Stories have arcs. Characters have arcs. Writers have arcs. We write, we get better at our craft. We read, we get better at our craft. We interact with other writers and our readers, we get better at our craft. Whether you are a professional writer or just starting out. Hobby or career. We are all in this together. Welcome.

Contact: Elena Hartwell - elenahartwell@gmail.com and visit me on the web at www.elenahartwell.com

The Interview Part II

Scroll Down to Read Part I

What has been the most useful experience for you in honing your writing skills? 
Well, I had a truly excellent high school AP English teacher named Bill Hawk. He made us write one-page pieces that we would peer edit and rewrite a couple times before the end of the week, helping each other get rid of passive verbs and things like that. He worked us hard and high standards, and yet that class felt like a very kind place to be. I thrived in that cooperative learning environment. So, that class was a critical piece, I think, to my success. 

But another important piece was that writing letters was my way of escaping the small town that I was growing up in. I had thirty pen pals all over the world, and as I'd write several of them the same recent stories from my life, I was actually rewriting, without really slaving. I was aware of how each time I wrote the story I was able to distill it down to just the funniest parts, and how much better it became. Looking back, I can see that I simply loved writing. I still do. It gets me in trouble sometimes. I never thought of myself as "a writer"-- just a person who loved writing. I think not having my identity tied up in it like that made me less afraid of failure. 

I remember watching this show on PBS called "the United States of Poetry", which was like music videos-- only for poems instead of songs, and as I watched all these different walks of life read their poems, it struck me so hard that as long as you're really being yourself, you cannot write crap. I still believe that. I've got no pretenses about being one of the great voices in literature of my time. If my books were songs, they would not be symphonies. They would be folk rock. I like folk rock. It's not complicated. It's just kind of natural and nice and easy and true. Simplicity has beauty, I think. 

What do you know now, you wish you'd known writing your first novel?
I wish I had known the basics of plot. At one point, I had this idea about turning my first book into a screenplay, so I began to read about writing screenplays, and that's where I really learned about plot structure. Oh, I wish I had known that earlier. Plot is still my weakness. See, I don't really like problems. I know. That's hilarious. You can't have a plot without a problem. 

What are you working on now?
I am in the homestretch of finishing my fourth novel, THE EMBERS, about a group of women who try to save a summer camp and instead save themselves and each other. When I was in college, I worked at Camp Zanika on Lake Wenatchee, and then nearly twenty years later, I returned and worked there two more summers. That's when I met a group of women from the generation before me who had been instrumental in saving that camp. They are who inspired this idea, but the story became something very different from real life. It's good. You'll like it.

Final Words of Wisdom:
For aspiring writers? It would be this. You've got to write to entertain yourself. Write because you love it. Write because not writing just isn't an option. Please yourself first. Then, if you decide to frost that cake with publishing icing, you have to think of it like dating. Most people don't go on one date and marry the first person they went on a date with. No, it can take a long time to find someone who is looking for or appreciates what you have to offer. It takes a whole lot of endurance to make dreams come true. If you wrote to please other people and receive rejection letters, you'll feel like a failure. If you wrote to please yourself and you love what you wrote, you'll feel like you just haven't found the right agent or editor yet. 

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