Lucky me, one of the most satisfying parts of my experience as a writer has been the other writers I’ve met along the way. Their stories – both personal and professional – are compelling and inspiring. Their love of their craft is individual and passionate. Their insight and sage advice, invaluable and almost always offered with an open hand. And so I’ve chosen to feature a writer who exemplifies all of these qualities as my first Writer Who Inspires interview. I know she’ll inspire you, too.
Hope is editor of FundsforWriters.com, chosen by Writer’s Digest for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for 2001 through 2011. She’s published in The Writer
Magazine, Writers Digest, numerous Chicken Soups and multiple trade
magazines. Her newsletters reach 40,000 readers.
What is your favorite quality in a person?
Respect for others, which means a strong sense of honesty. I’m adamant about
this quality in a person. If I can trust you, I can let down my guard. I don’t know if that comes from being a shy person growing up, fearful of showing my feelings, but if someone crosses me, I have a serious problem with being able to let them in my circle again. But be loyal and trustworthy, and I’m as strong a friend as anyone could have. A person who respects is a person who can love deeply as well.
What is your least?
Without a doubt, someone who lies. Not accidental distortions, but true cons
who know the truth. My friends and family know that lying to me is about as bad
a mistake anyone could make in my eyes.
A close second in terms of my least favorite quality is someone who cannot listen. I was taught to never interrupt, and therefore, learned how to listen hard to others and their opinions. Someone who runs over my conversation loses my respect in a snap. It’s a sign of them thinking of how to dominate a conversation instead of participating as an equal.This habit probably falls in the lack-of-respect category.
As a child, did you dream of becoming a writer?
Funny, but while I loved writing, I never dreamed of becoming a writer. I was an honor student, with a strong emphasis in math and science.Sure, I was in honors English and wrote well. I was copy editor then editor for the high school yearbook. But I saw writing as a talent, not a profession.
You have to realize that in my high school and college days (in the 70s), women lived under plate glass, double-paned ceilings. Raised by parents who both worked during a time that the mom stayed home, I was taught to go for the gold. I interpreted that as being strong enough to go for a man’s career – business, math, science. I entered pre-veterinary school, shifted to zoology, then to agronomy (soil science). But writing for a living wasn’t an option, even though I was offered a scholarship to journalism school. Looking back, I may have missed an opportunity, but I’m not one to look back for long. I move forward. Regret is a waste of energy and creative juices.Besides, my novel was founded upon experiences at my day job.
Fate is a marvelous thing.
But…I was an avid reader. I tried to write a novel at age nine. I wrote fabulous
term papers that made the teachers marvel. But I never saw myself as a
future writer. I felt writing was a gift I’d use at whatever I became professionally.
Who/what influenced you to pursue your dreams?
Let’s start with WHAT. I’d reached upper management in a small federal agency.
I was second in command for the state of South Carolina in that agency. Writing
had played a major role in that advancement. I wrote for Congressmen, political appointees, program directors, and agency administrators. I headed task forces, managed employees, and prepared briefs, strategic plans and technical documents that wielded influence. I was known for my writing ability. I even laughed at being able to write “government fiction.” A director could tell me the side he wanted to take on a matter, and I could spin it in writing. But the stress was intense. A peer once asked me over lunch, “When are you going to write for yourself?”
His words hit me like a brick. So I went home, told my family that I had fifteen minutes each night to myself behind a closed door to write. They were not to interrupt me unless:
1. they were bleeding; 2. a bone was broken; 3. the house was on fire. I maintained a 10-12 hour workday with three teenagers, but I kept my private appointment each night. It evolved into a habit, building more and more until it was an hour a day and many hours on the weekend. Once I’d spent three years writing part-time and proved I could earn wages as a writer, and reached the minimum age to negotiate an early retirement (25 years service; I was 46 years old), I left the rat-race. But only after setting my family down and asking if they minded. My husband said he’d be thrilled to see me working at something I obviously loved so much. My children said much the same. Once I took the leap, they actually said I was a much more fun person to live with. Okay, a back-handed compliment, but I gladly accepted it. Because I was indeed happy.
