BIW Member Interview
Janice Wiley-Dorn has won the Greater Augusta (GA) Arts Council’s Porter Fleming Competition twice and many other awards. Her short stories have appeared in literary periodicals, including The Rambler. She teaches creative writing online and leads two critique groups in Alabama.
Moe: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Janice Wiley-Dorn: I always knew I’d do something creative. In grammar school, I drew, wrote awful poetry, and briefly considered stand-up comic as a career. A prolific letter writer from childhood on into my twenties, back in the dino days before computers, I also freelanced book reviews for a major southern newspaper and collected rejections on my short stories. My older brother, a newspaper and magazine editor and the recipient of many of my letters, told me I needed a bit of training to shape my talent. In my forties, I finally studied creative writing at a local university, stopped wanting to be a writer and became one. Writers write.
Moe: Describe three lessons you have learned about writing?
1. Read, read, read–particularly writers who are still alive–and not just in your own genre.
2. Write consistently. It doesn’t matter if it is seven days a week, a half-hour at dawn or midnight Monday through Friday, or two hours on Saturday or Sunday. Just carve out as much time as you can this week. Repeat next week and the next.
3. Never compare the quantity or quality of your work to anyone else’s. Look at where you’re at today, compared to last week, month, year. What actions will move you forward? At different stages of your career you may need to take classes, attend workshops, join an organization for writers, become an active participant in a critique group, enter contests, learn how to write query letters, set-up one-on-one interviews with agents and/or editors at a conference, read how-to books on publicity and marketing. However, never let the business of writing consume your creative writing time.
Moe: What are you working on now?
Janice Wiley-Dorn: While waiting to hear the results from a couple of contests and grant applications, I’m querying agents on my first novel, Me and You, Billy, and working on a new one, Kin Keeper, as well as a few short stories and a narrative nonfiction project, Living with Invisible Illness.
Moe: Do you have a favourite writing related book?
Janice Wiley-Dorn: How to Write a Damn Good Novel, II: Advance Techniques for Dramatic Storytelling by James N. Frey.
Moe: What is your favourite writing website?
Janice Wiley-Dorn: Funds for Writers, maintained by C. Hope Clark. You can browse the website and/or blog whenever or sign up for weekly emailed newsletters, available in free or paid versions. The Funds for Writers Newsletter contains new articles each week on a variety of topics, plus a list of upcoming grant and contest deadlines, most with low entry fees. The other two newsletters are called Small Markets and WritingKid.
Moe: Do you have an important BIW tip you’d like to pass along?
Janice Wiley-Dorn: Prepare and be aware.
Spend at least two weeks prior to a BIW running errands, cooking and freezing quick-fix meals. Also, do favors for family and friends to gain their support and cooperation. Adjust chair height and work area for optimum comfort.
During BIW, pay attention to your body. Wear fingerless gloves to keep finger joints & wrists warm and flexed. Set computer, cell phone or alarm clock to remind you to take five or ten-minute breaks to stretch, walk around, drink water and put lubrication drops in your eyes (they don’t blink when you stare at the screen for long periods).