• “Stay Connected to That Part of Yourself”: Q&A With M.E. Solomon

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 44 comments
    Oct
    10

    Discussion questions: What’s the oldest writing project you consider to still be in-progress? What makes a “real” writer? When it comes to feedback, what’s more important, quantity or quality? What do you do to “stay connected” to the writer within you on days you can’t work on your project, or can’t write at all? Random, I know, but it’ll make sense soon. Answer as many as you’d like in the comments.

    This week we’re offering a Q&A with M.E. Solomon, a writer who recently published her first short story and is working on a novel in book coaching with WriteByNight coach/consultant Resa Alboher.

    A few questions for discussion, drawn from M.E.’s responses:

    1. What’s the oldest writing project you consider to still be in-progress? What is its status?

    2. What makes a “real” writer? Are you one? If so, when/how did you become one?

    3. Regarding one-on-one coaching vs. a writing group: When it comes to feedback, what’s more important, quantity or quality?

    4. What do you do to “stay connected” to the writer within you on days you can’t work on your project, or can’t write at all?

     

    QA With M.E. Solomon

    Let’s start with the most fun and exciting stuff: You just had a story published in Teleport Magazine! Can you tell us a bit about “Doppelgäng’s” path to publication? Is it your first published short story? How did it feel to see your byline? How has being published changed your outlook, your approach, or the way you view yourself as a writer?

    I initially drafted “Doppelgäng,” believe it or not, fifteen years ago. It’s gone through multiple iterative revisions (and a variety of submissions-and-rejections) before arriving to the version that was accepted to Teleport. It is my first published short story (though, as of this writing, it is now not my last or most recent acceptance).

    Seeing my byline was an experience I didn’t entirely anticipate. Certainly, it was a great feeling, but you know what was even cooler? Seeing the story with a really neat graphic. The one that accompanied “Doppelgäng” was chosen by the editor – a great image by a graphic artist from Russia named Barandash Karandashich,

    One doesn’t need the validation of publication to be a “real writer” of course, but it did impact how I see myself in that way. It also lit a fire under me to write more, to write more often, and to have more faith in the outcome. Perhaps counterintuitively, it’s made me think less about audience while writing and more about my vision or what I want to say. It’s shifted the desire to write from external factors to internal ones. Those were always there, but this has sort of re-focused the lens.

     

    You’ve been in book coaching with Resa Alboher since May 2019. What got you to the point where you were ready to work with a coach on your writing?

    I’d been working on my writing for a very long time. When a story wasn’t working, I’d tend to get discouraged and put it aside, which would lead to extensive blocked periods where nothing was ever getting completed. I finally decided it was time to take it up a notch. I’d taken many writing classes before, but I suspected that the personalized attention of a writing coach could benefit me, and it has.

     

    How has working with a writing coach been beneficial? In what ways has your writing changed and improved since you began coaching? What are the challenges of working with a coach?

    From my perspective, Resa deserves as much credit as I do. Resa has been resolute in her encouragement of my focus, even in the face of my own resistance. It has provided consistency, deadlines, and focus.

    I prefer the individual attention a coach provides, without the comparison to others’ work that can come from taking group classes. I certainly like reading other writers’ pieces, but it takes focus away from my own, to the point where I lose sight of the path. Working with a coach keeps me on that path. It makes me accountable, gives me a deadline. Also, Resa knows so much more than I do about writing and about certain types of literature. She has read a lot and uses that background to help me stay centered on what is important to the story I’m telling. I learn so much from her.

    My writing has changed in the sense that I am less judgmental of my own work, take more joy in the process, and am more patient with it. As a result, I’m able to get deeper into the story and the craft, which in turn has improved the output quality. It’s increased my confidence in the draft I call final.

    I can’t say I’ve encountered challenges working with a coach, except to say that Resa challenges me to work more diligently and to stay with it. She suggests allowing for days when there isn’t room for writing but where you can still fit something in, just to stay connected to that part of yourself.

     

    You’re currently working on a novel. Can you tell us a bit about it, or is it top-secret? Can you talk about the process of working on it with Resa? Does having a coach help keep you motivated and on pace?

    I can tell you that the novel is a slight departure in tone from my stories. It is more of a thriller with some supernatural elements than it is horror, per se. It is fully drafted, from beginning to end, and I’ve gone through at least a couple of revisions, though it has a long way to go.

    In terms of process – because the scope of a novel is so broad – we work on it in sections. Sometimes we’ll work on it for a couple of sessions, then stop for a while as I shift to a different piece, then return to it again. We’ve found that there are certain parts of the novel I personally like better so I work on those more, and as a result, there’s a feedback loop where the parts I favor less get neglected, and that’s what I really need to target. Because revising a novel is such a long process, it takes a lot of patience. With a coach I’ll finish it.

