Another inspiring author has come to visit me today!
Marie Powell is a professional writer based in Regina, Saskatchewan. Her publications include children’s books, poetry, short stories, and nonfiction.
Amicus Publishing recently published her six-book series of beginning-readers in picture book format, Word Families. Her second six-book series will be published in Fall 2014. Scholastic Canada published her children’s book Dragonflies are Amazing.
Her award-winning short stories and poems appear in such literary magazines as subTerrain, Room, and Transition. Her journalistic articles appear in more than 70 regional, national, and international magazines and newspapers, as well as broadcast and online markets.
Marie holds a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia (UBC), among other degrees. Her writing workshops are popular across Saskatchewan, and have led to a monthly adult free-writing club in Regina. She is founder of the Professional Writers Association of Canada Saskatchewan Chapter, and a member of such organizations as CANSCAIP, the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild, and the Editors’ Association of Canada. She also participates in such group blogs as Sci/Why (http://sci-why.blogspot.ca/2014/01/stories-in-slate-touring-underground.html) and Canscaip Sask Horizons (http://skcanscaip.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/research-how-much-is-enough/).
SEVEN SPOTLIGHT QUESTIONS:
#1: What do you enjoy the most about writing?
When I write, it’s like I’m “in the zone.” My perspective changes and my mind opens to new possibilities. I have to write every day, or my world – and my personality – just isn’t right. I write often about my fears or what scares me, or things and people that haunt me.
#2: What was your earliest writing experience?
I recall writing a short story in my back yard in about Grade Two. It was about a wasp that terrorized a town until the people rose up against it. I was afraid of bees and wasps then, so I guess I’ve been writing about my fears from the start. I made it into a book and gave it to my neighbor to read, and that was the start of a trend. My school writing journals were full of short stories and poetry.
#3: Describe a day in your writing life:
That’s a tough question. The only thing I can say for sure about my day is that I get up about 6 am and write. I try to write for at least an hour a day, beginning with Morning Pages (Julia Cameron), which settle my mind to work. I’ll write for the whole morning if possible, but I don’t have a routine life so often that isn’t possible. I write in several genres, give workshops, and do part-time library programming – which means I get to tell stories and read books to children, and share books with teens and adults. My hours are variable each day and each week. Plus I was a single mom for years, so I learned to make time and write “in the cracks” as they say.
#4: What authors influenced you and how?
Another good question! My personal writing mentors include Glen Huser, my thesis supervisor at UBC, Alison Lohans whose workshops in Regina moved me toward children’s writing, and Dr. Mary Blackstone, my MA thesis supervisor. I read all genres and have so many favorite authors. My formative reading included T. H White for The Once and Future King, Edgar Rice Burroughs especially for John Carter of Mars series, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Aldous Huxley, and Edgar Allan Poe. When I was in Grade 7, I volunteered in the school library with mostly Grade 8 girls, and one lunch hour I read “The Tell-Tale Heart” aloud to them. I think I’ve been hooked on suspense and speculative writing ever since. I hold a BFA and MA in theatre studies, so I love reading plays and poetry. I’ve started and facilitated writing groups, and that helps broaden my reading too. In terms of fiction, I read everything I can in many genres: Suzanne Collins, Susan Cooper, John Flanagan, Robert Sawyer, Jack Whyte, Ken Follett, Lois Lowry, Cassandra Clare, Robert Cormier, Eric Walters, and so many more.
#5: What are some things you learned to help with your success?
Mostly I’ve learned the value of persistence. I haven’t had anything come easily, but I just kept writing, even when it seemed I wasn’t getting anywhere. I had to learn to listen to the voices that helped my writing along, and tune out the others. In about 1994, I wrote a short story for a writing class. During the group feedback it received positive feedback from everyone (including the instructor), but one person said, “This is really just a character sketch, isn’t it?” That was the only voice I heard. I couldn’t figure out how to make it more of a story, so I put it in a box of writing that ended up in my basement. Then in 2004, I saw a local call for submissions from well-known author Byrna Barclay, who offered to give feedback on every submission. (She did, too, on more than 200 manuscripts.) I thought, “If anyone could help me turn it into a story, it’s Byrna Barclay.” Her letter back said, “I love your story and I want to publish it.” It changed everything. After that, I began to take writing more seriously. I joined writing groups and started sending my work out to contests and publications—and getting published followed.
#6: Describe your writing method:
I write in multiple genres, including feature articles, short stories, poems, children’s books and picture-books, and novels-in-progress. My short stories and novels are speculative fiction and historical fantasy. My process tends to move along a path: idea—research—writing—research—writing—research—revising—feedback—research—revising etc.
I have ideas all the time, and keep a journal to jot them down. I always try to keep that 6 am time for Morning Pages, so I know I will have that time to track my ideas (and fears), no matter how far-fetched or mundane they may seem. I flag all ideas that come up for future reference. Usually the ideas require research. I know very little, so I was never encouraged by that old adage, “Write what you know.” I like to think of it as, “Write about what you can find out.” Research can mean Internet searches, books, maps, personal travel, seeking out experts, interviews, letters, photos, images, chance meetings with strangers – you name it. I’m an inveterate researcher, so I often get ideas from the research too.
During the research, it also becomes time to write. One feeds the other. I usually engage the idea on several levels with a combination of “pantser” freewriting, charts, outlines, and the 10- to 20-page synopsis. Then as I begin to write, I find gaps in my research. I look up historical details, a setting, a photograph or image, or some other bit of research that helps me build the scene, so it leads directly back to the writing again. I’m also in two writing groups so twice a month I will need a 10- to 20-page submission, and that kind of deadline keeps me going.
That said, I once wrote and revised one postcard story for 10 years before it was finally published, and I also once had an idea while I was out for a walk, came home, wrote it down, sent it off to a contest the same day, and had it win second place with publication. So I’m not sure my method is that strict. Sometimes it’s a flash of luck or being in the right place at the right time.
#7: Tips for aspiring writers:
Read voraciously. Write, and keep on writing. Believe in yourself. Take classes, join associations that help writers in your genre, join a writers’ group for feedback — and learn to analyze feedback so you can hear the comments that will help move your writing along. And above all, enjoy yourself.
Check out Marie’s short story, “Grid Lines”, published in subTerrain magazine (issue #63, winter 2013), which was runner up for the Lush Triumphant Award.
Buy cover for buy page.
Another short story of note is “Ghosting”, published by Room magazine (issue 33.1, Spring 2010), which placed second in the Room Annual Fiction Awards.
Buy it here: http://www.roommagazine.com/issues/competition
Marie’s Word Families series (12 books), available from Amicus Publishing, is a beginner-readers series in hardcover picture-book format. It’s geared for Grade One children to learn to read themselves. The first six – That Cat, Dig Pig, Out for Trout, Grow Crow, Nab the Crab, and Sleep Sheep – are nonfiction narratives with photographic illustrations. The next series will be fiction narratives with illustrations, expected out in Fall 2014.
Learning about word families is an essential skill for helping young readers become familiar with both the sounds and the spellings of words. These silly animal stories highlight common rhyming words with endings that are spelled the same way. A fun way to introduce kids to phonics and early literacy skills.
Buy it here:
Connect with Marie: