2003, 2004, 2005 & 2006: Named one
of the 101 best Web sites for writers by Writers Digest Magazine.
Cheryl Wright is a dedicated and extremely busy freelancer writing from Australia. You can check out her site at http://www.writer2writer.com
Question: You are one busy writer! You have several Web sites, write a monthly column, The Grapevine, novels, children’s stories and articles, not to mention your busy family life with two children and five grandchildren. How do you manage your time?
Wright: Time management has always been one of my strengths. Although I must say, since I’ve had my three small grandchildren (ages 2, 3, and 4) and their dad—my son—living with me, things have changed. If only you could see my office….
Q: You landed your writing gigs at Bad Girl Press and The Grapevine by setting goals and asking for what you want. Has this approach always worked in your writing career?
Wright: Goal setting has been an integral part of my life for many years. Goals are one hell of a motivator for me.
The trick is to understand that goals can be moved. When I was writing Saving Emma I fractured both feet in three places. I was on crutches for nearly six months and in agony. I’d set a goal that Saving Emma would be finished by June. There was no way I could fulfill that goal, so I moved it.
Not reaching a specific goal is not a failure. Always make doable goals; otherwise you will become discouraged and feel that you have failed.
One of the best [pieces of] advice I ever read was from Angela Booth, “Take baby steps,” she said. “One step at a time.” And that’s exactly what I did.
Q: You edit and publish your monthly e-zine for writers, Writer to Writer as well as edit Gasp! Do you feel your early love of writing and experience has played a part in these roles?
Wright: I have always loved to write. It doesn’t matter what form it takes; I just love writing. I edited a staff newsletter for a large Australian company for six years; that helped me immensely with my current roles.
For many months before the inaugural issue of ‘Writer to Writer’ (May 2003), I had been tossing around a number of ideas about how I could guide other writers toward publication. I’d had little help along the way, and it had taken nearly five years to get that far. I wanted to make it easier for other people following in my footsteps.
Gasp! is a totally different story; it’s the newsletter for a local group—a wonderful bunch of people who needed a way to portray information to the wider community. Their newsletter does that.
Q: You live In Melbourne, Australia. Does this make it easier or more difficult to find work as a freelance writer? Do you think of it as a disadvantage?
Wright: Funny as it may sound, I have sold very little within Australia—the majority of my work has been sold in the US. My biggest challenge seems to be gaining an audience here in my own country. But I’m working on it.
I certainly don’t see living here as a disadvantage. Sure, we have fewer markets than the US, but with the Internet, the world is every writer’s oyster—to use an old cliché. But, if I didn’t live here, I would not have secured my regular column. It’s solely about places of interest in Australia. We have a vast and beautiful country, and I want the entire world to know about it.
Q: You write mystery/suspense novels, nonfiction articles, travel, romance,poetry, mystery and suspense short stories and recently began writing children’s stories. How did you become so diversified? Has this helped your freelancing career?
Wright: A few years back I had written very little in the way of nonfiction. I had to write an article for the newsletter of my writing group (Melbourne Romance Writer’s Guild "http://www.geocities.com/melbromancewriters/index.html" ), and I was terrified. Our editor at the time, Keri Arthur, guided me every step of the way; chiding me and pushing me to extend myself. I’ve never looked back.
Many people told me I had to make a choice, fiction or nonfiction, romance or mystery, poetry or children’s writing. I don’t see why I should, particularly when I do them so well and enjoy them all.
It’s definitely helped my career. Being able to slot into just about anything, means that I can find gigs a lot easier than a lot of other writers. At this very moment, I have so much to do, I can’t keep up. Finding the time is my biggest barrier.
Q: You are working on several novels, with Saving Emma coming in January 2005. You have also released your e-book "Think Outside the Square-Writing Publishable (Short) Stories." Is it difficult to switch from fiction to factual? Are you happy with the PDF format of your writing guide?
Wright: I used to find it extremely hard to change from fiction to nonfiction, but not anymore. I guess it’s more habit than anything—you gradually change your routine, your mindset, then it becomes second nature.
I like the format of “Think Outside the Square: Writing Publishable (Short) Stories.” Mainly because it makes it accessible to a lot of people. There are so many books I would like to buy that we can’t easily get here in Australia. Import and freight charges are over the top, so for a book you would pay just a few dollars for in the US, we pay huge amounts.
PDF makes it incredibly easy for people to buy from anywhere in the world. And it helps keep the cost down.
Q: I am curious about your many pseudonyms. Is it harder to "start all over" with a new, unknown name? Do your pseudonym's have different personalities?
Wright: I do have a number of pseudonyms but I’m only using one at present. Andrea Higgins-Wright is the name I use for nonfiction. The reason is two-fold. I write all my fiction under my own name, but I wanted to separate my fiction from my nonfiction.