     

    Do you have other stories out for consideration? Are you able to work on stories and the novel simultaneously, or to write a new story do you need to shelve the novel for a few days/weeks?

    Currently, I have six stories out for consideration. I can work on stories and the novel simultaneously. My motivation for what I work on and when is fairly arbitrary. There is no real structure to that. While I have at times worked on them simultaneously, it is more typical that I’ll focus on one piece at a time or one format at a time (novel, short story, screenplay, etc.).

     

    How did you get your start as a writer?

    I have been writing stories since I was a pre-teen and won a school poetry contest as a kid. I’ve always liked the act of putting a writing instrument to paper – the feel of the pen on a page, favoring certain pens – in college it was those fountain pens with the ink cartridges – and then there has always been a curiosity about words. Even during long periods of not writing I still considered myself a writer, because ultimately the writer sensibility is about how one sees the world, not whether or not one is putting the proverbial pen to the proverbial paper. That’s just a bonus for everyone involved.

     

    What are your future writing goals? What do you see as WriteByNight’s role in helping you reach those goals?

    My primary goal is to finish the novel I drafted in 2013. Beyond that, my goals are to complete several more short stories that are already drafted and get them published. I also have other work – a couple of screenplays, a television pilot, and two other novels, one fully drafted and one partially – that I’d like to finish.

    I do see WriteByNight’s role as integral to these goals. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with WriteByNight and Resa. It’s made a huge difference to have the encouragement and guidance of a coach who’s been a good match for me.

     

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    Raymundo

    Great Q&A withe M.E. I expect she echoed sentiments a lot of us feel, like: “…ultimately the writer sensibility is about how one sees the world….” I agree and think that idea can be extended to artists in general. For myself, I have a novel I’ve been working on to one extent or other since 2008. I can’t seem to give it up and admit defeat. What makes a “real writer” is that attitude mentioned above. This identifies creative people who have a desire to chronicle life and express themselves via the written word. I’ve noted a number of historical… Read more »

    Raymundo

    I can relate. When my son was learning piano as a child, I picked up a sense for how musical expression can satisfy the creative urge. Sometimes, things I’ve written, or consider writing, feel like a song to me.

    Elissa Malcohn

    Haruki Murakami is another author whose writing is driven by (and also incorporates) music. I grew up in a musical family, so it is integral to my creative process as well.

    Elissa Malcohn

    I’ve read 1Q84 and Killing Commendatore, so far. Enjoyed both, though 1Q84 impacted me much more and did a great job messing with my head (in a good way).

    I was reminded recently of 1Q84 when I read Blake Crouch’s Recursion, also highly recommended.  

    Barbara Mealer

    1. What’s the oldest writing project you consider to still be in-progress? What is its status? My first book, a paranormal contemporary is completed but now in editing….finally. I wrote it back in 2014. It is called “Sister of the Sun.” 2. What makes a “real” writer? Are you one? If so, when/how did you become one? A real writer is someone who keeps working at it, learning and publishes when they finally realize that they need to move on to the next project. I am one and have several books (not real good ones) published. 3. Regarding one-on-one coaching… Read more »

    Elissa Malcohn

    First, congratulations to M.E. Solomon on seeing “Doppelgäng” in print! And on the more recent acceptance as well. I’ve been blown away by the artwork that has accompanied my fiction, too. Loved the story, and Karandashich’s illo is perfect for it. I don’t have a current WIP with ancient origins, but my Deviations series began as a short story that I had written in the late 80s. I had an inkling at the time that it needed to be a longer work, but I had already started drafting a novel (which went nowhere) and I wasn’t motivated to try to expand the story. The… Read more »

    Susan

    For the young who want to, it’s been hanging on my bulletin board ever since I was young. Reading that poem kept me going–that and Letters to a Young Poet by Rilke.

    Elissa Malcohn

    Love that quote! Lets me “see” imagination as a character.

    Elissa Malcohn

    It has less to do with word count and more to do with how the story unfolds, since the telling is almost completely spontaneous. My current setting is something I had foreseen 72 days prior to arrival (that kind of advance insight is an extreme rarity in this process), so establishing the scene when I reached that point was fairly straightforward. I knew generally what I wanted to write; my main task lay in shaping it into discrete installments. When I’m lucky, the next steps become clear as I write the installment. The main difference between the WIP’s early days and now can… Read more »

    Elissa Malcohn

    Short answer: The latter. Longer answer: The story line contains several unsolved mysteries, due in great part to limited character perspective and one unreliable narrator. I think I can confidently say that some things will remain unresolved, but I’ve left myself some potential avenues to explore. The bottom line for me is that my four POV characters have nonhuman (but human-influenced) perspectives, so questions that might matter to us (e.g., “What really happened to…?”) might matter differently (or not at all) to them and vice-versa. That being said, it makes the story into an allegory of sorts, so that the anthropocentric issues do ultimately… Read more »

