Thanks for the reply & for founding WriteByNight.

    Justine Duhr

    Yes! I would like to add that our friends were weirded out mostly because we didn’t tell them what was going on. We just started holding hands in front of them and let them figure it out for themselves. Which was weird.

    Brigitte

    Okay, what kind of writing do you guys do and why?

    Justine Duhr

    I also write fiction, short fiction mostly though I tried my hand at a novel and discovered pretty quickly that my strength is in brevity. I haven’t done much creative writing in the past few years (for various reasons, foremost among them the demands of my psychoanalytic training), and I really miss it. I’ll be working on getting back into the swing of things over the next several months. Why do I write fiction? A very hard question that I very much appreciate. To work things out within myself, I think, often things that I don’t even know need working… Read more »

    Janet Schwartz

    After much thought about what I wanted to know, I landed on a big concept with two sides. Motivation can come in a variety of ways. In our circle of influence, we receive both positive and negative feedback from family, friends and acquaintances. What is the one positive piece of advice that you received that confirmed you were making the right decision to be a writer and start Write by Night? What was the negative piece of advice that gave you the determination to continue to prove that person wrong?

    Justine Duhr

    Awesome questions, Janet. I’ll start with the negative piece of advice because it’s top of mind. I just thought about it the other day, believe it or not. In a creative writing workshop in grad school, a professor who did not much like me or my writing suggested aloud in my presence (i.e., during a workshop in which, as the writer under consideration, I was not allowed to speak) that I “get a craft book.” Translation: Justine is working towards an advanced degree in fiction writing, a subject which she knows absolutely nothing about. I was intensely shamed… and then… Read more »

    Susan

    David and Justine,
    I think one of your posts mentioned petting the dogs? I am curious what kind of dogs you have, what are their names? What endearing things do they do? Do you think people resemble the dogs they own–either physically or in terms of character traits?
    And where I work AMA means against medical advice.

    Justine Duhr

    Hey Susan. There’s nothing David and I like more than talking about our beloved Daisy, so thanks for giving us the opportunity to do so. Daisy is a five-year-old, forty-pound mutt, a rescue so we’re not sure what breeds. Something real cute. (Can we post pictures in comments? David?) Everything Daisy does is endearing. No, really. Everything. But probably worth mentioning specifically is the way that she yawn-screams (shrieks loudly while yawning wide, especially when stressed); invites you to scratch her inner thigh by slowly and pointedly opening her leg wide; and waits by the bed in the morning until… Read more »

    Susan

    Awwwww. That’s so cute, she has your eyes. You are definitely doggone.

    Brigitte

    Thanks for the response in regards to writing fiction. I wonder if writing is something people enjoy because it allows room for so much creativity.

    Is that one aspect of writing you like too?
    Brigitte

    Justine Duhr

    Absolutely, Brigitte. I feel at my most creative, imaginative and playful when I’m writing.

    Is that your experience too?

    Brigitte

    Hi Justine, Yes, basically since I was a little girl, about the tender age of seven, I found comfort and peace through writing a journal. I used to write in class and still remember my second grade teacher telling me she would love nothing more than for me to become a writer. I wish I could tell her, she was absolutely right on target, But it took me so long to accept myself for being different, creative, and an artist! Nice to know there are other people out there like myself. Thanks for the response!

    Justine Duhr

    Amazing how deep this stuff runs, isn’t it? I wonder what it would be like for you to write a letter to your second-grade teacher now, as a writing exercise/experiment…

    Brigitte

    Justine, that sounds like a great idea! And perhaps I may try to write Mrs. Blackham a short note this evening to tell her, she may have been one hundred percent right. I really did not believe her. Yet,I still remember how she walked past me while I wrote and the manner in which she glared at my journal entries. l titled a short story Lona and Nona. They were two twin sisters who spent their days roller skating, and eating pizza together. I never forgot her words when she brushed past my lined journal and saw me writing. She… Read more »




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