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with Patricia Fry

This interview was published in The Voice of the Writer, March 2001. It is a newsletter from The Book Lover's Haven at The interview seems to have only appeared in the print newsletter and is not on their website.

1. How old were you when you started writing?
I began my writing career when I was 33, but I'd been preparing for that day for over ten years. I didn't realize until I was married with children that I loved to write. While I raised my family, I wrote little stories for my children, poems for the greeting cards I made for family and friends when I couldn't afford to buy them and I wrote lots and lots letters. I still love to write letters. While I raised my family, I planned for my future as a writer. I read the magazines for which I wanted to write. I subscribed to writing magazines. But it wasn't until my girls were young teens that I decided to begin my career.

2. What specific event caused you to know you would be a writer? Tell us a little about that event?
When my girls were 13, 14 and 15 years old, our wonderful mother-daughter relationship began to suffer a little. I realized that I was trying to be super mom when they really needed to start trying their wings without so much of my input. I needed to back off and one way I could do that was to get involved in something just for me. That's when I decided to start my writing career. I put a small desk in a corner of my bedroom. I borrowed a manual typewriter and I began to write.

To my amazement and delight, I sold the first article I wrote and I found a publisher for my first book. It seemed that all of that studying I did would pay off.

3. What advice would you give to a beginner dreaming of earning a living as a full-time writer?
Don't give up your day job. But don't give up on your dream, either. There was a time in my life when I had to seek outside employment. I was miserable working full-time. When I realized that I might have to support myself this way for the rest of my life and never again be able to write again, I became depressed. I wallowed in my misery for a while and then I decided that I had to do something about this.

I had to prove to myself that I could write no matter what else was going on in my life. So I started getting up at 4 A.M. every morning and writing for a couple of hours. I'd take my walk and then get ready for work. I also worked on weekends. Not only did I finish my book, Quest For Truth in eight months on this schedule, but my sense of hope was renewed. Life once again had meaning. Once the book was finished, I began submitting articles to magazines again in an attempt to rebuild my article-writing business. And finally, I drummed up the courage to quit the job so I could write full-time.

It wasn't easy, but it was well worth the sacrifices. As I say in my book, A Writer's Guide to Magazine Articles for Book Promotion and Profit, "I believe that there are four things that prevent wanna-be or would-be writers from pursuing their dream: they lack appropriate motivation, they aren't committed, they're weak in organizational skills and/or they're unable to discipline themselves." Part one of the "Writer's Guide" outlines the steps I feel are necessary to turning your desire to write into a paying reality.

4. What have you found to be some of the best markets open to beginning writers?
One of the first things I did to launch my writing career was to land a job as a columnist for the local newspaper. Ours is a small bi-weekly paper. I studied this publication and found a niche that wasn't being filled. There was no business column. I interviewed the owner of an interesting business in town, submitted it to the publisher and suggested that I write a weekly column called "Profiles in Business." This job didn't pay much, but it offered a terrific opportunity to gain experience, learn discipline and discover interesting topics for magazine articles.

Further I recommend seeking out local publications that use freelancers. This might be a senior giveaway magazine, a visitor's guide, company newsletter and so forth. Also, if you can't break into the big magazines with your great ideas, see if you can establish a working relationship with a smaller publication such as: Living or Together, (Shalom Publishers), Moxie Magazine, Standard (a Nazarene International magazine), Mature Years, The Network Journal and so forth

5. Do you ever experience writer's block, and, if so, how do you break out of the block and get your writing flowing again?
I haven't had a case of writer's block in years. I think it's because I always have such a variety of things going on in my office. If I don't feel like working on a particular piece one day, I have plenty of other work to do. I could outline a new article that has been assigned. I might write query letters on a new topic or send out reprints for possible publication. I could spend the morning marketing one of my books. I might conduct research on the web or contact experts and set up telephone interview appointments for an upcoming piece.

I remember some of the techniques I used in the past to squelch writer's block, though. I include one of them in my book, A Writer's Guide to Magazine Articles for Book Promotion and Profit. I frequently leave a project unfinished at the end of the day. Rather than having to face something new the next morning, I start the day finishing up something I'm already comfortable with.

I recommend never wasting time staring at a blank page. Put something on the paper even if it's your name and address. Type a working title. And then just start writing whatever comes to mind. Something is bound to resonate with you sooner or later and then you're on your way to your next great article.

