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The Writing Life

On the eve of my pub date for Death at the Day Lily Café, the second in the Rosalie Hart mystery series, I have been reflecting on the path I followed to getting published. Yes, I found a terrific agent and fell into the hands of a talented editor at Minotaur, but the first step was joining a critique group.

I was honored to join an eclectic talented group of writers over fifteen years ago. We’ve worked hard and can each now claim a published work or an Emmy winning documentary. Our mark of a good meeting is shared ideas, a dose of humility, wine, followed by gut-aching belly laughs.

As I have been reflecting, I asked a member of my critique group to do the same. Here are her answers.

Me: What do you write about?

Terese: I write non-fiction, mostly about people and situations which teach me some sort of life lesson. Professionally, I am a television and documentary producer, so I’ve written a buhzillion scripts. Many of those, over the last ten years, have to do with the military and wounded warriors. My only book, which has not been published, is about Colonel Greg Gadson, who lost both of his legs in Iraq. I got to know him early in his recovery, during which he became an inspirational speaker for the New York Giants. They won the Super Bowl that year. After all that happened, I said, “We have to write this down!” He humbly agreed. Sadly, his best friend, a guy who was a key supporter while Greg was going through so much, has been diagnosed with ALS. Chuck is strong, but still, it’s Greg’s turn to be the pillar. And now I’m writing all that into the book. Talk about life lessons.

Me: Do you write about anything else?

I write a blog called “On Dogs and Men.” I have two beautiful Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs, which I believe are meant to be shared with the world. (Sometimes they over-share.) We’re working on that. Lillian is a therapy dog. We visit Hospice. It’s an environment rich with inspiration.

Me: What’s your writing process, outline or shoot from the hip?

Terese: I pretty much just sit down and start blathering.

Me: Where do you write?

Terese: Most often I like to write wherever Lillian and Delilah are (the dogs). Lazy as that sounds, sometimes it’s propped up in bed — because that’s where they both fit. They’re big dogs. It saves on the heat bill.

Me: What is your writing process?

Terese: First I vacuum the house. Then there’s laundry…dishes…eyebrow plucking…varnishing cupboards…anything to put it off. Eventually it’s butt-in-chair. That’s it. Think Nicholas Cage in the opening credits of Adaptation. “Maybe another cup of coffee…” I die laughing every tine I see that.

Me: What are you reading now?

Terese: I read at things. So there’s always a stack and I read from different things in the stack. Right now A Walk in the Woods is at the top. I just finished Susan Moger’s Of Better Blood which was a horrifying education. And, of course, while I’ve already read most of Death at the Day Lily Café, I’m looking forward to reading it leisurely. Last time I was cramming before producing your book trailer.! I also listen to a lot of books while I drive. Right now it’s the former Sergeant Major of the Army, Al McMichael’s book about Leadership since I’ve had the please of working with him recently.

Me: Research?

Terese: No. I just live.

Me: Target audience?

Terese: Anyone who will read it.

Me: Have you always written?

Terese: Since I can remember. I recall, one Thanksgiving, writing an account of the family dinner from the perspective of the dog under the table. My teacher gave me an A++. Definitely the last time that happened, although I have been lucky enough to walk a few stages carrying Emmys.

Me: Advice for writers? Terese: The most intimidating thing you encounter is a blank page. If it scares you, go run the vacuum. Then sit down.

Me: Who is your favorite author and why?

Terese: This is a hard one. I love Anne Lamott because of the every day life lesson thing. Hemingway is so brilliant you sometimes have to just stop reading and take it in. George Shaw. Abraham Lincoln — have you ever just slowly read his address at Gettysburg? It’s incredibly artful. Then there was Steven Tyler’s autobiography. What?

Me. Offer a writing prompt?

Terese: I always steal from one of instructor Mary Bargteil’s which involves writing out your whole name and just sort of reflecting on it. “Schlachter” brings up some good material, but I think “Jones” works just as well.

*Susan Moger and Mary Bargteil are also in the critique group.

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