BIW Member Interview
Cathy Shetler lives in North Texas with her husband, two dogs, and three black cats. She enjoys teaching English and trying out all sorts of arts and crafts, while her alter ego loves riding her Harley and sword fighting with a medieval re-creation group.
Moe: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Cathy Shetler: I don’t think there has been one concrete moment. I’ve spent most of my life with story-induced insomnia. I lie in bed for an hour or more every night while my eyes struggle to close and my brain spirals around a story, a conversation, or a character. I even compose words, as if I had a piece of paper in bed with me. I know now that if I don’t let them out regularly, I start losing sanity.
I made my first attempts to write as a teenager. I filled my world with books, and I filled my life with stories. I began by imagining myself as the author, mentally rewriting as I read. Later, I wandered around with a dog-eared notebook full of my own half-stories. As I grew older, I never really had the discipline to keep writing, or the courage to start a career in writing after college, but I usually managed to find a way to write in my jobs. When I went back to college a few years ago, I reentered the writing life, and I loved it. I learned so much about writing and discipline, and I was forced through the writing/birthing process with some beautiful, complete articles. Shortly after graduating, I realized that writing was not a choice, it was a necessity for me and had been all my life, so I’d better get to it. I feel better, now.
Moe: Describe three lessons you have learned about writing?
Cathy Shetler: 1. Writing requires ritual. I’m not sure if I’m a) following a path to get to some elusive writing state, b) waking the cartoon gerbil that powers my brain and telling him to run on the wheel marked “writing”, or c) performing a religious rite asking the writing gods to turn on my internal story feed, but if I don’t do my pre-writing ritual, I don’t write.
2. Practice frequently. Writing is like working out: you have to do it most days of the week or you lose your writing physique and end up eating potato chips in front of the TV.
3. You write what you read. Read widely, but if a book is negatively affecting your writing, stop reading it. Put it away for when you’re not writing that murder thriller that was becoming too cheerful, or get rid of it if completely if you were adopting unwanted habits, but don’t let outside influences hurt your writing.
Moe: What are you working on now?
Cathy Shetler: I’m in the middle of a fantasy novel. I sometimes interrupt it with short stories that pop into my head.
Moe: Do you have a favorite writing related book?
Cathy Shetler: Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.
Moe: What is your favorite writing website?
Cathy Shetler: Absolute Write. This website has two parts: Absolute Write, which includes articles and resources on writing and publishing, and the Absolute Write Water Cooler, which is a forum for writers. I particularly like the Water Cooler—it has some fun discussions.
Moe: Do you have an important BIW tip you’d like to pass along?
Cathy Shetler: Stretch your hands and forearms before you write, and get up and stretch your body during breaks. I’m always amazed by how much my writing output depends on my body. If I prep my hands, I write much more and come out less tired at the end of the day.