My Writing Process – an author chain

Good friend (and big fan of Mandolin Whiskey) LK Hunsaker, author of several literary romance novels, asked if I’d like to participate in a blog chain. I’m not at all familiar with what a blog chain is and had never been a part of one till now. I decided that doing something that might help me tap out a few more words would be beneficial. I like to think of myself as a writer, but I know I don’t write near as much as I should! So, while I’m doing this blog chain thing, I’m also self-analyzing a few things about my writing process. Here then, are my answers to four questions.

1. What are you working on at the moment?

I might actually be multi-tasking, but at this very moment I’m working on the post for this blog chain thing. Ok, not funny.

I have two things I’m working on at the moment – a novel (or short story, haven’t decided which yet), and a children’s book. The novel is an attempt to write in the female voice, which I hear is quite difficult for a male writer to pull off. It’s geared toward young adults, 18 to 25-years old. And it’s my first serious attempt at writing fiction. At a little over 5,000 words, it’s still in the early stages of development (click here for an excerpt).

My children’s book is also in the early stages, and probably won’t be much over 30 pages long, it’s an alphabet book with illustrations by Don Conner, my brother (click here for an excerpt). Writing a children’s book is another first. And then there are the “regular” gardening articles I write once a month that are featured in Life & Times: A Magazine with Senior Flair. I’ve been writing gardening articles for close to 10 years. (I’ve been in touch with the folks at Life & Times about a link to their publication, it’s not been an easy task.)

2. How does your work differ from others in the genre? 

I’m not sure about the differences between my writing and the writing of others. Simply because I don’t read a lot of other stuff. I’ve been told that my garden writing voice is much like the voice I use when giving lectures or just talking to folks about gardening. The main character in my young adult fiction novel/short story/whatever it turns out to be, can fly, and there are other fantastical goings on as well. I often think of a favorite book that I read in college, “Like Water for Chocolate,” by Laura Esquivel, and try to create a magically thrilling, and maybe a little bizarre, journey for the reader.  Ms. Laura created just such a journey with her book and you should read it.

3. Why do you write what you do?

Why do I write what I write? Gardening is such a huge part of our lives, my wife and I, that writing about it comes almost as naturally as planting zinnia and cosmos seeds. I write about it because it’s something I love doing. It also pleases me to know that others are gaining knowledge about gardening when they read my articles. I self-published a collection of some articles, Through the Seasons with The Write Gardener, perhaps you’d like to order a copy? Please. 🙂

I think the best part about writing fiction is the freedom. I had never given it much consideration before meeting Ms. LK. She’s full of the freedom of fiction, and it seems like she’s always writing and/or editing something new. And that’s a good thing if you’re a writer. I write about other things: a book review here and there, guitars, music, and whatever comes up in my Facebook feed that sparks a comment. Sometimes I’ll choose something controversial to post, which usually generates about 100 comments if it rubs someone the wrong way (which happens more often than not). I decided to write fiction just to see what would happen. Something did, it’s just taking its own time getting to wherever it wants to go.

4. How does your writing process work?

My gardening articles work themselves out, for the most part. I get suggestions from my wife and friends that often lead to an article. Other times I’ll just happen to see a flower, tree, or shrub, or a pot in a gardening catalog, or even something on TV that will spark a topic idea.

I can’t quite explain how I write fiction. It just happens. There is, I suppose, something that be might called a muse that knows what it wants me to write. But that directive comes and goes without warning. The writing for my “young adult fiction novel/short story/whatever it turns out to be” is most always controlled by the muse, I’m just the medium it uses to get the words out.

If reading my answers caused a writing spark within you, then please fuel the fire! We need more good writers.

Five things to give away at gardening lectures

A couple of weeks ago I attended a conference on native plants and sustainability. I’m sure we’re all familiar with native plants, but what about that last one? It’s a word I hear over and over again and as a garden communicator you’d think I’d know the exact meaning. Well, I don’t, and I’m not the least bit happy about it. I was expecting to get a better understanding of what it meant, unfortunately that didn’t happen and at the end of the day I left the conference unfulfilled. I suppose I could’ve asked those in the know (there were many hortheads in attendance) but I didn’t have enough time for hobnobbing afterwards.

I was also disappointed by the lack of material handouts and other info that should’ve been standard giveaways. I paid good money to attend and thought there should have been a little something more substantial to take home besides a folder and a couple of brochures. I’m a garden speaker, and when I give lectures I usually have two or three handouts with pertinent information about the topic I’m discussing. Folks at lectures want something to take home that lets them know it was worth their time (and money) to attend. I don’t think it’s too much to ask of a garden speaker to have at least a little something for folks, and by “a little something”  I don’t mean a skimpy folder with hardly anything in it.

Of course there will be variances on the amount of money that garden speakers can afford to spend on things to give away at lectures. Newbies like me who’re just getting established can’t afford much, but I make sure I have plenty of handouts, and maybe a houseplant or two as a door prize. I’m not one to brag about my capabilities as a speaker but the reactions and feedback I’ve received tell me I’m doing something right.

Here are five things for speakers to give away at lectures that I think folks would enjoy.

  1. Question and answer time  – folks have questions that need answers, if you don’t hear many folks asking questions don’t assume they don’t have anything to say.
  2. Handouts – but don’t overdo it, just what’s needed to give an overview of what you discussed.
  3. Free plants – a couple of houseplants if your talk is during the off-season, and the sky’s the limit in-season.
  4. Door prizes – check with your local nursery for any quid pro quo opportunities!
  5. Books – if you haven’t published one to sell at lectures, find several you have lying around under your desk that you don’t read and give them away.
Be invigorating, enticing, and engage your listeners when you give lectures. Don’t read your notes word for word, and PLEASE don’t read your Power Point slides word for word either. I’m sure we’ve all been to lectures where the speaker is so boring you wish you’d never sat down. It’s not that difficult to walk and talk at the same time, move around!

Notice all the giveaways on the desk, folks like free stuff!