    Elissa Malcohn

    Mind you, there are days when I compare what I want to accomplish and what I actually produce and this comes to mind:
    comment image

    Hans De Léo

    Wow. Good Q&A. 1. What’s the oldest writing project you consider to still be in-progress? What is its status? That would be the first novel I attempted, back in the ’90s. It’s a medieval fantasy involving swords with magical powers. I’m currently in the process of re-imagining the story. 2. What makes a “real” writer? Are you one? If so, when/how did you become one? I guess a “real” writer is someone that can create a compelling story. I became one after joining a writing group and because of their honest feedback, I learned how to do just that. This… Read more »

    Hans De Leo

    Yes, mostly on long walks. I get to stay physically healthy and “work” on my writing at the same time.

    Elissa Malcohn

    I play those “home movies” in my head, too. Usually I just watch and then record what I see and hear.

    There’s something about movement in general that does it for me. Not only would ideas and visions come to me during walks, but when I commuted on public transportation they came to me when I was passive but still in motion.

    Elissa Malcohn

    I have fond memories of writing in my journal while riding the F train to high school. (Transferred to the B at Coney Island, but only for one stop.) The idea for the story that led to my series came to me as I read the poem that inspired it on a bus in Cambridge. And I loved to write on the T! I went through a fountain pen stage and had a Visconti traveling inkwell. Could refill my pen on a moving subway train. Planes, Amtrak, and ferries were all great places to write.

    Kenneth Harris

    I will address only #2; “What makes a real writer, are you one, how did you become one.” You become a writer when you put figurative sharpened pencil to lined paper. The urge-followed by the act, and this is key-of recording in words an internal conversation about external events, daydreams, fantasies or memories instantly confers upon you the sobriquet “writer”. A real one-not to be confused with a “paid” one. Two different animals. I am a writer because I have a strong urge to connect with others by way of creating scenarios with sympathetic characters undone by human foibles, failings… Read more »

    Susan

    I like that definition of a “real writer”, especially that you added “And I like to write,” because we are just one kind of story teller, and there are other ways to do that, of course. It is an urge to connect, and, for me, the way I can do that most honestly is to write. Sometimes in speaking myself gets in the way. Too shy to act. Nobody wants to hear me sing, that’s fds.

    Susan

    Here’s a video of me singing. https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=olive+oyl+singing+why+am+i+so+beautiful
    fds is for damn sure, or, in this case, flunked diva school.

    Brigitte

    Hi,
    I am basically finished writing my first book titled The Crime I Did Not Commit. But the process goes far beyond just writing it. There is editing, organizing, rewriting and even figuring out how the pages are going to look.
    In the past, I did not think about all that went into the process of writing,rewriting and designing a book…but now I finally can relate to how much work it takes to put together a book.
    It is fun at first but then towards the end, it starts to feel like hard work.

    Brigitte

    Hi, That is probably what life is all about. Like, at the beginning, there is the fun part. Even in a new relationship…it is exciting and fun and new. And then when the hard work kicks in along with the reality that not all of life is FUN….then all of these other challenges begin. New emotions, boredom, anxiety, fear…..and on and on the list may go. I agree that anything one sets out to do is going to be hard work. Period. No way around it really. Success is not going to fall down from the sky one morning. I… Read more »

    Brigitte

    Hi David,
    I find fun the hard work because I learned that nothing is going to happen by osmosis or by dreaming it. So, I come home and draw and write and do my thing. Today I showed some of my art work to people and the fact that they liked it….made me so happy! So, the hard work pays off and the art can be looked at all the time and always brings joy. Money comes and goes way too fast for me!! So, I need to enjoy something. Grateful,Brigitte

    Brigitte

    I meant to say I find fun IN the hard work. oops.

    Brigitte

    Yes, I agree.
    Have you ever felt so good when someone told you they liked your writing or art or whatever you created? It is so nice when I brought some happiness to their lives. Smiling is free and so we all should do it more often.

    Susan

    Something that M.E. said gave me an “aha”–that publishing helped her to “have more faith in the outcome.” Writing is an act of faith, and when I read that I realized that what has often stopped me is not knowing where this is going. My oldest WIP is six years old, and I have noticed that the more I focus on it the more it writes itself and that renews my faith. Your question about the oldest thing, though, made me remember a screenplay I wrote about years ago, when I was very young. I sent it off to someone… Read more »

    Susan

    I wouldn’t put it past some cheeseheads. What was the title? Gone Too Favre? Mine was sorta humiliating too, very melodramatic.




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