The WHO influence ranges over several people. How do you ever choose one or two? My tenth-grade English teacher, Mrs. Janet Hilton, convinced me I had writing talent. She dragged me as a shy teenager onto the yearbook staff and made me write copy. My husband cheered me on as I wrote into the night attempting fiction, poetry, essays, anything other than technical government work. I still have the first icky draft of my novel coming out February 2012, a 12-15-year old document, that has his A+ on it in red pen. It stunk but he knew I spent two years writing after work just to see if I had a novel in me.Apparently I did, just not then.
A journalist, KD McIntosh, once asked me for help in finding funds/income since she was ill and still trying to work from home – back in the 90s when that was not the trend. In return, she showed me how to compose and produce a newsletter. She told me I had a niche – grants – that I could teach to writers. I cringed at the thought because it ran too close to being the day job. Reluctantly I started the newsletter, hoping to combine editorial writing with providing grant resources to writers. The newsletter took off. I sent a long, heartfelt thank-you note to her three months after I started FundsforWriters, crediting her for being so wise. I sent it to the hospital where she’d been admitted. I had no idea for what ailment, but I didn’t want to wait until she was home. It was returned unopened. She’d died from ovarian cancer.
That twist of fate slammed me hard. So I took up FundsforWriters with a passion
after that. She obviously knew what she was talking about. That was in early 2000. I had 1000 readers. Today I have 40,000.
I think people shift in and out of your life, influencing as they go. I could name
Pari Noskin Taichert, a mystery author out of New Mexico I chauffeured to a book signing in Scottsdale, Arizona, to the Poisoned Pen bookstore. Over dinner she asked if I did more than FundsforWriters. I mentioned my old novel on the shelf. She told me to take it down and rewrite it. She said I was more mature in my writing now. She told me I’d regret not doing so. I pulled it out the next day. Again, it’s the novel coming out in February.
I could go on and on about people who influenced me. That’s why I try to
influence others, give them a hand along their journey. It’s my way of
passing it forward.
What is your greatest love?
In terms of people, of course my husband and sons. In terms of the universe, I’m enamored with nature. I’m addicted to dirty fingernails, seedlings, weeds, the smell of grass, the stain of garden tomatoes on my shirt, the odor of mulch in summer. I deal with stress in the outdoors, whether seated by the lake watching fish and listening to tree frogs, or weeding and pruning my landscape. Throw in my chickens, and you probably get it. I love the seclusion of the country. It empowers me. I spend Easter relaxed outdoors instead of at church. It’s closer to God. Green. Give me green. My absolute favorite color because of what it symbolizes. Natural. Honesty. Purity. Growth.
What is your greatest fear?
Loss of husband and children. I can cope with absolutely anything else. While I grew up shy, I also grew up strong. People don’t realize that shyness isn’t a weakness. In many cases, it’s an introspective strength that powers us through life.
What is your favorite place?
I grew up as a military brat, so I learned to enjoy wherever I was at the time. However, after having touched 42 states and lived in seven, I gravitate back to the Southeastern US each and every time. My Southern roots date back to the 17th century. I’ve spent most of my life in South Carolina. Even though I was born in Mississippi, I consider SC home. I live on the banks of Lake Murray, and it’s hard to tear me away from the water, woods and wildlife. I’ve never had a desire to apply for a retreat or fellowship, because my muse parks her backside here, in a study facing the lake.
If you could give a bit of sage advice to novice writers, what would it be?
Find a reason to get hungry about writing. Then fight that hunger with a diligence that can’t die. Become known for your diligence. When people ask you what you do, have them walk away stunned at your passion. Write daily.
I speak to writers every day. When I hear comments like they don’t have time right now, or they have children, or they work a day job and need a grant to have time to write, I know better. A sincere writer doesn’t make excuses for not
writing. He beats himself up for missing an opportunity to write and makes up
for it the next day by writing more. A sincere writer fights to improve. A sincere
writer edits to the extreme, deeply driven to perform well. It isn’t about publishing ten ebooks in two years because the industry has shifted to embrace new media. It’s about being the best at what you do, and investing the time, study and research to make it happen. Whether it takes two years or twenty.
Be diligent. That’s what I have to say. Be diligent to write well.
The first book in Hope Clark’s Carolina Slade Suspense
Series will be released by Bell Bridge Books in February 2012.