BIW Member Interview
Marie Sultana Robinson is a former creativity and business coach among many other professions including running an electrical contracting company, insurance agent, baker, and model. She never ever buys a purse, unless a notebook can fit in it. And she tends to buy skirts that have pockets for the same reasons. She enjoys quilting, sailing, gardening, nature watching, bellydancing, mermaid swimming and eavesdropping on conversations in public. She is formally owned by five cats, who think writing is great as long as cat treats are near by. She has a husband who is a Master Electrician and professional cat treat server.
Moe: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Marie Sultana Robinson: I grew up in a family of voracious readers. In my family there were several kinds of professions: (Patented Loom) Inventor, Lawyer, Chemist and Writer. I grew up reading lots of books including my family’s work – Alice Davis Crompton, Mrs. Chetwood Smith, Ethel Cook Eliot, Anne Eliot Crompton, and Alexander Eliot. From my elders I heard about the writer’s process, both good and bad. Uncle Alexander was senior art editor at Time Magazine, so I also heard about the business end and crazy writers. Remember, I was child with large ears, so the info was a bit skewed.
I spent a couple of summer’s stomping around America’s Stonehedge and other prehistoric sites around New England, while my Aunt Patience was researching her book, The Sorcerer. I read the work-in-progress as well, and saw the changes, subtle and large. On my wedding day I had the standard reception line, word whispered that my Aunt Patience (who wrote as Anne Eliot Crompton) was attending. Her book A Woman’s Place had been featured on the cover of Redbook the year before. Various members of the wedding vanished only to reappear with the old copy to have her sign. People in the restaurant did the same.
A few years passed. And my birthday came around and I got several copies of a book with the title “Marie” (a name thing). At the time I was living in Florida, a long way from my New England home. Something about that book made me say. “I could write something like this.”
And I started writing. I moved back to Cape Cod, and joined a writers group with writers who were far more advanced and published than I was, Pulitzer and Pushcart winners. It was the original Twelve O’clock Scholars. Petronelle would sit and talk with me about writing and encourage me, give me suggestions. We shared a fascination with ancient cultures. After two years of being at Scholars, she talked one day about a possible movie deal about her book Marie. I didn’t know she wrote under the name Margot Arnold. She had written the book that gave me that nudge to learn to write.
For me, wanting to write wasn’t a moment, but a life long series of things that pushed me and nudged me. I wrote journals and letters much of my life, but there’s a quantum leap between those and writing a novel or an article. Then there’s a quantum leap to publish and then another quantum leap to ‘career’.
Moe: Describe three lessons you have learned about writing?
Marie Sultana Robinson:
1. Writing is a process. It is never easy, because as soon as you master one element, something else comes up. It is however, challenging, and fulfilling. You need to learn how others do it, but adapt it to your own life, situation and project. Learning the craft is vital. There are so many pieces to writing, it’s like pebbles on a beach. A suggestion: Stop once a week, once a month at least and ask yourself the question. “What do I need to learn now, to improve my writing, or my ability to write?” Be honest with yourself about the answer. Ask it enough and magic starts to happens.
2. My writing mentor Gary Provost often said “Writers write. Published writers rewrite.”
3. BIC HOK TAM it’s not just a cute anagram. It’s the short hand of number two. Every once and while, I’ve gotten 200 plus pages on a BIW and I get off list emails whispering “how did you do it?” My behind in the chair, brain engaged, hands on the keys, typing away madly. Life gets rough and I chant BIC HOK TAM (which can be embarrassing in a public place and worse when I’m at a stop light in traffic with the windows rolled down).
Moe: What are you working on now?
Marie Sultana Robinson: I never have just one WIP. My brain doesn’t work that way. Once one goes stale, I move to something else. But I do have a sort of writing dance I do.
1. Monday – Friday: I do a 10 – 20 minute prompt. I belong to a group and the energy is wonderful. The prompts make me stretch as a writer and deal with stuff I wouldn’t.
2. Blogging Postcards: I have finally figure out how to create my website and decided on the branding of the writing for the blog/postcards. It’s astrology/astronomy/nature/gardening. And starting May 1st 2008 will be daily. I’m hoping the click-thrus will keep me in coffee and muffins.
3. I have several articles and article/series I’m writing for a variety of places.
4. Novel-in-progress: Sea Glass Dreams. Premise: Mary Tattersall loses her creativity and her family. Her life is forever shattered when she breaks a jar of sea glass and releases a bottled fairy who was part of her childhood. Sometimes when we lose all that we love, we get to do it better the second time around, like sea glass. It’s a story of loss and redemption.
5. Novels in the line up: Since I live near Mystic Seaport, I’ve found some amazing resources for researching some of the history of the area. I’m collecting a banker’s box of info. For now it’s a few scribbles and stuff I toss in the box.
Moe: Do you have a favorite writing related book?
Marie Sultana Robinson: The Complete Notebooks of Henry James give great insight into how a great writer’s mind works. Tedious but interesting.
Moe: What’s the hardest thing about writing?
Marie Sultana Robinson: Getting everything else done. I suffer dreadfully from housework block.
Moe: What is your favourite writing website?
Marie Sultana Robinson: Well aside from Book-in-a-week, Informed Ideas, for writing related news.
Moe: Do you have an important BIW tip you’d like to pass along?
Marie Sultana Robinson: Write. Read. Communicate with other writers. Ask. Don’t show your work too early to anyone who isn’t a writer. Always carry a notebook and scribble. First, you write. Period. Write. Later you figure out marketing, editing, and selling to a publisher. First and foremost, you always write. Or as we say here in war cry mode — BIC HOK TAM!