6. Who are some of your favorite authors?
I read more for research purposes than I do for pleasure. Some of the books I use over and over again come from such authors as Dan Poynter, Marilyn and Tom Ross and John Kremer. I adore James Herriot's books. And I also admire Julia Cameron (The Artist's Way)

7. You are writing a book about Grandparents. Tell us about that book and why you chose to write it.
The book on grandparenting was published in 1997 by Liguori Publications. It's called Creative Grandparenting Across the Miles, Ideas for Sharing Love, Faith and Family Traditions. I first wrote a couple of articles to help grandparents more easily bond with their long-distance grandchildren. Research showed that more and more extended families are separated by miles and that families are changing because of it. This book is a guide to grandparents whose grandchildren live across the street or across the states. It points up the importance of the grandparent-grandchild relationship and offers tips and activities for maintaining a closer relationship with grandchildren.

8. Do you see the role of grandparents changing as compared to when you were a young girl? Why or why not?
Oh yes. Grandparents were an active part of the family when I was growing up. And I was fortunate enough to be in my own grandchildren's lives on a daily basis when they were young. Now, one granddaughter lives 3 hours away and our relationship is on a different level because of it. We're close, but we must connect in a different way because we can't see one another on a whim.

I believe that children today need the attention, good role modeling, mentoring, teaching and unconditional love that they can get from their grandparents. I think they need this support more than at any other time in history. And so a major purpose for my book is to encourage grandparents who live a distance from their grandchildren, to strive to bond with them and to maintain a close relationship even from afar. And the book gives scads of explicit tips for achieving this closeness.

9. Share a story with us about your own grandparents and how they played a positive role in your life both as a growing woman and as an up-and-coming author?
My grandparents lived a block away from us when I was growing up and I could depend on them to always be home when I wanted or needed a place to go. They always welcomed me with open arms and usually something fresh and wonderful from the oven. Grandma taught me how to sew and to knit. These are things I've passed down to my own children and my grandchildren as well as some of the neighborhood children.

Something else that interested grandparents can pass along to their precious grandchildren is the desire to do the right thing. If nobody cares about you, you tend not to care very much about yourself. When you don't care about yourself, you are more apt to make the wrong choices. So anytime an adult can provide an atmosphere of caring for a child, it is a worthwhile connection.

10. What's in the future for Patricia? Tell us about some of your upcoming writing assignments/projects.
I'm stretching a little this year. I'm just starting to break into the technical writing field with what I call the soft side of technology. I just finished a 2-part piece on women in technology for Silicon2.0. I also wrote a piece for Technology and Learning Magazine on technology in the schools. I hope to interest a magazine in an article featuring teens in technology-oriented businesses.

I'm also excited about a new book I have coming out in the fall. The publisher may change the title, but my title is Dear Diary: The How-to Book of Journaling For Kids. I'm also busy marketing the "Writer's Guide" and another new book that I feel is a must for anyone who is even considering writing a book.

Many new authors find out too late that, whether they self-publish their book or go with a traditional publisher, they will have to help with promotion. Most authors I meet don't have a clue as to where to begin. So I wrote Over 75 Good Ideas for Promoting Your Book. It's a collection of mostly no and low cost marketing ideas plus numerous tips for how to make your book salable before you even start writing it.

In coming years, I also hope to find publishers for some of my pending books. I have book manuscripts and proposals on fatherhood and fathering, parenting teens, how to live alone and one featuring how to go on vacation and come back refreshed and recharged rather than exhausted and disappointed.

11. Are you doing any public speaking (seminars, workshops) or booksignings this year. If so, please share with us the locations and dates of 3-4 of those events.
I just finished a rash of public speaking engagements last week. I was keynote speaker for a district Toastmaster training program recently. I talked about book promotion before an audience of about 150 people attending the Book Publicists of Southern California meeting a few weeks ago. And last week, I spoke before the Ventura County Writer's Club. I also did a fun little talk on local history (another genre of books I've written) to local school kids a few weeks ago.

12. What last words of encouragement or advice would you like to leave with our subscribers?
Follow your dream, but do it sensibly. If you want to make a living writing, start by writing what you know. And conform to the guidelines of the particular magazine that you want to write for. I see too many people who are attached to writing what they want to write without regard for what is actually salable.

To find out if you're cut out to be a full-time writer, follow the steps on pages 4 - 6 of A Writer's Guide to Magazine Articles for Book Promotion and Profit.

Patricia Fry is the author of A Writer’s Guide to Magazine Articles for Book Promotion and Profit (Matilija Press, 2000).

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