The other reason is that there is another Cheryl Wright—who is also a freelance writer. We correspond often, and the problem we both encounter is that people get the two of us confused. My using a pseudonym helps eliminate the confusion.
Tammy Somerset (another pseudonym) evolved as a children’s writer. So far I haven’t published in that area, but I really want to break in. With five grandchildren—all four and under—I fully understand the needs of young children.
I recently sent another manuscript to a publisher for my latest effort—a picture book—and I’m waiting to hear back.
To answer your question, it’s not harder. All queries are sent in my own name, and I link back to my own Web site. And yes, I guess each pseudonym does have a separate personality, to an extent. But then, every book I write, every article I pen, has a different personality. You become your characters.
Q: In your biography you say “I love to write about crime. The more blood the better.” What shapes your interests and subjects that you enjoy writing about? Does your husband’s hobby of target shooting contribute to your crime stories?
Wright: You’ve really done your homework, Shaunna! Everyone I know says I have a warped sense of humor, a strange way of seeing things. And they’re right.
I find crime fascinating—whether it’s fact or fiction. In my library of reference books I have a book called “The Crime Writer’s Handbook; 65 ways to kill your victim—in print.” It’s one of the best investments I’ve ever made. I often skim through the pages, finding cruel and horrid ways to ‘eliminate’ people. Okay, I’m kidding—really I am! (Not about the book, but definitely about eliminating people!)
Seriously though, a crime writer needs to understand the various methods. The book has been extremely helpful to me, and has been a source of inspiration as well.
I do a lot of research when I’m writing a novel, and often when I’m writing short stories. I spent many hours researching for guns, blood etc. for just one short story.
The majority of my stories come from real life; things that I see happen while I’m shopping, waiting at the traffic lights etc. For instance, I once witnessed a soldier strip down to his jocks in the car park at a shooting competition. It became a short story.
I watched a woman in a car at the traffic lights tapping her fingers on the steering wheel, waiting for the lights to turn green. That became “Arms of a Stranger”—a romantic suspense that I’m currently working on.
I have written a number of poems that came about because of things that happened at shooting competitions, but I don’t usually write stories about shooting. Target shooting is one of the safest sports there is, so it’s not easy to find a plot there.
Q: You have a very impressive portfolio. In your opinion, what was your greatest achievement? Did it give you satisfaction, monetary compensation or status?
Wright: Money has never been the main motivator for me—although it’s certainly a nice bonus. I get a lot of satisfaction out of seeing my work published.
Saving Emma is probably the most special to me. I loved writing it, and was extremely sad when it was finished. I put in a lot of hours on that book, both in the writing and the research. There was so much to learn; code breaking, guns, police procedure, police rankings, how PIs and undercover police work.
I even had a librarian tell me: ‘You are a very dangerous woman!’ when I began researching handguns. I expected the police to arrive at the library to arrest me. Seriously.
Q: What goals are you working on right now? What are you doing to work toward those goals? What assignment would you consider the “crowning glory” of your career so far?
Wright: The crowning glory—hard to say. Every achievement is special to me.
Most people don’t realize it, but I have a chronic medical condition—a lung disease that I contracted from measles when I was one year old. Eighteen months ago there was talk of removing part of one lung. Then they discovered damage in two other areas; surgery was out of the question. I also have an immune deficiency that requires monthly transfusions; if I pick up other people’s bugs, I can end up with pneumonia—within a couple of hours.
Any goal reached, any achievement I make is a big deal for me.
At the moment, I have three novels that are partly written. My goal is to complete two of them by December 31.
I’m trying to get the Writer2Writer Web site completed—it’s still under construction. When it’s complete, there will be loads of freebies for writers, ongoing contests (that’s already happening), and lots of resources. There will be plenty of articles, and I also plan to include some writing exercises as well. The goal for that project is June 30.
I also want to write more e-books. “Think Outside the Square: Writing Publishable (Short) Stories” was written for all writers, beginners and experienced writers. My way of thinking is so different from most writers. It’s worked for me, and I wanted to pass it on. I spent three months on the book.
After all that work, I simply couldn’t give it away, so I kept the price ludicrously low. I well remember the days when I couldn’t afford books about writing; books I felt were crucial to my career. So the $8.95 price tag was to ensure anyone who wanted the book would be able to afford it.
Shaunna Privratsky has authored over 200 articles, including pieces in The Writer, FundsForWriters, Write Success and Absolute Write. Her new book "Pump Up Your Prose" is coming November 15th. Check out her acclaimed writer's e-book series and FREE newsletter at THE WRITER WITHIN at http://shaunna67.tripod.com Learn her money-saving secrets at The Discount Diva while you're visiting.